How many ways can can you a sleeve? Over the last month, I’ve been diving into different drafting methods and was surprised at how many different ways it can be done.
I wanted to make a close-fitting denim shirt, like in the tech drawing above. Shoulder yoke, front princess seams, shirt-tail hem, and long sleeves with placket and cuffs. The fabric is a lovely tencel chambray with printed dots. Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve done some more fitting with the armscye of my fitted blouse block that I used for the yellow shirt. I’ve used that block to draft this pattern.
The hemline, button placket and collar from the yellow shirt were reused. I drafted in the back yoke, bringing the shoulder seam 3cm forward at the neckline and 4cm at the armhole. The back seam of the yoke was two thirds of the way down the back armhole, and the neck dart was rotated into the seam. That bit was easy.
Fitting sleeves has never been easy for me. The combination of needing to reduce bodice length and increase the bicep width has made fitting commercial patterns a nightmare. Early on, I had taken Sara Veblen’s sleeve drafting course on Pattern Review, which yielded a better result, but I fell into my usual trap of overfitting. I found myself falling into that same trap when fitting the bodice block, and I just need to step away and tackle it another day. Hopefully after a series of minor iterations, interspersed with actual garments, I’ll arrive at the perfect fit. This is how I’m planning on tackling the sleeve draft; a bit at a time.
This sleeve is drafted from Aldrich. I should have tested the sleeve, but I was so over doing mock-ups and drafting. I just wanted to be sewing. I took the plunge and cut it out with my good fabric. Thankfully, it worked out. It is a very comfortable fit, and I don’t have any restriction in movement. So happy. It could do with some tweaks (in particular, it is too long), but for a first draft, I’m stoked!
Choosing a basic sleeve draft
At the moment, I’m just looking to perfect a basic sleeve draft for a fitted bodice block. This will have the asymmetric sleeve head, but not be darted/shaped at the elbow line.
Sleeve Drafting class (link). Since I bought the class a while back, I thought it was worth trying. The method uses a ‘square’ as the basis of the sleeve-head draft, the size of which comes from a table based on the total armscye length. The bicep with dropped out way to narrow, which I was prepared to fudge. The bottom half of the sleeve draft was seemed like a convoluted method of drafting. So I drafted it and didn’t pluck up the courage to do a test fit. It just looked too fudged. Although I’ve learnt a lot in her classes, I haven’t had much luck with the drafts.
Second draft was using Donnanno’s method; the same book that the bodice draft was from. It also uses a square, or rather rectangle, for the base of the draft ( points A,E,G, X in the picture). It is based what they call the ‘sector’, which is the width of the armhole in the bodice draft. It can be calculated using either the bust or bicep measurement, and I chose to use the bicep measurement since it was the larger of the two. The draft is mainly for the sleeve head, as the side seams fall vertical from the sleeve head. I thought this was a little odd, but I’ve come to like it as the lower part of the sleeve is more likely to change with the style anyway. For some reason the sleeve side seam is offset from the side seam of the bodice, but it can be easily moved. I used this draft for the yellow shirt, but had made a calculation error which mucked up the back armscye. When I redrafted it for the changes I made to the bodice armhole, I ended up with about 5cm of ease in the sleeve cap. Mmm, not sure if that was going to work.
The next draft was using Lekala’s free sleeve drafts. I’ve used these before to change the sleeve style of one one of their patterns. You enter your basic measurements (height, bust, hip), front and back armscye length, and desired cap ease percentage. Out pops a sleeve. Most of the time the bicep is too narrow, as in this case, and I’d need to make adjustments.
Next draft was from Winifred Aldrich’s Metric Pattern Cutting for Women’s Wear. This is based on the armscye measurements also. The cap height is determined by 1/3 of the total length, and then the measurements from the shoulder to cross-front (or cross-back) points and then to the side seam are used to define the sleevehead. I got really excited when I did this draft as I ended up the bicep width plus ease that I was looking for, and a workable amount of cap ease. You can imagine me doing a happy dance at this point.
Now the sleeve cap was decided, I set about drafting for the cuff and placket. The placket shape is one that I have used over and over. The cuff is drafted a little narrower than hand width and 5cm wide. Flicking though my drafting books, I couldn’t find an example of how to draft the bottom of the sleeve, so I looked up a menswear drafting book. I then drafted placket location, scooped the bottom of the sleeve to add extra length, added tin the two pleats at the correct spacing, and tapered the side seams to match the cuff width. Ahhh, sigh of relief. It looks like a shirt sleeve pattern now! This was the sleeve draft that I used for the shirt.
Since then I started having a look at other drafting systems. Hellen Joseph-Armstrong uses the cap height and front and back armscye lengths to mark out the height and width of the cap. I have not drafted this out, but I may at a later stage. It’s quite an ‘easy’ draft which gives guide lines for how far out the curves on cap should extend. If you haven’t drafted a sleeve before, I think this method would be a good starting place. There are some good instructions following the draft to adjust the sleeve and/or bodice for the cap ease, adjusting bicep ease, and sleeve pitch.
Donnanno and Aldrich use metric measurements, while the other sources use imperial. I find it easier and quicker to work with metric, as that is what I’m used to and can visualise the lengths better. The biggest lesson that I learnt in this process, was that there is always more than one way to do things. If one method doesn’t work for you, don’t be afraid to try another.