How to Make a Quilt Sleeve, Step By Step

Put this in the category of "Why didn't I think of that?"

A few weeks ago, Assistant Editor Kristine Lundblad came up with a terrific way to solve a problem we have at Quilting Arts. Many of the beautiful art quilts we receive for challenges and galleries don't have hanging sleeves, for whatever reason. Maybe the artist didn't know how to make a quilt sleeve, or maybe the artist was focused on quilt making and not the mundane task of making and adding a sleeve. I know the latter is what usually happens to me.

Still, we often need to hang the quilts for photographing. So Kristine came up with a solution. She made a hanging sleeve 15 yard long that we could take to the shoot and cut as needed. We attached the cut lengths to the quilts as needed, photographed the artwork, and then removed the sleeves.

leslie tucker jenison
Leslie Tucker Jenison

This trick made the whole photo shoot go so much faster. And it got me thinking about my own quilt art: Instead of making quilt sleeves for each of my quilts separately, why not make a long one and use what I need as I go? Sort of like making a giant pan of lasagna and freezing it in batches to be defrosted and enjoyed one meal at a time.

It's not difficult to make a quilt sleeve when you know the basics. Fiber artist Leslie Tucker Jenison, a pro at getting quilts ready for shows and safely shipping them, has the following tutorial. Her instructions are for making a sleeve for one quilt at a time. If you want to make an extra-long sleeve like Kristine did, just ignore the "exact width of your quilt" measurement.

How to Make a Quilt Sleeve
Tutorial and photos by Leslie Tucker Jenison

1. Cut a piece of cotton fabric to the exact width of your quilt by 9 inches deep.
how to make a quilt sleeve step 1

2. Fold and press each edge into a ¼ inch fold.
how to make a quilt sleeve step 2

3. Then turn again and press so raw edges are concealed.

how to make a quilt sleeve step 3

4. Stitch the folded edge in place on both ends. Then stitch the length of the quilt sleeve "tube" (right side facing inward). 
how to make a quilt sleeve step 4

5. Turn the tube inside out. 
how to make a quilt sleeve step 5

6. Press the sleeve tube so the seam is on one edge and the fold is on the other.
how to make a quilt sleeve step 6

7. Baste the folded edge with the longest machine stitch possible.
how to make a quilt sleeve step 7
8. Then, roll the basted stitch to the top center of the sleeve so the basted stitch is situated over the other seam, which will be situated against the quilt back.
how to make a quilt sleeve step 8

9. Pin the quilt sleeve to the quilt back one inch below the top of the quilt. The width should allow the sleeve to be positioned approximately one-half inch from each edge.
how to make a quilt sleeve step 9

10. Stitch the sleeve securely in place. Be sure to whip-stitch the ends to the back of the quilt, which assures that the hanging device is inserted into the sleeve properly. It helps to take an extra stitch every 4-5 stitches so the sleeve won't become loosened from the quilt if it is hung in multiple venues. Check to be sure that the stitches do not go through to the front of the quilt!
how to make a quilt sleeve step 10
11. Once the sleeve has been securely stitched to the quilt back, remove the basting stitch from the sleeve. This tuck allows room for the hanging device to be inserted without creating excessive tension on the front of the quilt.
how to make a quilt sleeve step 11
NOTE: It is important to attach the name of the quilt and the artist's name and contact information onto the quilt sleeve, as well as the date the quilt was completed.

Want more tips, tricks and other quilting instructions? You'll find all that, plus surface design techniques, hand and machine stitching techniques, and stunning examples of fiber art in the upcoming issues of Quilting Arts Magazine. If you don't already subscribe, now's the time.

P.S. Do you have a special way of making a quilt sleeve? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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12 thoughts on “How to Make a Quilt Sleeve, Step By Step

  1. I usually make a folded sleeve,hem the ends and sew the raw side edges on when I add my binding which I fold to the front of the piece, then hand stitch the bottom to the quilt back

  2. As a textile conservator, my experience is that you shouldn’t be using sleeves to hang your quilts at all. Since the stitches do not go thru all layers they do not support the textile enough.
    A better way to hang your quilts is to use a clamp style hanger, not a rod and sleeve.

  3. I have been utilizing premade sleeves for years. I had a number of Antique quilts that were on loan for our state show, and of course no sleeves. I made an enormous length, and then just started basting. Luckily I took the leftover roll with me. It always surprises me that entries arrive without the sleeves when this was clearly a requirement…..the good thing is that the sleeve can then be removed immediately after the show without damage to the quilt.

  4. A couple of years ago I saw premade sleeves sold commercially but I can’t remember where and I’ve moved since then and still sorting out. Sorry but they can probably be found on internet. Since they are so easily made I didn’t keep the information. They were muslin.
    I’ve been a long time subscriber of Quilting Arts. Love it.

  5. It is easier to sew the raw edges in with the binding on the machine & then you only have one edge to sew by hand! The fabric should also be11″ deep to accommmodate a 1×4 board that is used at most quilt shows. If it is too tight the quilt could be damaged while they’re hurrying to thread all those quilts thru to hang!

  6. Oh! This is what I LOVE about the Interweave ‘families’ and the information shared. Reading about one sleeve/many quilts instantly triggered a solution for my business displays. Batik panels sell better when people can see a sample quilt using that panel. Samples are time consuming/costly and once the panels are sold out, what to do with all those quilts! I am going to make one sample quilt with a black, blank center upon which to feature the panels in certain themes…Thank you! Why didn’t I think of that before?

  7. This is pretty much the “normal” way of doing a sleeve. However, I DON”T turn my tube inside-out. Why should I? You can either sew the seam edge UNDER the binding along the top, then complete through the other steps, or simply put the seam side against the back of the quilt and proceed through the other steps. To my thinking, this keeps the quilt hanger from possibly snagging on the seam (if it’s inside the tube). No one will see the seam once the bottom edge is sewn down, so why go through that effort? Love QA and have been a reader for years.

  8. Ok once you make the sleeve and attach it to the quilt, how do you hang the quilt?
    What is a clamp style hanger?
    I am making a small quilt for my daughter to hang above her bed at school (college).
    How do I tell her to hang it?

  9. I notice that the comments all seem to be old but thought I’d comment anyway. I have never entered a quilt in a show that uses hanging sleeves so don’t know what size their hangers are. For the wall quilts I hang at home I usually us curtain rods that are probably less than an inch in diameter and usually have a decorative ends. They also adjust in length and I can change out hangings easily. On the smaller rod it doesn’t seem to make as much difference in the circumference of the sleeve, but with larger rods or the boards it can. If you sew the sleeve on the top and bottom with it flat on the quilt it seems to cause the quilt to curve or pull in around the hanging rod. My method doesn’t require sewing in a tuck and removing stitches like your method does, and it still gives the fullness so the quilt hangs straight at the rod.

    Here’s how I do mine. Cut sleeve length the width of the quilt and at least 7″ wide (wider if hanger is larger). Hem each end by turning to wrong side a 1/4″ twice and sew. The length now should fit just up to the binding at each end if your binding is 1/2″ wide. Fold long edges together with wrong sides together sew 1/2″ the length of the sleeve. Press seam open and at same time with seam running down the center, press both edges so the sleeve is flat. With seam toward back of quilt, place a pressed edge along the top at the stitched edge of the binding. Sew by hand along that top edge. Before sewing ends take the sleeve and bring the top layer even with the upper edge of the binding and press the two side edges of the sleeve so it is flat but don’t to press the binding edge flat. This will give you a new bottom edge to sew along. Sew bottom layer at one end down to where the new pressed line is. Sew by hand the new bottom edge and back up the other end. The raw seam is now hidden and you have the extra fullness so the sleeve will not pull the quilt in around the rod. This sleeve can be removed easily if ever wanted. You can machine sew the top edge of the sleeve in under the binding (before stitched) if you don’t plan to be removing it.

    On smaller hangings I like to make matching tabs instead of a sleeve. Spaced them across the top and sewn in when I sew the binding on. It’s like tab top curtains. They can always be sewn down on the back side like the sleeve if I don’t want them to show.

    Sorry my comment is so long but hope it’s useful.