Finding a Butterfly Sleeve Pattern (Butterfly Sleeve Guide)

When it comes to sewing and fashion, you can make just about any design you want out of the material. That way you can create your own look, be fashion-forward and look good all at the same time. Butterfly wings are just one option you have at your disposal.

There are many tutorials online helping add a set to any sleeveless top you may have. Or you can select one of the many fabric stores or marketplace outlets that sell these patterns for a reasonable price.

To learn more about where to get a butterfly pattern, just continue to read our article. it has that information and more. Take a few minutes to see what butterfly sleeves can do for your personal fashion look. You never know which sleeveless top you can enhance with a simple fabric addition.

What is a Butterfly Sleeve?

What-is- Butterfly-Sleeve

This type of sleeve has a unique look to it. It can be confused with angel sleeves and sometimes puffed sleeves but when done right, it has its own look. As you may already know, the name reflects the look the sleeve has when completed.

There is a nice butterfly wing look when it is done. The sleeve has a puffed look that spreads out as you move your arms. It is a gentle drape and they look and work the best when light to medium fabrics are used to create them.

That fabric should have a nice flowing drape to it as well. A flutter sleeve is similar but is not as flowing puffed or long as this style of sleeve. There is also no cuff or stretch closure on the end of the sleeve-like puffed sleeves would have.

The style originated in the Philippines and was made famous by the late dictator Marco’s wife Imelda. There can be some different looks to this style as people add their own ideas to the look.

How do you Make a Butterfly Sleeve?

There are basic tools of the trade that you will need to get this project done right. A pencil, a basic sleeve pattern, pins, scissors, a sewing machine, pattern paper, and the fabric. Once you have all of these items you can get started on your project.

The first step is to cut out the sleeve from the blouse or shirt you want to add the butterfly sleeve to. If it is sleeveless already skip this part. Make sure to align the top seam with the arm opening. Put in the needed seam allowance at this time as well.

Step two has you drawing a new sleeve pattern on the pattern paper you have assembled. Then pin the patter over the current sleeve pattern, watching for pattern markings, grainline, notches, and seam allowance suggestions.

After that is done, go to step three which is unpin the new pattern and cut it out. Then pin it to a new pattern sheet and draw 7 vertical lines through the sleeve. One line should be at the center and there should be 8 equal divisions.

Cut along these lines without cutting all the way through. This means that you should leave about 1 mm of fabric that attaches to each section at the shoulder seam. Step 4 has you spreading those sections out. How wide you spread them is up to you but the wider you go the wider the sleeve.

The last step has you pinning the pieces down to another piece of pattern paper and tracing around the outline. Re-draw any of the grain lines, etc. that need to be drawn again Test the fabric to make sure they fit the sleeve opening, and if not make any adjustments that will accomplish that task.

That is just creating the sleeves. To attach the fabric to the blouse etc., there are 3 steps to follow:

Step 1: Pin the pattern to the fabric and cut along the edge. Make sure to mark any notches, etc., and then finish the bottom hem first. After that, turn the sleeves inside out and do the underarm seam.

Step 2: Attach the sleeve to the garment and start at the top shoulder notch. Go all the way around while making small gathers at the same time. If you need to make large gathers you should unpin the sleeve.

Sew a loose stitch along the top of the shoulder and gently pull the thread to make those gathers. Then pin the fabric to the sleeve again.

Step 3: Sew the two sleeves repeating the same process for the second one.

Finding a Butterfly Sleeve Pattern


This is not a difficult chore to do as many fabric stores should have these in stock. Your problem will be finding the right pattern that you think will look best on the top you have selected to alter.

However, if you cannot find a butterfly sleeve pattern you like or will suit the look you are going for, you can use an angel or tent sleeve pattern instead. Just make the right corrections to get the butterfly look.

At least you are not out of luck if your fabric store doesn't have any butterfly sleeve patterns in stock.

How to cut Butterfly Sleeves

The operative word will be carefully and slowly. When you create the pattern, you do not want to sever the long dividing pattern lengths from the shoulder. Take great care to leave all 7 pieces attached to the pattern. we mentioned a 1 mm width but you can leave more if you want.

Then cut the 7 pieces carefully making sure there is one length at the center and 3 other lengths on either side of that one. You can use a rotary cutter if you think that will be an accurate cut and not go too far.

The cutting is not going to be the difficult part of the process. The hardest part will be setting the sleeves. You have to pin very cautiously in order to avoid creating any puckers. You want the pins to be perpendicular to the seam allowance and keep them about 1/2 inch apart.

Don’t forget to not sew over the pins as you can break your needle by doing this.

Detachable Butterfly Sleeves


These are a good option when your wedding or other dress doesn't have sleeves and you do not want a permanent look. The end look will depend on how you want to fasten the material to your dress.

Some suggestions have you adding snaps so that the sleeves attach to your bra strap a lot easier. Velcro is nice but it will not look good once you take the sleeves off and go back to a sleeveless look.

Also, you could sew the straps to the dress, then simply use a seam ripper to remove the stitches once you are done with the butterfly look. There are plenty of detachable options available and you should go with the one that looks the best to you and will achieve your objective.

Follow the instructions above to fit the sleeves to the straps and make sure you get a nice fit.

Long Butterfly Sleeves


These are doable but you have to be careful not to confuse the bat wing sleeve style with the butterfly. The one pattern we viewed seemed to make this mistake. They attached the sleeves to the side of the t-shirt to make it into a semi-long-sleeved tunic. There were no gathers or anything to make the sleeve look like a butterfly wing.

When you make the long sleeve, follow the instructions provided above and simply add a little more fabric. How you get your version to look will be up to your preference.

Make sure to adjust your gathers in order for the wings to drape like they need to. Some people copy the Filipina butterfly wing while others add their own unique touches.

Be a little creative here and make sure to add the right seam allowances to fit the length of the sleeve and style you want. A long sleeve style can go to your elbow or a touch further depending on what look you like.

Filipiniana Butterfly Sleeves

One bit of news you should be aware of is that if you see a Filipiniana dress with butterfly sleeves you like, order one size larger than indicated. That is if you are ordering directly from a Filipino dressmaker. Their sizes are approx. 1 size smaller than western sizes.

Also, the sleeves can run short but the silky look that a Filipina wedding dress has come from the Pina fabric. This is a fiber derived from the red pineapple leaves that grow in the country.

The Filipino style of butterfly sleeves may be a bit different from the western styles. Its top edge is flat and the arch is designed with a specific number of pleats. Then the sleeve is stiffened by using netting fabric designed to keep the fabrics in place and stiff.

Unfortunately, this design is very hard to move in and the sleeves are usually made to detach from the rest of the dress. If you squish the sleeve there is no recovery so you are left with a weird look. Possibly one you would not want to wear in public.

Pattern for Filipiniana Dress


Pinterest and YouTube have some nice tutorials on how to make this style of dress. Yet, as popular as this style may be, it is very difficult to find a pattern online. We were not the only ones who found this task quite difficult.

We checked with Amazon and they may come up in a search but when you click on their link, you get every other dress style other than the filipiniana. There is a barong warehouse that sells actual filipiniana dresses and you can look at the many different designs at this link.

However, we did not see any patterns for sale. We suggest you contact Joanns or some other fabric store and see what they have in stock or if they can order the pattern for you. You may have to take an existing filipiniana dress and make your own pattern from it.

How to Make a Filipiniana Costume

The sleeves will be the hardest part of making this dress style. That is if you do not live in the Philippines and have access to experienced dressmakers. To get the right look, you should save the sleeves until the end and get the body of the dress the right size and length.

The neckline can be high up past the collarbone or you can make it with a little bit of a low cut style. That design will be up to you or whoever is going to wear the dress. In order to create the right look on the sleeves, make sure you have a specific number of pleats per sleeve.

Then you will have to add in some stiff netting fabric to hold the look in place. Then make the sleeves detachable using the closures that will enhance the look of the dress even when the sleeves are removed.

But that is not the only detachable part of this dress. You can make the bottom portion removable so that you can wear pants or other skirts with the top. Again, you the right closures to ensure a smooth fit no matter how you wear the fabric.

Some Final Words

Butterfly sleeves provide you with a nice look and can enhance your figure immensely. As long as you get the design of the sleeves correct. Using the right material will help you get the shape that will stay where you want it to be.

Just make sure you give your arms lots of freedom to move when you design the sleeves.

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