Sewing sleeves onto a dress, skirt, blouse, or shirt sounds like it could be difficult, but it isn’t too hard. There are basically two methods and we will look at both of them in this article. The best option to use if your item of clothing is in pieces is to sew them with the flat method. If the body has already been sewn up, you will need to use the set-in sleeves option. In addition, you will have to hem your sleeves, whichever method you use.

The Flat Method

The first thing to do is to sew the shoulder seams closed. Make sure that the shoulder seams are even with each other. Once you have done this, pin the edges to secure the fabric in place. Using a straight stitch, sew the shoulders with a ½ inch seam allowance. Don’t sew past the shoulder on either side. Don’t sew around the neckline yet or down the side seams as this will make the item of clothing uncomfortable to wear.

The next step is to mark the center of the sleeve and the central point of the shoulder opening. This will ensure an even fit. To find the center of the sleeves, fold them in half and mark the center with chalk or a removable pen. 

Now it’s time to match up the armhole opening with the sleeve. Spread out the body piece with the right sides facing upwards. Line up the edges of the shoulder part of the sleeve together with the shoulder part of the body piece.  

Pin the sleeve to the armhole opening to secure them together. It is best to pin from the center of the shoulder. You will already have marked this on the fabric. This makes sure that the sleeve will fit the armhole perfectly. Use a different colored pin to mark the center so that you will know where it is and then pin the rest of the sleeve to the armhole.  Make sure that the right sides of the sleeves are turned downwards. 

When you have pinned the sleeves all the way around, sew a straight stitch along the raw edges of the fabric. Use a ½ inch seam allowance. Take out the pins as you sew and cut off the excess thread when you finish sewing. You can backstitch at the beginning and the end to ensure that the stitches will be secure. Then repeat the procedure for the other sleeve.

It is important to sew the sleeves on first and not the sides otherwise the garment won’t lie flat and won’t fit.

Turn your piece of clothing inside out and line up the edges of your body piece. The seams you have just sewn should be visible. Place pins on the bottom of the sleeves and along the side seams of the body piece. Again, pins will make it much easier to sew in a straight line. 

The next step is to sew in a straight line along the bottom edges of the sleeves and along the sides of the body piece. Again leave a ½ inch seam allowance Backstitch at the beginning and end of the sewing to keep the stitches secure.

Turn your garment back to the right side and it’s ready to wear.

Sewing Set-in Sleeves

This method is used if the body part is already sewn up and your sleeves are sewn on the bottom edges. 

Turn your garment inside out and put the right side of your sleeve through the armhole wrist first. Keep pushing it through until the edges of the shoulder area and armhole opening lie together. Match the seams of the armhole openings and the sleeve.

The next step is to pin the bottom edge of the sleeve onto the bottom edge of the armhole opening. When you think they look equal, pin around the rest of the opening and sleeve. The raw edges need to be facing each other and the fabric needs to be distributed equally so that the sleeves hang correctly. As in the flat method, you can pin the center of the shoulder seam and of the armhole opening. This will give you more accuracy when it comes to sewing the pieces together. Ensure that the correct sides of the two fabrics are facing each other.

Sew along the edges using a straight stitch with a ½ inch seam allowance. When you have done one sleeve, stitch the other in the same way. Then turn the garment back to the right side and you are almost ready to wear it.

Hem the Sleeves

Whichever method you use to sew the sleeves onto your garment, the next step is to hem the sleeves so that you don’t have raw edges. 

Turn your garment inside out and then fold the bottom of your sleeves ½ inch from the raw edge. You will be best off using a ruler to make sure that the distance is the same all the way around. It is a good idea to press the fold even before pinning as it will ensure that you have the same measurement all the way around.  

The next step is to sew around the edge of the sleeve, removing the pins as you go. Sew halfway down the fold, about ¼ inch from the edge. Backstitch at the beginning and end of stitching and then repeat the procedure for the other sleeve.


We hope that you have found this article informative and you feel ready to sew sleeves to a garment. It isn’t too difficult to accomplish. You just need a little time and patience when you first start sewing sleeves onto your garments. In no time at all, you will be sewing with ease. In addition, it doesn’t just have to be long sleeves, the process works just as well with short sleeves.