Sneaky Sleeves

Remember last week when I showed you the components for the new bridal sleeves?components

For some reason I just did not expect after waiting 3 months for the matching fabric and lace motifs that the fabric would be just one yard of tulle, garden variety chain store tulle, flimsy, thin, essentially air holes held together with thread. The bride and her father wanted big poofy sleeves for all the wild Irish jump dancing, high kicks, arm waving, and  quick spins that they would be doing. This was no time for snug fitting demure puppies…so what I attempted to create was (if you are old enough to remember) Imelda Marcos sleeves using two layers of wimpy tulle…oh yes, and all the added 8 heavily beaded lace motifs. I had one day to perform this trick before the wedding…no pressure!

First I stacked the 2 layers of tulle and spray starched the crap out of them for some body, any body.


Using the sample fitted chiffon sleeve, I split it and added the volume:

new-outline new-outline-blue Then I added another seam allowance all around for even more ease and a higher The sleeves were cut out and the motifs were positioned so they would be mirror images. Who thinks about this ahead of time?possible-lace-layout Happy with the spacing etc. I sewed the two layers together using a French seam to act as the clean hem and then started pinning like crazy. real-layout                                                                           double-tulle-sleeve So after adding all that ease… and in honor of Imelda, I started pleating the sleeve caps after all I only had 16 inches of armhole circumference to work with/squeeze into.pinned-cap All the motifs were hand sewn with Mettler Metrolene polyester thread 120 wt. which is very thin and fragile but it had to be almost invisible on the back of the tulle. Every edge had to sewn to the tulle and also the weight of the beads required/forced me to run thread down through every center area too…because I had loads of time/ultimate patience to finish this….NOT!sleeve-caps

Sleeve caps matching, let’s insert these puppies!

bias-binding bias-binding-openNow, before anything could be attached, the rough armhole edges had to be covered with handmade Ambiance rayon bias strips skin colored and hand sewn and attached both sides…but I had lots of time…NOT.

pinned-sleeve-seam One good thing is the seam allowance from all those pleats will act as a sleeve head…not much but a little when flipped. I was able to machine stitch FINALLY for about 3/4 of the insertion and the rest by hand. Lord knows I didn’t want those sleeves to rip off during the dance production!!!sleeve-seam-allowancesleeve-in And voila’ we have sleeves…the finished front:sleeves-finished She is ready for her wild wedding dancing debut!

 Next time a fancy bustle and a real dramatic alteration on my own clothes…HOLY MOLEY! Winter has returned…snow is predicted and the birds are wolfing down seeds like crazy…do they know something we don’t?

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25 Responses to Sneaky Sleeves

  1. symondezyn says:

    Woweee… that is amazing!! You truly are a wizard with tulle and lace! ^__^

    • mrsmole says:

      You can imagine my shock when I opened the package from China and saw what I was up against…who makes tulle sleeves? The machine was too strong for this job and would have chewed up the whole mess. It seems that i still learn a solution or lesson with each bride…to share with you, Amanda.

      • symondezyn says:

        You’re always so generous to share your lessons with us! I confess… I’m light years behind you in skill level so sometimes your lessons go right over my head and I’m just left in shock and awe, hoping I may one day be even one tenth as skilled as you!! ^___^

  2. Elizabeth C says:

    I love seeing how you solve these problems! I always learn something . . . this time, it’s the strategy of binding the armscye and sleeve seam allowances BEFORE sewing them together. Brilliant!

  3. mrsmole says:

    This is the second bride I have had to do this for. It seems when the bodice has cap sleeves the edges are very rough and after wearing the dress for an hour of fitting, their upper arms are red or raw from the constant rubbing…imagine a whole day of this on your wedding? So if their skin color matches my collection of Ambiance flesh tones, they get the bias binding to smooth it out…tedious but sooo worth it!Thank you for visiting, Elizabeth!

    • Andrea says:

      Brilliant solution, the flesh toned Ambiance bias binding. Tedious, labor intensive, pour that woman a scotch, but brilliant!

      • mrsmole says:

        Thank you, Andrea….it is always my hope that some tiny bit of information helps all of you in your trials….some nights a sherry or Sambuca is reward enough!

  4. prttynpnk says:

    That was so much fun to see! As always, you teach so unintimidatingly!

    • mrsmole says:

      Oh Anne, I asked Mr Mole today if I ever sound bragging because I only share to educate and help folks jiggle their brains for more solutions. He said I write like I talk and sound helpful. If all of you were here in my sewing room, I’d show you and tell you the same thing…some things work, some don’t…ha ha!

  5. Your tedious work had paid off once again! Beautifully done!

  6. mrsmole says:

    Tedious…don’t we know what that is!!!! But in the end it is your/my name on the garment going out the door and your/my name on the check…and your/my name passed along to friends in the future. We are known by our work and cheerfulness and in your case, your beauty too!

  7. Trish says:

    I assure you the sharing of your methods is not remotely like bragging, but an act of extreme generosity on your part. It’s always reassuring to me that there is, in fact, no right way to do things: just what works! I’ve learnt an enormous amount from your blogs, and I’ve been sewing regularly for nearly 50 years! It just shows that there is always something new to learn, which I guess keeps it interesting.

  8. mrsmole says:

    Well Trish, I feel so much better knowing this. You know as you read blogs that some folks are just using their blog as a soap box/platform/podium to preach their narcissistic views and showcase their supposed talents. They “borrow” techniques from others/books without giving credit while their fans sing their praises. Not all the things I do work well but every day the challenges show up and we have to sink or swim! You yourself deal with clients who expect the best and no matter what, you do it. If I was only sewing for myself, I’d never have to come up with solutions, I’d make the same safe patterns over and over and never grow.

  9. I hope you had time to take five with a nice drink after performing this magic. Don’t get too comfy though – there will be another panic coming along before you know it!

  10. mrsmole says:

    That’s for sure, Kim….next time…another labor intensive bride and her bustle! But the winter weather is still with us and the garden is not calling my name yet, so indoor sewing is better than outdoor sowing for now!

  11. Sewbussted says:

    Great job. I was asked to do a post on the Imelda sleeve and I have been amazed by how many times it has been repinned. When it comes to a special occasion, so many still want the traditional sleeve. It’s nice to see that some still think about tradition 🙂

    • mrsmole says:

      It’s funny, Rhonda, when I mentioned to the bride and her mother and mother-in-law about Mrs. Marcos, none of them had heard of her. It was like they had missed 1986 completely.

  12. Pella says:

    Beautiful result as always. I’m astonished that you had the time and patience to get the photos done in this mad rush.

    • mrsmole says:

      Well, Pella, the camera is always near my ironing board and I wanted to keep a record of this as I do get requests for sleeves and if I don’t photograph and save in each bride’s folder…the old brain will never remember the steps it took to get the finished project. I had all night to work before it was picked up the next morning. Thanks for dropping by!

  13. Valerie says:

    I remain in awe of the stuff you do for your bridal clients. Imelda Marcos eat your heart out!

  14. mrsmole says:

    Thank you, Valerie, it is a different world, the world of bridal and the more you try to manage and control it, the more little requests like this pop up at the last minute.

  15. June says:

    Fantastic sleeve work. Surprised someone with marrying-age children would not know Imelda Marcos’s name. I think this is the first time you’ve mentioned a father with an opinion about his daughter’s wedding dress! And no, not preachy – I always appreciate your willingness to teach us!

  16. mrsmole says:

    The father was very hands on and all the children were home-schooled…maybe that accounts for the missing historical knowledge? I’m learning right along with you, June!

  17. Bunny says:

    You keep a collection of Ambiance flesh tones? You never cease to amaze me! Great work, J !

  18. mrsmole says:

    Yes, Bunny, I do keep Ambiance flesh tones….my brides come in all colors…ha ha. Of course you have to order them online at as JoAnn’s has one color of beige that matches no one!

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