Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Three's a Charm Jacket Sewalong - Sleeves

Full schedule of posts here.
If you've been following along so far, you should basically have a vest right now.  You've sewn your shoulder and side seams  You've attached your facings.  You've topstitched.  You may even have a buttonhole.  And now, after this post, you'll have sleeves!

I know that set in sleeves can be intimidating.  But I promise you can do it!  If you're nervous or you've never done sleeves before, just read through this post one before diving in.  And as always, feel free to comment below if you have any questions.

Now let's do this!

First, you'll sew the sleeve's dart, which is located at the elbow.  This is a simple straight dart, like the bust darts in the jacket front.  Read our previous sewalong post on darts for a refresher course!

Elbow dart on sleeve
Press this seam down towards the hem of the sleeve.

While the sleeve is still flat, it's a good time to add the gathering stitches on the sleeve cap.  This is a basting stitch along the top curved edge of the sleeve.  Adjust your stitch length to 5mm, which is often the longest possible stitch.

Now sew a row of basting stitches from one marking/notch to the other.  One side will have two notches.  (That's the side that will go toward the back.)  Make sure you leave long thread tails on this line of stitching.

Now we'll sew the long seam from hem to underarm.  Because we wanted to press this seam to one side rather than pressing it open, we decided to stitch the seam first and finish the seam after, serging both seam allowance edges together.

Now we pressed this seam towards the front.  If you're not sure which side is the back and which is the front, look for those notches!  The double notch always refers to the back.  And in this case, the elbow dart is on the back side, so we pressed our seam away from that dart.

As the name implies, a sleeve board can be your best friend here!

A sleeve board is like a mini ironing board that you can put your sleeve around, allowing for easier pressing.
Now it's time to set in that sleeve!  Make sure both sleeves have their dart, their seam, and their gathering stitches.  They should look like this:

Turn your jacket inside out and your sleeve right side out.  Place the sleeve inside the arm hole and first match up the jacket's side seam with the sleeve's underarm seam.

Remember, right sides together!
As you can see above, we nestled the seam allowances to be as flat as possible.  The jacket's side seam is pressed towards the back and the sleeve's underarm seam is pressed towards the front.  If they were both pressed in the same direction, there would be a big bulky bump under your arm!

Next, match up the jacket's shoulder seam with the top of the sleeve, which should have a single notch marked.

With those two main points pinned, it's time to pin the rest of the sleeve.  You'll notice that the sleeve has what seems like extra fabric around the curve.

There are two ways to distribute the sleeve cap's fullness.  The Three's a Charm instructions have you pulling on those basting stitches to make small gathers.  To do this, pull on the bobbin thread using that long tail you left behind.  Distribute the gathering evenly so you don't sew over any bumps.  If this way works for you, great!

Here's another way that we don't see a lot in pattern instructions, but it is a favorite trick of ours.  Rather than (or in addition to) gathering the sleeve cap, cut small notches in the jacket armscye to get a nice clean seam!

Think of it this way:  there's extra fabric on the sleeve and not enough fabric on the jacket armscye.  If you tried to just pin and sew without any kind of fabric manipulation, you'd have a real wonky and bumpy seam.  So you need to either shrink the fabric on the sleeve side or expand the fabric on the jacket side.  Pulling gathering stitches on the sleeve cap takes away that extra fabric.  Alternatively, cutting small notches in the jacket armscye helps lengthen and stretch that bit of fabric.

When cutting these small notches, just make sure you don't cut too far into the seam allowance.

Using our trusty Fiskars Microtip.
You can also use both methods together!

After all this gathering and cutting, make use of those pins to keep everything in place.  Then you're ready to sew!  Remember your 5/8" seam allowance.

You can see the little snips we made into the fabric didn't reach too far into the seam allowance.
Don't worry if after you stitch in the sleeve you notice little bumps you accidentally sewed over.  You don't have to redo the whole seam!  Just use your seam ripper to unpick the seam around the bump, even everything out, and resew that small part.  Make sure you overlap with the previous stitches in the beginning and end of this resewing to secure everything down.

Now try on your jacket and do a happy dance - you just set in sleeves!

We'll get to hemming the sleeves and any other finishing touches on Friday in the next blog.  Until then!


  1. I've been sewing for 30 years and your clip method to set in sleeves is new to me. Looks neat and easy. I'll be trying it soon. Thanks for sharing.