Enlarge Sleeve's Upper Arm
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Enlarging the Upper Sleeve

== by Sarah Strong

Ever made an outfit and the top part of the sleeve is binding?  There is a quick way to fix the upper arm area. 

Note: binding across the upper arms can be the result from a sleeve that's too tight or because the armscye not falling in the correct place,.  Modern set in sleeves should fit right at the shoulder joint  If it's out too far, then the sleeve kind of falls down and cause problems

However, in this article, I'm assuming that  people are starting with a pattern that is basically the right size pattern or you've already adjusted that part of your muslin.  This is instructions for how to adjust the sleeve pattern  when  the sleeve cap is too narrow and high, thus restricting arm movement.

I have altered so many sleeves to make the cap wider and lower, I can do it without looking at the directions any more. I almost do it automatically when I see how high and narrow the cap is on most patterns. This gives more mobility to the upper arm. I learned it from Threads magazine, but it's in many pattern alteration books.

Trace the original pattern

Use the pattern piece in the correct size

Use a fresh sheet of tissue paper. The white tissue like you wrap gifts in is good.

You'll need the notches, dots, grain line, etc. too.

Mark the seam line on the traced pattern.

Slash the Pattern

Slash the tracing across from armpit to armpit, *inside* the seam line, just from corner to corner straight across. A rotary cutter is handy.

Also slash the pattern vertically from the dot at the top of the cap to the hemline at the wrist, or possibly a few inches above that, you'll get a feel for this when  you've done a few and know how you want it to come out.

Make sure your slashes are *inside* the seam lines.

Make a couple more slashes diagonally inside the cap: again, *inside* the seam line, and perpendicular to it, one from about the balance point, another one or two half way or each third of the way from there to the top of the cap. The cap is now like some sort of sick pizza, all wedges. These slashes end at either the center vertical slash or the armpit to armpit slash.

Now, clip the seam allowance, *outside* the seam lines, at each of the slashes, leaving the actual seam line itself as a little "hinge". 

Spread the pattern pieces

For the spreading part, it helps to have one of those gridded mats. Open it the amount you need to expand the pattern

Very gently, draw the armpits out to the sides, so you have an inch or maybe two opened up in the center vertical slash. You'll see that the cap is drawn down correspondingly, and the slashes around the cap open up a little, while the horizontal slash gets some overlapping. 

Final steps, new pattern.

Carefully place scotch tape on all the slashes to hold everything in place. If you need to, very gently guide the cap pieces into a nice smooth curve. It's nice to tape right down to the grid mat too.

Take a fresh piece of tissue, place it over the slashed and spread pattern, and trace your new sleeve pattern, making sure to include all the dots, notches, grain line, etc.

You will probably need to lengthen the sleeve at or below the elbow to compensate for the lowering of the cap.

You can do that in the tracing stage by simply tracing the top half of the new sleeve, and carefully moving the new sheet up 1-2", and then tracing the lower part, smoothing the connection between the two halves. Or just extend the lines at the sides down 1-2" beyond the original cutting line. 

Your new sleeve will set into the same armscye as the one that came with the pattern, because the length of the seam line itself is not changed.



The final spread laid on the original pattern The new pattern all ready to test in the muslin

*don't cut up the original sleeve pattern* this is very bad form. What if you need to do it again, only a different amount? you need your original to be intact.

Make a Muslin | After the Muslin | Fabric Nap | Estimate Fabric | Modify Necklines | Sizing Up a Pattern | Pattern Fitting Issues | Rolled Collar Pattern | Modify Sleeves | Making a Doll Muslin

LOTR Home | Up | Making Elvish Petal Sleeves | Creating a Half Wrap Sleeve | Enlarge Sleeve's Upper Arm

This page was last updated 04/22/08