Clothes · Embroidery · Overcasting · Silk

Those fancy sleeves

Remarkable garment design pops up in most unexpected places, like fantasy worlds. Unexpected, because this tunic from Shivering Isles is perfectly wearable in this world too:

A character from Elder Scrolls IV – Oblivion, a video game by Bethesda. The tunic is typical for Shivering Isles. You’ll have to play the game to learn more. πŸ˜‰

Ok, ditch the bow, but look at those sleeves! Yum!!

And by the way, here is a design from the latest Quail Studio collection for Rowan Yarns, 10 years later than the tunic:


Here is the concept art for the tunic outfit, but I think the fit in final version is better.

Concept art by the late Adam Adamowicz. Taken from Bethesda’s Flickr. Click the image for details.

The back is quite simple.


I was first going to make it as a tunic to wear over a skirt or trousers, but I really prefer dresses these days. So I’m making it as a dress!

So then, we are left with an integrated bolero top, a fitted empire bodice and an A-line skirt with a flouce along the hem. Add those amazing four-tier tulip sleeves and we’re ready to go!

I liked the fit of clipped kimono sleeves in my first dress from 1952, but that pattern had extra details on the front that would not work here. So I found a very simple dress in that cut from another issue of that magazine, and I’ll be using the bodice from that!


The collar is easy to modify or remove, the sleeves are full length, so it will work as the basis for many a pattern, a recon! And it is in my size. πŸ™‚

And actually it’s a nice dress in its own right:


The yellow one is the same dress but they draped a shawl over it and tucked it into the belt. What an easy and beautiful transformation!

So then, here is my concept for the cut:

My main material is dupion silk in blue and magenta purple – I’ve got some random smallish pieces, so this will be interesting. I may have to modify the pattern to fit the fabric as I cut it.

I’m using a completely different pattern for the lining than for the silk. The bolero part of the top lining has a close-fitting cut with standard set in sleeves. The silk middle section and skirt parts are cut separately, but the lining is done in one piece.

I got 34 pattern pieces, plus lining, plus interfacing, plus edging. I’m not cutting it all out straight away, but rather work my way through it in sections, otherwise I’m bound to get hopelessly confused!​ The final piece count will be higher when I’m done – and those are just the pattern pieces, most of them to be cut double, so the actual count of little bits of material is getting so high – I don’t want to think about it!! 😡

10 September 2018

As of today, I cut out all the outer fabric and modified the pattern a bit as I went to make it work with the available material. I was running out of names for things in places: sleeve bottom tier cuff, sleeve bottom tier volant, sleeve one above the bottom tier volant, sleeve one above the bottom tier sleeve proper, sleeve two above the bottom tier volant… You get the picture! 😝

I have assembled the front (9+4 pieces) so that I could start on the embroidery. It needs to be done before the back and the skirt is added.

That 17mm ribbon is done with Vigorelli Fantasy (click on the picture to enlarge).

I know the girl with the original tunic had her whole boobs embroidered, but I think this might be enough for me. πŸ™‚ May be just a narrower band along the neckline itself, later.

But the embroidery wasn’t the hardest bit – the overedging was (and will be in the rest of the dress!). Some people say that silk doesn’t fray. Ha! If someone tells you this, you have my personal approval to laugh into their face! Last time I was sewing silk dupion, I had this:

This time I’m getting the same thing by just looking at it! Last time I embroidered every seam, but this time I didn’t want to do that. So I opted for turning up and zig-zagging the seam allowances instead. Quick, before they unravel!

I’m using a felling foot (note the lack of a scroll – more info on narrow hem feet here). It turns the fabric once, and that is then zig-zagged in place.

You see it is not perfectly even everywhere – on curved seams dupion is misbehaving badly! It wiggles, unrolls and unravels like you wouldn’t believe, but in the end I got it all down quite securely, which is the main thing here. Besides, it’s on the reverse. πŸ˜‰

I used fusible interfacing in the lightest weight to stabilise the silk for embroidery and to prevent the seam allowance from interfering with the crazy movement of my Vigorelli (it moves not only back and forth but also sideways!). The stabilisation was particularly necessary around the neckline on that sharply curved seam.

So that’s the front done! 

12 November 2018

It’s been a while, I’ve been doing other things but now I’m back!

I was going to do the tiered sleeves first, but wanted to check the length which is impossible until the lining is done. The whole thing was getting very confusing, so I decided to assemble the whole dress, minus the sleeves.

I think I’ll need to do something along the seam between the steel blue and lilac – it seems too harsh this way. Not sure yet what though.

I added a point for the dark blue front because it was looking a bit odd with a straight edge. That line is a little below the waist which I find quite flattering. I’ve embroidered it with a double row of “pearls”.

This is done with a twin needle on Vigorelli Fantasy. I used the same cotton thread here as for the wide embroidery above it. I wanted to have a reasonably bold pattern, so used a twin needle with 3mm distance and 3.2mm wide zig-zag – the width of each pearl is 3.2mm, and they overlap slightly. The total width of the embroidery ribbon comes to 6.2mm which is 1.2mm wider than Vigorelli’s specifications… πŸ˜•

Fortunately, the embroidery foot is made of clear acrylic. I widened the opening as far as I dared – the needle plate hole was already wide enough. It worked! πŸ˜€ The hook was still catching the thread at this width. But just only slightly wider, and it was skipping stitches. So then, the revised specification for Vigorelli Fantasy is 6.2mm wide twin needle embroidery without sideways movement.

The next thing was assembling the flounces for the skirt – they were in many pieces because I only had very little material to begin with. I tried to match thread directions on the seams such that they would not be too obvious – these silks are all woven with two colours of threads, so the resulting colour depends on the direction of thread – the light reflects differently in different directions making the fabric change shade and saturation.

I hemmed the flounces with a satin embroidery stitch as described in a separate post. This is also how I’ll be hemming all those sleeve tiers.

Why am I even bothering with these odd pieces of silk that are quite badly faded in places? Why not just chuck them away and get some new cloth? That would certainly be easier. But the fading is on the reverse and is not visible, and this is still silk, with all its fantastic comfort in wearing. Silk is a valuable resource – many lives were sacrificed in its production. Caterpillar lives, that’s true, but still lives! It’s not the same as harvesting cotton buds that grow back every year, or even shearing sheep! These millions of caterpillars had to be killed so that I could wear their silk. It doesn’t stop me from using it – after all, the caterpillars were farmed in unnaturally large numbers – but it does stop me from wasting it just because there’s some fading on the reverse.

The next thing to do is lining and tiered sleeves. The lining above the empire line will be cotton jersey – for comfort, as well as to provide a foundation for the tiered sleeves. But below the empire line it will need to be something better than polyester – I am not going to ruin the feel of that silk by a wrong lining! Hmmm… I’ll need to rammage through my stash… Stay tuned. πŸ™‚

Buy me a coffeeBuy me a coffee πŸ™‚

6 thoughts on “Those fancy sleeves

  1. Just discovered your blog via Did You Make That? blog. Will be reading your older posts over the next few weeks. Methinks I will be in learning mode!

    Love the sleeves! More interesting than most contemporary sleeves and more controlled than the awful, massive, gathered trumpet sleeves that have been popular the last few years.

    You are going to create a gorgeous dress! Not envying you working with the silk dupioni, though!


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