In Fitting Fashion

  • Fitting Sleeves


     Well, I think this quote pretty much sums up drafting and fitting sleeves!  I am sure you agree.  Once you start, you have no choice but to keep going!

    I started the journey by drafting the Straight Sleeve in "Dress Pattern Designing" by Natalie Bray.  I chose it because it is the only sleeve I have found that appears to have the correct sleeve head shape required for an actual arm.  Here is my draft:

    It looks pretty promising doesn't it? The cap height, the curve lines, all appears in good shape.  Well, after what I thought would be a quick draft and a few fitting adjustments, a full day later, I ended up with this on my table:


    Here is the very first sleeve fitting:

    All the arrows are showing the drag lines indicating poor fit.  The grain line of the sleeve is not lined up with the center arm and the bicep line is curving upward.  All in all not good!  My goal now is to alter the pattern to eliminate all these issues.  This is when I thought:  "Do I really need sleeves for this dress?"  But I persevered and after many pattern adjustments,  I managed to make it work.  You can see that the grain line is now following the center of the arm, the bicep line is much more level, and the drag lines are gone.

    You are probably wondering what I did to achieve this and why it took me so long to work it out.  The reason it took me so  long was because I misdiagnosed the fitting issue to begin with.  I thought that there was a cap height problem.  In the image below, the green sleeve is my first pattern, the blue sleeve is my last pattern, all the dotted lines in between represent the progress of each pattern correction.

    You can see, in fact, that the last sleeve (blue and better fitting) is actually a slightly shorter sleeve cap than the first one (green).  The biggest difference between the first pattern and the last pattern is that there is a shift in the sleeve head shape toward the front which accommodates the prominent front shoulder bone.  So it was actually this issue that was creating all the drag lines, not the cap height.  Granted, I probably could use a little more cap height on my final sleeve for a perfectly horizontal bicep line, but I think this slight hiking will give a bit more flexibility for upward and forward arm movement.  (Or am I just tired of fixing this sleeve?)

    In any case, I wanted to share this learning experience with you in the hope it might help you in a similar situation.  I know I definitely won't make this mistake again and since I persevered, I now have a good fitting sleeve for any new pattern I make.  I made it through sleeve pattern hell!

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  • Comments on this post (9 comments)

    • Abbi F Lunn says...

      I have been starting to think sleeves are the root of all evil….you give me hope thank you! back to the drawing board…..

      On April 20, 2014

    • Alexandra says...

      Hi Phyllis, that is terrible news! I just checked and had no trouble but I have all apple devices. Glad you didn’t risk it though. Hmmm, I’ll have to see if I can put it on my site.

      On September 07, 2013

    • Phyllis says...

      Hi Alexandra,

      Thanks for the great sleeve fitting info. Just to let you know, I tried going to the address you shared, but it was red-flagged as a “dangerous” site by McAfee. Not sure what that’s about . . . decided to give it a miss, though!

      On September 06, 2013

    • Alexandra says...

      Hi Nina, the vertical line is the centre of the sleeve pattern. The “X” is the point that lines up with the shoulder seam of the garment. The position of this point and the other notches (x’s) on the sleeve pattern give the sleeve its “pitch” which should follow the slightly forward angle your arm has when relaxed at your side. The position of the notches on the sleeve are important for fitting. If they are set too forward or too backward, you will see draglines on the sleeve head indicating a fitting problem.

      On September 01, 2013

    • Nina says...

      Hi Alexandra :) I was wondering when you sew the last sleeve (blue sleeve pattern) to the bodice, Do you match the shoulder seam on the bodice to the vertical line on the sleeve pattern or to the X sign at the top of the sleeve pattern ? thx

      On September 01, 2013

    • Alexandra says...

      Hi Kiela!
      This draft is from one of my many pattern making books but needed quite a bit of refining. I suggest this draft:
      This creates a pretty good sleeve from the beginning, just be sure to use 1 1/2" – 2" ease for bicep to start with so you can raise your arms, less than that can be used if your fabric has some stretch and a very high armhole.

      On June 22, 2013

    • keila says...

      Thank you so much for sharing this!! Do you have the instructions for this pattern drafting available?

      On June 22, 2013

    • Alexandra says...

      A little change definitely goes a long way! Keep working on it, you’ll get there!

      On May 11, 2013

    • Your name says...

      Thanks I’m going through this right now and searching for answers. I have four sleeve patterns drafted so far and still have the same fitting problems as you described. It looks like just a little change makes a big difference. Thanks for the encouragment!

      On May 10, 2013

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