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Drafting Hand Points on Sleeves

Oh, the medieval romance of the sleeve with the little pointsy-doo that falls gracefully over your hand… So lovely. The problem is that half the time something goes wrong and you end up with a sleeve that looks like it’s flipping you off – the point doesn’t follow your hand (unless you put a loop on it), it doesn’t lie smoothly, it wrinkles at the wrist… It can look so sweet, but it can go soooooo wrong. Here’s a drafting trick I picked up in a Bridal Couture class a few years back.

I just used this on a client’s wedding dress, which is what got me thinking about it again. Start with a sleeve head that works – if you happen to have a whole sleeve that works, you can skip the first few steps. If you have a sleeve that works on you, but is more than 2″ wider than your wrist measurement, just use the sleeve head for this.

You will need to measure your:

  1. Wrist.
  2. Shoulder Tip -> Wrist

Let’s go!

tools: ruler, paper, and sleeve head
You will need a ruler, a largish sheet of paper, and a sleeve head. If you've got a whole sleeve, remove the seam allowance at the wrist and skip the next few steps.


Starting line on paper
Start by drawing a long line in the middle of the paper. This will be the center line for our sleeve.
length of sleeve
Line the center of the sleeve head pattern up with the center line you've drawn. Measuring from the top of the sleeve head, mark the Shoulder Tip -> Wrist measurement on the center line.

These directions are specific to a sleeve head that doesn’t have a lot of poof to it. Sleeve heads that are poofy often have added length – the poof is more of a gather otherwise.

wrist line marked
Add 2" to your wrist measurement. Draw a line that long, centered on the center line of the sleeve where you marked the sleeve length.

I’m adding 2″ to the wrist measurement for two reasons. First off, it’s a nice amount of ease around the wrist so that you can get your hand into the sleeve without needing buttons.

More importantly, though, but giving the wrist a little ease you reduce the risk of wrinkling on the finished hand point.

You can use less ease if you want a sleeve that buttons at the wrists, but you will need at least a half inch or your hand will look a little strangled.

side lines drawn
Finish the basic sleeve by connecting the underarm corners to the wrist corners.
don't connect the wrist corners to the center line!
Here's where most people go wrong: They connect the wrist corner to the center line of the sleeve.

Why is that so wrong? First off, it will land the point right in line with your middle finger.

Um, missa, isn’t that what we’re trying to do?

Here’s the part I learned in Bridal Couture: it’s more flattering and less error prone if you line the point up with your ring finger. There’s two things at work here: one is proportion – dividing the hand in half makes it look shorter and fatter. Dunno about you but “shorter and fatter” usually isn’t my goal. ;) The second thing is that pulling the point off towards the ring finger does some sort of suspension magic that causes it to follow the hand better.

moving the point of the sleeve
I'm drawing the point of the sleeve 3 3/4" down from the wrist line, and 1" over from the center line. If you don't have exact hand measurements, this is a decent guess.

If you happen to have the target hand available, measure from the ¬†wrist to about 1/2″ below the level of the ring finger knuckle, then measure the distance between the ring and middle finger knuckles (center to center, not edge to edge), and use these measurements instead.

making the base triangle
Connect the wrist corners, and you've got a weird triangle.

And we’re done, right?!?

Easy, there, killer…. The problem is that hands flare.

rounding the triangle lines
Hip curves aren't just for hips. In this case, we want to use the curve to eliminate some of the area that would pass around the thumb. This will also help eliminate wrinkling.
both sides rounded out
Do this on both sides, and you'll see what we're shooting for - we're only removing a small amount of fabric, but it's enough to accommodate the meat of the hand. It also makes the point slightly more dramatic, because it's now almost entirely on top of the hand.
straight lines ticked off
I like to mark lines I'm no longer using on a draft with a series of small ticks. This is officially a Bad Practice(tm), but it works for me.
finished pattern shown on hand
Now, even in paper, you can see what those curved lines do in terms of bringing the point under then thumb!

Mischief managed!

Normally, I’d show you the pic of the finished sleeve on the happy human. In this case, it’s part of the Tolkien Inspired Wedding Dress, and while I might be working with the single most lovely, level-headed, happy bride in the history of ever (who didn’t even freak out when she walked in to the sewing room and saw a metal awl sticking through the back of her dress), it’s general bad form to post pics of the dress before the wedding… It makes brides tetchy. ;)


  1. Ava Trimble
    Ava Trimble October 17, 2011

    Oh, Missa, you’re such a bad influence! I’m trying to keep myself focused on doing vintage-style clothes that are practical because I can wear them around as, well, clothes, or 19th century things that will be useful for my career as a living historian focusing on the 19th century. BUT NO. Then you go and post something cool about hand points on sleeves, which I have always loved but which totally don’t fit into either category. And now I’ll have to make something with hand points on the sleeves. I BLAME YOU!


    • missa
      missa October 17, 2011

      *laugh* Sorry, Ava… Maybe you could stray slightly into the adjacent land of Steam Punk and bust out a pair of super-great hand spats with points and buttons all up the sides? It’s almost like history, if you only ever looked at the pictures… with your eyes crossed… really, really late at night….

      Um, ok, it’s not really like history. ;)

  2. Laura MNSOC President
    Laura MNSOC President October 25, 2011

    And this is why you are the bomb.

    Also, if you see an increase in hits on your blog here or on eBook sales, it might be because I told everyone in my Steampunk 101 and Corsets 101 class how awesome your site is for info and how you are the bomb diggity. At least I want to take credit for it. Hee.

    • missa
      missa October 29, 2011

      heh. Rock on! Any spikes certainly aren’t because I’ve been a busy little blogger lately, that’s for sure. *laugh* All credit to you, fabulous! ;)

  3. Anne
    Anne October 29, 2011

    Wow- Steampunk hand spats? Best idea ever!

    • missa
      missa October 29, 2011

      I know, right? I kinda wanna make a set, even thought i have absolutely no reason to need them… Maybe I can start a trend…. Or, maybe my students will be reminded that I’m crazy. It’s so hard to know. ;)

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