Sewing Projects

Sewing Envelope Pillows

Color Popping Pillows

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Updated October 4, 2020.

Just over four years ago I checked a big item off of my bucket list and I went to Peru to visit Machu Picchu.  Not only did I get to visit another Spanish-speaking country and see one of the famous world sites I had always wanted to view in person, but I ran a marathon in the Andes to get there.  It was an amazing trip, but a different story, though entirely relevant as you will encounter a bit further on.

In the four years since that trip my life has shifted some, as I met and married my husband.  Actually, we were married exactly two years after the race.  Isn’t it nice how a certain app reminds you of your memories?  While even more recently we had our first child.  So life is a bit different now, entirely for the better.

The old ball and chain (or is that supposed to be me?) and the baby haven’t slowed me down any.  Pregnancy slowed me, though only temporarily.  There are just too many interesting things to do.  The project list continues to grow, and occasionally shrink in small increments.  

Our deck needed to be better utilized.  Actually, it just needed to be utilized.  We have a beautiful space on the back of our house overlooking the river behind it, and we never sit on it.  Thanks to some help from my parents when they were visiting at the beginning of last summer, my husband and I assembled the pieces of our deck sofa.  I had made the cushions last spring and now all it needed was a couple of throw pillows to finish it off.  

I kept my eyes peeled for sales, as I always do, and when Michael’s had a good coupon pop up on the app last spring I purchased a couple of 18” x 18” pillow forms at 20% off.  They already had the best price for the type of item I wanted and the coupon made it better.  

For the pillow itself I thought I would use an envelope style as a zipper didn’t seem necessary.  Still, I wanted to be able to wash the cases.  Thanks to YouTube and other bloggers I found a very good tutorial from Melly Sews.  I basically knew how to sew this type of pillow, but not having made one of this style before, the tutorial helped a lot with the measurements and how much to overlap in the back.  

Back to Peru.  While I was learning all about Incan and Peruvian culture, and practicing my Spanish, and preparing to run through the mountains, and trying all the food that wouldn’t throw my United Statesian stomach for a loop, I had some free time to visit the markets and go back to visit some sites we had been introduced to on our guided tours.  

Cusco was definitely a highlight of the trip.  Historical cities are the best to visit, in my opinion.  The modern mixed with the antique or the ancient, is a fascinating blend and there is so much rich culture.  In Cusco, the Spanish architecture built with the portions of the Incan buildings left behind and reused gives the city a wonderful charm, especially where it sits in the valley between the mountains.  I had such fun walking around, strolling through the old style markets, and chatting in the target language with the local vendors.

At one point I wandered by a small fabric shop on my way back from a small open air market of stalls.  There was a rack of fabric bolts outside and one of them drew my eye immediately.  The bold colors and clean pattern were beautiful and my attention snapped onto them.  

Impulse buying isn’t usually my style, but I have learned that when something so absolutely draws my attention, it is probably one item I will really enjoy.  And hey, I was on vacation.  That’s a good time to treat yourself, right?  I bought two meters of the fabric for 36 Peruvian Soles, which is about $12 in the USA.  What a steal!  Some other visitors from the United States were also marveling at all of the beautifully woven textiles and asked me what I planned to do with the fabric.  At the time I wasn’t sure, “I don’t know.  I’ll make pillows, or a tablecloth, or something.”  Pillows it has turned out to be.

Again, with the tutorial from Melly Sews this was a simple project.  The only real difficulty was with the edges from the weave of the fabric.  I had to be careful because the warp of this textile really wanted to unravel.  

I started by measuring the pillow forms to be sure they were 18” x 18” as the package said.  Since they were, I cut two pieces of fabric at 19” x 44” as instructed in the video (width + 1” x length doubled + 8”).  

Bring out the quilter’s rule and the rotary cutter again.  If you do any amount of sewing, this is a tool to have in your kit.  It’s one of those tools that once you start using it on projects you think, “Oh yeah (with enthusiasm and a hint of swagger)!  Why didn’t I have one of these before?”  Or maybe that’s just me.  A good tool is exciting.  Don’t you think so?

For the next step, I went into hemming the short edges.

This was followed by finding the center and pinning to mark it.  I measured half the length of one side of the pillow, or nine inches, to each side of the center and marked both measurements with pins.  At those measurements I folded the right sides together and pinned.  If your hems do not look even, one of mine did not look quite as good as the other, be sure to fold the better looking one inside first.  That will be the hem that will show when you turn your pillow right side out.

One problem I encountered when I folded my “envelope” for the pillow was that the hemmed edges had narrowed.  Apparently, when I hemmed the ends, the slightly looser or wider weave of the fabric caused it to draw in a little or cinch up.  It did not seem as though it would improve if I ripped the stitches out and started over.  In fact, the same thing happened on all four ends that were hemmed, and it occurred pretty evenly.  To compensate for this I just increased my seam allowance by ¼” on each side.  There was already some extra space for the pillow form when I checked it against the folded pieces, so it worked fine having a ¾” seam allowance.  Now the pillows are just slightly rectangular and there was enough fabric on the edges to sew them together properly.

Once everything was sewn, I turned the pillows right-sides out and stuffed them with the pillow forms, lining up the corners of the forms with the corners of the pillows.  Some fluffing made them ready for the couch.  These pillows are the extra cushion needed either as an added back support or against the arms of our outdoor sofa.  Plus, as planned, they add a cheery pop of color to our neutral outdoor setting! 

What do you think? 

Until the next project,

Sewing Projects

How to Sew Seat Cushions

Sit on It Some More, Jen

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Jen Juggles It All is not responsible for any injuries, losses, damages, or otherwise negative outcomes that occur from use of or mimicking of activities on this site.  Continued use of Jen Juggles It All confirms agreement with the prior statement.  More information can be read in the disclosure policy and terms of service.

Updated August 25, 2020.

Right now the summer days are too hot for my taste and it is difficult to escape the heat.  Our area is built for the colder weather, so for the few weeks each year when it gets really hot, it can be very uncomfortable.  As a general rule, I think that sweating bullets while you are just sitting is wrong.

Thankfully, we live by the water and the breeze off the river often gives us a reprieve.  That is why we built a deck the width of the house out back.  My husband and I are still working on furnishing the deck so that we can enjoy the space fully.  To start, we wanted an outdoor couch to sit on and read, and from which we could enjoy the view.  In an earlier post I explained how good furniture cost more than I wanted to spend, and how I was sure we could build the couch ourselves.  My mom and sister suggested I purchase the seat cushions first, and then build around them.  Since good seat cushions would cost as much as a couch all complete, I decided to make those too.  The process I took to prepare the cushions is explained in the post: How to Make Seat Cushions.

Once the innards of the cushions are prepared, you can move on to creating and sewing the covers.  For help preparing my patterns and steps to make a box cushion I found a video tutorial from  Besides fabric, you will need thread and zippers.  A marking pen is really useful too.  I have tried the chalk pencils, but they are not clear enough.  The disappearing ink pen works better for me.  I also chose a strong upholstery thread for the project in the same color as my Sunbrella fabric.  Individual zippers did not come in sizes long enough for the long seat cushion, but the zipper roll pictured was available in a gray pretty close to the color of the fabric. I found it fairly easy to use and have had enough left over to use on several other projects.

Since the deck is uncovered and the cushions are not meant to be left out in storms, we have to bring them in when it rains.  However, the Sunbrella fabric will help to prevent wear from the sun and prolong the life of the cushions.   Using my Joann Fabrics app, I waited for notifications of sales and was able to get the cut of fabric for 50% off.  That is a huge savings for a quality material.  The color palette outside our house is cool tones, so I chose a light gray that I think was called gull. 

If you have a quilter’s rule, mat, and rotary cutter, those tools will make the next steps easier.  

Following your pattern, mark out the largest pieces on your fabric first.  The width of this bolt was just wide enough to fit the length of my largest piece, including the seam allowance.  Ink from the pen disappears somewhat quickly, so I marked and cut each piece one at a time.  Since I knew the width of the fabric when I purchased the bolt online, and because I calculated how much I would need and planned how to orient the pieces ahead of time, I could mark and cut the pieces in this manner.

Although I really like the durability of this fabric the cut edges were fiddly to work with.  Once cut, the weft would peel out and unravel the edge, so working more carefully became more important.  You may be able to see an example of this in the lower left corner of the photo above.  Pinning two pieces that were meant to go together as soon as they were cut made the fabric a bit less frustrating to work with.

The next step was to cut the edge pieces.  All of the edge pieces could have been combined to make one perimeter piece.  Although the bolt was long enough for that, I decided to cut four separate pieces and have the seams line up on the corners in the front or on the tops, as the case may be.  Looking at our living room couch cushions, I noticed that the zippers ran along one edge and overlapped to the sides a few inches.  This was a great idea as it would make getting the cushions in and out of the cases for possible washings much easier.  When adding the length to the zipper panel, be sure to subtract the additional inches from your side panels. 

Variations like this one are another example of why I often prefer to make something myself.  Pieces in your home will be more unique and special because you made them yourself and they are tailored to yours and your family’s needs.  Plus, the endorphins from the accomplishment is pretty great.

Line up your measured marks and cut out the edge pieces.

Then, measure to length and cut your zippers.  Remember to move the pull tabs off the length you are cutting and leave only the one you need per zipper.  This step will alleviate later frustration that could occur from having to get a pull tab back on a zipper!

As in the video tutorial, I began sewing my zipper panel.  Sewing a zipper or a button hole was something I had always thought would be really complicated until I did another project and my mom showed me how.  I was so surprised at how few steps there were to adding a zipper, and at the same time felt really proud of myself thinking, “Look what I can do!”

Except for that half an inch where the seam ripper went off course that I had to repair later, this came out really well.  As my husband said, “If I didn’t know that [error] was there, I wouldn’t have noticed it.”  

The zipper panels would be hidden within the couch, but I am happy to report that I did even better on the back pillows.  This one was a warm up. 😅

One step I would not have thought of on my own was to open the zipper a little when sewing the box cushion covers.  Once all the right sides are sewn closed, you will not have access to the pull tab unless you have opened the zipper a few inches ahead of time.  MAKE sure you do this.  I was very thankful for the reminder from the tutorial.

Sew together all of the edge panels, end to end.  Then, pin the right sides of the top and bottom panels to the edges and sew.  Remember that if you are doing a zipper panel longer than the longest edge, like I did, that you should not align that panel to the corners.  I found it easier to line up the panel opposite the zipper to the front edges of the top and bottom panels first, since they were the same length.  

Next, check your alignment and begin sewing.  This is a lot of fabric to hold onto at once.  Take your time and go slowly so the cushion cover doesn’t get folded over onto and sewn to itself.  The cover looks pretty good so far:

The photo below shows the zipper panel sewed to the top panel and overlapping the edge as described earlier.

The top panel is attached to the edge panels!  I had to stop and enjoy how this idea was finally coming together.  Seeing the right sides looking all clean was very rewarding.

Pin the bottom panel to the edges and sew the last panel in place.  Remember to open the zipper a few inches first!  

You can really see the fraying edges of the fabric’s weft in the photo below.  Even though my cut with the rotary cutter and quilter’s rule were very straight, this fabric had the tendency to unravel at the edges.  That is probably my only complaint about the material and the entire process.  I have not tested a scrap piece with pinking shears to see if that helped at all.  Once the panels were sewn together I didn’t have any further trouble with the fabric.  The material is excellent when turned right side out. 

Press open the seams with your iron when you are done.  Then turn your cushion cover right side out and stuff the cushion inside.  Repeat the process for the two back cushions.  

Following are some photos of the finished product.  I was and still am super excited with how they turned out.  They almost look professional.  Even more important: they are really comfortable, firm with a little give.

Here you can really see how the zipper overlaps the edge.

Making the cushions myself has been so worth it.  Though we did not have much opportunity to use them last summer (Thanks a lot EEE 😒), we are definitely getting more use out of them this year.  I am certainly glad I made these cushions out of durable materials, as I predict they will get a lot of future use in fort construction and imaginative play as our son grows older.  It is not a use I anticipated when I embarked on the project, but one I look forward to in the coming years that brings back good memories.  

Did you build forts from the couch cushions as a kid?  Do you think you will tackle this project too?  Best of luck if you do!  Contact me if you have any questions.

Check out the post on building the couch to go with these awesome cushions.  📯 (Tooting my own horn.)  You are just one more project away from enhancing your outdoor space.  I look forward to hearing about your renditions.

Until the next project,

Sewing Projects

How to Make Seat Cushions


Sit on It, Jen

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Jen Juggles It All is not responsible for any injuries, losses, damages, or otherwise negative outcomes that occur from use of or mimicking of activities on this site.  Continued use of Jen Juggles It All confirms agreement with the prior statement.  More information can be read in the disclosure policy and terms of service.

Updated August 25, 2020.

Furnishing an outdoor living space can potentially be a majorly expensive project.  To furnish a home with sturdy pieces you love, and that will last, is an expensive endeavor.  Why would an outdoor living space be different?

Although, if you are creative and patient, even though it could still be a little pricey the cost does not have to be exorbitant. Spending a little extra money in the end will be worth it: you will have stronger furniture, that will last you longer, and be exactly what you want.  While spending a little extra you will save money because you will not be paying out each year or two to replace the items, in addition to the money you save by doing the project yourself.

My husband and I would like to spend time out on our deck enjoying the view.  We just need furniture out there to make extended time outside more comfortable.  Beginning with an outdoor couch seemed logical.  This is something we could easily build ourselves.  (They did it on Trading Spaces all the time.  Did anyone else obsessively watch that show?) 

Both my mother and sister advised I purchase the cushions before building the couch so my husband and I could build the couch to the correct dimensions around them.  They also advised I use Sunbrella, or a similar fabric made for the outdoors, to help with the longevity.

Well, I looked around online at offerings at the patio stores and home improvement stores’, and the comments in the low reviews steered me away.  Even for the supposedly “good quality” cushions that cost more, people were saying that the pillows were sunken in after a few uses.  That was disheartening.  Why would I want to spend hundreds of dollars for cushions that would sink in and stay that way?  Perhaps you prefer a softer cushion or mattress, but I like them more firm.  Your muscles have to work harder to keep you comfortable when a seat is too soft.  After sitting for a long time you could end up more tired; as when a mattress is not supportive enough.  (I would love to have a source to cite this information to you, but I heard it over a decade ago and do not remember where.  I do know it must have been a reputable source though, because I would not have held onto the information otherwise.😉)  

Anyhow, I looked for a while for some cushions.  The kind with the Sunbrella or similar fabric cost about $500 for a single seat set and we were aiming for a loveseat.  I think we could have bought a whole loveseat for that $1000 price tag of cushions, but nothing was quite what we were looking for and I was sure we could easily build one for less.  The loveseat probably would not be as fancy, though I figured we could make it sturdier.  

I thought about it a little and determined I could make the cushions too.  I had sewn complicated enough items before, and my mom had sewn replacement cushions for an easy chair in the living room, so why couldn’t I?  There are plenty of tutorials on the internet to help.  A little research and some planning were all that I needed.

The Joann Fabrics store app was helpful too.  Texts came to my phone regularly telling me that a single item was 60% off, or a single cut of fabric was half price.  Using those notifications I bought all of the materials on sale; the foam and the fabric each costing me at most half of the original price.  

Before purchasing the materials, however, I needed a plan.  I based the dimensions for the cushions off those of our indoor couch, which we find very comfortable.  However, I made the height of the back cushions a couple of inches taller to give my husband, with his taller frame, a little more support when he sits.  

My mom added welting (the cord that runs along the edges of cushions) at my request on the cushions for the armchair inside, but that was not the look I wanted for the outdoor loveseat.  Admittedly, welting was more work than I wanted to do on this project too; so for that I was glad it was not the look we were going for outdoors.  

To figure out the amount of materials I needed, a pattern was necessary first.  The internet is such a great resource when you know how to look.  I had an idea of how to go about making a box cushion, and then came across this video tutorial from  The instructions are very clear and helped me to formulate a pattern for my box cushions.  I calculated how many yards of fabric I would need and which notions were necessary.  In the end we decided to use 5” high density foam (more money, but so worth it to have really comfortable cushions), batting (one roll of twin size was more than enough), Sunbrella fabric, zipper, and upholstery thread.  

Also bought on sale

I also bought some foam glue to secure the batting to the foam.  Once I got the spray glue home and read the instructions further, as well as some instructions online, I decided to return that glue.  The toxicity of it frightened me and seemed an unnecessary risk.  To replace that glue I purchased Aleen’s foam glue, which works like the Elmer’s school glue.  A bead of that adhesive along the edges held the batting in place just fine and was a lot healthier to use. 

Most of the winter and spring I waited for the sales to pop up as notifications on my phone, and I slowly made the purchases as they came.  Since I was teaching and it was track season, there was not much time to work on other projects, so it was ok with me that it took a little longer to gather the materials.  Once the local track season began to taper off and I had all of the needed pieces I was able to get to work.  My goal was to have the sofa completed to use in the summer.  

The first step, following the video tutorial was to cut out the foam.  Use your tape measure and a yardstick, or straight edge, to measure and mark the length with a Sharpie or similar writing tool.  Double check the measurement against your plans.  Measure twice and cut once.  You do not want to have to purchase more foam.  

When my parents downsized and cleaned out their house my mom found an electric carving knife in her hope chest.  She asked if I wanted it.  I remember thinking, “When will I ever need that?  I’ll just use a regular knife and not clutter up the kitchen,” and I said, “No thanks.”  Apparently, they are good for cutting foam.  Hindsight is 20/20 😅.  I thought that a reciprocating saw was pretty much the same thing and tried using that.  It worked ok.  I have since found out that my scissors work better and more cleanly and would suggest using those if you do not have one of the knives the tutorial recommends.  

As you may have guessed, my cuts were a little jagged.  I figured I could make up for them with a little extra batting and some squishing into the cushion cases.  Spoiler alert: It worked, but only because the cuts were not horrendous.

The next step was to cut the batting.  For the largest cushion, I chose to line up the foam on the batting, glue along the edges as I wrapped the batting around the largest sections, and cut the excess at the end.  

Begin with the biggest pieces and try to line up the longest edge of the foam with the shortest edge of the batting to get the most you can out of a space.  The goal is to have one large piece leftover instead of a bunch of small pieces.  You will waste less and have more to easily use in a later project.  For example, the long seat cushion will fit vertically on the twin size batting, but may not fit another sized piece of the same width, or the back cushions on the leftover section beside it: 

Not ideal

Now, if you orient the seat cushion horizontally on the batting it also fits, but the amount leftover on the side is not as large and you can fit both sides of the seat cushion on the same length as before, AND one of the long edges in the leftover on the end.  This leaves a larger section intact below and more to work with, creating less waste.  Move pieces around and measure before marking and cutting to get the most out of your materials.

Leftover material is more usable

Squeeze out a bead of glue along the edge. Not too much is needed; the glue is pretty tacky and grips well when you lightly press the batting into it.  

Even with the single large piece of batting, it was important to glue along the edges of each face to make sure the batting stayed in place. 

Once the final edge is glued, cut off the excess batting with some good scissors. I decided not to put any batting along the smallest faces in order to make stuffing the seat cushion into the covers a little easier.  Those ends would be facing into the structure of the couch and the added padding would not be as necessary.

After following the above approach, I chose to use the excess along the sides to cut the pieces for the back cushions and get the most out of my materials. The short edges fit there well.  I glued the edges, lined up the batting, wrapped the batting, and cut the excess.  Continue the process until all of the pieces are covered.  

Be sure to read the instructions on your choice of glue for drying times.  I believe I had to wait a few days before it was fully set.  That is not much of a problem, though, because you have your dimensions and can move on to the sewing!

Since this has gotten rather long, I have written about the sewing in another post.  I hope you are as eager to continue with the project as I was.  

Until then,


Sewing Projects

Sewing Sleeves


Just Sleeves? What About the Rest of the Shirt?

Brownie points if you know which movie inspired the alternate title.

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Jen Juggles It All is not responsible for any injuries, losses, damages, or otherwise negative outcomes that occur from use of or mimicking of activities on this site.  Continued use of Jen Juggles It All confirms agreement with the prior statement.  More information can be read in the disclosure policy and terms of service.

Updated August 25, 2020.  

Many bloggers began blogging as a hobby or a second job to share their hobbies and possibly to make some extra income.  I am no different in that respect.  Likewise, many teachers have second jobs to make some extra income outside of the school day.  

My second, or third job at one point, was born from my pastime of running and love for the sport.  My sister played softball throughout high school and became an umpire to the younger girls while she was still there.  I thought, “Well, I ran track and there were officials for that.  I could do that.”  Thus, I began to search for the path to becoming a track and field official.  

After contacting USATF, the National Association, I was given the contact information for my state association.  I read the rule book, I studied, and I passed the test leading to my admittance.  For the first year I was trained and mentored and worked several high school meets in my area, gradually trying each of the positions.  With all of the events in track and field, and the levels in cross country, there are many different duties and positions for the officials during competitions.  

While there was a good deal of training to undergo at the beginning, we are always learning and practicing to become better.  We are always adding to our “bag of tricks” to make a competition run smoother (pun intended).  My officiating bag gets heavier every season, but I feel more prepared each year as well.

A few years back I started to learn about and be mentored in the position of starting.  I bought the most necessary equipment and eventually began to start local meets.  The starter sets up the fields of runners in local dual meets and generally controls the speed and flow of the running competition, beyond how fast the runners race.  

Once I had at least one track season of starting under my belt I decided I wanted to add to my tool kit.  Several of the experienced starters have a starter sleeve in the orange color of hunters and construction workers laboring near the road.  Orange of that hue is meant to be seen.  My arm holding the starting device needed to be seen better by those timing the race, either other officials, coaches, or volunteers.  When starting the sprints I am 100m to 200m away down or around the track with many athletes milling about.  From my experience timing and judging at the finish line (I’ll wager you had no idea there were so many different jobs in a track meet, because I didn’t when I started.  It’s just not something you pay attention to when you are racing.), the orange sleeve makes it much easier to locate the starter and to know when the race is set to begin.  This is hugely important to having accurate times when the times are taken by hand on stopwatches.

To begin I took a trip to the local fabric store and bought a yard of a synthetic orange fabric in the bright orange color I mentioned before, and a slightly stronger grade of thread in the same color, along with some one inch wide elastic.  I made sure to purchase some stronger materials because I want my gear to last.  It can get beat up a lot in my track bag during the season.  

Materials for sewing a starter sleeve
Materials for sewing the starter sleeve, minus the thread

Also, I chose the synthetic material for its ability to resist water.  Spring track season in our area of the country is generally cool and can have many rainy days.  As long as it’s not pouring and there is no thunder or lightning, the athletes are probably going to compete.  The beginning of April can have some particularly cold and windy days as well, so layers are important.  I made my sleeve larger than a normal shirt sleeve because I will most often be wearing it over several items of clothing, including my official’s jacket.  It is not unusual for me to have six tops on, including my jacket, during these meets as the sun sets in spring time.  Hint if you are a track parent: Wear lots of layers.  It gets windy and cold out there, even at the beginning of June. 

The next step is to make a pattern.  This time I used some of the brown packing paper I had lying around from something we ordered, which I flattened out and pieced together.  I had to doctor my paper a little bit by taking some of the excess from one end and adding it to the bottom for a little more space.  I overlapped the pieces and scotch taped them together.  Pencil writes just fine on matte scotch tape.  (Do they even make the glossy kind anymore?)

DIY sleeve pattern materials
Materials to DIY your sleeve pattern

You could also use a brown paper shopping bag.  Our area supermarkets and stores are exchanging the use of plastic bags for paper ones; the kind we used to cover our textbooks with in grade school before the stretchy book covers became cool.  (My mom would never buy us those anyway because they were a waste of money when we had good paper bags available for free, and both would get equally beat up during the year 😅.  She was right of course, and I always liked designing my book covers.)  

How to cut a brown paper bag:

To cut open the bag, cut down one of the long folds on a corner from the bag opening to the corner of the bag bottom.  Then, cut along all of the folds around the bottom edges of the paper bag.  This cuts the bulky bottom piece out.  When you lay down the remaining bag it should be one large rectangle of paper.  

I suppose another viable alternative could be to use a piece of parchment cooking paper.  Look around your house.  I am sure you have something that could be recycled for a small pattern.

If you have ever followed a pattern for a shirt, dress, or jacket before, even for a doll, you will know that sleeves are not just simple cylinders.  They are more like narrow cones with the tops chopped off.  Your wrist is generally smaller around than your upper arm near the shoulder, so the sleeve will narrow a little as it gets to your wrist.  It’s kind of like the tapering on the barrel of a baseball bat.  Light bulb moment: You could even add some padding to a bat to create a dummy arm if you wanted to test your sleeve there. 

To help myself out I used my seam ripper to take apart a sleeve on a large old t-shirt. 

Old t-shirt to use for pattern making to sew new sleeve
Sleeve from large, old t-shirt with the shoulder seam ripped out

This was an oversized t-shirt, but I still didn’t need my sleeve to be quite so big.  Or so I thought.**  I laid this sleeve out on my paper and got out my measuring tape and list of measurements.

Shoulder and wrist measurements to sew starter sleeve
My starter sleeve measurements

These are the measurements I wanted to fit.  I added a seam allowance of half an inch.  I also needed to add an additional inch to each end for sewing in my elastic cuffs.  To do this I found a tutorial on YouTube with Angela Wolf.  Adding these dimensions made my measurements the following:

  • Upper = 16 ½”
  • Lower = 9”
  • Length = 21”

After figuring this out I used the t-shirt sleeve to help draw the arch for the upper arm on my pattern for the 16 ½” diameter of the upper arm.  I made the lower arm straight, like the t-shirt.  You may notice that I had to tape some extra paper on for my pattern.  Remember to overlap the paper when you tape, it makes the pattern easier to work with.  After that, just use a long straight-edge to connect the upper to the lower arm on either side.  Cut out your pattern.

My finished DIY sleeve pattern
My finished DIY sleeve pattern

Once I cut the pattern out of the paper I wrapped it around my arm to test the fit and noticed that the arch on the upper arm went right up to my shoulder and just crunched down as an extra flap of fabric.  Likewise, there was a small extra flap at my wrist.  I went back and fiddled with the pattern and made the curves concave, so when the sleeve went on my arm it would look like a cylinder; but it isn’t one exactly.

The next step was to pin the pattern to the fabric and cut the fabric.

Sleeve pattern pinned to material for cutting to sleeve pieces for sewing
Sleeve pattern pinned to material
Sleeve pattern pieces all cut
Sleeve material cut from pattern
Sleeve pattern pieces cut for sewing
Sleeve pieces cut from pattern for sewing

This fabric was kind of see through, so I doubled it up for a more opaque look and more potent coloring.  

Having the fabric cut to the pattern, fold the right sides of the fabric together joining the long edges and pin.

Cut sleeve pieces pinned and ready to sew
Sleeve pieces pinned to sew

Leaving the ½” seam allowance, sew the seam where the long edges meet and press open with your iron on a light setting.

Then, cut the elastic to the lengths listed for the upper and lower arms:

  • Upper = 16 ½ “
  • Lower = 9”
Sleeve elastics measured out
Sleeve elastics measured out

Mark a half inch from each end of each elastic.  Line those two markings up and sew them together with a zigzag stitch.  

Sew elastic end to end
Elastics sewn together

As a reminder, I used the instructions from the tutorial on YouTube with Angela Wolf, deciding to sew in the elastic.  If you choose to create an elastic casing, be sure to increase your length measurement to create a seam allowance on each end of your garment.  A ½” should do it, increasing the overall length of the cut of fabric by one whole inch.

To continue, I marked each elastic at quarter intervals as instructed:

Marked elastics for sewing into sleeve cuff and sleeve shoulder
Elastics marked for sewing into sleeve cuff and shoulder

Then I continued with the tutorial, pinning the elastics into the garment, sewing them on, folding the edge over and sewing the other edge of the elastic to the sleeve:

Elastic pinned to sleeve shoulder for sewing
Elastic pinned to sleeve shoulder for sewing
Elastic pinned to sleeve cuff for sewing
Elastic pinned to sleeve cuff
Elastic Sewn into sleeve shoulder
Elastic Sewn into sleeve shoulder
Sleeve cuff pinned to complete sewing
Sleeve cuff pinned to complete sewing
Sleeve shoulder elastic folded and pinned to finish sewing
Sleeve shoulder elastic folded and pinned to finish sewing

Once the elastic was sewn in place I could turn the sleeve right side out and it was ready for wearing.

Completed upper sleeve
Completed upper sleeve
Completed sleeve cuff
Completed sleeve cuff
Completed Starter Sleeve
Completed Starter Sleeve

**What I didn’t think about and discovered when the project was done was that the upper and lower dimensions should have been for the elastic only.  It is the elastic in the cuff that you want to fit to your arm at the smallest comfortable dimensions.  The fabric widths should be larger to accommodate the undergarments and will bunch a little.  I should have added about three more inches to each the upper and lower arm measurements to make them fit more comfortably.  Duh!  (Face palm)

  • Upper = 19”
  • Lower = 12”

When I make a new sleeve I will use the dimensions above for the fabric.  The elastics will remain the same lengths as before.  For now, the one I finished has done its job just fine and the other officials and coaches find it a visible help 😉.  (I like puns, 😏 and obviously emojis too.) 

Do you have an athlete in your life?  If you use a stretchable fabric and more close fitting measurements, some sleeves that match the uniform in color could be helpful for that person during games in late fall and early spring.  Keeping the muscles warm during practice and play is key to keeping your athlete healthy and avoiding injury by pulling cold muscles.  Make sure you check the National Federation of High Schools (NFHS) Rules Book for your athlete’s sport regarding uniforms so that what you make will be legal for play.  (Even better, knowing the rules will also make you a more informed spectator and cheerleader!)  Otherwise, she/he can wear the sleeves during warm-ups, cool downs, and while on the bench.  

Any questions?  Let me know.  I am happy to help.  Please let me know of any upgrades you have tried on this pattern.  Until then, happy sewing and make it your own!