Celebration – Under Sleeves

Green silk sleeves for my Italian costume. Lined in white linen

Green silk sleeves for my Italian costume. Lined in white linen

For this outfit, Caterina suggested a large set of over-sleeves, with optional under sleeves. I wasn’t quite ready to work on my bodice yet, but still wanted to work towards this outfit, so I started on the set of under sleeves to start.


As I was working on these sleeves, I came up with the perfect colour name to describe this colour of silk – matcha. Like green tea powder, there’s something sort of apple-green about this colour, just not as bright…

La belle jardinière Direct link from Wikipedia

The two inspiration photos (far below, in the over sleeves section) only show the wide sleeves that Caterina wanted us to wear. For inspiration about potential undersleeves which might be more narrow, I looked to a different piece of artwork, La belle jardinière by Raphael, dated 1507.

In the full-size online version (here) it appears as though the shoulders are mostly smooth, with only a little fullness, the sleeves are plain, the cuffs are plain, and there may be a small pin at the shoulder point attaching the sleeves to the bodice. (Alternately, the sleeves might be sewn on to an underdress?) There may be two thin lines of trim at the cuff, though this could also be cord from the book in her hand.

The earlier, (1490s) styles which I prefer, also have these narrow sleeves (though many portraits show them more embellished than this depiction of the Madonna. I thought perhaps these narrow, simple sleeves might play double-duty, as undersleeves for the c.1506 outfit, as well as sleeves for a c.1490s era dress.

Raphael’s Saint Catherine of Alexandria (c.1507) also shows narrow sleeves, with a small slit at the wrist that the camicia peeks through, and piping at the wrist. The bodice of this dress is not like the one we are to make however. Likewise, the same painter’s c.1505 Small Cowper Madonna, shows a narrow sleeve, set into the bodice. These narrow sleeves are much less common though than the larger, fuller sleeves.

Making the undersleeves

When I made the sleeves for my red and gold Italian gown (an earlier style, designed after dresses depicted in Florentine paintings 1485-1490) I wanted something quite ornate and embellished, to show off nicely from under the sleeveless over-dress. This time, to work better with the c.1506 style, I opted for a one-piece sleeve with very little embellishment.

I used the Tudor Tailor kirtle sleeves for the pattern, and made no alterations to it. First I made it up in linen (which would be the lining) and tried it on roughly – it fit fine. The sleeve will only be tied on regardless, so if the armscye is not perfect, I don’t think it’s as critical as the fit of a set-in sleeve. With the linen fit, I cut it in silk as well, and then made piping….

A few photos fro when I was making the piping

A few photos fro when I was making the piping

I used acrylic yarn, in four lengths and doubled to make 8 and did a cord using my drop spindle. Originally I planned to use cotton cord, but when I found the acrylic in my random-yarn stash, and knew I wouldn’t use it for anything else soon, opted for it instead. For piping I thought it would be fine, since it has a bit more softness than the cotton, and would shape better.

I cut bias strips from scraps of the green silk, and then encased the yarn-cord in the silk, then sewed it to the right side of the linen lining at the armscye, and then the cuff. From there I sewed the right sides together for the sleeves – silk to linen… and went to turn through an opening I had left in the linen…. and realized my mistake.

I had basically made myself a Möbius sleeve.

Unpicking the cuffs of the Italian green silk sleeves

Unpicking the cuffs of the Italian green silk sleeves

Online, a few other costumers had ideas, but I couldn’t figure out how to make their suggestions work. I brought the sleeve to a stitch-and-bitch with several accomplished late-period costumers, and none of them could figure out the online-ideas either, so I was left with unpicking the stitches at the wrist, and then re-sewing the piping to the lining, turning the sleeve the right way, and re-stitching the silk to the linen at the cuff. This was a big of a trick, because the piping was now pre-cut, and all of the seam allowances had been snipped for a clean turn.

Finished sleeves with piping at hem and shoulder

Finished sleeves with piping at hem and shoulder

I wanted the piping at the hem of the sleeve because it’s a nice clean finish, and adds a tiny bit of detail to an otherwise plain sleeve. The piping along the armscye adds support for where the sleeves will lace onto the bodice. (Plus is decorative, clean and pretty too.)

Once the hems were finished I turned the sleeves, and top-stitched the opening closed, and pressed the sleeves.

Attaching to the bodice

1505 Raphael Sanzio Portrait of a Young Woman - direct link from Pinterest

1505 Raphael Sanzio Portrait of a Young Woman – direct link from Pinterest

I looked at a few portraits to see how the sleeves were typically attached to the bodice, and it seemed similar to the way that I did my sleeves for my previous, albeit earlier, Italian costume; tied on at the shoulders. Some examples (like the portrait to the left) only visibly show the ties at the top of the sleeve, while earlier examples also show a tie slightly in front of and slightly behind the top of the sleeve as well.

I decided to leave making the eyelets or putting on the rings for attachment until I had the bodice made. I ended up putting a bar with two loops on the bodice itself, and stitched two eyelets on each of the sleeves at the shoulder.

Over sleeves

Direct link from Pinterest

Direct link from Pinterest – Artist: Raphael Start Date: c.1505 Completion Date:1506

I wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted to do for the sleeves… all of the inspiration images basically show just a large sleeve with lots of volume throughout the arm, but a slightly narrowed wrist. I wasn’t sure how flattering this would be on me.

The fabric for the sleeves was also a beautiful, but really heavy chenille. It wouldn’t drape at all really, and will be heavy hanging off the shoulders for sure.

I toyed with the idea of making a different kind of sleeve than what Caterina had suggested – based off the Spanish Tailor’s book schematics. I worked these up as a pattern in paper (below) to see how the pattern might work, but sort of got hung up on it.

I just couldn’t really get excited about this, so set it aside for the time being…

Trying out the bag-sleeve pattern in paper

Trying out the bag-sleeve pattern in paper


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