Monday, February 01, 2010

new sewing trick!

I was recently watching some sewing show on PBS (America Sews, maybe?) and saw something so, so enlightening - I could not wait to use this trick.

The guest was showing how to set in a sleeve, and she said something along the lines of "you should never have to gather a sleeve to make it fit." She said it is not the 1980s anymore and unless you are making some sort of period costume with leg-o-mutton puffy sleeves, you should NOT have to gather a sleeve cap. If you do, the pattern is written/drawn poorly.


Friends, if you have been hanging around here long enough, you'll recall that I would rather chew tinfoil than gather in a sleeve, especially on a tiny garment for a child. It is pure torture, and the main reason why I make a lot of jumpers and sleeveless sundresses for my daughter.

Here is the trick, plain and simple: you stitch the sleeve to the garment before you stitch the underarm or side seams, so the sleeve is going in flat.

Place the sleeve, which has more fabric and needs to be eased in, on top, and the garment on the bottom, right sides together.

Pin the markings first (for example, large dot to shoulder seam, small dots together, notches, etc).

Then, carefully fold the two layers of fabric over your thumb or finger, whatever is comfortable, and bisect two pins. Then do it again and again, always bending the fabric to ease in the sleeve, and pinning in between two other pins.

You'll need eleventy-billion pins, and it takes a few minutes, but in the end you'll have this:

There are probably 50 pins holding this sleeve in.

Once you have carefully pinned in this manner, stitch the sleeve to the garment with the sleeve on the bottom. The reason you do this is simple: the feed dogs pull the lower fabric incrementally faster than the top fabric (thus the need for a "walking" or "even-feed" foot in quilting), so you put the piece requiring ease on the bottom. Then press, clip, etc. according to pattern directions, and go on to stitch the entire underarm/side in one long continuous seam.


This woman on the TV show said there's really no reason you can't sew up garments in this order (shoulder seam first, underarm/side second) rather than the "traditional" way of gathering in the sleeve. Now, I am sure there are exceptions to that rule, but in general? I think I'm going to use this a lot, and I am much more excited to make garments for my kids if I can do it this way.

Now, if only I could come up with a good, quick, easy way to finish seams without a serger!

Oh, what am I making? This:

Daughter is "helping" to make the blue girly robe in the upper right corner. I've never made anything with this type of collar before, but so far, so good. Just hemming and a bit of hand finishing to do, then we'll have a blue flannel bathrobe.


Karen said...

Yeah, not my favorite step in construction either. But I'd still rather do that than install a zipper.

Love the little robe, I hope you'll show the finished product!!

Mrs Lemon said...

I've done this with the sleeves for years - I guess that's how my mom taught me?

Louise said...

What a good idea!

April said...

Sleeves always gave me serious anxiety until sewing with Oliver + S patterns, now I use her trick all the time. It's similar to gathering but not really.

Yours turned out PERFECT! Can't wait to see the robe - you know me, love vintage patterns!