July 2, 2012

2-in-1 Sewalong: Attaching Sleeves

So, how are you guys coming along on your dresses? Where's everyone at? So that you are aware, I don't expect everyone to be all at the same place and that's totally fine. I'm running a little behind here and I've noticed a few hiccups in my scheduled plan. This week, before I talk about inserting zippers, we'll be going over the entire bodice construction first. I hope you guys are benefiting from my construction techniques. Everyone has a different way of doing things and that's the best way we all learn and try out new things. Please feel free to leave your differing construction techniques in the comments - I always learn something from what you guys have to say.

OK, let's have a go at attaching sleeves shall we? Who here loves to attach sleeves? I'll admit that I really dread attaching sleeves, mostly in part because they take a very long time in my opinion. There's a lot of prep work and then in the end, for me, this is the hardest point of fit for my body. Grrrhhh!! Anyway, I can't take credit for this upcoming construction technique I'm about to show you. Earlier this year, I posted about inserting sleeves here. Awesome commenter LinB gave this fabulous tip to that short tutorial I posted:

"You can also sew in the sleeve about 3/4 of the way in the flat — leave a couple of inches unsewn at each end of the armscye. Then complete your bodice and sleeve seams as usual, and you’ll only have to set in the bit of the sleeve that is right at the underarm. I rarely use this technique, as the one you suggest is marvelous; but sometimes the fit at the underarm is better when the sleeve is set in."

I've been using this technique for awhile, just to give it the good old college try and I really quite like it. Oh alright, I love it! So that no one gets confused, here's my tutorial for inserting the sleeve this way. Just so you are aware, this does take some forethought because it doesn't work with everything, but in the case of our dresses here, it will!

Updated Disclaimer 7/3/2012 ~ Hey everyone, this tutorial is only for how to insert the sleeves into the garment. Please consult the pattern directions for each of the different sleeve views and how to go about hemming and finishing them. Also, in the below example, I actually had to unpick my sleeve because the cap sleeve option for this particular pattern is supposed to be finished before you insert it into the garment. Silly me....Just consult the pattern directions for the sleeve finish before you insert.

Step 1 ~ Prep the sleeve by stitching two sets of ease stitches around the sleeve cap area, from the double notch in the back to the single notch in the front.

Step 2 ~ Pin the sleeve to the bodice with right sides together, matching notches and circles (I only match the circle at the top of the sleeve to the shoulder seamline - I never bother with the other circles) and easing in the excess fabric in between the notches.

Step 3 ~ Stitch the sleeve to the bodice around the sleeve cap, from the double notches in the back to the single notch in the front. Leave the section at the underarm unstitched for now.

Here's a tip for future use too: When stitching a seam that has a fair amount of easing, like a sleeve to a bodice, start by stitching with the un-eased portion facing up in the machine. In this case, that would be the bodice because the sleeve is the part that is being eased into the bodice, so the sleeve seamline is longer than the bodice seamline - does that make sense? Again, have the bodice facing upward as you put this into the machine to be stitched. Now here's the part that is rather difficult to explain, but I'll give it a go. As you stitch along, slowly and carefully, you're going to keep your finger on the sleeve part (the section facing downward) trying to feed it through a little bit more than your feeding through the bodice section, the section that should be facing you. Does that make sense? I do this by keeping my finger on the sleeve section of the seam (the section facing downward) and sort of pulling up a little. It takes a bit of practice, but really it is much easier to do than I'm making it sound. Let's keep going.

Step 4 ~ Stitch the side seam of the bodice and the underarm seam of the sleeve together and finish the seams. I used a french seam here for my silk crepe dress.

Step 5 ~ Stitch the sleeve to the bodice at the underarm - the section you didn't stitch in Step 3. Then to secure this section with a little more, security, I add a second row of stitches around that underarm area. From here, finish the sleeve seam - I used my serger, but I think that zig-zagging the seam or even binding it with bias tape works equally as well. Press.

Alright, there you go. This way may seem like a lot of work, but I'm telling you, setting in a sleeve in the flat is, in my opinion, so much easier to do than setting in a sleeve in the round. Give it a try! If you don't like it, at least you tried it, right? Hopefully you'll find it to be a bit of a revelation like I did. Enjoy!

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