On today’s instalment of the 1940’s Wrap Dress sewalong, we’re talking sleeves. In the last post we finished off the bodice shell with a neatly bound neckline, and now it’s time to finish it off fully with some lovely sleeves to keep those arms warm. Shall we jump right in?
1. Start by stitching two rows of gathering stitches between the two outermost notches at the sleevehead.
Use a long stitch length (around 4mm). Stitch the first row 1cm from the raw edge, and the second 1.4cm from the edge – just within the sleevehead seam allowance of 1.5cm. We like to tie the threads together at each end, as it makes gathering up the sleevehead evenly much easier.
2. To stop them from fraying, finish both underarm edges with an overlocker or zigzag stitch separately. Then fold the sleeve right sides together, matching the underarm seams. Pin in place and stitch. Make sure your sewing machine is set back to a standard stitch length for this part.
3. Once stitched, press the seam allowances open. Press flat from the inside, then again from the right side.
To avoid pressing a crease into the sleeve, we find it helps to use a sleeve roll for this.
4. In one continuous circle, finish the raw edge of the hem with an overlock or zigzag stitch. Make sure the seam allowance stays pressed open when you stitch over it.
With wrong sides together, fold the hem up by 1.5cm and press. Press firstly from the inside, and then turn the sleeve the right way out, as shown above, and press again, so you get a nice crisp edge. Pin, and stitch in place from the right side, using the free arm on your sewing machine if it has one. We used a 1.3cm seam allowance to just catch the edge of the seam allowance.
If you’re not sure how long you’d like your finished sleeve to be, you can always leave the hemming until last, so you can decide once you’ve tried your dress on.
5. Repeat all previous steps for the second sleeve, until you have two mirror-image sleeves ready to insert into the bodice.
6. Turn the bodice inside out, and insert the sleeve into the armhole so that right sides are facing. Match the underarm seam on the sleeve with the side seam on the bodice and secure with a pin, right on the 1.5cm seam allowance, so as to ensure these points line up once the seam is sewn. Align the centre notch on the sleevehead with the shoulder seam on the bodice.
Then match the notches together either side, adjusting the gathers as necessary. These notches will indicate which sleeve should be inserted into which armhole – the single notch indicates the front and the double notch indicates the back. It’s important to get this right as the dress will be quite uncomfortable if the sleeves are facing backwards rather than forwards!
Pin the armhole in place securely, all the way around the opening. Make sure all seam allowances are pressed and pinned in the right direction.
7. Once pinned, stitch the seam with a 1.5cm seam allowance.
Double check that all seam allowances are pressed the right way, and that there are no puckers in the sleeve around the seam. If there are, just unpick this little section of seam, ease it back in and re-stitch.
8. Once you’re happy with the sleeve insertion, finish the raw edges together with an overlocker or zigzag stitch. If you’re using an overlocker, go slowly and make sure the sleeve fabric isn’t getting caught under the blade. The last thing you want after all that effort is to cut a hole in your dress!
9. Repeat the sleeve insertion steps for the second sleeve, and then voila! You have a finished bodice!
Stay tuned this week as we’ll be sewing the skirt and putting it all together with the waistband. Finished dresses are in sight!