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  • Writer's pictureMadeleina Kay

Stitching Embroidered Lace Arm Sleeves

I was asked to wear my ridiculous floral, blue, ball gown for my performance at the EU institutions in Brussels on 6th March, but I realised I needed to make something to cover my forearms (I’ll spare you the gory details as to why) which also matched the ridiculous dress (photos below).

Given how over-stretched (work-wise) I am at the moment, my first port-of-call was to order something on Amazon. I found a number of items which I liked, but I’d left it too late and none of them could be delivered in time. Back to the drawing board… I would have to make the damn thing by hand. I started searching for potential materials in royal blue: elasticated blue lace; embroidered blue floral embroidery patches; blue ribbon (I already have all the sewing equipment I needed as well as blue thread). With no coherent plan for the design for the arm sleeves, I ordered everything I could find which could be delivered in time and decided to figure out how to assemble them later...

When the items arrived, it was quite obvious that one of the pairs of floral embroidery patches was a much better quality than the other (unsurprisingly it cost 3 times as much), it also matched the colour of the dress better. It had multiple layers giving it a 3-dimensional quality, as well as beading whereas the second pair were flat and sequined. I put the second pair in my bag of random textile materials as I am sure I can find a use for it later.

Next, I cut the elastic lace to a length which could wrap around my forearm roughly 1.5 times. I stitched the floral embroidery patches to the centre of these two strips. I did the sewing by hand because the lace is very delicate and the embroidery patch is a very fiddly shape which the sewing machine definitely couldn’t cope with. This took a couple of hours.

Then came the tricky part; trying to sew the lace so that it fitted snuggly on my arm and wouldn’t slip down, without being too tight. It’s very difficult to estimate the measurement with only one free hand when wrapping it around my other arm – so I had to guess. I sewed along a diagonal to account for the shape of my arm. Unfortunately, my guess at the size was too small and I struggled to get the sleeve on over my massive hands (even though I managed it). I didn’t want to risk the threads breaking under the strain of pulling on the sleeve. Additionally, it was slightly uncomfortable and since I will be playing my guitar for the performance, some flexibility was definitely needed.

So, I turned the sleeve back inside out and stitched another row (in back stitch for extra strength), slightly further away than the previous stitching. I then unpicked the previous stitching and voila this time it fitted. Fortunately, having got the sizing for the first sleeve, it was easy to line it up with the second sleeve and get the stitching in the right place first time round. Afterwards I realised I could have just used a tape measure and saved myself the hassle of unstitching and restitching - I literally had one in my sewing box which was directly in front of me (Note to self: USE YOUR EYES AND ENGAGE YOUR BRAIN)... I guess the problem with "burning the midnight oil" to get on top of jobs is that you end up making mistakes and creating more work for yourself.

Overall, I was very pleased with the outcome and decided I didn’t need to use the blue ribbon either (more supplies for my random textiles bag)! In total I think it took me 4-5 hours to make these which wasn't so abd, except that I've had people chasing me about work deadlines, so I could really have done without the hassle of having to make rather than just buy. I'm excited but nervous about the performance since it is a prestigious venue and there will be a lot of young people there!

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