Old school: Narrow sleeves and elbow darts.

Today’s nerdy piece is about sleeves. Sleeves are probably one of most feared part of the garment, and the narrow sleeves are the worst, because there is no room to hide your mistakes. Recently someone asked my advise on a narrow Chanel jacket sleeve. I honestly admit, I have never been interested in Chanel jacket or its sleeves, but I’ve done the sleeves with elbow darts. Elbow darts are even harder to find these days than shoulder darts I mentioned in my previous nerdy post. In this post learn all about the connection and difference between semi-fitted, narrow and very narrow sleeve and a very easy way to add an elbow dart or two.
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Sleeve transformations

Another tutorial on sleeve (as requested by ElleR  and Michael).

This time it is how to make a two-piece sleeve out of one-piece sleeve as described in Müller and Sohn book. First I show how to add an elbow dart to a straight sleeve and then how to split the sleeve in two parts.

Anne, to increase the sleeve width raise the curves mentioned at the end of the video to the required amount.



Open for suggestions


The time is ripe to write another book. I am getting many questions about sleeves and I have noticed how much conflicting and sometimes incorrect information is out there on this subject. Although I have written some information on sleeves already, I sense there is much more to be said and clarified.

So I have decided to write a very detailed book on sleeves. I am hoping to cover everythng from terminology and draft to setting in and trouble shooting. It is going to be written in a normal language, to be clear for dressmakers of all levels.

It is going to take a long time, so don’t hold your breath! But I need your help. Please tell me what you’d like to see in this book, because I would hate to miss something important. Don’t miss this chance to have your say!

Think sleeves!


How to change sleeve seam position

Lorraine asked:

How does one go about moving the underarm seam on a sleeve further to the back to mimic a two-piece sleeve?
I thought I had seen a tutorial on how to draft this the interwebs somewhere, but now that I need it, I can no longer find it.

Thanks Lorraine! :)

Sometimes you have to change sleeve seam location because the fabric is too thick and you’d like to avoid a cross seam. And other times you might want to use this seam as a decorative detail (like in your case). Whichever is the case, there is a way to do it.

Being  a visual person myself, I firmly believe that one picture is worth a thousand words. How many words for a video? :)

Sleeve adjustment for fuller arms

ElleR writes:

Lena, I have large upper arms, and a nice “fluff” of fat just behind it. As a result, slim sleeves (as in Vogue Patterns) are a nightmare to alter and fit whilst maintaining the high curve of sleevehead.
Got any tutorials to address this?

Dear ElleR,

thank you for suggesting a great tutorial. Yes, you can certainly adjust a close fitting sleeve with high sleeve cap for a fuller arm.
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Sleeve and armscye terminology

Here is the question I hear often: “What is the armscye? Is there a difference between armscye and armhole?”

This gave me an idea for this post.
An armscye is the opening for your arm. Armscye and armhole are the same thing.

Armscye has a few characteristics:

  • Length ( can be measured with a flexible ruler )
  • Height – measured vertically. Can be adjusted depending on your design or fit preferences
  • Width – measured horizontally

Armscye length depends on its depth and width measurements.

First comes bodice, then comes sleeve. Sleeve cap measurements are in direct connection with the bodice armscye measurements.

Sleeve cap characteristics are:

  • Sleeve cap height determines how fitted the sleeve is going to be. The higher the sleeve cap, the tighter is the fit and the bigger is your arm movement range ( I know, it sounds mutually exclusive, but it is true ).
  • Sleeve width is set by you depending on your sleeve fit preference. The width equals Arm girth measurement + sleeve ease.
  • Sleeve cap length. Possibly the trickiest part. Sleeve cap length equals the Armscye length plus sleeve cap ease. Sleeve cap ease depends on design of your garment and the fabric you are using. Some lighter fabrics can’t take much ease without puckering, but thicker coating can take much more ease and can be handled very successfully.

More on sleeve ratios and norms here

Sleeve length depends on the sleeve width and the sleeve cap height. The connection is very exact, so all sleeve head adjustments have to be planned and calculated, and then compared to the Armscye. Any change will affect fit and appearance of your sleeve, so pay close attention to all the measurements.