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A Forgiving Bias-Cut Sleeve

Threads #185, June/July 2016

Denise entered this dress in the Threads/Association of Sewing and Design Professionals' 2009 Seams Challenge. The sleeve components are cut and seamed on-grain, then the whole sleeve is cut on the bias. The bias cut creates a forgiving sleeve for larger biceps.

In Threads#155, Denise Severson, a seamstress, alterations expert, and Association of Sewing and Design Professionals member, shares some of her techniques to make sleeves that fit larger biceps. Denise has developed a number of ways to add sleeve fullness attractively. She’s created garments for herself and for ASDP and Threads challenges. The story, “Bye Bye Biceps Blues” shares several of her methods, but this week and next, there will be additional techniques here at ThreadsMagazine.com

This sleeve variation is pieced from on-grain fabric blocks. There is extra ease, however, because the pieced sleeve is cut and set on the bias. Please note: You may still need to do the basic width alteration to the sleeve pattern. That alteration is explained in the Threads issue no. 155 article.

If you admire the piecing on the front of Denise’s dress, the directions for the center front panel may be found in “Convergence Quilts,” by Ricky Tims (C&T Publishing, 2003).

The Color-Block Bias Sleeve

Cut out fabric blocks on-grain. For a short sleeve, cut two of each blocks in the following sizes:

6-inch square light-colored
6 by 12-inch dark-colored
12 by 18-inch dark-colored

For a longer sleeve, simply calculate a piecing plan that will yield a section large enough for the pattern piece.

Block ready for bias sleeveBegin piecing the fabric blocks together. Piece two mirror-image fabric sections, for the left and right sleeves. Sew the 6-inch-square blocks to the 6-inch side of the dark-colored blocks with 1/4-inch seam allowances. Press the seam toward the dark fabric. Sew the remaining block to the paired block unit along the 18-inch side. Press the seam allowance to the 18-inch long edge.

Cut out the sleeves. Find the true bias through the light square’s corners. Use a clear ruler and draw the line with a washable marker or chalk. This is the grain line for positioning the pattern piece.  Center the sleeve cap along this line. The dark-to-dark piecing seam runs toward the sleeve front.

Proceed with sewing and finishing your garment.

Next week: Another piecing technique creates a swirled bias sleeve.


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  1. sophronia | | #1

    I like the technique and the black and white contrast.

  2. pebbles1991 | | #2

    What a good idea
    I also have a large bisep
    The technique is excellent

  3. User avater
    jpadden53 | | #3

    I am in love with this dress. I want to make it as mother of the bride in dupioni silk cobalt blue and black. Do you think the silk will work for this style? Is the pattern for the dress also included in the magazine?

  4. LauraPo | | #4

    Is excellent. Regards.

  5. annh | | #5

    I also love this pattern. Is it available in Threads or online? I would love to have it. Ann High

  6. ichefdiane | | #6

    The design on the sleeve and front panel is brilliant. Love it. I want to make it with small scraps of leftover fabrics.

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