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Caribbean Pirate Dress

 

The undersleeve is cut using the same pattern again, but with one big difference. The muslin undersleeve has no split, so we'll be sewing the straight edges together, but we don't want that seam to be visible through the split!

Instead, we'll move it to the back, out of sight, as follows:

1. Draw a line down the middle of the sleeve pattern, parallel to the straight edges. Cut down this line, swap the pieces over and tape the two halves back together along what used to be the straight edges. Now, when you make this undersleeve, the seam will fall behind your arm, out of sight!

That's really all there is to it - you don't need to over-think it or mess with the seam allowances, since it's a big, baggy shape. The seam allowances that you've taped together in the middle will compensate for your need for new seam allowances at the edges.

2. Cut two undersleeves out of muslin. Mark the centre point at the top edge (where the two pattern pieces are taped together) with a safety pin or thread tack.

3. Sew the two straight edges together with a French seam, ensuring that you end up with two undersleeves that are mirror images of each other!

French seam - a very useful seam finish for sheer fabrics. Sew the seam with wrong sides together and a narrow (0.5cm or 1/4") seam allowance. Trim the seam allowance down to half its width, press, turn out so that right sides are now together and press again. Then sew again with the same narrow seam allowance, leaving you with a neat, non-fraying seam!

 

Finishing the undersleeve cuffs

You will have decided by now whether you're using lace or a strip of muslin for the frill at your cuff.

1. If you're using muslin, cut a strip that's 15cm (6") wide and a little longer than the cuff edge (measure around the curves using the tape measure turned on its edge as before). Sew the two short ends together with a French seam and hem one long edge.

If you're using lace, you'll also need to cut a piece for each cuff a little longer than the cuff edge and join the two short ends together. (If you haven't got this much lace, just ensure you've got enough to go comfortably around each arm - you can always gather the cuff a little to match.) Join the two ends as invisibly as you can - try to make the motif overlap and continue smoothly from one edge into the next (again, you can always gather the muslin a little to match if they end up different lengths). Sew by hand, following the pattern if you can to make the stitches invisible. Click on the photo to see a close-up of how it's done.
2. Now join your frill to the cuff edge, right sides together. Bind this seam, leaving the ends of the binding open so that you can thread a narrow ribbon through and draw the cuff tight around your arm.

 

The rule here is the same as for fabric in skirts - the more lace, or the longer the frill, the more sumptuous the result (up to a point!) However, if your lace is shorter than the cuff edge, gather or pleat the cuff edge to match the lace before joining the two together. Consider concentrating more of the gathers or pleats near the sleeve seam at the back of the arm.


When I made the first Pirate Gown (seen here in red) I used a small piece of antique lace for the cuffs, just enough to go around both arms. By the time I made the second, the Black Pearl gown, I'd found a much bigger piece of antique lace. In fact, there was enough to sew it flat all the way along each cuff edge. So click on the photos and compare the effect of using a little frill against using a big one!


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