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Types of Sleeves

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Sleeves have practical and aesthetic functions that come in many types of sleevesoptionsto select from based on the garment style. Quickly change the garment’s silhouette and look with different sleeve type. 

A sleeve is a part of a garment that covers your arm in different lengths. The sleeve serves a function as well and a decorative element for the garment.

What are different types of sleeves? The two main types of sleeves are set-in and flat sleeve. Set-in sleeves are sewn to the bodice armhole after closing the shoulder and side seam, and flat sleeves are sewn in before the side seams are closed. 

From these two standard types of sleeves, you will explore more variation of sleeve silhouettes. Understanding the different sleeve designs will help you to sew sleeves with clear expectation. 

In this article, you will learn different shapes, sizes, and forms of sleeves that you can use for your garment. Covered below are the sleeve types and the best way to attach the to any garment.

Importance of sleeves

A sleeve has functional importance as it provides freedom of motion, an element of comfort, complements garment design, and serves overall clothing’s purpose. The design of the sleeve flatters the bodice section that it is attached to.

In addition, sleeves provide importance in the following ways:

  • Protect and serve as a cover to shoulders and arms.
  • Shade from the sun and also offers warmth.
  • Adds to a garment’s style and silhouette.
  • Create structure and movement to the cloth piece.
  • Become the focal point of the garment.

Not only do sleeves give an aesthetic look, but also keep your shoulder and arms protected. Every sleeve will offer different purposes and create the style that you are looking for. 

What is a normal sleeve called?

A normal sleeve is referred to as a regular sleeve, which is generally short sleeves. They are well-known in both women’s and men’s wear, especially common in t-shirts. 

Normal sleeves are somewhat longer as compared to cap sleeves, and usually extend lower to the elbow or above the elbow.

A regular sleeve differs from somewhat over the shoulder, also called cap sleeves. The majority of the shirt sleeves end from mid-upper arm to wrist length. 

A normal sleeve is short or mid-length, and could be loose or tight based on the sleeve design.

What are the two main types of sleeves?

The two primary sleeve types are set-in and flat sleeves. Flat sleeves are sewn with the bodice of the garment while a set-in is slipped into the armhole after the bodice of the garment is sewn.

What is the difference between sleeves are sewn in flat or in-the-round?

  • Sewn in-the-round: the seams are sewn prior to the seam of the armhole. 
  • Sewn flat: only the seams of the shoulder are sewn, and then the sleeve is sewn flat. The side seam and the sleeve are sewn up later.

Types of set-in sleeves

A set-in sleeve is attached to the armhole of the garment and then it is sewn all around. Set-in sleeves come in short and long sleeve lengths, also known as a “Drop sleeves”. 

All types of set-in sleeves have to be gathered, eased, tucked, darted, and then sewn into the bodice armhole seam.

Different types of set-in sleeves:

  • Plain: These sleeves are set on top or lower edge without any fullness.
  • Full sleeves:They come with lower edges with a cuff, a good example will be puff sleeve. Generally, requires gathering with a special sewing machine foot to execute evenly distributed fullness. 

Different types of sleeves

There are different types of sleeves that can be from long to short, structured to puffy, or loose to flowy. The sleeves vary in fabric types as well.

10 most common sleeve types:

  • Set-in sleeve: Attached to the armhole of the garment. It is sewn around all the way, then set-in the bodice fabric and hence not continuous.
  • Cap sleeves: Very short and extends far off the shoulder. It does not go beneath the armpit and can be elastic, loose or gathered seam.
  • Bell sleeves: The peasant sleeves are long and fitted about the upper arm and shoulder. It flares at the wrist, identical to a bell.
  • Raglan sleeves: Extends for the neckline of the garment, instead of the shoulder, and permits better movement. These sleeves are popular for baseball shirts.
  • Kimono sleeves: Piece of the bodice of the garment that is not sewn separately. The sleeve is wide with a uniform circumference.
  • Bishop sleeves: Flares out off the shoulder providing sleeve volume all through to the cuff. At the cuff, the garment is gathered tightly.
  • Butterfly sleeves: Flare out off the shoulder, but don’t fully cover the arm.
  • Flutter sleeves: Wider and shorter, falling off loosely.
  • Dolman sleeves: Deep armhole that gets narrow towards the wrist.
  • Puffed sleeves: Gathered at the seam and the shoulder, but puffy in the center.

Whether you are sewing knit or woven, these types of sleeves are easily achievable with a help of sewing patterns. Some may require elastic to make smooth gathering or narrow hemming to create professional finishes. 

Refer to the sewing instruction to nail the individual sleeve types with accuracy.

Types of sleeves

Sleeve Types: Final Thoughts

There are variations in sleeves, resulting in several types of sleeves based on the design, style, and fabric type. 

To get started, identify the two types of sleeve construction: set-in and flat sleeve. These are the preferred method that most sewers use to attach any sleeve to the garment. 

Based on design, there are plain and full sleeves. Plain sleeves do not contain any gathering and can vary from short to wrist length. You will see these types of sleeves in button-down shirt with cuffs or knit shirts.

The full sleeve contains shirring, either manually made or elastic shirring to give flexibility. Both sleeves may require specific tools to execute and finish the seam and hem depending on the fabric

From puff sleeve to raglan sleeve, there are 10 popular sleeve designs that you will see most often in the fashion industry. Visually identifying the different types of sleeves will help you expect the results without any surprises.

Sleeves protect your shoulders and arms, they also add silhouette and style to the garment. A fancy designed sleeve creates a fashionable clothing design and properly sewn sleeve give longevity to the garment. 

Use the list of sleeve types to understand sleeve designs that will further your sewing knowledge and skill set. 

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