Blue Tudor Gown: Building the Foresleeves

With the construction of the gown and supportive kirtle, work could begin on the accessories including the foresleeves and plaquette. The foresleeves are a type of false sleeves worn on the forearm that was often in a complementary or matching fabric as the main gown. The wing portion angles toward the turned-back sleeves of the gown and gives a smidgen of support to the draped sleeves to open them.

I am again using the pattern from The Tudor Tailor with only minor adjustments based on the length of my forearm. The mockup of the foresleeves alone was such an odd feeling. They reminded me of cosplay looks where the character has oversized bracers rather than a delicate, feminine accessory.

In constructing the foresleeves, I had very minimal fabric remaining that matched the contrasting fabric in the kirtle. It was thankfully just enough to cut two of the foresleeve pattern, but on a fold like the pattern requires. Instead, I cut the two with seam allowance at the top and then cut two more identical pattern pieces from other fabric I had in a similar color palette. Looking back, I wish I had instead used some of the navy blue linen leftover from the gown work for this, but I was stuck in the mindset of wanting the foresleeves to contrast the main gown.

The previously cut foresleeve pieces in the demask are used to cut exact copies in another complimentary fabric.

Since the foresleeves need a decent amount of stiffness to look right and the fashion fabrics used are light (cream supplement) and medium (yellow/red demask) weights, I opted to add a layer of buckram to the construction.

Buckram is a stiff mesh material that is typically used in the construction of hats and bonnets. Here, I am using is like an interlining for the additional strucutre. I cut it from the original pattern paper rather than the cut fabric panels since I do not need or want seam allowance on the buckram or it will cause my seams to be stiff and not turn nicely. I am applying one layer of buckram to each lining with a basting stitch a scant 1/8″ inside the stitching line.

The buckram/lining layers are then stitched with right sides together to the cream and floral fabrics. I only stitch along the front and two curved edges, the top edge is left open so the panels can be turned.

The corners and curves are clipped prior to turning and then all panels are well pressed after turning. One panel made from the cream material and one floral print panel are placed right sides together and stitched along the top unfinished edge. Once stitched, the edge is finished on the inside and pressed open nicely.

It was at this moment that I realized I’d made an error. The pattern, and historical reference, show the foresleeves to have multiple puffs of white linen at both the bottom and body of the foresleeves. I even have it marked on my pattern pieces to leave windows on the body for these puffs around the wrist area. But I had forgotten to cut them and had chosen to seam and turn the edges rather than using bias tape. If I had used bias tape, I could have cut the puff allowance areas and finished the oval openings with bias tape to match. But since I didn’t, I felt that it would look like a mistake. It was also at the point where I didn’t particularly care to add them in. Hence, I decided not to. Creative liberties!

I did still add the puffs at the curved edge of the foresleeves since I had this plan throughout the process. For the puffs, two strips of white Lyocell scrap from another project. The strips measure 36″ by 12″, this is a bit more than what The Tudor Tailor recommends, but it used the full amount of the scrap pieces I had, and whatever could be wrong with a little extra puff factor right?

An attedote on Lyocell: I love it.

I had stumbled upon a bolt of lyocell at my local Joanns when searching for affordable white linen for a skirt I was making for a local theatre production and was blow away by the material. It is lightweight and floated dreamily, felt like the finest linen I’d ever handled if anything closer to a silk feel, but was still sturdy and opaque. It was a perfect material for said skirt and the offcuts I have treasured and used stingily since. I cannot seem to find the fabric locally since, but if I do, I will buy all of it.

Lyocell is a semi-sustainable fabric that can be used in numerous applications. It is produced from eucalyptus trees that grow very quickly and can be replaced easily. It is then processed and can be blended with other materials. Since it is from organic fibers of the eucalyptus tree, it is biodegradable and depending on the source, maybe carbon neutral. However, if it is blended with synthetics, it loses these properties. Hence, a semi-sustainable fabric.

Back to the puffs. I return to the foresleeves and visualize where each puff would gather with gems. This was primarily determined by optimizing how many gems I had remaining after the gown to work with. Of the larger gems, I had enough ruby and champagne-colored gems left to make seven gather/attachment points which translated to six puffs.

Six puffs would be beyond perfect too. Since my fabric strips were 36″ long, each puff would evenly measure 6″ in length. To prep, the lyocell strips are finished with a quick zig-zag stitch (my serger was broken, unfortunately) and then marked with each 6″ point. I stitch a course running stitch with heavy-duty thread at the gather points and leave long tails hanging so I could find them later.

Here is a comparison between the ungathered (bottom) and gathered (top) strips

To apply the white lyocell to the foresleeves, I pin the material to the interior of the foresleeves at each gathering point. The strips were a tad longer than the area they were to be placed in, so I did a bit of pin gathering between each gather point. To do this, I pull the excess material up from the lining it is to be pinned to, find the center of the excess, pin down to the lining, and repeat until all material is generally gathered and pinned in place.

The material is pinned to the foresleeve interior only at the gather points. Note that the ends of the lyocell are folded over to allow for finishing the end edges.
After rough gathering the remaining material, the white lyocell is stitched to the lining with a whip stitch 1/4″ from the edge.

Once stitched in place, the hanging gather threads are found, pulled tight, and knotted in place. Then the foresleeves are turned out. Using the excess thread from the gather points, I stitch the gathers tight and add the gems.

Here are the finished results!

There are quite a few other accessories still to go, so continue to follow along as we finish the gown itself and accessories:

Blue Tudor Gown: Intro

Blue Tudor Gown: Building the Kirtle

Blue Tudor Gown: Outer Gown

Blue Tudor Gown: Gown Front Plaquette

Blue Tudor Gown: French Hood