Sleeves are hard. Hard to draft, hard to cut, hard to fit, and hard to sew. So many factors determine an impeccably sewn and fitting sleeve – sleeve cap height, sleeve cap width, and sleeve cap ease are just three basic ones. But the hardest part about sleeves, in my opinion, is that they’re fickle. Every factor that goes into a good sleeve changes with each style. The sleeve cap height on a tailored jacket will be greater than the sleeve cap height on a knit jacket. Also, the sleeve cap height on a shirred sleeve will be greater than the sleeve cap height on a nonshirred sleeve, even if the fabrics and the silhouettes are the same (in order to created the “poof” in a shirred sleeve, extra height is added at top sleeve cap). The same goes for sleeve cap ease. Like I wrote here last week, the right amount of sleeve cap ease depends on the type of fabric and silhouette. Some sleeves require little ease (knits) while some sleeves require a lot of ease (tailored jacket) and this is because some fabrics ease easily (knits) while others do not (suedes/leather) and some silhouettes require more ease (tailored jackets) while others do not (drop shoulder). This is why it’s important to know how to increase and decrease sleeve cap ease.
The key to increasing or decreasing sleeve cap ease not how but WHERE. This is what I struggled with for so long. Every pattern making book I read suggested a different method for increasing or decreasing sleeve cap ease but they were all right. There are many ways to increase or decrease sleeve cap ease. Essentially, you’re just making a line longer.
When I am increasing or decreasing sleeve cap ease, I ask myself where I should increase or decrease it. Should I increase the sleeve cap height? Or should I increase bicep width? Or should make the sleeve cap more scooped or curved (the more curved a line, the longer it’s length – a straight line measures less than a curved one). Which one I chose to increase or decrease depends on the measurements of the current sleeve cap. If my bicep width is small and can afford some ease, I’ll increase sleeve cap ease here. But if my sleeve cap width at 3” down from shoulder notch (a standard point of measure) is small, let’s say 6 ½” (sleeve cap width at 3” from shoulder notch should be around 7” for a size 6), then I’ll increase sleeve cap ease here.
Below I show you three methods I use to increase or decrease sleeve cap ease. Ease can be increased using one of my methods or a combination of the methods (increase sleeve cap height AND bicep width). Also, in the diagrams below, I only show one way for each method (I DON’T show how to reduce AND increase for each method). If the method shows how to reduce sleeve cap ease, then do the opposite to increase sleeve cap ease.