I love sewing coats. They are one of the most useful garments in your wardrobe. They’re practical, and these days there are lots of great designs. I’ve noticed that a favorite feature of many coat designers is an open, voluminous sleeve. Colette Lady Gray, Vogue 1128, Vogue 8548 and Simplicity 2558 all feature wide sleeves. While these look great, and are very stylish, they do suffer from one setback – they have lots of space to let chilly breezes go sliding up your arms. Brrrrr! Unless you have a wardrobe of opera-length gloves (and of course, I do), it gets uncomfortable. Even with opera-length gloves it gets pretty brisk. How do you counter this without sacrificing the design? Well, it’s not too hard, actually. Make a Faced Sleeve Bellows.
Whazzat, you say? It’s an inner, elastic opening that is inserted between the sleeve facing and the sleeve lining. I stole this idea from my darling Emmett. And I can tell you, it makes a huge difference in the comfort, especially here in Boston, where wintry northwest winds whip all around us. Here’s how you can make them for yourself.
Coat fabric for the sleeve facing (about 1/8 yard)
Lining fabric for the bellows (about 1/8 yard – not even)
1/2 yard of 1/4″ elastic
Intermediate to Advanced
Step 1 – Create a Sleeve Facing.
If your coat pattern doesn’t have a sleeve facing, you’ll need to create one. This is easier to do than it is to explain. Simply put, you cut the sleeve hem on your pattern down to 5/8 inch. Essentially, you’re turning the hem into a seam allowance. Next, trace the bottom 4 inches or so of your revised pattern, to create the facing pattern. Add a seam allowance at the top of the facing pattern. Since you’re adding the facing, don’t forget to shorten your lining to match.
Step 2 – Make the Bellows Pattern
Measure your facing pattern at the top to get the length of your bellows piece.
The bellows is a rectangle whose length is the same as the length of your facing, by 3 or 4 inches wide (depending on the diameter of your finished sleeve). Generally speaking, 3-4 inches is plenty. Create the pattern piece for the bellows by making a rectangle the length of your facing, by the desired finished width plus 5/8 inch seam allowance. Cut this pattern on a fold.
If you want to eliminate some bulk, you can trim a diagonal line from the corners to the fold. I took off about 2 inches, as you can see here:
Step 3: Sew the Bellows and Insert the Elastic
Sew the short ends of the rectangle together. Make the casing for the elastic by folding your bellows in half lengthwise and pressing. Sew 1/2 inch from the folded edge, leaving an opening to insert your elastic. Cut a piece of elastic the circumference of your wrist plus 2 inches. Insert the elastic into the casing and sew the two ends together as shown.
Stitch the opening in the casing closed. Baste the raw edges.
Step 4: Assemble the Sleeve Lining/Bellows/Facing
Sew your sleeve lining pieces at the side seam(s), as directed in your pattern. Press open. Stitch the bellows to the bottom of your sleeve lining, as shown:
Stitch your sleeve facing piece at the side seam(s). Press open. Stitch top of facing to bottom of lining, sandwiching the bellows in between. Press seam up towards lining.
Step 5: Insert Lining into Coat
Complete your coat as usual. For faced hems on coats. I like to topstitch about 3/4 inch away from the sleeve hem to give a nice finish. Here you can see a view looking up the finished sleeve.
It may take a little practice, but once you get the hang of it, these are simple to make, and they make a huge difference in comfort.
Oh, a couple of people asked. The fabric I used for the coat is Reversible Plaid Wool Flannel from Gorgeous Fabrics (natch). The lining is a sold-out silk charmeuse, also from Gorgeous Fabrics. And hey, while I’m plugging my business, we’re having an 8-hour, 10% off all fabrics (except muslin) sale today. It goes until 8 PM, so check it out!