Lichen Duster Sew-Along Day 6: Sleeves and Side Seams

Welcome back to the Lichen Duster sew along! We are on Day 6, and you have just completed your collar on Day 5. Today starts off with an exciting moment – it’s time to try on your duster! 

You could pin the side seams, baste them closed with a hand stitch, or use safety pins (don’t sew them with a regular stitch length! The sleeves need to be inserted first).

Here are a few things to consider when you try on your duster:

  • the intended overlap is 4”, so when you put it on, don’t pull it tight and then find that the princess seams are not in the right place… the duster will have gathers around the waist when belted in place, so keep that in mind when you’re fitting. You could even safety pin the overlap in place while you assess your fit, if that helps. 
  • Check the bust curve and make sure it’s lying smoothly. Princess seams are handy to adjust, so now is a good time!
  • The duster has style ease allowance in the fit of the armscye and sleeve to wear layers underneath. Don’t over-fit the armscye to the point where you can’t wear layers!

And now that you’ve tried on your duster and done a happy dance at how fabulous you feel, let’s get those sleeves in. 

Baste the Front Facings in place in the Front armscye seam allowance, to prevent them from shifting while you set your sleeves. You can see in the illustration in the instructions that there’s a small gap showing between the edge of the facing and the edge of the armscye – that’s totally okay, and depending on your fabric, you may have a similar gap, no gap (if you fabric is thin/light), or a larger gap (if your fabric is thick/bulky). In the plaid wool version that you’ve seen a few times during this sew-along, the facing edge at the armscye sits in ½” from the armscye edge. That’s totally okay. The collar turn uses fabric to make that fold, and on a bulkier fabric the turn of cloth is greater than on a thinner fabric. I’ll make my seam finish choice at the armscye with this in mind.

Lining up the notches, pin the sleeve into the armhole, right sides together (you’ll have the Front and the edge of the Front Facing in there). Fig 2.

With the sleeve down and the body up, sew the sleeve into the armhole. Having the sleeve down will allow the feed dogs of your sewing machine to do any easing necessary for the sleeve to fit. Press the seam allowances towards the sleeve. 

To finish the seam allowance, choose to serge, or use a finish that is appropriate to the weight of your fabric. One tidy option is to use a faux french seam (Fig 3), as described in the Glossary of Seam Finishes and shown below.

I’m going to show you another option that I used for this bulky wool. Since I haven’t used serging anywhere else in this garment, I didn’t want to serge the seam allowance here. Welt seams won’t work, because the layers are too varied to make it look neat, and I need the seam allowances to be pressed towards the sleeve for a nice looking sleeve cap. I decided to use a pre-made bias binding to cover the raw edges and add some durability to the finish. 

I started by sewing the bias binding to the seam allowance on the body side (Fig 4), so it will fold over the seam allowance towards the sleeve. 

Then I pinned the binding over the seam allowances, grading them to fit under the bias binding. Fig 5.

To secure the remaining folded edge of the binding in place, I invisibly slip stitched the binding edg to the sleeve, enclosing the seam allowances. (Fig 6). The bulk of the fabric allowed me to make my stitches invisible on the right side.

Repeat these steps to insert the other sleeve and finish the armscye seam allowances. 

Now that the sleeves are on, try on the duster again – if you have any fitting refinements to make before you sew and finish the side seams, now is a good time!

For the underarm and side seams, the instructions show a French seam. You choose to serge, or use a finish that is appropriate to the weight of your fabric. In my sample here, you can see the French Seam in action.

With wrong sides of the fabric together, sew from cuff up the sleeve, down the side, all the way to the hem, matching seams at the underarm, and the waist notch to the waist seam, with a ¼” (.6 cm) seam allowance. Fig 7.

 Check the seam allowance around the pockets at this point, and see if they need to be trimmed a bit to remove bulk before enclosing them in the next seam. Press the seam open, then turn the garment inside out. (Fig 8). Press the seam closed with the sight sides together, keeping the seam right on the edge.

Sew at ⅜” (.9 cm), again from from cuff up the sleeve, down the side, all the way to the hem, matching seams at the underarm, and the waist notch to the waist seam, enclosing the raw edge of the seam allowances. Fig 9. Press the seam allowance towards the back. 

In the bulky plaid wool I’ve been sharing with you, I’ll use a welt seam again here, with the seam allowances pressed towards the back. Fig 10. Typically, side seams should be pressed towards the front to reduce the visibility of the seam ridge, but because of the bulk of the pocket binding, they’ll press much more smoothly towards the back.

And that’s a wrap for Day 6! I’ll meet you here for Day 7 when we’ll hem, make the Belt, and do all of the happy dances wearing finished Lichen Dusters!

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  1. Is there any reason the sleeves can’t be hemmed before they are set in? It’s so much easier to hem them when they are lying flat rather than in the round (especially since I don’t have a free arm machine).

    1. Hi Mel,
      If you prefer to do it that way, that is totally fine. The instructions are as written to give you a chance to try it on and get on last length check, as well as for a cleaner finish on the sleeve hem.
      Hope this helps!
      -Meredith