If you are wondering whether you can make a DIY shirt similar to the bell sleeve shirts that have flooded the stores recently, the answer is a resounding “Yes”! You can DIY these cute sleeves using an old shirt and additional fabric patches. Although it will look better if you use a sewing machine, don’t get discouraged if you don’t have one – you can also sew the bell sleeves by hand. Here is our how-to summary for making a DIY bell sleeve shirt:
1. Prepping your materials
You will need an old shirt, a fabric patch, and threads that match the color of the shirt and the color of the fabric patch. Note that if the shirt you are using is tight and stretchy, you should use an elastic thread. If the shirt is not as tight, and you are able to fit your hand through the sleeve without stretching the fabric, then a regular thread will work. Below are links for materials similar to the ones we used:
If you are planning to hand-stitch the DIY bell sleeves, use a thread that exactly matches your fabric. Hand-made stitches tend to be messier, so it is best to camouflage them as much as possible!
The ruffled bell sleeves will take quite a bit of fabric, so make sure you have a long enough patch. The length of fabric will depend on how “ruffled” you want the sleeves to be. There are two ways to go about measuring the length. The more sloppy option is just to use a lot of fabric and cut any excess in the end, before sewing the fabric on the shirt. A more precise way is to use “test” fabric. Measure the test fabric’s length without ruffles. Then, ruffle the it and measure again. For example, you may see that 5″ of fabric gives you 2″ of ruffles. Using these measurements, you can calculate how much fabric you need for each sleeve. If your sleeve’s circumference (i.e. the width of the sleeve) is 10″, then you will need 25″ of fabric to make the ruffles.
The bell sleeves will be longer than the original sleeves of your shirt. If you want to avoid this, cut the original sleeves a bit to accommodate for the extra fabric we’ll be adding.
2. Make a hem (if necessary)
If your fabric does not have a hem, you will need to quickly make one, ideally by using a sewing machine. If you are stitching by hand, consider using fabric that already has a hem (like an old T-shirt), because a hand-stitched hem will not look as neat as a machine-made one. To make the hem, fold a narrow piece of the fabric, press it, and sew. If necessary, you can use pins to hold the hem as you are sewing.
3. Make the ruffles
One you have the hem ready, make ruffles on the opposite end of the fabric. If you are using a sewing machine, set your stitch to the longest possible option, choose the highest tension, and sew with a straight stitch. The machine will ruffle the fabric for you. If you are making the ruffles by hand, weave the needle and the matching thread through the fabric. Leave plenty of thread on both ends and gather the fabric toward the middle to form the ruffles.
4. Stitch the fabric on the sleeve
Sew the ruffled end on the sleeve. To cover your DIY tracks, you can sew on the shirt’s original hemline and stitches.
To finish up the DIY bell sleeve shirt, sew the two ends of the fabric together with a matching thread. Repeat the same steps for the second sleeve.
Below are the brand new DIY bell sleeve shirts: