08 January 2012

Jalie 2559: Sleeve Heads

The pattern calls for installing sleeve heads for sleeve cap support.  I did this in my Vogue jacket, and  recognize the benefits of having this structure in a jacket. 

The pattern includes a separate piece for the sleeve head (a 2" bias strip with diagonal edges).  According to the instructions, set the sleeve in first and then sew the bias strip (folded in half lengthwise) to the seam allowance of the sleeve cap.  I tried this and didn't like the results.  While there was some support, the sleeve cap caved significantly.  Unfortunately, I neglected to take pictures before removing the sleeve head. 

I knew there was a better way to do this, so I referred to Kenneth King's book, Cool Couture.  His method not only results in a nicely supported shoulder area, the process of inserting sleeve heads makes setting the sleeve really easy.

Here are the steps:

1.  Sandra Betzina and Kenneth King suggest using lamb's wool or mohair, respectively, for the sleeve head.  Having neither one of these on hand, I opted for hefty polar fleece.  Cut a bias strip measuring 3" by 11" (7.6 cm by 28 cm).  I thought 3" was rather ride since on the Vogue jacket, I used a 2" strip.  I opted to take the average and cut a 2.5" strip.

2.  Anchor the strip to the wrong side of the sleeve cap one inch below one of the notches.  Sew a few stitches using a 1/8" seam allowance.  I would use a 1/4" seam allowance so that presser foot (or walking foot) has something to grab onto.  Hmm.  Looking at this photo, I think I may have used a 1/2" seam allowance.

3.  Stretch only the strip as much as you can while sewing it to the sleeve cap.  This shouldn't require a lot of effort since the fleece is already stretchy and on the bias.  Be sure to keep the piece taut and stretched as you sew. Continue stitching until you're about one inch below the opposite notch.

4. Shake the sleeve and watch the ease fall into place.  Neither Kenneth nor Sandra suggest a stitch length.  I used a regular stitch length (2.5 mm) on one sleeve and a basting stitch (4.0 mm) on the other.  While they both eased relatively the same, I like using the smaller length better.  On future jackets, I will use a length of 3.0.  This way, I have the benefits of both a secure stitch and longer stitch for adjusting ease.

5.  Pin the sleeve into the armhole right sides together.  Basting stitches aren't needed since the ease has already been removed by the bias strip.

Voi-la!  This is the pucker-free finished product!  These pictures are of the sleeve before steaming the cap into shape.  I think it looks pretty good!

Ugh!  I can totally see my pattern alteration error in the back.  Hopefully it's not too noticeable while I'm wearing it.  I've put in too much time and fabric to scrap this project now.  This jacket will be completed!

Since writing this post several days ago, I've removed both sleeves and opened up the front and back princess seams and the center back seam.  There was just too much width in these areas.  Looking at these pictures now I can totally see where the back of the jacket is too wide.  I took about 1/2" out by sewing 1/4" in from the existing seam lines.  I also removed some width from the bicep to elbow area of each sleeve.  The jacket fits much better now.  I will make the same changes to the lining pieces and permanently adjust the pattern pieces. 

Up next:  I need to start working on the lining.  I am dreading this part of the project!



  1. Gorgeous! It is inspiring to read about your careful adjustments. Sometimes I just want to be done with a step and am tempted to go on even when the results would be much better if I redid something. Thanks for showing your sleeve head insertion and for sharing the alterations you made to improve the fit.

  2. Nothing worse than having to undo such pleasing work. The sleeves looked brilliant in the photos. This jacket will become a favourite to wear instantly....

  3. You did a great job with the sleeve cap and thanks for sharing.


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