The Grey Lady, Part X: Sleeves

So, I know that the “proper” way to get the sleeve-puff look is to sew a separate chemise and allow it to puff through openings in the oversleeve. I’m not going to do that. Instead, blatantly borrowing from numerous online tutorials on constructing sleeves for “Merida” costumes, I’ve constructed the puff and non-puff sections of the sleeves separately, and sewn them in a column to form the sleeve.

To draft the sleeve pattern, I took the basic straight sleeve and marked where I wanted my puffs to be. Then I cut along the lines and re-drew each piece, adding in seam allowances. The elbow puff is tapered at the inside elbow joint so it won’t bunch when I bend my arm. Similarly, the shoulder puff is cut right at the section of the sleeve under the armpit to avoid bunching.

GL sleeve drawn pattern

For the puffed sections I cut one flat piece of fabric to use as a base, then one larger piece to gather for the puff– for the latter I enlarged the pattern pieces the long way by a factor of 2.5 to allow me to gather the fabric to the right length, and the short way by a factor of 1.3 to let them puff outwards. I arrived at these numbers by experimenting with some extra lining and mockup fabric and seeing what worked, so it’s really something you need to figure out to your own taste. The thinner your fabric, the more you’ll need to gather it to get the right volume.

GL sleeve pattern

GL sleeve mockup

I hand-gathered the edges of the puffed pieces and hand-basted them to corresponding flat pieces so the gathers were evenly distributed.

GL sleeve pieces

GL sleeve pieces sewn

Do you see the vertical seams on the elbow-to-wrist sleeve sections? Yeah, those were a “make it work” moment, stemming from the fact that when I cut my new bodice panel I inadvertently used just enough fabric that I no longer had enough to cut my sleeves in their entirety. I had to divide the lower sleeve sections into two vertical parts so I could maneuver my pattern pieces around enough to get all of my sleeve pieces cut. To make it look deliberate I’m going to sew a row of small silver buttons down the seams to mimic long buttoned cuffs.

Anyway, once I had my puffed pieces and my straight pieces I sewed them together, then bound the seams and edges to keep things neat before sewing the whole sleeve together. I left the very bottom edge unhemmed at first, and adjusted the length after the sleeves were attached to the dress.

GL sleeve attached

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