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Creating a pattern for heavy upper arms

expatgeo | Posted in Patterns on

I’ve been sewing and pattern drafting for some years, but have never learned how to draft a sleeve pattern from scratch (somehow that chapter was omitted from the pattern drafting book I have).  I can draft new types of sleeves from slopers, but I’m not at all sure how to draft a pattern for someone with heavier upper arms.  I’ve not sewn for myself or made a pattern for myself for some time (no time), and now that I’m older and have these “kimono” arms, I want to make something for myself that fits properly.

My bust is small, my upper back is broad, and under my armpit I hollow out to just about my mid section, where my dimensions then increase to ample hips. The flesh of my arms hangs down from where my arms meet my torso, about 2″.  If I make something that fits around the armsceye well, it’s far too tight around my upper bicep and down to my elbow.  If I drop the armsceye down lower so that I clear the hanging flesh, the sleeve fits more nicely, but now there’s not a good fit under my armpit and it loosens up my bust area.  And sometimes this makes the fit across my mid-back tighter as well.

I think I’ll need a dress form with arms, or I’ll need to find someone who is willing to drape me, in order to create a sloper that will get this right for me.  But if anyone knows what else I can try on my own, I’d appreciate the advice.


  1. jjgg | | #1

    The best way to make a sleeve for really heavy upper arms is to use a 2 piece sleeve, the extra seams give you room for more adjustments. You can also make a 'regular' sleeve 2 piece by simply splitting the sleeve from the shoulder point to the wrist. This way you can leave the sleeve cap alone and just bow out the seam where you need the room, I suppose you could really put this seam anywhere in the sleeve as a designer or decorative touch.

  2. thehat | | #2

    good morning  this is just a thought  if you   need an adjustment not just for your arm, but your the under the sleeve try a well placed zippers one that is invisable .then you have more fit  try the sleeve that most well made jackets use  it has a back seam and if you need more room cut your pattern but number them so when you put them together they match up  I didn`t do that and I spent more time reworking the whole outfit    have a great day    P.S. don`t forget the seam allounce

  3. maggiecoops | | #3

    I too suffer from what my delightful children call washer woman arms, swaying extensions. My arm scye is only very slightly larger than my standard upper size but my arms at the top are HUGE. well big anyway. The way to alter your sleeve pattern is fairly easy. First make an accurate copy of the pattern piece on tracing paper that is 2 or 3 inches wider than your pattern. This is what your going to alter, and it's not so painful if its not right the first time.

    Measure your upper arm around the point where it meets the body, now measure from the shoulder down to where to you took the round arm measurement. write them both down. Now draw a straight line across the pattern copy you made,  from the top of the under arm seam across to the other one, where the armhole seam meets the under arm seam.  measure the distance between the 2 seam lines. Now draw a line from the centre sleeve head bisecting that cross line down to the wrist. measure the distance from the seam line centre sleeve head down to where the cross line meets it. Compare the measurements. Now this is where the fun begins, you need extra tracing paper, sellotape, a ruler, paper scissors, dress pins, tape measure and conviction. Oh and a cup of cofee to steady the nerves. using the copy, cut the sleeve pattern from about half an inch above the wrist right up the line you drew to within half an inch of the centre sleeve head seam. now cut the pattern again from half an inch inside the top underarm seam straight across the line you drew to half an inch short of the opposite seam line. You now have a cross. lay the ruler under the cut pattern along the cross line, if you have to, sellotape it to your work bench or table. Now with each hand spread those under arm seams untill you have created a gap in the middle as wide as the difference in your actual arm measurement and the pattern measurement, now pull them apart a bit more so you have at least 1 or 1.5 inches ease, more if you want a looser upper sleeve. Your pattern is now totally weird, the sleeve head has gone south and the pattern above the cross cut is overlapping the pattern below the cut in the middle. The centre of the sleeve resembles a kite. That's great it means your bang on target.

    Now here you need 6 hands, still don't we always? I use the weights from my knitting machine for this step, you need to sellotape the horizontal overlap so its fixed in position both sides of the central kite shape. Now slip a long strip of tracing paper up under the central gap so it fills the hole and sellotape it in position. Now draw another straight line across the sleeve from one upper arm seam to the other at the same point you used for the first line. Redraw the line from the centre sleeve head down to the wrist. Now measure the distance from the centre sleeve head point down to where it bisects the cross sleeve line. compare the measurement to the original. now sellotape a rectangle of paper under the sleeve head wide enough to redraw the sleeve head the same height as the original measurement.  Use your tape measure or a piece of string and measure around the sleeve head from seam to seam, now measure the front and back armhole, if you have increased it by less than one and a half inches, you wont need to enlarge the arm hole. If it's more then lower the front and back armhole by a quarter of an inch or widen the the two side seams slightly. That's it you have just altered a sleeve pattern for large upper arms. Make the sleeve upin scrap fabric first in case you need to tweak it.

    Edited 2/4/2008 4:41 pm ET by maggiecoops

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