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How to Modify Sleeves for Better Arm Mobility

Three ways to modify sleeves for better mobility

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

Previous: On Fitting Sleeves Next: Professor King on Sleeve Mobility and Appearance


  1. User avater
    user-1112563 | | #1

    This was simply fabulous! Thank you!

  2. Bhow5747 | | #2

    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 | | #3

    Quite complicated at the first sight :)

  4. ZakFerdie | | #4

    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 | | #5

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

  6. User avater
    decorchick | | #6

    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 avater
    Barb05 | | #7

    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 | | #8

    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 | | #9

    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 | | #10

    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. [email protected] | | #11

    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 avater
    danlpugh | | #12

    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 | | #13

    That was a wonderfully clear explanation. Thank you!

  14. User avater
    user-3106855 | | #14

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

  15. nancygtk | | #15

    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 | | #16

    Wonderful! Thank you so much. This is great.

  17. Mamato8 | | #17

    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 | | #18

    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 | | #19

    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 | | #20

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

  21. maidam | | #21

    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 | | #22

    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 | | #23

    Great tutorial! Simply tricks for amazinf effects!

  24. guidance4u | | #24

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

  25. User avater
    Irene17 | | #25

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

  26. SewLynn | | #26

    Doesn't work on Firefox for PC either.

  27. kinde1 | | #27

    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 | | #28

    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 | | #29

    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 | | #30

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

  31. User avater
    imsewbusy | | #31

    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. Evamarie | | #32

    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 | | #33

    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 | | #34

    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 | | #35

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

  36. bebrown | | #36

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

  37. nutellacrepe | | #37

    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 | | #38

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

  39. User avater
    user-6846560 | | #39

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

  40. User avater
    mumbe | | #40

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

  41. Hobielady | | #41

    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 | | #42

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

  43. msiatczy | | #43

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

  44. akrunrgrl | | #44

    Excellent!! Thank you!!

  45. tscriswell22 | | #45

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

  46. user-6882499 | | #46

    This is terrific! I have been looking for this exactly! This also complements the terrific article by Mr Kenneth D. King! Looove my threads subscription!

  47. user-7059737 | | #47

    This is a most helpful article for a problem I have fought for 55 years. Thank you for this and she is a most talented teacher.

  48. Sea_O | | #48

    What a wonderful video! Those oyster gussets made my shirt feel so less constricting! Ms. Schewe, I know you've moved on in your career from this video, but in case you pop in to read this, it was so helpful and easy for a beginner to follow. I'd never even heard of walking a seamline before, but you made it so simple to understand.

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