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How to Reset Sleeves for a Better Fit

Baste the sleeve cap to the yoke, then fit the sleeve under the arm.
Threads magazine - 176 - Dec. 14/ Jan. 2015

In “The Shoulder & Sleeve Cure,” Joyce Simons Murphy shares her technique for correcting shoulder width and sleeve length in one smooth operation. Learn how to reset sleeves for a better fit in this Web Extra from Threads #176.

When it’s time to sew the sleeves back into their armholes, after correcting the fit with the yoke, you’ll begin by basting the top of the sleeve cap to the yoke, and then fit the sleeve under the arm.

Pin and baste the sleeve cap

1. With right sides together, pin the sleeve cap to the armhole by first matching the tailor’s tacks on the sleeve cap to the yoke seams.

2. Ease the sleeve cap over the shoulder, and baste the upper portion of the sleeve to the yoke.

reset sleeves 1

Fit the lower armhole

1. Match the hang of the sleeve to the hang of the bodice. This makes certain that one does not restrict the flow of the other. If more sleeve circumference is needed, it will show up now. You can correct by adjusting the seam allowance of the sleeve, the armhole, or both.

2. Support the sleeve. Place your hand(s), a sleeve board, or other supporting shape (we used a mannequin arm) inside the blouse under one shoulder to support the fabric as if this is your shoulder. The underarm seam should hang parallel to the side seam; it’s not essential that it align exactly with the side seam, as long as both are parallel.
reset sleeves 2

3. While supporting the shoulder, grasp the two layers at the underarm. Pin them in this position. Sew the lower portion of the armscye seam, trim the seam allowances, and finish them as desired.
reset sleeves 3
4. If sewing a blouse from a pattern, correct the pattern now. If the underarm and side seams don’t align, you can easily adjust the pattern to correct this. You will have a well-fitting blouse pattern to use again.

Photo by Jack Deutsch.

Will you try this technique?

Photos by Sloan Howard, except where noted.

Previous: Refining the Sleeve Cap Next: How to Find the Correct Sleeve Length


  1. User avater
    wendy_ware | | #1

    I can't really tell what I'm looking at in these pictures...
    a picture of the whole blouse, and before & after might help.

  2. User avater
    Joyce_Simons_Murphy | | #2

    I understand what you are saying and I have plans to add more pictures and teach this lesson in greater detail in the future. I have a special format I use that brings the still pictures to life with voice and screencasting. I think this would help. It will take time to prepare it though so I appreciate your patience. I have plans to share this in 2015 in an online master class on alterations.

    I ran a pilot class on pants fitting and design last spring using these online teaching techniques. The students loved it! I plan to repeat the pants master class beginning in late February and launch the alterations master class soon after.

    Stay tuned to JSM Tailoring Tools on Facebook or sign on for my mailing list at EverydayTailor.com (aka JSMTailoringTools.com) for more information. Thanks for your interest!

  3. stsimon | | #3

    In the last step, I'm guessing that you would correct the misalignment of underarm sleeve seam and bodice side seam by adding to either the back or front bodice pattern piece and subtracting from the other, as you would do for correcting the shoulder seam for a forward shoulder adjustment. Is that correct? Or would you adjust the underarm seam of the sleeve pattern?

  4. User avater
    Joyce_Simons_Murphy | | #4

    To answer stsimon: If I'm altering the garment I wouldn't be too particular about the sleeve seam matching up with the bodice seam. If adjusting the pattern I would want the seams to line up for future blouses. I would base my decision on where the seam falls on the body and on the underarm and change the the one that is the most off-centered. I might even choose to move one seam forward and the other one back to get them to match in a centered position.

  5. soie | | #5

    Agree with Wendy, it's as if the beginning and end are missing from the instructions. Not questioning the author's skills or technique at all, just isn't a useful article as it's presented.

  6. User avater
    Ziggybug | | #6

    I will not be attempting this technique because the instructions are impossible to follow as presented. The orientation of the sleeve relative to the body of the garment should be obvious but this has left me utterly confused as to the benefit of this method.

  7. User avater
    Joyce_Simons_Murphy | | #7

    To Wendy, Soie, and Ziggybug, please don't give up yet. I'm paying attention and working on a better explanation of how to reset blouse sleeves after removing them to narrow the shoulders. This matters to me. I'll be in touch soon with an answer that I hope will bring clarity and understanding. Thank you for your patience.

  8. User avater
    Joyce_Simons_Murphy | | #8

    New improved instructions are here! The link to the video is https://vimeo.com/116939793.

  9. User avater
    ThreadsMagazine | | #9

    Hello Everyone! We see that there is some confusion regarding the technique explained here. The information presented in this post is a Web Extra that accompanies Joyce’s article “The Shoulder & Sleeve Cure” from Threads issue 176. If you are not a subscriber, you can access the full article by signing up for our two-week free trail of Threads Insider at https://www.threadsmagazine.com/insider. You’ll not only get access to this story, you’ll be able to browse the entire issue online as well as download the latest issue to your tablets. We apologize for any confusion and thank you for your feedback! -Threads

  10. User avater
    Joyce_Simons_Murphy | | #10

    Thanks ThreadsMagazine for pointing the way for non-subscribers to connect the web extra with the original aricle in issue #176. This helps! And hopefully the additional pictures in the new video version at https://vimeo.com/116939793 will help bring clarity as well. Let us know if we can do anything more. I love working with my friends at Threads!

  11. Bobbie1 | | #11

    Great video, Joyce! Now I get it. Thanks so much for adding it.

  12. User avater
    Joyce_Simons_Murphy | | #12

    You are welcome, Bobbie1! I hope the video at posted at https://vimeo.com/116939793 helps others get it too! Thanks for commenting.

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