How To Make an Arm Sleeve | Sun Protection | Upcycled Clothing

arm sleeve

When you’re driving in the car, and you can’t find shade for your arm, this arm sleeve is the perfect solution! It’s a quick and very simple project that will only take you 10 minutes to make. What’s even better…you can make it from an upcycled shirt.

Why it’s so important to cover your arm while driving and other activities?

My dermatologist and many studies online show a significantly higher rate of skin cancers on the left arm versus the right. (Very interesting).

“Our initial findings confirm that there is a correlation between more time spent driving and a higher incidence of left-sided skin cancers, Just over half,  53%, had skin cancers on the left side of their body”.

I don’t know about you, but this makes me want to cover my arms, and these arm sleeves are a simple solution.

What is an arm sleeve?

An arm sleeve is a protective arm covering that can be used for several things. Tight-fitting arm sleeves can be used for compression, helping with blood flow, swelling, and temperature control. You can also wear a more loose-fitting arm sleeve for sun protection.

What fabric is best for arm sleeves?

If you’re wanting to make an arm sleeve for sun protection, the best fabrics to use are synthetic fabrics like nylon, polyester, and spandex. These fabrics generally have a tighter weave, which is good for sun protection.

arm sleeveMost likely, you know that I’m a big fan of recycling and upcycling clothing. You can use the sleeve of an existing long sleeve top. Look through your closet and see if you have any sportswear (long-sleeved jackets, swim tops, etc) that have a high content of the synthetic and stretchy fabric.

If you don’t, check out your local THRIFT STORES and second-hand stores. You can usually find and pick up a shirt at a good price.

Materials & Items Needed

  • Long sleeve shirt (fabric qualifications as listed above)
  • Scissors/Rotary Cutter and mat (optional)
  • Pins
  • Sewing machine
  • Ballpoint/Microtex or universal sewing machine needle
  • Fabric for cuff (if the fabric from the shirt you’re upcycling is stretchy enough, you can use the bottom portion of the shirt). If not, you can use another upcycled clothing item like leggings, yoga pants or anything that has a lot of stretch to it. (I recommend at least 50% stretch).

How to make a protective arm sleeve


1-Cut off the sleeve of an existing long sleeve shirt.

2- Measure the upper part of your arm.

Subtract 1 inch/2.5 cm from that measurement and write it down.

arm sleeve binding

3- Cut out the cuff.

Measure a piece of binding fabric (4 inches/10 cm x YOUR ARM MEASUREMENT – 1 INCH). **** Cut the length (arm measurement) on the stretch of the fabric.

4-Fold the cuff in half with short ends lined up (RIGHT SIDES TOGETHER).

Sew down the short end using a STRAIGHT STITCH, 3/8” SEAM ALLOWANCE.

arm sleeve half way points5- Fold the cuff in half horizontally and line up the cut edges and seam.

To mark the HALF WAY POINTS on the sleeve cuff and upper sleeve, fold them in half and mark the halfway points with pins.

arm sleeve pinning cuff6- Place the cuff over the top of the arm sleeve with (RIGHT SIDES FACING EACH OTHER) and seams lined up.

Line up the seams and halfway points and pin them in place. (THE CUFF WILL BE SMALLER THAN THE SLEEVE). You’ll be stretching the fabric to ease the fabric in as you sew. WATCHING THE VIDEO TUTORIAL WILL REALLY HELP SEE HOW THIS IS DONE.

arm sleeve seam

****If the sleeve has a lot of bulk and the cuff doesn’t have enough stretch to it, you can narrow the upper sleeve by tapering the arm sleeve seam.

7- Change the stitch on your sewing machine to a LIGHTNING BOLD STITCH or NARROW ZIGZAG STITCH.

arm sleeve sewing8- Sew around the cuff stretching as you sew.

Keep all three layers of fabric edges lined up as you sew. TAKE YOUR TIME. Backstitch at the beginning and end of the seam.


arm sleeve diy9- Flip the cuff out and that’s it!

I like to keep one or two of these arm sleeves in the car, in my gardening apron, and in my backpack when hiking.




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Picture of Jan Howell

Jan Howell

Whether it’s a new recipe, a fun craft, or some handy tips for your garden and home, I hope to empower and inspire you with skills that you can use to create joy, improved health, and to do it in a simple way.

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