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Turn Long Sleeves into Flutter Sleeves


Chloe is growing like crazy lately.  Many of her shirts have gotten too short for her round little belly.  So I have been digging in her closet, pulling out the next size up shirts…….but the problem is, is that they’re all long sleeves.  You see, I love to buy a few seasons ahead.  Because that’s when everything is on sale.  Last winter, when warmer clothes were all on clearance, I scooped up as many things as I could and then crossed my fingers they’d fit.  And usually I guess pretty well.  But sometimes I don’t.  Like Chloe’s shirt size right now, during mid-summer.  Who knew her little belly would pop right out during the past few months?!! :) 


But no biggee…….because we can always make a few adjustments.  You can take away from warmer clothes and add something back to cooler clothes.  So I always scoop up what I can when I see those sales.  (More examples of clothing adjustments here.)


So, I dug into Chloe’s closet this morning and took out a couple long-sleeved knit shirts and turned them into flutter sleeves. 




I thought these long-sleeved shirts wouldn’t fit until the fall…..but now, after a little altering, they are the perfect tops for the next few months of warmer weather.




Yeah, you never know how fast these little monkeys will grow.  So just work around it. 




It turned out to be a pretty quick fix…..and now I don’t have to run to the store to buy her any more summer shirts.  (Note: these tops are knit fabric and so the edges of the flutter sleeves aren’t finished because they won’t fray.)


 **And yes, Chloe has painted fingers and toes.  Thanks to her Aunt Shannon and the “girl-party” she had with Elli, Chloe and their cousin Claire.  The girls were in heaven! :)



Glad I bought a couple sale shirts last winter.  Worked out well for us this morning. :)




Would you like to make your own Flutter Sleeve shirts?



First of all, I added the flutter to my shirt sleeves but you could also just cut off the sleeves and keep the shirt sleeveless or use one of the other ideas found here.  Also, my shirts were knit fabric, so they won’t fray.  If you’re using a woven cotton, your edges will fray and this method won’t work well for you.  (However, you could make some adjustments and finish off edges to make it work.)


To begin, cut off your sleeves, right next to the seam where it was attached to the shirt.  But be sure  not to cut through the seam.


This shirt was finished on the inside seam, which isn’t very common……especially with kids clothing.  So I really could have stopped here and made it just a plain sleeveless shirt.  But that’s boring. ;)


Most shirts will look like this one.  You should see the inside seam, usually serged.  Leave it alone and don’t cut through it.  (As you add your flutter, you’ll tuck that seam towards the inside and sew through it.)


Next, cut the sleeve open along the under arm seam and then cut strips of fabric the length of the longest part of the sleeve.  The width of your strips will vary, depending on how much you want your flutters to stick out.  For Chloe’s shirt, I cut my strips 2 inches wide.


Then, I left one edge of each strip straight, and curved the other edge so that it would melt back into the arm hole as you sew it in.


Then, I added a basting stitch along the straight edges of each flutter and then cinched them in.  (Need help with the basting stitch and gathering?)  How much you cinch them in also depends on how much of the flutter you want to cover your subject’s arm…..but it also depends on how long your strip is.  If the sleeve wasn’t very long, you’re not going to have a very long strip of fabric and then your flutter won’t be very ruffled if you try to attach it all the way around the arm hole opening.  SO hold it up to the arm hole opening and decide what looks best.


Then, turn the shirt inside out and pin the right side (if you  have a right side) of your flutter to the wrong side of the arm hole opening.  Be sure that you have centered the middle of the flutter right at the shoulder seam of the shirt.  Then sew it in place.  And then turn right side out.


Now, that coral top shown above had a nice finished edge.  If you don’t, be sure to tuck the seam of the arm hole towards the inside of the shirt and sew over it as you’re attaching your flutter.  Then continue sewing all the way around the arm hole to sew that seam down in place and keep it out of the way.




And that’s it. 


Long Sleeve to Flutter Sleeve.




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Ashley Johnston
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Ashley Johnston

Owner at Make It & Love It
Ashley Johnston is a professional DIY costume maker, sewist, crafter, and owner of Make It & Love It. She is a mom of 5 and a wife to a very patient (with the craft clutter) husband. In case you’re wondering, she always chooses crafting/sewing/designing over mopping/dusting/wiping base boards……but bathrooms/laundry/full bellies are always attended to. Whew!
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  1. Brenda Nix says:

    I just searched for how to make a flutter sleeve and found your tutorial. I was trying trying to make the t-shirt fit over my grand-daughter’s broken arm. Your tutorial worked perfectly. Thank you for sharing this.

  2. Judy says:

    Is there a hem on the curved end of the flutter sleeve? I can’t tell from the picture?

  3. Judy says:

    Hi, I love your website! Is there a hem on the curved side of the flutter sleeve or is the edge left un-done? I can’t tell from the picture.
    This is such a great idea! :)

  4. Laurel says:

    I just bought a pack of onesies for my baby girl. When I got them home and opened them up I discovered they were long sleeved! I kept thinking about this post so I came and found it. Thanks, this is just what I need!

  5. Jackie says:

    I’m trying to make the flute sleeve cuffs like the ones on the little girls dress, do I just make the strip longer and wider?

  6. Ella says:

    I actually made this one! Thank you so much for the idea!

  7. Kate says:

    Thanks so much for this great tutorial – i have been looking for one for ages! Going to try this tonight

  8. Katrina Marie says:

    Fantasic…flutter sleeves are great. I will have to work this technique into one of my Kids Sewing DVDs. Could be a little tricky to do if you are only working with a T-shirt, but making the ruffle from another shirt or even adding lace could work. Creatively, Katrina Marie

  9. Susan says:

    Thanks so much for posting this. i was just thinking i wanted to make some flutter sleeves w/o a pattern and wasn’t sure how to.

  10. Mikgirl says:

    Oh I love this idea!
    I live in Hawaii, and my daughter hardly wears long sleeves but we get some as gifts…
    I was just going to cut the sleeves to short sleeves but this is so much cuter!!

  11. Kia says:

    Awesome!!!! Thanks so much!

  12. STEPHANIE G says:

    FANTASTIC! lets just hope some other sites dont try to post your baby and ideas again ;)
    love love love!!!!

  13. Michelle says:

    Unbelievable! I really need to get my sewing machine out more… what a perfect reason for it!!!

  14. Becca @ Sweet Swan Songs says:

    I totally just blogged about this same problem with my daughter! I lengthened her existing shirts, but I stuck a link to this page on there in case people want another option for refashioning shirts. Hope that’s okay! :)

  15. Eva Scott says:

    You rock!! Thanks!

  16. Karine says:

    Hi Ashley,

    I love love you blog! You have such great ideas.

    About the varnish on nails and toes of little Chloe…. Do you know about water-based varnishes? Odor-free, no arsh chemicals and when you’re fed up, you can peel it easily.

    Just FYI!.

    If you’re interrested : SunCoat is one brand I know (you can buy from the site) but I’m sure there are US company that does these too.


  17. Nancy says:

    Love this and LOVE your blog! You got me sewing again (after 30yrs)! Thank you so much!

  18. Amy says:

    I have the exact same sequin shirt in white that I was planning to make short sleeved but now I’m going to do this instead. You are a genius!! :)

  19. jennifer says:

    brilliant! i think the flutter sleeves look better than the original shirt! so cute.. i love flutter sleeves!

  20. debbie says:

    looks easy enough,, thanks for showing us. cute little tops.

  21. Julie Snow says:

    Wow! Very nice and simple and DARLING!

  22. katie s says:

    Awesome! Love it, thanks for sharing!!!

  23. Michelle says:

    This would be awesome for all those hand me down shirts where the sleeve cuffs are super stained!!! Love it! Thank you for all your awesomeness! :)

  24. Cari says:

    GREAT idea!!!

  25. asosh says:

    so good,so pretty

  26. Jess says:

    Too cute!

  27. Heather says:

    The shirts are cuter than when they began! Way to go!! I’m going hunting through my little girls closet now…

  28. Jessica at Me Sew Crazy says:

    this is so stinking cute! Your work always looks so flawless. I love that sequin top, gah! Great with flutter sleeves! Thanks for sharing :)

    – Jess

  29. Michaela says:

    What a cute fix! I think I’m more likely to have to go from short to long {or make some cardigans}. I’ll have to keep this in mind for next year!

  30. Sharon Thomas says:

    Tooo cute!

  31. cara says:

    Ahh, again you save the day!!! I’m making a game day dress for my husband’s cousin, but generally those are strapless and she is definitely modest. So I borrowed a couple tank/sleeveless dresses from my friend who is about the cousin’s size… but it still seemed like it was missing something. FLUTTER SLEEVES, I love this :) Thank you, Ashley!

  32. CHD says:

    Thanks for the tutorial on how to do these. I can see it is something I’m going to have a go at. Cx

  33. Anonymous says:

    Man! Where was this 2 weeks ago! I had to do the same thing for my girls. But i am not as clever as u. Loved it! Now i know what to do for next time.

  34. Carina says:

    Hermosas quedaron!!!!mi hija también se llama Cloe…y es verdad que crecen tan aceleradamente!!!

  35. Lucy says:

    will the tags say if its knit or not, if not could you give some tips on how to distinguish knit from woven? I’m fairly new to sewing and I see you use knit and jersey knit, and i’m not sure how to find those kind of fabrics.

    1. Ashley says:

      Knit is the type of fabric that you’ll find used to make Tshirts. It’s made by interlocking threads together. It can be somewhat stretchy or really stretchy. It also doesn’t fray when cut. Woven fabric has strands of thread that are woven together…….which is what your bed sheets or quilts are made out of. If you go to the fabric store, you’ll most likely see lots and lots of woven cotton fabric, which is used by many sewists. It doesn’t stretch and is thin and pretty easy to work with. But knit stretches a bit and can be a little more tricky to sew with……but it’s soft and cozy and is used a lot in kids clothing. (Adult clothing too. You probably have several things that are made from knit.) Both woven fabrics and knit fabrics can be 100% cotton or mixtures of other stuff.

      Whew, was that an earful? Hope that helps. I do have a more detailed knit post on my to-do list……so I’ll hurry up with that! :)


    2. Emily says:

      thankyou i was a bit confused too, just a random question but how old is little chloe?

  36. Elisa says:

    Very cute and I actually like the coral shirt much better now, it is now much cuter than the warmer version!

  37. brittany says:

    oh how cute! thanks for sharing I am pinning this in my sewing board

  38. Charity says:

    Those are great! If I hadn’t seen the before picture, I would never have guessed that they started as winter shirts. Great job! =)

  39. Evgenia says:

    Great job!!! You make it seem so easy. I’ll try it!

    1. Beth says:

      Seriously! I read these posts and think, “Oh, I could do that.” I would NEVER have thought I could do it before reading it, though!

      Super, super cute! I don’t have any girls :(, but I bet I could alter some of MY shirts……. ha!

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Hi, I’m Ashley—the DIY-enthusiast behind this crazy blog!

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