Some time ago, I promised to post my method for sewing in a set-in sleeve. I really don’t mind seaming a set-in sleeve. In fact, it gives me a great sense of accomplishment when I’ve finished and it looks good. It doesn’t even take that long.
When I learned to sew, I was taught to sew the underarm seams of the sleeves and the side seams of the main body of the garment before setting in the sleeve. Then the sleeve was turned inside out and put inside the body of the garment (right sides together) so cap could be eased in order to fit into the armscye properly.
In sewing the sleeve cap in knitting, I leave seams open. This lets me manipulate the pieces more easily and allows me to use my favorite technique, pictured. To me, the critical difference in a set in sleeve cap and other seaming in knitted garments is that the sleeve cap seam is not flat when worn, so it helps to work it over a shape something like a shoulder. I use my knee:
Or, if you don’t enjoy bad posture sewing, you can drape it over the edge of an upholstered chair:
You could roll up a towel and use it while sitting at a table enjoying good posture. If you are the sort of well-stocked seamstress I am not, you could use a tailor’s ham instead.
First, I rarely block before seaming. Blocking takes up precious time and space, and unless the stitch pattern requires it (lace, some rib/cable combinations) it doesn’t really help me much. Stockinette will curl no matter what, that’s its nature. So, skip the blocking, then sew shoulder seam (or do a 3 needle bind off if that’s your preference.)
Next, mark the following spots for linging up the body and the sleeve using split ring markers, pins, tailors tacks, tie a bit of yarn on, whatever works or you have handy. I’ll use yarn scraps if I don’t want to get up and get my other knitting bag that has markers and pins. I am not an illustrator, but this should indicate how the sleeve fits in the armscye and where to mark. Those spots are in green.
low tech how sleeve fits in armscye
Fold sleeve in half, place a pin or marker in the center top, pin to shoulder seam.
Bring edge of underarm bind off up to center top spot you have marked, then mark for half way point, repeat for other side. Mark the same spots on the body, then pin together at the top, and the side spots. Coiless safety pins or split ring markers work well for this.
(Hopefully, you did the decreases two sts in from edge, it does make seaming easier.)
I start with two lengths of seaming yarn, starting one at each bound off underarm. First sew vertical to horizontal (bars to v’s) then mattress stitch along the armhole. (Pink arrows.) With mattress stitch, I sew a couple of inches on one side, then a couple on the other. I alternate, checking for smoothness and to see that I haven’t veered off into another column of stitches. Since the sleeve cap is eased in, you may not work 2 bars to 2 bars of mattress stitch. I often work 2 bars from the sleeve, 1 from the body, then do 2 from the body. Depending on row gauge, make your adjustment. When I get to the first marker or pin, I ensure they match. Then I work one side up and over the sleeve cap, so there is a smooth line there, without needing to join yarn or weave in more ends. ( At the top of the sleeve cap the seaming back to bars and v’s.) I do two bars and two bars, but switch to two and one to ease in the cap. I work the other side up and meet the seam, easing in as necessary. The great thing about seaming in knitting is that it is so easy to undo a few stitches and adjust. I can remember practically destroying some set in fabric sleeves, I ripped them out so many times. (My mother would walk by and say, “Well Rip, how’s it going?”)
That’s it. When I finish the seams and cuffs and finally block, I’ll post a picture.
And because I feel like it and Jocelyn asked, here’s a gratuitous foster horse photo. Norwegian Wood?