Friday, October 3, 2014

A Fabulous Set of Sleeves

The sleeves, oh, the sleeves!  They are one of the main reasons I decided to combine two patterns for this project.  

Who wants a strapless dress when there are such sleeves to be had!!

Like the rest of the bodice, I underlined them with cotton.  I was a tiny bit concerned that they might need more body, but the silk/wool is quite springy, so I hoped for the best.  And everything worked out just fine.

The curved seam allowances were clipped, and catch-stitched in place.

To hem the lower sleeve edge, I stay-stitched just inside the fold line, clipped generously, and turned the raw edges to the inside.

Those edges were covered with a length of bias fabric which was fell-stitched to the hem edge, and the remaining raw edge was catch-stitched to the sleeve underlining to hold it all in place.

And then, of course, it was time to cover everything up with the lining.  This was done entirely by hand.  I suppose I could have stuck the pieces under the machine, but in the spirit of going the couture route, I decided hand stitching would be much more enjoyable, and give me a whole lot more control over the process.

I also tacked the two layers together at the underarm seam to keep things from shifting around.

The upper edge of the sleeves needed something to keep them in place.  The limited references given on the tiny pattern pieces say to “gather” the upper edge.

Instead of following that advice, I pulled in the excess with some fabric-covered elastic.

What I came up with is a combination of a scrunchie and a garter.

Waistband elastic was covered with the dress fabric, the raw ends tucked inside, with a line of zig-zag stitching at each end to keep the elastic in place.

That odd looking thing was then attached at either end of the sleeve seam, and tacked in place again at the center point of the elastic matching back to the center point of the upper sleeve edge.  

The process was repeated, halving the elastic and upper sleeve edge until the excess sleeve was corralled into place.  After wearing the garment for an evening, I probably could have used a slightly smaller length of elastic, but the technique definitely worked!

This is definitely starting to look like a wearable garment!


  1. Scrunchie + garter = grunchie? I have been seeing a lot of elastic used and sewn as a woven (interior waist band of pants) with no stretch employed. More as a stabilizer than anything else.

    I may have to stop reading these posts one by one and just binge on them at the end. Maybe it's the cherry print, but's just so riveting to read!

  2. Your work is the prettiest I have ever seen. I am inspired to put more time and work into my sewing instead of questioning whether sewing is worth the effort. Nothing replaces the satisfaction of a perfect handmade garment.

  3. I agree with Pamela! I am no wear near your level in sewing but your work inspires me to continue improving. Thank you!

  4. So lovely, and such precision work! I've owned haute couture vintage gowns from the 50s, and all I can say it, if you construct them that carefully, they never fall apart! Hang on to those makes of yours...50 years from now some happy girl will still be wearing them to galas.

  5. What a beautiful dress you are making Laura Mae! I love fabrics with cherries. And ever since I first read Anne of Green Gables, I'm always on the lookout for dresses with "puff sleeves". I can't wait to see your beautiful gown!

  6. All these amazing details! Incredible dress.

  7. What a fuuuuun and beautiful (and beautifully made) bodice!

  8. Just beautiful. I love dramatic sleeves and these are definitely dramatic!

  9. While setting in sleeves is one of my least favorite tasks, I do love to wear sleeves. These are fabulous!

  10. That technique with the elastic is actually quite common in wedding dresses which are strapless in construction and fit but have off-shoulder straps. I've adjusted quite a few in my time as a bridal seamstress.

  11. I have this really pretty vintage dress that fits me perfectly, but I have NEVER understood what those little scrunchie things on the shoulders were even for! I was just dithering about whether it would be a crime to cut them off, so I tried to google "shoulder scrunchie 1950's fashion" and thank God I found this post, because I finally know how to wear this dress correctly.

    By the way, your project turned out beautifully!