Learn How to Attach a Set-In Sleeve

on May 29 | in Sewing + Quilting Tips, Sewing Tutorials + Patterns | by | with 178 Comments

From Beth: Jenny is hard at work launching her new summer collection and website/shop. You can find both at wiksten; find other recent work on her wikstenmade blog. She took some time out of her very busy schedule to give us a little set-in sleeve help (she’s an obvious pro!). Jenny’s Set-In Sleeve Tutorial below gives you just one more tool in your Women’s Clothing Month collection to create some beautiful clothing of your own:

Step 1: Before setting in the sleeve, sew the underarm seams of the sleeves and the side seams of the main body of the garment. Finish sleeve seam allowance and then hem the bottom edge of the sleeve. Beginning at one notch and ending at the other, machine baste just inside the seamline around the top of the sleeve cap, leaving the loose threads long. Repeat basting twice. Each row of stitching should be 1/16th” to 1/8″ apart. Turn sleeve right side out.

Step 2: Turn body of the garment inside out and place sleeve inside armhole, right sides together. Working on the inside of the sleeve, line up underarm seams and place a pin. Pin sleeve to garment on both sides of first pin, stopping at notches.

Step 3: Match shoulder notch on sleeve to shoulder seam of garment and pin.

Step 4: Pull bobbin threads of basting to gather sleeve cap until it fits into the armhole perfectly.

Step 5: Shape sleeve cap with your fingers by spreading the fullness equally over the length of the basting until there are no pleats. The shoulder of the sleeve will start to take on a full, rounded shape.

Step 6: Pin sleeve cap in place and tie loose threads, clipping ends.

Step 7: Machine sew sleeve to garment body from the inside of the sleeve (wrong side) in order to control the fullness as you sew, making sure there are no pleats in the sleeve cap. Every now and then, lower the needle and pull the bottom layer of fabric smooth to avoid creating pleats in the body of the garment as well. Back tack at beginning and end of stitching.

Step 8: Remove all basting threads and press seam allowance toward sleeve using a sleeve board or tailor’s ham.

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178 Responses to Learn How to Attach a Set-In Sleeve

  1. lisamonel says:

    I have always been amazed with fashion and design I’ve been hand sewing, spray painting and attaching this and that for yrs…however after my 10 yr old convince (me since i am the one always making her outfits for parties and shows) I finally purchased a sewing machine about 3 weeks ago…wow! I am learning and loving… just last night I took a jean skirt I use to wear and made my daughter a beautiful shirt however the sleeve isn’t perfect πŸ™ so I took that part a looose now looking at ur tutorial I am feeling a little confused I wish I could see the finish result How should it look… is there a difference in how the sleeves would look if you attach them instead of cutting it attach already to the shirt then sewing 2gether I AM AN AMATEUR! help me please

  2. Esther says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! I have looked at so many tutorials and watched them on you tube and nothing made sense until I saw this one. Thanks again!

  3. It worked! It really worked! Thank you a gazillion!

  4. Nancy_NH says:

    Thanks so much for sharing….this is going to be very helpful πŸ™‚

  5. Cess says:

    Thank you for sharing this with us. I found your Set-In Sleeve Tutorial very helpful for I have had to rip out the seams so many times when my sleeves turned out funny..

  6. Christy Alex says:

    Thank you so much Beth.
    This really helps me get over some very big fears of the set-in sleeves.
    This how-to really keeps me from having to re-do my sleeves several times to get it right.
    thanks again.

  7. Heather says:

    I am so scared of sewing clothing….but this is a little inspiring! Jenny your designs are beyond fabulous. I think I may need a Kate top!

  8. min says:

    I think that I could actually try this now.

  9. Amber Graham says:

    The set in sleeve is now less scary!! Yea!

  10. Lindsey says:

    Bookmarked! No more sleeves with puckers, thank you!

  11. Jennifer says:

    I really liked the visual instructions on this. I always have a problem with tightness when I try to do a set-in sleeve. My pins get stuck and snag. I hope practice makes perfect….Jenny’s clothes are beautiful!

  12. Jodie says:

    Great tutorial!

  13. Gina says:

    Thank you so much! I have had more than enough aggravation while sewing in sleeves. Can’t wait to try it out!

  14. BethAnn Rivers says:

    i have done set in sleeves but that is a great tip which i know will help me in the future! Thank you!

  15. Shelby says:

    Very informative…before reading this tutorial I had no idea what such a sleeve was called. I love the tutorials on this site!

  16. pat says:

    I find myself needing to make sleevless tops from ones with sleeves and I think I can use this method to face the sleeve. Thanks

  17. lazylol says:

    Thanks for the great tutorial – you make it look so easy!

  18. Sonja says:

    Thank you for the great tutorial. Can’t wait to try it.

  19. Libby says:

    Great tutorial. Sleeves are difficult no matter if you’re sewing or knitting. I’ve avoided sleeves when I could, but now I’m going to give it another try.

  20. Janice says:

    Bookmarked for future reference. Thanks!

  21. Char says:

    This is an excellent tutorial. And I’m still too intimidated to try sleeves that look this tailored… I just got a pattern (my first stab at sewing something I might wear) that could pass as the easiest ever, and the sleeves are almost as easy as the trash bag poncho I made in 4th grade–oh wait–that didn’t really have sleeves.

  22. Janis says:

    Your tutorials are first-rate. Thank you!

  23. Mary says:

    Thank you! I appreciate all of these tutorials so much. They take the utter fear out of some porojects.

  24. Lil' d says:

    Thank you!

  25. Judy Marteney says:

    Thanks for a most difficult sewing task made to appear possible to complete correctly!!!!!!!!

  26. Kerri says:

    Where, o where was this when I was in high school, learning set-in sleeves? THK U!

  27. Tina M. says:

    pick me please! πŸ™‚

  28. Susan M says:

    I have always liked set-in sleeves. They also look much neater (to me) than having the sleeve droop off of your shoulder. Your tutorial was terrific. Thanks so much! Susan M

  29. Shannon C. says:


  30. Tara says:

    This tutorial is incredible! I’ve screwed up so many sleeves in my novice sewing. What I wouldn’t have given for these pictures then! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  31. Shauna Q says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. I always do so much better when I see it and read it…this will help me so much on my next sewing project!!

  32. mel says:

    You’re a great teacher. Directions are clear and easy to understand.

  33. deknit says:

    thanks so much, this is awesome! i am totally going to start sewing clothes as well now (so far it’s only been bags).

  34. this is so helpful! thanks!!

  35. Amy L says:

    I’m inspired to buy a new sewing machine. I would love your Bernina however since this (sewing clothes) is only a passion in my life and not my bread winner I won’t be able to justify anything else at this time.

  36. Ane says:

    I should have had this information so many times before…There has been a number of sleeves which have caused me much aggrivation.

  37. aurora fox says:

    This is a very clear and helpful tutorial–thanks!

  38. Maria L says:

    I see… that’s how it should be done! Thank you for the pictures!

  39. Heather K says:

    You really do make it look so easy. Bravo!

  40. Amy says:

    Such helpful advice!

  41. katy says:

    great tutorial. just have to gather up my courage and dive in.

  42. Kimmer says:

    Learning how to set in a sleeve is one of the things I most remember from my 9th grade sewing class. Heaven knows I’d never have been able to figure it out from pattern instructions!

  43. Tammy says:

    Thanks for the tutorial – you make it look so easy!

  44. Jennifer P says:

    SEW helpful!!! Great instructions.

  45. I love all of the how to’s….they all come at a great time for me as I am a new sewer!! Thanks!!!

  46. Brilliant!! Thanks πŸ™‚

  47. SWC says:

    Um, you make this look so easy, I think it may be a hoax. Add a few photos with frustrated gestures and seam ripper usage, and then I might believe it can actually be done. In other words, I think I’d better stick to skirts…

  48. Kate says:

    Thanks for making it look so easy. I’ll have to give it a whirl!

  49. A great tutorial! You make it look so easy!

  50. Sherry says:

    I love Jenny’s stuff. I am learning so much I don’t know where to start!

  51. knittin mama says:

    If the garden and the 5 year old will give me time to sit and sew, I could make use of these wonderful tutorials!

  52. Kieny says:

    Great tutorial, thanks!

  53. Jennifer A says:

    Great tutorial! Thank you!!

  54. Emily says:

    Great tutorial – and fantastic blog! Thanks!

  55. allie says:

    Oh man. I could have used this tutorial about a year ago. Makes it look easy enough to possibly reattempt my dress.

  56. Karie says:

    You do make it look so easy, I really need to figure out how to make clothes, I am really scared to take the leep, lol

  57. Thien-Kim says:

    Three rows gathering stitches! I guess I was too lazy. I normally only do two rows but I can see how 3 would give you more control.

  58. Elise says:

    That makes so much sense, and yet I would have never, ever figured it out on my own.

  59. Daph says:

    Thanks so much for posting this! I’ve always struggled with sleeves — this tutorial will make it so much easier next time. πŸ™‚

  60. susan says:

    It makes sense but somehow never works out quite right for me! Women’s clothing month has given me inspiration to try again though!

  61. Emily says:

    Thank you! You know, it took me a long time to figure out that “ease a seam in” meant the pattern pieces don’t actually fit/match! I would read patterns and just not get why things didn’t match up! A friend finally explained the whole concept – lol!

  62. Deborah says:

    Thank you for the tutorial. I haven’t done sleeves for a long time and I really needed to have the reminder of how to do this. You had such clear instructions and photos. I appreciate the time that you have put into this tutorial. Thank you, Jenny and THANK YOU, SEW MAMA SEW, for helping us become the seamstresses that we all long to be!!

  63. anna says:

    very helpful tutorial.

    thank you.

  64. Toni says:

    I would love to see a finish product? Any chance I could see it?


  65. I always botch these, but this makes it seem possible! Thanks for the great tutorial.

  66. caroline says:

    I think I can do it now!

  67. This is way beyond me for now, but the tutorials are very clear and I’m sure I’ll have use for them soon. Thanks!

  68. kbell says:

    Wow, you make it look so simple. I hope it turns out as well for me…

  69. Fern says:

    I have ongoing issues with sleeves, now I learn that my downfall is the notches! – I’m notvery precise πŸ™‚ thank you very much.

  70. emily says:

    Looks easy when YOU do it. :p

  71. Stephanie says:

    This will definitely help me when it comes time to make some garments! Still working my way there.

  72. Jacquie says:

    I think I could do this with this tutorial. Thanks!

  73. Carishma says:

    Just found this tutorial – wish I had read it before last night, when I was trying to sew a shirt. It’s finally done now, albeit a little messy! I’ll be sure to follow this tuorial next time around. Thanks!

  74. Jenn says:

    thanks for the info. i always sewed two lines of basting but i see that three lines make a smoother finish on the sleeve. thanks jenny.

  75. Sus says:

    i use floss to gather mine w/ a zig zag stitch to keep it in place. very quick one step w/ the same results!


  76. Amy says:

    This takes lots of practice to get it right but after oh 10 years or so I am usually able to get a sleeve in on the first try! Thanks for the tips.

  77. jo ebisujima says:

    great. looks so easy….

  78. kirsten says:

    Working on a dress for “Sex and the City” with the girls Sunday night. This tut will come in handy for my one of a kind.

  79. Cascade Lily says:

    I’ve done set-in sleeves for kids’ clothes, and only once for myself. Matching up those notches is pretty critical, eh?

  80. Linnea says:

    Thanks for the tutorial :o) You make it look so easy!
    Take care & have a good weekend!

  81. Stacey says:

    Oh man, you make it look so easy. I have problems making napkins! But I keep trying…

  82. micki says:

    THanks! you do make it look like a piece of cake!

  83. Leah says:

    Thankyou so much for this tutorial, you explain it much better than pattern directions

  84. BethieB says:

    I was hoping pictures and a great tutorial would inspire me to try my first sleeves. I’m not so sure that plan worked though, I still feel completely overwhelmed by the prospect…but now I know where to come when I work up the courage to attempt this! Thanks for the post guys. :0)

  85. Lauren says:

    Thank you for this. I’ve only done this once, & I’ve been afraid to try it again. Maybe now I’ll give it a go!

  86. Kymy says:

    I never thought about using 3 rows of basting to gather!!! I guess it makes sense… 2 is better then one, so why not try 3.

    This has been bookmarked, thank you for taking the time to do this for us. I can’t wait to check out your online store when it opens tomorrow!

  87. Melody says:

    Thanks for the great instructions! πŸ™‚

  88. Sue Cahill says:

    I have always struggled with setting in sleeves so I am sure this is going to be very helpful. I think I will practive on a dress for my youngest granddaughter. Thanks for all your education and inspiration.

  89. Cindy Hansen says:

    Thanks for the great instructions!

  90. Liz says:

    This is so helpful! Thank you!

  91. Kristin says:

    This is so helpful! Thank you!

  92. bec says:

    oh boy. i wonder when i will be brave enough to it. thanks for the help!

  93. Cara says:

    Brilliant. Much better than how I’ve handled sleeves. I’m not even willing to admit to you HOW I handled them…

  94. Shawn Britton says:

    Thank you for the tutorial—You make it look so easy!

  95. michal says:

    i love this tutoriall, so detailed and useful!

  96. Silversara says:

    This is a fantastic help! i’m just starting sewing my own clothes so am very excited about this series! Thanks.

  97. great clear instructions. Im bookmarking it because I am going to need to know how to do this soon

  98. Nancy says:

    This series is really helping me think I CAN do clothing. Thanks so much!!

  99. debra says:

    Very clear and easy to understand, now to actually try it!!

  100. Andrea says:

    Great info. This makes it look easy, though I’m sure I could make it really hard.

  101. Michelle says:

    I’ve saved these instructions – I’ll read this a dozen times before I try another set-in sleeve. Thanks for the excellent tutorial!

  102. Lynn says:

    Thanks for this tutorial, it makes it seem so clear!

  103. Amy says:

    I can’t wait to try this!

  104. Sara says:

    great tutorial! I never thought to gather the sleeve slightly … I always just pulled / pushed it through the machine and hoped it turned out right!

  105. Kim says:

    wow… it looks so easy! I wish I were a more talented seamstress!

  106. wendy says:

    Ooooh, thanks! Hopefully now I can make sleeves that don’t look as though someone tied a bag around my arms πŸ˜€

  107. Sarah says:

    Great tutorial! I feel much more confident about sewing sleeves now.

  108. Lori says:

    Awesome, thanks!

  109. Susan says:

    I’m about to do a set-in sleeve for the first time in ages, so this was perfectly timed for me. Thanks!

  110. Kate says:

    sleeve-setting is rough going — I’m eager to put some of your suggestions to use, since I usually end up abandoning my shirt projects after failing to get one or both of the sleeves properly set. thanks!

  111. Samantha says:

    Great tutorial. I’ll have to give it a try.

  112. Raven says:

    Thank you for this. I’m going to try to attach my first sleeve this afternoon. Your tutorial is a great help.

  113. Julie says:

    Thanks for the tutorial! I’ve been making some clothes for the summer, but I always make them sleeveless. I think I’m going to give sleeves another try!

  114. Maryalice says:

    Thank you for your clear instructions.

  115. Maria says:

    This is a lifesaver! I am actually looking forward to making something with sleeves now. Thanks!

  116. Del says:

    Thanks for the clear instructions and photos! I’ll refer to this often.

  117. Sarah says:

    Wow, great directions! Thanks for the pictures and advice.

  118. Abigail N says:

    What a great tutorial! I always have trouble with my sleeves, so this post is definitely getting bookmarked! Thanks for sharing. πŸ™‚

  119. Johanna says:

    I must have a mind block. Still seems sorta intimidating to me. I guess I’ve just had bad luck :\

  120. kim says:

    Thank you. Very helpful.

  121. Stacy says:

    What a great way to set in the sleeve! Thanks so much for this tutorial.

  122. MzTallulah says:

    Having just tackled sleeves for the first time on a baby (3mths) size top, I too found that the gathering instructions (which were actually given in the pattern that I was using) were of great help and made everything easier. Wish I had a serger – or even a machine that did zigzag, for that matter – for a neater finish; so far, I’m managing with cutting with pinking shears, and crossing my fingers that everything will hold.

  123. Veronica says:

    Wow! This is something I’ve always wanted to learn how to do. Thanks for the tutorial!

  124. jackie bateman says:

    thanks for the great tutorial. i love the wiskten blog and jenny’s clothing is amazing!

  125. Chassie says:

    Thanks for the tutorial!

  126. Donna says:

    I’ve been avoiding sleeves on clothing for the longest time and focusing on smocks and sleeveless dresses–your tips were very helpful, especially basting around the cap of the sleeve.

  127. Kelly Jo says:

    This is perfect! I’m getting ready to do this exact thing for the first time….I’ll be going back and forth between this page and my sewing machine this afternoon!!!

  128. Marilyn says:

    I have not sewed in a sleeve in such a long time. THis tutorial makes it so easy!

  129. jenny says:

    Great info and photos – thx!

  130. Both this and the Pleated Collar tutorial are so fantastic, thank you!

    I would love the “My Folklore” material to make these lovely patterns with.

    This is my first time visiting your site and it’s absolutely beautiful! If I won the lottery you would be my first stop.

  131. katherine m says:

    great lesson! the pictures make it so clear!

  132. water works says:

    Thanks so much! I have been avoiding any outfits for my daughter that involved sleeves. I promise to try one now.

  133. Jeannine says:

    Set in sleeves always gave me pause. I finally was able to set-in a sleeve very well in my knitting, but now I need to practice on my sewing. Thanks for the tutorial!

  134. Grace says:

    Something I’ve always thought looked very intimidating! Thanks for sharing your tips. I really enjoy your blog too and all the info and pics on there. Your work is very good!

  135. Rachel says:

    Great tutorial!

  136. Kim says:

    Always wanted to know how that worked– thanks for the guidance! For some reason, I’m wondering if I can make an interesting pocket using some of this same technique… thanks for the inspiration!

  137. Jeanne says:

    Your tutorials are so easy to understand and the photos are wonderful. Thanks for all of them.

  138. aSprinkling says:

    I just want to win…just being honest here. πŸ™‚

  139. Carrie S says:

    I have several ‘sleeve-less’ dresses and shirts b/c the sleeves just didn’t turn out right…I’ll have to try again after reading this-Thanks for the tips!

  140. paula says:

    It is nice to see photos of how to do this. It helps me to understand what directions are telling me.

  141. Karen B says:

    Absolute PERFECT timing…just what I needed for my week-end sewing! I hope putting in the sleeves will be as easy as it looks. Thanks

  142. Richelle F says:

    I haven’t dared try something with sleeves yet, it looks hard, but this is a great tutorial, makes it not look too bad. Thanks!

  143. Erynn says:


  144. Lindsey says:

    I am a new sewer and sewing a shirt seems difficult to me right now. With this tutorial maybe I can practice and get the hang of it!

  145. Pamela says:

    Thank you sooo much for this tutorial. Set in sleeves have made me cry more than once. πŸ™ Maybe now with these new insights/visuals, I’ll pick my courage off the floor and try another blouse. Wish me luck! πŸ™‚

  146. molly m says:

    This seems so hard but this tutorial makes it look relatively easy. Thanks.

  147. britt says:

    i understand your entire tutorial, yet I still don’t know if I can do it :-/ You make it look way too easy

  148. Tara H. says:

    I have had trouble with sleeves and I am sure this tutorial will come in handy. Thanks.

  149. Ellen B says:

    You have given me the courage to try sleeves again with the help of your tutorial! Thanks as always!

  150. nikole says:

    Thanks for the photos, it looks so much easier than when I do it! I’ll have to sew more gathering seams!

  151. Lindsay says:

    Much needed advice!

  152. Brooke says:

    Ok, I may sound like a total amateur (which I am). Is a set in sleeve, just a normal sleeve, or is it something else?

  153. Mika says:

    Thanks for posting this tutorial!

    One question: I often sew with a walking foot (even when not quilting) so that the feed dogs don’t pull more of the bottom fabric than the top fabric. That is, so that I don’t get extra easing when I don’t want it.

    But when stitching the sleeve to the body, should I NOT use a walking foot (because there is a different amount of fullness in the fabric layers)?

  154. méri says:

    Thanks Jenny for sharing this tutorial! It is precious for me!

  155. Heather B says:

    Perfect timing as I’m about to attempt my first shirt this weekend!! Thanks.

  156. Alisha says:

    Thanks for the tutorial. I love the Wiksten and Wikstenmade websites. The photography is fantastic and the clothing is gorgeous.

  157. MA says:

    Using the basting stitch to evenly gather the extra fabric is such a great trick! I’ve tried it before with one line of basting stitches, but it didn’t work as beautifully as shown here.

  158. Michelle says:

    I’ve always heard the term “set-in sleeve” used with swear words and lots of physical violence… thanks for showing that it *can* be managed with a lot of pins and a good tutorial. Although, come to think of it, there is no audio here… maybe there was swearing and we just didn’t hear it!

  159. Amy Hodge says:

    I never thought to do the gathering before. Thanks for the tip!

  160. Angela says:

    Thanks for the tutorial – sleeves are always tricky for me.

  161. janet says:

    Thank you so much for this incredibly well written and nicely photographed tutorial. I’m in the midst of sewing my first shirt ever and will put this information to good use! Also, I think your wiksten designs are simple and simply beautiful.

  162. Stefanie says:

    Thanks for this tutorial. I would have loved to see a finished top with the set in sleeves but otherwise great info!

  163. Erin S. says:

    Excellent tutorial — I can’t wait to try it out myself. Thank you!

  164. Regina says:

    You make it look so easy – I need to give this another go sometime.

  165. Avlor says:

    I’m book marking this too! It makes so much sense! πŸ˜‰

  166. Bailey says:

    Okay, I’m bookmarking this for the next time I attempt to do this. Thanks very much!

  167. Z. says:

    Exactly, it looks so easy… wonder why it never works for me when I actually try it!

  168. J says:

    sounds interesting but I need a visual of the finished product please.

  169. Mel says:

    Looks easy enough… surely it’ll be a different story when I try it!

  170. sara says:

    Thank you so much for this tutorial!

  171. Margie says:

    I really need to practice set in sleeves. Thanks for the great instructions!!
    I didn’t know you had to stop with the needle down & smooth the fabric to avoid pleats. I’m bookmarking this for when I’m ready to sew my next sleeve.

  172. Mellissa says:

    That is a huge help! Thanks so much for taking the time to do this tutorial. The pictures help a lot.

  173. Leah says:

    Set-in sleeves are #1 on my least-like to do list, but it looks like lots and lots of pins help!

  174. Jenny Gordy says:

    Amanda, yes, finish that armhole seam by serging the edges after you have sewn the sleeve to the garment!

  175. Linda says:

    Great tutorial. You make it sound very easy!

  176. Jean says:

    Excellent! A huge help with something I have found very difficult. Thank you!

  177. Michele says:

    Great info…thanks!

  178. Amanda says:

    Ahh, Jenny. My sewing crush. You make it look so easy. My question is do you finish the seam allowance of the sleeve cap in any way after sewing in place. I mean if I actually got the sleeve to look that good I would probably have to take a valium before trying to serge that rounded seam allowance. Just kidding, no but really.

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