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Vertical vs. horizontal seams

Marian51 | Posted in General Discussion on

Good morning! I am having an ongoing debate with a fellow sewer about vertical and horizontal rounds on the body. I was taught to sew on a sleeve by finishing the sleeve and the side seam and then sewing the sleeve to the body using a vertical seam. (Think of the upright body and the seams that are vertical to the body and ones that are horizontal to the body.) The same for the crotch of pants. It all fits and falls better.  She claims it doesn’t matter and I find even designer patterns taking the easy way and using one continous seam from wrist up under the arm to the waist. (Hope this isn’t too confusing.)  Thanks for any input.


  1. sewchris703 | | #1

    I've done it both ways.  T-shirts and men's dress shirts sleeves are done by sewing the armhole seam first and then the underarm/side seam last.  Women's blouses fit best when you sew the underarm seam first and then sew the sleeve into the armhole.

    Same for pants.  Young children's pants, knit pants can be done by sewing up the crotch seams first and then the inseam as one continuous seam.  But for dress and fitted woven pants, the inseams should be done first and then the crotch seam.


  2. marymary | | #2

    Marian, I agree with you that garments are better made when you create the sleeve first and then insert it in the bodice.  The continuous seam from the wrist to the waist comes about from using a "flat" method of construction.  You put as much together as possible while keeping the garment flat.  One way to combine these two methods is to sew the sleeve to the bodice as in the flat method, but leave about 1"-2" unsewn on the underarm.  Sew the side seam of the bodice.  Then sew the underarm seam of the sleeve.  Now, you can go back and finsh the seam that attaches the sleeve to the bodice. 

    This can be confusing until you do if a few times.  I even had a hard time even trying to describe it.

    1. Marian51 | | #4

      thanks for all of the replys, I shall rest my case with my fellow sewer!

    2. jjgg | | #8

      I often do sleeves this way, part flat, part round.It also depends on the style of sleeve, Like Mary said, some "set in " style sleeves should be done in the 'round' others like the sleeves in mens button down shirts are designed to be done flat with the flat felled seams.

      1. Marian51 | | #9

        thank you for your answer. I forgot about the flat-fell seam.

      2. rekha | | #11

        It helps a good deal to use the ham and basting hand stitches to get a good shape

  3. Teaf5 | | #3

    The flat method of construction works well on simple, unfitted garments like t-shirts, kimonos, and gathered skirts, but the round method works better for fitted and tailored garments. 

    The round method allows you to fit each section as you put it together and to take out an alter pieces that don't end up exactly as you like them;you can't tell if you need to alter a flat-method garment till you've finished, and then you'll have to take out a lot more seams to make any changes. 

    Once you have a pattern that you are certain fits perfectly, you can switch from round to flat for making up multiples, which is what RTW manufacturers do.  However, if you're using different kinds of fabrics for the same pattern, you might want to do round construction so that you can account for how each fabrics affects fit differently.

  4. Fruzzle | | #5

    I always sew sleeves in flat--they are much easier to pin that way.

    When I do pants, I sew the two backs together & the two fronts together first, then the inseams, then the outside legs. I've seen directions that call for sewing the legs up first (or just the inseams? not sure), then nesting one leg inside the other to sew the crotch seam. I'm sure if I did that, I'd end up messing up--it sounds extremely complicated.

  5. rekha | | #6

    Technically, I can't see what difference it makes as long the seams are tidy.

    It is a matter of personal taste what you feel more comfortable with


    1. rodezzy | | #7

      I agree with you!!!!  People should do what makes them happy. 

  6. sewwen | | #10

    To be perfectly correct, the method you have described is the correct way to sew set in sleeves into a garment;  the other method is suitable for shirts (picture men's shirts), which have a shallow sleeve head.  If you find sewing in set-in sleeves difficult try a mixture of both abovementioned methods - sew the shoulder seam only.  Sew the sleeve head to the garment between the notches with the garment flat.  Then sew side and sleeve seams and sew the curved underarm seam to the garment under arm 'in the round' as you are used to.  You will find this method so much easier!

    1. Marian51 | | #12

      great idea, thanks!

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