Fitting

The Quickest Way to Ease a Set-In Sleeve

When I took an advanced sewing class in college I had to re-sew a set-in sleeve three times. I claimed I would never sew set-in sleeves ever again. Luckily, I learned this quick and easy way to sew an easing stitch. Now I love sewing set-in sleeves, and they always sew up so quickly. There’s no adjusting or sewing two rows of stitching!

quick-way-to-ease-a-sleeve

Easing a sleeve is frustrating unless you do it the quick and easy way!

Photo via Feathers Flights

Fitting Fundamentals for Sewers

Fitting Fundamentals for Sewers

Learn fitting fundamentals for sewing breathtaking projects that flatter any body style!Get My FREE Guide»

Ease stitch sleeve tutorial

Step 1:

Sew your sleeve together. If you are sewing a unlined sleeve, then finish the hem or cuff before attaching to the bodice.

Step 2: 

The pattern should have two marks, one on the front and one on the back. The easing stitch will go between these two marks along the cap of the sleeve. (My pattern did not have these two marks, so I used the two seams instead.)

DIY Easing a Set-In Sleeve

Step 3:

Place your sleeve in the machine. Put your left index finger just behind the sewing machine foot. As you sew keep you finger in place. The fabric will bunch up as you sew.  Sew between the two marks up around the cap of the sleeve. Sew 1/8″ away from your seam.

Step 4:

Lift your finger every couple of inches to release the fabric, and then place your finger back in the same spot.

Easing a Sleeve

This simple stitch creates the perfect cap on your sleeve. The stitch actually messes with the tension of your machine and the stitch tightens the fabric in a very smooth way. And even though it messes with the tension of your machine it’s not the way that makes you have to adjust it back. Just remove your finger for regular stitching!

Step 5: 

Pin the sleeve into the bodice. I rarely have a problem with differences in size. If the sleeve is too small, then cut the stitch at the top to loosen it a little. If the sleeve is too big, the easing stitch makes it easy to pin in anything extra to make a smooth sleeve. See how it will sit nicely around a shoulder? 

set-in-easing-sleeve

This is the best method for easing in sleeves. It makes it easy and fun! I think I’ll keep sewing sleeves from now on. Will you use this method? Will it get you to try set-in sleeves?

set-in-sleeves-ease

Fitting Fundamentals for Sewers

Fitting Fundamentals for Sewers

Learn fitting fundamentals for sewing breathtaking projects that flatter any body style!Get My FREE Guide»

17 Comments

Diane

Are the last two photos supposed to show a badly fitted sleeve and a more correct one? I don’t see much in the text to suggest that but the left photo shows a nicely sewn in sleeve fitted on the wrong size body. The seam should sit on the shoulder not above it. The photo on the right looks a bit better, but really the sleeve should hang from the seam not be stretched over the shoulder bulge like that. It’s a suit sleeve not a snug T-shirt. The sewing directions are well done, but you need a different sized model for that garment. My Clothing Construction professor would have jerked downward on that sleeve to pull it into place and probably slit the garment up the back to show that more room was needed across the back to allow the sleeve to hang properly. Best garments I ever wore were made with her critiques. Sorry if I sound a bit old fashioned. But I am old so there’s that. 🙂

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Bunny

Agreed. Also, this sleeve seams clearly were never pressed. Seeing the shoulder bulge through just makes me cringe.

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Carol

I love the technique–always open to trying new tricks; I do agree with Diane, however, in that the first thing I noticed was a sleeve that didn’t fit the model. With the shoulder seam extended about 3/4-1″, this would be a much better fit or so it seems for a jacket.

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10ashus

I will use this like a lesson. Grab some fabric scraps and practice the technique..Thank you for sharing the technique and good how-to photos.

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sewandsing

I had a sewing instructor that taught us this method many years ago. It truly is the perfect way to ease not only a sleeve head, but many other places where you need to ease a slightly larger piece of fabric into a smaller one. It works perfectly and is the only way that I construct a sleeve. Thanks for your great description! (However, I do wish that the photos communicated the finished product a bit more favorably…)

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Cross Stitch

No, I will not be using this method. I prefer one with more control. I will pin, hand baste, or steam the cap into place. The top photo doesn’t show a well-fitted sleeve and the seams of the sleeve haven’t been pressed in several of the photos.

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Barbara

I heartily agree with Diane, above, but I have used this method for 35+ years, and it does work beautifully. Your photos would be wonderful if the garment actually fit the person wearing it. And I smile every time I see a Bernina in action. Mine made me an expert stitcher! I wonder if other machines can do this technique.

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Have you ever thought about adding a little bit more than just your articles? I mean, what you say is fundamental and everything. However just imagine if you added some great visuals or videos to give your posts more, “pop”! Your content is excellent but with images and videos, this blog could certainly be one of the best in its niche. Fantastic blog!

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Bunny

I was immediately caught by the poor fit of these sleeves. The shoulder seam is way too short, to the point where the “bulb” of the shoulder is trying to pop through the sleeve due to lack of ease. Also, if a sleeve is smaller than the armscye it needs to be recut and not snipped to force the installation. As the late Roberta Carr, sewist extraordinaire and teacher says, “sewing shows evidence of effort”.

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Bar

Bunny – I don’t think the author meant if the sleeve was too small for the opening you should clip the top. She meant if you have too much “ease” as in gathering to fit the bodice opening, then clip the stitches you just did.

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Gale

I just tried this technique on an curved arm cover for my sofa. Fantastic and easy!!! Didn’t find this technique anywhere else. Unbelievably easy and no pinning necessary. Will share this with all my sewig pals! Thanks so much!

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Jean Ley

This tutorial was so very helpful to me!! I had given up trying to do set in sleeves years ago. The pattern I’m doing now called for them and I decided to try again. Found this tutorial and…. Problem Solved! Thank you.

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Edward

I’m definitely going to give this a shot, though I was almost put off by the picture. That garment does not fit the model very well. The stitch does seem to be a clever idea nonetheless.

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Marian

Thanks for this tip. I assume you stitched the sleeve cap 5/8″ from the edge or was it 1/2″?

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Laurie

I am having trouble understanding what your left hand finger is doing. How are you gathering fullness? When I try this technique as described, I simple get a bunch up in the back of the machine that has a perfectly smooth stitch line across it. Are you pulling on a top or bottom thread while the machine is running? Are you stretching the material in front of the presser foot to force more fabric into each basting stitch? Is this a zig-zag? Answers from anyone would be helpful. Thanks

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