Knitting Gathered Sleeve Styles – Puff and Leg O’Mutton


puff sleeve style trend for winter 2019
Elle Canada Winter 2019 – Puff Sleeve

Gathered sleeve styles are found in some designer collections this season. This style is not often seen as a fashion trend; one reason for not popping up in collections is because it’s not the easiest style to wear. Puff sleeves tend to look “girly” and add bulk at the shoulders. That being said, if you desire to knit a puff sleeve or some variation, it’s not that difficult to make. Let’s take a closer look at the construction of two gathered sleeve styles; puff and leg o’mutton.

Important Definitions:

Set-in Sleeve – the sleeve is joined to the body of the garment with the center of the sleeve top or cap placed at the shoulder seam, and stitched around the armhole.

Sleeve Cap – the top, shaped part of the sleeve is referred to as the “cap”; not to be confused with the cap sleeve style.

Classic Puff Sleeve

The definition of a puff sleeve style is a short, full sleeve with gathers at the armhole, lower edge or both. Modern versions can be any length, including short, long or 3/4, but the common characteristic is the “puff” created by the gathers at the top of the cap, as in the above image of the turtleneck yoke sweater.

The cap of a puff style is not curved, like the classic set-in style, but is straight from the top of the armhole shaping. The straight cap creates the fullness at the top. When the height of the cap is reached the width is decreased over a number of rows to form the gathered effect.

Schematic of classic set-in sleeve style

schematic of a puff sleeve
Schematic of puff sleeve shape

Leg o’Mutton (Leg of Mutton)

In French, it is known as the Gigot sleeve. It was fashionable around the 1820s. This overblown sleeve style became more subdued around 1837, the time of Queen Victoria’s reign. The leg o’mutton style appears in fashion less frequently than the puff sleeve style. However, I did find a modern version of this sleeve style in Porter magazine, featured below, and it looks lovely with the drapey, full, extra long sleeves.

1905 Silhouette with leg o'mutton sleeves
1905 Silhouette
Leg O’Mutton Sleeves
From In Style 100 Years of Canadian Fashion by Caroline Routh
sweater with leg o' mutton sleeves
Porter Winter 2018 – Leg O’Mutton Sleeve

This sleeve design is a combination of several styles including the puff. A classic leg o’mutton has voluminous gathering at the upper arm. The fullness begins just below the elbow, where the largest increases occur. The lower part of the sleeve is tighter. As for the puff, the cap is straight above the armhole shaping. The gathering is made as for a puff sleeve, but there are more stitches to decrease over more rows. 

schematic of leg o'mutton sleeve
Schematic of leg o’mutton sleeve shape

How to Set-in a Gathered Sleeve

Both the puff and leg o’mutton sleeves are set into the armhole like a classic set-in sleeve. For sewing steps, refer to How to Properly Sew Sleeves Into Armholes.

The key to sewing a gathered sleeve cap into the armhole is to prevent areas of bunching. The excess fabric needs to be evenly distributed along the armhole edge. I recommend basting the cap into the armhole before the final sewing.

If your wish list includes making a gathered sleeve, this information should help in understanding its construction and cap shaping. These styles aren’t difficult to knit; the key is to carefully sew them in place.