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Sewing Insider Tips

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Shoulder Pads



When we’re looking for a short cut, either in terms of time or money, sometimes we’re tempted to skip the shoulder pads.

Don’t do that!

If you reach up and slide your hand from your shoulder down towards your chest, there is a really good chance that you’ll feel a hollow space under your hand. Concave surfaces don’t allow fabric to lie flat. Unique’s educational material will explain to you that we will insert darts to allow for curves, or deepen the darts that are already there, so fabric can lie flat. But the shoulder front area is not a pretty place to put a dart. The way to eliminate draglines on the front of a jacket is to insert shoulder pads.

Shoulder pads can also be used to balance out some of your physical features. By adding shoulder pads, you can make larger arms, bust lines and hips look slimmer. The placement of the pads within your garment can mask a sloped shoulder that rotates forward. If one shoulder is higher than the other, shoulder pads of different sizes can even them out.

There are two types of shoulder pads: dropped shoulder pads and set-in sleeve shoulder pads. Dropped shoulder pads are for garments with dropped, raglan, kimono, capped and dolman sleeves. This type of pad has a sleeve head built onto it so it will fit over the curve of your arm. Set-in sleeve shoulder pads are for garments with an armhole seam placed at or close to your arm hinge. These are the most common type of shoulder pads and come ready-to-use in a variety of sizes and thicknesses.

The success of the fit in the front shoulder area of your jacket depends not only on the inclusion of shoulder pads, but also on the way that the shoulder pads are placed. With set-in sleeves, be sure to press the seam allowance toward the sleeve. Before you add the lining, try the garment on in front of a mirror and pin the shoulder pads in place from the outside of your garment, positioning the shoulder pads individually so that they are symmetrical and balanced. The pads should extend into the armhole from 3/8” to 5/8” beyond the seam line, depending on the garment style and your personal preference. Then stitch the pad from the inside of the jacket to the shoulder seam allowances. If you prefer, you can also lightly whip stitch the shoulder pad to the seam allowance of the sleeve cap.

Shoulder Pads vs No Shoulder Pads


Commercial, ready-to-use shoulder pads come in standardized sizes. If not all commercial patterns fit all body shapes; it makes sense that not all shoulder pads will fit all garments, either. Unique has the perfect solution: if you order Option 45U0, you will receive a custom-drafted shoulder pad pattern that is drafted specifically from the upper body pattern that you ordered, so you’ll know that the shoulder pad will fit properly into the curve of the garment. That option also includes the Kathy Ruddy Shoulder Pads booklet, which teaches you how to construct your own shoulder pads and sleeve heads.

Whether you are going to purchase shoulder pads from your local sewing and fabric store or make your own from our custom-drafted pattern, shoulder pads are an essential element of every jacket. If the pattern calls for shoulder pads, using them properly will help you successfully achieve a professional-looking garment.

Portions of this article have been taken from “Shoulder Pads” Live Guides Originals by Kathy Ruddy.



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Sewing Insider Tips