Shortening an already-cut sleeve (Colette Negroni) plus upcoming works

About a month ago, while my sweetheart was off on a boat doing research in the middle of the Pacific, I tasked myself with batch sewing two Colette Negronis. Since both are white – one has red and other stripes, while the other has a camel check – I had the rare pleasure of sewing both up at once with the same thread. I’m not sure how much time I’ve saved so far, but I’ve put in about 20 hours work – 10 hours each – including cutting. I had sewed them up to the point of fitting the sides/sleeves and buttons; his field research involves a lot of physical labour, and he always returns home noticeably trimmer than he went out.

There are my third and fourth Negronis, and more akin to dress shirts than the plaid casual shirts I’d previously made with the pattern. Since he always wears his sleeves rolled up, I never paid too much attention to the sleeve length; besides, I thought I had shortened them appropriately from the pattern (which has super long sleeves). But when I… finally… fit the shirts on him a couple of days ago, it was apparent that the sleeves were crazy long – I was going to have to take off about two inches. And they were already cut and stitched on – all but the cuffs, which I always leave til last. It took me a while to figure out how I was going to trim the length off these sleeves… re-cutting them isn’t really an option because I don’t have enough fabric.

My first thought was to chop the length off of the bottom – I was trying to avoid ripping the sleeve right out – but I quickly realized that wasn’t going to work. On one hand, the whole sleeve shape would be messed up… the angle from the cuff to the existing armscye would end up being pretty stark. But also, I don’t have the heart to cut out and move the placket. (I know that I didn’t quite line up the stripes… it’s tough with those plackets and it’s otherwise nicely sewn!… and I’m not quite sure I could simply move the placket due to how it’s constructed. I think I’d have to sew it all over again.)

Solution two – the one I went with – was to take the length off the shoulder.

To do so, I went back to my pattern piece, and folded out two inches at the shorten/lengthen line. My pattern piece is clearly not that which came with the pattern… When altering this pattern, I first traced it onto tissue, did a mountain of work on it (including re-drawing the entire sleeve cap; it’s shorter than Colette’s to provide more room for muh man’s sizable biceps) and traced it again onto craft paper. (The piece is clearly pretty crinkled; yes I know I should iron it, but I should do all kinds of things, don’t do them, and things still work out okay.)

I lined up the bottom of the pattern piece with the cuffs in order to save my sleeve placket work, and simply marked how much should come off the top.

The sleeve cap ends up narrower – in my case – for good reason… When I first cut the sleeves, I had to extend beyond the pattern pieces so that the sleeve cap length would be the same length as the armscye.  As it turns out, the whole thing was a little too big, and so the now narrower sleeve cap works, and fits, perfectly.

The alteration – taking the sleeve off, cutting it, and re-stitching it – took about three hours including figuring-this-out time, though I think I’m a slow sewist.

This alteration should also work for RTW shirts with too-long sleeves; you’d just have to trace the pattern piece from the RTW sleeve.

I’m looking forward to finishing these shirts and getting on with some new projects. My Macaron is nearing completion – I took a week off of it, and just ripped off the sleeves and ripped out the midriff last night, discovering in the process the joys of ripping serged seams. Ah well!  Next is *the* dress I’ve been waiting a year to sew… Vogue 1174.

I remember seeing this pattern for the first time – when it first came out (and when I first started sewing) – and saying, I want that dress. (Funny how I haven’t had a lot of those experiences with sewing patterns since then…). I bought it as soon as it went on crazy $4 sale – not because I could have handled it at the time, but because I wanted to build my skills up to working on it. I think I’m there now, though the covered boning still terrifies me, just a little.

I’m sewing it for a late October wedding; I’d been planning on sewing it for this wedding for months. Choosing fabric was difficult… lightweight brocade and damask are recommended. I have two brocades in my stash that an ex bought me in the middle east years ago, but they’re black and red… the two colours I’m not wearing to a wedding. There aren’t a lot of non-Asian brocades around here (not that they aren’t nice… just not my thing…). I thought of emerald silk dupioni, but then… again with dupioni, feel I should love it, but… don’t.

And what do you know, just when I’m not looking for it, I find this beautiful off-white and midnight blue non-prissy floral jacquard at Fabricana with a geometric raised weave. I’ve got some matching off-white bemberg for the lining. I’ll be muslining the bodice – I know that other sewists have found it to be quite big – and hopefully finishing it in time. I feel as though I should have already started; sewing on deadline = brutal. (time to get to work!)


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