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Cut-on Gusset

Recently there came to my hand a Norfolk jacket. This jacket, while being close-fitting, was amazingly comfortable, in that I could really move my arms up and forward. On studying the cut, I noticed this strange design detail under the arm. On further examination, I realized that this was a cut-on gusset for a two-part tailored sleeve!

Before I start this demonstration, I’ll explain a little about gussets. A gusset performs one of two functions–it will replace fabric into a pattern, where the fabric was lost during the drafting process. The classic example of this is the diamond gusset on a kimono sleeve. The gusset replaces the fabric under the arm, where the sleeve and body patterns would overlap while grafting the sleeve to the bodice.

The other function the gusset performs is to give extra fabric in an area of the pattern, where greater than normal mobility is desired.

When a gusset is referred to as “cut-on”, that means it isn’t a separate piece but is included in one of the main pieces of a pattern–it is, in a sense, invisible. So, this is why I didn’t notice the cut-on gusset in the Norfolk jacket–it was a subtle detail that didn’t attract attention, just silently provided extra movement in the sleeve.

Know that in my pattern illustrations, I draft sewing lines, no seam allowances. So, understand that you will add seam allowances later on, after the pattern is drafted.

The photo to the left shows the arm up, with the seams forming the cut-on gusset. It also shows just how high the arm can raise with this sleeve. This is the way the garment looks when the arm is down-just like a regular set-in tailored sleeve. This is the view from the…

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  1. cloudyhn | | #1

    This is so cool. It seems so comfortable with this design especially vests' sleeves are totally tight and fit to the arms. Thanks so much for sharing this.

  2. sewingkmulkey | | #2

    Fantastic post! I've always wondered how to draft this and now I can't wait to try it. Thanks!

    Karen in Houston

  3. Josefly | | #3

    Thank you so very much for these instructions. A question - should the jacket pattern chosen for altering in this way necessarily be one with a rather high or close-fitting underarm seam? I'm wondering what happens to the bustline fitting when the armscye is cut lower.

  4. jckeeler | | #4

    Thanks! Will use this to lengthen bathrobe.

  5. User avater
    MacRoseMagBob | | #5

    This was a great tutorial. Thank you. I would like to see a photograph of the whole front and back to see how the fitted sleeve looks as part of the whole.

  6. iuseathimble | | #6

    I've used this same concept in fitted dancewear to allow the dancers complete range of motion.

  7. User avater
    trishapat | | #7

    I thought about Josefly's question about the armskye. In actuality it doesn't change the area under the arm the way you'd think ... the seam is lower in that area but the bend in the fabric ends up at the same place as it would with a normal armskye.
    The lower section lies against the body for the most part. The additional fabric that is between what was the underarm and the new shape drawn under the armhole gets folded inward when your arm is down. it just allows more movement when your arm is fully extended or raised up high.

    I hope I explained that in a way that makes sense.

  8. adagiolane | | #8

    Thanks for posting this, many aren't aware of this old fashioned way of cutting a wonderfully fitting sleeve. Jackets can be close fitting AND comfortable - they are a joy to wear and make you look GREAT. Ref: Josefly's comment - since so many commercial jacket patterns (and RTW jackets) are cut far too low in the armseye for a good fit, maybe it would help to have an article about how this design fits different depth armseyes - and/or how to cut the armseye to fit the arm - one of the finer points of making a tailored jacket fit. A deeply cut armseye with this gusset will come out a bit like a 1940s gusset sleeve - also comfortable and airy. I learned about this when examining a beautifully cut suit jacket of my mother's made by a NYC dress shop in the 1940s. Hey, if you don't write it, I will!

    PS Kenneth, I love your work and ideas, and attention to detail on garments. Lately, I love your flowers! Bravo! Here's why - sympatico ideas on flowers...


  9. Muffie | | #9


    Great article. Is there a commercially available jacket pattern with the gusset?
    Please advise.

  10. fwren | | #10

    I love this jacket gusset..
    is there also a pattern..or instructions for putting a gusset in pants at the crotch...
    I mean like slim fitting exercise pants..
    my daughter has been asking me to do this for ages and I do not know how..
    help please.

  11. User avater
    quiltbeads | | #11

    This looks great. I will need to try it in the summer. I'm also trying to fit my grandaughter, who compets in power lifting. She has q

  12. User avater
    quiltbeads | | #12

    Sorry to not finish above.. I was looking at this and wonder if I could enlarge the underam sleeve piece and then add gusset. She has very large arms and currently wears only knits. It would be fun to try to make a pattern for her for a blouse or jacket. Mary Ann

  13. Snikwas | | #13

    Your description of this being a 'Norfolk Jacket' bears no resemblance to such!! A traditional Norfolk Jacket is a country style garment - worn by country folk who go hunting shooting & fishing - so is definitely NOT a close fitting garment. It is a long straight jacket usually with a slotted belt made up of the same material as the jacket which has stitched 'pleats' down the front and back. It has large pleated pockets and is made of tweed.

    The pattern cutting shown for this sleeve is excellent - but this is NOT a Norfolk jacket!

  14. Villa_for2 | | #14

    Your gusset's perfect fit reminded me of the June/July 1989 article by Sandra Betzina.
    A new Fit from the Old World, page 59. She says that European jackets fit better because "the shoulder is about 1/4 " higher and wider in the bodice front and back and in the sleeve cap with the armholes 1/2 inch higher, and side seams are curved in so the jacket doesn't ride up when you raise your arms." A red Chanel jacket is featured on the front cover.

    I'm trying to reduce a 1987 camp-shirt pattern, by J.G. Hook, and I don't know how. The shoulders are 22" across and I like the roominess of the sleeves but they hang off the shoulder and its way too big. Is there a Threads magazine that instructs us how to reduce these "Football shirts"? My husband and I are planning a trip soon and I would like to add to my summer wardrobe.

  15. User avater
    kennethdking | | #15

    To SNikwas--I used a standard dinner jacket pattern I had, with a two part sleeve, for this demonstration--sorry for your confusion. The concept came from a Norfolk jacket which I purchased at a flea market, but as I wanted to demonstrate HOW to draft it onto an existing pattern, I used an existing pattern. Sorry you got confused by this.

  16. User avater
    kennethdking | | #16

    To Quiltbeads: Yes, you can enlarge the under sleeve, and some on the upper sleeve, to accomodate the bicep, then you can do this technique. It will then accomodate the arm, and let you have a smaller armhole.

  17. User avater
    kennethdking | | #17

    To Muffie--I don't use commercial patterns so don't know if there's one available. I think not--this sleeve falls under the "specialty taste" category. But if you use the instructions here, you can graft it onto a patter you already have.

  18. Lindamultitasker | | #18

    This is so timely - last week I was thinking that I would add a gusset to a blouse pattern that I liked. Great tutorial. Your recent Threads articles are fab - it's like a dressmaking class in my mailbox. Thanks for the helpful illustrations.

  19. User avater
    kennethdking | | #19

    To Josefly: I wouldn't use this on a sleeve that has too low of an armhole, because I think it would look sloppy--there is a rule-of-thumb here. The higher the armhole, the narrower the sleeve can be. The narrower the sleeve, the more negative space between sleeve and body. The more negative space between sleeve and body, the trimmer the entire figure (read: waist) appears.

    But the original coat I saw this on, was indeed a coat that had to fit over clothes. In the final analysis, though, I'd make a test garment before I made it in real fabric anyway, to evaluate the appearance.

  20. User avater
    kennethdking | | #20

    To Fwren: I don't know of a pattern for the trouser with a gusset, nor have I cut such a pattern. So, sadly I can't answer this one...

  21. User avater
    kennethdking | | #21

    To Villa: I would determine the amount the shirt hangs over the shoulders first. Then, you can make a vertical line mid-shoulder (both front and back pattern pieces) that is parallel to the center front or back. Fold this amount out parallel to raise the shoulder--it will also reduce the total circumference of the shirt.

    If you just want to reduce the shoulder width, slash the pattern down from the shoulder to the intersection of the armhole/side seam. Make sure not to disturb the armhole curve. Pivot the armhole back at the shoulder, pivoting on the point where the armhole and side seams intersect. Essentially you are rotating the armhole towards the center, at the shoulder. Then, draft new shoulder lines from the armhole to neck.

    Did that make sense?

  22. User avater
    kennethdking | | #22

    To Adagiolane: Thanks for the kind words!
    Yes, this sleeve is one of a genre of sleeves that one saw in clothing of the mid 20th century and before. These sleeves, sadly have fallen out of use with the advent of improved stretch fabrics, but they are still worthwhile to know about.

  23. KathleenFasanella | | #23

    This feature ("cut on gusset") is better known as a "pivot sleeve" and can be designed in any number of ways. I have a scan of a draft (circa 1952) on my site that shows a peaked rather than rounded gusset. I'd leave a link but don't know if this will post. Google pivot sleeve and you'll find it on Fashion-Incubator.

    The pivot sleeve is not intrinsic to Norfolk style jackets, they can be put into any garment with a suit sleeve (I've put these in blouses). George Mallory wore a jacket with pivot sleeves made by Burberry on his Mount Everest summit that became very popular at the time. I doubt Mallory's jacket was a Norfolk being unsuitable for climbing; those jackets are rather like sport coats with box pleats at the center back or two box pleats off to either side of the back. Originally, the Norfolk was a gentleman's shooting jacket.

  24. furballs | | #24

    To fwren. you asked about pant gussets. I found some information online. In particular, there was mention of an article in Threads # 27 about putting in pant gussets.

    There is a web page with a written article, no pictures, on how to make women's workout pants with a gusset..I hope the link comes through in this post.. http://www.essortment.com/lifestyle/womensatheltic_skxe.htm.

    If the links don't post, email,[email protected], I'll send them to you.

    There are a number of sites about making period or re-enactor's clothing with pant gussets,most based on square cut styles,not likely of use to you.

    Also found a page at fashion fabricator, http://www.fashion-incubator.com/archive/adding-a-gusset-to-pants-pt2/,
    which demonstrates making and placing a gusset, though not a very fitted one. It would give you an idea how to do it.

    In addtion, I have some riding breeches, quite old, that have a gusset in them. The gusset is a simple but asymetrical diamond shaped piece of fabric that has been sewn into the crotch, with the longer diamond 'point' to the rear, and the shorter 'point' to the front. It's about 2 1/2 - 3 inches wide in the middle. You could probably draft one fairly easily by tracing the pattern lines of the legs/crotch and using them to help draw a diamond shape that would fit the curves of the pattern properly. I'd make up a tester first, before cutting something more expensive. Wish I could do a drawing to post, but I have no idea how to do that. Hope this helps.

  25. makeitfitTrish | | #25

    I am wondering what would happen if you DIDN'T lower the armhole of the bodice, but instead, just added that football shaped area to the undersleeve, as illustrated in the step that says:

    "Shaded area indicates extra added under arm."

    Would it still have enough bias to allow reaching? Just curious...love this topic!

  26. Ryliss | | #26

    I was lucky enough to view this jacket in person with my students at Kenneth's studio last week. The technique is fantastic and I can't wait to use it in my next jacket.

  27. User avater
    kennethdking | | #27

    To Makeitfittrish: Yes, you could just add the extra to the undersleeve. I've seen this done in Ballet jackets--but the construction is a little trickier and klunkier. Having the undersleeve extend down the side as I showed, I think looks cool, and from a construction standpoint is easier to set in.

  28. 1eyedye | | #28

    -To Fwren: I have been making pants with gussets for years and I use Folkwear #119 Sarouelles. No side seam and very comfortable. Kenneth King is a Great teacher....look for him at a venue near you...

  29. 1eyedye | | #29

    Fwren, I have been using a pattern with gusset for years. Folkwear # 119. African Sarouelles, very comfortable. If you see a Kenneth King class nearby....RUN and signup. What a GREAT teacher. Nancy

  30. Josefly | | #30

    Trishapat: Thanks so much for your thoughts on the effects of the change on fit.

  31. Josefly | | #31

    Mr. King, thank you so much for your answer to my question. I'm very eager to do a muslin, as suggested, using this technique. Your "rule of thumb" regarding higher armscye/narrower sleeve/increased negative space is most clear, and one I'll remember.

  32. Llanelli | | #32

    Thank you so much for the post on gusset sleeves,I shall definately use this next time I make a jacket. I would really appreciate how to do a gusset in pants also.

  33. User avater
    sandyq | | #33

    Dear Mr. King, I have been sewing for my sister, who has survived breast cancer - but due to infections has abandoned the replacement of the removed breasts. She has also lost a good deal of weight. In trying to fit her, the bust part is no problem - I just do away with darts. But her upper arms are: right 15.5" and left 17". Since she's only 39.5 around her chest, I have to enlarge the arms of a size 16 or 18 (depending on the manufacturer). Although I've worked out the problem with set in sleeves, I'm at a loss when I come to dolman/raglan sleeves. It appears to me that the gusset may be the answer to the problem, but I want to do it so it doesn't appear sloppy. Suggestions?

  34. nanacosta | | #34

    Well Mr. King, this is a technique that is really worth while to try, so.....I will make a toile today and see how it comes along!!! thank you so much. By the way, could you show us how to draft a tight sleeve in a non stretch material??? that will be much apreciated!!!

  35. Dazzled | | #35

    Mr. King, this is brilliant!!! Now a question for you and other pros...
    Can I apply the cut-on gussett technique to save my ready made wool jackets? I have several classic wool jackets, which unfortunately are too snug in the upper arm area. Not only are they unattractive when worn, they are also uncomfortable. I have already converted several of them into vests; I do not want more vests!!!
    So for these jackets, I want to enlarge the upper arm area of the sleeves. It seems I can apply this technique. Of course, I will need to be creative to find compatible fabric for the gussett. Any opinions? Suggestions? Thanks in advance for your responses.

  36. user-3542195 | | #36

    Hi, I made a fitted pattern from a knit fabric t-shirt top, to use as a general all purpose bodice, and of course it has no princess lines or anything, so it buckles above the breast a bit. I have done some adjustments, but then have less arm mobility. I have a very difficult arm/shoulder upper arm area. I would like to try this, but am not well versed in patterns. My arm pattern doesn't have under and over pieces, rather it is one piece that is sewn together under the arm. Laid flat it has the arcing curve at the top. How do I place it to determine the gusset? Thanks

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