Ah, gigantic sleeves– is there anything more iconic of the 1830s? I was very excited to get these onto my dress to get the real 1830s look. That being said, after reading a bunch of blogs about 1830s sleeves, I came to the conclusion that the sleeve pattern that came with the pattern wasn’t quite big enough. You heard me: not big enough.
As Vivien at Fresh Frippery pointed out in her informative blog post, the way to get an even bigger and more defined sleeve puff is to change the shape of the sleeve from a mushroom-shape to more of a circle with slits cut into it. The ladies at American Duchess reached the same conclusion, which is demonstrated in their video comparing different sleeve patterns. In any event, I decided to follow suit and modify my sleeve pattern to get that ultimate puff. I measured the curve on the original pattern piece (which forms the underarm seam) and cut my slit to be a little more than half of that to get the same total seam length.
See how gigantic the resulting sleeve piece is? And it’s folded in half! I feel like Marilla in Anne of Green Gables– there’s enough material in those sleeves alone to make a waist, I declare there is!
I opted against lining the sleeves, wanting both to reduce bulk at the armscye and keep this dress as light and summery as possible– I figured that fewer layers of fabric would be cooler to wear.
I cut out my sleeve pieces and stitched them up, hand-stitching the wrists and open edges along the forearms so the stitches didn’t show despite the lack of lining. The wrist openings close with hooks and eyes (which are a little too big for my taste, but I don’t have smaller ones right now).
Given how huge they were and how thick my quilting cotton was, I knew that pleating the sleeves was the only way I’d be able to get them into the armscyes. As it turned out, the pleats were so dense (I probably could’ve made fewer, larger ones, but didn’t think of it) that I had a difficult time locating the armscye piping I’d installed– this was problematic, because when machine-sewing I count on being able to see/feel the piping so I can stitch right along the line. Besides which, at the shoulder and side seams there were so many layers of fabric– bodice lining, bodice overlayer, two layers of piping fabric, plus the two-layer bodice seam allowance folded over– that I worried about my machine’s ability to get through everything in the first place. Seriously, I counted the layers at a particularly thick spot and with the pleats there were *seventeen.* Seventeen layers of quilting cotton and sateen! I didn’t even want to think about what that would do to my machine.
Nope, it had to be hand-sewn. And let me tell you, pushing my needle through all those layers of fabric was no picnic– particularly as I had no thimble. (I’ve ordered one just to avoid another situation like this). But the sleeves themselves turned out gratifyingly huge. These things are gigantic. Enormous. And in desperate need of sleeve supports to keep them standing out in all their puffy glory. But that’ll come later…
For now, take a look at one sleeve stuffed with polyfill, and one (sad) empty sleeve, to see the difference:
Can’t wait to puff out the sleeves properly!