Early Tudor Project — Katherine of Aragon’s Portrait dated 1502 — Part XVI
Those Pesky Sleeves… REALLY!
Today, I’ve finally gotten far enough that I can start the sleeves. This is the final part of the construction of this gown. After this, it will be wearable.
First thing I have to do is cut the sleeves. Unfortunately, I’m running very low on velvet. The fur is 59″ wide but the velvet is only 45″ wide. So for wider pieces (like the train), I’ve had to sew together two widths of velvet and then cut off equal amounts from each side. I have 64″ of full-width velvet plus a great deal of narrow width scraps. If my arms were less than 22″ long, this would be plenty — I could use half a width for each sleeve. But my arms are 27″ long plus I’m setting the sleeves toward the center of my back which increases the required sleeve length by at least four or five inches. Plus these sleeves are meant to roll back to reveal their fur lining, so they need to be longer still.
The only solution I can find is to proceed with the half-width of velvet for each sleeve, but add a strip from the scrap to each side to make it wider. 36″ is the width I have determined I need. This requires a 14″ strip to be added to each sleeve piece. Luckily the pile of the velvet makes seams blend in well so it won’t be glaringly obvious.
But where is the best place to put this piecing seam — on the shoulder end or the wrist end. The shoulder end requires less scrap but because the wrist end is folded back, the seam might be less noticable there. Let me think on this a bit…
Here are a couple of pictures that show the full range of sleeve widths.
The one on the left is probably about 2 yards in circumference around the wrist edge. The ones on the right seem to get progressively smaller until the rightmost one has a sleeve of about 30″ in circumference, approximately the amount we have. Should I piece the sleeves or shouldn’t I?
More later today… Please check back!
8:44 am — Before I do anything really substantial today, I thought I’d show you the gown as it looks right now. Here are some pictures:
From the Front, From the Back with Train Up, From the Back with Train Down
(the center front seam still needs to be sewn and some touch-up sewing needs to happen on the skirt attachment and side seams) In about an hour… Sleeve Testing
11:29 am — So it’s more than an hour… Uploading pictures takes time!
First I opened up Illustrator and plotted how much fabric I had on its convenient grid. Then I drew a sleeve at least 22″ wide at the sleeve head (I measured this on my mannequin) and 32″ long (half the length of the velvet I have) on the other and made two trapezoids this size. Then I laid the trapezoids on the grid representing my 45″ bu 64″ piece of velvet. Then I increased both trapezoids until they matched. This actually gives me sleeve openings closer to 36″ in circumference. I can live with that!
Here’s the bisected velvet on the cutting table:
After doing the same thing with the fur, I took the pieces over to the mannequin and tried out my theory. The following pictures show only the fur layer because it made it easier to see the shapes in the photos. The velvet will follow the same lines.
First I draped the sleeve on the mannequin, pinning the center fold of the sleeve over the join of the back and the shoulder strap and pinning the bottom front armscye corner at the bottom of the shoulder strap. If you recall from my previous cogitations, my thought is that there are no shoulder straps on this gown. I wanted to see if this construction would allow me to eliminate them entirely.
Then I smoothed the sleeve over the shoulder and pinned the bottom back armscye corner at the level where it was square to the waist. Remember David’s “Lamentation” from the National Portrait Gallery with the square-bottomed armscye? We discussed that construction in this entry back in December. I am trying to replicate that contruction. I spoke about other contructions in that earlier entry, but now that I’ve cut everything, the square bottom construction seems the most plasuible for this sleeve type.
Lo and behold! It quacks like a duck! When I lay the fabric close to the body near the underarm, it makes the square shape all on its own. Here’s a picture of it pinned under the arm where the sleeve seam will begin. See how it stays in place?
And a view from the back
And here’s the view from a little farther away so you get the idea.
(And yes, my right shoulder really is that much higher than my left.)
I’m not planning on cutting away the shoulder straps just yet. I’m not entirely sure I don’t need them for structure. The back of the gown is awfully heavy and if I cut away the shoulder straps, the sleeves might not be tight enough to take the weight. But in a gown without this huge back, it could easily be “strapless” in front and have the sleeves provide the role of shoulder straps.
And now I’m going to sit down with a cup of tea, some William Powell/Myrna Loy movies, and sew, sew, sew…
1:35 pm — Velvet sewn to the fur at sleeve ends. Sleveve underarm seams pinned and ready to sew after lunch. . Lunchtime! Nothing to see here…
3:01 pm — Sleeve underarm seams sewn. Pinned to mannequin. Lookin’ gooooooood! See:
Now I have to take the gown off the dummy and lay it flat so I can sure to get the sleeves straight. Or do I pin the sleeves in place on the mannequin to take advantage of the body’s curves and equalize my personal asymmetry? Hmmm…
I think I’ll take it off the mannequin, pin the sleeves again, and then put it back on the mannequin just to double check.
Later… The Sleeves Finally Sewn On!
4:35 pm — I still have a little sewing to do on the sleeves, but my back hurts from lugging this heavy gown back and forth to my work table. I’m taking a little rest.
Here’s some photos to tide you over:
Tomorrow… Topping It Off: The Headdress!
© 2009 Kass McGann. All Rights Reserved. The Author of this work retains full copyright fora this material. Permission is granted to make and distribute verbatim copies of this document for non-commercial private research or educational purposes provided the copyright notice, the author’s name and website, and this permission notice are preserved on all copies.