How to Add Ribbing to a Sleeve.....New Garment or Old




Introduction: How to Add Ribbing to a Sleeve.....New Garment or Old

About: I'm "retired", and now have time for all the creative things I've done since I was a child. I especially like anything with texture.....fabric, wood, glass, stones....even rusty objects. I have a LARGE fabric…

Whether you are making a new garment (shirt, jacket, dress, or even pants) or just want to add a ribbed cuff to a garment you already own. This will show you how to get EASY, professional looking results.

For the purpose of this tutorial I will be using contrasting colors to make my samples easier to see.

This tutorial is using a regular sewing machine, but it will work using a serger (overlock machine) as well

Step 1: Determine the Size Cuff You Want

I will use the term WRIST/CUFF just to make things easier, but remember you can use this same technique to add ribbing to a waist, sleeve (short not as a cuff), pant leg, or neck.

  • First measure your wrist (write that down)
  • Determine how YOU like your cuff to fit (loose? snug?)
  • Determine how long you'd like your cuff to be (do YOU like to fold it?)
  • Determine if you want matching or contrasting color for your cuff

OK now we need to figure out how much fabric you need to buy. IF you are only adding a cuff to 1 shirt, dress, or jacket You will:

  • ADD 1 inch to your wrist measurement (example: my wrist is 7" + 1" = 8")
  • DOUBLE that measurement (you have two wrists) So I need 16"
  • I want my cuff to be 3" LONG (you can make them longer or shorter, but don't go too short for the cuff on a long sleeve will look ODD......I promise) Most are between 3" and 5 "
  • DOUBLE that length (we will be folding it in half)
  • ADD about 1" to that for a seam allowance So I will need 3"+ 3" + 1" =7" )

Ribbing is sold 1 or 2 ways (in the US) the yard (or any part of a yard) OR by the inch. It may come on a bolt just like regular fabric, and will be anywhere from 35"-46" wide. OR it may come in a TUBE (no cut edge) and will not be as wide (this is where you usually pay by the inch) is not as common to see ribbing this way any more.

So I know that I only need 16 inches for the WIDTH and most ribbing comes MUCH wider than that 35"-46" I'm set. I just need to think about how much I want in length. I NEED 7" (see above) and I know that 1 yard is 36" (1/2 yard is 18", and 1/4 yard is 9 inches) I determine that I need to buy AT LEAST 1/4 yard (9") for this project. It's really NOT worth trying to make the clerk figure out the math to buy exactly 7 you MAY need a little extra to straighten the cut edge if necessary.

NOTE***** IF you have an old shirt or jacket that has knit cuffs.....or even socks with the tops in GOOD condition, you can cut them off and use them for your NEW cuffs

Step 2: Cut Your Ribbing

We have determined that I want my FINISHED cuff to be 3" long (and that I need to ADD about 1" for the seam allowance) and that my wrist is 7" (and I don't want my cuff too loose) I will use a 5/8" seam allowance, so I will need to cut each one of my cuffs into a rectangle 8" WIDE (with the stretch of the fabric going around my wrist, so the WIDTH of the cuff) by 7" long. You can make a paper pattern if you wish, or just draw on your fabric with a sliver of soap, chalk or something else that WASHES out of fabric. Determine which side of your fabric is the RIGHT side (the side everyone will see) BEFORE you cut your fabric....make all marks on the WRONG side.

Cut two (2) pieces of ribbing 8" wide X 7" long (we have 2 wrists).........MAKE SURE the STRETCH is along the width (in my case the 8" side)

Step 3: Sew

It's a good thing you marked the wrong side of your fabric because in most cases it's difficult to tell the difference.....until you make a mistake and you're all done.....THEN it becomes apparent! Ask me how I know LOL

Now with the stretch STILL going around. Match the cut edges (in this case the 2 edges that measure 7") with RIGHT SIDES (the side everyone will see) together. Pin if necessary. Sew with a straight stitch. You now have a tube. My seam allowance is 5/8"...........Complete 1 cuff before starting the second so you can try it on and make sure you like the fit.

OPEN the seam (as shown in the second pic)

Keeping the seam OPEN all the way down the whole seam, bring the edges together and hold securely between your thumb and first finger.

Now (still holding the seam open) using your other hand flip the rest of the ribbing tube over and match up the edges. Look inside and double check that the whole seam allowance is OPEN. Your tube now is turned with the right side out and the cut edges, and seam enclosed on the inside.

Try the cuff on. Adjust to fit by making it looser or tighter before making the second cuff.

Repeat for the second cuff. Set them aside

Step 4: "Quarter" Your Sleeve and Cuff

Once you have the underarm seam on your sleeve sewn (with right sides together) DO NOT turn it.....leave it wrong side (inside) out. IF you are adding a cuff to a garment that is already finished turn the sleeve inside out.

Quarter your sleeve:

  • Place a pin through underarm seam
  • Place a pin on the opposite side as shown in the first picture
  • Now match those 2 pins, and place pins in the 2 folds that were created when you matched the pins (see the second pic)
  • Repeat those same steps for the cuffs.....making sure you pin through BOTH layers

Step 5: Pin and Sew

Most tutorials I have seen don't do cuffs like this, but in my estimation this is the easiest way to attach the ribbing cuff to your garment AND get the most professional results. OK let's go......

  1. Place the cuff (which is already RIGHT side out) inside the sleeve (which is still WRONG side out from sewing).......This is putting the sleeve and cuff RIGHT sides together.
  2. Line up the cut edges AND the seams of the cuff and sleeve
  3. Starting with the seams match the pins (from the cuff and sleeve).
  4. Holding the seam in place, remove ONE (1) of the pins. Using the remaining through all layers of the cuff and sleeve at the seam. Try to keep the pins in straight.
  5. Move to the next set of pins. Hold the cuff and sleeve in place with one hand. Remove ONE of the 2 pins, and replace it with the remaining pin (pinning through all the layers of the cuff and sleeve)
  6. REPEAT for the remaining 2 pinned areas
  7. You now have 4 pins holding the cuff and sleeve together. It should look something like the second picture
  8. Repeat for the second sleeve/cuff

You will be sewing on the INSIDE of the cuff, with the ribbing facing UP. You will stretch the ribbing to fit the sleeve, and you will be sewing from pin to pin.

PLEASE NOTE IF your sewing machine has a 'Needle Down' feature this is a great place to use it. IF not whenever you stop (before removing the next pin) put the needle DOWN to hold your fabric in place. Do NOT sew over pins.

  1. Line your cuff and sleeve edges up, and place the needle in the down position close to the first pin.
  2. Remove the first pin
  3. Stretch the ribbing to fit the sleeve to the next pin.
  4. Sew with your chosen seam allowance (mine is 5/8") from pin to pin
  5. Overlap the beginning stitches when you get all the way around
  6. Repeat for the other sleeve

Step 6: You Can Stop Now OR Finish the Edges

IF you are sewing with knit fabrics, you can stop now. Depending on what size seam allowance you used you might want to trim the seam so you only have 1/4-1/2" just looks neater.


You can TOP STITCH the seam allowance down to the sleeve side (using a longer stitch). Picture #1


You can finish the seam allowance with either a zigzag stitch or another stitch (depending on what stitches your machine does) (picture 2 shows 2 different stitches) stitch close to the original stitching line.

Trim off the excess (pic #3)

Now you can TOP STITCH this down to the sleeve side with a longer straight stitch close to the seam line.

TA-DA You're DONE!

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    2 Discussions


    Question 1 year ago on Step 6

    I am adding ribbing for a short sleeved sweat shirt. What would the length be? Would the measurement around the bicep be the same as for a wrist? Thanks so much. The directions are very clear!


    Answer 1 year ago

    Hi, Probably the measurement AROUND the bicep will be larger than for AROUND the wrist. You would measure the bicep and add at least 1 inch depending on how loose or tight you want the sleeve to be. Look at my example of the 2 sleeves on step 1. The cuff at the bottom of the sleeve is long enough that the wearer could double it if they wanted, but the narrow ribbing on the short sleeved example is loose and is probably only about 1/2 inch when finished.
    That's the great thing about sewing you can make it however you choose and no one can say you're wrong! Look at shirts that are similar to what you want and go from there. On a short sleeve shirt you may want it loose like the picture in step 1 OR you may want it a little's totally up to you.
    IF this did not fully answer your question please write back