The Richmond Sew-Along: Sleeve Heads and Shoulder Pads (optional)

The Richmond Blazer does not come with instructions for adding sleeve heads or shoulder pads. It's a pretty chunky set of instructions as it is, and for most people they won't want to add these things in anyway. But for those who appreciate a bit of shoulder-lift, or whose fabric is crying out for sleeve head support (if you know, you know), this post is for you. (For my pink velvet blazer, I omitted shoulder pads but I added sleeve heads.) In the photo below, the left side has both a sleeve head and a shoulder pad, and the right side has none. You can hopefully see the difference in the shoulder angles and also the little oomph in the left-side sleeve. Naturally it is much easier to see these things on a living person so it's important that you try out the options for yourself, on yourself, before any stitching.

Shoulder pads

Shoulder pads are used to lift and support the shoulders (duh) of a garment, most commonly a jacket. Forget the bold shoulder pad look of the 80s; we're talking subtle support either for people with sloping shoulders or for when you simply want your jacket to have that additional structure up top. You can buy ready-made shoulder pads, which is what I am demonstrating with here, or make your own – several sites have free patterns and tutorials for this, including Closet Case Patterns. Take your shoulder pad and identify the middle. Position this over the shoulder seam of your jacket, on the wrong side, with the straight edge of the shoulder pad aligned with the armscye seam. The straight edge of the shoulder pad should extend slightly beyond the armscye seam, into the sleeve. Simply secure the shoulder pad in situ with a few hand-stitches to the jacket shoulder seam allowances, at the top and bottom of the pad. Also secure it to the armscye seam allowance at each end. Turn the jacket the right way out to make sure your shoulder pad isn't pulling anything out of shape (if it is, remove the hand-stitches and reposition before securing once more). The shoulder pad will ultimately be encased between the jacket shell and the lining.

Sleeve heads

Sleeve heads give a bit of oomph to the cap of the sleeve, to prevent it from collapsing in on itself. This collapsing in is more prone to happen in garments where the sleeve has been eased into place (i.e. there's excess fabric in the sleeve cap), as is the case with Richmond, and will occur to a different amount depending on your fabric. Most of my Richmonds have required no sleeve heads – the sleeves sit beautifully as they are. But with my velvet version, there was a significant amount of 'puckering' in the sleeve cap and the nature of the fabric furthermore meant that this was a little eye-catching. You can see what I mean in the photo below. Because the velvet is a reasonably weighty fabric, I used medium-weight sleeve heads made from wool. If you were making a lighter-weight jacket, e.g. in a crepe, you could potentially use a cotton or silk organza to make your sleeve heads. Whatever your fabric, cut two stripes about 20cm (8 inches) x 6cm (2.5 inches), and curve their ends. Fold them in half lengthways, but not down the dead centre – so one side is slightly deeper than the other. Pin to secure. Mark (a pin or a pencil will do) the middle point of the sleeve head. Take your jacket, inside out, and push the armscye seam allowance out of the sleeve so it's free. Match the middle point of your sleeve head to the shoulder seam of the jacket, with the deeper side of the sleeve head closest to the jacket. You want the folded edge of the sleeve head to overlap the armscye stitching line by a small amount. Using small, neat running stitches, secure the sleeve head to the armscye seam allowance, just in from the folded edge. Once the sleeve head is secured, push the armscye seam allowance back inside the sleeve (the sleeve head will go with it). Repeat for the other sleeve. You can see what a difference the sleeve head made to my jacket. Much better, right?! Ok, so now we've hopefully created the sleeves of dreams, it's time to step away from our main jacket and start our lining. That'll be the next post, and you know what – next week is the end of March which means the end of our jackets is already in sight! x
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