Giselle pattern sleeve hacks: a tutorial

The Giselle dress pattern is coming up soon for Frocktober at The Monthly Stitch. In honor of the occasion, I want to show you how to make it with short sleeves. This is a longish tutorial, with lots of information and diagrams - though it's in three parts so I hope you won't feel overwhelmed! First, I'm going to show you how to make the two short-sleeve variations. The first one will be the scallop-ribbon-trimmed sleeve on my black silk-hemp LBD:




Here's a closer look at the sleeve on its own:




First, we'll draft the sleeves, then in the second part of this tutorial I will show you how to add a bit of elegance and a more classic gathered-sleeve look to the shortened sleeve of the Giselle. Third, we'll draft the late-1930s-style puffed sleeve with no gathers at the sleeve hem, like on these two versions of the Giselle:




When I was first working on this pattern I had intended this sleeve style to be a part of the package, but then I couldn't get it to look right in initial testing so I abandoned it. See that shadow at the front of the arm? It's also slightly twisted at the top of the sleeve cap, but that's not so visible in these photos:




Still, as sleeve styles go it's a nice one, and I love the 1939 vibe it lends to the Giselle dress, especially if you make it with a narrower skirt. Let's get started! First, trace off your sleeve pattern, mark a line perpendicular to the grainline at the length you'd like (2.5-3" or about 6-8 cm looks nice), and cut off the rest of the sleeve. We left the seam allowance on the sleeve - this is such a simple change that removing it is really not necessary.




If you want your sleeve to look exactly like the sleeve of my silk-hemp LBD, you are done. To draft the sleeve band, measure around your arm and add a fair amount of ease (1"/2.25 cm or so). This is to prevent the sleeve band from riding up on your arm, since we did not add fullness to accommodate the gathers. If you'd like to add fullness and make a more classically gathered sleeve, there are a few more steps to finishing the short-sleeve pattern piece. First, mark notches on the sleeve hem on both sides, about 2" or 5 cm from the underarm seam (or the edge of the seam allowance, actually!). Then, tape a piece of paper under the sleeve hem. Mark 1/2" (1.2 cm) underneath the center of the sleeve hem.




Now draw a soft curve through the center mark, tapering to the original sleeve hem at the two notches on either side of the sleeve hem. This tiny bit of extra fullness will let the gathers expand more over your arm. Cut out your pattern piece. To draft a sleeve band, first measure around your arm, and add twice the seam allowance (7/8" or 2 cm) and some ease to it. The ease here can be quite small (1/2" or 1-1.5 cm) as the fullness we have just added will allow the sleeve band to sit straight on your arm. Decide how wide you'd like the sleeve band to be, double this number, and add twice the seam allowance to it. Draw a rectangle with these two numbers for its side measurements.


One final note: when you are gathering the bottom edge of the sleeve to the sleeve band, gather only between the two notches we made earlier. Otherwise you'll have bunched-up gathers almost right in your armpit. This may not bother you, or you may have a long enough sleeve that it doesn't matter - just a suggestion.




Okay, here comes the tougher part! Or as we say in Hungarian: here comes the black soup (which refers to coffee, and to 16th century history and the Ottoman empire but maybe you don't really want to hear that story right now). That is to say, now we'll do a slightly more advanced pattern drafting maneuver to get the 1939-style sleeve. To begin, this time we'll need to mark the actual seam line on the pattern piece, and cut off the seam allowance. Next, divide the sleeve into several (let's say, 7) equally wide sections. The sections at the underarm seam can of course be wider than the others. Draw lines to mark the sections and cut the sleeve pattern piece apart.




Number the sections so you know which one goes where. Take a large sheet of paper, and tape down the center section. Arrange the other sections of the sleeve so you create a higher and fuller sleeve cap, and a smaller, concave, curved sleeve hem. The corners of the sections will move away from each other at the top. By how much is entirely a matter of preference - 1/5" or 1 cm distance is a good one to start with, see if you like it and try less or more if you prefer a different look to your sleeve. The larger the distance, the more gathers and fullness you will have at the top of the sleeve. (Yes, there is tons of muslin-making involved, luckily it's quite quick to make a sleeve muslin and it also doesn't require a lot of fabric.) The bottom corners of the sections will overlap.


Make sure the gaps between the sections are even at the top, and that they overlap evenly at the bottom. Also make sure the bottom edge of the sleeve doesn’t become shorter than your upper arm circumference and a little bit of ease. How much ease is a matter of preference and what you find comfortable, you can do the same thing we did before and add 1-1.5 cm or about 1/2" ease. Secure all sections of the sleeve with tape, and trace a new outline, using a French curve (though you can also freehand it, if your hand is steady enough).


Add a little bit of fullness at the top to help create a smooth outline. Also smooth out the bottom edge of the new sleeve pattern piece. Tape the repositioned sleeve sections to sheet of paper, then smooth out the edges using a French curve ruler.




Just a few more steps left before we are done. Trace the new sleeve pattern piece onto a clean sheet of paper, and transfer the notches from the original sleeve cap, making sure the notches on the new sleeve cap are the same distance from the underarm seam as the notches on the old sleeve cap. Finally, add seam allowance, and copy the notches to the edge of the seam allowance.




All done! (And now I think I'll go sew (yet) another Giselle dress.)

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