Wide-Bicep Sleeve Adjustment Tutorial

In my Farrow Dress post I mentioned an adjustment I use to make a sleeve piece wider without altering the length of the sleeve cap seamline OR altering the bodice pieces.

The normal sleeve adjustment tutorials I’ve seen widen the bicep area but also lengthen the sleeve cap seamline which means you either have to ease in the extra length into the armhole (which can be difficult) or adjust the bodice pieces one of two ways:

By widening the bodice at the underarm point:

This can disrupt the fit of the bodice, however, not good.

Or, by lowering the armhole to add more overall length to match the sleeve seamline.

This can actually reduce your range of motion – also not good.

 

Instead, I use a different method that works on SOME pattern styles.

This method widens the bicep area, widens the upper arm area of the sleeve cap, and lowers the top of the sleeve cap.

Lowering a sleeve cap has the added benefit of giving your arm more range of motion BUT there’s a caveat – if you lower it too much you’ll start getting fabric bunching under your arms. You need to find a balance that works for you!

Because of this, this method works best on a sleeve piece that has a TALL sleeve cap because if your original sleeve cap is short to begin with, you may experience the “bunching” side effect.

(Tall sleeve cap vs short sleeve cap.)

Ikat Bag has an excellent blog post all about sleeves. Cannot recommend this post highly enough! Check out the “box” section for details on how different sleeve cap heights function in real life.

You will need:

  • Your original sleeve piece
  • Tracing paper and pencil
  • Measuring tape and/or a flexible ruler like this one

Step 1: Trace

Trace your original sleeve piece. You may want to trace without seam allowances to make this easier. If you leave the SA on, be sure to include it in your measurement calculations!

Step 2: Measure

Measure the length of the sleeve cap itself. Make note of this number.

Measure your bicep and compare it to the width of the sleeve. You want 1-2″ inches of ease depending on the type of fabric.

For example, on my Farrow Dress, my bicep measurement was the exact same as the sleeve measurement. I knew that would be too tight so I decided to add 1.25″ in total width.

Whatever width you choose to add, divide that measurement in half. So if it’s 1″ – divide by half to equal 0.5″.

Step 3: Widen the sleeve

Widen both sides of the bicep area (right below the sleeve cap) by your half-measurement from Step 2. You can widen all the way to the hem or grade to the original hem.

Step 4: Lower the sleeve cap

Measure down from the shoulder point about a half inch (or more or less depending on the height of the sleeve cap, this is more of an art than an exact science) and re-draw the very top of the sleeve cap curve.

Step 4: Re-draw the cap curve

Here’s where the measuring tape/flexible ruler comes into play. You want to maintain the original length of the sleeve cap seamline. Widening the bicep made it longer but lowering the shoulder point made it shorter. This should even out the differences in length adjustments.

Use the tape/ruler to draw a new sleeve cap seamline by connecting the underarm points to the shoulder point. You’ll notice the sides of the cap itself will end up wider than on the original sleeve. This will also give you a little extra width in your upper arm area. Bonus points!

Step 5: Cut new sleeve piece

Transfer markings (and add back seam allowance if you removed it earlier) and cut out the new sleeve piece. Don’t forget to label your new piece with all your adjustments!

Let’s review the changes to the pattern:

If you measured correctly, your sleeve cap seamline length should be the same as the original but the shape will be different.

The sleeve cap is lower and wider than the original. The overall width of the sleeve is increased.

You now have more space for your arms as well as slightly increased range of motion.

All without any adjustments to the bodice!

This method may not be the best choice for all sleeve patterns but it’s one option you can use to get a better fit.

Cat Print Grainline Alder Dress

Cat Print Alder Dress

I don’t know why it took me so long to make this pattern – it’s a fantastic pattern, as I would expect from Grainline. Maybe it’s the fact that I don’t often wear sleeveless tops/dresses? Although, this dress may be the one that breaks that habit.

Cat Print Alder Dress

This’ll be a short and sweet post. Not much to say about this dress other than praise. It’s not very fitted at the waist so I like the scooped side hem. The shorter length in the front and sides helps balance out the looseness, I think.


Cat Print Alder Dress

Cat Print Alder Dress

The pattern is Grainline’s Alder dress and I made no significant changes to fit or design other than slightly adjusting the pocket placement.

Cat Print Alder Dress

Jen at Grainline is a genius when it comes to armholes – she drafts them perfect every time. No gaping, no pulling, not too low or too high. And the armscye works for everyone – even if you need to do an FBA/SBA on her patterns, you don’t have to mess with those armholes. It’s like the Goldilocks armhole.

Cat Print Alder Dress

This cute print is from Stitch Lab here in Austin. It’s a quilting cotton but it works well for this pattern. The little round kitties on this print are so much fun – it’s like wearing Neko Atsume on your body.

The simple plastic buttons are from my stash.

Cat Print Alder Dress

I always get compliments on it when I wear it because of the print. People love cats!

Sewaholic Cypress Cape

Sewaholic Cypress Cape
I’m back from my trip to Hot Springs National Park. Unfortunately, it didn’t rain so I never got to use my newest creation while I was there – hence we get some moldy-backyard-fence-photos of my Cypress Cape.

Sewaholic Cypress Cape

The Sewaholic Cypress Cape is essentially a gussied up rain poncho but it has some nice features that made me want to sew it – semi-circle sleeves for range of movement, those awesome back pleats, pockets, and options for fun piping in the body and hood seams.

Sewaholic Cypress Cape

Fabric is the same as my Prefontaine Shorts – a supplex nylon in Pewter from Rockywoods.com. It’s the perfect fabric for this pattern – lightweight, breathable but water resistant (rain just beads up and rolls off), drapey and with a slight texture.

Sewaholic Cypress Cape

Sewaholic Cypress Cape

Best of all – it’s cheap! Only $6/yd which is a big deal ’cause this pattern uses FOUR YARDS. And they ain’t kidding about that amount. Yes, I had some fabric left over but those big, awkward, semi-circle pieces make cutting the fabric efficiently a challenge. You need those four yards.

Sewaholic Cypress Cape

The flat-lined piping is some “safety yellow” from the Joann utility fabric section (it matches my shoe laces!).

Sewaholic Cypress Cape

I made an executive decision to nix the velcro on the zipper flap. The only velcro I could find locally was black and I didn’t like the look of it exposed next to the gray fabric if I wore the cape unzipped. If it’s not windy the flap stays flat anyway and if it’s both raining and super windy out, well, I shouldn’t be running around in hurricanes, should I?

Sewaholic Cypress Cape

My only complaints in this design are the hood and the pockets. The pockets are unnecessarily fussy and the hood facing wants to flop out even though it’s understitched.

Sewaholic Cypress Cape

This brings me to some notes I took while assembling. This pattern is labeled as “advanced” and there were some things I wish I had considered before beginning.

Cypress Cape Sewing Notes

  1. If your fabric is very light weight, support the welt pocket opening with some stay tape when you attach the pocket bag.
    • Better yet – skip the pockets. If you’re already wearing a bag or have pockets on your clothes, the cape itself is roomy enough you can just stick your mit up under the hem and reach your phone from your pants pocket.
    • If you must have pockets, might I suggest converting them to inseam pockets. The seam will support the pocket weight without the need to cut an entirely new hole in the fabric. You can even sew the pocket flaps in that seam as well. Save you lots of time and hassle…
  2. The cape looks roomy but if you know you need to make an FBA with Sewaholic patterns (as they are designed for a pear shape with an A-cup) make the FBA with this pattern, too. Only the back and the sleeves are roomy – the panels under the sleeves and the front sections are snug to the body.
  3. Flat fell every seam possible to help flatten those seams allowances, especially if you’re adding piping.
  4. Often times you’ll be sewing through several layers of fabric so pin carefully and check your stitching as you go, especially around the curved neckline.
  5. Tack the hood facing to the hood along the two seams at the top of the head (you can stitch in the ditch or sew along the topstitching). Unless you want stitching to show, this is the only area where you can secure the facing – it does want to flop out, even though it is under-stitched and attached at the neckline.
    • You know what – scratch all that – just fully line the hood and be done with it.
  6. As you are sewing the front zippered sections to the facings and the neckline, pay attention to the direction your zipper teeth are pointing. In order to correctly create the folded flap that covers the zipper, those teeth need to point out a certain way, and it may not always be the direction you think they ought to go. Look very closely at the instruction illustrations for help. (This was a common note in the few reviews that I read – that the zipper section is confusing.)
  7. This is the kind of pattern where it is important to follow the order of assembly exactly, otherwise you might get confused when it comes to tricky bits like the welt pockets or making the zipper flaps attach to the hood. Don’t skip around or you may end up accidentally sewing on your velcro bits too late and have random square stitching show up on the visible outer layer of the garment…

Sewaholic Cypress Cape

In the end I think it’s worth all the head scratching and work. Plus, what other item of handmade clothing is going to make you feel like a flying squirrel?!?Sewaholic Cypress Cape

While it doesn’t rain much here in Texas I plan to use this garment on future hiking trips to more rainy locales. It’s a piece I can keep in my wardrobe for many years – the kind of thing I’ll be glad I have when I really need it. That makes all the sewing struggle worth it and I’ll rarely ever find an off-the-rack rain poncho as stylish as this.

Made with Moxie Prefontaine Shorts

Made with Moxie Prefontaine Shorts

 

More activewear sewing! Several weeks ago I began using a Couch to 5k running app to help build up my endurance for some big upcoming hikes. Now, don’t get me wrong – I’m no runner. Really, I’m extra slow. And I have no intention of signing up for a half marathon or anything. For me, running is mainly a good excuse to be outdoors. I work from home so I’m stuck inside most of the time.

I tried this same app a few years ago and stalled out on week 6 of 8 so this time around I’m hoping to do better…

With all this extra activity I figured I could use more gear so I sewed up some Made with Moxie Prefontaine Shorts.

Made with Moxie Prefontaine Shorts

About halfway through sewing these I realized the Prefontaines are essentially the same as my Movies in the Park Shorts but with an elastic waist and felt a little silly about buying a whole new pattern when I could have simply adapted one I already had but oh, well.

 

 

Made with Moxie Prefontaine Shorts

Turns out, I’m glad I got this pattern as it’s quite good. I appreciated the little tips here and there in addition to the full FAQ section. The full instructions on making your own bias tape would be helpful for a newbie. There are two options for attaching the waistband, which is nice (I went with a simple casing).

I liked the option for making the inseam shorter (which I did – my shorts are about halfway between the 5″ and the 1.5″ length variations).

Made with Moxie Prefontaine Shorts

I didn’t add the back welt pockets to my shorts but the pattern included some of the better welt instructions that I’ve seen (yay for one piece pockets!).

While the text instructions were clear, I would have preferred the sample fabric in the photos to be a solid rather than a busy print. Sometimes I found it difficult to understand the pictures as the stitching blended into the fabric.

I also enjoyed the little mini bio on the pattern’s famous namesake.

Made with Moxie Prefontaine Shorts

The main fabric is a taslan nylon from Rockywoods.com, leftover from a yet-to-be-blogged project. I had just enough to eek out these shorts. I used a fine mesh fabric that I originally bought for swimsuit material from some spandex warehouse in Dallas. I liked the contrast of the hot pink on gray.

I used a fine mesh fabric that I originally bought for swimsuit material from some spandex warehouse in Dallas. I liked the contrast of the hot pink on gray.

Made with Moxie Prefontaine Shorts

 

 

The shorts themselves came together in just a short afternoon – and that includes the time I took to run to the fabric store to buy thread and elastic!

The pockets are stitched to the front layer of fabric so they stay in place permanently and don’t flop around – good for running.

Made with Moxie Prefontaine Shorts

(btw you might recognize this shirt as my SJ Tee from a few weeks ago – the sunlight helps see the details and seam lines better in these pics)

Now if only I could force myself to wake up earlier in the morning. It’s getting way to hot now during the day to be out running!