Sewing Skewl Tip #1: Dominant seams

When constructing a sleeve, there are two common approaches:

1. Leaving the side seam of the bodice and underarm seam of the sleeve open, sew the sleeve cap to the armscye (right sides together). Then stitch the side seam and and underarm seam all in one go, lining up the armscye seam.

2. Assemble the side seam of the bodice and underarm seam of the sleeve. With bodice inside out, and sleeve right side out, place sleeve inside bodice and sew around the armscye, lining up the side seam with the underarm seam.

I always thought that it was just personal preference that would make you choose one method over the other, but there is actually a difference. Basically, the seam that you sew last ends up being the dominant seam and can subtly affect the way a garment falls. Choosing method #1 is appropriate in a work shirt or t-shirt (with a flatter sleeve cap) where a full range of motion is required. Method #2 is used for tailored jackets and closer fitting tops (with a higher cap height).

The same principle works for pants. When I first learned to sew, I would sew the crotch seams of the front and back first, then the outside seams and then the inseam in one line. We recently sewed shorts in school and the instructions were just the opposite. Here we sewed the outseam and inseam of each leg, then - like method #2 of the sleeve construction - we were directed to place one leg inside the other and sew the crotch seam from front to back, lining up the inseam along the way. This makes the pants "stand up straight" if you will.

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The lovely and talented Kathleen from Fashion Incubator has illustrated this point rather dramatically when applied to linings and facings. I strongly suggest you check out her post here.


Kathleen Fasanella said...

For the third time in as many days, this issue has come up. I've wanted to write about it for some time but lacked the means to articulate it. Happily enough (for me), you've done that in terms describing this "seam dominance" altho I'd modify the discussion to wend it to my agenda (no surprise there). Thanks and I'll remember to be appropriately grateful.

Erin Whitney said...

What the...? Kathleen, I just discovered your site a couple of days ago and spent HOURS cruising around it! So nice to have you here. I intend to post a lot more of the tips I'm learning in school, and would love to hear comments and feedback, so do keep in touch. I'm truly amazed by Fashion Incubator, thanks for all of your dedication there.

Timo Rissanen said...

Great post! And great that you mention the difference in sleeve caps for each method. There is also a difference in pattern (specifically in the crotch) for the two methods in pants (see jeans and then look at tailored trousers). When I went to fashion school, jeans were described as having an open leg, while trousers have a closed leg. Your diagrams illustrate this beautifully. The resulting appearance with setting in a sleeve or sewing the crotch last is neater (though this can be an understatement with tailored trousers sewn in the wrong order) but the range of motion, as you note, will be reduced.

Thanks for the post!

Erin Whitney said...

Thanks Timo. That is news to me about the crotch curve in jeans and trousers. We've just started pants in my program, so I'll have to keep a look out for that.

PS - I was very happy to discover your blog, pretty sure it was through Kathleen's site, too.