Maybe Matilda: Adding Long Sleeves to Short Sleeve Shirts

Monday, January 7, 2013

Adding Long Sleeves to Short Sleeve Shirts

I feel like I should always add a disclaimer to my sewing posts: I’m a lazy seamstress. I have no doubt whatsoever that there are nicer, neater, more professional ways of getting this done. I love sewing, but I enjoy the finished products more than the process, so I generally hurry through and cut corners and take the easy way out instead of doing things ‘right.’ So, now that you know I’m something of a cheater and there are definitely more professional-looking ways to get this same job done, let’s move along.

How to add long sleeves to short-sleeved t-shirts!

I like the long-sleeves-under-a-short-sleeve-shirt look, and I like that adding a long sleeve gets you more bang for your buck by carrying a summer top into fall and winter. So when I was offered some tops from, I snatched up these adorable short-sleeve shirts for Forrest, as well as a plain adult tee to use for sleeve material. Here’s how I used a plain t-shirt to add a long sleeve to a short sleeve tee.

How to use an old t-shirt to add long sleeves to short-sleeve tees

I started by using a long-sleeve shirt that fits Forrest well as a pattern piece. I lined up the outer edge of the sleeve along the side seam of the large adult shirt, with the end of the sleeve hitting about 1/2” away from the bottom hem of the shirt (by using the side seam and hem, you won’t have to do much sewing/hemming on your long sleeve—score!). I left that extra 1/2” at the bottom hem to allow for growth in the coming months. I laid the new short-sleeved shirt on top of the long-sleeved one with the shoulder seams aligned so I would know how far ‘up’ to cut the new sleeve.

Adding long sleeves to short-sleeve tee

Then I just cut through both layers of the gray t-shirt at once, staying about 1/2” away from the long-sleeve pattern piece. I stopped cutting about 1/2” past the hem of the short sleeve, then moved the two top shirts out of the way and continued in a straight line out to the shirt’s side seam.

How to sew long sleeves onto short sleeve shirt

Turn that piece inside out and pin the long cut edge closed, then sew it shut with a straight stitch. You’ll end up with a tube.

Sewing long sleeve

Time to attach the new sleeve to the existing one. Leaving the long sleeve inside out, slip it inside the existing sleeve (the shirt should be right side out) with the raw edge lining up with the existing sleeve’s hem. I took this picture so you cold see how the sleeve should be placed . . . but obviously, inside the shirt. Make sure the side seams of the sleeve are lined up with the existing sleeve’s seam (should be in the armpit), and pin it around.

Sewing long sleeve into short-sleeved top

Then, slowly and carefully, sew around the sleeve, staying close to the existing hem’s stitch line. It’ll be a little tricky to navigate around the little sleeve opening, but you can do it. Just work slowly and make sure to keep the opposite side of the sleeve out of the way so you don’t sew through it by mistake.

Sew long sleeve to short-sleeve top

Backstitch at the start and end, trim your threads, and pull the sleeve right side out. Tada! Long sleeved! If you’d like, go back in and trim the excess fabric away at the new seam around the sleeve so you don’t have any extra bulk. I’ve seen some tutorials where you sew in the new sleeve at the shoulder so you don’t have to worry about ever seeing any extra fabric around the seam. That is probably a better idea, but I don’t know . . . this just seemed much faster and simpler to me, so I did it this way. Like I said, I’m a lazy seamstress.

Add long sleeves to short-sleeve shirt

True to the shirt’s name, my little grumposaur had a very hard time modeling this one for me. These pictures were, unfortunately, the best we could get. At least we tried.

How to add long sleeves to a short-sleeved shirt

(Let’s pretend that’s a coy pose and not a shoveling of bribery chocolate chips into his gullet.)

DIY add long sleeves to short sleeve shirt

I love how it turned out! Now he’s got a cute new winter shirt and, if I want to, I can always just pull that seam out and remove the long sleeves in the spring. This was very quick and easy to do, and a great way to extend the life of his seasonal wardrobe.

(I was not compensated for this post, but I did receive the shirts free from The ideas/opinions/writing/everything-but-the-t-shirts-themselves are mine.)

I’m sharing this project at Craft-o-Maniac, The Girl Creative, Sew Can Do, Mommy by Day Crafter by Night, Sugar Bee Crafts, and Tip Junkie.


  1. Does this shirt come in male adult large? Because I need one for a certain grouchasaurus in my life. P.S. He loves when I call him that.

    Cute idea. I'm all about the lazy/easy way. It makes my world go round.

  2. What a great idea! Thanks for sharing. :)

  3. I absolutely agree with you - in many cases, the effect is more important than sewing process :-) Thanks for the how-to.

  4. Such a great idea! I love the grumposaur t-shirt. I bet Forrest loves it too. The photos are great-- way to tame the beast with snacks and a drink.

  5. Love the t-shirts - really cute! The life of a model is obviously a difficult one.

  6. Great job on the sleeves! I'm definitely a lazy sewer too. I know better, but can't usually be bothered to actually do it "right" either. It's kinda the way to go when there are screaming munchkins in the room!

    P.S. Forrest may have caught on to the fact that if you throw a fit whenever you see the camera, you'll get a treat. I know Reli sure has! Do you think our kids are secretly e-mailing each other...:P

  7. Beautiful idea! I love the pictures.

  8. Love this idea! Josh is always outgrowing his sleeves, but he's a skinny kid, so the shirt remains baggy, indefnitely. I could probably add sleeves to a 12mo t-shirt and it'll fit perfectly fine. Come to think of it, he's still wearing a 9mo tank top. Btw, they are only a few weeks apart in birthday :-)

  9. A really good idea!!!
    Thank you for sharing with us.
    Mª José

  10. Love this! Oh man, I just got rid of some long sleeved shirts I could have used too! Oh well, next time.

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