Monday, March 10, 2008

Alterations! Part 3 - The Sleeves

Sleeves are funny things to me. A bad fit can make or break a garment. Everything will be going well and all of sudden, a poor fitting sleeve will make me want to spit. It's happened. But I've gotten pretty good over the last year or two at judging whether or not the sleeve will work. It's been a lot of trial and error, but this is what I generally do on tops, and to some extent, jackets and coats. Be forewarned! There are lots of pics in this post.

Here is the pic of the traced commercial pattern of the sleeve. Notice that "perfect" bell shape curve. Problem is, I don't have that perfect bell shape. Remember my sloper pattern? I have a long, flat back armhole, and a short, curvy front armhole. This just isn't going to be very flattering if it's made up without some type of alteration stuff.

The first thing I want to do on this sleeve is a forward shoulder adjustment. On the next pic, I drew a horizontal line on the pattern (perpendicular to the grainline) just above the shoulder dots. This will be the cutting line. Notice I also drew a vertical line, which intersects the cutting line, This is my "visual" aid for the 1/2 forward shoulder adjustment. Once I cut on the horizontal line line, I will move the top piece over the right 1/2".

The following pic illustrates the top of the sleeve pattern which has been moved forward a 1/2". Notice how I did NOT true the lines, but rather blended the back and front of the lower pattern piece into the cutting line of the upper pattern piece. This will allow for a flattened back and a bubbled front. Why do I do this? Because that's the way my knobby, bony, forward shoulders look.

The next pic is the *almost* completed pattern piece. Notice the top of the sleeve is no longer the typical bell-shape curve, but rather a flatter, longer back armhole and a shorter, bubbled front armhole.

Which leaves me one more problem that needs to be fixed. The only problem I've found with my sleeve alterations is that it creates more fabric that needs to be eased in the front. Basically an annoying amount of front ease that looks like it shouldn't be there. So my questions is, does anyone else do a forward shoulder like this? Do you get too much extra ease in the front? A certain amount of ease is fine, but I've been getting far too much and it needs to be balanced with the back ease. What I've been doing is removing a bit of that ease by removing the shaded area (a 1/2" on this particular pattern) shown in the pic below. Basically a slash and overlap method. The removal of extra fabric makes things just right. I also did this on my last jacket I made and was very pleased with the results.

Here is the finished sleeve! A bit off grain at the top, but it works for me.

So my question is, does anyone else every have to deal with weird sleeve issues like this? How do you solve them? I've tried other methods of reducing the front sleeve ease but found this method to work best for me.

Now my alterations for this Simplicity top are virtually complete. I'll tissue fit as best as I can at this point, even with it being a knit, to check for length issues. I might want to lengthen the sleeves and the bodice below the waist. Hopefully I can get started on this top next week. It's one of my last winter sewing projects.


Beth H said...

I always slip my sleeve cap forward 3/8" and blend in the seams pretty much the same as you, except I make my horizontal cut lower down about the level of the notches.

I don't really notice excess ease in front, although I almost always remove some of the total sleeve cap ease. Kenneth King was on some sewing show once and he suggested that more than 1.25" was too much.

I use that as a rule of thumb, and remove it vertically so that the entire sleeve (or at least the cap) is more narrow.

Oh! Here's link to what must have been the segment I saw:

Kenneth King sleeve bit

Kat said...

Thanks, Beth! When you check your sleeve cap ease, do you have more in the front than in the back? That's my issue. The flattening of the back curve takes up some extra ease, but the bubbling of the front adds some in. So I invariably end up taking out some from the front only. I have used the vertial slash method, but then on one of my tops, it ended up that the bicep area was a wee bit too tight. So what I had to do was a subsequent bicep adjustment. That was just too many alterations LOL! So I tried the current method I'm using as an alternative.

Thanks for that link. I'm going to read it over.

Dawn said...

Thank you so much for this series on fitting. We don't have the same fitting issues but this is helping me understand fitting as a whole!!

Paula said...

I recognized this sleeve shape from something I read on Fashion Incubator, and I managed to find it for you.

The gist of this is that if your sleeve and armscye are cut correctly, you don't need to ease the sleeve into the armscye.

Great series on fitting. Thankfully I don't have too many fitting issues (I haven't tried pants yet, though), but I'm going to be sewing for my daughters and I think they may be harder to fit than I am.

Paula said...

Oh dear. I see the web address got cut off. It ends in .html

Hope it helps!

Kat said...


Yes! I saw that bogus sleeve cap writeup from Kathleen Fasanella. I don't mind sleeve ease, but isn't it nice to know that there really doesn't have to be any :) ?! Sure wish I would have had confirmation of that sewing blazers when I was a teen. But then again, I never did any alterations back then so it wouldn't have mattered I guess.

Thanks goodness we get smarter as we get older.

Beth H said...

I don't know how much ease I have in front vs back. I'll check one of my sleeves to see tonight.

Marji said...

you've intuitively, (or maybe through lots of trial and error) adjusted the sleeve to what it should look like to fit a body. While the balanced bell curve your commercial pattern started with looks pretty and is easy to produce on a computer and fit onto a piece of paper at the printers, It's the wrong shape for a sleeve.
I noticed that Kathleen addresses this briefly in her article on sleeve ease, but it's in every text on pattern drafting and in older texts on sewing construction. If you'll email me at mlweaving at yahoo dot com I'll scan and email back to you the pages I read a couple of days ago from Adele Margolis on sleeve shape. The amount you're cutting off the front needs to be cut. What you also could be doing and might want to try is adding a bit of outward curve on the back of the sleeve. Not that your body does that, but that you want room for movement in a woven fabric (it's not such a big deal in a stretch fabric).

Marji said...

BTW, when reading Kathleens rant on no sleeve cap ease necessary, be sure to go through and read all the comments. The info on easing a sleeve in, and the fact that the easing is caused by fitting two shapes together that are different curves is valuable.
And FWIW, I agree totally, all that excess fabric at the top of a sleeve cap where it is on the straight of grain is useless. But there is something to having some opposite curves coming together.

Kat said...

Hi Marji! What Adele Margolis book is it? Just might have it :) . Her books are such gems! And I'm going to reread the sleeve ease article by Kathleen. Her info in her articles is so enlightening. Even liberating! To think removing a lot of that ease isn't going to matter one d*mn bit. It's info like that I wish I would have had years ago. Kind of like I thought the roof would cave in if I tinkered with sleeve caps.