How to Enclose Sleeve Seams


Blogger: Ashley Feriante

How to enclose sleeve seams

I don’t know about you, but I adore a dress that looks just as beautiful on the inside as it does on the outside. In nearly every woven garment I make, you’ll find french seams, enclosed waist seams, and enclosed sleeve seams.  That’s right- enclosed sleeves!  In this tutorial I will show you how to use the burrito roll method to enclose the sleeve seams on any lined, woven garment.  This technique is perfect for heirloom outfits, children with sensory sensitivities, or anyone without a serger or zig-zag stitch to finish seams.  



There isn’t anything extra needed to enclose the seams on a garment.  Simply choose your favorite pattern and cut the bodice, lining, and sleeves as normal.  I will be using Bonn for this tutorial, which has a large, puff sleeve finished with sleeve bindings. If your pattern calls for sleeve bindings or elastic sleeve hems, set those pieces aside, as they will be added after the sleeve is finished with this method. 


First, sew the bodice main front and back together as instructed by the pattern. Repeat for the lining.  Follow the instructions for attaching the bodice main and lining along the neckline and button/zipper closure. Leave the arm curves open.  



If the sleeves have a gathered sleeve cap, sew gathering stitches and gather as instructed in the pattern. If the sleeves have a bound or elastic hem, do not gather the sleeve hem or attach the hem elastic yet.

Place the bodice with the lining facing up.  The main and lining should still be right sides together.  Fold the sides of the bodice lining towards the center of the bodice, away from the arm curve on each side. 


Pin/clip the sleeve to the bodice main aligning any necessary notches in the pattern. Leave the last 1.5” (4 cm) unpinned on each side of the sleeve/arm curve.   If the sleeves have a distinct front and back be sure to pin them on the correct side of the bodice, because this method is 0% fun to unpick.  Just trust me on that one.  Baste the sleeves to the bodice main with a 3/8" (1 cm) seam allowance.  Do not skip the basting step.  Trust me on that one too.   


Here is where things start to really differ from the pattern instructions, and from the sleeveless Burrito Roll Method you might already be familiar with.  

Place the bodice with the wrong side of the bodice main facing down. The wrong side of the sleeve should be facing up.  Start to roll the raw sleeve edge up, towards the arm curve.  You will need to roll the center of the sleeve more tightly than the outsides, especially for the smaller sizes. Try to keep any gathers in the sleeve cap as neat as possible while you roll.  You are only working with one side of the bodice at a time, and only the sleeve is rolled for this method.  

Flip the bodice lining over to cover the sleeve and bodice main, making sure the other side of the bodice is out of the way.  Pin/clip along the arm curve, leaving the last 1.5” (4 cm) unpinned.  Because Bonn has a wide, gathered sleeve, it lies nice and flat when rolled between the main and lining.  Less gathered sleeves tend to pull the sides in towards the shoulder seams, however, making it more difficult to sew the arm curve without pulling the sleeve. In this case, it is helpful to clip the seam allowance on the arm curve before sewing.  Make small clips along the pinned portion of the arm curve, clipping up to, but not through, the basting stitches.

Sew along the arm curve leaving the first and last 1.5” (4 cm) open.  Be sure to sew slowly to avoid puckers and not to catch the sleeve in the seam.  Trim the seam allowance and clip the arm curve along the sewn portion only. Do not trim any seam allowance for the first and last 1.5” (4 cm).  Repeat for the other sleeve. 


Turn the bodice right sides out by slowly pulling the sleeve and bodice through the shoulders.  Press the seams well without squishing the ruffles, which is easier said than done. I find it’s easier if I move the seam to the edge of my pressing mat and let the ruffles hang down, out of the way of my iron.  

Turn the bodice right side up.  Fold the sleeves toward the center, out of the way.  Separate the bodice main and lining for the front and back bodice.  Align the front and back main and sew to attach.  Align the front and back lining, and sew to attach.  The main and lining are still separate at this point, which differs from a sleeveless construction. Press the seams open. 


Here is where you will sew the sides of your sleeves.  I finished my sleeves with a French seam, because if you’re taking the time to enclose the sleeve, you might as well go all-in, right?  To do that, you will turn your bodice right side out and align the straight, raw edges of your sleeve with wrong sides together.  Sew with a ¼” (0.6 cm) seam allowance.  Trim the seam allowance to ⅛” (0.3 cm) and press the seam open if the size of your sleeve allows.  Turn your sleeve wrong side out and press the side seam well.  Sew along the side seam with a ¼” (0.6 cm) seam allowance to finish the french seam.  Press the french seam towards the back.  Now the sides of the sleeves are sewn and the sides of the bodice are sewn with a small hole in the armpit.  



To close the underarm hole, place the bodice with the lining right side up and the sleeve pointed up.  Flip the lining over the sleeve to expose the inside of the bodice.  There are 3 fabric layers at the underarm.  The bodice lining, the sleeve, and the bodice main.  Align all three layers carefully at the side seam and pin/clip. This will ensure the sleeve seam meets the side seam nicely.  Sew the underarm hole closed along the unsewn portion of the arm curve.


Trim the remaining portion of the seam allowance and press the underarm seam well.  A hammer is also useful for flattening the seam and reducing bulk.  It’s also an ideal time to take out any frustrations caused by the seam ripper.  Just saying.  

Your sleeves are now beautifully enclosed and ready for hemming, binding, or elastic casings!  Pair your enclosed sleeves with french seams on the skirt and an enclosed waist seam for a dress that is just as beautiful on the inside as it is on the outside!  I even followed the blog for embroidered buttons to add an extra special finish on this Bonn, and it will absolutely be treasured for many years to come!





More Posts