This was my *first* time setting sleeves “the period way,” and it definitely takes some practice. But here’s a little insight, for those who are completely confused about how to do this…
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1. Start with the sleeves sewn on to the bottom of the armscyes. I put right sides together and hand-sewed using a back stitch (for strength). I attached the whole bottom half.
|Don’t worry about the raw edges in the lining. Zig-zag or overcast prior, though, if you want to keep things more clean.|
|Top of the shoulder is free. Strap is pulled back, but lining strap is still in place.|
So now the whole top half, over the shoulder cap, is still free. You’ll see I’ve got the lining strap in place, but the red fabric strap is pulled back. This is because you’re going to attach the sleeve head to the lining, then cover it with you fashion fabric strap.
2. Fit the sleeve head over the shoulder.
|This takes some fenagling. It’s like “sculpting.” Don’t worry about raw edges at this point; you’re going to cover them.|
Easier said that done. If you have a friend handy, ask her to help you fit the sleeve over your own shoulder. I know a lot of us sew alone, so in this case, be liberal with the ease of the sleeve – you don’t want it too tight, or else it will not only be uncomfortable, but it will pull the neckline of the gown up. I got a dress form with arms for this exact reason, and it really helped. If your dress form does not have arms, consider making some “duct tape” arms to attach.
I had a little more volume in the top curve of the sleeve that would fit the armscye of this gown exactly, so I put one tuck in at the top of the shoulder. Arrange any extra volume however you like, in small pleats, or tucks. When it’s all tucked and pleated into the right position, sew it to the lining – a running stitch or a back stitch works fine.
3.Now you’re going to take the fashion fabric strap and apply it to the top, to cover the raw edges. Fold the edges of the strap under and top stitch – yep, I said top stitch – in place, using a small running stitch, or a back stitch if you want more strength.
|Fold under the edges and top-stitch in place.|
There you have it! I didn’t do a particularly bang-up job on my first try, but my whole neck edge and shoulders are covered in a wide lace collar, so ironically none of this is even seen. I can tell you it takes practice, and if I manage to rip my sleeves out of their sockets this weekend, I will tell you! Also, those of you who have more experience with this, please chime in with any tips and tricks, or corrections (‘cuz I’m sure I got something wrong).
|This is the other sleeve, but you can see the finish.|
The great thing about this method, though, is it takes a lot of the guesswork out of sleeve fitting, and it’s period-accurate to boot :-). My references, both fantastic books: