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Tutorial: How to Sew a Set-In Sleeve - Vermilion Gathered Top

March 26, 2014 by Jamie Lau Designs 0 comments



One of my favorite color combinations is a red with a little bit of orange in it mixed with a nice pop of blue (think Jean-Luc Godard’s La Chinoise). When I was in San Francisco last month for the opening of my Hayes Valley pop-up shop at Makeshift Society, I picked out a Swiss Vermilion Orange Cotton Jacquard Shirting fabric. This fabric has a nice texture to it and I envisioned designing something with a dramatic sleeve given its body.

This project is the latest installation in my series entitled Fashion Travelogue where I chronicle my goal of designing and sewing the bulk of my wardrobe and accessories for my upcoming travel abroad to Japan (yes, even pajamas!). This one comes with a sewing tutorial on how to sew set-in sleeves using my gathered top design as an example.


1. Before attaching the set-in sleeves, sew the shoulder seams and side seams of your garment. Then, ease stitch the top of the sleeve between the notches. To do this, increase the stitch length on your sewing machine from 2.5mm to 4mm and sew two rows of basting stitches at 1/16” to ⅛” apart inside the seam line along the sleeve cap from one notch to the other. When doing this, make sure to leave long tails of thread to gather each sleeve.





2. Next, finish the bottom edge of each sleeve piece with a serger (overlock sewing machine), followed by the side seams (underarm seams) of each sleeve. Pin the sleeve side seams right sides together, and sew along the seam line at the side seams. Using a seam roll, press the seam allowances open.





3. Turn the body of the garment wrong side out and insert the sleeve piece inside the armhole, right sides together. When doing this, make sure to match the shoulder seam to the notch on the top of the sleeve cap, and also make sure that the garment side seam and sleeve side seam are matching when pinning in place.




4. Next, gather the sleeve cap evenly by pulling the bobbin threads of the basting stitches to fit the armhole, pinning in place. Since this sleeve is gathered, the shirring must be evenly distributed along the upper curve. Shape the top of the sleeve with your fingers, spreading the fullness so the sleeve cap is rounded, smooth, and pucker-free.


Sew around the armhole around the seam line, making sure to sew from the wrong side of the sleeve as it is easier to control the fullness when sewing this way. Next, remove all the basting stitches with a seam ripper. Finish the raw edges of the armhole and sleeve cap together with a serger and turn the seam allowances toward the sleeve.




5. Repeat Steps 1-4 for the other sleeve and hem the bottom edge of each sleeve as desired.




The color of this fabric photographs beautifully. I styled the top with a pair of blue linen polka dot pants over the weekend when I went to check out The Orchid Show. Visit my blog to view more photos of this project and snapshots from my trip to the New York Botanical Garden.