Creative articles about sewing

“Irina” Sew Along – Week 6 – Sleeves

Welcome to Week 6 of the Irina Sew Along. This week we are doing set-in sleeves.

For the Linen colour blocked dress or the original Irina dress we are going to sew our set-in sleeves. If you’re doing the Merino Sleeveless tunic you have possibly already finished the armhole facings that we talked about in week 3. If not, have a read over that post – Week 3 – Neckline and Bodice.


Set-in Sleeves – Linen Colour Blocked dress

The thing with sewing set-in sleeves is that the sleeve cap always seems to big for the armhole. In reality the sewing line of the sleeve and armhole are the same length but because of the added seam allowances at different angles, the sleeve cap always seems like it is too big for the armhole. The trick to get things to fit nicely is to sew a row of gathering stitches across the sleeve cap that we can pull in to make it fit.


Step 1

Sew a row of long straight stitches across the top of the sleeve cap, approx. the length of the red line below. Don’t backstitch at either end and leave a long tail at each end. 

Step 2

Fold the sleeve in half and sew the sleeve closed (the short seam) with your standard seam allowance. Finish this seam with overlocking or zip zag. 

Step 3

Turn the sleeve so it has right sides facing out and turn the bodice inside out. Lay out your sleeve and bodice as you can see below, making sure that the front notches are going to match up. Put the sleeve inside the armhole.

Step 4

Match up the underarm seams, the front notches and the top shoulder notch with the shoulder seam. Then place a few pins around the armhole. You will see that the sleeve cap gets a bit wavy, like in the picture below.  

Step 5

Find 1 thread at the end of your gathering stitches and start to gentle pull it. Pull the thread until the fabric has pulled in just enough to make the sleeve cap fit in the armhole nicely, adding more pins as you need. Sew around your armhole with your standard seam allowance. Finish the edges with overlocking or zig zag.


Step 6

Repeat with the second sleeve. We are going to look at doing hems next week but if you want a standard hem on your sleeves then you can go ahead and hem your sleeves.


Bonus Inspiration

So that is the basic info needed for a set in sleeve but remember you can always embellish your sleeve if you want! I love how Lou from All Things Bernina added an extra frill to the top of her sleeve. She has roll hemmed the edge of it on the overlocker which is lovely easy finish that’s perfect for a frill like this. 

To add a frill like this to your garment you need to gather an extra strip of fabric and insert it in between the sleeve cap and shoulder before you sew the armhole.

I also think that a frill at the bottom of the sleeve would look great too! And now that you know the tricks of gathering from last weeks post you are all prepared to add an extra gathered frill to everything you make!



Re-Cap on the Hidden Facings for the Merino Tunic. 

The sleeveless tunic doesn’t have sleeves as such but it is finished with a hidden facing. We talked about doing the hidden facings in Week 3 but here is a quick recap on the hidden facings for the armholes. 

Step 1

Sew your front and back facing pieces together and finish the outer edges with overlocking or zigzags. 

Step 2

With right sides together, match the armhole facings to the armhole and pin all the way around. Sew with a 1 cm seam allowance, then trim the seam allowance back to about 5mm and add a few notches along the tight curve parts.

Step 3

Fold the facing out and give it a press with the iron. Understitch the facings, through all the seam allowances as well. 

Step 4

Turn the facing towards the inside of the garment and pin in place. 

Step 5

Top stitch facing in place.



Week 6 complete!

And that’s it for week 6. Your dress should be looking nearly complete now. Next week we are going to turn something people usually don’t like, into something fun and decorative. We’re going to have fun with hems! I will cover the usual basic hem options but I’m also going to show you a few fun ways to make the hem a design feature!


To see previous post you can click here:


Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

Week 5

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  • awelli EditEditing comments on the BERNINA blog is only possible after logging in with a blog user account. Sign up now or create a user account if you do not have one yet.

    Here is Irene! I used a lightweight denim tencel and color blocked the front and sides using read/white batik. I also added batik bias around the neckline! I love it!  

  • asantist EditEditing comments on the BERNINA blog is only possible after logging in with a blog user account. Sign up now or create a user account if you do not have one yet.

    I am using a gauze butterfly print.  It’s a fabric I had but not enough, so I made the side panels and the cap sleeve out of white.   I used a product called “Sew and Shrink” for the bodice front and back.  All that’s left is the hem.    This will be great for our hot Arizona summers.

    • Anna Hicks EditEditing comments on the BERNINA blog is only possible after logging in with a blog user account. Sign up now or create a user account if you do not have one yet.

      Oh it’s fantastic! I love it! That sew and shrink on the bodice is very cool. Love the interesting texture it adds 🙂

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