Tips for Fitting a Raglan Sleeve

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By fit expert Rae Cumbie

There are many fitting points to evaluate when fitting a raglan sleeve. Because the sleeve forms a section of the front and back, neckline and shoulders, it’s necessary to consider all these elements in addition to the actual fit of the sleeve itself. That means there are lots of possible adjustments, but the good thing is there are also a lot of seams where you can nuance the fit.

If you’re having trouble fitting the sleeve and it doesn’t have a seam from the shoulder to the hem, consider adding one so you’re better able to adjust the sleeve and shoulder.

Make a mock up or work on the ill-fitting garment. Follow these guidelines to begin the assessment:

  • Does the shoulder seam or dart sit at the center of the neck and point smoothly to the shoulder point? Decide if this is a simple shoulder realignment, or if the top is being pulled to the front or back because it’s too tight in the body.
  • Is their visible strain anywhere? The draglines or puckering fabric can guide you to the fitting problem. Perhaps you need extra room for a full or rounded upper-back  (7) or more room for the bust (8).

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  • Does the front and back sleeve seam align with fold of the arm? Remember there must be some ease for movement, especially when working with a woven fabric. Release the raglan sleeve armholes to adjust the armhole placement.

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  • Does the sleeve fit smoothly down the arm and allow for easy movement? A two-piece sleeve allows you to adjust the sleeve front or back anywhere it’s tight, shoulder point, upper arm, elbow or hem.

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  • Is there extra fabric in the front armhole above the bust to pin out into a dart? It’s easy to extend the adjustments into the sleeve if necessary.

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  • Does the neck lay flat against the body? Do you need to pinch out a dart along the neckline or dart the upper back? In the front, move the excess into a bust dart or adjust in the raglan sleeve seam. In the back, small darts aren’t an unusual modification if they provide a smooth neckline fit.

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Release seams that are stressed, and then put the top back on to see what needs attention. Shift the seams so they sit smoothly on the body. Add additional fabric where the mockup was slashed to achieve a smooth fit. Transfer all the changes to the paper pattern so the improved fit is readily available the next time you stitch the raglan sleeve top.

 Tips for Fitting a Raglan Sleeve
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One Response to Tips for Fitting a Raglan Sleeve

  1. Charlotte Trayer says:

    In the first illustration, the diagram of the garment looks like you’ve added to the sleeve starting At The Raglan Seam and tapering to the center of the sleeve. However, in the pattern piece diagram of the sleeve, it looks like you’ve added to it starting at the CENTER of the sleeve and tapered it to the raglan seam! You can’t have it both ways!

    (The shorter seam is the raglan seam, the long convexly-curved line is the center of the sleeve.)

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