› Fitting the Sleeve

How to Fit the Sleeve Pattern

Once you have a good fit in the bodice, you can start to fit the sleeve.

Fitting the sleeve pattern is a relatively simple step, but it’s very important for the overall comfort and appearance of your garment.

Sew or baste the sleeve into the armhole of the bodice, following the marked stitch lines that you transferred from the original pattern. You will probably have to ease or even gather the sleeve cap a bit.

Put the bodice on the form (with a soft, padded arm made to your size from muslin and batting) or try it on yourself.

As with the bodice, look for pull lines or folds of excess fabric.  Mark the sleeve where it hits your wrist so you’ll always have the correct length on your patterns.  You can also mark where you like a short sleeve to hit your arm, as well as a ¾ length, above the elbow, or bracelet length – whatever sleeve lengths you like.

fitting a sleeve on a body form
sleeve cap

In this case, the sleeve cap is too high

The bicep fit is fine (you’ll sometimes see the cap move up if the bicep is too tight). But this is a fitted sleeve and shouldn’t have this much fullness at the cap.

corrected sleeve cap

I’ve pinched out the excess fabric at the sleeve cap and basted along the pin line. 

In this case, this is not a correction I can transfer directly to the pattern (I wouldn’t be able to simply move the stitch line, like most corrections), but marking the amount of excess fabric in the cap will tell  me how much to lower the cap for better fit in the sleeve.

There was a little bit of pulling at the front of the sleeve, at the midpoint of the armhole.  I have released the seam and re-marked the armhole to allow more room in that area.

What's the Next Step?

As you did with the bodice, mark all of your changes on the muslin in red felt-tipped pen.  Then re-sew the sleeve and try it on again.  Continue marking and making changes until you are happy with the fit of the sleeve.

Once you have a good-fitting sleeve pattern, you can fit the skirt!

Step-by-Step: Making and Fitting Your Block

Need More Help with Fitting Issues?

The examples on this site reflect MY fitting issues and how I resolved them.  YOUR body is likely very different. 

But, since this is a site about MAKING patterns and not specifically about fitting, I'm not going to address other fit issues here. And believe me, there are others who can address this issue better than me.

Any of the online classes and books listed below will help you achieve good fit. You can use the techniques on any pattern; but why make the same corrections over an over again?  Apply the principles to your block, and the fit corrections YOU need will be automatically built in to every pattern you make!

I can recommend any of the following classes or books to help you achieve good fit, no matter what your size or shape.  I have taken some of the classes and own or have used almost all of the books on this list, and have been pleased with how they address fit problems.

I am an affiliate of both Amazon and Craftsy, so I do receive a small commission from the sale of any of the books or classes when you use the links below.  You can also go directly to Craftsy or Amazon to order without generating a commission.

Click on the images, below, to go to the item in Amazon.  I am an affiliate of Amazon and receive a small commission on sales.


Bluprint (formerly Craftsy) offers online sewing classes, including classes that specialize in fit. Two that I'd look into include Easy Fitting the Palmer/Pletsch Way: Shirts & Tops and Sew the Perfect Fit. They also have a fabulous class in altering patterns to fit plus sizes, called Plus-Size Pattern Fitting & Design.

• Pattern Fitting With Confidence - Written by the late Nancy Zieman, host of the TV series "Sewing with Nancy". She provides a straightforward, down-to-earth approach to sewing and fitting. Very user-friendly.

• The Complete Photo Guide to Perfect Fitting - I love this book!!! So wonderfully illustrated with photos, using commercial patterns to demonstrate the pattern alterations. It addresses almost any fit problem you might have. So easy to understand and follow!

Sewing for Plus Sizes - Creating Clothes that Fit and Flatter  - A great book for Plus sizes!  As a woman gets larger, it's not just the measurements that change - our overall proportions shift, too.  This book addresses the different body types and proportions you commonly see in larger women. Truly helpful for larger women.

Return to Clothing Patterns 101 Home Page

New! Comments

Do you have comments or questions about what you just read? Leave me a comment in the box below.