How To Sew Sleeves Into Knitted and Crocheted Garments So They Always Line Up
Generally speaking, sewing set-in sleeves into a knitted or crocheted garment is a little more art than science. The shapes do not precisely mirror each other as shown by the drawing on the right. This means you can’t match seams stitch to stitch as you do on the body or arm. Instead the pieces must be eased into each other with a little finesse.
Now you can seam the arm and body separately then set-in the sleeve. Or you can set-in the sleeve first then close the arm and body in one continuous seam. It really doesn’t matter which method you choose as long as the centers match up at the top of the shoulder and at the bottom of the armhole. Sounds simple, right? Not always.
Starting at the bottom doesn’t always work
Your first inclination may be to begin joining the sleeve to the body at the bottom – just under the arm. Makes usually sense because the sleeve’s initial bind off will match the initial bind armhole bind off on the body. In fact, those bind off edges may be the only part of the curves that match precisely. But I discovered (the hard way) that the bottom up strategy doesn’t always work. When working with slippery fabrics constructed from silk, bamboo, or even fine merino or heavy fabrics constructed with chunky yarn, the center of the sleeve may slide out of place while you’re attaching the sleeve from the bottom up. So by the time you reach the top of the sleeve the centers no longer match. Unfortunately this can happen even if you’ve “pinned” the sleeve in place with stitch markers in advance. The only thing to do in this situation is pull the seam out and start over. And that’s no fun at all.
The solution… Start at the top
By starting at the top of the sleeve, you guarantee the most visible parts will match up exactly. Join the center top of the sleeve to the body first, then work down to the underarm on either side. (See the drawing on the left.) This method will also increase the likelihood that everything will match up at the underarm, but don’t worry too much if it doesn’t. If there is going to be any degree of fudging, you want it to take place at the underarm rather than the more visible shoulder area.
For best results, bring up both ends of the seaming yarn up at the center top of the armhole on the body so you’ll have enough yarn to work the seam down both sides. Mattress stitch should suffice. But if you want to make doubly certain, use this method to lightly baste the sleeve in first with waste yarn. Then work a more secure seam using back stitch or crocheted slip stitch.
So if you’re having trouble getting your set in sleeves to line up, try this method. You’ll get great results every time.
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