As mentioned at the end of Part I, my next step was to remove the sleeve cap ease from the pattern. There are several how-to tutorials out there and they all boil down to:
- Measure the circumference of the shoulder end of the sleeve
- Measure the circumference of the armscye
- Subtract #2 from #1 to figure out how much ease you need to remove
- Remove some or all that ease from the sleeve cap by redrawing that curve.
Most of the techniques involve some kind of cutting/folding/pivoting of the sleeve shoulder curve, but I ultimately decided to try the approach described by Joy at 21 Wale, which is a little more direct; using a measuring tape (or in my case, a flexible ruler), redraw the curve to the correct length.
But first I had to measure the sleeve cap and the armscye. Here are the two pieces of the sleeve pattern laid out with seam allowances overlapping, showing the full curve of the sleeve cap.
To measure the armscye I had to lay out the front, back and side, once again overlapping the seam allowances:
This time I had to take the measurement in two parts, measuring from the double notch to the shoulder on one side, and the single notch to the shoulder on the other side – again, 5/8″ in from the edge, and stopping 5/8″ from the shoulder to account for the seam allowance.
I found that the sleeve cap was a little over two full inches longer than the armscye – no wonder it looks so ungainly when you try to cram all of that in across the top of the shoulder! I am sure that some amount of ease is appropriate in some situations, but the more pattern reviews and sewing blogs I read, the more I wonder at the drafting of the big pattern companies and why in the world they all seem to add so much ease so consistently. I feel terrible for new sewers who trust these patterns and jump headfirst into their first sleeved garment only to assume it’s their fault the shoulders were so hard to put together, and look so bad.
Next I traced new copies the two sleeve pieces, arranged with overlapping seam allowances as before, and redrew the shoulder curve to be just over two inches shorter – starting 5/8″ in from the edge because of the seam allowance. Once I was satisfied with the curve, I used my seam gauge to plot the seam allowance, drew that curve, and trimmed it. I then trimmed my two remaining muslin arm pieces accordingly, stitched them together and pinned the newly adjusted sleeve into the armscye – and it pretty much just worked! It’s still a little bit tricky because the edges of the fabric along a seam between two differently shaped pieces of fabric will always want to pucker a bit, but the edges aren’t what’s important; the actual seam line is! I don’t remember where I encountered this tip, but I think it makes a lot of sense and works well for me. When setting a sleeve, I try to place the pins such that the only areas actually being pinned together are right on the actual seam line; not further in or out. This makes it easier to make sure things align properly where it matters, and easier to manage the seam when sewing.
(Yes, I confess, that’s a pin behind the presser foot. Best practice is to never, ever sew over pins lest you break a needle or even damage your machine, but for this step I use a slightly longer stitch and go so slowly and deliberately that I’ve found that I can get away with it; if it looks like the needle is about to hit one then I’ll remove it, but otherwise slow and steady is the name of the game. Do so at your own risk!)
The result? A night and day difference! Once again I was not as painstaking with the muslin as I will be with the final garment and there are a couple of little inadvertent gathers here and there but overall the sleeve fits and looks so much better! For comparison, here’s the right shoulder, made with the original pattern pieces:
Next steps: Cutting out the actual fabric and starting construction.