Thursday, June 9, 2011

Set in sleeves and EASE

Here is how I set in sleeves.  First, I sew a long basting stitch around the top half of the sleeve and this is used to gather the sleeve head and create the nice rounded sleeve cap that will be eased in to the armhole.
The sleeve remains right-side-out.  The bodice is turned inside out and that's how it will stay while sewing the sleeve into the armhole.

The bottom half of the sleeve is flat against the armhole.  It's only the top half that needs to be eased into the armhole.

In this project, there was too much fabric!  It simply refused to crowd together enough to sew a flat seam.  There were puckers galore and the seam ripper was my best friend.

Next, I pinned in the sleeve imagining a different stitching line.  I pulled the sleeve cap through and imagined the stitching line further in on the sleeve cap.  This is how I shaved off some of the sleeve cap. I sewed the seam that came out nice and smooth, and trimmed away the excess.

As you can see, there was less fabric to force into the armhole when I moved the seam.  There is less fabric on the sleeve, and the same seamline on the bodice remains the same.  I trimmed off the excess sleeve cap, and then cleaned it up by serging.

This particular fabric was VERY resistant to easing.  There are areas on the stitching line of any sleeve head that are on the bias.  Any normal woven fabric would ease perfectly, especially along stitching lines that fall on the bias.

But not this fabric!!  This fabric was woven in such a way that it simply refused to ease (verb) into the armhole.   

On the other hand, this is a very comfortable jacket to wear.  A woven with lycra in it will stretch when you move.  So you can sew a closely fitted garment without worrying about enough ease (noun).

That's it.  The story of the sleeves for my bright jacket #5 of 2012.  Wow!  Maybe the next one will be easier?  Who knows?!  I'll take it as it comes :D

Happy Sewing!


  1. Easing sleeves is the most difficult part of garment making. This is a very clear tutorial that will help new sewers. Diana's sewing tutorials included a method that included sewing the ease stitching around the entire sleeve but putting the bulk the easing into the head. I've tried it and it works. What do you think?

  2. Thank you for posting this! This is also the way I do it, including moving the stitching line further up into the sleeve when the fabric resists too much to easing.
    I have a friend who's a beginner at garment sewing and who's been battling with setting in sleeves. I'm emailing her the link to your article :)

  3. Thanks you ladies!

    Gail, I agree that would work perfectly well. Sometimes, when there seems to be too much fabric, you CAN ease some it in further down towards the armpit. It's only a matter of taking a look to see if you you like it. Sometimes I have gotten a nice flat results after sewing and pressing well, only to see puckery places after it has been worn and washed.
    So, it really depends.

    I am sure there is a lot to know about the weave of fabric and how that affects sewing. After all, many people say "don't sew wool gabardine; it is too hard to ease! Sew wool crepe instead!" My experience has been that wool crepe does perform beautifully and I have never tried gabardine.

  4. This is how I try to do it. It usually works. When I am sewing the top of the cap that's when I start pulling and tugging, rather than "crowding." Crowding sounds a lot more graceful. I am going to try to get to grips with crowding.

  5. Karin, you remind me of one more thing. In the comment section to my previous post about ease, a few of us talked about putting the longer piece on the bottom. That way the feed dogs will pull more on the longer piece and do the easing for you.

    When I have tried that on sleeves, it was hit or miss. That's why I always sew with the gathered portion on top and crowd it as I am stitching. At least I can see whether or not I am sewing a pucker.

  6. Some fabrics just don't want to ease, do they? The only time I use the pull up the gathers method is when a jacket is unlined. But, since I hate this, I don't use it for lined jackets, instead using the bias interfacing method.
    You ended up with a very nice result.

  7. Great tutorial!
    Over the years I have tried every method that I've come across for easing in sleeves, yet I always come back to this method that you've shown. Only difference - I sew 2 rows of basting. Seems to give me a bit more control.

  8. Beautiful colors! Your blog is amazing and very artistic. I did sew in high school, but very little since then. A pillow or two over the years. So what you do is impressive to me.

  9. Robin~
    Did you see the post on Fashion Incubator about easing sleeves? It duscusses in detail the whole problem with easing of sleeves/sleeve caps. It changed my whole understanding of what I had been taught. I followed FI's directions and I got PERFECTION.

  10. Anonymous - good point! I agree with your recommendation of Kathleen's articles on her website Fashion Incubator. I have learned so much from her.

    In this case it was just a little weird because my sleeve pattern was tried and true. It had worked so well in other jackets.

    Now that I think about it, I am sure I subconsciously remembered what I had learned from FI to come up with this solution! Shave off the sleeve head!
    Robin (Blogger is acting so finicky I can't sign in!)

  11. Huh, you know, I love the idea of just shaving a bit off of the shoulder to make the circumference a little bigger. I'm not actually sure if that's what you did, now that I think about it, but I always find that the shoulder width is always slightly too big for me (one of these days I'll correct for it), and shaving a bit would not only help reduce this, but aid in easing in sleeves when there seems to be too much fabric (or reducing the amount of gathers - I always find that there's too much designed into the patterns).

    I'm sorry that you ran into some snags easing in your sleeve, but thanks for sharing how you fixed it!


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