Create a Swirled Bias Sleeve
I promised to share more techniques for creating sleeves that fit a larger biceps from Denise Severson. Denise, an alterations expert and Association of Sewing and Design Professionals member, wrote an article on the topic, “Bye Bye, Biceps Blues” in Threads no. 155.
Denise has a delicious dress in black. It’s a bias-cut confection, with “swirled” sleeves. The sleeves are cut and seamed on the straight, but worn in the bias. She made this dress originally for the ASDP/Threads Fluid Fabric Challenge in 2008. The pieced fabric strips form a sleeve “tube.” The strips and seams wrap around the arm, a delightful effect in sheer fabrics. You would use this technique after you’ve made the basic pattern alteration for larger biceps, outlined in the print article.
The Bias-Swirl Sleeve
Denise in her bias swirl dress, made in printed black chiffon.
1 Cut eight fabric strips. Each sleeve requires four. (The sections are illustrated in different colors for clarity.) Note: Readers have asked about the precise measurements. Well, there is some experimentation to perfect this technique! The strips’ length and width are interdependent, because the strips spiral diagonally around the sleeve. Try paper first to get a feel for the technique, and Denise recommends guinea-pigging with scrap fabric to test length, width, and seam allowances.
2 Arrange the fabric sections for piecing. Each section is “dropped” by one fabric strip width, for a “stair-step” block. Drop the sections from upper left to lower right. The seam stops at the hem seam allowance of the left-most pattern piece.
3 Sew the sections together. For sheers, use a French or wrapped French seam; otherwise, baste, then serge to finish and trim the excess seam allowance. Continue the seam finish through each strip’s curved end to hem the sleeve.
4 Close the sleeve tube with a spiral twist. You are going to twist the pieced fabric to continue the stair-step piecing progression. In the photographed example, the green strip (the lowest “step” on the right) is turned to become the top “step,” extended one strip width above the pink strip’s top (at the left). Aligned along the long edges, all of the strips spiral into a tube. If the “steps” are not of matching heights, the spiral tube may be distorted. Be patient, pin frequently and baste to double check the seam placement. It is easier to pull out basting to reposition the seam than to rip out a seam.
5 Prepare to cut the sleeve from the pieced fabric tube. Determine the length you want for the finished sleeve, and mark this on your altered basic sleeve pattern. Lay the sleeve tube flat. One fold is the vertical over-arm center and the other fold is the under-arm center.
6 Align the pattern on the fabric. Place your altered sleeve pattern’s center grain line along one sleeve tube fold. Pin it in place, with the pattern’s marked finished length aligned with the sleeve’s hemmed edge. Add a notch at the sleeve cap’s shoulder point and at the under-arm point to help set the sleeve tube in the garment. Cut out the sleeve from the pieced fabric tube.
Denise Severson's bias swirl sleeve.
Denise in her bias swirl dress, made in printed black chiffon
Cut four strips for each sleeve. The "hook" becomes a cuff ruffle.