Introduction: Circle Sleeve Yoga Sweatshirt

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As with many sewing projects, your garment will turn out better with interfacing. It is a stabilizer that helps hold necklines in place and many other garment areas that need extra enforcement or shape (ie. think button plackets, shirt cuffs).

In this case, FUSIBLE interfacing is the way to go. You can also use a knit fusible interfacing which will give your knit garment a bit of give. It can turn t-shirt fabric and other stretchy knits into something much more easily sewable that won't get wonky (stretched out) when you put it through your regular sewing machine. It will allow you to sew knits without a serger machine. If you are new to sewing, don't skip the interfacing! (A mistake I made throughout my season as a beginner sewist.) The extra step will mean the difference between a professional-looking garment versus a homemade one. If you're going to spend the time and money on the project, make it look great!

The inspiration for this top came from a hoodie that I loved by Free People (pic #4). It retails for $80 and I made it for about $36. (I already had the 2 t-shirts.) The cost is in the time/labor - it is an intermediate or advanced sewing project. The the most difficult part to figure out is making your own pattern pieces but I will walk you through it here if you are up for the challenge!


  • 2 t-shirts, same color (one for inside lining) OR 1 sweatshirt
  • 3 yards fabric, jersey knit
  • fusible knit interfacing, 1 yd (I used black)
  • thread
  • sewing machine
  • tape measure
  • scissors
  • paper for pattern making
  • chalk
  • jersey knit needle for your sewing machine

Step 1: Construct Front Bodice

If the main t-shirt you are already using fits in a perfect manner to your liking for a hoodie, then you already have most of your bodice pattern piece. While my T was a men's size M, I wanted a wider fit than this shirt offered so I added a side panel (later step). If doing again, I wouldn't have made it quite so baggie - but better baggie than tight, IMO.

I had a pocket on the front of my T so I needed to cut the front of my bodice from the back of this T. I used the bottom finished/hemmed edge of the T as my bottom edge so no need to cut along that line.

Chalk out the outline as shown. Cut out along these lines. Repeat this step with the 2nd t-shirt which will serve as your lining. I wanted extra thickness in the bodice. Instead of 2 t's, you could use one layer of sweatshirt fabric.

Cut also 3" widths of your fusible interfacing to iron to all the edges you will serge. I'm telling you this at this step because I would have liked to have this interfacing layer on the inside of my 2 t-shirt fabric layers so they wouldn't show even from the inside of the hoodie. However, mine will just look a bit messy on the inside. Yours will look like this too if you are using one layer of sweatshirt fabric.

If sewing 2 t-shirt layers, serge or zig-zag stitch these 2 layers together all around the perimeter of the pieces so that they act as one piece. Right sides are facing out (instead of facing in, as typical for sewing). Make sure you smooth both layers flat before pinning and sewing the perimeter. I did not serge the bottom edges together but left them separate so the sweatshirt would hang flat in the front. (With gravity/wear over time, one layer could cause bunching of the other if sewn together at the hem.)

Step 2: Construct Back Bodice

Using your front bodice piece as your base pattern, add about 2-3" of length to the top. I curved this top line (which was a straight cut across in the front bodice), but as it turns out, I didn't need to do this because I added a neckline piece to the back as well as the front. (Later step.) So you can pretty much cut the back exactly the same as you cut the front, just making it 2-3" higher.

Repeat this step to make a back bodice lining if using jersey knit and serge together as you did for the front bodice. Remember the 2-3" wide of fusible interfacing in the middle of this sandwich all along the edges where you will need a seam. (If using sweatshirt fabric, no need for this lining step but you will still need your 2-3" of fusible interfacing all along the perimeter of your bodice.)

Step 3: Add Side Panel (if Needed)

I needed extra width to my top as I wanted a loose fit so I added these 5" wide side panels. (Always keeping in mind the extra 5/8" you will need for seam allowances.) I double-folded these side panels for added strength and to serve as my lining. I can always cut these down later if too wide. Iron fusible interfacing to the top edge. (I did this later.) You don't need to worry about interfacing for the side edges because the bodice piece interfacings will be your stability there. Serge or zig-zag stitch these side panels to the back bodice sides.

Step 4: Front Pocket: Construct and Sew

Cut out a paper pattern piece that is in the shape of a hoodie pocket that you like. Use an already existing hoodie as your example if need be. Make sure you add 5/8" seam allowance all the way around (bigger than you want the finished pocket). Fold your paper pattern in half to make sure it is perfectly symmetrical.

Then cut 2 of these out from your t-shirt fabric. Place right sides together and pin around the perimeter.

Using a straight stitch, sew all the way around the perimeter, leaving a 3" opening in the middle of the bottom pocket edge through which to turn the pocket right side out. Trim corners without cutting the stitching and turn right side out. Press.

Using a serge-like stitch (I used #12 on my machine - pic #2), zig-zag, or some other decorative stitch, sew along the pocket edges as shown in pic #3. (It is not yet attached to the bodice front.)

Then pin this pocket to the bodice front, making sure to center it. Fold the pocket to find the exact center and fold the front bodice to do the same and align these center lines. You still have an opening at the bottom of your pocket. Fold these raw edges in and pin.

Now you are ready to finish the edges and sew it to the bodice at the same time. Using the same stitch you used to finish the pocket edges earlier, now sew the top line and then the bottom sides and bottom.

Now your pocket is completely finished all the way around and also affixed to your bodice front.

Step 5: Neckline Pieces: Construct and Sew to Bodice

This might be the most challenging step for a beginner to sewing. Start with your bodice front and make a pattern piece for the neckline. It will be scooped out in the front and the bottom edge will be the same length as the bodice top line. Then you sort of eyeball it to see how long you want to your shoulder seams. Fold paper pattern piece in half to make sure it is perfectly symmetrical. Since you are staring with paper, you can play around until you have it just right.

Once you have your pattern piece, cut 1 of front neckline out of t-shirt left-overs. Cut 1 of interfacing. Fuse (press with iron) interfacing to wrong side of neckline front. Pictured here in #7, you can see I used 2 pieces for the front neckline with a seam in the middle center. Just remember to cut 5/8" extra for that center seam if you need one. You can use one piece instead of 2 if you have enough t-shirt fabric left to do so. I had to squeeze mine out of the sleeves cut open and flattened.

Repeat this step for the back neckline. This time I altered my pattern a bit by cutting some off the bottom of the neckline as shown in pic #1. That's because the back bodice is higher than the front, remember? :) No need to curve this seamline as I did - I later sewed straight to take off the curve. Straight works better.

Now you are ready to sew the front neckline piece to the front bodice, right sides together and using a serge-like or zig-zag stitch. Repeat to attach the back neckline piece to the back bodice.

Step 6: Sew Bodice Front to Back at Sides

Pin bodice front sides to extension panel (or to bodice back sides if you didn't add an extension panel), right sides together. Sew 5/8" away from the edge.

Step 7: Sew Shoulders Together

Line up shoulder seams, right sides together and sew. At this point, make sure your hoodie lies flat when the bottom edges are lined up.

You can cut any amount away at the shoulder seams from the back or front if needed to get it all lying flat.

Sew shoulder seams 5/8" away from the edge using your serger stitch or zig-zag.

Step 8: Try on Bodice & Adjust

My neckline at this point was a bit too small so I cut the hole for my head to fit through a bit bigger.

Step 9: Cut Circle Sleeves

Now for the circle sleeves!

Measure the circumference of the sleeve opening on the side of your bodice. Mine was 48" around. My 8th grade son helped me find the radius (it's been too long since I've done this math) which was about 7.6". I wanted to double that number to have enough fabric to gather the circle sleeves. But then I ended up making my circle's radius 18" because that's about how long I wanted my sleeves. Better to have too much than too little. You will use a tape measure or ruler and chalk out 18" like a compass in order to cut the outside of your circle. I folded my fabric in order to make 2 half circles for each sleeve (which will make 2 whole circles).

If you don't want as much volume in your circle sleeves as I have in mine, you can cut out part of your circle so that it isn't a complete circle. The Free People sweatshirt has a bit less volume so their sleeve is probably a partial and not whole circle or was cut more like an oval.

Then you will cut out the center of your circle for the wrist/hand hole. I made the mistake of cutting this a 5" radius. That made my final sleeve only 13" long which fell just above my elbow. I wanted it below the elbow. So I had to add another piece to this inner circle on the top (#8/last pic)... it's a fudge but it worked. That's why you can learn from my mistake! Cut this inner circle smaller in radius to make a longer sleeve. You could even start with a longer outer circle radius in order to end up with the length you want. And if I ever make another iteration of this sleeve, I will completely understand how to do it.

Step 10: Sew and Gather Circle Sleeves

Pin right side of half-circles together and sew (serge or zig-zag) along the straight line on each side (pic #2) which will make them into one whole circle.

Now you are ready to gather the outer circle. Sew with your basting stitch (the widest possible straight stitch that you have - shown with a red light on my sewing machine in pic #4) 1/2-5/8" away from the edge all around the outer circle. I started and stopped at each side seam rather than sew one continuous line around the whole circle. I thought it would be easier to gather that way. Some of the gathering was automatic just by sewing with the basting stitch because of the thread tension. But to gather the rest of the way, you will need to pull one of the threads, being careful not to break it.

Step 11: Pin and Sew Gathered Sleeves to Bodice

Match sleeve seam on top to bodice shoulder seam and pin, right sides facing. Then match bottom sleeve seam to bodice side seam (if you didn't add a side panel) or to middle of side panel if you have one of those.

Once you have these 2 spots pinned at top and bottom, you can gather the rest of the circle sleeve to match the circumference of the bodice sleeve openings. Use many pins all along the way.

Sew all the way around the circumference of the sleeve/bodice pinning. I used a serge stitch on my regular sewing machine and made sure I followed the line I made for my gathering as my left-most guide to this serge stitch. This way I don't have to remove the basting stitch all the way around. It is hidden along the sleeve-to-bodice seam.

Repeat for sleeve #2.

Step 12: Gather Sleeve End and Construct Cuff

Now you are ready to gather the cuff end of your sleeve. You will do this in the same manner (5/8" away from edge with a straight basting stitch) as the outer perimeter of the sleeve. You might want to make these gathering stitching lines before you attach the sleeves to the bodice. It is easier to manipulate them that way.

Then you will need to measure around your forearm where the sleeve will fall. I wanted my cuff snug so I didn't add in seam allowances. I measured 10" around my arm below the elbow in the thickest part of the forearm. Then I measured 9" further down my forearm toward my wrist about 4" lower than the thickest part. Pic #2 is my paper pattern piece - a trapezoid that measures 9" along the top, 10" along the bottom, and it is 4.5" tall. The top of the trapezoid (9" side in my case) you will place along the fold of the fabric and cut 2.

Then open up these pieces, fold the other way, and pin right sides facing as in pic #3. They will have the fold on one side and a slight hour-glass shape on the opposite side. Sew (I serged) along the hour-glass side then fold down top half of cuff so right sides are facing out (also shown on the right in pic #4).

Turn sweatshirt inside out and set sleeve cuff inside sleeve. Pin the gathers in the same way you did for the sleeves & bodice, making sure cuff seam is on the bottom matching the bottom sleeve seam. Serge stitch cuff to sleeve in the same manner you did with the sleeve to the bodice.

Step 13: Finish Neckline

Next, I chose to bias-bind the neckline to finish it off. Cut fabric diagonally (45 degree angle to the selvage) to make your bias strips. Mine were 2" wide. I pieced two strips together to make one continuous strip because I was saving a bigger piece of fabric to make a hood which I decided later not to use. If you need more direction on how to make bias tape, you can see my ombre denim pillow Instructable ( and skip to the step about making the piping. It is the same process but without the rope inside.

Pin this bias tape, right side facing the right side of the bodice neck all the way around the neckline. Start on the back neckline so you can't see the seam. There are a couple ways you can finish off the edge where the bias tape meets itself at the end/start. Probably the best way is leaving the last ~2" loose on one side which overlaps where you started. (Sorry I don't have a pic of this.) Then sew 5/8" away from the edge all the way around the neckline (remember, last 2" or so is loose). Fold one side under diagonally on top of the raw-edge end (after you've sewn all the way around) and pin.

Next you will trim the edge down to about 3/8" then fold bias binding all around to the inside and pin below the front bias binding as shown in pic #2. With right side of neckline facing up, sew a straight line in the "ditch" - the seamline between the front neckline and bias tape. Since this is knit fabric and it won't fray, I didn't need to fold under the raw edge on the inside of the neckline. Leaving it flat is less bulk. I could have serged this edge before folding around and sewing in the ditch but at this point, I didn't care about what the inside of my garment looked like.

Step 14: Enjoy!

Whew - you are done and can enjoy your Free People look-alike yoga sweatshirt. Yours will look even better than mine taking the adjustments into consideration that I learned along the way.

Also, it's a very flattering cut as it fools the eye into thinking the bodice is the body width - you can cut your bodice even skinnier (as in the Free People pic) and it would be even more flattering.

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