Sleeves complete the appearance of a bodice while also serving a functional and fashionable purpose for a garment. Learn two different methods for sewing sleeves.
A Quick Guide to Sewing Sleeves
Sewing sleeves necessitates a knowledge of pattern pieces as well as the ability to sew in a circular pattern. A standard sleeve covers the shoulder and rests flat against the arm. Depending on the outfit, you can lengthen the sleeve to fit the design of the garment.
Mastering the curved seam line can be difficult for new sewers; however, with the right tools and tips, you can practice adding sleeves to your clothing. There are two methods for sewing sleeves into a garment: set-in and flat. Sewing sleeves set-in is a simpler method of adding sleeves to a garment than sewing flat, which requires a more complex sewing technique.
Important Sleeve Sewing Terminology
Knowing the sleeve construction terminology will help you understand how to use your pattern pieces. When sewing a sleeve for the first time, keep the following terms in mind:
1. Grain line: The grain line is the thread that runs along the material and is used to guide the cut of a fabric piece. These lines run parallel to the fabric's edge.
2. Notches: Notches are the small triangles on your pattern pieces. The sleeve cap, as well as the front and back of the sleeve, are represented by these symbols. The shoulder seam is represented by the single notch at the top of the sleeve, while the notches on the side represent the front and back of the sleeve.
3. Pattern piece: A pattern piece is a thin sheet of paper that shows how a garment is made. For cutting and sewing your sleeves, use your sleeve pattern pieces as a guide.
4. Sleeve cap: Also known as the sleeve head, the sleeve cap is the top portion of the shoulder covering. The sleeve cap is slightly arched and bends to shape the natural bend of the upper arm.
5. Sleeve cap ease: Use extra fabric around the shoulder to ease the sleeve into the armhole when using set-in sleeves. As a result, the sleeve cap is larger than the armhole because the excess fabric forms a shape around the shoulder. This larger measurement is the ease of the sleeve cap.
How to Sew Sleeves Set-In
Set-in sleeves are a type of arm covering that is sewn separately from the bodice of the garment. After sewing the sleeves and bodice together, the sleeves are attached (or set) into the garment. When working with woven fabrics or sewing sleeves into a dress, this method is ideal. To sew set-in sleeves, follow the instructions below:
1. Trim the fabric. Cut the fabric for your sleeves along the grain using the pattern piece as a guide. For sleeve patterns, there are two notches: one for the front of the sleeve and two for the back of the sleeve. Cut out the notches with care, as you will use them to align the sleeve to the armhole.
2. Create the sleeve. Pin the right sides of the fabric together, lining up the underarms and placing pins every few inches along the raw edges of the fabric. Sew the sleeves together with a 5/8-inch seam allowance. Then, with the sleeve cap in place, sew three rows of a basting stitch, leaving long thread tails. The first row should be 1/4 inches long, the second 1/2 inches long, and the third 3/4 inches long. The long thread seam and three rows of stitches will make it easier to control the easing stitches as you insert the sleeve.
3. Finish the sleeve. The type of hemline you should sew for your sleeve will be specified in the pattern instructions. However, you can customize the length of your sleeves and the design of your hemline to your liking. You can attach the sleeve to the garment after sewing the sleeve hemline.
4. Attach the sleeves to the bodice with pins. Pin the right side of the sleeve fabric to the right side of the bodice fabric, matching the armholes. One pin should be placed in the center of the sleeve cap, leaving the sides unpinned.
5. Remove the thread tails. Gather the sleeve fabric by gently pulling the thread tails from the three basting stitches. The rest of the sleeve cap can now be pinned in place. As you pin the sleeves, the notches and underarms should line up with the side seam.
6. Sew the sleeves to the body of the garment. Set your sewing machine to straight stitch and leave a 1/2 inch seam allowance. Sew the sleeves to the garment, starting at the underarm seam and removing the pins as you go. Take your time as you glide the fabric under the needle, turning it gradually to create a curved seam line.
How to Sew Sleeves Flat
Because this strategy necessitates sewing the bodice and sleeves together, sewing flat sleeves can be more difficult than sewing set-in sleeves. When working with thick materials, such as knit fabrics, the flat method comes in handy. Consider the following steps for adding flat sleeves to a garment:
1. Trim the fabric. To make the sleeve pieces, use the sewing pattern as a guide and cut the fabric along the grain.
2. Finish the shoulder seams. Align your bodice's shoulder seams by bringing the right sides of the fabric together. Sew the shoulder seams with a straight stitch and a 1/2-inch seam allowance, pinning the fabric in place. The rest of the bodice should be left unstitched.
3. Line your bodice and sleeves. Place your bodice and sleeves flat on a surface. Start pinning from the top of the shoulder, matching the right side of the sleeve fabric with the right side of the garment fabric. Using the center of the shoulder as a guide will ensure that the armhole and sleeve are evenly aligned.
4. Sew the sleeves to the body of the garment. Set your sewing machine to straight stitch and leave a 1/2 inch seam allowance. Sew the sleeves to the garment starting at the underarm. Take your time gliding the fabric under the needle, turning it as you go to create a curved seam line.
5. Complete the garment's construction. Turn your garment inside out and line the bodice edges. Pin along the bodice's sides to keep the garment in place. Finish sewing the bottom edge sleeve seam and the bodice sides with a 1/2-inch seam allowance.