Setting the Sleeves
It’s now time to finally set the sleeves into the armscyes. While in the past I’ve used several rows of shirring stitches to help gather the excess material into the armscye, I’ve found that this is slow and tedious, and with a little practice, it’s quite possible to set the sleeves without the shirring stitches, so that is what we will do here.
Begin by marking the back seam of the sleeve, 1/2″ from the armscye, on the right side. This will help you align the sleeve properly.
On the right side of the back of the coat body, at the armscye, mark the seam allowance and then make a cross hair exactly between the shoulder and side body seams.
Lay the coat armscye and the sleeve head right sides together, with the two cross hairs laying on top of each other. This ensures the precise alignment of the sleeve.
Baste the sleeve to the coat at this point only, making three or four stitches in place to hold everything securely.
Now turn the coat so that the wrong side of the body is facing you, and the sleeve is on the inside. This exposes the armscye seam area in a way that you can readily work on it.
Starting at that crosshair, baste the undersleeve to the armscye using a running stitch.
As you approach the side seam of the coat, you can work a little fullness into the sleeve, using your fingers, in the same manner as described below. This being linen, I’d do maybe a 1/4″ of fullness at most.
Continue basting until you get to the front sleeve seam. Making one backstitch in place. It just so happened that the armscye dart on the coat body aligned with that seam, but this was completely unplanned.
Now that we’ve reached the top sleeve section, you’ll notice there is a lot of excess material that must be fulled in. Using Devere’s system, I’ve found that excess to be about two graduated inches worth, but this can vary according to how full you drafted the sleeve, and any stretching that may have gone on during the construction process.
This fullness must be gradually worked in to the armscye. Hold both layers of fabric between your thumb and fingers, and leaving your thumb in place, gently move some excess fabric towards your last stitch with your fore finger. The amount should be about an 1/8″ per basting stitch, I used a huge amount in the photo just to clarify what is going on. As you move the fabric over with your fingers, take another stitch to hold it in place.
Continue this process towards the top of the sleeve. At the very top, you may notice that the grain of the fabric on the sleeve runs parallel to the edge, which means it cannot be properly fulled. For this inch or two, just lay the sleeve on with normal tension. Then continue fulling around the back of the top sleeve.
After you’ve successfully basted around the sleeve one time, turn everything to the right side and examine your work. The sleeve should lay relatively smooth and be free of unsightly puckers. It actually took me two and a half tries to successfully get to this point, so do not fear if you have to redo some of the fulling. Every fabric will full slightly differently, so that takes some getting used to.
When you are happy, turn back to the inside and baste another row of running stitches around the armscye. These stitches should interweave with the previous stitches, affectively locking everything in place. As you get to the top sleeve, you can further refine the fulling with your fingers, subdividing the fullness in between each new stitch.
Here is what the basting should look like after the second round.
On the body side, mark and sew the seam using back stitches for strength, with a 1/2″ seam allowance. You can further refine the fullness in the top sleeve with each stitch, giving you a completely smooth sleeve head.
Do not trim either seam allowance.
Rather, turn in both seam allowances to the inside, allowing the coat side of the seam to extend a 1/16″ past the sleeve seam allowance. Baste and then fell down. At the top sleeve area, there will be extra fullness, so try to work that in as best you can.
Here is the completed armscye seam, pretty much finishing up the coat except for buttons and buttonholes.