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Shortcut for Easing a Sleeve Cap

Kenneth D. King shows a no-sew trick that eases a sleeve section for easier placement in the armhole


Threads Contributing Editor Kenneth D. King reveals a clever method of easing a sleeve cap seam allowance before inserting the sleeve into the armhole. This no-sew technique, which Kenneth calls “cheater’s ease,” works best with crisp fabrics like cotton shirting.

How does easing a sleeve cap work?

It involves manipulating the fabric to crimp the seam allowance. This strategic wrinkling of the sleeve cap’s edge builds shape into the cap. Cheater’s ease is a time-saving trick that’s worth practicing.

Alternative to ease stitching

Kenneth’s method offers an alternative to ease stitching a sleeve cap. Watch an ease stitching demonstration in the “How to Sew a Sleeve” video. This video also includes step-by-step instructions to help you complete sleeve installation.

More information about sleeves

To find out about the many sleeve styles you can create from a set-in sleeve pattern, see “Sleeve Styles 101.”

More sewing how-tos from Kenneth D. King

Kenneth has written numerous Threads articles and hosted many videos that provide step-by-step instructions and plenty of sewing inspiration. Discover some of them here. They include everything from how to install a nearly invisible zipper to a close look at what he carries in his little black traveling sewing toolbox.

Kenneth is a sewing and couture expert and an adjunct instructor at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in Manhattan. He also teaches at his studio in New York City and travels extensively in the United States, teaching fitting and couture sewing techniques.

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Previous: Set Sleeves Expertly | Essential Techniques Next: How to Sew a Casing for Elastic and Drawstrings


  1. theresa_in_tucson | | #1

    You can also do this on an unthreaded sewing machine by running the needle close to the stitching line and "ease-stitching" with your finger behind the presser foot bunching up the fabric. If you need more crimping you do it again.

    1. User avater
      alainaz | | #10

      Oh my goodness. That's such a good idea.

  2. User avater
    [email protected] | | #2

    Brilliant, I am going to give that a try.

  3. User avater
    wingthorn | | #3

    Brilliant! I've been wrestling with setting the sleeves into a linen dress with uneven results. This technique should make it much more serene!

  4. User avater
    sunnylutz | | #4

    Sounds interesting and worth a try.. I would love to see the video taken so we can more easily see what Kenneth is doing with his thumb.

  5. User avater
    mauraricketts | | #5

    Brilliant! Many thanks for this tip and the others. I love sewing but HATE pinning — takes up so much time without much value (except matching seam intersections). A little washable fabric glue plus experimenting/learning about careful management of the fabric with one’s hands goes a long way I think. Do you have any “do/don’t do” about pinning?

  6. User avater
    barakasews | | #6

    I'd seen this video a while back, and my schedule for today is to cut out a crisp cotton shirting for a shirt I patterned off one of my son's favorites. Such perfect timing for this to come up in the Threads insider email today, so it's fresh in my mind for this project!

  7. user-7225691 | | #7

    Very practical. Thank you for sharing.

  8. user-6905624 | | #8

    Great top cotton duck on surface for grip is that tape I wonder?

    1. carolfresia | | #9

      Cotton duck is a heavy, plain-woven fabric typically used for hard-wearing applications like work clothes, utility bags, awnings, and slipcovers. Lighter versions are good for durable, casual pants. This textile has a slightly rough texture, so it provides friction for the crimping technique Kenneth demonstrates in the video.

      Carol Fresia, Senior Technical Editor

  9. user-6894301 | | #11

    Nice tip! Thank you!!

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