The 5 Methods of Sewing In Sleeves, How To & Guide

Sewing is an interesting and fulfilling task, but there are some parts of sewing that seem tricky and challenging, especially for beginners. One of those parts is the sleeve part, as it is not straightforward, but it is much easier than you might have imagined.


Sewing in sleeves can be done using two methods: the set-in method and the flat method, and most people believe the set-in method is difficult to do. However, none of the methods is difficult, but the flat-in method seems easier than the set-in method.


Let’s look at these methods to better understand both but before we do that let’s take a look into how to cut a sleeve as your sleeves need to be cut before you sew it in.

How Do You Cut Your Sleeves?

The best thing to do is practice it on a pattern paper before trying it out with your fabric, especially if you are a beginner.


  • Measure the length from the tip of your shoulder to your wrist with a measuring tape (if sowing a long sleeve), and from the tip to the elbow (if you are sowing a three-quarter sleeve). 
  • Bend your arm at 90 degrees to measure the circumference of the sleeve by measuring the bicep elbow and wrist.
  • Add seam allowances to each of these measurements from the sleeve length to the circumference, adding 2 inches to the bicep and 1 inch to the wrist and elbow.
  • Fold your paper, shape out the sleeve line, and cut.
  • Measure the inches of the bicep on the paper and the length where appropriate, and mark and join your markings with a line using a ruler.
  • Cut it out while still maintaining the seam allowance.

The 2 Methods of Sewing In Sleeves, How To & Guide

There are two methods of sewing in sleeves and they are the set-in method and the flat method 

  • Set In Method.
The set-in method is believed to be tricky and challenging especially for beginners as set-in method has some ease at the cap compared to the flat method but does not consume much time in cutting and sewing. However, the set-in method does not work well for all fabrics but works well for all patterns.


How To Sew In Sleeves Using The Set In Method?

Material Used.

Linen (Heavy Weight).



  • Sewing Thread
  • Scissors
  • Fabric Marker
  • Sewing Machine 
  • Ruler
  • Pins.


Step One: Press The Cloth  

Make sure the material of the sleeve is not rumbled but is well pressed with a hot iron to make the work easier.


Step Two: Note The Notches.

A sleeve is made up of three notches and you have to note the three notches by marking them with a  fabric marker. Put a mark at the shoulder part, another mark to signify the front sleeve, and a double mark to signify the back sleeve which you will have to attach to other notches in the yet-to-be-finished cloth.


Step Three: Sew The Sleeve  And The Ease 

Using a basting stitch, stitch the front and back sleeve of your sleeve on both sides taking note of the marked notches and the seam allowances. Sew the ease cap at the grid lines with a  double basting stitch and do not cut away the thread tails but leave them to avoid the stitches getting uneven this can be achieved by setting your machine to a long stitch length.


Pull the long thread together at once to make the cloth form a gathered shape.


Step Four: Assemble The Sleeve

Turn the sleeve to the wrong side of the fabric with the right side of the ease cap showing, then place it together by pinning it with the body of the garment(the right side of the garment facing the right side of the sleeve ).


Start the pinning process from the underarm to the lower part of the armhole between the previously marked notches and pin the sleeve cap from the front and back notches in equal parts.


After pinning, you can still check out the evenness of the gathers, peradventure the gathers are not yet even, you can still pull it again distributing the gathers evenly until the sleeves curve the cap.


Step Five: Sew Together.

It is time to stitch your sleeve and the body of your garment together and this can be done by placing your pinned sleeve carefully on the free arm of the sewing making it next to the feed dogs and putting the pin into consideration as any movement of the pin might injure you, damage your machine or cause your sleeves to have tucks.


Start your stitching at the underarm by sewing slowly and taking the pins out as you sew. Smooth out the clothes by pulling on opposite sides with your fingers and straighten any possible tucks even as you sew.


Step Six: Fix The Tuck.

It is possible to have a tuck when you sew in your sleeves especially if you are a  beginner and this will disfigure your garment if it is not fixed.


Tucks can be simply fixed with the use of a seam ripper but you have to rip a few stitches on both sides too, smooth the tuck out before pinning it again and then stitch again.


Step Seven: Do Necessary Removals.

Remove the basting stitches and fix the edges of the seam allowance together according to your pattern instructions but make sure the sleeve is held tightly before the removal.


Step Eight: Press Your Garment.

We will be stopping at where we started from and that is the pressing of your garments as it makes your sewing neat and professional.


Start from the wrong side of the garment by pressing the seam allowance to the inside of the sleeve cap and press the right side of the garment which is the outside of the garment with steam to shape and set the round of the sleeve cap using a sleeve ironing board.

  • Flat Method 
The flat method is much easier and more straightforward than the set-in method, they are mostly used for knit garments but the steps are to be taken into consideration.


How To Sew In Sleeves Using The Flat Method?

Step One

Mark the notches in your sleeve when cutting it out.


Step Two

Sew the shoulder seam alone by joining the front and back of the body cut together.


Step Three

Press the garment with a pressing iron making sure to press the armhole very well as it helps to prevent any tucks when sewing that might arise as a result of rumbled fabric.


Step Four

Sew the shoulder area of the sleeves(cap)with a gathered stitch and make sure the machine is set to the longest stitch length.


Step Five 

Pull the gathered stitch at the sleeve cap(ease) to ensure an even distribution of the fabric on the sleeve side.


Step Six

Pin the sleeve together with the body by placing the center of the sleeve right side 

down at the center of the shoulder seam and this can be easily done by looking for the top-notch.


Step Seven

Bend the left side down before placing a pin at the end and align the notches on the sleeve with that on the body of the garment with another pin.


Step Eight

Fill the remaining space and the other sides with a pin. Then, stitch the sleeve and body together with a straight stitch using your sewing machine.


Step Nine

Pull the thread from the ease stitch out and do the same with the other sleeve.


Step Ten

Finish up the rough edges by using your preferred method,press  your seam towards your sleeve with a pressing iron before turning your clothes to the right side out and press the sleeves from the front making them look neat and professional.

Must You Add Sleeves To All Type Of Garment?

Yes, provided you are not sewing a sleeveless garment as sleeves are not just there to add to the beauty of the cloth but they also provide warmth during harsh weather conditions.

What Should You Note When Sewing In Sleeves?

I know you are wondering why you need to sew your sleeves in a rounded manner or why we have to hold them with a pin and sew it slowly, I will be dropping some tips with you for you to have a better understanding of your sleeves.


  • The 2 notches at the back and 1 at the front and shoulder help to hang the arm properly because the arms naturally tilt forward.
  • The ease is always added between the front notch and the back notch and that is because there are muscles at the top of where the sleeve sits so an extra fabric has to be added and that is the ease.
  • Pin the underarm and the side seam together before pinning the other sides of the sleeves.
  • Trim off any excess allowance apart from the 1 cm seam allowance when working on a light fabric.
  • To secure your cloth, sew around first with a longer stitch length and once it is perfect, sew with the normal stitch before removing the previous one.


Sleeves are always beautiful on clothes when done perfectly but you need to choose the best method that rightly suits the type of fabric you are working with and the style of cloth. However, the faithful you are to the rule, the easier it is for you to get your sleeve done perfectly.