How to Make a Flounce Sleeve for your Adult Driftwood

The Adult Driftwood Blouse and Dress pattern offers so much potential for customization.   

Here we will show you how to transform the Driftwood sleeve into a dreamy, floaty flounce sleeve that lends a romantic look to your finished dress or blouse. 

Before we start, let's discuss some sewing vocabulary.  Both the children’s and the adult’s Driftwood have raglan sleeves.  This means that the sleeve connects to the body from underarm to neckline, without a seam at the shoulder.  This is one of the simplest types of sleeve to sew, making the Driftwood a perfect project to try your hand at some alterations.

Another term you should know is armscye.  This is the official tailor’s term for the armhole. For this alteration we will not be adjusting the size of the armscye at all.  This will be important when you adjust your pattern piece.

The basic idea of a flounce or flutter sleeve is to add lots of volume along the bottom edge of the sleeve, without adding to the neckline or armscye.  Your final pattern piece will resemble a fan.  This provides plenty of dreamy drape without affecting the fit.  We will use the “slash and spread” method to add volume to the sleeve.

So let’s get started!

Supplies:  Adult Driftwood Short Sleeve pattern piece; ruler; scissors; tape; additional paper; pencil

1.  Using your ruler and pencil, mark the 3/8" seam allowance along the top (neck) edge of your pattern piece. 

2.  Draw a series of lines straight down from the seam allowance you have just marked to the bottom edge of the pattern piece, roughly perpendicular to the top edge.  The lines should fan out and will not be parallel to each other.  Use as many or as few lines as you wish; I found five to be just right.  Make sure these lines connect to the top edge (the neckline), and not the armscye.

3.  Cut your pattern piece along the lines you just drew, being careful not to cut into the seam allowance.  Do not take the pattern apart; just create little “hinges” at the seam allowance where you can spread the pattern to create more volume.

4.  Once you have cut along each line, place your pattern on top of your scrap paper and gently spread your pattern apart along each of the cuts.  This is not an exact science, so don’t worry - you can’t really get it “wrong".  The main thing to keep in mind is that the more you spread your pattern, the “flouncier” your sleeve will be. 

If you only want to add a little bit of volume, keep your spreading narrow and conservative.  If you would like heavenly, swoopy butterfly wings, spread the cuts as far as they’ll go!  Just distribute the spreading evenly among all the cuts. Your pattern should now look like a fan.

Try to avoid spreading the cuts so far that the top edge buckles, because this can change the neckline.  If this happens, but you still want more volume, go back and add more lines (and cuts) rather than pushing your existing cuts past the point where the neckline edge is affected. 

Again, don’t worry if this happens a little bit – the Driftwood is very forgiving.  The gathered neckline provides some wiggle room if you wind up taking a tiny bit of volume out of the raglan pieces along the top neckline edge.

5.  Double-check that the neckline isn't buckling or gaping and that the pieces are spread roughly the same width apart, then secure your new pattern piece by taping it to your scrap paper along the cut edges. 

6.  Re-draw the bottom edge of the sleeve by gently sketching in the line, following the curve of the pattern. 

7.  Now is the time to decide on the sleeve length.  If you like the sleeve at its given length then you’re done!  To shorten or lengthen the sleeve, measure from the neckline to the point on your arm where you would like the sleeve to end, and add 1/2” (12mm) for a narrow hem.  Shorten or lengthen the pattern piece accordingly. 

For reference, in the pictured version I lengthened the pattern piece by 3” (7.5cm) so that it would fall to my elbow.  Draw in a new cut line on the pattern or your scrap paper, following the curve of the pattern.  If you are confident, go ahead and eyeball it.  If you want something more precise, use a compass to match the curve.  Cut along your chosen line and your new flutter sleeve pattern piece is ready to go!


A few notes on fabric and construction: 

Flutter sleeves are fabric hogs, due to their wonderful, floaty width, so keep that in mind when choosing your meterage.  Be sure to use a lightweight fabric with plenty of drape, such as challis, charmeuse, lawn, or voile.  A stiffer-bodied fabric, such as quilting cotton or flannel, will stick out a bit and might not give you the final look you are going for. 

You will need to decide when to hem the lower edge of the sleeve.  I prefer to hem it flat, before attaching the sleeves to the body; given the volume of fabric, I find this easier.  This will leave a small edge of the side seam exposed at the hemline, but this gets lost in the drape of the fabric and may be a non-issue depending on how you finish your seams. 

I recommend a very narrow hem, due to the curve of the pattern.  If you have a rolled hem foot for your sewing machine, this would be a perfect place to practice!  Alternately, turning the hem under by 1/4” (6mm), and then 1/4” (6mm) again and then stitching should do the trick.

The rest of the construction is exactly like the regular Driftwood pattern. 

Join us in the Twig + Tale Facebook Group to ask questions, look for inspiration, and of course to share photos of your projects.  We can't wait to see how you customize your Driftwood! 

The Twig + Tale Blog is home to a number of simple tutorials that allow you to modify your Driftwood and achieve even more looks with this versatile pattern.  Read more about the Women's Driftwood Blouse and Dress here:

 ~Images by Christine Keating~