Setting In Sleeves

I do not like setting in sleeves. I’m all about sewing them in flat. I cannot get a smooth sleeve using that two rows of stitching, gathering and pinning nonsense. But, for the Patrones 267-13 dress it’s hard to avoid considering the matching of piping / seamlines needed. In Connie Long’s book ‘Easy Guide to Sewing Blouses and Shirts‘ she recommends using STET (sigh. I don’t own the book and can’t remember what this stuff is called. It’ll come to me by the time the day is over.)  to set in sleeves. This width is no longer readily available in the US.

So, on one of my rare excursions to Wal Mart I found a pretty good substitute.

I actually don’t know what it’s called. But, it’s a loose  nylon type netting in the sewing section. By cutting it on the bias, it approximates the weight and feel of STET.

You’ll want to cut it the length or somewhat shorter of the sleeve cap. Make it about two inches wide.

Using your longest stitch, sew the netting to the sleeve pulling as tightly as possible.

As you see, this automatically gathers the sleeve for you!

Pin in place and sew together with the gather side to the bottom.

Voila! Set in sleeve

Here’s where I am now. Sleeves are set in. I’ve taken two inches out from the waist and pegged the skirt. I still have some curve to remove from the hip and will need to stabilize the hem (it’s collapsing). I have removed 1/2 inch from the neckline.

I am not in love with this dress. But, I’m going to finish it. I might not even bother with the lining I’ve already made. I can’t bear to rip that apart making the adjustments above.


    • It is mostly poly from the ravely and the feel. This technique is just another way of gathering. I’ve never quite grasped the removing of ease from the sleeve cap.

      • The really lazy way I’ve learned is the following. You measure carefully the front and back of your armhole ON THE SEAMLINE. Holding the measuring tape perpendicular to the pattern, so you get good accuracy. This is the sleeve length you want to end up with. You look at your sleeve pattern – is it a bit wide for your arm, is the sleeve cap very tall? You hold the measuring tape so that both ends correspond to 0 and your total armhole length respectively (taking seam allowances into account again). You arrange the tape so that you’re either preserving biceps room and losing a bit of height, or narrowing the top and keeping the height, whichever floats your boat. This can also easily be compared with your well-fitting block if you’ve had a patternmaking class. You should also take advantage of this opportunity to be more ample towards the back, and to bring the shoulder forward a bit, so you have a good body-fitting curve instead of a weirdo Big-4 shoulder-thrown-back attitude (if you aren’t using Burda or Jalie, which do that well already). You trace along your measuring tape. You mark your shoulder line. You add your seam allowance. Voilà.

  1. This looks like a good method to try, even though I don’t mind setting in sleeves. I just needed to comment on the fact that Walmart managed to misspell “fabric” on that tag. And our Walmart fabric section is gone like so many others, so I’d have to find another product.

    • LOL! Wow. Totally did not notice that! This was three yards so I figured I was good for a while. I keep meaning to get tulle and see if that would work also.

  2. Cool method for sleeves! I never have any trouble with sleeves, but I will try this, because it looks easy. My phobia is buttonholes.

  3. “Frabic” is my favorite ever! My mom and I saw it once in a book misspelled the same way, and now we often refer to our beloved textiles in such a way! Thanks for sharing this technique.

    • The pronunciation of ‘pattern’ or ‘modern’ as ‘pat-tuh-ren’ and ‘mod-der-ren’ is my favorite!

      • For me it’s people pronouncing corset like corsette, except that I hate it and it grates on my ears like a shovel on pavement. Brrr!

  4. It’s good to know a lot of different methods for doing a technique. Glad this one worked for your sleeves.

  5. Looking good! I use this method for jackets and coats, but use bias strips of hair canvas. I’ll have to take a look at that book and see what she recommends.

  6. I’ve only done set in sleeves with knits so far and those have been fine, but I’ve heard that wovens can be a real pain in the arse. Will keep this tip in mind if I have issues in the future. Thanks!

  7. Your sleeve techique is the same as Kenneth King uses for his tailored garments. Though, rather than a thin netting, he uses a heavier wooly mohair. Cut bias, stretch the hell out of it and stitch. Voila!

  8. The sleeves look great! I have an extra copy of the book by Connie Long (can’t remember why), I’ll give it to you next time we meet.

    • On me (I think especially since I add so much width to the lower body) that it caves/dips in above the hem. So, it looks like it’s off grain and makes me look way wider in the bottom. Essentially, the skirt doesn’t hang straight down. It was a problem with my tan Burda dress too. I’ll take some photos tonight to explain better.

      Marji says it’s pretty common on men’s weight fabrics. Why, I dunno. She’s just smart like that. So, I’m going to like interace in the seams and add some horsehair or wiggan in the hem.

  9. Another great tool for setting in sleeves is tie interfacing,. You cut it on the bias and use it the same way as Stet. B Black and Sons carries it, as does Peggy Sagers (NAYY to each of them).

  10. Thanks for the sleeve tip — I’ve used it for jackets (using bias strips of hair canvas or loose weave wool) but not for blouses or dresses — will have to try it on my next blouse project. I just have to mention that I feel very guilty when you mention your goal of not buying new fabric this year. When I first read it on your blog, I thought, that’s a great idea — I’m going to do that too! Then I went to Joann’s for a zipper and ended up buying yardage from the clearance rack. Then I was up in San Francisco for a conference and had a moment to visit Britex Fabrics, where I promptly found some great pieces. It’s an addiction!

  11. I’m the sloppiest at setting in sleeves so I’m giving that nifty trick a try.

    Great call on the piping on the dress! Really makes the detail pop.

  12. Setting in sleeves isn’t my favourite, but I can deal. However, this is really nifty little tip that I will try to remember to tryout sometime!

    As for your hem, the latest Threads magazine has an article all about different hem treatments for different fabrics/effects. If this isn’t a dress that you “love”, maybe it would be good to try a little hem experimentation with along with the sleeves.

  13. Hey – whatever it takes…but I do love a nice set in sleeve. That “puff” on the very top of the sleeve head is so I’m-the-greatest-seamstress-in-the-world look!!! 😉

  14. I just wanted to say thanks for illustrating so many tips on your blog. I try and somehow lose the momentum in the process of making the garment. Great tip on the sleeves.

  15. Thank you so much for the tip! Setting in sleeves is not my favorite thing to do either. I like my sleeves perfect, and heaven only knows how many times I’ve had to remove them to achieve a smooth look!

  16. Hi! I could have sworn I’ve visited this blog before but after browsing through some
    of the articles I realized it’s new to me. Anyhow,
    I’m certainly pleased I found it and I’ll be book-marking it and checking back often!

Comments are closed.