Sew Boho: Bell Sleeves and a Cardi-Vest

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I’m calling this look ‘boho’, even though some might call it ‘romantic.’ The top has bell sleeves, my favorite look this Spring. I love them because they signal warm weather and outdoor concerts and summer food festivals, you know?


Here are a couple of ready-to-wear examples for inspiration; a top by Elizabeth and James, and a dress by Alexis.  Love the lace combined with the bell sleeves.

Maybe I’ll make my next version of this top from lace. The pattern I used is McCalls 7285, a semi-fitted, pullover top with a back neck opening, button/thread loop, and narrow hem.

Although the pattern does include a lined version to be used with lace, I chose to make the unlined version (the neck is finished with a facing) and serged the seams. I was able to cut my usual size and found that the pattern fit well, with very little adjustment (just my usual narrow shoulder adjustment). The only issue I had was the length. Even though I am petite (5’3), the cropped length was so short on me, I could only take a narrow hem. If you’re taller, it might be much shorter on you. The sleeves are a dream to sew, much easier than you might imagine. The bell shape is created by gathering a long wide piece of fabric that’s added to the bottom of the straight sleeve and the instructions on how to do that are really clear. The top doesn’t have a zipper, just an opening in the back, so it would be a good pattern for a beginner. I love the easy comfortable fit of this top and plan to make another soon. It’s a fast, easy sew, perfect to make in a weekend!


Since Spring days around here are usually quite cool, I decided to make a long loose vest to go over the shirt.


I’m really loving the ‘long vest’ look this year. It’s the perfect layer over a tee, a shirt, even a dress. The pattern I used for my vest is Burda 10/2014 #113, a long coat pattern that I made without sleeves. The fabric is a double-sided jersey knit from my stash. To finish the edges, I used a very tight serged stitch, but you could bind the edges too. On my version, I went with the serged finish because the binding changed the way the fabric draped, and this pattern definitely needs ‘drape’. It’s so easy to sew, you can make it in a couple of hours. It’s basically a circle with some holes in it… can’t get easier than that. But watch out. When the wind catches the vest, it becomes a sail and you fly away!

I found this fun pattern after seeing Helen’s version at Gray All Day. You should check it out…love her cool, breezy look. Her lightweight version would be perfect for summer (or anytime if you’re lucky enough to live in California). Whatever fabric you choose for your vest, I’d suggest that you keep it pretty light with a nice drape so that it hangs nicely. Also, if you want to add bell sleeves to another shirt, Rhonda’s Creative Life has a great post on how to do that. Check it out!

Now, to round out my boho look, I need something else…maybe a different pair of pants? Or would you try a skirt with that top/vest? Hmmm, suggestions welcome! Oh, yeah, and I need new shoes!!!

Happy Spring sewing and thanks for stopping by!







10 thoughts on “Sew Boho: Bell Sleeves and a Cardi-Vest

  1. Oh yes, I’ll be jumping on the bell sleeve express this season too. It’s a lively feminine and unexpected look I think.
    You’re slight, so how about a nice boho midi skirt?

    1. Great idea! Btw, I just saw more bell sleeves in RTW yesterday. They were a bit larger than mine though. Not sure if id want to wear them if they were much bigger than mine, you know? Have to be able to get a coat on over them!

  2. I like the mix of fabrics between the top and the vest. The top is very cool! I just made a similar vest – circle with holes – and found it kept slipping off of me. I ended up sewing in little shoulder seams to try to keep it on me a bit better. How does your’s sit – does it stay in place or slip off all the time? maybe it is just me?

    1. Thanks! My vest doesn’t slip off of me but I think it’s because the fabric has texture that helps it to stay put? A shoulder seam adjustment seems like the perfect solution!

  3. Very cool. I want to try a breezy bell sleeve top this summer, too. With the vest, I’m getting a bit of an autumnal vibe, although I know that wasn’t exactly what you’re going for. You could transition these pieces into fall later on if your put on a pair of black jeans of leggings and tall riding boots. I probably just have horse racing on my mind since I’m in Kentucky and derby festivities are in full swing.

    1. Wow, there’s no better time to be in Kentucky, and yes, the vest has a bit of a fall vibe, I think, which is okay since it’s pretty cold and wet here! But I think you are on to something about the leggings and boots…got to try it!

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