Tutorial: 1940's Inspired Puff Sleeve Knit


how to sew a 1940s puff sleeve knit top retro thrift refashion

For those who don't know how to knit, here's an easy how-to so you can make your own 1940s style puff sleeve knits from frumpy thrift store finds. I often see these boxy things at thrift stores and garage sales and think about how cute they could be with some extra love.

You will need a fairly loose- fitting knit so that you have enough room to play with it. Try it on first to see how much you'll need to take it in at the sides and how much you'll want to raise the sleeve. I probably should have measured mine but I just eyeballed it.

first, remove the sleeeves

Since the shoulders on mine are a bit too low, I'm removing a little extra from the shoulder too

Next, cut the excess from the sides
Lay the pieces together to see how they'll match up once the sleeve is gathered at the top.

With right sides together, sew up the sides and try it on.
I raised my sleeve just a bit by snipping off a tiny bit at the shoulder and sewing it back up. This also shortens the sweater a little bit.

gather the top of the sleeve-If you don't know how to sew gathers, it's so easy to do! Dana Made It has a great tutorial on basic gathers. I totally did the cheating method.

reattach the sleeve- for those who have not sewn a sleeve, check Sew Mama Sew for a tutorial on attaching a set-in sleeve

You can add to it with buttons, beading, embroidery, applique or whatever you like! I changed the collar just a little bit on mine because the original collar was too high for my taste. I'll be posting more of my refashioned thrift store knits in the near future. This is so easy and quick and a great way to make use of those cheap knits!


  1. Wow, this post gets me thinking of all the vintage I items I have bought over time that 'just don't look right' - and I've recently acquired a sewing machine so I think I'll have a rummage through my gear :D
    Thanks for sharing your alteration techniques......the sweater definitely has a new fresh, more flattering look!
    Emma (Dear Thirty) x

  2. This looks super easy! Makes me think I can do this to the boxy shirts I have.....hmmmm

  3. I just bought one of these because it had a vintage feel to it but when I put it on it didn't look it. BUT now I can make it work - THANKS! love it! Great job.

  4. I'm amazed!! The outcome is adorable and its oh so simple to do. Perfect! :) xx

  5. Hi!
    It's me again. That jumper is simply adorable with puff sleeves! And it looks so easy to do too!

    And I've got another question: What kind of masks did they wear in the 1950s? I'm going to a masquerade ball on august 20th, and I have the perfect turquoise dress with bright red details. But....I've tried to look up old pictures, but I don't think it's easy to find something good. So I was kind of hoping you might know something....?

  6. This is absolutely brilliant! I love how approachable and unintimidating it seems for someone like me who isn't a skilled sewer (at all!). In the first step, when you removed the sleeves from the body, did you cut them off or pick the stitches out and separate them that way?

    ♥ Jessica

    *PS* I love that we get to see some of your your brooches, bangles and other charming vintage items in the first and last snaps.

  7. Great tutorial!! I will definitely keep this in mind as I am searching the racks at goodwill.

  8. Ummm, your hair matches your sweater! You're so cute. :)

  9. Wow, what a difference! :) I'm going to try this for sure. Thank you, dear.

  10. Wow, what a great "new" sweater. Thanks for sharing^^

  11. I have just the shirt for this! It's a lovely cranberry red with subtle, elegant embroidery at the neck, but it is still a 90s shirt and when I wear it it tends to make me look like I'm slumping my shoulders. :)

  12. Thats it! I will be in my sewing room the rest of the day sewing the frumpy knits!
    Thanks for the archive on here! I was looking for something else though but now I need to do this!

  13. Amazing! You are amazing! Exactly what I needed. Much appreciated.


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