by Kathy Grondin
If you are making a tailored, structured, lined garment, consider adding interfacing to the sleeve hem edge before you sew the underarm seam in the sleeve and set it in.
Using Fusible Weft interfacing,* cut interfacing 2" (5 cm) wide by the length of the hem edge. Position the bottom edge of the interfacing 1/2" (1.25 cm) below the hem line. Fuse in place. (See photos.)
To support the sleeve cap, tailored jackets and coats traditionally use a sleeve head. A sleeve head is an extra piece of fabric sewn into the sleeve cap.
Fabric choices for sleeve heads can vary according to the garment, fabric weight and the care of the fabric used in the project. Sleeve heads made from lambs wool or tie-shape interfacing (traditional tailoring choices) are dry-clean only and should be used with dry-clean only fabrics. These products can be hard to find in your local fabric store and may need to be mail-ordered. Readily available products like non-fusible fleece can be used as sleeve heads as well and are 100% polyester and easy to care for (follow the manufacturer's suggestions for care).
Cut a rectangle 3" x 5" (7.75 cm by 12.75 cm)* of fleece or cut a bias piece the same size of lambs' wool. Fold down 1" (2.5 cm) on the long side. Mark the center point on the long folded edge of the rectangle and match this to the shoulder seam. The folded edge of the sleeve head is positioned at the seam line of the sleeve with the short (1" (2.5 cm)) edge facing you. The long side is closest to the garment. Hand sew in place with an overcast stitch. Do not pull the stitches so tight that they draw or show on the right side.
Garments made from lightweight fabrics need support as well. For these fabrics, shaping the sleeve head to the pattern will yield more subtle, but effective support. To make a shaped sleeve head, place tracing or waxed paper over your sleeve pattern and trace the cap of the sleeve from about 3" (7.75 cm) on each side of the center dot and connect these lines across the sleeve. Don't forget to label the back, front and center dot of your sleeve head. Fold down the cap to the cross line and trim away the traced pattern to the sleeve cap. This will result in an oval-shaped pattern. Cut two sleeve heads using your garment fabric or organza if you desire a little more body.
To sew, fold in half and sew the sleeve head to the sleeve seam, just inside of the existing seam line using your machine or by hand sewing.
What about shoulder pads? If your garment calls for shoulder pads, be sure to use them. The inclusion of shoulder pads affects the drape of the fabric and our patterns have been drafted with that in mind. The trick to effective use of shoulder pads is to make sure they are installed correctly. They should be positioned 1/2" (1.25 cm) beyond the seam line of the sleeve. This will help your sleeve look smoother and will also support the top of the cap.
With these tips you will be sewing professional looking sleeves quickly and easily.