Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Sew a Smarter Short Sleeve for a Thinner Younger You

Lose 10 pounds and look 10 years younger through sewing! Give any short-sleeve a shorter length and shaped hem for a younger, more flattering shape without sacrificing comfort. A self-facing will keep the sleeve's shape through washing & wearing and result in a smooth, no visible hem stitching look. 

          How old is that woman?
Why Coco, you've lost weight!           

Above on the left is a basic short sleeved Tee I made a few months ago made from an extremely soft and fluid rayon jersey I found when rummaging through the remnant bin at Britex, San Francisco.  There was just enough to make a Basic Tee.  The original sleeve depth measured 13" finished, and I admit, that is a bit long.  Add that to the ever-growing nature that is rayon jersey and by the end of the day not only were the sleeves down past my elbows, the entire shirt seemed to grow exponentially into a tunic by 5pm.  Not to mention the hems on the sleeves always wrinkled in the wash and required ironing.  Oh, like I have time to iron Tee shirts.  It also had the added insult to injury of making me look not only 10 pounds heavier, but 10 years older.  Who needs that?  I decided to remove the sleeves to trim the sleeve depth and stabilize its droop by adding a fully faced sleeve.   Here's how I did it:

I removed the original sleeves, marked the back double-notch of each with a safety pin on the WS [this is important, read on] and set them aside.  I opened up the bodice side seams and hem, leaving the shoulder seams and neckline intact.  I then re-sewed the original 1/4" side seams at 3/8" which removed 1/8" from each SA which equaled a 1/2" total reduction in bodice circumference.  I also cut 1" off the hem, then faced the new 1" hem with Emma Seabrooke's SewkeysE extremely fine clear 1" fusible tape for knits and re-hemmed it.  Because I re-sewed the side seams of the bodice, the new sleeves will now be inserted in the set-in method instead the flat method usually used when sewing with knits. No worries, setting-in knit sleeves is easy, just stretch to ease.  Right, on to the new sleeves.

The removed existing sleeves were placed RS to RS and given a press and stiffened with Sullivan's Fabric Stiffener so the sleeves would be more stable to work with while being re-cut.  Sullivan's is the bomb and every sewing notions cabinet should have a can handy.  No Sullivan's?  No problem, a few spritzs of spray starch will work, too. 

Using the original sleeve pattern, I drafted a shorter, more shaped sleeve to give the sleeve and the over-all look of the Tee a more youthful and slimmer look.  The sleevehead and width remained the same, only the length changed. I reduced the length to 6 1/2".  You can see the subtle curve in the hem in the photo below.  The curve sits in the valley where your deltoid and bicep muscles meet.  

New sleeve pattern.  You'll note how sheer the net is.
I re-cut the existing sleeves as only the length had changed, not the width or sleeve-head.  I then cut a second set of sleeves from a very fine and sheer black nylon lingerie net that has a crosswise stretch only, no lengthwise stretch.  This way the sleeve will still stretch around my deltoid muscles, but not grow in length as the day wears on.  Bloody brilliant thinking on my part if you ask me.  After cutting the net sleeves, I then shifted the pattern piece up 1/8" and cut this 1/8" off - see the photo below.  This set of net sleeves will be referred to as the sleeve facing. 
Shift pattern up 1/8th" and remove.
Matching the hem lines, sew the sleeve facing to the sleeves, RS to RS.  You will notice the facing armscye SAs are 1/8" shorter than the fashion fabric in this step.  

TopTip: Thread that extra machine of yours currently gather dust in the closet with Wash-A-Way Basting Thread.  Run your knit projects through prior to serging or ziz-zagging. It keeps everything stable and is a dream to work with. When pressing, be sure to use a dry iron, no steam or it'll shrink/dissolve.  It is washaway, so no water until you're ready to remove it. Be sure to wind a bobbin as well.  To remove, just spritz it with water or the lazy way like me, wet the finished project in the sink and toss it in the dryer.

Sew RS to RS.  Baste first to stabilze. You can just see that 1/8" difference in the armscye SAs.
Press the hem SA towards the facing.
Press seem towards sleeve hem facing
Because rayon jersey grows so much during wear, I understitched the SA on the facing hem with my machine's stretch stitch.  A zig-zag set at 1.5W x 2L will work,too.

Understich sleeve facing if needed for a droopy fabric like rayon.  That's a Pfaff 2036 Stitch in the Ditch foot.
Roll the facing up, matching the armscye SAs and give the sleeves a nice press.  Admire your handywork.  Go have a cookie.

Lookit how nice and smooth that hem is. I'm a genius. I deserve cake.
Open up the sleeves, match the hem seams and sew side seams.  A straight stitch is fine.
Sew sleeve side seams
They'll look like this.

Check your seam matching work.
Nip out that piece of SA on the side seam.
Remove bulk whenever possible.  
Press side seams open and fold over onto themselves rolling the facing to the inside and match the armscye seams and press.  Because 1/8" was removed from the facing length, the hem will roll up nicely to the inside with no visible hem stitching or facing peaking out.
Give the sleeves another press
Keeping the armscye SAs evenly matched, give the sleeves another basting around the armscyes just inside the SA to hold everything together while setting in the sleeves.
New fully faced sleeves with basting around armscye seams, ready to go in.
I then set in the sleeves, again basting them in first on the straight stitch machine with Wash-A-Way thread prior to running through the serger.  Et Voila!  

Pfft, those are gorgeous.

The Wash-A-Way basting holds everything nice and steady so I get a clean final serge-around.

I'm a bloody genius.  Did I mention that?
How neat and clean is that interior finish, huh?
10 pounds thinner and 10 years younger.
I've worn this Tee a few times now and there's been no drooping sleeves by the end of the day, the sleeves stay smooth and unwrinkled.  Removing some of the ease on the bodice also helped, even though it still did grow a tad, but not near as much as it used to.  The minor ease removal didn't make the bodice too tight so still camouflaged my usual pasta-for-lunch-tummy The SewkeysE fusible hem tape really, really helped hold the hem shape. Having the tape to assist in the hemming process made rolling and pressing it up very stable and it ran through the cover stitch machine beautifully, no pins needed.  If you use a double-needle to mimic a cover stitch, the SewkeysE tape will eliminate the tunneling double needles are famous for, thus keeping you sane.  You can view video of it in use for hems here.

Gaw, I can't believe I wore this in public.
And here's the same process in an ITY Tee, minus the sleeve hem understiching as ITY doesn't droop.  I really like the finished look of this sleeve and plan to use it anytime a pattern calls for a short sleeve.  It's a very flattering cut on my guns arms.

Deco Tee, Fabric: Hancock's Fabrics  It's still available, click the link.

So sew yourself a smarter shortsleeve and avoid the droop of matronly sleeved tees. The the best part is I emerged from Studio Savage looking 10 pounds thinner and 10 years younger. Proof positive sewing is good for you in all respects.  Now go have another cookie.


No, I do not receive compensation for promoting products.  I share info so you know the product used and where to find it.  Isn't the internet wonderful?!


  1. Great post which resonated with me as I've been noticing my sleeves are a frumpy length. I shall be reducing the length in future. I like the idea of lining them too!

    1. Sue, thanks very much. I have to say, this method is a game-changer. Try it on your next Presto!

  2. Fantastic tutorial. It's refreshing to read some advanced tips and tricks amongst all the 'same old' beginner tutorials out there. Keep 'em coming. I want to look 20 years younger!

    1. Thanks, Gorgeous! Except, 20 years younger? You wanna be 7 again? Well, being a kid does have merit - more cookies were allowed then . . .

  3. Great idea on the curve to flatter one's guns. And lining to eliminate wrinkles and hemming. Love it. Keep the ideas coming.

  4. Great post. I can't believe the difference it made to your top. I have some droopy sleeves that need the treatment, too. Thank you.

  5. Brilliant idea!! I have recently finished making a rayon jersey long sleeve top myself. Thanks again for the amazing idea.