If it’s not going right, setting in sleeves is one of the most irritating parts of garment construction for me. How about you? There are several helpful techniques to assist in this process, including crimping and ease stitching. (Here’s another good post about setting in a sleeve. This post is about re-drafting the sleeve to have it better fit the armscye.
First you measure the armscye at the seam allowance on the front and measure the sleeve at the seam from the shoulder to the underarm seam. (Either measure from the seam allowance to the seam allowance or subtract out the seam allowance.) Record the distance of the seam lines for each area. If you have a plain sleeve that sits on the shoulder, you could have 1/2″-1 1/2″ total ease (or 1/4″ to 5/8″ in the front). In my case, I had 1″ to ease in the front, which can be difficult in a more structured fabric (such as Liberty lawn).
Measure the armscye and sleeve for the back and record those measurements.
Determine how much ease you want to remove. In my case, I decided to remove approximately 5/8″ from the front and 5/8″ from the back.
I drew a line from the shoulder point to the hem, and the line was on the straight of grain. Next, I marked 5/8″ on either side of the line (to remove that amount from the front and back). At this point, you could make the lines into a dart; however, I think it’s much easier to sew a seam than a dart. (Is that lazy or couture? You decide! lol)
I cut on the new seam lines and added in the seam allowance. Then I labeled the pieces to make sure I knew what was a front and a back! Et voila – a sleeve with a seam that is easier to set in. Also, in the “year of the sleeve”, this drafting gives easy options for making design changes, such as the split sleeve above.
Another advantage of this type of sleeve is that it can be cut out of smaller pieces of fabric. You may need to do that some day when you get a short cut for some reason.