Battle of the Seams – Sleeve Edition!

(In my best WWF announcer voice)

That’s rrrrright, ladies and gentlemen! Tonight’s matchup is a battle for dominance of the sleeve seam! Will champion ready-to-wear method Flat Set come out on top, or will challenger In The Round win the big one? Staaaaay tuned and find out!

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My Review of Simplicity 8265 (and my grousing about the order of sleeve construction) elicited much commentary, both in favor of flat-set sleeve construction and of in-the-round construction. Well, I’m perfectly happy to be converted, so I decided to try it out myself!

Here are the ground rules I followed. I made a very simple mockup of a tee shirt using 4-way stretch knit in nude from Gorgeous Fabrics (I was originally going to do a full garment with some fabric I picked up from the red tag section at JoAnn, but it was so crappy I couldn’t deal and put it in the recycle bin). I used my Juki 4-thread MO-654DE serger on all seams, using a ΒΌ inch seam allowance. I pressed all seams flat and then towards the sleeve, and I was agnostic about each side – I didn’t try to make any side look better or worse. I used the same temperature, pressure, and steam on both sides. So here are the results:

First up, let’s look at the basic construction. The flat-set sleeve is sewn into the armscye before sewing the side seam/underarm seam.

This is looking at the flat-set sleeve in progress.

Now here is the in-the-round sleeve. The side and underarm seams are both sewn before inserting the sleeve into the resulting armhole.

Ready to sew the sleeve into the armhole

Here’s the front view of the finished mockup.

Honestly, can you see a difference? I can’t

After sewing the side/arm continuous seam, here’s a picture of the flat-set sleeve on Shelley.

Flat set sleeve: the top does not fit Shelley, so ignore any bustline wrinkles

The other side is the in-the-round construction


One Big Gotcha (for me, not you):

After reviewing these two pictures, I ran upstairs to check the right-side/wrong-side. I had used a symmetrical sleeve pattern, and guess what, they are opposite on each sleeve. In other words, one sleeve has the right side of the fabric facing out, the other has the right side facing in. It’s a stupid mistake that I shouldn’t have made, but in my defense, this is one of those knits that is the same on both sides and I promised this post yesterday so I was rushing – sorry. So if the draping of the sleeve at the shoulder looks reversed, that’s why. In point of fact, the drape is exactly the same, just inside-out.

Here are views of the seams from the inside.

Flat-set sleeve from the inside – notice it looks exactly like the in-the round from the outside.
Same sleeve looking at the underarm seam (nice matching, if I do say so!)
In-the-round view of the inside
And the underarm seam. Not quite as perfect, sorry…

Here are back views of each side on Shelley.

Flat-set sleeve from the back
In-the-round back


So, is flat-set better, or is in-the-round construction better? My opinion, for what it’s worth, is there isn’t a significant difference when you are working with a jersey or lightweight knit fabric. I’m not sure there’s a difference when working with a mid-weight knit like a double knit. But I think there may be a difference with a heavy knit fabric, and I definitely use in-the-round construction on most wovens. But hey – try it for yourself and see which you prefer. After all – a big part of sewing is deciding which methods work best for each of us!

And in Non-Sewing News…

I went to the neurologist yesterday, and I got some good news! I still have double vision, but I am cleared to start working and, even better, working out again. I also put on full makeup today for the first time since I got sick. Yah!!!!

Every little bit helps! #smallvictories

Happy sewing!