Sleevefest 2017: Ruffle-Sleeve Coco Hack

Q: What’s the collective noun for a group of ruffled garments?

A: A gathering.

(I thought of that all by myself and I was pretty pleased about it!)


Unless you’ve been walking about with your eyes shut since January you’ll have noticed that sleeves, particularly big ruffled ones, are big news in 2017. This has already been dubbed “Year of the Sleeve”, and Sleevefest is now officially a thing. Honestly, non-instagrammers, it is. Sleevefest is a competition being hosted by and valentineandstitch, with prizes being awarded for the best and most creative handmade sleeves. Entries are still being accepted until 31st August, so if you fancy giving it a go, there’s still time! Have a look at this post by for all the details.

I’ll admit that at first I was sceptical. It was all a bit Laurence Llewellyn Bowen for me. (Don’t know Laurence? He’s an interior designer/minor Brit celebrity who shot to fame on hit TV show Changing Rooms in the 1990’s, and is mostly remembered for wearing outfits like this:)


laurence sleeves

That said, I’m not stubborn or afraid to admit when I’m wrong! Pleats, gathers and frills of all sizes have stealthily crept into the mainstream over the last 12 months, so it’s now socially acceptable to add a camp little flounce to just about anything, and for any occasion.

And it’s easy to see why. Well placed gathers can draw the eye to the slimmest parts of you body and enhance fuller areas, whilst also helpfully skimming over any bits you’re less keen on. A gathered skirt, for instance, cinches in the waist whilst also drawing attention to (or giving the illusion of) a peachy bum. Have a look at my Recycled Plastic Skirt again, as evidence. And gathers on sleeves or trouser legs can play with proportion, making ankles and wrists look slimmer. And that’s before you even get to how the fabric in gathered garments moves with you, swishing and swaying with your every move and bringing new life to your outfit.

Plus, gathers are ridiculously easy to sew. Aesthetics aside, it also reduces the need for lengthy fitting sessions and fiddly darts. You just need one measurement – the length of whatever you’re joining you gathers into – and bam! You’re away.

Which brings us nicely back to the garment I’m here to discuss…

Following the success of my Secret Patchwork Coco a couple of months ago, I knew I wanted to make Coco by Tilly and the Buttons again. It’s really easy to sew up, the shape is super flattering and its simplicity makes it a great wardrobe-builder. It’s made from super-soft pale blue cotton jersey (Saeed’s in Walthamstow, £8 p/m), and, yes, this time I did have enough fabric. In fact, I even managed to cut out the sleeve ruffles from the off-cuts, which made this a really economical make.

The sleeve ruffles are just rectangles cut 2.5x longer than than the sleeve hem on the original pattern (I used the 3/4 length version, but I suppose you could use the full-length sleeves if you wanted to make something really flamboyant). The rectangles are then gathered and applied to the sleeve while it’s still flat – the sleeves of Coco are assembled flat anyway, which is great because I normally hate setting sleeves and have been known to cry actual tears over it. I neatened the seam by over-locking the seam allowances together and pressing upwards towards the shoulder, then top-stitching with a zig-zag all the way around for a really neat finish. I only made one turn in the new hem, so that the ruffle stays light and can move easily. I then assembled my Coco as usual.

From the original instruction booklet for Coco, showing how the sleeves are constructed.

If you have time, make sure you search for #sleevefest2017 on Insta. It’s  really cool to see all the gorgeous hacks and details people have come up with.




I’m very conscious that I haven’t blogged yet about the New Craft House Summer Party, as promised in my last post. This is absolutely no reflection on the event itself – it was a really really lovely evening, and everyone there was so very welcoming. It was lovely to finally meet so many of the sewing bloggers who’s inspired me – in fact it’s fair to say that in a lot of cases I was quite star-struck and scared to approach people. The outfits on show were absolutely incredible – so good, in fact, that they added two Honourable Mention awards to the Best Handmade Outfit competition, because the standard was so high (I mean, just look at the winners in the bottom photo! Don’t they look divine?!). Plus, it was nice to be in the company of other people who request to touch other people’s clothes, just to see how the fabric feels. I’ve always thought I’m the only person who does this and my friends laugh at me for it, but it turns out I’m not alone! Loads of sewists do it! We can’t resist!

Among other things we chatted about our favourite indie patterns, places to shop for fabric, fashion ethics, and how sewing makes great therapy. But the truth is that I probably didn’t get as much out of it as I would have liked – this has been a sad couple of weeks for me for reasons that I’m not ready to discuss, and I was distracted. I didn’t have the presence of mind to take any photos (gutted, actually) and small talk sometimes felt a little bit laboured. So if you took the time to speak to me, then thank you, and sorry if I seemed weird. But please don’t be in any doubt at all that it was a really lovely event and it lifted my spirits hugely. It’s just that I don’t have a great deal to show for it. But the New Craft House girls have written a lovely post about it, and there’s already talk of another party at Christmas, which is really exciting. So thank you, lovely sewists, for lifting me up. Sewing people are the best people.

Party winners
Thank goodness someone remembered to take photos! This one’s pinched from Instagram.