Learn How to Make the Basic Sleeve Block

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Video Transcript

00:00:00:23 – 00:00:30:19

Hello, this is Maria from In this video, I’m going to walk you through how to draft the Sleeve Block. You’ll need to have your Bodice Block Front and Back completed before you can draft the sleeve, as we need the armhole measurements from those blocks. On the left is what the Sleeve Block will look like.

00:00:30:19 – 00:00:49:08

when I have finished drafting it. I will be using standard measurements to draft this block. On the right, an orange is the bodice front and back, which would complete this block set. I have already created the videos for bodice front and back instructions. Note that this is the basic one piece sleeve and it has a dart in the elbow.

00:00:49:08 – 00:01:06:09

The green sleeve block on the right is my block, which as you may be able to see, is a bit different in shape to the standard block on the left. If you are using your own individual measurements to draft your own custom block, it may look a little different or significantly different to the one that I’m drafting. I actually want to cover a few things before we start drafting the Sleeve

00:01:06:09 – 00:01:24:04

Block. Firstly, I want to talk about the seven measurements you need to draft this sleeve block. The first measurement is the length of the sleeve from the shoulder tip to the wrist with the arm bend. The second measurement is from the shoulder tip to the elbow, the third around the elbow with the arm bent. These three measurements are fairly straightforward.

00:01:24:12 – 00:01:48:08

If your sleeve ends up short, it’s obvious and you add some length. If it ends up too tight in the elbow, when you bend your arm, you add to the elbow width. The other 4 measurements needed to draft the sleeve are; the front armhole measurement from your front bodice block, the back armhole measurement from your back block, the bicep measurement, which is around your bicep at the armhole level and the cap height, from the shoulder tip to the bicep level.

00:01:48:21 – 00:02:12:00

Now these 4 measurements are the building blocks of the sleeve cap. Taking these four measurements aren’t necessarily difficult, except maybe the cap height can be, because it’s not necessarily that obvious, but it is the relationship between these 4 measurements that causes the most problem in drafting a well fitting one piece fitted sleeve block. So let’s first look at the definition of a fitted sleeve.

00:02:13:01 – 00:02:32:11

There are two aspects to the fitted sleeve. The first one is the look. It follows the contours of the arm, rather than flaring out. Minimal ease is added to the bicep to accommodate the arm in a close fit. The second aspect is the smooth head of the sleeve, so it also has minimal ease in the cap. It means there are no tucks and gathers.

00:02:32:11 – 00:02:53:20

Only enough ease is put into sew the sleeve into the curve of the armhole. So in the graphic shown only A is a fitted sleeve, B has gathers in the sleeve cap, C flares out, D and E have gathers either or both in the bicep and the cap. Now, as I said, the key for a fitted sleeve is having minimal ease in both the cap and the bicep.

00:02:54:09 – 00:03:10:19

Now let’s go back and have another look at the 4 measurements that we use to draft the sleeve cap. If you look at the graphic at the top right, you can see that the sleeve curve is built around a triangle. The three sides of the triangle are the back armhole, the front armhole and the bicep. The height of the triangle is the cap height.

00:03:12:00 – 00:03:34:12

Now I have just enlarged the sleeve cap so we can focus on the triangle, but I have not enlarged the inch grid. So the sleeve is not in proportion to the grid. The sleeve cap is shown by the black curved outline. The curve is built, as I said in the last slide upon the triangle underneath. Now it should be obviou,s when you think about it, that you cannot draw this triangle using 4 measurements.

00:03:34:19 – 00:03:58:23

There are actually three different combinations of these measurements that you could use to draw this triangle. Firstly, the back armhole, the front armhole and the bicep. Secondly, the back armhole, the front armhole and the cap height. Or thirdly, the bicep and the cap part. Now, if you have a standard figure or if you’re lucky, the relationship between the cap height and the bicep just happen to magically work together to give you the right result.

00:03:59:07 – 00:04:19:11

But if you’re unlucky, it doesn’t. On the left hand side. In example A, you have a triangle created with the three measurements; back armhole, front armhole and bicep. In this case, in figure A, the cap height is what it is. Now, if this was actually your back armhole measurement, your front armhole measurement and your bicep, all including some ease,

00:04:19:18 – 00:04:42:19

but the cap hot did not match the cap height on your body. Well, what would that mean? Well, firstly, if that cap height was longer than your cap height and so you had to reduce that cap height, you would have to extend the bicep, make that bicep larger, and have more ease in the bicep. Otherwise you wouldn’t have enough room in that curve to sew it into the armhole.

00:04:43:11 – 00:05:03:15

On the other hand, if this cap height was too low and you needed a higher cap height, you would have to make the back and front armhole lines longer. And in that case you will have more ease than you need for a fitted sleeve in the sleeve cap. So you would either have to have gathers or you could put a dart in the sleeve cap. On the right,

00:05:03:15 – 00:05:22:01

in example B, the triangle is created using the cap height and the front and back armhole measurements. Again, if this was your back arm hole measurement, your front arm hole measurement and your cap height, then the bicep is what it is. In this case, if your bicep was smaller than this measurement, you would just have to have extra ease in your bicep.

00:05:22:17 – 00:05:40:09

If your bicep was larger than this, then you’d have to make the adjustment to the back and from armholes and you’d end up with more ease in the sleeve cap than is ideal and you’d have to put in gathers or a dart in the cap. Now just a final note about the ideal amount of ease that you want in the slave cap to be able to ease it into the armhole.

00:05:41:01 – 00:06:01:08

Most patternaking books I have referred to say that you need between 1 and 1/4 and 1 and 3/4 inch ease in the sleve cap. But many fitting books have read, written by dressmakers or sewers, say that 3/4 of an inch is sufficient and 1 inch is the maximum. So it seems patternmakers say more and dressmakers seem to think a little less.

00:06:01:20 – 00:06:17:19

Now, just a couple more notes before we start drafting the sleeve. The standard amount of ease you add to the bicep is 2 inches. If you have the upright posture of a Standard Figure, adding 2 inches ease to the bicep will help you: (1) end up with a desirable cap-height and (2) will also result in a comfortable sleeve.

00:06:18:18 – 00:06:42:14

Now, the issue of the ease in the bicep is that it’s not only for bicep ease. It’s ease for movement as well. When you stand with your arms straight down, the two inches ease in the bicep might be plenty. But then when you move your arms forward and up, the sleeve might become constrictive, uncomfortable, or even painful. That’s because garments behave differently with movement than they do when you’re standing still.

00:06:43:00 – 00:07:00:22

So depending on your body shape, your posture and other issues, it may mean that you need more than the standard 2 inches ease in the bicep. If sleeves in ready-to-wear clothing are generally constrictive when you move your arms forward and up, then you will probably have to add more than the 2 nches standard ease in the bicep.

00:07:00:22 – 00:07:22:16

You might need three inches. You may need more. I recommend that if you find ready-to-wear sleeves quite constrictive, that you start with 3 inches. The issue with adding the three inches instead of two is that chances are you’re going to end up with more ease than is desirable in the sleeve cap. And so you’re going to end up with gathers or have to put a dart in the cap.

00:07:23:03 – 00:07:47:21

So let’s start drafting the sleeve. Draw a horizontal line from A to B that is 8 inches longer than your bicep measurement. Note that I’m only showing you the top of the sleeve at the moment. You’ll need a lot more paper below. Your paper needs to be a few inches longer than the length of your sleeve. In the middle of that A to B line, mark point C and draw a vertical guideline at right angles to the A to B line, about seven inches high.

00:07:48:07 – 00:08:18:00

Add your bicep measurement plus ease. The amount of ease will vary per person. 2 inches ease for standard figures, but if sleeves in ready-to-wear clothing are usually constrictive, start with 3 inches ease. On the A to B line, with point C at the center, measure out your bicep measurement plus ease and mark points E and F. Add together your back armhole measurement plus 1/4 inch ease to your front armhole measurement plus 1/4 inch ease,

00:08:18:06 – 00:08:47:15

then divide the total by 2. Using that measurement measure from point E up to touch the C to D line and mark point G. Don’t draw a line. You’re just measuring up and marking point G. Now starting at point G, take your back armhole measurement plus a quarter inch ease and measure towards the A to B line if your back armhole measurement is smaller than the front, you’re going to end up with a point to the right of point E,

00:08:47:24 – 00:09:13:08

If your back armhole measurement is larger than your front, the point will end up to the left of point E. So mark that and label it point H. Now using your front armhole measurement plus 1/4 inch ease, measure from point G to touch the A to B line. If your front armhole measurement is smaller than the back, the point will end up as shown in the example to the left of point F.

00:09:13:08 – 00:09:39:01

If if your front armhole is larger, it will end up to the right of point F. Make that new point I, Your bicep line is now from point H to point I. Using your body cap height measurement, measure up from point C and mark point J. If G and J are the same or very, very close, you won’t have to do anything for this slide.

00:09:39:22 – 00:10:07:06

If your point J is below point G as an example A you will need to redraw the front and back armhole lines, so maintain earning the same length measure from point J towards the A to B line and mark new points H2 and I2. In this case you have increased your bicep measurement. If J is above G as an example B on the right, redraw your front and back

00:10:07:06 – 00:10:36:03

armholes from J to H and from J to I. In this case, an additional mount has been added on to the ease in the sleeve cap. If that’s a large amount, you might not be able to actually ease it into the armhole, and you might have to have gathers or a dart. Find the center of the H to I and mark the point at the center C2. This is the center of your bicep line.

00:10:36:03 – 00:11:07:07

Now draw a vertical line down from point C2, at right angles to the bicep line. The length of that line is the sleeve length minus the cap height. Mark the end point K and draw a wrist guideline at right angles to the C2 to K line. Using the shoulder to elbow measurement minus the cap height, measure down from C2 on the C2 to K line and mark point L. With point L at the center,

00:11:07:14 – 00:11:31:19

draw a horizontal line at right angles to the C2 to K line. The length of this line is the elbow measurement. That is the bent elbow plus ease. The amount of ease you will use will depend on how much ease you added to the bicep. If you added two inches each to the bicep, add 1 and 1/4 inch ease to the elbow. If you added 3 inches ease to the bicep, add 1 and 3/4 inches to the elbow.

00:11:32:06 – 00:11:57:14

If you added 4 inches ease to the bicep, add 2 inches ease to the elbow. This is just a note explaining why we add a proportional amount of ease to the elbow, depending on the ease added to the bicep. Otherwise you might end up with a very tapered sleeve. If you add a lot of ease to say the bicep and not much to the elbow it tapers and it can end up tapering down to an extreme so that you can’t actually fit your hand in.

00:11:57:23 – 00:12:41:08

It is best to add proportional ease. We will now draw the seam lines in. Draw a line from H at the bicep passing through point M at the elbow to meet the wrist line. Mark that point O. Draw another line from F through point N at the elbow to touch the wrist line and mark point P. Now we’re going to start creating a dart at the elbow. Measure out from point M on the M to N elbow line for 1/4 inch and mark point Q. Now measure down from M on the M to O line for 1 inch and mark point R. This is the dart width. Measure 5/8 of an inch from point

00:12:41:08 – 00:13:07:10

O on O to P wrist line and mark point S. Now we’re going to draw one of the dart legs. Measure the distance from Q to L on the elbow line, and divide that by two. Using that value, measure from Q and mark the elbow point dart. Draw the second leg the same length as the first one, starting at the dart point and going through point R and marking point T.

00:13:08:13 – 00:13:30:12

Now draw a line from H to Q. Note that there may be a very slight difference between the length of this line to the length of F to N, but it will be very, very minimal and it can be eased when sewn. Measure N to P and using that measurement, draw a line from T through point S and mark point U.

00:13:31:17 – 00:13:54:20

Just to be clear here, we will be sewing when we say the sleeve up, we will be sewing the H to Q line to the F to N line. and the T to S line to the N to P line. So they need to match in length. We need to draw the wrist line from U to P. You can draw a curved as shown or you can draw a straight line because a curved line is going to be much harder to hem.

00:13:55:12 – 00:14:13:23

I’ll leave that up to you. Now we’re moving back up to the sleeve cap to draw in the curve or to prepare to draw in the curve at least. First measure the back armhole line from G to H and divide it by four. Mark the three points V, W and X as shown, moving from the bicep up to the head.

00:14:14:13 – 00:14:39:06

Also divide the front armhole by four and make the points Y, Z and A-2 as shown, starting at the top and moving down to the bicep line. At point V, measure inwards at right angles to the straight line, for 1/4 of an inch. At point W measure out at right angles to the straight line for 5/16 of an inch . At point X, measure out at right angles to the straight line for 3/4 of an inch.

00:14:39:12 – 00:15:02:03

That’s the back. For the front, at point Y measure out at right angles to the straight line for 7/8 of an inch. At points Z or Z, measure out right angles to the straight line for a 1/4 of an inch. At point A2, measure inwards at right angles to the straight line for 1/2 inch. Using a French curve, draw the sleeve curve to touch the points

00:15:02:03 – 00:15:34:24

as shown. You’ll need to move the French curve and blend the lines together. Now we want to measure the sleeve cap curve and compare it to the armhole measurements. So measure the curve from A to G and check that against the back armhole measurement. Then measure from G to F and check that against the front armhole measurement. The measurement of the sleeve cap ideally will be between the whole sleeve cap from eight F will ideally be between 3/4 quarters of an inch and 1 and 3/4 of an inch more than the total measurements of the back and front armhole added together.

00:15:35:18 – 00:15:52:12

Now, if the curve is a lot more than 1 and 3/4 pf an inch or more than that, you won’t be able to ease that into the curve of the armhole. So if you do have a lot more than the ideal, then you’ll end up with gathers or you’ll need to put in a dart if you don’t want those gathers.

00:15:53:04 – 00:16:22:10

If you do decide to go with the dart you might want to leave just 1 inch ease and incorporate the rest left over into the dart. The length of your dart, how far down your arm you want? You need it to go. That’s something you’ll need to test at the toile stage. Where the sleeve head curve crosses the straight lines front and back, mark notches. Two notches in the back armhole and one in the front.

00:16:22:10 – 00:16:38:10

We’ve now finished the sleeve block, but we’ve got a few other things to do, such as marking these notches at the front and back armhole onto the Bodice Front and Bodice Back, and a couple of other things before we finish up. If you have drafted the block onto paper and are going to transfer it to cardboard, don’t cut it out yet.

00:16:38:16 – 00:16:56:24

You might need to make a slight change to the curve of the sleeve around the armhole. We’ll do that in an upcoming slide when we bring in the Bodice Front and the Bodice Back. When you do have your final block, make sure you notch the sleeve, head the back and front armhole all the dart legs. Mark the elbow line and draw in the grainline at right angles to the bicep line.

00:16:57:01 – 00:17:17:04

And don’t forget to label your block, Bring in your bodice back. Firstly, as shown in example A, check the beginning of the curve of the armhole, see that it matches the curve of the sleeve. You can fine tune the sleeve curve here, for example, shave a bit off or add a bit to match the curve of the armhole just for the first few inches.

00:17:17:13 – 00:17:47:18

Then as shown in example B, walk that bodice block along the sleeve until you reach the notches on the sleeve and transfer those notch markings onto the Bodice Back. Or not transfer so much, actually just put it on to the bodice back so they appear on both the Sleeve and the Bodice Back. You could, if you wanted, keep walking the bodice back until you reach the shoulder tip and mark that shoulder point on the sleeve to see how much ease there is left between that point and the shoulder notch.

00:17:48:23 – 00:18:15:13

Now bring in your Bodice Front. With the front, follow the same process as we just did with the Back. Check for a similar curve for the first couple of inches and adjust the sleeve curve if necessary. After that, walk the bodice front and mark the armhole notch on the Bodice Front Block. Then keep walking the bodice front and mark where the shoulder tip would be on the sleeve curve and see how much ease that you have left in that sleeve curve.

00:18:16:00 – 00:18:38:19

So now you really have finished the sleeve block at this point. If you’ve draftedit onto paper, you can create a clean copy on cardboard. I do have one more thing to say, though, before finishing this video. Now, you may wonder what a corset has got to do with a sleeve. What I want to stress is the fit that you can get with the basic blocks are not as good a fit as you can get with added design lines.

00:18:38:19 – 00:19:18:20

The quintessential example is the corset. You cannot get the fitting of a corset with a basic bodice block. The more design lines you add to a certain point, the better fit you can get. What I want to say is if you find it difficult to get the perfect fit in a one piece fitted sleeve without having too much ease in the sleeve cap without it being a bit constrictive in the armhole, don’t sweat it, you’ll get better result by designing clothes that fit your body. Put in the design ease that you need for comfort in the design stage, rather than sweating about getting this block completely perfect.

00:19:19:08 – 00:19:42:18

Because you can always add fullness in certain areas. When you add a design line, you can create a two piece sleeve. Yes, don’t sweat getting a perfect fit. If you can’t do it, you can’t do it. Design lines are your friend. Added fullness is your friend. Designing clothes that suit your body is the way that you need to go.

00:19:42:18 – 00:20:17:16

So thanks for staying and watching and listening, especially if you’ve got to the end. This is Maria from Dresspatternmaking. I will now be working on the Pants Block and should have that up in in another week. By Sunday 10th of May 2020. Chao.
Beautiful dreamer, wake unto me
Starlight and dew drops are waiting for thee
Sounds of the rude world, heard in the day
Lulled by the moonlight, have all passed away.

00:20:17:22 – 00:20:23:24

Lulled by the moonlight,  have all passed away.


2 Responses

  1. Great video!! You explained it perfectly clear!! I just found your website and I am already a fan!

    Thank you very much!!


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