Learning to Sew–set-in sleeves (part II)

Once you have ease-stitched the sleeve cap and sewn the underarm sleeve, you are ready to set-in your sleeve.  Place the sleeve in the armhole, right sides of the fabric together.  Match the sleeve at the underarm notches, at the center top of the sleeve, and at the other two notches or dots, which mark the beginning and end of the ease stitching.  Pin in place at the underarm notches and the other markings, but leave the sleeve cap unpinned, except for the marking at the top center of the sleeve.   

Remember there will be a right sleeve and a left sleeve; the notches will not match if you place them in the wrong armhole.


Gently pull the bobbin threads and distribute the gathers evenly along the sleeve cap.  Pin in place.  If you are not experienced in setting-in sleeves, I recommend that you hand baste the sleeve in place before you sew it on the machine.  Hand basting prevents the gathers from slipping when you sew the final seams.  More experienced sewers can often do without this extra step.


Now place the sleeve on the machine and stitch it along the seam allowance line; stitch again in the seam allowance ¼ inch away from the first seam.  Most sewers find it helpful to sew a sleeve or other gather piece with the gathers facing up, towards the needle; they are less likely to slip in this position.  A free-arm sewing machine is great help when setting in sleeves, because it allows you to manipulate the fabric more easily.


When you are satisfied with the way the sleeve is set-in, trim the underarm seam between the notches to ¼ inch.  Press the seam allowance of the sleeve cap to ease in the fullness, but do not press the sleeve top.  To do this, place the sleeve cap’s sleeve allowance over the end of the ironing board and use only the tip of the iron to press it.