When I first start sewing, sleeves gave me the heebie geebies. They look so difficult. But I quickly realised after trying a few times, they’re actually nothing to be daunted by. Like my high school physic’s teacher (and Star Trek fan) used to say – knowledge is power.
Sleeves are for me what makes the different between that ‘home-made’ and ‘hand-made’ look. So what are the hallmarks of a well set in sleeve?
– the shoulder line shoulder fall exactly on top of shoulder;
– a smooth and rounded sleeve cap with no puckers;
– the cross grain line of the sleeve fabric should be parallel to the floor.
Set in sleeves are one of three possible sleeve options – the others are the ‘Raglan’ sleeve and the ‘Kimono’ sleeve (L-R). I went on an Etsy rampage the other week for vintage patterns with the kimono sleeve, so I will definitely try those sometime in the not-too-distant future!
Here’s how I do it…
Setting in the sleeves
I sew two rows of ‘ease’ stitch around the sleeve cap (one each side of the seam line), so that the gathering by the ease stitch isn’t squashed when you sew your seam – I find this makes it less likely to get puckers:
I’m notorious for carefully attaching a sleeve, then trying on the garment only to realise I’ve sewn it on backwards. So the picture at the start of this post is going to help me remember which sleeve goes on which side! The longer sleeve seam goes to the back of the jacket.
Firstly, with the right sides of the fabric facing each other, pin the side seam of the jacket to the match point on the sleeve (I’ve marked it in grey):
Next match the shoulder seam to the sleeve match point, and pin from the side seam around to where the ease stitch starts. To ease the sleeve in, holding one thread from each row – push the fabric away from your, so that it bunches up:
Pin in place, repeat on the other side of the sleeve, and sew together. Whallah! You have a set in sleeve:
See how the sleeve caps look a tad droopy? This is totally exaggerated by the fact that it’s on a coat hanger (OK, I was actually trying to make them look that way – the fabric actually sits relatively nicely when I try it on), but I’ll be going though shoulder pads and sleeve heads shortly – and how they can affect the look of your tailored garment.