Adjusting Sleeve Lift on My French Jacket

So in my last post I talked about finally finishing my French jacket (or my Faux-nel jacket as I call it). I really tried not to nitpick, but, well, I just can’t let some things go. I keep pinning and marking it up because every time I fix one thing, I see something else. It’s been a struggle to get it to fit the way I want. The main problem areas are the shoulders and sleeves.

First, the shoulder seam is too long. It was about an inch past where it should’ve ended. So that had to be adjusted. That was the easy part.

The sleeves have been giving me the blues since the beginning. I have NO idea why the Big 4 pattern companies make armscyes large enough to hold a toddler, but that’s also my problem with V8804, the Claire Shaeffer pattern I’m using. Not only is the entire underarm baggy, I couldn’t lift my arm at the shoulder without the entire jacket moving. I could only raise my forearms comfortably and it made me feel like a T-Rex.

Enter Threads Magazine. (If you don’t have a subscription, you need one. Seriously.) They always have a bunch of sewing articles that I read and say “Interesting, but when is that ever going to come in handy?” Well finally that day came. I recently read an article about sleeve lift (basically the amount of mobility your sleeve allows when you lift your arm), but I couldn’t remember which issue it was in. Luckily the Google machine works 24/7 so I tracked it down.

My friend-in-my-head Kenneth King wrote a pretty detailed article about how to adjust a pattern or muslin to make the sleeve fit better. It’s counterintuitive, but to make the sleeve fit better, it needs to have LESS room, not more.

For whatever reason I can’t embed his video, but here’s the link explaining the theory behind making the armscye smaller.

He offers three solutions: 1. Add ease throughout (lower the armhole and extend the biceps line of the sleeve); 2. Reduce the sleeve cap height; or 3. Raise the armhole.

I chose number 3 because it seems like the best solution for the silhouette of this jacket. And according to KK, it results in a “Chanel-like sleeve with a high underarm and a relatively slim sleeve with maximum lift” which is exactly what I wanted.

So that’s the alteration I’m doing now. There’s a side panel instead of a side seam so I taped the pieces together so I could just draw one curve.


I added about 2-1/2 inches to the side panel (number 8) and tapered the line off to the other two pattern pieces. The red ink is to fix a line that wasn’t curvy enough.


Here are the finished pieces with seam allowance added to the side front and side back.


The other adjustment I’m working on is lengthening the sleeves because I’m just not a fan of bracelet length. Even when I was trying on the muslin, I just couldn’t get past how odd they look. So I added 5 inches so that the finished sleeve will end at my knuckles. And I’m going to flare them out a so they look like the ones from Tracey’s jacket below (the picture is from A Challenging Sew’s blog. Read the entire post here. Actually, go read the whole blog; she’s pretty amazing.)

I’ll be making yet another muslin tomorrow to fine tune the sleeves. Hopefully it’ll be my last and I can start cutting it out soon.


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Sewing and Weight Loss

Today I wanted to share something personal with you: I’ve been working on losing weight for the past few months and it’s affecting how and what I sew. As you can see from my prior posts, I like clothes with structure. I much prefer woven material over knits. I enjoy making clothes that skim over my body and fit me just right. Which brings me to my current dilemma:  many of the dresses I made no longer fit me and I don’t want to make any more because they’ll have to be altered later, and that makes me a bit sad.

I remember every detail of the dresses I made and how much work I put into them. When I made my polka dot dress, it was in the middle of a series of blazing hot summer days. I didn’t have air conditioning, so I had the window open and used my cheapie box fan just to get air circulating because I thought I’d suffocate otherwise. I dreaded every time I had to press a seam because it mean adding more heat. Even worse, it would overload the circuits, dim my lights and occasionally shut off the electricity. Good times. I also remember the hours I spent getting my floral strapless dress bodice to fit perfectly by making  changes to the pattern, doing (and redoing) my first real FBA, making tons of muslins and then using boning to build an infrastructure. I remember the details of many other dresses I never wrote about and I feel like I’m leaving old friends behind.

I suppose I could alter them, but that’s unlikely. Some of them are just too complicated. Others I want to preserve because I’m so proud of my work.

As a compromise, I’ve been sewing with more knits. I’m trying to love them. Really. But I miss the structure of wovens. I learned pretty much everything I know about sewing by using wovens. I love all the couture details that I can use and I’m not sure they’re adaptable to knits. (Kat at The Couture Academic is also pondering this question, so I’m not alone.) Sewing with wovens also taught me so much more about my body and how to fit my clothes so that they complement me. (Sidenote: I just started reading The Lost Art of Dress: The Women Who Once Made American Stylish by Dr. Linda Przybyszewski and I’ll review it at another time.) On the plus side, knits are much more forgiving; if your skirt is a bit too small it may still be wearable. Wovens, on the other hand, are not as kind. Too small? Too bad. Go get the seam ripper and start over.

So here I am in a grey zone between my old size and my new size and I don’t have a major project. I decided to put my French Jacket on hold because I want it to fit me at my goal weight. However, I will start my bombshell dress and draft a swimsuit. I’ll also be working on some knit dresses and sharpening my handsewing skills so I can keep busy (and productive). But between you and me, I can’t wait to get back into my woven stash.


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