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How to Set in A Sleeve


A set-in sleeve is a type of sleeve that is set into the armhole, rather than being cut as part of the bodice. The bodice is sewn so the armhole is a round opening, the sleeve is sewn as a tube and then the sleeve is set into the armhole. (That’s where the term set-in sleeves comes from, they are set in.) Set-in sleeves can be one-piece sleeves or two-piece sleeves. The sleeve pattern piece has a rounded curve at the top (called the sleeve cap) and narrows at the bottom. With set-in sleeves, the sleeve cap is shaped differently at the front of the armhole and the back of the armhole, so the left and right sleeves are not interchangeable.

Set-in sleeve on Robson Coat

Set-in sleeve on Robson Coat

Set-in sleeve

Set-in sleeve


Set-in sleeves are the best type of sleeve design for a close fit. Two-piece sleeves generally fit better than one-piece sleeves, as the sleeve seam curves along the natural shape of the arm. If you are making a tailored jacket or coat, look for a pattern with two-piece sleeves. One-piece sleeves work best for blouses and loose-fitting sleeves.

Tips + Notes

  • Use as many pins as you need when pinning the sleeve into the armhole. More pins will make it slower to sew, but you’ll be certain that the sleeve is in the right position.
  • If you have time, I recommend basting (page link) the sleeves into the armholes by hand. You’ll have greater control over easing in the fullness, and when you sew the sleeve in permanently, you won’t have to stop and remove the pins.
  • Sew the armhole seam with the sleeve side up, so you can check the gathers and make sure there are no puckers as you sew.


Construct the bodice so the armhole is ready for the sleeve. Sew the sleeve seam and press open. I like to hem my sleeves or attach cuffs (page link) before setting them in. But if you are not sure of the sleeve length, hem them after they are attached.

How to Set in A Sleeve (1)

Easestitch (page link) between the notches of the sleeve cap. Make two rows of easestitching, one just inside the seamline at ½” (1.3cm) and the other about ¼” (6mm) from the first row. For the demonstration, I left the sleeve seam open so it’s easy to see where the easestitching is sewn.

How to Set in A Sleeve (2)

With the right sides together, insert the sleeve into the armhole and match the notches. Have the sleeve turned right side out and the body inside out, with the side seam facing you. Match the underarm seams, match the shoulder seam to the sleeve notch, then work on distributing the fullness in between. Pull up the easestitching to remove the fullness between the notches. You can pull the inner row of stitching tighter than the outer row, to pull in the extra fullness.

How to Set in A Sleeve (3)

Baste (page link) the sleeve into the armhole, either by hand or by machine, and adjust as needed to remove any tucks in the sleeve fabric. Turn the sleeve right side out, and check for puckers along the sleeve cap. If there are puckers, remove the basting about 1″ (2.5cm) on either side of the pucker and restitch that section of the seam.

How to Set in A Sleeve (4)

Sew the sleeve into the armhole permanently. For unlined garments, finish the seam allowance and press toward the sleeve. If the garment will be lined, sew a second row of stitching ¼” (6mm) away from the first, inside the seam allowance. Trim the extra seam allowance outside the second row of stitching, and press lightly toward the sleeve. If any of the basting stitches are visible from the right side, carefully remove them with a seam ripper.

Source : The Sewtionary An A to Z Guide to 101 Sewing Techniques + Definitions
About the Author : Tasia ST. Germaine