Cap Sleeves-Margolis

A quick thank you to my commentators who suggested I spend time looking on the web at other versions of CLD patterns.  I didn’t stop with the Flickr collection. I looked across the web studying  sewing projects that used CLD patterns but didn’t post on Flickr; and then started looking at any and all cap sleeve garments I could find including RTW.  Perhaps I am too hard on myself and an over-fitting this style. 

I did not want to do this.

I did not want to draft the cap sleeve/extended shoulder garment. I don’t mind making changes to sleeve length or adding details like cuffs, plackets or gathers.  However, I don’t like to mess with the armscye  or sleeve cap. But I’m having so little success  achieving my desired fit with extended shoulder garments, that no longer I feel there is another option. I must draft my own pattern or eliminate the extended shoulder from my wardrobe. With that in mind, I pulled out two books I’m particularly fond of, (1) Adele Margolis’  “Make your Own Dress Patterns” and (2) Barnfield & Richards “Pattern Making Primer”   There are  a number of procedural differences between the two books. Differences  that can make a big  impact on the final garment. I decided to start with the simpler instructions Adele provided. I hasten to add, Adele starts with a simpler procedure but suggests numerous options. So while Adele provides the most simple instructions for starters, she also provides ample suggestions for more complex/sophisticated styling

I traced the front and back of my woven, sleeved sloper transferring all the markings and darts. I moved the shoulder dart to the center back; lowered the underarm 1″ (by marking the side seam 1″ below the armscye); then extended the shoulder 5.5″. A number I derived by measuring my beloved and fitted Pure and Simple Shell (a CLD pattern). I drew a line from the new underarm (determined when I marked 1″ below the existing armscye) to the extended shoulder point (that 5.5″ tick extended from the original shoulder point). I stared at tissue for a while and then decided I needed to add any ease lost across the hip when the shoulder dart was moved to center back.  I added 1/4″ to the side seam.  In the pic below, the original pattern is traced in blue. The Orange lines denote the changes.

Orange lines- changes Blue lines Original pattern

OK, that’s a little less clear that I’d like. I’d took the pic into Embird and outlined the changes made.

Note that moving the dart to the CB, removed a wedge from neckline to hem. The armscye is filled in as is the hem and 1/4″ along the side seam between underarm and hem. Harder to see, but it’s there, the underarm has been lowered 1″. The front is very similar, except it retained the horizontal bust dart and I did not add the 1/4″ ease along the side seam.

I’ve had this rayon, plain weave  fabric at least 15 years, maybe more.  It was a Walmart find ($1/yard) but the color never seemed to work with anything else in my closet. The fabric has sat in my stash for eons loved for color and fiber but never quite right for the project at hand.  A possibly wearable, test garment seemed the perfect use.  When I traced the front sloper, I added the button band; noted the center front and copied all the notches and darts before repeating the cap sleeve addition. Slightly optimistic, I also noted on my pattern my favorite neckline depths of 6,7 and 8″.  Again, the original tracing is done in blue. Changes are in orange.

My sloper includes my preferred seam allowances but not hem. Ergo, I added 1.25″ length to front and back.

After threading my serger and sewing machine, I lightly starched my fabric, laid out my pattern pieces and cut. I trimmed my neckline (1/2″ on the back; 8″ deep in front; and both 1/2″ at neck). Planning a bias finish for the back neckline, I created my front facing by aligning my front piece on the fabric and cutting around it.  I serge finished all edges before stitching back and bust darts. Undecided as to how much fitting could take place at this point, I joined sides and shoulders with a 3 mm length stitch i.e. easily ripped but would do for a permanent finish.  I slipped my blouse on and pinned the center fronts together.

I was surprised at how tight the sleeve felt and noted the side-view drag-lines also indicating tightness under the arm. However, the front didn’t look that bad to me (especially after what I’ve seen on the web called ‘wonderful’); and the hem is level i.e. not swinging forward or assuming a high-low position.  I’ll save discussion of the back for later when I’ll compare Fit 01 to the finished garment.

I ripped the side seam open and formed a 2″ deep underarm. This did not please me as it is only 1″ above the bust dart. I prefer a little more coverage in that area.  With notable lack-of-enthusiasm, I finished the garment. Hemmed. Button and buttonholes. Whole nine yards DONE. If I can’t/won’t wear it;  ready for donation.

There’s a strong possibility I should have tried it on after ‘lowering the armscye’ and then quit i.e. left it for later or binned.  However, I’ve got 3 WIPs and 2 UFOs already in the closet. I didn’t want to add another and I wasn’t ready to trash a perfectly lovely fabric.  Mostly due to lack of enthusiasm for a project that would probably be donated, I didn’t apply the thought and care needed when finishing.  I rapidly stitched a machine blind hem and really hosed the buttonholes.  I placed them on the center front. Buttons go on the center front line. Buttonholes go on the other side —  at least 1/8.” Nonetheless it’s done. Ready to be donated, cute buttons and all.

I don’t think the ‘finished’ pics look as good as the Fit 01 pics. During final pics, I didn’t notice my neckline sitting oddly on one side. The sleeve feels better but still binds in front above my bicep. I’m stunned by how the front hem is now both swinging forward and rising. Was it buttoning? or something else? The back fared — um — somewhat better. Fit 01 is the first; Finished next.

Fit 01

I think it was a mistake to move the shoulder dart to the center back without creating  a center back seam.  The move trimmed off much needed ease from both the hip and upper back areas.  Adding 1/4″ to the side seam did not compensate for the loss along CB.

I’ve hung this blouse on a hanger but it’s still sitting in my sewing room.  I’m not sure I want to wear it as-is and don’t know how to fix my issues.  I mean, it’s too late for those buttonholes. They’re in the wrong place and they’re staying there. More ease under the arms?  Would require a gusset. Ditto for more ease across the hip.  Honestly, I think I should just take stock and move on to the next test garment.  I’m glad I used that fabric. I prefer to use my rayons for wearable garments. But after 15 or more years, just using it is a good thing.


2 thoughts on “Cap Sleeves-Margolis

  1. Bev, what I do to my sloper to create this style is add to the sleeve width via the extended shoulder seam. For example, on your overlay showing the “filled in” parts, at the original/sloper shoulder tip, I start to angle upwards as I draw out towards the sleeve edge. You could try raising that sleeve edge/extended shoulder point by about 1″, reducing it as needed. That gives more bicep room. You could also lower the armysce a bit if you felt it necessary but it wouldn’t need as much lowering.


    1. I wondered about that. It’s obvious that as the shoulder line extends the armscye becomes narrower. The instructions had me lower the armscye 1″ but that wasn’t enough. I lowered 2″. Still not enough. Thanks for advice on this style. Will definitely give it a try.



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