Design Inspiration: Flutter Sleeves and Lace

Click to visit Rae's. I hadn't seen her blog before this photo caught my eye, but she has a lot going on!

This is the image that’s been stuck in my mind since I saw it a few weeks ago on Pinterest.  All of a sudden I wanted lace.  And flutter sleeves.  I tried telling myself “Stephanie, summer is almost over, a light lace top is impractical for fall, wait til September.”  Maybe my brain is still hard-wired to the Northern Hemisphere.  At any rate, to me March feels like a time for lace and flutters.

Click to visit vintage pattern wikipedia

The more I researched flutter sleeve variations, the more I started to see patterns in my preferences.  For example, flutter sleeves were popular in the 30’s so I spent quite some time hunting down 1930’s flutter sleeve inspiration.  Guess what I discovered?  Many, many dresses with such sleeves also feature a sharp and pointy v-neck.  (This one also features split flutters, which is interesting.)

I like the balance between the soft fluttering sleeves and the crisp angular neckline.  This is the basic shape of March’s Hack.  I found a wealth of fluttery/ruffly sleeved inspiration tops (you can see them on my Hack board) but I keep coming back to this simple and feminine cut.  I want very full and drapey flutters.

But then I thought- “Stephanie, that’s too simple.  Besides, I don’t have any all-over lace fabric.  What else can we do?”

Click to visit a very cool blog- "Vintage Details." This is just to show an example of lace insertion, I am not planning to make my top look like this.

“How about some lace insertion?” chimed in the Consulting Dressmaker.  She’s always hanging about in my sewing room, commenting on every thought in my head.

Lady Mary, Downton Abbey, with subtle lace insertions for "everyday wear."

“You’re right- I mean, it’s a knit and not a woven but we’ve done that before with good results.  And lace insertion is very ‘flavor of Edwardia.’  Yes, why not do a little modern heirloom sewing?”

I hastily slapped together a tiny sample using my linen-cotton jersey and cotton bobbin lace (more on lace from a guest blogger this week!).  It did not explode into flames or anything and even survived the wash in good shape, so I’ll be using and teaching this technique with the hack.  The second row is uneven.  It’s a sample.

The pressing question- how to position the lace?  I keep sketching and coming up with all kinds of variations: vertical front and back stripes; horizontal insertions that flow from one sleeve hem to the other- broken by the v-neck; pretty bands of lace that echo the shape of the neckline…

Today I wandered into Spotlight to buy a zipper and hem facing for Megan’s Mad Men Mod Dress.  I want to get the dress all set up and then sew her in one furious session this weekend.  Blast it, Spotlight was having a sale.  A deep sale.  I couldn’t *not* look.

Part of me thinks this looks like a tablecloth, but I’m a sucker for lace that’s not lacy and she was on sale and soft and super drapey so I brought her home.  Looks like I’ll make an all-lace version as well!  I don’t want to use my usual binding technique so I think I’ll play with other options and report back.

What do you think?  Split flutters?  Lace insertion?  Too girly, or just right for March?

Did you see Wanda’s hack?  Love it.  She used the bow tie tee hack to come up with her own hack and it’s all kinds of lovely sparkly and shiny.

Thank you for all your support on yesterday’s post!  My inbox was full of pants/trousers block requests this morning.  I will work my way through everyone’s draft and keep you updated as to your status in the queue.


  1. Loving that lace. One of my favourite t-shirts has a little cotton lace Peter Pan collar. It is wearing out a bit and I get teary when I look at it. I have never seen anything else like it :( Maybe your lacey hack will cheer me up.

    • Awww! Maybe. It’s pretty easy for a sewist of your calibre to draft a little peter pan collar and stick it on a t-shirt…;)

  2. Thanks for the nod. I wore the shirt to work and everyone loved it. They were super impressed…until I told them I bought the material with the shiney bits pre attached….then they were just a bit impressed! May be I will keep that part to myself from now on!

  3. I really like the lace insertion samples so I definitely vote for that technique! (Horizontal maybe?). It’s also less girly and less spring-y than an all-over lace, though, your new find is lovely. (If your Fall is mild, I say make and wear them both! We broke all kinds of rules over here this year!). And you know, Rae is also having a spring top sew-along contest thing in which you may just need to enter this top :-)

    • Oh yes, the Fall is mild.. So is the winter, I could probably wear them over the chilly months, too, especially with a little layering..

      I’ll need to go look closer at Rae’s blog. :)

  4. I had an all over stretchy lace top in cream with long wide sleeves and a ‘gypsy’ neckline, I wore it to death however (note to self-must make another). I love the inserted lace look too, very edwardian/victorian-ish. And there’s nothing wrong with being a bit girly if the mood takes you! X

  5. I have a tshirt, just a plain black v neck tshirt that I bought from Avon a few years ago. It has a hole in it now but I can’t quite part with it because of the inspiration it represents. It’s pretty much a tank top with lace short sleeves. So I hang onto it so one day I’ll do it myself. It seems I’m not the only one who loves the concept of a little lace at the shoulders.

    And lovely fabric that you purchased, I like that it’s lace but not fussy.

  6. Ooh, I’m going to put this in my t-shirt hack file. I just got lost on your pinterest board–it’s so funny how once you see a feature you like you find it everywhere. (My latest thing is pleats.) But I really love flutter sleeves especially in summer. And you know, for some reason I always associate lace with winter. Isn’t that strange? I have two lace tops, one in black and the other a sort of cream that I wore a lot this winter, under jackets and things. It’s such a nice way to add pretty.

    • Lace is just good for all the time, I think. You’re right, it’s such a nice way to add pretty. :)

      Yes… Now I’m collecting Cheongsam and 40’s rouched and yoked tops on my board. I want to do both. RIGHT NOW….

  7. Your lace is cool! Can you work the flutter sleeve cut so that thskeeve edge follows the undulations of the ival, and you can cut aong it? I’d not split sleeves on a fabric with so much personality, plenty going on already. WEEE!! So exciting!! I am making a cotton lace top – mexican red with long sleeves and a drapy front. Been a bit distracted lately mind you! :)

    • High praise from Mrs C. :) I think I can do that with the edge, I won’t know until I get my hand into it.

      Mexican Red? Can’t wait to see it…

  8. I do love an all-over lace top! I’ll be interested in your binding method, as I haven’t figured out a good one. I like the look of split flutters, personally, although I can see how it might be a bit much with lace, too.

    • Well, I’m pretty happy with my usual binding method for knits, ( but I’m not sure if I will like it for the lace. I thought of using foldover elastic for binding, maybe with a pique edge… I need to sew some samples and decide.

      You and Mrs C are so right about no splits on the lace… But I think I might go there on the linen jersey one. I can always sew them up if I don’t like them.

  9. I LOVE IT ALL! Your fabric, the v-neck/flutter sleeves combo, the lace insertion idea.

    You know what’s weird? How stuff floats around sort of zeitgeist-ly.

    I’ve been wanting an Edwardian “style” cream-and-minimal-lace top for a couple of months. I don’t watch any TV and haven’t seen Downton Abbey – I know there is such a series, but haven’t read much about it or seen any screen shots til you posted some.

    Who knows where I got such an idea? I remember when similar things were popular in the 80s (extravagant blouses paired with velvet knickerbockers, very In at the time), that’s what kept occurring to me.

    And now, of course, I’m seeing it everywhere, including here, which of course is feeding my interest further – thankyou!

    • Why is it I hate the word “trendy” but “zeitgeistly” makes me smile? Love it. :)

      There’s been theories about some kind of collective unconscious floating around for ages, but I have seen some things lately that are quantifying that idea using search trends cross-referenced with location. It’s very interesting, and personally I would not be surprised if some such phenomenon exists.

      I hope you like what I come up with! And if you don’t, I show my work enough that you can tweak it til you love it. :)

  10. I can’t wait to see where you go with this—I love those flutter sleeves—I wouldn’t’ve thought it would work on a kimono-sleeve block!

    I have some cream stretch lace fabric in stash… bring it on! :D

    • Thank you, thank you. I’ll send you my muslin shot over the weekend for the line drawing. I plan to embarrass you roundly for all your behind-the-scenes artwork. :)

      I’m thinking very very full and drapey sleeves, fitted torso…

      • Probably because zeitgeistly is not really a word, and is thus terribly under-used!

        I’m sure I will love whatever you end up making

  11. Lace and flutter sleeves are always a good thing – no matter the time of year! Can’t wait to see your version.

    Also, I feel better now. I succumbed to Spotlights sale too :-)

    • Thanks, Leimomi. :)

      I’m glad you’re feeling better.

      Spotlight has some good stuff sometimes. I really should do a review post so the Northern Hemispherians can see what we put up with… ;)

  12. I missed the spotlight sale, and there were even things i NEEDED. :(

    That lace is lovely, and Rae’s top is very droolworthy, but I am REALLY loving the lace in the jersey. Its just absolutely full of win.

    • Awww! It’s ok though- I tell myself there will always be more fabric, and there will always be another Spotlight sale… Very Scarlet O Hara approach to fabric shopping…

      “Full of win”- I love that! :)

      • Oh yes, spotlight will ALWAYS have another sale. Its just frustrating when I have fabric sitting there with an INTENTION, a reason why I bought it in the first place (never happens. I buy pretty stuff and then try to think what I can do with it), and then discovered I had miscalculated and bought only half what I needed. I really want to sew it up…. and can’t. grargh.

        (‘full of win’, ‘epic fail’, ‘woot’, I am a giant nerd.)

    • Thanks, Lynne… There isn’t really much of a fall here.. Just a brief respite from summer. I’m already planning to wear it with layers (will it look weird if I wear it over the madarin-styled turtlenecks I have planned? I just don’t know yet… ;))

  13. I saw some three layered chiffon-y flutter sleeves somewhere last week – my brain hasn’t kept the catalogue reference sorry – and they were gorgeously girly. The thing is I love both but haven’t got around to wearing either. Hopeless. I say go with both just because you can.

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