Most of our square and round dance outfits have full gathered sleeves because extra material allows for more arm movement. They are action sleeves. Try to Star Thru in a blouse with slim straight sleeves and the blouse will pull out of the waistband of the skirt. With fuller sleeves the arm can move without pulling on the body of the blouse. Another reason for ample sleeves is they balance the skirt fullness. Sleeves draw the eye to the shoulders and neck line making the waist look smaller. The figure is given an hour-glass appearance with generous sleeves and a wide skirt
The embellishment of the skirt can be repeated on the sleeves for a coordinated effect. Use a narrower ribbon or lace on the sleeves than on the skirt to give it the same look without over powering. Reduce the width of ruffles used on the sleeves. The weight of trims can cause the sleeves to sag. To support the sleeves and keep them full, add an underlining.
Polyester organza is the perfect underlining material. It will keep the sleeve crisp, new looking and reduce wrinkling. The organza will not add weight or make the sleeves warmer. It is not scratchy or irritating. The color of the organza should be close to the fabric color. Underlining is not the same as lining. To use organza as an underlining cut a sleeve piece exactly the same as the sleeve fashion fabric, place the two pieces together and treat as one.
To keep the fabric and organza together while sewing use small smears of washable school glue stick. Just dab the glue stick around the wrong side of the fabric in the seam allowance. Stick the organza to the wrong side of the fabric and let it dry in place. Apply the trims and finish construction in the usual way. Be sure to get the polyester organza, not nylon. Polyester can withstand the heat of the iron, nylon will melt. Before starting construction, test iron a corner of the organza.
Organza can also be used to make sleeve heads for very bouffant sleeves that are gathered across the top. Sleeve heads are like a petticoat under the top of the sleeve. Cut a strip of organza 6 inches wide and 12 inches long. Fold it lengthwise and sew a basting stitch to keep the cut edges together. Do not press the fold of the organza. Center the basted edge at the top of the sleeve shoulder seam. Pin or baste the organza to the sleeve. Gather the top of the sleeve and sew the sleeve to the arm scye. When the sleeve is in place fluff up the organza by puling the two layers apart.
Gathered sleeves are often thought to look childish, but gathers can add grace, drama and softness.The secret of grown up gathered sleeves is to fold the sleeve cap seam toward the garment rather than toward the sleeve. Secure the seam in place with topstitching across the shoulder, if necessary.
Sleeve length is a personal preference. For heavier upper arms the best length is just above or just below the the elbow. Allow enough extra length for movement and to add fullness. The elastic at the bottom of the sleeve should be just snug enough to touch the arm, not tight enough to make an indentation. Try longer sleeves on winter outfits. They will keep your arms a bit warmer in the chilly halls. Using a different sleeve pattern for each new outfit adds variety to your wardrobe.
Sleeves can usually be interchanged between patterns as long as they are the same size as the body of the blouse. Look for interesting sleeves in the ‘Costume’ section. Check out the dresses, especially the ‘Retro’ section for your next ensemble. When looking through the pattern books stay away from raglan sleeves or kimono style because they pull on the body of the garment when the arms are raised.
Did you know you can look at pattern books on line? Just type ‘Vogue’ into your search engine and you will get the Vogue-Butterick-McCalls web site. They are all the same company. Simplicity has its own web site. You can browse the entire catalogue for interesting sleeve ideas.
Sleeves are easy to experiment with and can drastically change the look of the outfit. Lace sleeves give a light summer look or use multi color rumba ruffles for a flamboyant effect. Generously cut and decorated sleeves add that couture touch to the ensemble.