With surprisingly little faffing and no angst at all, my 1360s-70s gown now has sleeves!
Medieval sleeves have a reputation for being hard (I’ve heard them called slevils more than once) but sleeves are one of the things I’m really good at, so I wasn’t too worried about them.* I think it’s because I’d sewn in a dozen sleeves and drafted at least two before I heard that sleeves are supposed to be awful. I never had time to be scared!
But I’m a good little bloggy scholar, and I want my dress to help me get to historical accuracy, so I read pretty much all the medieval sleeve drafting posts on the internet, and got myself all psyched up to sew 14th century sleeves.
I started with the sleeve drafting tutorial at the Completely Dressed Anachronist. Nice and clear, and I like the way she discusses the pitfalls of drafting methods.
By following it, I got this:
I cut it out in toile fabric, sewed it up, and it DID NOT WORK. It was way too long, particularly in the upper half, and the armscye was ridiculously not-right. Half of that I will cop as totally my fault, because I did the measurements on myself, and I’m pretty sure I did a really crappy job on them. The other half is the limitations of any drafting system for a garment with a very fitted armscye – the shape is just going to be so specific to the individual and the garment that it’s almost impossible to develop a formula for it.
But I didn’t loose heart! Oh no! I shortened the upper sleeve 2″, peered at the armscye while tugging and moving my arm, and drew a new armscye shape with a shallower top curve, and a narrower underarm dip:
I tried that as a toile, made a few tweaks to it, made another toile, the fit was perfect, so I re-drew my arm seam on it based on the extremely helpful diagrams at By My Measure, and made a fourth toile.
I could bend my elbow:
I could bend my elbow a lot:
(side note: I’ve moved the skirt gores back down again, versus their position in the last post, and look how much better than hang of the dress and the line over my hips is)
I could raise my arm:
I was ready to cut sleeves!
For reference, here is my original drafted pattern on the left, and my final version with an altered line so the seam runs on the side of my arm so I can have sleeve buttons on the right (the final version has seam allowance added). The final version looks a little weird, but that’s because arms and shoulders are weird. They aren’t nice straight symmetrical tubes.
And here are my sewn-in sleeves:
I’m pretty pleased, though I may keep fussing with the pattern, as I think I could get it just a bit more perfect for my next version, but overall it does everything it should, and Felicity likes the pattern, so it must be good:
Some final thoughts on sleeve fitting:
- Toiles. Lots of em. Suck it up and just keep doing them, because that’s how you get things right.
- Just keep looking at your toiles, analysing where there is pulling (too little fabric) or bagging (too much fabric) and adding or taking away until you get it just right.
- Sleeve fitting is an art, not a science.
- Arms and shoulders are not symmetrical, and not straight. It’s better to have a funny looking pattern that fits right, than a tidy looking one that doesn’t.
* Don’t worry, there are plenty of sewing and other things I’m not remotely good at, so balance is achieved across the universe!