Flat Assembly Method for Attaching A Sleeve with a Cuff, or How to Avoid a Set-In Sleeve on a Standard Shirt

Flat Assembly Method for Attaching A Sleeve with a Cuff: If a cuff and sleeve placket are involved you have to construct a set-in sleeve.   So I have been told.

Rebuttal: No you don’t.

Others who love to set-in a sleeve can do so to their hearts content, but for me, it is flat assembly whenever possible.

My hatred of the set-in sleeve engendered this little brainstorm.  Those of you handy at sewing blouses may already be doing this, but if you are, then there are a lot of us home-sewers at our machines using this technique and the pattern companies and sewing manuals are completely in the dark. 

Here is a run-through of the covert operations.

1) I sew my bodice, but of course, do not sew up the side seams.

2) I take my sleeve and sew the placket

Now here is where I part ways with most sewing manuals.  Most pattern instructions tell you:

  • sew the underarm of the sleeve
  • sew the side seams of the bodice
  • attach the two using a set-in technique
  • then attach the cuff to the nearly finished shirt.

The instructions tell you that because there is a physical fact of cuffs that must be dealt with.  Plackets do not lie in the side seams.  Most of the time the placket is a cut into the body of the sleeve.  The cuff does not go from side seam to side seam – it runs from placket opening to placket opening.  

Here you can see the cuff encloses the underarm seam and instead runs from placket opening to placket opening. The placket is not part of the underarm seam, it is a separate cut into the body of the sleeve.

Therefore the underarm seam must be sewn and finished before applying the cuff.

Or must it?

Must we sew the entire underarm seam?

I don’t.

3) Instead, I sew only three to four inches of the underarm seam coming up from the wrist. 

I sew three to four inches of the underarm seam closed at the wrist and then attach the cuff down to finishing details like topstitching and buttonholes. I leave most of the underarm seam open.

 4) Attach cuff: I don’t have to drag an entire blouse behind me as I attach the cuff. I attach it right then and there working with just the sleeve itself.

5) Sew sleeve to bodice: The wrist portion is in the round, but the sleeve cap is flat. I do flat assembly to the bodice shoulder. (One word of warning – As your sleeve has this cuff dangling from the end it can be harder to see right sides. Double and triple check you are right sides together at the shoulder and sleeve cap. )

Sleeve sewn into armscye flat assembly.


Here is what it looks like from the right side. You can see the completed cuff that is in the round and the flat shoulder seam with the upper underarm seams left open.

6) Now I have only to sew up the rest of the underarm and the bodice sides.  Sometimes there is a little discrepancy in fabric lengths.  At those times I decide between three solutions:

  • Using the feed dogs to ease excess.
  • Living with a tiny mismatch at the underarm.
  • Going ahead and taking some excess in at the armpit part of the armscye.  (Most often I don’t have to go this far.)

I sew from the joined portion at the wrist to the armpit and down the side seams.

This method has allowed me to have my cake and eat it too.  I can have flat assembly and still create standard oxford style shirts which I used to avoid for fear of the set-in.

Does anyone else use this method? 

Next Post: Tuesday, November 22, 2010: Vogue 7700 Basic Oxford:Pattern Review


It’s Costume Week and a Quick Tip in Getting Help Cutting Patterns

Once again the annual making of the Halloween costume.  My daughter wants to be a Littlest Pet Shop Frog.  I am using Butterick 3238 with some alterations.  I will show you the costume when complete.

Butterick 3238 Halloween Costume


The thing is – these costume patterns have a gazillion parts. And it isn’t exactly the kind of sewing I so anticipate that I am willing to make my peace with laborious pattern cutting.

So this year I decided to enlist some help.  Though only five years old, my daughter has very good fine-motor skills.  My mother-in-law sometimes hands me back one of DD crafts and says, “Why she cut that better than I would have!”

Having grown up on a farm I have taken on that old-time country mindset.  Farm families do not only celebrate the skills of their members, they also consider how that persons skills can benefit the whole family.   Then they put you to work!

It was time for DD to help in cutting out her Halloween costume pattern.  But it was multi-size and I did not think that she could follow the sizing accurately.

Thence I have a tip for you.  I marked the size lines with highlighter before handing the piece over to her for cutting.

Highlight the pattern on the size lines you want. That way another person can help cut out the tissue pattern even if you want to vary your size grading for fit.

She has her own very short bladed sewing shears that she is allowed to use under my supervision.  And the best thing of all, what I typically find to be a bit of a chore, she found to be a delightful exercise in some “big girl” activities.

Here she is cutting.

Little hands are so cute.

So next time when you are sewing something at a family member’s request you might want to consider enlisting them in cutting the pattern.  All it takes is a few moments on your part and a highlighter!

Next P0st: Thursday, October 28, 2010: I Hope to Have the Costume Done and Ready for Showing

Pattern Review Delayed:Quick Tip Instead – Use Safety Pins When Fitting a Child

My Apology:The Pattern Review is Delayed

My daughter and I have caught a bug.  Though we are under the weather I thought I could finish up Butterick 3457 and post a pattern review today.   

That does not look like it is going to happen so I will have to delay the review until Thursday.

My Quick Tip

But not to be caught without anything to share – I have been fitting my daughter in pants recently and I have remembered a trick.  My daughter cannot stand still for a fitting and I kept getting cross with her for fear she stick herself with a pin.

Use a safety pin to adjust fit on a child.

No tears over a pin-stick, no worries about getting the pin-fitted garment back over her head, and best of all, a mommy who is no longer cross 🙂

Next Post: Thursday, October 21, 2010:The Pattern Review I Promised:Butterick 3457

Good Advice:Garment Labels, Sewing for Clients, Subscription Patterns and Pinning

Fall is my favorite season and with my daughter entering kindergarten and my husband teaching, September is when our family gets back into the  groove.  Since schooldays are about learning new things,  I thought I would end the month with some great tips harvested from other home-sewing bloggers. 

DIY Labels

I want to label my home-sewn creations but have always been too lazy, too cheap or too strapped to mass order from those few companies that offer tags to home-sewers.  And, if you, like me, find their cookie cutter designs hokey then check out  Kristy of Sydney, Australia who offers a great DIY version for making garment labels at her blog  lower your presser foot.  I just bought a new printer and can’t wait to gather my supplies and tinker with different fonts and designs to make my own personalized tags.

Where to Buy Individual Burda or Ottobre Magazines

Longtime sewing enthusiast Gwen from All My Seams passes along some websites where you can buy single copies of Burda or Ottobre Woman magazine.  Additionally she offers the site where you can view the patterns from the Ottobre magazine to help you decide if you want to purchase.  I can’t get either of these sewing magazines at a local store but I am trepidatious about investing such a large of amount of money in their pricey subscriptions.  I love sewing and I love frugality and here they are in combination.  Thanks Gwen!

Sewing for Clients: Too Scared to Even Think About It?

 A lot of of us want to branch out  and earn a little extra income by sewing for others, but we hold back due to worries about pricing, managing time and the biggest worry for a lot of us, potential of hurt feelings if things don’t work out. TenThousandSewingHours blog-owner Victoria from Savannah, another self-confessed frugalista and a smashing home-sewer, offers terrific advice on how to think about your business process before you take on your first client.  So get out your notebooks and sketch out where you can apply Victoria’s methods as she goes into detail about her own client sewing.  Process, practicalities and client management: she talks about it all!

Pinning into the Cutting Board

Sometimes a small tip becomes one we use time and time again.   Every time I use this one, which has become nearly every time I cut out a pattern, I have to thank Dr. FunLoving, a wife, mom and doctor in Alabama and creator of the blog Living la vida loca, who sent this one to me in a comment.   In an earlier post I was amazed that the gridlines might have an actual use, other than just filling up what would be a tremendous amount of white space.   The doc pushed my tip up a notch by adding that not only can you use the lines to orient your cutting, you can actually pin into the board!  As I am self-taught, I have missed out on some of those pieces of small wisdom that turn out to be such a huge help. Great tip Sister!

As you can see, a lot has been learned this September.  I encourage you to check out these bloggers as this is just a smattering of all the great advice out there!

Next Post: Friday, October 1, 2010: Week 3 of the Stash Bash – How Far Have I Gotten?

Tip:Fold Pattern Pieces With the Info on Top

Patterns often have a lot of design options or include an entire ensemble wardrobe.  That makes for a gazillion pieces of tissue paper that you must cut, fold and then try to get back into the envelope as best as you can.  After shoving them all in you breathe a sigh of relief.   Then a few weeks, months, or . . . ahem . . . years pass and you get a siren’s call to sew up one of those designs. 

Now you have to pull out all of those crinkled tissues and unfold them to find the ones you need for your current garment.  This can be tedious.


But you can relieve yourself of some of the hassle by practicing one small step. 

After you initially cut the pattern pieces fold them so their info is on top before you place them back in the envelope.

You can clearly read that this is Piece #1 and the bodice front.

That’s it. 

When it comes time for you to pull your pieces out of the envelope you can quickly sort which ones you will need.

This small practice has helped prevent countless tissue paper tantrums in my life.

I hope, that in some small way, this tip is of service to you.

Next Post: Tuesday,April 27, 2010: Butterick 5041 Yoked Skirt:Pattern Review