How to Sew Set In Sleeves (the easy cheater way)

 Attaching set-in sleeves (the easy, cheater way).

Okay, so it’s not really cheating. It’s a perfectly legitimate way of attaching a sleeve, and it is way easier.

However, a set-in sleeve is a set-in sleeve because you’re supposed to be setting it in, and with this method, you don’t.

hoodie by

Anyway, I’m splitting hairs.

Keep in mind, though, that this will only work if you haven’t already sewn up your side seams. If your side seams are sewn, you’ll either have to cut them open, or use the other method.

And if your garment doesn’t have side seams that line up with the sleeve seams, you’ll also have to use the other method.




Step 1

Sew the shoulder seams of the front and back pieces together.

You’ll notice that my front piece is cut in half- that’s because this is going to be a hoodie with a zipper in front. But this method will work for any top with side seams, so don’t worry.


Step 1


Step 2

I already have my sleeve piece cut out, all nice and stripey-like.

If you don’t have a pattern for sleeves, I strongly suggest you either BUY a pattern with sleeves, or cut apart an old shirt to make a sleeve pattern yourself, because they are tricky, goofy-shaped little dudes, and I can not instruct you on how to make one other than the advice above.

Step 2


Step 3

Mark the center of the curvy edge of the sleeve with a pin, the part that’ll be at the top of your shoulder when the shirt is on. Also mark the center of the armhole (called the scye).

Line Mr. Sleeve and Mr. Scye up where you’ve marked, right sides together, of course, and pin them together.


Step 3
Step 3

Step 4

I like to start from the center, and pin the rest of the sleeve to the front, working outwards.

Then go back to the center and pin the other side the same way, working outwards.


Step 4
Step 4


Step 5

Here it is all pinned together, from the inside.

Step 5
Step 5


Step 6

Now, we sew. Or serge, if you have an overlock machine.

Step 6
Step 6


Step 7

Thar she blows!

But… we’re only half-way done.

Don’t worry,though… that was the hardest part!


Step 7
Step 7


Step 8

Put all the right sides back together again with the sleeve folded in half on top.

Step 9
Step 8


Step 9

And again, we sew.

And bam! There it is!

Step 9
Step 9


Step 10


Surprised at how easy that was? I bet you didn’t even say any dirty words this time!

Step 10
Step 10


38 thoughts on “How to Sew Set In Sleeves (the easy cheater way)

  1. That peekaboo cracked me up! This is an easier way to do sleeves, and it’s how a recent pattern had me do it, but I wasn’t sure if I could just substitute it on any pattern or if there was a reason for doing it the “hard” way.

    1. The reason for doing it the hard way is, that the seam allowance, this way, does not lie but cringes up the fabric under the armpit.
      in general you can say:
      all loose patterns–> you may cheat
      all fitted patterns–> do it the hard way
      except: stretch fabric/jersey –> you may cheat.

  2. I just read somewhere that the “easy” way should only be used for stretch/knit fabrics, but I really don’t know why it would be any different with woven fabrics. I generally ignore such rules until I figure out whether it has any right to be a rule. 😀

  3. Hey, I must say this is the best tutorial I’ve seen so far but I still don’t understand something.
    I’m teaching myself to sew.
    I can’t seem to see what happened between step 3 and step 4,
    the sleeve seems to be on the other side all of a sudden and the yellow marking are so far apart.
    If you could explain that to me it would be very helpfull and I would finaly know how to sew a sleeve ^^ yay
    Thank you

    1. Hi there-
      In Step 4, the sleeve has been flipped over, so that the Right sides of the body and sleeve are together.
      The photo in Step 3 is just meant to show how the pieces will line up after they’re sewn together.

      Also, in Step 4, the reason the yellow dots are so far apart is because I only have half of the sleeve pinned to the body of the shirt.

  4. OK so I took fashion design for 4 years(that was years ago) and i’m getting back into it. This IS the way you’re supposed to sew a sleeve. The other(harder way) is done when your sewing it on a finished garment and don’t want to open up the seams.
    Great tutorial, inspiring & fun. Thank you for sharing so others can learn and/or be encouraged to try!

  5. Set-in sleeves have a deeper sleeve cap depth so that they will hang nicer when the arm is in a downward position. This is usually used for more formal wear. Using this easier method is for “sports” sleeves which have a shorter sleeve cap depth and allow more freedom of up and down arm movement. But, they are not quite as attractive when arm is in a downward position.

    Enjoyed this video.

    1. Thanks for that info, Sherril! Though I’m curious, what would prohibit you from attaching a deeper cap sleeve using the same technique? My long sleeve shirt pattern has a sleeve cap much deeper than a standard t-shirt, and I always use the “drop in” method versus set-in.

  6. This finally made everything process properly in my brain so it makes sense, and my head no longer wants to explode at the thought of having to do sleeves. You are my hero. <3

  7. I found an awesome sweatshirt on sale but it was waaay too big. I’m a novice sewer and your tutorial helped me tailor it perfectly! thanks!

  8. Thank you so much for this tutorial! The pics really helped. I was definitely at wit’s end trying to figure out how to get the sleeves to “go” right. After much ripping and cussing, I stumbled upon this. Bookmarked for later use! Thanks again!

  9. You. Are. Awesome. So, I was sewing a dress for my mother today and freaking out because before now I’ve NEVER constructed or sewn a sleeve. I used your other page where you talked about the different types of sleeves and used the measurements to make the bell-shaped sleeve pattern. Thankfully I hadn’t sewn the side seams of the dress yet… I like this way of doing sleeves soooo much better than the traditional way! You are a life-saver!!

  10. your tutorials are incredible! you must come from a long line of natural teachers and general qfus.
    xoxox thanks sweets!

  11. I learned to sew more than 50 years ago and struggled with sleeves in cotton blouses. Knits rule!,
    You might want to add to the tutorial the fact that if you put the concave surface ( part that curves in) next to the feed dogs, any difference in length between the two pieces of fabric will be eased in.

  12. This just might be my lifesaver to doing sleeves that I’ve begged a friend to help me with but she didn’t so I’m hoping this solves this,thank you

  13. Hey Lex,

    i am trying to sew the sleeves on an Indian traditional Shalwar Kameez… do i do it the same way?

  14. Thnks so much, this is the most easy way and easy to understand! It saves so much time , especially for beginners like me!

  15. Hi Lex,
    The fabric I’m using isn’t stretchy like what you used, and with my armhole being seemingly smaller than the sleeve, I can’t sew the two together without loops of extra fabric forming and getting in the way..! (If that makes any sense) D:

    (I used a pattern but the instructions it came with don’t make any sense to me… argh)

  16. I’m a 42 year old man who decided it would be a good idea to save money and buy a sewing machine on friday, and make a robe, and the sleeves did my blinking head in. today I shall make another robe and try this method ! thanks

  17. Too blinking brilliant! I don’t want to read loads of instructions, I just wanna cast my eye over fool proof pictorial explanations with a cheeky ‘booyah’ at the end to know I’m done 😉 Thank you so much for this. I feel like a total sewing pro now. Love your videos too by the way.

  18. actually this is how we were taught to do it in the factories. The best place, i reckon, to learn the art of sewing quickly, is in a sewing factory. 😉

  19. I’m a beginner and I don’t understand how to get that perfect seam crisscross between Steps 3 & 4 when sewing the arm and side seam together. The other stuff all makes sense but that part seems to be left out everywhere I look. I know that must mean that I’m the only one not getting it… LOL

    1. Now I’m confused. 🙂 Step 3-4 is pinning the sleeve to the armhole… it has nothing to do with sewing the side seam. Or am I misunderstanding your question?

  20. Thank you SO much for helping me when I needed it. I was in the middle of a project and was following the tutorial given with the pattern. When it got to the sleeves part I was like “uhhhh, what?” I am a beginning sewer and this pattern was for a beginner so I guess I thought it would speak to me in kindergarten steps. This was super easy to follow.

  21. Nice tutorial, straightforward and well-illustrated.
    I would add a correction though:
    Scye (or armscye) = armhole
    Scythe= bladed tool for cutting crops like wheat etc.
    Sewing is so full of weird old words! Thanks for sharing your crafting talents 🙂

    1. Haha, oops! Can you tell I’ve only ever read it, and then had to remember how to try to spell it?

      So here’s a question: is it a hard ‘C’ sound? Like “sky?” Or is it soft like “sci-fi?”

      Now off to try to figure out how to attach metal blades to all my shirts…

  22. So glad I found this tutorial! I’m making a Dumbledore robe (adapted from Harry Potter pattern) and the pattern directions were making me crazy. I’ll get his costume done in time for the parade. Yay!!!

  23. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Great, common sense, smart instructions. Your clear instruction was the angelmon my shoulder!

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