Saturday, October 16, 2010

Setting in Tailored Sleeves

This is one of my favorite parts of tailoring! Once you've got your sleeves in, your coat is actually starting to look like a coat. Plus, using the method I show you here makes perfect sleeves so easy. It's pretty much the method I used on my red coat last winter (vlogged here), but instead of using a strip of hair canvas, I use strips of wool/mohair fabric. This is what Kenneth King recommends in Cool Couture. Some people suggest lambswool or polar fleece as well. Try it out and see what works for you! I bought this wool and mohair plaid at Paron's here in New York. It was $25 a yard, but I only bought half a yard and that will set in plenty of sleeves. Cut the strips into 12" x 2" rectangles on the bias.
Now, here's a brand new video showing you the method from start to finish.

Of course, if you prefer, you can use the usual method of setting in your sleeves with two rows of gathering stitches.

Tomorrow I'll show you pad stitching the under collar!


  1. I've been following all your tips/techniques for the sew-along for the coat. I have a question about the length of the bias strip. You mentioned using a 12" strip - is that the length that is needed regardless of the sleeve cap length. If not, then how do you determine the amount of the length? This is a new to me technique, but the outcome is perfect.

  2. When do we add the sleeve heads?????

  3. Erika based on what she did that strip functions as a sleeve head so you wouldn't need to ass another

  4. Cool... Thank you for the excellent video. I'm going to try this tomorrow. I've never liked that gathering stitch business. But I'm wondering, in the video you say when the mohair is doubled over, it supports the shoulder nicely. Do you fold it over and catch stitch or or something after pressing?

  5. Really interesting technique! I will try it out for my next project.

  6. I made muslin #3 and used the polar fleece again and the sleeves turned out nicely on this third muslin...practice does make perfect! ~lol~

    I like this technique better than using the two rows of basting stitches...just takes a little finagling. At least for me, the end results seemed to turn out looking better.


    A 12" strip cut on the bias will probably stretch more than enough for your sleeve. I measured between the easing dots on my pattern (front dot on pattern to center dot to back dot) and this gave me a starting figure for my strip length which fell within the 12" measurement that Gertie has suggested.

    I am NOT using the Lady Grey for my pattern so my reference is based upon my sleeve.

    Your easing may be different based upon your sleeve pattern. You just need to check if you are easing between dots or notches and measure accordingly between the front and back of those locations where you are told to ease on your pattern.

  7. Forgot to mention in my previous post that you need to measure at your stitching line, not the outside of the pattern.

  8. This is just terrific! I have always hated gathering to set in a sleeve, and this method is exactly my cup of tea! I love the added bonus of it supporting the sleeve as well.

    I love your bracelet pincushion! I'm going to obsess about it now.

  9. Hi everyone!

    Virginia, the 12" length is for all sizes. No need to measure, woo hoo!

    Erika, only add a sleeve head if you use the traditional setting-in method (the one the pattern uses). Catch stitch the sleeve head to the seam allowances after you have pressed them toward the sleeve.

    LAP, thanks! I bought it on Susan Khalje's website. :)

    sortandfold, remember how the bias strip gets stitched to the sleeve head 1/2" in? When you press all your seam allowances toward the sleeve, it gets folded over itself. As far as I know, there's no need to secure the seam allowances in place. A good pressing should keep them in the sleeve rather than the body of the coat.

  10. Thank you so much for doing this tutorial. I am so much better at learning a new skill by watching rather than reading a book As it is, I have many sewing books but your tutorial has helped put it all together for me. I look forward to the next installment.

  11. Great tutorial Gertie! I normally don't watch too many video tutorials (unless I'm panicking and trying to get a project done) - but this was easy to follow and very well done!

  12. Thanks Gertie and Mimi O who responded to my question - it certainly caused the light bulb to go off in my head. I'm always learning something new.
    I also love the pin cushion. I recently made my own using hook n loop tape to fasten it around my wrist.

  13. Gertie: I remember that red coat tutorial. I thought I'd never have the ability to do all the tailoring, but here I am!

    I will be using hair canvas, probably. Not sure if that will give as much structure to the seam head as your mohair?

    Otherwise, I was thinking of using some of my fashion fabric cut on bias instead of the hair canvas. It's a boucle wool with lots of give but also lots of structure. Do you think that would work?

    One other thing, I bought shoulder pads to put into the coat (which may or may not be necessary based on this sleeve inset method). If we are going to use shoulder pads, will you provide some info on how - and when - to insert?

    Thanks for feedback!

  14. Hey, K. Line, you can put the shoulder pads in anytime after you set the sleeves and before you sew the lining/facing in. I'm not going to do an extended tutorial on it since it's pretty easy - just try the coat with them in for placement, then hand stitch them to the shoulder seam allowance. Finally, tack the front and back edges of the shoulder pad down to seam allowances.

    Also, it sounds like your fashion fabric might work perfectly for the sleeve heads! Test it out with some scraps and see how it goes.

  15. Hello Gertie,

    I just found out about your blog last week.
    I think you´re doing a brilliant work with all your tutorials about "old sewing techniques"
    I learned all this during my apprenticeship and later working in a Haute Couture Salon in Munich.
    I´m now sewing it in a more "modern" and "faster" Style, but in certain occascions it´s very usefull to know about other possibilities.
    Example: It is very important for me, to handstich buttonholes.
    I just showed how I fix the sleeve in one off my latest blogentries. It´s a mixtures from old and new techniques.

    I did sew a few traditional bavarian dresses lately and I´m going to do more off this kind of work in the next few month.

  16. Thanks for the tutorial! I'm gonna use this technic .
    I have a question, what other fabric can we use instead of hair canvas?

  17. Lizzy, that's the first thing I address in the video: wool/mohair, lambswool, polar fleece or any other lofty fabric that stretches well on the bias.

  18. Oh, duh... The folding over in the sleeve cap made perfect sense when I did it. And worked beautifully - so much better than the gathering stitches. Thank you!

  19. How important do you think it is to add interfacing to the sleeve and its hem? I got overzealous and sewed, top stitched and overcast my sleeves last week, and there's no way all that could be ripped out. I could try adding fusible interfacing to to top of the sleeves that are already assembled maybe... I don't want floppy sleeves! wah!

  20. Me again. Thanks for the feedback about the shoulder pads.

    I set one sleeve in this evening. Can't say I had any fun at all. My machine is struggling with the layers (and space around the needle to push the fabric through.

    At any rate, can you clarify about pushing the seam allowances and bias strip towards the outer shoulder? Do you mean that all layers of the SA and bias strip go in that direction i.e. effectively doubling up / thickening the fabric under the outer edge of the shoulder seam?

    I hope what I'm trying to ask makes some sort of sense...

  21. Meant to say "pressing" seam allowances and bias tape...

  22. ChrissyJ, don't worry! Can you add some strips of bias fusible to the hem at least? That will give the hem structure and give you something for your hemming stitches to grab on to.

    K.Line, I'm sorry you're having trouble! Yes, ALL of the layers of the seam allowances get pressed into the sleeves.

    If it's too much of a pain, you can always set your sleeves the traditional way and have this method on the back burner for another project.

  23. Just wanted to thank you for this tutorial! I'm (obviously) way behind on sewing my Lady Grey, but it's so helpful to have tips that I can return to regardless of how behind I am. I think once I get the sleeves in, it'll motivate me to barrel forward with the lining.

    And I've bought the crepe dress! Again, I don't know if I can do the sew-along schedule but am thanking you in advance for all the tips/advice/motivation I know I'm going to get! :) Love the blog.

  24. Wow I have finally found an understandable tutorial on this subject . I have read and read about this but I could never visualise. Thankyou !

  25. do you think i can use wool that i accidentally felted? flannel?


Thanks for your comments; I read each and every one! xo Gertie

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