December 20, 2010

Tutorial: Reduce or Remove Sleeve Cap Ease pt. 2

I received a really great question on my previous tutorial on how to remove or reduce sleeve cap ease. Gina's question deserves it's own blog post.

Well, what do you do if you have big arms but too much ease? If I move it over I will lose bicep room. I am working with a dress right now and everything fits but the sleeves are tight and the have too much ease. How do I widen the sleeve get rid of ease and fit it to the armhole?
This is a really great question and may require me to consider re-writing my tutorial. My previous tutorial is based off my experience drafting patterns for children's clothing. Usually it is not a problem to reduce the bicep line because it's usually too big anyway. My overall changes are small because I am perfecting patterns that I have drafted myself.

If you are working with a commercial pattern for adults, the approach will be similar. You can't always reduce the bicep line and the overall changes may be quite significant. Patterns from the Big 4 notoriously have too much sleeve cap ease. To be fair, if you follow the drafting instructions in some pattern drafting books, you end up adding in a fair amount of ease too. One pattern making book has instructions that result in as much as 1.5 inches of ease in a set-in toddler sleeve. Way too much. Such a practice is not common in the fashion industry and the production sewers will refuse to set-in the sleeves.

I had difficulty coming up with a solution and so I had to ask my pattern making friends at the Fashion Incubator Forum. We have to assume that everything fits Gina as it should, though it's possible there is some other fit issue that is contributing to the bicep width problem to begin with.(1) There are two possible solutions and neither is quick nor easy. Both will require testing. To add bicep width, slash and spread or slash and pivot the sleeve to the desired measurement. This alteration will require fixing the sleeve cap anyway.

1. Draft a new sleeve from scratch. (My solution)

2. Reduce the sleeve cap height equal to the amount of ease to be removed. (From Nora of the Fashion Incubator Forum).

Sometimes it's just easier to start over. It may save time in the long run and you will get exactly the sleeve you want.

If you would rather fix the sleeve, you can try Nora's suggestion. Nora's suggestion leaves the bicep width alone and only adjusts the sleeve cap height.

Walking a sleeve along an armscye
1. Begin by walking the sleeve along the armhole in a similar manner to my previous tutorial. In this case, start at the bottom and walk the armhole toward the shoulder. You will need to walk the sleeve on both the front and back armholes matching up the front of the sleeve with the front bodice and the back bodice with the back sleeve. Your sleeve should not be symmetrical and you will need to check the entire armhole. As you work, you may want to check the entire armhole and sleeve cap.

Measurement length difference

2. Measure from the seam line of the shoulder on the bodice to the center notch of the sleeve. This will be equal to the amount of ease on one side of your sleeve. Repeat for the back armhole. Total up the ease for the front and the back of the sleeve. This will equal the total sleeve cap ease.

Reduce ease by lowering cap height

3. Reduce the sleeve cap height equal to the amount of ease that needs to be removed and redraw the sleeve cap. You will need to repeat these steps until you get exactly the amount of ease needed to set the sleeve and no more.

Neither Nora nor I can guarantee that this method is the answer. This method will require lots of back and forth testing and iteration. The method is similar enough to my previous tutorial that I think it will work eventually. If you have the patience for lots of testing, then go for it. Also remember that you may still need *some* ease. When we say zero ease, we don't really mean zero ease. You may need some to help set the sleeve in. The only way to know is to sew up a few samples. 1/4" to 1/2" of total ease is not unusual. This ease is required to help sew opposing curves together. The sleeve should be against the feed dogs as it moves under the foot and the action of the feed dogs may require a little bit of ease so that the sleeve cap and armscye meet up in the end.

1. The armhole could be too small or too big. It may be in the wrong location or scooped wrong under the arms.

Thanks to Nora for her suggestion.

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