Saturday, March 30, 2013

Tutorial: Adding Cap Sleeves to a Communion Dress

It's very difficult these days to find a First Communion Dress, or really any formal occasion dress, with sleeves.  Our family preferences for modesty in church are covered sleeves and knees for the girls.  So for both girls' First Holy Communion, we've bought a fairly inexpensive dress at Burlington Coat Factory, and then made plans to add sleeves.  We could have found a bolero or sweater, but I hate to cover up the beautiful dresses!

I attempted this feat with Mary Clare's dress 2 years ago, but I wasn't so successful (there's a small photo of my attempt on this post).  Here are two different posts with photos of how it turned out after we brought it to a seamstress to add the sleeves.

This year we were on a bit of a time crunch, and in a different city from the previous seamstress, so I was determined to figure out how to do it myself.  I did a lot of Google and Pinterest searching as to how to add sleeves, and here's what I came up with!  Please note that I am NOT a seamstress, nor do I know any technical sewing terms.  I don't measure and can't sew a straight line.  But I did it!

Here's the dress to start with.
Lovely lace and beading.

Here was the pattern for the sleeve I made out of striped fabric.
NOTE: This fabric is folded in half on the horizontal line.

I checked the size by pinning it on the dress.  The curved part goes along the dress and the straight side of the sleeve (the part folded in half, so it doesn't need a seam!) is the outer part.

Then I used the pattern to cut my fabric.  I guess it'd be considered a chiffon fabric.
It was about $8/yard and I only got 1/4 yard 
(it was barely wide enough once I folded it, though!), 
plus I had a coupon for 20% off my entire JoAnn's purchase.
I always check the retail coupon list on Surviving the Stores when I'm shopping!
So including the thread and ribbon, this project cost about $3! 
 I think the seamstress was $20-30 last time.

Here's the sleeve, and I cut out two of them.
Remember that it's folded in half on the horizontal line there, so it's a double layer of fabric.

Then I did a running stitch along the curved part of the sleeve 
(I think that's what it's called, you just sew up and down).

Here are both sleeves after sewing the running stitch
and pulling the fabric in to gather it.
I tried to match the two sleeves as much as I could.

I used my sewing machine to sew the sleeves onto a ribbon
I noticed the seamstress did this last time.

Here are the two sleeves sewed onto the ribbon.  I figured the scratchy edges 
wouldn't bother her as much under the ribbon.

Next, I pinned the sleeves on to try to make them look alike.
I ended up taking out the right one and ripping the seam off the ribbon
so I could gather it again and copy the way the other was gathered.
My 2nd try made it look more similar to the left sleeve.

I had Ellie try it on with the sleeves still pinned to make sure 
that it looked okay and that she could move her arms.

Finally, I turned the top of the dress inside-out
 and sewed the ribbon on by hand, just going through one layer of the dress.

Here you can see how far in the back part of the sleeve is on the dress.
I felt like the cap was too high and poofy otherwise.
Maybe making the sleeve pattern differently would help with this.

And here's what it looks like!

It's not perfect, but I think it will work.
As my seamstress sister-in-law said,
"For kids, don't worry about it unless you can 
tell while they're riding horseback!"

I'll add a photo of her in the dress once I have one!
I hope this little tutorial can help someone else!


Melissa D. said...

Awesome!! I am very impressed!! The dress and Ellie look beautiful!!

Rebekah Es said...

The sleeves thing is an absolute nightmare. This is a brilliant and beautiful solution!

My oldest girl had first communion last year, and yes, we did cover it up with a pretty, lacy bolero. This would have been a better solution.

The girl who painted trees said...

I've been wondering where to find a First Communion dress. Thank you for this post.

Unknown said...

My daughter is making communion this week and we bought her dress a while back, not realizing sleeves were expected. Your instructions helped me greatly and the sleeves came out wonderful with minimal cost. Sincere thanks to you for sharing.

Unknown said...
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