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Design Muse: Stitching on Sleeves


 
Discover fresh ways to use your favorite embroidery designs! The Design Muse tutorial series highlights simple techniques and tricks you can apply to all kinds of projects. Let these ideas inspire your own unique creations!




Embroidery designs can have a great impact anywhere you use them, but sometimes, it’s the more unusual places that really make a garment. Designs on sleeves are an unexpected and chic addition to shirts and sweaters, and just because they look impossible to hoop doesn’t mean they are! All you need is a seam ripper and a little patience, and you can give yourself a thread tattoo down any sleeve.


So, in order to try it out, you’ll need:

  • A light-stitching embroidery design. The Steampunk Sleeve design shown in this tutorial was made just for this purpose! There are three versions available: the large version stitches as one piece about 9.4" long; the smaller two are split into multiple pieces suitable for 5"x7" and 4"x4" hoops that combine to make a bigger sleeve design.
  • An article of clothing with sleeves at least 3/4 length
  • No-show mesh cutaway stabilizer, such as Floriani No Show Mesh or Sulky Soft 'n' Sheer. (This is a great match for lighter deisgns. If your design is on the heavier side, consider a medium weight cutaway instead.)
  • Seam ripper
  • Scissors and pins
  • Temporary spray adhesive
  • Printed template(s) of your design, for placement (here's how to print templates)

I should note that we are going to be ripping open and then closing up the side seams on this garment, so you will lose a little bit of your seam. Don’t grab anything that’s already too snug! 


Your real secret weapon here is your seam ripper. When you’re done, people will go ... how did you get it on your sleeve? Well, this little baby is how.

We’ll need to open up the side seam all the way up to the sleeve edge. Trust me, it’s much easier to put all back together when you open it all up first, and much easier to embroider on.


Once you’ve carefully torn away those stitches with your seam ripper, you should be able to open your sleeve up nice and flat! Don’t worry if your edges look rough and raw, it will all get stitched up nice and pretty when we’re done.


Now grab those printed templates of your design. I’m going to be showing the 4"x4" example of the Steampunk Sleeve design, because it’s stitched in three pieces. For you lucky 6"x10" people, it comes all as one design, and the 5"x7" version comes as just two. Either way, those printed templates are going to help you place your design on the sleeve exactly where you want it.

If you’re unsure of how these are supposed to line up all together, look at the example provided on the original product image for the size you're using. It shows what the completed design should look like.


Once you know where the entire design is going, start with your first template. Tape it in place and then hoop your flattened sleeve up with your no-show mesh cutaway stabilizer, stuck to the back of the fabric with a bit of temporary spray adhesive.


Use that template to perfectly place your design where you need it to go on your machine. When you’re ready, remove the paper template and start stitching!


If you have a version of a design that comes in more than once piece, you’ll need to use your next template to line it up.

Never fret, this embroidery piece was designed to be very forgiving on how these pieces line up. As long as you’re close, it will look dandy and no one (including yourself) will be able to tell if it’s a little bit off.

Continue your design down your sleeve.


For my last and final 4"x4" piece of this design, I had to re-hoop my fabric. Just take care not to stretch or distort your knit when you do so! Use that last template to put the final piece in place.


And we’re done! Even with a small hoop, you can create a big, bold and beautiful design down a sleeve. This elegant steampunk design is light and chic enough for any long sleeved project!


Now we just need to close it all up again, and leave people wondering how on earth we did it in the first place. Turn your item inside out and pin the raw edges together.

Your secret weapon on this step is pins. Lots and lots of pins! Especially with light, stretchy or knit garments, pins will help keep all those edges lined up they way they should be.

Take extra care that you line up the two pieces at the sleeve end, under arm, and bottom of the garment. These are the places you will most notice a misalignment.


Sew a nice wide seam to make sure you catch both sides of your shirt, and backstitch at the beginning and end for extra strength. Before you call it done, check the edges of the seam to make sure there are no gaps where the seam didn’t get closed up.


That’s it! It may look tricky from the outside, but opening up and stitching on sleeves is really quite easy, and produces truly chic and professional results.

Plus, that elegant, long design is perfect for any sleeve you can stitch on, and easy to assemble no matter what your hoop size.


Repeat the process on the other side for a tattoo sleeve shirt that is certainly much much more painless than its skin-inked counterpart.

Opening sleeves opens up a whole world of more unique placement options for designs. Forget just putting designs in the expected places. Go wild and see just how easy it can be!


Want a printer-friendly PDF of this page? You got it, bud.
Suggested designs for this tutorial: 
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