Men’s shirt VII

I managed to get into the studio today to finish up the second sleeve’s cuff. This involved sewing the cuff to the sleeve body with back stitches, and then using a felled seam to finish the inside of the cuff. I’d hoped to get Episodes I, II, III, IV, V, and VI of this effort to make a 18th century men’s shirt using handsewing techniques are here. Today’s effort brings another two and a half hours to this program, bringing us to 24 1/2 hours total on this project so far.

One of the things I hadn’t expected to develop was a scent-based attachment to the work. When you handsew, particularly linen to linen, you should use linen thread. Linen thread is pliable and snaps easily under the tension and stress of rubbing against the needle’s eye, unless strengthened with an application of beeswax. Accordingly, it’s a good idea to pull the thread strongly against or through a block of beeswax to make the thread stronger and less resistant to separating. That’s what I did here, to prep my sewing thread.

The next step was to take an unwaxed stretch of linen thread, thread it onto a needle, and sew a running stitch 1/4″ inside the edge of the sleeve body. This unwaxed thread is used for gathering the sleeve down from 20″ circumference to about 11″, or wrist-circumference + some overlap. I could have given myself another half-inch here, by making cuffs just slightly larger.

Gathering is tricky. You hold one end of the thread where it comes out of the fabric, and the other end is used to gently scrunch up the fabric into a series of folds. These then have to get pinned in place so they don’t come undone. This part, I suck at doing. But I got the basic idea of it right.

Then there was a lot of pinning, as I attached the cuff to the gathered sleeve. You get a sense of this process from the two pictures on the right, above, and the two pictures on the left, below. It’s an 11″ or so seam, back-stitching all the way, in order to join the sleeve to the cuff. As you do so, you’re pulling out pins and trying not to lose the gathers or pleats at the same time. But the resulting cuff fits my wrist.

My next step is pretty obvious. I have to fell the interior seam of the other sleeve, and attach the reinforcement patches at the split where the hemmed opening for the cuff comes together to the cuff. And once THAT’s done, I get to make two gores or godets for the side seams. Once those are done, I can close up the side seams. Adding the godets gives me four extra seams to backstitch and fell, unfortunately — but then the shirt will also fit me. And I’ve also gotten a lot better at backstitching and felling.

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