1830s Sleeve Supports!

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Myself & Raven of Plaid Petticoats

I’ve been seeing a lot of 1830s the past few weeks as Dickens events come up in the calendar (exciting!), and I thought that I would contribute my fair share of tips-n-tricks with a tutorial for of sleeve supports. But not sleeve plumpers, oh no! Abby of American Duchess has kindly done the work on that count, publishing a tutorial & pattern for those over-stuffed beauties. (Also available on their blog.)

What I have for you today is a  quick-and-dirty tutorial for a different method, something that I’m calling sleeve crinolines. (This is a later period term for caged supports designed for 1860s undersleeves, but I currently use it here because it distinguishes boned supports from stuffed ones. Don’t forget!)

(To give context for the rush: I pulled my hastily-constructed 1830s gown back out this week for Fezziwig’s Ball up in Salem. There were a couple of tweaks I wanted to make, but I concentrated on the most important thing, which was the sleeve support.)

This kind of sleeve support, also from the 1830s, is boned instead of stuffed.

 

 

According to extant garments and portraits, they seem to be considerably rarer than their stuffed counterparts, but I figured that they’d be easier to make in a hurry. From what I’ve experimented with, it’s definitely easier and faster to make them well enough in a hurry! To be clear: I have not yet attempted to make a picture-perfect, historically accurate pair. What I describe here is an approximation, with the goal of getting the silhouette. The theatrical take, if you will.

I had attempted to make these before, back in the summer, but my initial mock-up was too big (about 40″ in circumference) and I didn’t have enough time to fix the pattern and make two new ones before I wore it.

 

 

I was also unhappy with the basic design of the above version; I foresaw it slipping down my arm. I also didn’t want to make supports that tied onto the corset, because I didn’t want to have them pull the straps down.

My solution this time was to make a support that reached clear up to the armscye of my dress, one that I could tack onto the dress itself for support. Instead of bothering with gathering, I just let the excess fabric lay free; it looks not-great alone on the mannequin, sure, but gosh darn it NOBODY ELSE WILL KNOW. This could easily be pleated, but I wasn’t about to mess with that when I didn’t have somebody fitting it on my shoulder – I didn’t want to accidentally restrict movement. The four tacking points will keep the excess free enough and let you put your arms through the sleeve without issue.

These work great, let me tell you! My crins got more compliments than anything else, all night, and recover perfectly from being bumped into during dances. They also are completely collapsible for storage, since they’re only a ring of flat wire and some cotton.

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So. Pattern (which is not to scale):

crin pattern

The pattern is basically an elongated cap sleeve; the important bits are the middle height (for me, 9″) and the overall bottom width (for me, 30″).

I used hoop steel for this version; the first one was boned with 1/4″ zipties and that worked too. All of these measurements may be different for you; the 30″ measurement is the boned circle, and depending on the width of your sleeve may be smaller or larger. The 9″ measurement corresponds to the diagonal from the top of the armscye to the farthest horizontal point of the steel away from your arm. For me, that was 9″ or so, but cut larger if you’re worried – this is easy to pin on, test, and trim down if need be.

crin 1First off, I serged my edges because I was lazy (and I didn’t have my sewing machine…); you can hem or leave raw, your choice. I attached bias tape to the bottom edge of my cotton to make my boning channels. Alternatively, you can stitch down a ribbon at the bottom edge to make this channel.

Close it up horizontally, but leave one vertical end opening free. Thread in your steel/cane/ziptie and close that opening, and then bring it into a circle, overlapping the ends by an inch or two and making sure it’ll be stable.

Whip around the edges in order to keep them together, and then stitch up the seam in the cloth. You should now have something that looks like the above image.

crin 2

The Xs in these pictures represent the tacking points that I used to attach this to the armscye; you could also sew on tapes or ribbons and use them to tie onto stays (this is the more accurate method, as far as I can tell). Once tacked, the inside of your sleeve should appear like so (image at right):

 Alternatively, the actual look, below:

 

I had excess fabric on this one, which is why it’s folded at the bottom – my underarm measurement was too long. But it works well enough!

An additional benefit to these instead of stuffed plumpers is that these are not insulating – plumpers would probably be better for winter, whereas these give you some air around your arms in the summer. 🙂

 

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Happy sewing, and drop me a line if you use this technique!

 

 

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