1930s Sew-along with Norma: The Drafted Sleeve, Part 1

I’ve completed cutting out and sewing the sleeve for the dress I’m making as part of the 1930s Sew-along with Norma.  I’m hoping with all my heart that it works out.  I’ve yet to sew it into the bodice because I have to complete other parts of the bodice in this order:

  1.  Sew the facing for the slot seam at center back.
  2.  Sew the shoulder seams.
  3.  Apply a new technique to miter the bias binding before sewing to the neckline.
  4.  Sew the bias binding to the neckline and sleeve hem.
  5.  Sew side seams of bodice.

This doesn’t seem like a lot to do but I’m in need of some serious nap time after a 4 hour train ride back to New York last Sunday and another travel day to New Jersey on Thursday.  If it’s one thing I’ve learned it’s never to sew when sleepy.  More time will be spent undoing stupid mistakes like sewing the sleeve in backwards.  How many of you have done that, too?

The very first thing I did after cutting the new toile out was to stay stitch the neckline front and back.  I also stay stitched part of the side seams.  The sleeve, too, got stay stitched along the wrist and side seams because they are curved.  The vertical dart has a very large intake.  I do not think I will cut it open and press it flat.  Instead, I’m going to trim the dart intake and press towards the center of the sleeve.  I’ve decided to leave 2″ open from the bottom of the sleeve seam upwards.  This will allow the sleeve to go on without any pulling.  I think a button and thread loop will work as a closure.

The sleeve drafting instructions come from “Dress Cutting” by Margaret Ralston.  She notes that the sleeve seam has to be placed 3/4″ in front of the bodice side seam.  Now I have to figure out if the center marking on the sleeve cap should also go 3/4″ forward from the shoulder seam or match up at the shoulder seam.  This is why I’m going to wait  until I’m more rested to proceed with the next steps of the sewing.

Here are some progress photos…


Sleeve drafting instructions from “Pattern Cutting” by Margaret Ralston.


Drafted pattern after alteration to remove excess ease.  If this works I’ll tell you all about it.


Sleeve before pressing seams and dart.  Sleeve cap needs to be steamed.


This dart intake is very large but gives the wrist such a lovely curve.  Now let’s hope the cap works out when sewn into the armhold.



8 thoughts on “1930s Sew-along with Norma: The Drafted Sleeve, Part 1

  1. Good progress!
    Yes, I’ve put plenty of sleeves in backwards even when I’m sure I’ve checked. I’ve cut 2 sleeves the same too – I was told that there’s an Elizabethan folk song which says “every dress shall have three sleeves “. Presumably they weren’t any better at concentrating than we are.

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    • Oh thank you for that funny little story. What a witty phrase to remember! And thanks for your encouragement. I’m more rested today. Also more alert due to a strong cup of coffee. I’m playing around with the sleeve on the dress form. I think the center marking on the cap also has to go 3/4″ forward to the front of the shoulder seam.

      Right now I think this is going to work. Might need some tweaking but it’s looking good even with a sleeve seam in a position I never thought I’d see. There is something slightyly different in the fit and hang of the sleeve as well as the bodice. Even though they’re both simple I think the vintage techniques make that difference.

      The moment of truth is coming. I pin the sleeve, baste and stitch it in sometime this week.

      Right now I’m going to hand sew the bias binding onto the sleeve and neckline. The new technique for mitering the binding before putting it on has saved the neckline from overhandling. I didn’t get it 100% down but the V shape is pretty good. I’m looking forward to providing further info once I’ve completed this phase.


      • I finished basting the sleeve an skirt in but—alas the sleeve didn’t work out. At least I know why and can pinpoint all the errors. The biggest problem I have lies in the ongoing breaks I must make to fulfill travel days for work. Also this time of year there are social events I have to attend so my method of catching errors is whenever I can.

        I’ll be able to post photos and an honest critique later this week since I’m working from home all week. What I got from all of this is that we have advanced to a much better state of garment making and techniques today.

        I’ve decided to draft an approximation of this dress now that I know how much ease is needed. Drafting is what I do best and it also gives more control. I never had the chance to work so intensely on draping as I have since this project started. It’s been a true learning and growth experience. The biggest problem was keeping the amount of style ease proportional. This didn’t happen with what I’ve done which is why the overall fit is slightly off.

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      • My cousin and his wife gave me some good tips. He’s an architect and expert draftsman. I got my hope back. The draped bodice is ok. It’s the skirt and the sleeve that aren’t balancing in terms of width.

        I have a solution for the neckline which got twisted again when I put on the binding. The binding is bias and the V-neckline is also bias. Two unstable surfaces that not even stay stitching was enough for. On my cousins’s suggestion I’m going to use a facing and interfacing for the neckline. I can sandwich the bias binding like a trim between them, sort of like piping. The layer doing all the work will be the facing, not the piping so it shouldn’t twist anymore.

        Another thing that pulled at the back was that I did not make a 1/8″ allowance for the slot seam. This is why the CB line is askew.

        The bottom arc of the skirt needs more flare to draw the eye into a pleasing flow. Right now it’s too too blah.

        Also, the Ralston sleeve didn’t work out because her bodice is cut with CB slightly off grain. Mine is straight on CF and CB. All these little things will affect the sleeve since it’s anchored to the bodice.

        One place where I went wrong was to draw the armhole curve too far in. I have to go right along the edge. Just that 1/8″ threw the sleeve cap and armhole too much onto the shoulder. This created the muffin top.

        I’ve been advised to drape the sleeve again but without the ease tuck. I have to try adding the ease to the biceps line so that a firm and stable amount of ease is built into the drape. Then I should try following the armhole curve and marking without adding yet more ease. The instructions were not too specific in the book so it’s up to me to make them specific.

        I think I must persevere. The dress might combine some drafting like for the interfacing and facing. I ‘ve come this far so I’m willing to go some more.

        thanks for bearing with me. this can be so boring for some people so I’m glad you share my interest in these details.

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      • I liked the interfacing idea very much. I think that will work – I’ve seen it on smart Ready to Wear tops – don’t know why I didn’t think of it.
        Sleeves seem very hard to do. I hope your new ideas work.
        I’m always up for detailed sewing discussions – I am keen to learn. It should improve my technique even if I never drape.

        Liked by 1 person

      • That’s great to know! I’m going to start tonight. I should have a posting about the critique in a day or two. The joy of working from home is I get to do this when I think of it in the evening.


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