Want to learn how to sew sleeves? This tutorial walks you through three different sleeve styles from start to finish. With the help of this lesson, you’ll be able to add a sleeve to any garment with ease.
Sleeves are an important part of all the clothes that we wear.
You might think they’re just for keeping your arms warm, but you’d be wrong—sleeves are a great way to showcase your personality and style. They are also one of the most important parts of a shirt because they help to keep it clean.
Sure, you can wear a plain white t-shirt with normal sleeves and jeans—just like everyone else. Why not stand out from the crowd? Why not show the world who you are?
So get creative with your sleeve choice! Sew something that matches your personality.
In this article, we’ll help you learn how to sew sleeves in different ways. Whether you’re looking for a casual or professional look, there’s a way to get it right!
Let’s get started.
Table of Contents
Key Terms for Sewing a Shirt Sleeve
When you’re sewing a shirt sleeve, there are a few key terms to know.
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The top of the sleeve is shaped like a trapezoid, with the bottom edge being longer than the side edges.
A small dart in the seam allowance at the underarm of your bodice pattern helps form a smooth curve in your sleeve. An underarm seam also creates room for your arm to move and breathe comfortably.
This is where your shoulder meets your neck, and you’ll sew a shirt sleeve cap to your bodice.
The part of the sleeve that runs from the top of the armhole to where it meets the sleeve cap.
Image Source: Bella Loves Patterns
A sleeve vent is a small opening in the side seam of a shirt, jacket, or coat. It allows air circulation so that your arms don’t get too hot when wearing it for a long period.
How to Sew Sleeves on a Shirt: Supplies You’ll Need
Before we jump to the “how to sew sleeves on shirts” tutorial, you will need to gather the following supplies:
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- A sewing machine with a zipper foot, an overlock or serger, or a seam ripper
- Sleeve fabric
- Thread in a color that matches the sleeve fabric
- A pencil and ruler to mark the sleeve pattern piece
- Scissors, pins, and chalk (for marking sewing lines on fabric)
- Sewing needles and thread for the project
- A seam ripper
- Safety pins
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Step-by-step Instructions for How to Sew Sleeves (Flat Sleeve, Set-in Sleeve, and Hemming Sleeve)
Sleeves are the perfect way to dress up a plain t-shirt.
It can also be an excellent way to add warmth and comfort. That’s why we’re going to teach you how to sew sleeves in three different ways.
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How to Sew Sleeves Flat
Image Source: Helen’s Closet Patterns
The first tutorial on how to sew sleeves is learning flat sleeves. You will first need to sew shoulder seams and press the seams open. Now fold the short or long sleeve in half along its length and match each armhole notch
(A) to mark a center with a pin or stitch
(B) Open out the sleeve, line up centers, and match points as you go
(C) Pressing the seam allowance open is important. This will make it easier to sew the sleeve to the body later. It’s also good for different types of fabric, as pressing helps set the stitches, so they don’t unravel later.
Fold the sleeve half along the length and mark the center with a pin or stitch. Match the center of the sleeve to the shoulder seam (the fold), and match notches and points as you go (if you have them).
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Open out the sleeve and line up the center of it with the shoulder seam. Don’t forget notches and match points as you go – if you have them.
If necessary, remove any interfacing or stabilizer from your sewing pattern piece before proceeding to the next step.
Check your progress by trying the shirt on inside out from time to time. This will save you from having to unpick things later on!
If it feels tight at all, go back and take out more stitches. You will need to make sure the sleeve fits in the perfect way because once you cut open your ordinary or woven fabric, there’s no going back!
How to Sew Set-in Sleeves
The second types of sleeves is set-in sleeves. Set-in sleeves are a great way to add structure to your knitwear while making it easy to put on and take off.
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This step-by-step guide will help you get started on your first set-in sleeve project if you want to learn to sew set-in sleeves.
Step 1: Mark easing stitch lines
Before you begin with the how to sew set-in sleeves tutorial, it’s important to mark your sleeve caps:
- Mark a line at the armhole seam so that it extends about 1/4″ (6 mm) beyond and along the curve of the armhole.
- Mark a line at the top of each sleeve cap so that it runs parallel to this seam, is equal to its length, and ends at the width point.
- Mark another stitching line across both tops of your sleeves where they will be sewn together at their sleeve side seams, making sure they meet in a straight line.
Step 2: Pin and stitch ease stitch
Start marking the sleeve cap ease line. The ease line is the seam that allows your body to fit into the sleeve.
It’s easier to mark this on your fabric than to calculate it at home with a measuring tape. We recommend using chalk or tailor’s chalk because they are easy to wash out, or you can also use a water-soluble pen or pencil.
You’ll want to sew along this seam when turning your garment right side out. This is important when you hand stitch around your finished shirt.
Everything fits in the perfect way without puckering or extra fabric or material hanging off of each side of where your arm meets your shoulder.
Step 3: Ease the sleeve into the bodice
The next step of learning “how to sew sleeves on shirt” is to place a tailor’s ham in the sleeve opening of the bodice. Lay the sleeve over the bodice and align the raw edges and right sides together.
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Using your sewing machine, baste the seam allowance to hold it in place. This is easier if you have a helper to help keep everything lined up while you sew! You will need to readjust your fabric at this point so that it sits on both sides of each pin or basting stitch.
Step 4: Baste the sleeve cap in place
This step is self-explanatory, but it’s also important. Basting stitches are temporary and made with a long, thin needle and thread.
In this case, you’ll be using basting stitches to hold your sleeve cap in place so that you can sew the seam.
Baste stitches should never be visible outside a garment—or at least not very noticeable. They should always be placed 1/8″ from the edge of the fabric and sewn with utmost patience, so they don’t pull out too much.
Step 5: Stitch down the sleeve cap
To learn how to sew down the sleeve cap, you will need to cut a small hole in your fabric so that you can get your needle through it.
Use your scissors to make a small vertical slit between 1/4 and 1/2 inch long, just below where you want to start sewing. Make sure it is at least 1/4 inch wide and large enough for the needle to fit through without any trouble.
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Once you have made this slit in your fabric, take a look at how far away from the sleeve cap seam allowance it’s located.
The stitch should be at least 1/4 inch away from this seam allowance when sewn on each side of your garment’s armhole opening.
If needed, snip off any excess fabric threads from previous stitching, so they don’t get caught up in new stitching.
Then place one end of your thread into a needle and tie off both ends by making three tight knots around one another before cutting them off with sharp scissors. That way, you will be able to finish your sewing tutorial on sewing set-in sleeves.
How to Sew Hemming Sleeves
If you want to know how to make clothes look more professional, then hemming sleeves is for you.
Image Source: Sofilantjes Patterns
Hemming sleeves can be done by hand or with a sewing machine. It is important to note that hand sewing is much more time-consuming than machine sewing.
To hem your sleeves by hand, take the sleeve you want to hem and fold it in half lengthwise. That way, you will have a double thickness of fabric on top of each other. This will make it easier for you to work with when sewing.
Next, fold the bottom edge twice so that it equals 1/4 inch (0.6 cm) from where you want your hem to finish. Pin or tape the sleeve hem in place so that you keep track of where the hem should end up being sewn down.
Once pinned or taped down, begin sewing at one end and sew all along the entire length of the double thickness until reaching where you started.
You may need to use several backstitches at this point, just like any other sleeve seam would require if sewing by hand. It will be difficult for one stitch alone to hold everything together without slipping off once done stitching through both layers together at once.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the methods of assembling sleeves?
There are three ways of assembling sleeves. You can go for the Set-in sleeves, raglan sleeves, or flat sewing style.
With the set-in sleeve, you sew the sleeve into the armhole to create a tailored look. For raglan sleeves, you attach the sleeve diagonally from the neck to underarm. As for the sewing flat style it joins the sleeve and bodice separately and then sews the side seams.
How do you sew Sleeves?
To sew sleeves, we pin the sleeves to the armholes of the garment, right sides together, matching every notch. Then, we sew along the marked seam line, starting from the armpit to the cuff, using a straight stitch. Finishing up, we clean the raw edges with a serger or zigzag stitch and press the seams open or towards the body for a clean finish.
Which sleeve is easiest to sew?
While it depends on individual skills and experience, kimono sleeve can seem simple for starters for its wide sleeve which eliminates the need for setting in a separate sleeve piece. While raglan sleeves can also be straightforward to sew, the Kimono sleeve typically involves fewer steps and requires less shaping and easing stitch.
The steps to sewing sleeves at home are simple and doable, even for beginners. You can use this tutorial as a reference when you’re ready to start sewing or use it as a way to get started if you’ve never sewn before.
Keep in mind the best way to learn how to sew a top with sleeves at home is to take your measurements, figure out what size you need, and then use those measurements to get the right fit.
Please let us know which sleeve type you tried at home. We’d love to hear your story.