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So today I resume work on my Cairo 1888 outfit for Belvidere Victorian Days next weekend. This morning it was time to put on the sleeves.
Sleeves are always a pain in the butt. Do you know why that is? It’s because you are sewing a convex shape (the sleeve head) into a concave shape (the armsyce). That means you have opposing curves on both sides, and then it all changes at the underarm where the sleeve cap goes away and the sleeve becomes concave just like the armscye.
It’s enough to make a sane person commit murder! Is it any wonder that many frequent seamstresses have adopted the adjective “sleevil”?
The best thing you can do with sleeves is have patience. I know, I know… But it really is worth every minute you spend pinning the sleeve in place and checking and rechecking its positioning.
First, locate the notches on your pattern that indicate where the sleeve is supposed to line up. Sometimes notches on the sleeve are meant to line up with the shoulder and underarm seam of the garment body. Sometimes there are no notches and you’re meant to align the top and bottom of the sleeve with the top and bottom of the armscye. For learning purposes, we’ll pretend this is the case because aligning notches is easier.
Find the top of the sleeve. It will be the one place where the sleeve head is not on a curve. Depending on the shape of your sleeve, this spot may be a few inches wide or just a small spot where the slope of the front of the sleeve head changes to the opposite slope of the back. Mark this spot perpendicular to the sleeve edge with a pin or chalk or tailor’s tacks.
Find the bottom of the sleeve. It will have the same characteristics as the top of the sleeve except it will be concave instead of convex. Mark that spot as above.
Now use the same method to find the top and bottom or your armscye. Mark those spots.
If the top of your sleeve head gets gathered or pleated, make a running stitch through the top of the sleeve head on either side of the top mark.
Pin the top of the sleeve to the top of the armscye.
Pin the bottom of the sleeve to the bottom of the armscye.
Turn the garment body inside out and, working from inside the armscye, baste or pin (I prefer basting because pins move) the rest of the sleeve into the armscye. If you need to gather or pleat the sleeve head, pull the running thread and arrange the gathers it makes until it fits into the area on the armscye.
Turn the garment right-side out and put it on your dress form or try it on in front of a mirror. Check left to right and make sure everything looks even. Tweak, tweak and tweak again until everything looks perfect.
If you do it any other way, you may get both sleeves put on fine, but if you look from left to right, the set of the sleeves may be just a little off. And in this instace, even a difference of a 1/4″ (or maybe as little as an 1/8″) is going to scream “CROOKED!!!”
Now you can sew the sleeves on permanently.
NOTE: If you are gathering or pleating the sleeve head, make sure you push the gathers/pleats one way on the left sleeve and the opposite way on the right sleeve. This will assure that your gathers or pleats will go the same direction when you look at the garment.
So baste those sleeves on and check and recheck. You won’t be sorry.
Here are my sleeves:
Later Today: The Lining and the Collar!