Adding a Bellows “Wind-Shield” to Coat Sleeves

I love sewing coats. They are one of the most useful garments in your wardrobe. They’re practical, and these days there are lots of great designs. I’ve noticed that a favorite feature of many coat designers is an open, voluminous sleeve. Colette Lady Gray, Vogue 1128, Vogue 8548 and Simplicity 2558 all feature wide sleeves. While these look great, and are very stylish, they do suffer from one setback – they have lots of space to let chilly breezes go sliding up your arms. Brrrrr! Unless you have a wardrobe of opera-length gloves (and of course, I do), it gets uncomfortable. Even with opera-length gloves it gets pretty brisk. How do you counter this without sacrificing the design? Well, it’s not too hard, actually. Make a Faced Sleeve Bellows.

Whazzat, you say? It’s an inner, elastic opening that is inserted between the sleeve facing and the sleeve lining. I stole this idea from my darling Emmett. And I can tell you, it makes a huge difference in the comfort, especially here in Boston, where wintry northwest winds whip all around us. Here’s how you can make them for yourself.

You’ll Need:
Coat fabric for the sleeve facing (about 1/8 yard)
Lining fabric for the bellows (about 1/8 yard – not even)
1/2 yard of 1/4″ elastic

Skill Required:
Intermediate to Advanced

Step 1 – Create a Sleeve Facing.
If your coat pattern doesn’t have a sleeve facing, you’ll need to create one. This is easier to do than it is to explain. Simply put, you cut the sleeve hem on your pattern down to 5/8 inch. Essentially, you’re turning the hem into a seam allowance. Next, trace the bottom 4 inches or so of your revised pattern, to create the facing pattern. Add a seam allowance at the top of the facing pattern. Since you’re adding the facing, don’t forget to shorten your lining to match.

The Facing Pattern Piece

Step 2 – Make the Bellows Pattern
Measure your facing pattern at the top to get the length of your bellows piece.

The bellows is a rectangle whose length is the same as the length of your facing, by 3 or 4 inches wide (depending on the diameter of your finished sleeve). Generally speaking, 3-4 inches is plenty. Create the pattern piece for the bellows by making a rectangle the length of your facing, by the desired finished width plus 5/8 inch seam allowance. Cut this pattern on a fold.

If you want to eliminate some bulk, you can trim a diagonal line from the corners to the fold. I took off about 2 inches, as you can see here:

How bout that retina-burning orange, eh?

Step 3: Sew the Bellows and Insert the Elastic
Sew the short ends of the rectangle together. Make the casing for the elastic by folding your bellows in half lengthwise and pressing. Sew 1/2 inch from the folded edge, leaving an opening to insert your elastic. Cut a piece of elastic the circumference of your wrist plus 2 inches. Insert the elastic into the casing and sew the two ends together as shown.

Stitch the opening in the casing closed. Baste the raw edges.

Step 4: Assemble the Sleeve Lining/Bellows/Facing
Sew your sleeve lining pieces at the side seam(s), as directed in your pattern. Press open. Stitch the bellows to the bottom of your sleeve lining, as shown:

Stitch your sleeve facing piece at the side seam(s). Press open. Stitch top of facing to bottom of lining, sandwiching the bellows in between. Press seam up towards lining.

Step 5: Insert Lining into Coat
Complete your coat as usual. For faced hems on coats. I like to topstitch about 3/4 inch away from the sleeve hem to give a nice finish. Here you can see a view looking up the finished sleeve.

Voila! Breezes be blocked.

It may take a little practice, but once you get the hang of it, these are simple to make, and they make a huge difference in comfort.

Oh, a couple of people asked. The fabric I used for the coat is Reversible Plaid Wool Flannel from Gorgeous Fabrics (natch). The lining is a sold-out silk charmeuse, also from Gorgeous Fabrics. And hey, while I’m plugging my business, we’re having an 8-hour, 10% off all fabrics (except muslin) sale today. It goes until 8 PM, so check it out!

Happy sewing!

22 thoughts on “Adding a Bellows “Wind-Shield” to Coat Sleeves”

  1. Erica B. says:

    How neat! I’m bookmarking this post!

  2. Jennifer S says:

    Thank you for this!!! I have beautiful green woven plaid type fabric to make a new winter coat again this year, and with some interlining and a bellows in the sleeve, it’ll be perfect for my cold Alberta winters. My biggest problem with RTW is that my waist is too long for the normal shorter type jackets (for some reason I have a problem with snow hitting the small of my back) and my wrists getting cold while I drive. Yes, sleeves might be long enough if you stand with your arms at your side, but most of us move at least a little when we go outside.

  3. Gertie says:

    Ann, this is brilliant! Thank you!

  4. Mary Beth says:

    Very nice tutorial, Ann 🙂

  5. NancyDaQ says:

    Great idea! In RTW, you usually see this only in technical sport outerwear. You could also insert tubular elastic and cordlocks in case you want adjustable bellows to accomodate bulky sweater cuffs and the like.

  6. Irene says:

    I remember this feature on my grandmother’s coats (circa ’60’s or ’70’s). Made sense to me. I thought that the way to do it was to have a second lining sleeve with the elastic cuff, because when the coats were in existence, I had no interest to find out how it was put together. Your design makes much more sense. I’m bookmarking this page for reference for the next winter coat!

  7. kellyt says:

    WOW! Thanks for the great tutorial, and idea. I am going to try this on my next coat project.

  8. MissieP says:

    What a fantastic idea – and a lovely clear tutorial! I’m in the north of England and hate getting rain and cold wind up my sleeves – am just about to make my first ever coat and am so doing this! thanks 🙂 over the past year i’ve become addicted to this blog and (of course) the gorgeous fabrics – I really need to hurry up and finish my doctorate so i have more sewing time – thank you for being so “all that and a bag of chips!”

  9. janlynn says:

    Wonderful idea and great photos. When (if) I start my jacket, I plan on using this idea.


  10. Summerset says:

    Totally Perfect. I have to agree on how annoying the wind up the sleeves thing is, especially when trying to load groceries, get the mail or anything else when it is below freezing and windy.

  11. Tasia says:

    What a wonderful idea! I made the Lady Grey and I can completely relate to the feeling of wind-up-the-sleeves… wish I’d thought of this myself! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  12. luckylibbet says:

    Will this be a Threads article? Good candidate for one!

  13. Susannah says:

    My Gore-Tex jacket has this feature. Would never have occurred to me to add it to my coats. What a great idea!

  14. A Sewn Wardrobe says:

    Awesome tut – thanks SO much!

  15. Joyce in NC says:

    This a great tutorial. I will certainly bookmark for future reference. Thank you.

  16. BetsyV says:

    GREAT tutorial! I didn’t know what it was called, but I will keep it in mind if I make another coat for myself or have to replace the lining in the fur coat my mom gave me last winter, which has this exact sleeve treatment. (She bought this coat for herself in NYC in the early 1950’s).

  17. Beth says:

    Thanks Ann

    I really appreciate how generous you are with sharing these wonderful sewing techniques.


  18. JustGail says:

    It’s been years since I’ve had a coat with these. Thanks for the reminder and tutorial about them. I wonder how difficult it would be to add to coats that don’t have them?

  19. Hot Tin Roof says:

    Thank you so much for this wonderful tutorial! I know this may sound strange but…I’m going to try to apply your bellows technique to the inner top edge of a tote bag! It’s just crazy enough to work! I’m also VERY inspired to make a coat now, thanks to you 😉 Hmmm…matching coat and tote….food for thought!

  20. Meredith P says:

    Thanks so much for sharing such a great feature. I’m saving this one for future use for sure!

    I have one dumb question, in working this through in my head: why is a hem facing used, rather than the turned up hem allowance? Granted, a hem facing would eliminate some contortions. Maybe the hem facing is required due to the angle/width of these wide sleeves? Anyway, just curious. Great tutorial! Thanks again!

  21. Meredith P says:

    Oh, and this would definitely make a great Threads article!

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