Fun with Fit part 6: Sleeves and finishing up

Massive apologies to anyone who has been following along with this Fun With Fit series and waiting for this final instalment. The unforgivably long gap since part 5 is down to various unavoidable life changes but nevertheless you have my sincerest apologies! Now lets talk sleeves…

Having fitted our armscyes last time we are now ready to attach some sleeves.  Be sure that you still have that 2.5cm or 1″ space between the side of your body and your calico toile at underarm level before doing this bit… if you try to add a sleeve to a garment that fits any more closely than this you will have trouble moving your arms and all kinds of unpleasant pulling across your back. Because we have more than likely made changes to the shape and size of our armscye by this point we need to take some measurements before continuing. The Butterick sleeve included obviously fits the original unaltered bodice armscye. We need to make sure that we apply any necessary changes to the sleeve-head before continuing in order for it to correspond with any changes we have made to the armscye. Before we take any measurements there is one alteration we will want to do first. If you have raised or lowered the armscye on your bodice you need to replicate this on your sleeve.  This is very simple and can be seen in the photos below.

To adjust your sleeve to match a raised armscye on your bodice extend both the side seams of your sleeve the distance by which you raised your armscye and draw in a new curve. Make sure you are doing this adjustment on the stitching lines and ignoring the seam allowances at this point.


Once you have drawn in your new curve you can go ahead and re-draw in your seam allowances and strike through the old lines to save future confusion if you wish:


If you have lowered the armscyes on your bodice  measure down from the top of your sleeve side seams the amount by which you lowered your armscyes on your bodice and draw in your new curve to this point as in the photo below. Be sure to be doing this to the stitching lines on both side seams of your sleeves and ignoring your seam allowances at this point.


Once you have drawn in your new lowered curve you can go ahead and re-draw in your new seam allowances as below:


Now that our sleeve armscyes match our bodice armscyes we can begin measuring! The amount of ease allowance in the butterick sleeve is 4.6cm or 13/16″ this means your sleevehead should measure approximately this much more than your bodice armscye. I actually prefer less ease than this in my sleeveheads, more like 3cm so feel free to use slightly less ease but I wouldn’t recommend anymore than the 4.6cm or you may well end up having trouble sewing your sleeves in smoothly without puckers or gathers. To see if your sleevehead needs altering we are going to begin by measuring our adjusted bodice armscye. To do this use a tape measure held on it’s side and slowly guide it around the curve of your bodice armscye front and then back. This measuring technique is shown in the photo below. Make sure you are measuring along the stitching line and not including the seam allowance in your measurement. As measuring the curve can be a little fiddly you may wish to do it more than once just to be sure you have it spot on. Add your front and back bodice armscye measurements together for your total armscye measurement.


Next you need to follow this approach and measure your Butterick sleevehead, once again along the stitching line. Once you have both measurements you can compare and see whether you have the correct amount of ease in your sleeve. To adjust the sleeve to fit the armscye (if necessary) we will be using a familiar slash and spread or slash and overlap approach. Write down the measurement by which you need to increase or decrease your sleevehead. Divide this measurement by two as we will be adding/subtracting this amount in two places either side of the central shoulder point on the sleevehead to keep things balanced. Next draw two  vertical lines at right angles from the bicep line up to the sleevehead, one either side of the shoulder point (large circle marked on pattern sleevehead) as below:


Cut across the bicep line from each side seam and up these new vertical lines in an L shape. Mark your divided measurement out or in from these lines along the sleevehead and keeping the pattern piece perfectly level at the bicep line move your cut pattern pieces so that the sleevehead meets these markings. In the image below I have shown both an overlap (right) and spread (left) for reference but you will obviously be performing the same on both sides!


Using your tape measure on its side one again measure your sleevehead and double check that it is now the correct size for your bodice armscye (not forgetting the ease allowance in the sleeve).

The next adjustment we need to make to our sleeve is a vertical pre-adjustment. You will notice that on the Butterick sleeve you have an elbow dart and an elbow line. Before we make any other adjustments to the width of our sleeve we want to ensure that this line and the dart are at the right height for our own elbow. Just like with all our previous vertical pre-adjustments we are going to measure this area on our body and then on our pattern. The easiest way to do this on your body is by putting on your calico toile which is currently without sleeves. This way you can use the armscye stitch line (where the sleeve will eventually be attached) that is marked on your bodice as a reference, otherwise you will be guessing where this point  is on your body. Measure from this line down to your elbow and make a note of this measurement. I can’t show a photo of this on the dressform as I have done with the other body measurements as Miss Dressform does not have any arms! Next take this same measurement on the sleeve pattern as pictured below (green line):


If this distance is too short or too long for your own body, lengthen or shorten your sleeve pattern by slashing and spreading the required amount along the lengthen/shorten line that is above the elbow line on your sleeve pattern piece. I have shown an example of both these adjustments below:

To lengthen between shoulder point and elbow slash and spread along the lengthen/shorten line above elbow line:


To shorten between shoulder point and elbow slash and overlap along lengthen/shorten line above the elbow line:


After you have slash and spread/overlapped you will likely need to true up the side seams so that they are once again a smooth straight line between the bicep line and the elbow line. You can see that I have done this in the photo above, it is just a case of drawing in a new straight line (dark green line on side seam).

Once we have done this we want to make a tracing of our sleeve pattern piece with all the adjustments we have made and then cut out and mark up our calico sleeves. Be absolutely sure to mark on your grainlines on your calico with a nice clear pen as these will be very important in assessing the fit of our sleeves once they are on the body. Sew up your elbow dart and sew the sleeves to your bodice following the Butterick directions. Once you have your sleeves attached  you can try on your toile to assess the fit of the sleeves. Turn to page seven of your Butterick instructions and work your way through their various fitting assessments to see if any apply to you. The grainline that you marked on  your sleeves should be hanging perpendicular to the floor if there is enough room in the circumference of your sleeves for your arms. If your sleeves are too tight then this grainline will not be hanging straight and will be being pulled so it is a very helpful tool in assessing the fit. If you need to add or remove fullness from the circumference of your sleeves you can do so by either following the approach on page 7 of your Butterick  instructions or it is also common practise to add or reduce the width of the sleeves at elbow or wrist  level at the side seams. Below I have shown how you would do this in photos.

Adding width at elbow level or wrist level at the side seams:


Removing width at elbow level or wrist level at the side seams:


Once you have your sleeves fitting as they should width wise you can finish off by checking that the length is correct. Turn under your hem allowance to where you wish your sleeve to end, mark this on your calico and then transfer this marking to your paper pattern.

This concludes all the fitting of our toiles! Hooray! If you haven’t been making fresh tracings of each pattern piece as they were adjusted you will want to do this now so that you don’t have messy flaps of paper and sellotape to contend with when you come back to your pattern at a later date. Once you have nicely traced pattern pieces you can go ahead and reduce the giant seam allowances included by Butterick to a standard 1.5cm or 5/8″ all around.

I really hope that you have enjoyed this Fun with Fit series and that maybe it will have helped you gain a more general understanding of your own personal  fitting requirements. In future when working with commercial sewing patterns you will likely find that you are making the same fit adjustments over and over again. Personally I know that I always need to add length to bodices between shoulder and bust point and that I always need to raise the armscyes and so I do these pre-adjustments before making up any toiles. Knowing the kinds of adjustments you need to make rally makes the fitting process so much quicker and less stressful.



If you are interested in doing any of your own pattern cutting you now essentially have what should be a very well fitting block. The only difference between your paper pattern pieces and a block is that blocks don’t include seam allowances. This is because pattern cutting is far more straightforward without having the added confusion of seam allowance lines so seam allowances are always added onto projects at the end. So in order to make this adjusted fitting shell pattern into your basic block you just want to trace off each pattern piece without seam allowances (but including all markings) and stick the paper pattern pieces onto thin card trimming the card to meet the edges of the paper. Use a stiletto or punch to make little holes at important internal markings like the head of darts and the bust point etc… this will make it easy to mark these points onto paper when tracing the blocks for pattern cutting projects. Below I have listed some of my favourite pattern cutting books that you could use your new blocks with!

Metric Pattern Cutting For Womenswear by Winifred Aldrich

Pattern Cutting for Lingerie, Beachwear and Leisurewear by Ann Haggar

Designing Patterns A Fresh Approach To Pattern Cutting by Hilary Campbell (VERY clear and simple for beginners)

As always please leave any questions below, thanks for reading and happy fitting!

7 responses to “Fun with Fit part 6: Sleeves and finishing up”

  1. Phew! I bet you’re glad you’ve reached the end. I haven’t been following the series myself (too lazy) but I’m sure you’ve helped lots of people with your helpful posts.

  2. Thank you so much for the final instalment in your fitting series. I have found it so helpful :). You really do not need to apologise, in fact I think that your loyal readers would fully understand if you hadn’t managed to do this for us, but you have – and it is wonderfully detailed. Thank you again! Sending you best wishes, Gilly

  3. This series has been extremely useful; your approach has made the whole fitting process much clearer for this reader! Thanks so much for completing the project in light of your life changes. Best wishes, Sue.

  4. This has been a really helpful exercise, thank you Ami for all your efforts. I have a query: how do I adjust the sleeve for a small armscye but larger than average bicep (bingo wings, yay!)?

  5. thank you so much for this series – I have thoroughly enjoyed every single paragraph. Whilst I knew a lot of what you have covered it was an enjoyable process to go through it and learn those extra tips and tricks that were new to me. and even though you prepared this series in 2015 – note that I am still using the information in 2017 and I am sure it will be very helpful well into the future

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