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How to Sew in Sleeve Heads


A sleeve head is a strip of padding sewn into the cap of a set-in jacket or coat sleeve to support the sleeve cap and round it out. The sleeve head is sewn along the top of the armhole seam. It extends into the sleeve and fills out the rounded top of the sleeve cap. Sleeve heads can be bought ready-made, or you can make your own from cotton batting, thick flannel, lambswool or even polar fleece in a pinch. Sleeve heads are used along with shoulder pads to build structure into the garment.

Purchased sleeve heads

Purchased sleeve heads

Sleeve head in wool coat

Sleeve head in wool coat


Sleeve heads are used in tailored, lined jackets with set-in sleeves (page link). They’re used in pairs with shoulder pads to add structure to a coat or jacket. When making tailored jackets, if you use a shoulder pad, you may want to use a sleeve head as well. It helps to hide the seam allowances at the top of the armhole and creates a smoother, rounder looking sleeve cap. The more structure you build into your coats and jackets, the better they will hold their shape over time. Are they necessary? Personally I’m in favor of anything that will improve the look of my projects and help them to keep their shape.

Tips + Notes

  • Not sure if your project needs sleeve heads? If it has shoulder pads and set-in sleeves, chances are it will look even better with the sleeve cap rounded out.
  • Make your own sleeve heads by cutting a 2″-wide (5cm) bias strip of lambswool or flannel. Cut two strips, each 9″ (22.8cm) long, one for each sleeve.
  • Polar fleece can work as a sleeve head if you don’t have any premade sleeve heads or lambswool on hand. Cut a strip as indicated and backstitch it in place. It’s a nontraditional option, but the thickness and softness of polar fleece will do the trick.


How to Sew in Sleeve Heads (1)

Fold in half lengthwise to find the center, and mark it with a pin.

How to Sew in Sleeve Heads (2)

Place the sleeve head in the sleeve cap. Line up the center marking with the shoulder seam, and line up one edge of the sleeve head with the armhole sleeve allowance. Pin the sleeve head into the armhole.

How to Sew in Sleeve Heads (3)

Starting at one end, sew the sleeve head in place through the sleeve seam allowance with a backstitch (page link). Make the backstitches about 3⁄8″ (1cm) long.

How to Sew in Sleeve Heads (4)

Here’s what the sleeve cap will look like with a sleeve head inserted: rounded and smooth.

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