Adding/Replacing Long Sleeves on a T-Shirt

I’m finding as the seasons change (we’re slow about season changing here in Southern CA) that Eli has outgrown most of his existing long sleeved shirts. I’m trying to go the frugal route these days and as he has plenty of short sleeved T-shirts that fit him well I decided to try adding long sleeves to them.

Here’s how I went about doing so:

I started with this shirt. Yea, already has long sleeves, but they were at one time in the distant past white and no amount of laundering or stain treatment is returning them to their former glory, so this shirt had been pulled from rotation some time ago. The shirt itself is fine though and one of Eli’s favorites, so we’ll just switch out the sleeve.

Carefully clip it free… so much faster than seam ripping!

Open it up and trace it onto freezer paper to make a pattern. I did seam rip the side seam to preserve the side seam allowances. Add 1/4″ at the top to account for what was left behind when cutting it from the shirt. (I think you could probably make a pattern easily enough by tracing the sleeve of a long sleeved shirt still attached, doubling it mirror image and adding a seam allowance.) Leaving the bottom without allowance for hemming was on purpose as I plan to use the hemmed bottom of another t-shirt for the sleeve.

Iron the pattern to your donor shirt. I loved this yellow stripy shirt that became hideously stained by Colic Calm long ago. (Wonderful product… deadly to fabric.)

Open the side seam of your sleeve a little ways.

Sew the top part of the long sleeve to the bottom part of the short sleeve. This can be done by machine. I did it by hand as I was out of brown thread that would have blended in with the existing serged line of stitching and I thought a contrasting machine stitch would just look tacky, especially if I wavered at all which often happens with me. I also liked that the front of the shirt has an embellishment of brown embroidery, and a printed-to-look-hand-embroidered line around Elmo. On the sleeves the darker red stripes are machine embroidered, so I thought carrying the motif over to the attachment of the sleeve with a little pop of red might be fun.

Pin and sew up the sides of the sleeve. For this I did use the machine. (Use a zigzag stitch).

Turn right side out and enjoy the “new” shirt!

I also used the same pattern piece to make long sleeves to add to a short sleeved t-shirt. This time I sewed up the side seam of the sleeve ahead of time and then attached it to the short sleeve by hand. I did it this way simply because I didn’t feel like ripping open the side seam of the short sleeve and I knew I was needing a little handwork to bring along with me for a time I knew I’d be sitting around waiting for Jeff and Eli. The dark blue on the bottom is just some left over neck ribbing from another old t-shirt that I added for an extra pop of color.

I hope you find this tutorial helpful in extending your little one’s wardrobe through another season.

Thanks for reading!


Here’s where I’m linking up:


I {heart} Naptime,  Flamingo Toesjembellish clothes upcycling page,

Blissful and Domestic,


Get Outta My Head PleaseSkip to My LouThe Gunny SackSew Can Do,

C.R.A.F.T.,  diy home sweet homeCraft-O Maniac, Sew Chatty, Sarahndipities ,

The Cure for the Common Monday, A Round Tuit,


Not Just a HousewifeHope StudiosFunky Polkadot Giraffe,

Kammy’s KornerHome Stories A to Z, Crafty Confessions,

Homemade Tuesday,  Today’s Assignment,

Antiprocrastination TuesdayTake-a-Look Tuesday,  Nifty Thrifty Tuesday,

The Creative Itch BoutiqueSchwin and SchwinHeart and Soul Blog Hop


Sew Much AdoFrugally Sustainable,  Lil’ LunaSomeday CraftsWhimsy

WednesdayWaste Not Want Not Wednesday, The Country Homemaker Hop,


Mom On TimeoutThrifty DecoratingBear Rabbit BearThriving on Thursdays

The Crafty BlogstalkerThe Shabby Creek CottageHouse of Hepworths,

Sorta Crunchy, Delightful OrderAnything Goes Linky Party,


Simply DesigningWhipperberry,  Happy Hour Projects

Joyful StamperMaking Lemonade BlogThirty Handmade Days,

Naptime CraftersRomantic HomeFinding Fabulous,

Shabby NestFrench Country Cottage, The Charm of HomeThe Grant Life,

At the Picket FenceFingerprints on the Fridge, One Artsy Mama


The Gingerbread BlogToo Much Time On My Hands, Hello Weekend,

Six Sisters StuffSerenity YouBe Different Act Normal



  1. blackpaws said,

    November 22, 2012 at 6:11 pm

    Great idea! Might have to give it a try.

    • November 22, 2012 at 7:34 pm

      Let me know how it goes if you do. I just pulled a couple more shirts out of Eli’s drawer to work on over the weekend… it’s really a fast little project.

  2. ReStitch Me said,

    November 23, 2012 at 9:19 am

    This is such a popular look right now–even for teenagers/adults. This tutorial will come in handy! 🙂

  3. November 23, 2012 at 11:37 am

    Ooooo – love LOVE love!! Especially the hand-sewing directions… Not quite brave enough to tackle my machine yet (although thanks for the Christmas present mom!!), but this looks like I could even do it! Thanks for posting!

  4. thegrantlife said,

    November 23, 2012 at 9:43 pm

    Oh how smart! I never thought to add sleeves.. I normally have to take sleeves off because its never cold here. Haha. Such a good idea!

    • November 27, 2012 at 11:35 am

      Thanks, Kelley! Do you just hem up the sleeves or remove them from the shirts that have the layered look?

  5. kelliefish13 said,

    November 25, 2012 at 6:39 pm

    Great idea, though since we are coming into summer I think I will take some sleeves off.

  6. Maysem said,

    November 25, 2012 at 8:31 pm

    That’s a brilliant idea Karen!!

  7. Michelle M. said,

    November 26, 2012 at 12:33 pm

    Awesome! I tried this last week and failed miserably. I’ll have to give it another go now that I’ve seen your tutorial!

  8. November 26, 2012 at 1:04 pm

    Great way to prolong the lives of those shirts!

    Thanks for linking to a Round Tuit!
    Hope you have a fabulous week!
    Jill @ Creating my way to Success

  9. Inder said,

    November 30, 2012 at 10:07 am

    I love this idea. I’m trying to think of a good way to do it by machine, since handwork just isn’t really happening in these parts. Maybe if I rolled up the sleeve I could get it under the foot and quick sew around? Hmmmmm. May have to try that …

    • November 30, 2012 at 10:25 am

      The best I could figure was to open up the side seam of the short sleeve to sew the sleeve extension on and then down the side seam both together… but then the hem at the bottom of the sleeve is attached to the long sleeve… if you figure out a better way I’d love to learn it!

  10. December 2, 2012 at 8:21 pm

    Great little tutorial! I can see this working really well for adult tops, too, with some thrift store tops.

    Thanks so much for sharing this on Waste Not Want Not Wednesday! I’ve pinned this and look forward to seeing what you’ve been up to this week 🙂

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