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Help! Setting in sleeves in a jacket

SewCrazy | Posted in General Sewing Info on

Hi, I’m new here, this is my first posting.

I am making a jacket and all has gone well until I tried to set the sleeves in.

I appear to have far too much material to give a smooth finish.  I read an article in the DIY Network, written by a tailor.  He seems to indicate that the max amount of extra fabric you require in your sleeve cap is 1″ or 1 1/4″.  I have the max 1 1/4″ plus an extra 1 1/2″.  So working on this theory I have far too much fabric and it will never be set in without puckers.

He suggested adjusting the sleeve pattern by cutting the pattern piece down the centre of the sleeve and pulling the sleeve cap inwards the required excess amount.  This would work well prior to cutting out your garment, but that is too late for me now and I don’t have enough spare fabric to cut out more sleeves.  Help!

I really don’t want to abandon this project as the work I have done so far looks really quite professional, although I say so myself!  I’m proud of myself!

Hope somebody out there will have a solution for me.

Happy sewing.



  1. alotofstitches | | #1

    Have you tried sewing the gathering threads to ease the s.cap and then steaming the cap over a tailor's ham.  Using heavy steam might draw it in better.  Alternative would be to take off 1/4" each side at the underarm seam and ease the fullness down omitting matching notches.  Are you using a fleece sleeve head too?

  2. HeartFire | | #2

    well, I'm not sure if this will get posted twice, I tried answering it and somehow it all dissaperaerd! so here goes again.

    First, Veronica, it depends on what type of fabric you are using, if it is a loosely woven wool, you will be able to shrink out a lot more fullness than on a polyester. gather the sleeve head and then really work it with steam and the tip of the iron to shrink out the excess.

    you can add some of the extra fullness BELOW the notches (where they tell you to start the gathering) because this area is on the bias and you can hide some of it there, but if you do this add most to the back of the sleeve and only a bit to the front - you want the front of the armhole to be smoother.

    next option is to trim the sleeve cap, but make sure that the cap remains at least 5 or 5 1/2 inches tall, (and that depends on the size of your arms too, larger women may need larger caps) - if you do this, you may end up shortening the sleeve so you will have to get the extra length from the hem at the wrist, not a big deal there if you can spare it.

    the last option is to put a small box pleat in the top of the sleeve cap at the shoulder seam, this is very pretty on some fashions.

  3. FitnessNut | | #3

    Your tailor has obviously never worked in RTW! I was taught to draft sleeves with 4 cm of ease as a minimum....this is 1 1/2"! I would do as someone else has suggested if you are having difficulty setting this amount in. Ease stitch between the notches and pin the sleeve into your armhole, pinning the notches and underarm seam only to begin with. If there is no ease allowed under the arm, you can very easily work about 1 cm (3/8") or maybe even a bit more in this area. Now, start pinning the sleeve cap. Always work from the sleeve side, so you can see what you are doing, and work on just the front or back at a time. Pull up the thread and distribute the ease evenly. Pin with lots of pins, curving the cap over your fingers (put the fingers of your non-dominant hand under the seam allowance). Do the other side of the sleeve cap and then sew with the sleeve side up.

    Part of the problem that many have with setting in sleeves doesn't have to do with ease at all. It is simply that commercial patterns have way too much seam allowance and it gets in the way. I realized this when I recently sewed a jacket for someone using a commercial pattern, after years of only using my own. I use a 1 cm allowance and it goes in like a charm.

  4. Bernice | | #4

    Though you may not have enough fabric to cut another set of sleeves... you may be able to remove the "excess" ease as recommended .... alter the pattern piece as suggested and try laying it on top of the sleeves you've already cut - since you're making the top of sleeve smaller by doing this alteration, you may be able to simply recut the sleeves you've already cut out.  Just be careful to keep grainline aligned.  I have done this with other pattern pieces, I think it should work!


    1. SewCrazy | | #5

      Thank you for your suggestions everyone!  I have managed to set them in successfully by pushing all the excess fabric inside the armhole.  I have learnt so many new techniques from reading this forum, whatever did we all do before computers!?

      Until the next time, hasta luego!


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