Oh, my friends, my friends. . .
I have been to some dark corners of the internets in search of sleeve-shaping wisdom.
Places where terms like “Pythagorean Theorum” are tossed about.
Places where I saw this formula given to calculate the perfect sleeve cap:
L = sqrt (x2 + y2 + z2) (Here)
Places where people know things so far over my head I’m not sure we exist in the same atmosphere–unspeakable things. . .
You know that I have been
slowly going mad by perfecting my Simplicity 2444 muslin. The issue, if you remember, was that the sleeves did not fit–they were pulling on the side seams making it next-to impossible to raise my arms. The major problem was that the armscye was too low. So, I went a-searching to see if there was a particular method I should use to reshape it.
I. Found. Nothing.
Seriously–there are no tutorials that tell you how to raise the armscye. I know. I was shocked. I found lots of other tutorials that did not help at all. I did also find a lot of forums, but I’m not really a fan of forums. It’s hard to know who really knows what they’re talking about.
I figured that since no one was talking about it, it must mean that I needed to go with the obvious answer: raise the armscye at the side seam and then use a French curve to blend the seam line.
That part was easy. What came next is where the nightmare began.
I figured that changing the shape of the armhole meant changing the shape of the sleeve as well. So, off I went a-searching again.
I remembered this article from Fashion Incubator and took another look at it. Insisting that “sleeve cap is bogus”, she points out that most armholes in commercial patterns aren’t anatomically correct. I also read a different perspective from Madalynne on her updated sleeve drafting tutorial (bookmark it–those things are the best ever!). She says that all sleeves need some ease; it just depends on several factors (fit, style, fabric, etc.) to know how much. My thinking was that since I needed to reshape the sleeve, why not go ahead and try both reducing and removing all the ease to see who’s right in this issue.
I used this tutorial from Green Apples to remove all the sleeve cap ease, but it didn’t really turn out to be as simple for me as it seemed to be for her.
No matter how much I measured and reduced and folded and re-measured and double-checked, the sleeve head still would not fit the armhole. It was consistently too big. The odd thing was that all the markings and notches lined up just fine. It was only in the front of the sleeve that I was ending up with extra. So, I re-measured and recalculated and I kept coming up with the same number. Both the armhole and the sleeve head measured 16 3/4″ along the seam line (not counting seam allowance, of course). So, why wouldn’t the sleeve fit???
I really don’t know.
The one thing that I did figure out is that it simply wasn’t enough to remove sleeve cap height like in the tutorial. I needed to remove sleeve cap width as well–particularly on the sleeve front.
I went to crazy town for a few hours and did some truly insane things which I ended up undoing later. We won’t go into all that. It was wrongity wrong.
I did also remember that I had forgotten to remove my armhole dart measurement from the seam line. When I fixed that issue, I still had a inch to remove which I did by scooping the sleeve front curve rather than add to it like in the tutorial. I also removed a bit by folding the notch over about 1/2″ and shaving just a tad off the edge. Sorry if that’s confusing. It’s one of those situations where I can’t really explain why I did what I did. I just know that there was a crazy sort of logic to it at the time and it ended up working, hurray!
To experiment, I only changed one sleeve. For the other, I kept about an inch of ease and set it in like a normal sleeve. And here are the results:
This sleeve is set in:
This sleeve has no ease:
Can you tell a difference? Both of them feel exactly the same. I have a full range of motion on both sides. When I lift my arms straight up, the bodice still pulls up. But, I kind of think that’s just the way it’s going to be.
Well, I can’t say that I fully agree/disagree with either theory. It seems that removing all sleeve cap ease can be a viable option, but it depends on the shape of your arm and the fabric you’re using and the style you’re going for. Is a certain amount of sleeve cap ease always necessary? I don’t know. Yesterday when I was writing this draft, I would have given a completely different answer. But after looking at the pictures, I have to say that these sleeves, at least, need some ease. (Disclaimer: I am no expert. Both of the ladies mentioned (Fashion Incubator and Madalynne) are. Obviously, my conclusion is based on this one experiment.)
Here’s my reasoning: At first I was all about the ease-less sleeve. It’s so much easier to insert and I spent about a thousand hours modifying the sleeve to make it fit. But look closely at the pictures of the ease-less sleeve. Notice how the sleeve seems to pull at the shoulder. Look again at the set-in sleeve. The seam where the sleeve meets the shoulder (does this have a name?) runs right along the end of my shoulder. Yes, it’s a bit poofier–especially at the back–but (ignoring the basting stitches I should have removed) it looks nicer and clearly fits better.
Here’s my plan: I’m going to start with my ease-less sleeve (it’s either that or going all the way back to the original–which might not be the worst idea) and add probably around 1/4″-3/8″ back to the sleeve cap height. Then I’ll add 1/4″ to the sleeve cap width on the front and back.
I also discovered during this last muslin that if I pinch all the extra from the neckline at the shoulder seams, I can fix the gaping neckline issue that I couldn’t get rid of in the first version I made. SUCCESS!!! I am just a bit worried that the neckline stretched a bit during the process because I didn’t think to staystitch. Is it worth making up one more muslin just to check the neckline? Nope. I’ll stay on the safe side of removing the extra–it’s something I can easily tweak as I’m sewing the real thing.
Also, I toyed with the idea of recutting the back bodice using a straight center line (I talked about this issue here. Turns out, it wasn’t a drafting error after all. Thanks to Oona for setting me straight!), but once I pinched at the shoulder seams, it fit just fine. And, wouldn’t ya’ know it, I had to add exactly 0″ to the shoulder length. Sonja pointed out that my drastically elongated shoulder seam (from muslin #1) was probably adding to my sleeve woes. She was right (Thanks 🙂 )! Leaving the shoulder seams be solved half the problem.
And thank you to my commiserators!.
And thank you, finally, to Simplicity 2444 for being a pattern tempting enough to make me work for a decent fit and for providing me this oh-so-frustrating learning opportunity.
And now this post has turned into an Oscar acceptance speech. . .
Seriously, I feel like I just passed the exam of the century–that’s how obsessed I have been with this muslin. All that’s left to do now is redraw the sleeve pattern piece because the one I have now is looking a little worse for wear. . .
I also need to true some things (notches and edges and such). And then I’m going to do some happy experimentation (file this under “Not Content to Leave Well-Enough Alone”) because I Have an Idea and I want to try it out before I begin. I’m not so sorry to delay the making of the dress a leettle bit longer because at least I can start working on something new.
I have a good feeling about this one. . .
So what’s up y’all? Working on anything fun? Challenging? Tell me all about it! More importantly, what’s your take on the sleeve cap ease issue?