THE SEWING DIVAS sewing, design, fashion

October 9, 2008

Sleeve heads

Filed under: Dressmaking,Els,Notions,sewing,Tailoring,Tutorials — Els @ 11:08 am


Sleeve heads, by Dutch dressmakers and tailors aka “snorren”, English translation called “moustaches” because the shape mimics a moustache.

 I never saw these shaped sleeve heads in the USA, but we in Europe can choose if we want to use the straight ones or the shaped ones. I prefer to use these shaped ones, but the sewing technigue is the same.


 The shape of the sleeve head mimics the shape of the sleeve cap, and the purpose is to support the sleeve cap in custom made garments like jackets and coats. The sleeve head fills out the gap between the arm and the sleeve top and it helps to have a nice roll line in a high cap sleeve plus it also prevents to show the seam allowance from the right side.




The shaped sleeve heads are different in material, size and weight and can be used for tailored jackets or coats. It will depend on the fabric you use and the size of the armhole.
 The larger ones are used for a coat or jacket in a medium or heavy weight fabric, and the thin smaller ones are good to use in a jacket made with a lightweight fabric.







The sleeve heads are sewn at the armhole after the sleeve is sewn in at the armhole. You can see that the left and right side of the sleeve heads are different in length and shape.












If you fold the sleeve head at the shoulder notch (small slit) you will notice that one part is longer and has a more angled shape at the end, the longer length needs to be attached at the back side armhole.

 The shorter length is going towards the front side armhole.This is due to the shape of the armhole, in a well drafted pattern the armhole at the back is always longer in length than the front armhole.


 I made a jacket using a gorgeous silk Tussah medium weigth fabric that I ordered from Melody at (now sold out) and used the larger thicker sleeve heads, which you can see at the previous picture.




I fused all the pattern parts with a thin stretch fusible interfacing to add some support and to keep the ravelling at the cut edges to a minimum.

 I always use 3/8 inch (1 cm) seam allowance at the armhole and sleeve, and have used a fusible bias cut tape to stabilize the armhole.


 Pin the sleeve head shoulder notch matching the shoulder seam and pin towards the back and from the notch towards the front armhole with the edges matching from sleeve, armhole and sleeve heads. 

You can sew the sleeve heads into the armhole while you are removing the pins or you could baste the sleeve heads in first, which I did here for an example. I used orange basting thread and basted over the stitching line from the set in sleeves






Sewing the sleeve heads in with the sewing machine a hairline away (inside the seam allowance) from the previous stitching line (sleeve inset)

 The sleeve head is not visible because it lays on the machine bed so I can see the previous stitching line from the sleeve inset which is my marking.

 I sewed the sleeve heads with a 3 mm stitch length, which is a bit larger than the usual 2,5  mm stitch length which I used to sew the jacket.





Remove the basting thread, add shoulder pads.( The seam allowances are heading towards the sleeve of course)


  1. Thanks for sharing this with such detailed pictures. This will be very helpful.

    Comment by Sigrid — October 9, 2008 @ 12:52 pm

  2. Sommerset is done a sleeve heads explaination/tutorial today, too, including how to make some if you can’t buy them.

    Comment by Cricket — October 9, 2008 @ 1:18 pm

  3. Thanks Els! I was just pondering sleeve heads the other day when the puffed sleeves of a dress I made weren’t puffing right. It is great of you to show us all about them for jackets.

    I had heard of someone else who uses a lightweight interfacing on all jacket pieces to stablize the fabric. I haven’t made a jacket in years but have some fabric I will be using to make one this fall. I intend to try this technique and the sleeve heads or whatever I can find to simulate one. I will be in the states next week so I will look for them. I don’t think I can get them here in my small town in Canada.

    Comment by Linda T — October 9, 2008 @ 2:20 pm

  4. Elas this is interesting. For my addled afternoon mind… sleeveheads are available in the US, you just haven’t seen the curved ones? Yes, I’m always pondering details of my yet to be made jacket 🙂

    Comment by cidell — October 9, 2008 @ 4:21 pm

  5. (In Danish they are called “sleeve fish”.)

    Comment by Anne — October 9, 2008 @ 5:29 pm

  6. Thanks so much – great post!!

    Comment by Mary — October 9, 2008 @ 5:32 pm

  7. Great post! I have learned from ripping apart garments, but some are so badly sewn the lesson is negative. This is very clear and useful.

    Comment by judithgr — October 10, 2008 @ 2:44 am

  8. Thank you for your explanations, Els! Your jacket looks beautiful, can we get a picture of you wearing it? The fabric seems just gorgeous and I adore the colours.

    Comment by LauraLo — October 10, 2008 @ 7:17 am

  9. You probably haven’t seen them in the US because this type of structure is usually hidden underneath linings. The only structures that are not usually covered are zippers, shoulder pads and facings. I see these shaped sleeve heads all the time doing alterations, but don’t recall ever seeing them called for in sewing patterns.

    Pins & Needles
    Sewell, NJ

    Comment by Mary E. Orens — October 10, 2008 @ 11:42 pm

  10. I used sleeve heads on the last jacket I made, last year I think. Sure fills in the sleeve cap nicely. Of course, I had to make my own. I wonder why they aren’t available here in the USA? Please let us see more of that beautiful jacket.

    Comment by Cindy — October 11, 2008 @ 1:11 pm

  11. Els .- explanations that good, thanks. is the perfect complement to the good shape of the sleeves. greetings, Paco

    Comment by paco peralta — October 11, 2008 @ 1:46 pm

  12. Thanks for this info and the great pics!!

    Comment by Olivia — October 11, 2008 @ 5:39 pm

  13. Thanks Mary E. Orens for your insight information.

    The remark from me about not seeing them in the US is based on searching at US tailoring supplies stores online. I have seen the straight ones which are available from several suppliers like (see shoulder pads)

    Comment by Els — October 11, 2008 @ 6:31 pm

  14. Thanks so much

    Comment by Swap — October 24, 2008 @ 4:54 am

  15. Els .- thanks for the tutorial. Already I could see it also in Marji’s blog. you know, in spain these reinforcements have the name “charreteras” and this word comes from its use in military uniforms. hugs, Paco

    Comment by paco peralta — November 10, 2008 @ 2:11 pm

  16. Thanks for that.
    They are also sometimes called sleeve roll or shoulder roll because of the slight roll it gives to the sleeve.


    Comment by irene — November 26, 2008 @ 1:14 am

  17. Els – I live in the U.S. and this is the shape sleeve head I make for myself because it gives me the most satisfactory results. I think my DIY shape was inspired by an old THREADS magazine on Armani jackets. How nice to see that they are the norm in Europe!

    Comment by Doris W. — November 28, 2008 @ 1:49 pm

  18. Excellent tutorial. I will soon practice this technique.

    Comment by Cennetta — April 8, 2009 @ 9:55 am

  19. […] I already posted some pictures of my sleeve in the blogpost  sleeve heads. […]

    Pingback by Silk jacket « THE SEWING DIVAS sewing, design, fashion — May 20, 2009 @ 8:15 pm

  20. heb je ook een nederlandse site Els?

    Lia nee, ik heb geen Nederlandse website of blog

    Comment by lia — June 18, 2009 @ 7:24 am

  21. I am making a presentation at our local sewing guild next month. Would it be acceptable for me to use your article on sleeve heads? I certainly would not want to interfere with your copyright, of course.

    The Sewing Guild of Berks County is a small group of thirty women who meet once a month. We are not affiliated with the Smerican Sewing Guild. We do not charge an admission fee, although we do have a $20 a year dues to cover necessary expenses. I will not be paid for the presentation that I’ll be making in April.

    If there is any other information that you want, I’ll be happy to try to supply it. If you would rather I not use your article, I will gladly comply with your ruling.

    In any case, I am delighted to have found this web site. I am a very enthusiastic sewer, and I am sure that many other articles will be a help to me. Thank you.

    Helen C. Peemoeller

    Comment by Helen Peemoeller — March 29, 2010 @ 3:24 pm

    • Helen, see your mailbox

      Comment by Els — March 30, 2010 @ 6:36 am

  22. Hi, I have been reading all about sleeve heads as I am making 5 men’s suits for a wedding and I need to know what they can be made out of if I made my own…thanks….

    Comment by Winny — June 10, 2010 @ 11:37 pm

  23. I’ve always used sleeve heads in jackets but I’ve never seen the curved ones before. I’ll have to try that on my next jacket. Thanks for sharing this.

    Comment by Barb Pattison — July 15, 2010 @ 2:57 pm

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