How to "Flat Set" a Sleeve

If you follow me on Instagram, you know I've been working on quite the tailored coat project. I'm waiting for buttons to arrive so I can finish it, then I'll post about it here. While I wait, I'm going to make a couple of knit shirts, and I thought this tutorial might help if you're making them as well.

When sewing with knit tops, and some woven shirts as well, I often set sleeves in flat. In fact, that's the method most RTW manufacturers use, because it's faster. It's also quite easy. Here's how...

First, sew your bodice front and back pieces together at the shoulders.

You can see here that the notches (I used tailors tacks) line up pretty readily. Lay your sleeve on top of your garment body with right sides together and match up all the markings. I basted the seam here, which is optional. It only adds a few seconds to the construction time and it ensures that everything lines up properly.

You may have to stretch the armscye slightly as you sew to match all the notches.

Then stitch or serge your final seam.

Remove the basting, press your seam and then sew the side seams.

Setting a sleeve this way takes much less time than sewing the side seams, sewing the sleeve seam, then easing the sleeve to the garment that has traditionally been how pattern instructions have you do it. It works really well for knits. It also works pretty well for some stretch fabrics and patterns that have shallow sleeve caps. I wouldn't use it on a tailored blazer or a woven pattern with a high sleeve cap and lots of sleeve ease, but for simpler knitted garments, it's a great time saver. 

So give it a try, and happy sewing!


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