The Savvy Sage of Sewing Stimulation

Why Do We Need To Learn All These Techniques?

I remember in high school, and I was pretty much a royal smart ass most of the time, asking my professors just why in the world would I want to know what an x or y axis was or why the French had a revolution or what was so gall-dang important about Shakespeare?   I mean how was that going to help me pick out the perfect red dress to wear to the prom?….or how was that going to even get me a job?  I mean really!!!

Fortunately they didn’t try to answer the question and just went right on trying to cram as much information into my head as they could, and I would sigh exasperatedly and roll my eyes in that knowing way so many smarty-pants teens would do!  Now today, though,  I now enjoy the understand of: the nobility of suffering slings and arrows, hopefully not dooming myself to repeating history and of course keeping my patterns on the right longitude and latitude, courtesy of those tenacious teachers!  Dang it – they were right!  I did need all that stuff!!techniquesThe same is true of your technique portfolio.  Aside for the reason that you want to know them, there’s a very good reason not only to learn them but to perfect them as well as you can.  They can free you.


OK – here’s what I’m talking about.  In my latest newsletter, we had a bodice that hit the shoulder really well, but the upper arm of the model was fuller than the sleeve head of the muslin.  What to do?  Well, there are lots of things.

We could have brought out the sleeve head a little more – a la  Alexis Carrington,

ummmmm – No!

So we can also make the sleeve head larger, but still set in.

In case you don’t remember me posting this on Facebook, here it is again, and the Queen has exactly the same issue – she has shallow shoulders and larger upper arms.  How does the Queen’s designer solve this – look at that fabulous header on that set-in sleeve?  See how it pops up fabulously?  (Course the Brits are known for their scrumptious tailoring too!)  Anyway, that’s what we have to do – or that’s an option left to us.

Another option is a gathered sleeve and really that’s not a good option.  Enlarging a sleeve head with a gathered sleeve is a cop out and the reason is that if gathered sleeves aren’t in (like for a very conservative or tailored garment), then you’re just out of luck for fixing this issue.

And there in lies exactly the reason you need to not only have a good cadre of skills in your sewing technique portfolio, but you need to feel comfy with them.

sleeve1Before and After

The best solution here is a set in sleeve but one that’s set in with as much as possible eased into the sleeve head.  If you don’t know how to do that, or if you feel uncomfy doing it, you’re not even going to consider this an option for.  When I was working through the ideas of solution for this tighter twisted sleeve, the two main ideas were to raise the underarm (that was OK and got rid of most of the wrinkle, but the sleeve was still too tight), or lower the sleeve head, but adding a ton into the sleeve head.  I actually drafted in 4 more inches into the sleeve head, but only used 3″.  Look at how that sleeve head hangs now – straight as an arrow and comfy as pie!  As a matter of fact the model remarked immediately that the muslin felt so much better.

Notice too he nice pop on he sleeve head – the raise of the sleeve head into the top of the sleeve, just like the Queen’s sleeve head.  This may look like it’s got a little gathering, but it doesn’t.

Here’s another example.  This is a dinner suit (which is the British way of saying tuxedo), and it has a superb example of a highly tailored set in sleeve.


Notice the slight fullness in the sleeve, but it is NOT puckering.  For a close up example of this, check out the high-end men’s wear and the sleeve head that’s in those jackets.  The middle-of-the-road or low-cost men’s clothing won’t have this, or if they do it will be puckering not sewn in without gathering at the seam.  The whole purpose here is to put as much room as possible in that sleeve, without gathering it is.


For me, this is one of those drop-dead techniques that says you are a consummate seamster, Q.E.D. – or in the vernacular: “Na, na, na, naaaaaaaaaaaa, na!”  But for the purposes here, it is probably not only the best, but the finest solution to this problem of smaller shoulders and thicker upper arms.

The way RTW solves this problem is by pulling out the shoulder another 3″ or 4″ so that it lays sloppily on the arm bicep.  The arm bicep is not the shoulder, and this additionally leaves a ton of wrinkly material under the arm, and in the side of the garment, just where we want it clean and fitted.  With the sleeve head/shoulder seam out this far, there is no way you’re not going to have wrinkling.  And the worst part, is that this has passed for so long as being the only solution, most folks don’t think there’s another solution – such as fitting while the side is clean and fitted as well.

In this case, the set-in sleeve with a lot of fabric set into that sleeve is the solution.  In another case, it would be another solution.  But believe me.  One thing I do remember from my pre-sewing days of not know what I was doing, I never would have tried anything that I wasn’t comfy with.  Or maybe I would have tried it and failed – mostly because I didn’t know what I was doing and certainly didn’t have any time doing it.

Don’t sell yourself short – learn these techniques and how to use them.

Don’t settle for less that what will fit you.

You ARE worth the time it takes to learn how to fit yourself, and you ARE worth the time it takes to learn a technique well and become comfy with it.



  1. “Don’t sell yourself short – learn these techniques and how to use them.
    Don’t settle for less that what will fit you.
    You ARE worth the time it takes to learn how to fit yourself, and you ARE worth the time it takes to learn a technique well and become comfy with it.”

    Sing it, sister!!!!

  2. This is one of the things I love about sewing — learning new things and then trying to master them. There are many things I don’t know that I don’t know, and this shoulder post is one of them!

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