Tuesday, April 04, 2006

The Sleeves that Bind

Ok, this is the grey blouse pattern:

I'm making view C, the one with the scrunched collar and cuffs. I got the collar slipstitched down last night, sewed up the side seams and tried it on and was quite pleased with the way it fit; it skimmed along nicely and draped well.

Then I put the sleeves in. As I mentioned earlier, I was afraid the sleeves would be too small as they seemed tight just when I pulled them on. Once they were in, and the seams trimmed, they actually feel ok. The blouse looks really good, in fact.

Until I try to raise my arms. The whole blouse hikes if I so much as park my hands on my hips (the view B on the envelope...with the hand on the hip...unh-unh. It'd be hiked on that side). I haven't managed to snag a photographer to post a picture; I will later, if I get the chance. The sleeves are binding like crazy. This is probably my biggest fitting frustration at the moment; I haven't made very many blouses lately but it seems to be a recurring theme...sleeves that bind. In this case, bind badly.

I did make one blouse back before Christmas that didn't bind in the arms...Butterick 5208 (click the link to see the review). So I thought I'd do a little investigation and compared the ok Butterick pattern to the binding Vogue (the Vogue is on top):

The shoulders are about the same width in both patterns, which is actually slightly extended. The Vogue pattern has a higher, curvier underarm than the Butterick. But the big difference is in the sleeve cap. Look at how much narrower the Vogue cap is than the Butterick...no wonder it binds.

And why didn't I do this check before I cut the blouse out???? I might add that the sleeve went into the Vogue blouse with NO easing at all. I put the ease lines in but didn't have to adjust them. (To be truthful, there was a spot on each sleeve -- I think it was the top of the back -- where I felt like I was stretching the armsecye slightly to fit the sleeve). I think it's just a bad draft all the way around.

I'm really at the bottom of the sleeve fitting learning curve; I do not want to drop the armsceye on the Vogue blouse because this blouse will likely be worn under jackets w/a high armsecye; I need to seriously reshape the sleeve cap and narrow the shoulder on the blouse so that the armseye seam hits at the pivot point of my arm (right now it's about 1/2" past it). However, I'm pretty much at square one on just how to go about doing that. Time to hit the books.

But...what about the SWAP blouse? I think I'll go ahead and finish it for now;I can wear it and it looks good...I just have to keep my arms down ;). I've got plenty of fabric so I could cut another pair of sleeves (grumble, grumble), but I think I'm more likely to just take the sleeves off and bind the armholes and have a sleeveless scrunch neck blouse.

I'll make up my mind on that later. Meantime, I gotta get the SWAP finished. I did get the knit twinset cut out last night; I'm putting household chores on hold for the day just to see if I can get anything close to done with it.

ETA: Ok, I have some pretty pathetic attempts at self-photography, but you can sort of see what's going on with the blouse in these photos (click on the link, then use the 'next' arrow to see the other two) Grey Blouse


  1. I have a similar problem a lot. I have heavy arms, always have, always will, no matter what weight I happen to reside in at any given moment.

    I notice the Vogue pattern armscye is high like the other one but a little curvier, so you will need a curvier sleeve cap, but I would add about 10 to 15 % for easing if possible and cut the pattern apart and and extra fabric in the cap itself. If 15% extra is not enough, add the width you need and taper down to 15% at the seamline where the sleeve is eased into the cap.

    I'm still learning about sleeves but I am a little further along. I don't think lowering the armscye alone will fix this. A high armscye should fit. Some patterns are just cut for women with skinny arms. Unfortunately that has never been me. If you need any help I can try.

  2. Thanks, Mardel. I'm not sure it's a 'skinny arm draft'...the sleeve is plenty big enough *around* my arm. Somehow it's not hooked to the blouse body right. I'm pretty sure I need a taller and wider sleeve cap; but I'm not quite sure what to do about the underarm part of the sleeve. I really think it's hooking into the blouse too far down for a fitted-type sleeve; an unfitted sleeve (like the Butterick) can go that low, but I don't want to turn the fitted sleeve into an unfitted sleeve....arrgh! I want to figure this one out...it's been making me reluctant to sew blouses for a while now.

  3. Lisa,

    I think you're right on not lowering the armscye. That will just make it bind in a new way. From the back it looks like the shoulders are too wide, but it's hard to tell. Here's a link to something that might really help. It's a post from Fashion-Incubator called Sleeve Cap Ease is Bogus. She goes into a lot about cap shape that's helpful.

  4. Thanks for that link, Liana. Kathleen posted that back when I was consumed with costuming last fall and I guess I missed it...or read it and forgot. I should've thought to search her site, though. I think part of the problem with this sleeve is that it is drafted to be eased but it's not big enough to ease. I'll have to see if I can get it shifted around like the example Kathleen had (that's another muslin, another day, though)

  5. Hey Lisa
    I'd recommend trying a smaller armhole first. Raise the armhole rather than lowering it. Can you graft the armhole and sleeve of the pattern that does work, onto this pattern?

  6. I'd do that, Kathleen, if I had a fitted sleeve that works; the Butterick pattern that I compared it to really is a looser style. I suppose I could use it in a pinch, but that would be a dropped, less shapely sleeve. I'd really like to have a fitted sleeve here...the transition from fitted at the top to full at the cuff *should* look really nice.