On my latest wrap dress I wanted to do something different with the sleeve that was interesting but not too fussy. As I was trying to go to sleep one night, it hit me: taking the scarf sleeve and turning it around into a split sleeve! Still covered, still cool, just a little different. The pattern alterations are easy! You are basically splitting the sleeve straight down the shoulder line to the hem, removing the flare from the underarm and adding it to the new seam. I also thought it would be nice to eliminate the unnecessary underarm seam so I simply lapped the front and back at the seamline (since this sleeve will have a lot of movement I didn’t want a serged seam showing under the arm). Don’t forget to add a seam allowance to the new seam. The only drawback is that this sleeve cannot be set in flat, it must be set in the round.
COMPARED TO ORIGINAL BACK SLEEVE CAP:
COMPARED TO ORIGINAL FRONT SLEEVE CAP:
To sew this, simply stitch from the shoulder point down as far as desired – purely personal preference, I sewed down about 3.5″ to the point where the sleeve starts to flare out. If you wanted it more open you could start the flare higher. Once that is sewn finish and turn up the hems and you are ready to set the sleeve. To reinforce this area, I sewed through a small square of stay tape. You could also fuse a tiny bit of interfacing over the stitching line to give it a bit of strength.
If you look closely at my pattern you will see that I have a 1/4″ seam allowance in the cap and 5/8″ everywhere else. Knit sleeves are just so much easier to set with a 1/4″ seam allowance especially if they are set in flat. Remember that the armscye seam allowance will need to be reduced as well.
I am sometimes asked why I bother to leave the 5/8″ seam allowance at the side seams instead of trimming them down to 1/4″ to make serging easier. Well, I am not a big fan of serged side seams on knit dresses (or long skirts and pants) as they tend to draw up. Instead, I sew the standard seam with a tiny zigzag – stretching the seam a little as I sew – and press it open. This gives a nice flat seam. The unfinished edges are perfectly acceptable to me. It is more important to me to retain the fluidity of the knit than to have a serged finish.
THE FINISHED SLEEVE!
Notice that I stitched across at the top of the split – I HATE IT and don’t know what I was thinking! I’ll go ahead and wear the dress tomorrow night and then remove that stitching and stitch all the way up to the shoulder on each side. My topstitching also looks crooked but it isn’t, that’s just the way the sleeve is hanging. You know if it was I’d rip it all out and start over. :-)
To see the completed dress along with the accessories I chose to wear with it and get the fabric information, please visit my personal blog, Behind The Seams.