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Sunday, December 1, 2013

Flatten Your Sleeve Cap


I mentioned a while ago that I had flattened the sleeve cap of my Lisette Traveler dress. I did this for version 1 and version 2

It's fairly simple to do, but before I show you what I did, should we talk about why in the world I wanted to mess around with sleeve caps?

When I pulled out the sleeve and saw the shape of the sleeve cap I knew what was going to happen:

Shoulder ridge.
1. When I lifted my arms, a folded ridge would occur at the shoulder. This is how a formally-fitting sleeve behaves. 
2. My arm movement would be restricted. When I moved my arm, I would feel pulling on both the sleeve and the bodice.

The comfort level matters a lot more to me than the ridge at the shoulder line. And it's worth noting that in a looser fitting dress like this, the movement restriction will be much less than it would be in a tailored jacket.

There's a number 3, as would be discovered later on in the process:

3. I would have to ease in 2".

No shoulder ridge.

(I notice both photos do have the same pull line from the top button to the shoulder. I don't think that's worth looking at beyond determining whether the bodice is actually too narrow at that point or if a shoulder adjustment is needed.)


Some clarification: In my opinion, we don't have to look at the "shoulder ridge" as a sign of poor fit. Rather, it's a side effect of sleeve cap style. Each style has its trade-off.

There is a continuum from shapeless sack and totally free movement (see green sleeve) to closely conformed to the arm and restricted movement (see orange sleeve).

The green sleeve is super comfortable but, since it is not shaped at all to the shoulder, you will have extra folds of fabric in the sleeve when your arm is hanging straight down. Think of a simple tunic you might make from instructions in a kids' craft book, in which the pieces are basically squares.

The orange sleeve follows the contours of the shoulder nicely and fits the upper arm closely, but when you move, that closely fitting sleeve will pull at the bodice.





The neat thing is that you can have whatever sleeve cap shape you like and it will fit into your armscye as long as they are the same length. OR your sleeve cap length can be longer than your armhole length and you can ease in the difference (everybody's favorite thing.)

Note: It's not always a good idea to remove the ease in your sleevecap. If your sleeve is slim-fitting or if the shoulder seam is set inside the shoulder line, you might find you have no room for your shoulder joint. In that case, ease is totally justified. Plus, it sometimes just plain looks nice.

Another note: Being able to change your sleeve cap shape gives you lots of flexibility (no pun intended), but it's not a panacea. Check the size of your armscye. If it's too small, it will bind. If you have tightness or restriction, consider whether you need to adjust for square shoulders (raise shoulder seam and underarm seam). If your garment rises when you raise your arm, consider raising the underarm seam. (Oddly, experience tells me that a too-low underarm seam will also cause tightness across the top of the shoulder blade when moving the arms forward.)

In this case my objectives were:
1. Remove any ease in the sleeve cap.
2. Flatten the sleeve cap.

Here's what I did:


Step 1: Measure the length of the sleeve cap. 



Step 2: Put the front and back bodice together at the shoulder to create the armscye. 

***If your pattern has seam allowances included, remove that allowance at the shoulders, but not at the side seams (because the sleeve will also have seam allowances at the side seams).

Step 3: Measure the length of the armscye.

Step 4: Determine how much longer the sleeve cap is than the armscye. This is how much you will remove from the sleeve cap length.

In this case, the sleeve cap is 2" longer than the armscye, so I will remove 2" from the sleeve cap length.






Step 5: Use the measuring tape to create a new sleeve cap line. 

I measaured out 17 1/4", because that is the length for my new, shorter sleeve cap.

Approximate the curves of the original sleeve cap, observing the different shapes of the back armscye and the front armscye. Flatten the top of the curve as much as desired.


Step 6: Sketch in the new line.


Step 7: Cut off the excess sleeve cap.




I redid my sleevecap alteration so I could take photos for you. On comparing this newest alteration to the one I used for my dresses, I can see I flattened the sleeve a little less this time around.


21 comments:

  1. Yeah for non-pointy sleeve caps! Can't believe companies actually allow their pattern packet models to pose with their arms up so as to highlight the pointy shoulder effect. Maybe they actually like that effect. Hmm.
    Also (but not really related), in addition to fitting differently-shaped-but-same-length sleeve caps into the same armscye, there is also the angle of hang of the sleeve from the shoulder to consider (whoo, as if we didn't have enough sleeve drafting stuff to worry about). Like jacket/blazer/coat sleeves are drafted so they look nicest when the arm is hanging at the body's side, as opposed to Tshirt sleeves which are drafted at a wider angle because that's the most natural orientation of the (more active) arm when wearing them. Which explains why men's coat sleeves look sooooo good as long as they don't raise their arms to, say, conduct an orchestra, or hang on to a ceiling strap on the subway. Crazy, right? Moral of the story - we should all go sleeveless.

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    1. Clearly, conductors should be wearing sleeveless tops.

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    2. I agree with LiEr on going sleeveless...sleeves give me such a headache. I have forward shoulders...such a pain to fit!

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  2. Nice tutorial! I really liked your comparison of the different types of sleeve. I find myself doing this alteration almost automatically as I'm tracing Big 4 patterns especially. 2" of sleeve cap ease is a bit insane, even if you are going for the shoulder ridge look.

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    1. Thanks!
      I do wonder if the Big 4 people sew? I will never understand some of the quirks of their drafting.

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  3. Thank you for the tute. I'm always altering the sleeve cap based on getting on the shoulder ridge.

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    1. The disappearance of the shoulder ridge was a happy accident of my trying to improve arm movement. I have to say, I like moving my arms!

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  4. You've explained it really well Joy, thank you. I've seen the how to do it before ( and promptly forgotten) but not the explanation about the different shapes of sleeve heads. I think I understand so much more now

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    1. Thanks, Winnie. I don't think I ever remember anything until I've properly visualized it - hence the scruffy diagram.

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  5. Thank you for posting such a great tutorial. I have removed ease at sleeve heads before without really knowing what I was doing, so it's great to have a reasoned approach clearly illustrated. As a relative beginner trying to ease in sleeves is one of the areas that has almost reduced me to tears!

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    1. Thanks, Philippa. Really, some cottons have no ease and simply cannot be eased. I think tears are in order, in that case! Or hacking away at the pattern...

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  6. I've been banging my head against something similar lately. I do look at the sleeve cap to gauge how closely the garment is supposed to fit, however I have found a high close cap can fit comfortably. What saved me was a description from Dress Fitting by Natalie Bray: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B1pnnUqtOuc9bjhRQUVyNGJ1U2s/edit?usp=sharing
    Basically I found my armhole was too low, exactly like Fig. 18. Moving my arm was causing painful crease across my upper arm and pulling the bodice severely. But by pinning out a 2cm tuck at the shoulder everything corrected. So my issue really was an armhole, too, low. In the end the fix does involve re-drawing and shortening the sleeve cap for a new shorter armhole, but for me raising the underarm really was the key. The change was truly dramatic. In all my time reading fitting descriptions I've never seen such a perfect match to my issue as that figure. The envelope photo does look like the cap is simply too high for the armhole shape and your fix was clearly a good call. However if you are also running into an uncomfortable fit with high sleeve caps in general, you may need to raise an underarm point. If you do work with a close fitting bodice, the underarm fit is an essential element, but when it's right, even a closely fitted sleeve can have good range of motion and comfort.

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    1. All good points, Jen. There are so many facets to the sleeve fit - shoulder slope, bodice fit, sleeve width, placement of shoulder seam, and so on. My main issue with sleeve fit has been armscyes that are too tight (binding). Figuring that out has been a long road (I'm at the point where I think it's square shoulders with either prominent or long shoulder joint; and adding in a shoulder at neck adjustment improved the fit further). I've also experienced the too low armhole causing the whole shirt to move up and down when I move my arm, so I do know what you mean there.

      Thanks for the link - very informative. I printed it to ponder over.

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  7. Awesome tutorial. I really need this for a few of my tops :D Thanks Joy!

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    1. Thanks, Kristin. Good luck (: I don't think I'll ever get to a point where I'm not learning new sewing and fit techniques.

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    2. The day has come :D I'm using this... today!!! It's so nice that you explain it clearly so I can follow it. Thanks so much!

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  8. Thank you Joy! I ended up buying this pattern after seeing your dress. One of these days I'll get back to making dresses again after all my winter sewing!

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    1. I look forward to seeing your version of the dress, Shirley!

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  9. Thanks so much for posting this! I will definitely be utilizing the tutorial next time around.;)

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    Replies
    1. Good luck! This dress is certainly worth making again (:

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  10. Thank you so much!

    I have being sizing up to get better movement but I am going to try this.
    Thank you.

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