Drafting the Sleeve Block

How to Draft the Sleeve Block

Final Sleeve Block These instructions were amended on 26th June 2020.  There was a mistake in the instructions prior to this update. These are the step-by-step instructions for drafting the Sleeve Block. This sleeve is made to fit the personalized Bodice Block, therefore you need to make that first.

Example – Finished Sleeve Block

This first image is what the block looks like at the end of the step-by-step instructions below, using the measurements specified on the Preliminary Tab.  The shape of yours may end up looking quite different.

Comparison – My Sleeve Block

This is what my block, using my personal measurements, looks like.   This is to show you that if the shape of your block ends up looking quite different to the one I am making in the example that you are following along with, it doesn’t matter (as long as you are using your correct measurements, of course!).  This is the point of making your own block: it will reflect what your body looks like. Maria's Sleeve Block for comparison

Cap Height and Bicep

The measurements required to make the Sleeve Block include the Cap Height, a measurement taken from your body. However, we will first work out the Ideal Cap Height for your Bicep & Armhole measurements.  It is the Ideal Cap Height because it will result in a sleeve with minimum ease in the sleeve cap. We will then mark and compare the actual Cap Height measurement taken from your body.

Sleeve Block Figure 1

We will first use the Bicep and Armhole measurements to work the ideal Cap Height.
  • Draw a horizontal guideline (from A to B) about 6 inches wider than your bicep measurement. Making it around number will make it easier.  This horizontal line is the Bicep line.
  • Mark the half-way point of this line and label it C. Draw a guide line up from C, at right angles to the A~B line.  Make this about 7 or 8 inches high.  This vertical line is the Cap Height line.
  • With C at the center, draw a line that is the width of the Bicep +2-inches ease or Bicep + 4-inches ease*. Label the two end points of this bicep line E and F as shown.
  • We will mark the Cap Height on the C~D line in the next step.
* 2 inches ease is the standard.  Some people may need more.  If you often have problems with the sleeves of store purchasing clothing being either too tight in the bicep or being constrictive when moving your arms forward, you may need up to 4 inches ease.  Read Ease in the Bicep (menu on this page).

(For this example – From A to B = 16″, Bicep line is 10.88 + 2 inches ease = 12.88″).

Drawing a vertical guide and plotting the bicep measurement points

Sleeve Block Figure 2

Note that in this step we aren’t drawing a line; we are just measuring up from the Bicep line and marking a point on the Cap Height line.
  • Add together the following measurements for the next step:  (Front Armhole + Back Armhole + sleeve cap ease*), and divide by 2.
  • Using that measurement, measure up from point E on the (Bicep) line to touch the C~D (Cap Height) line, and where it touches, mark it G.   This is the ideal Cap Height.

*The amount of ease added for the sleeve cap curve increases with size,  see the Preliminary page for details of how much sleeve cap ease to add to the armhole measurements.

(For this example: [8.56 Armhole Front + 8.77 Armhole Back + 0.5 ease] = 17.83 ÷ 2 = 8.92)

Calculation of and marking the Cap Height

Sleeve Block Figure 3

Now we are going to move the bicep line to reflect the actual back and front armhole measurements in relation to the shoulder tip point (G).  At the moment the shoulder tip point is exactly in the middle of the sleeve, whereas the front and back armhole measurements may be significantly different.  (In this example they are very similar; further down there is a link to an example where they are different, so you can more clearly see what we are trying to achieve).
  • Back Armhole measurement + half (sleeve cap) ease measurement:  Measure and draw a line from G towards the point E to meet the line A~D, and label the point H.   If the back armhole measurement is larger than the front armhole, the point H will be to the left of point E.  If the back armhole measurement is smaller than the front, H will be to the right of E.
  • Front Armhole measurement + half (sleeve cap) ease measurement:  Measure and draw a line from G towards the point F to meet the line A~D, and label the point I.   If the front armhole measurement is larger than the front armhole,  the point I will be to the right of point F.  If the front armhole measurement is smaller than the front, it will be to the left of F.
  • The Bicep line is now from H to I rather than from E to F.  This may be slightly less (1/16 or 1/8 inch) than the original E~F line.
In THIS example it isn’t really obvious, as the front and back measurements are very similar.  It will be more obvious in cases where the back and front measurements are significantly different; e.g. a forward sloping shoulder.  Click here to see an example where it is more obvious.

(For this example: Back Armhole line = 8.77 + 0.25 = 9.02 in, Front Armhole line = 8.81 + 0.25 = 8.81 in)

Drawing in Back Armhole and Front Armhole lines and (possible) movement of the bicep placement

Sleeve Block Figure 4

We are now going to mark the actual (body measurement) Cap Height and compare it to the Ideal Cap Height that we calculated from the Bicep and Armhole measurements in the previous steps.
  • Using your body Cap Height measurement, measure up from C towards G.  Label the point J.
Note the following:
  • If you have a standard figure, and you have used 2-inches ease G and J should be very close.  If J is lower than G, use G as your Cap Height.  If J is higher than G, use J as your Cap Height.
  • If you used 4 inches ease for your bicep, the difference between G & J may be significant.  You could use either as your Cap Height, but see the note below.*
*For those with a large difference between G and J:  If you use G as your Cap Height point, you will have minimum ease in the sleeve cap, but the sleeve will have a bit of flare.  If you use J as your Cap Height, you will have more than the minimum amount of ease in the sleeve cap (which means tucks, gathers, a dart or a design line), but you will have a more fitting sleeve. In this example (since I am using standard measurements), G & J are very close; G is 6.31 inches and J is 6.13 inches.  From Image 5  I will use G as the Cap Height and J will not be shown.  I will also stop showing points E & F from Image 5. Mark body Cap Height

Sleeve Block Figure 5

  • Mark the half-way point of the Bicep Line (halfway between points H and I) and label the point C2.
  • Take your Full Length Sleeve Measurements and subtract your Cap Height measurement (whichever Cap Height you have decided to use).  The resulting value is the Bicep to Wrist Measurement.
  • Using your Bicep to Wrist Measurement, measure down from point C2 and mark point K.
  • Draw a guideline for the wrist line, at right angles to the C2 to K line.
Note:  With the Standard Figure, the points C and C2 are very close together. See Figure 5b for an example of what difference this makes for a Non-Standard Figure. Measure bicep to wrist (shoulder to wrist minus cap height) and mark wrist line

Sleeve Block Figure 5b

There is a greater distance between point C and C2 for this person than with the Standard Figure above.  This is because the back armhole measurement is much larger than the front armhole measurement.  (Due to, for example, a rounded upper back and forward sloping shoulder).

Example of a larger back armhole; point C2 is further to the left of point C than the standard figure

Sleeve Block Figure 6

  • Cap to Elbow: Take your Cap to Elbow measurement and subtract your Cap Height.  Using the remainder (Bicep to Elbow) Measure down from C2  on the C2 to K line, and label the elbow point L.
  • Elbow circumference + elbow ease:* Using this measurement, draw a line with L as the center, at right angles to the C2~L line.  Label the ends of the elbow line M (back) and N (front).
  • Guide for underarm seam line back: Draw a line from H to the wrist line, touching the elbow point M.  Where the line meets the wrist line, label the point O.
  • Guide for underarm seam line front: Draw a line from I to the wrist line, touching the elbow point N.  Where the line meets the wrist line, label the point P.
*Elbow ease:  Add 1.25 inches if you used 2 inches ease in the bicep.  Add 2.5 inches ease if you used 4 inches ease in your bicep.

For this example: Full Length Sleeve = 22.5″, Cap to Elbow = 14.13″ & Elbow Circumference = 10 + 1.25 = 11.25″.

Drawing the underarm seams from the bicep line to the wristline

Sleeve Block Figure 7

  • Extend the line N-M beyond M for 0.25-inches and label the point Q.
  • Measure down 1-inch from M on the M~O line, and label the end point R. This is the dart width.
  • Measure in 0.63-inch from O on the O~P line, mark the point S.
(* For this size, the dart length is 3.25″.  See the measurement information on the Preliminary Tab for how long to make your dart). Marking the dart width and the inwards slope of the wristline

Sleeve Block Figure 8

Sleeve Head:

We will first divide the back and front armhole lines into quarters in preparation for drawing the sleeve cap curve.
  • Measure the length from H~G (or H~J) and divide by 4. Using this measurement, mark the halfway and quarter points of this line.  Label the points R, S & T as shown.
  • Measure the length from I~G (or I~J) and divide by 4. Using this measurement, mark the halfway and quarter points of this line.  Label the points U, V & W as shown.

Elbow Dart:

  • Measure the dart length from Q on the Q-N line.  Mark the dart point.
  • Using the same measurement (both dart legs have to be the same length), measure from the dart point through point R and mark the end point T.
Dividing the sleeve head into sections in preparation for drawing the sleeve head curve

Sleeve Block Figure 9

Sleeve Head – Back:

(Note:  the orange line is the sleeve cap you will be drawing in the next step. It is shown here to clarify the instructions below).
  • Measure outwards at R (at right angles to the A~G or A~J line) for 0.75 inch.
  • Measure outwards at S (at right angles to the A~G or A~J line) for 0.31 inch (5/16″).
  • Measure inwards at T (at right angles to A~G or A~J line) for 0.25 inch.

Sleeve Head Front:

  • Measure outwards at U (at right angles to the H~G or H~J line) for 0.88 inch (7/8″).
  • Measure outwards at V (at right angles to the H~G or H~J line) for 0.25 inch.
  • Measure inwards at W (at right angles to the H~G or H~J line) for 0.5 inch.
Measuring in and out at defined places to mark points for the sleeve curve

Sleeve Block Figure 10

Draw Back and Front of Sleeve Cap:

  • Draw the sleeve cap using a French Ruler as shown, with the Back Curve touching H, T, S, R & G, and the front curve touching I, W, V, U & G.
If you measure the final curve head – from H to I – it should be about 1.25 to 1.75 inches more than the F&B armhole measurements added together. In this example: Front & Back Armhole measurements (without ease) = 17.33″.  The Sleeve-head curve = 19.05″.  Amount of Sleeve-head ease = 1.72″. Drawing the sleeve head curve using a French Curve

Sleeve Block Figure 11

Finishing off the underarm seam and wrist line

  • Draw a line from H to Q.
  • Measure from N to P.
  • Draw a line from T through point S to be the same value as N~P.  Mark the end point U.
  • Use a French ruler to draw a smooth curve for the wrist from U to P.

Mark the back and front notch points on the sleeve cap

  • Put two notch marks on the Back of the Sleeve-head at the cross-over point between S & T.  (Two notch points differentiates it from the front).
  • Put one notch mark on the front of the Sleeve-head at the crossover point between V & W.

Placing double notches on back and single notch marks on front and finishing off underarm seam on the dart side

Sleeve Block Figure 12

You are Finished the Sleeve Block! You can now:
  • Mark the grainline
  • Mark the notch points
  • Label the block (e.g. Fitted Sleeve, Size, Name, etc..)
  • Cut out the block shape from the cardboard.
  • Clip the notch point
  • Use an awl or sharp implement to punch out the dart point
Marking, labeling and notching the finished block


You will need to mark the Notches on the Bodice Back and Front.
  • *Walk the Bodice Back** armhole curve against the back sleeve cap curve from the underarm up to the sleeve cap and mark where it ends.
  • Walk the Bodice Front** armhole curve against the front sleeve cap curve from the underarm up to the sleeve cap and mark where it ends.
  • The amount left over at the top between the two mark made is the ease.  Measure this amount and check that you have between 1.25 and 1.75 inches ease.
  • When you are walking the back and front armholes and you reach the front/back notch marks on the sleeve cap, mark these on the bodice pieces.
You will need to turn the Bodice Back and Bodice Back over to walk the seams against the sleeve cap . See the article Walking a Seam for a step-by-step example.


There is currently no PDF downloads available. The 1-page Outline needs to be updated.

10 Responses

  1. Dear Maria,

    My sleeve block looks absolutely ghastly!

    The HMO line veers very sharply to the right while the INP line is almost a

    straight line at right angles to line AB. It looks awkward. I’ve a wide

    variation of up to 2 inches between the front and back armhole

    measurements and I’m wondering if this is the cause. I’ve

    stopped at point S cos I think someting is off and I hope you can correct

    me , before I continue.

    Thanks absolutely.


  2. I need to go back and add something into these instructions, I seem to have missed a step and you are the first person to bring it to my attention.

    You need to build the bottom part of the sleeve based on the middle of the bicep – see the images attached. These images are from the[url=”https://www.dresspatternmaking.com/blocks/drafting-patternmaking-blocks/sleeve-block/instructions-video-sleeve”] Sleeve Video[/url] – maybe you should watch the video if you are unclear what I mean. (I will amend these written instructions as soon as I can, but in the meantime the correct information is in the video).

  3. I also have the same problem as you do – my back armhole is much larger than my front (as I have forward sloping shoulders and a rounded upper back).

    See the image of my sleeve attached. My shoulder notch it not half-way, it is further towards the front. BUT the base of the sleeve is constructed on the mid-bicep, so the sleeve is symmetrical from the bicep down.

  4. Dear Maria,

    It worked! It worked!

    Sorry for the delay in responding. I was trying out your corrections.

    Thanks plenty for your new instructions. Again , very detailed and guided . My sleeve block looks close to normal now , like some of your drawings. I feel rather accomplished. Thank you very much for the tutorial .


  5. Hi Maria,

    For some strange reason, I’ve just seen your second reply (don’t know how I could have missed it, right there before my eyes), I didn’t see the header; Maria-Abimbola. My earlier message was in response ro the mail you sent.

    Thanks so much indeed, for taking time to make my personal diagram. You are such a sweetheart. Thank you and God bless you.


  6. Hi Maria

    Thank you for the knowledge.

    Talking about fitted sleeves, I understand here it should be without gathers, tucks etc.

    How do I handle the 1.25 – 1.75 ease (excess) on the sleeve when sewing to the bodice?


  7. Hello Iretiolu

    You should be able to ‘ease’ most of that excess on the sleeve. If you are on the smaller side, you may not be able to ease all of the 1.75 inches ease. If you are on the larger side you may be able to.

    The problem is that not everyone is able to ease all the excess into the sleeve cap curve and may need to either put in some gathers, a pleat or a dart. This will happen when you do not have the same cap height/bicep proportion of the standard figure.

    In my case I cannot get an ‘ideal’ fitted sleeve that follows the curve of the arm with only 2 inches ease in the bicep AND ending up with only the minimal ease needed in the sleeve cap curve with no gathers. If I reduce the bicep I can get the minimal ease in the sleeve cap, but in that case the sleeve is restrictive. I need more than 2 inches ease in the bicep, and that means I end up with excess ease in the sleeve cap.

    In order to understand this fully, you need to understand the relationship between the four sleeve cap measurements: front armhole mm, back armhole mm, the bicep and the sleeve cap curve.

    I have written 4 articles that explains this in detail:


  8. Looking for what I remembered as your additional instructions for a no-dart fitted long sleeve, I found even more terrific information about sleeve cap/bicep fitting for my non-standard shoulders and arms via your blog. Thank you SO much for this. Not many other people get it, and have the expertise to explain it.

  9. Dear Maria,
    Thanks plenty for the updated versions of the front and back bodice drafts.

    I have a slight issue. In trying to match the shoulders of both as you said to do, I find my SLEEVED front bodice shouder longer than the back one by about a quarter ¼inch excluding the dart.

    Having added ⅝inch to the SLEEVED front shdr and ⅜ to the SLEEVED back shdr , excluding the dart, it seems there a deficit of a ¼ in the back.

    I’ve gone over the videos multiple times to see if I missed perhaps a place ¼inch might have mentioned.

    Thanks very much.


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