Chanel, Haute Couture, AW14, Paris.
There were a couple of interesting techniques that were used in the Chanel couture collection around the sleeve head area which could easily be applied to other garments. These techniques may also prove helpful when working with fabrics that are hard to ease around the sleeve head area.
In the example on the Chanel sleeve below, a seam has been created that runs down the centre of the sleeve and has been aligned in such a way that the shoulder seam continues straight down the sleeve. A detail like this could be purely decorative and have no affect on the fit of the sleeve. For example this could just be a simple panel line added to the sleeve pattern to add an extra design line to the garment.
This additional seam line also gives the pattern maker a chance to manipulate the shape and fullness of the sleeve head area as needed, allowing changes to be made to the amount of ease in the sleeve head area without changing the amount of space around the bicep of the sleeve.
In the diagrams below, there are a couple of examples that show how the sleeve head shape could be affected by adding a shaped seam or darts to the top of the sleeve while leaving the rest of the sleeve intact.
This sort of technique could be useful in fabrics that are hard to ease such as some woven fabrics, or even leather and neoprene, as the shaped seam or darts would allow you to reduce the total armhole stitching line on the sleeve so that it matches the total armhole of the bodice patterns.
Another interesting sleeve detail was in one garment where the sleeve was gathered through the centre. It appears that the sleeve pattern was probably widened through the centre section to allow for the extra fabric volume that would be needed for the gathering. Then, once the sleeve fabric was gathered, the bicep width would be practically the same as the original sleeve shape, with the gathered detail flowing up into the sleeve head area and creating a small amount of gathering at the top of the shoulder.
In situations like this, you only need to widen the pattern in the section that you intend to gather, so in this case you would leave the shape of the underarm curve intact. You may also need to check in case any gathering or tuck details that you want to introduce have an effect on the finished length of the sleeve, in which case you may wish to alter the pattern, or leave additional length so that you check and hem the garment once it is on the body.
Catwalk images from Vogue.co.uk»
Sleeve diagrams by TheCuttingClass»