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How to ... sew underarm (sleeve) gusset

It's been quite a while since I wrote a how-to blog post. And the reason, I wanted to write about the underarm (sleeve) gusset is that I struggled finding a good blog post or video tutorial online. I found one video that I am basing my step by step. You can check out Threads Magazine to see a video on how to modify sleeves for better arm mobility. They discuss 3 modifications, and one being if the sleeve & bodice are already sewn together. So this would also be a good alteration for a ready-to-wear garment you might have in your wardrobe already.

Now you might wonder why didn't make the necessary changes to the pattern piece. Good thought ... when I made the pattern (Eve Dress from Sew Over It) the very first time, I thought the tightness of the sleeve came from my bicep and broad back. So after the first wearable toile (I made little cap sleeves), I made my usual adjustments: broad back (3/8" or 1 cm) and a full bicep adjustment (about an 1" or 2.5cm). But to my surprise, I still couldn't lift my arm and I noticed that the tightness didn't come from my back anymore but from underneath the sleeves - where the side seams (of front & back bodice) meet the sleeve seam - so pretty much the armpit area. So what I should have done too ... is raising the armhole.

I took one of my favourite woven top pattern (back bodice piece) and compared the underarm, side and shoulder seam area and noticed that the armhole of the Eve Dress is about an 1" lower than the top pattern I used for comparison. So I will make this adjustment for future garments but what should I do to save this dress because I really wanted short sleeves but didn't have enough fabric cut another bodice, let alone a new sleeve.

Thanks to the video of Threads Magazine, I decided to go for an underarm (sleeve) gusset. And here are the steps to cut and sew this:

First determined how much to add (for the gusset) and how much to take away from the shoulder. I ended up removing about an inch from the shoulder seam and the armhole.

For the gusset, I thought I needed about an inch - based on the difference between the two patterns - but decided to draft a piece that is 2" wide and about 4" in length, shaping it like an almond. Because I can always make this piece smaller in case it is too big. You can see on the picture, I added a seam allowance of about 1/4" so that I could sew it with the overlocker right away.

I attached one side of the gusset to the armhole first and then I set the sleeve in. The sleeve is a little shorter in length (from the shoulder seam notch to the single front notch) than the front bodice, so I took the excess in where the yoke joins the front bodice piece.

Having worn the dress once, I noticed that there is a bit tension on the front sleeve and front bodice area. You can see it in the picture below that the stitches are slightly visible. So I decided to give it a wash that any fibres that might have stretched while sewing and wearing, shrink back and then I will give it a reinforcement stitch with smaller stitch length.

I am some what pleased with the outcome and can now move my arms to the height of my shoulders previously I was restricted to a 5cm gap between my body and my arm, so that is definitely an improvement and I have arm mobility to drive and reach for things. But there is still some tightness and I am not as comfortable as with other dresses. So I guess it means back to the drawing board and check for other adjustments.

I am glad, I managed to save the dress by adding a small piece of fabric to the underarm and thanks to the busy print, it is hardly noticeable.

Thanks for hanging out with me.

Happy Sewing,


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