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Video: How to Modify Sleeves for Better Arm Mobility

Jan 25, 2016

Evamarie Gomez and Gary Junken

When it comes to garment construction, achieving the right fit is as important as stitching the garment pieces together. Sleeve fitting is no exception–-especially in fitted bodices.

A pro’s method for optimal sleeve mobility

During the 2015 American Sewing Expo, we caught up with pattern designer and instructor Andrea Schewe to discuss sleeve fitting and to answer our questions. Andrea has been a pattern designer for Simplicity Patterns for more than 26 years and graciously shared some invaluable fitting techniques she has learned along the way.

Learn three modifications

In this video tutorial, Andrea demonstrates three ways to modify sleeves for better mobility. She walks through the patternwork and shows how to achieve desired results.

What did you think about any or all of the techniques shared in this video? Will you try any of the methods? If so, which one?

Watch more video tutorials from the 2015 American Sewing Expo

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  1. User avater user-1112563 January 25th

    This was simply fabulous! Thank you!

  2. TheSassySEWer January 25th

    My light bulb came on. Thank you for that thorough explanation of why some can raise their arm. I'll use this knowledge when teaching a class.

  3. User avater Isabella1993 January 26th

    Quite complicated at the first sight :)

  4. ZakFerdie January 26th

    Wasn't there a similar video here lead by a guy? He was explaining for both sleeves and pants. I think the experiment outfit was yellow. Good video by you nonetheless, you give very detailed explanation and fix ideas! Wife loved it!

  5. splainer January 26th

    What a superb video! Very useful information, clearly presented.

  6. User avater decorchick January 26th

    I create costumes for local schools so I'm using your patterns constantly. It was so great to meet you in this video. Your instructions were great. Thank you so much. I hope to see lots more from you.

  7. user-2506622 January 26th

    That was one of the very best "how to's" I have seen for a long time. Thank you absolutely going to try this technique.

  8. rr528 January 26th

    What a terrific video! This is what I had always suspected, but it's wonderful to have a very specific how-to. Thank you!

  9. LyndaCriswell January 26th

    The first few minutes of this video were excellent - then the video quit. I tried three times. Sometimes the tech people are not Apple friendly, but I hope you can work this out so I can enjoy ALL of the videos!

  10. LyndaCriswell January 26th

    The first few minutes of this video were excellent - then the video quit. I tried three times. Sometimes the tech people are not Apple friendly, but I hope you can work this out so I can enjoy ALL of the videos!

  11. mjz January 26th

    I have a big bicep, so have to modify sleeves and armscyes all the time. This video helps me understand "how and why" of some of those changes.

  12. user-4443583 January 26th

    I also learned a technique (from an English cutter, I believe) where one can cut the gusset pattern in half vertically and add each half to the underarm of the sleeve pattern before cutting out the sleeve--essentially adding the gusset to the sleeve as a piece, eliminating one extra seam under the arm--removing a bit of the extra bulk under the arm by sewing in a separate piece. The gusset should end close to the notches that match the sleeve to the armsceye (correct spelling--why does this indicate a sp. problem?) of the bodice. I think it makes it easier to set in the sleeve. I've used this technique very often in making costumes in my some 40 years as a costume designer.

  13. sandysewin January 26th

    That was a wonderfully clear explanation. Thank you!

  14. User avater user-3106855 January 26th

    This video wouldn't play at all for me. I too am on a Mac.

  15. NancyGTK January 26th

    I especially appreciate the techniques for a completed garment. A close-up of the garment with the gusset sewn in would have been even better.

  16. Ms_C January 26th

    Wonderful! Thank you so much. This is great.

  17. Mamato8 January 26th

    Thank you for the demonstration! I like your gusset. I like fitted clothes. I have had those issues before. I have a co worker that does costumes. I can tell her about your video.

    Thank you!

  18. LorenaW January 26th

    Right on time! I am "fixing" the sleeve pattern and armscye on front/back shirt pattern for my husband's shirt pattern...this video will definately help me produce a wonderful fitting shirt.

  19. glen622 January 26th

    One of the best sewing videos I have seen! I have been struggling with this very issue, and this cleared up many questions. Thank you!!

  20. MachelleH January 26th

    Absolutely wonderful tutorial! Thank you for explaining the why and how.

  21. maidam January 27th

    I'm excited to try this. My boyfriend and I teach dance lessons. He asked me to sew him a tail coat but the tops of the sleeves kept bunching up!

  22. User avater Helen_in_Toronto January 27th

    Wonderful lesson! I learned so much. Sleeves have always been a huge problem for me. Many times I cut 2-3 sleeves trying to get it right.

    I would appreciate a lesson on how to properly modify cases when there is too much ease in the sleeve at the shoulder seam area. I hate that nasty puffiness. It's always a sign of a bad home sewing project. Personally, I have cut off 1/4 to 1/2 off the sleeve cap, although I'm not sure that's the perfect method. BTW, this problem usually occurs when using symthetic fabrics which do not have any "give" like wool does.

  23. SAnderson92 January 27th

    Great tutorial! Simply tricks for amazinf effects!

  24. guidance4u January 27th

    This is a great tutorial! I got a lot out of it.'Thank you.

  25. User avater Irene17 January 27th

    Thank you so much for this tutorial, it's such a great help!!!

  26. SewLynn January 27th

    Doesn't work on Firefox for PC either.

  27. Kinde1 January 27th

    Absolutely superb video and great explanation exploring multiple facets of the solution. Great for costumers as well as every day garment sewers

  28. User avater newimage January 28th

    60-Plus-Learner: Such a precise demonstration Andrea, many thanks from downtown Australia. danlpughdanlpugh in his very informative procedure about adding a gusset to a pattern before cutting the sleeve is great but my concern is that a gusset is usually cut on the bias so how would you incorporate this into cutting a sleeve normally cut on grain? I think the overall process would be great but i'm struggling with on-grain v bias.

  29. JillStraw February 1st

    Thanks for this fantastic video! I have been struggling with the sleeve/armsceye fit on a dress I've been working on. This information is exactly what I need to finally make the final tweaks to get those sleeves to fit properly and allow me to move my arms! Many great ideas in the comments as well.

  30. user-2059403 February 4th

    Tried to watch the video and it wasn't working well as others have stated. LW

  31. Spiewaks February 5th

    This is the best explanation for a solution to this armhole issue I've ever come across. Seeing it on a video is especially helpful. I'm not sure I would have followed this as well from a written description with photos. Andrea is a wonderful instructor. Thank you so much!

  32. EvamarieGomez February 9th

    Hello All!

    It's always great to hear from our current readers and those new to Threads magazine. I see that some of you have experienced some problems viewing this video.

    We've tested the video on several different browsers and devices and haven't come across any problems. Please check your cooking blocking software. There may be cookies that you need accept in order for our videos to play. Also, try playing it in a different web browser.

    If you continue to experience issues, please call our customer support line at 1-800-477-8727, 9 A.M. to 5 P.M., Monday-Friday, Eastern Standard Time.

    Evamarie Gomez
    Web Producer

  33. Gailey March 3rd

    I agree with everyone else, very helpful video. It seems this is a common problem. So it begs the question, why do the pattern companies not make better fitting sleeve patterns to begin with. Forgive me if there is an obvious answer to this, I'm fairly new to sewing.

  34. NancyGTK March 5th

    My second comment after viewing this video again: VERY HELPFUL!!! Many thanks for explaining how to solve the range of motion problems we have when sewing sleeves. It's like - why did I not already know this? I'm sure I will need to refer back to your video in the future, so thank you again!

  35. WilliamEtheridge97 April 27th

    I was looking for a guide for this for years! Thank you so much, really!

  36. bebrown July 26th

    Thanks for the sleeve fitting ideas particularly adding a gusset. I've never been sure what size and shape to use.

  37. nutellacrepe March 28th

    What a nice tutorial! Clear, with enough details to be useful, but moves quickly. Covers a lot in just 11 minutes! I also like how practical her information is -- modify before sewing, modify after sewing. Thanks!

  38. Mihaela_Cristina August 4th

    Thank you Andrea so much for your concise, clear and precise demonstration! Fab as always from you!

  39. Linda A September 19th

    Many thanks! Very useful information. I have an already completed shirt with restricted movement. VERY helpful! Thank you for your expertise and explanations.

  40. Mumbe November 14th

    Thanks for the tutorial. I had always been wondering why I get arm restriction movement on my formal wear garments

  41. Hobielady December 29th

    I have tried different sleeve modifications over years of sewing...but this makes it clear how to approach my arm mobility issues. Thanks for a great video!

  42. Ce Ce February 9th

    When making a costume. Is it better to modify the pattern or use the existing pattern with the gusset? Or both?

  43. msiatczy April 7th

    This video was a life saver when making my daughter's prom dress! Very clear explanation. Thank you Andrea!

  44. akrunrgrl July 17th

    Excellent!! Thank you!!

  45. tscriswell22 July 17th

    This is brilliant!! I fight with sleeves regularly. So very helpful.

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