So I'm back, briefly, because this is a better place to nerd out about sewing.

And I'm returning with a thread: How to make a Basic T Tunic, with no pattern.

Note that this isn't a specific historical style. It's vaguely along the lines of garments common to many cultures, but if you want to be specific you're best off researching features of said garment from the specific culture and time period you're interested in.


T tunic tutorial 

You will need for this phase:

A measuring tape that you can read easily.

Some bits of string or yarn, or some small coloured stickers, for marking some points on you.

Graph paper

Pencil and note paper for recording measurements

Optional - details of the fabric you want to use, specifically the width

T tunic tutorial 

First, you need to take some measurements. Be honest in them. T tunics aren't closely fitted anyway - you'll add ease to make it a more loosely fitted garment.

Speaking of that ease, it's easiest added by rounding up your measurements. I like to round to the next 5cm; for imperial users I'd say round to the next whole inch at minimum.

So, measurements, round 1!

T tunic tutorial 

Start with your centre chest. This is taken with the measuring tape parallel to the floor, across the fullest part of your chest (usually nipple level). Mark this line with some string or yarn tied around yourself, or stickers at this point on your sides.

Next, your waist. This is usually described as the narrowest point of your torso, but it's not always that easy to see. Instead, hold your arms outstretched and bend sideways - where your body bends is your natural waist.

T tunic tutorial 

Measure, and again mark this point also.

Next, your hips. This is the widest point around your butt and the top of your legs. Measure it, but don't mark it. Instead, mark the point where the tops of your hip bones are - called the 'high hip' or anatomical hip, sometimes.

Measure the width of your shoulder, from the base of your neck to where your arm starts. It's worth recording this for each side as it may vary.


T tunic tutorial 

Measure your biceps around, by holding your arm up with elbow bent and making a fist. You may also want to check if your bent elbow around is a bigger measurement than this.

Then, put your hand on your hip with elbow bent, and measure the length down the outside of your arm, from your shoulder to desired sleeve hem.

Only a few more! Remember those marked points?

T tunic tutorial 

Measure across your back at the marks you made while taking your centre chest measurement. (If that's not the widest point of your back, then measure at that point.)

Next, measure the distance from the top of your shoulder to your waist mark.

Measure again from the top of your shoulder to the desired hem length. Note as well if this is closer to knee-length or shorter, or if it's past your knees. (It's up to you!)

T tunic tutorial 

Almost done. Measure across the back of your neck, from shoulder to shoulder. Then, measure across the front of your neck at a comfortable collar level.

Alright. Now we're done with measuring.

Take a fresh piece of note paper. Note your seam and hem allowances first - I like to use 1.5cm for both, but it's up to you. You'll need to add this to all sides of each panel.

T tunic tutorial 

So, first comes your body panel. Depending on the length and width of your fabric, you can either cut this as one long panel, or two panels with a shoulder seam. We'll work this out later though!

The width of your body panel will be equal to half of your chest or waist measurement (whichever is bigger), plus 2 X seam allowances.

Or, as a formula - 1/2(chest or waist)+(2xSA)

T tunic tutorial 

Your back span measurement should come out to almost the same as the body panel width sans seam allowance. If there's a major discrepancy, you'll need to cut your body panel as two pieces with a shoulder seam; adjust the front and back panel widths accordingly.

The length of your body panel depends on how you're cutting it. If you're cutting it as a single piece, then it's double the shoulder to hem length, plus 2x hem allowance.

T tunic tutorial 

If you're cutting it as two panels, each panel will be as long as the shoulder to hem length, with a seam allowance at one end and a hem allowance at the other.

Your sleeves will be the width of either your bicep or elbow measurement (whichever is larger) and the length of your shoulder to sleeve hem measurement.

Now, remember how you measured the distance from your shoulder to your waist or your high hip?

T tunic tutorial 

Take that measurement, and subtract it from the body panel length sans seam and hem allowances. This is the length of your gore.

If your tunic is knee-length or shorter, use a gore width of 20cm (or equivalent). If it's longer than knee length, use a gore width of at least 30cm. (More means bigger hem, so it's up to you again.)

There's one more piece to note down. You'll need an underarm gusset on this pattern.

T tunic tutorial 

The gusset is a square or diamond-shaped patch of fabric inserted in the underarm to fill in the gap. Square gussets are an older and looser style; diamond gussets fit closer and can be smaller, but they're harder to place nicely on your fabric.

I use a square gusset of 15cmx15cm (plus seam allowance) or a diamond gusset of 10cm wide and 15cm long (plus allowances).

T tunic tutorial 

Now, what about that graph paper?

Well, I'll need photos for this step, so I'll have to take a break for now and show you all in a few hours.

T tunic tutorial 

We now return to the tutorial, after a far too tiring work day...

The graph paper is how you get both your cutting layout and your estimate of fabric needed. Here's some photos of my efforts today for an idea of what it eventually looks like (including some crossing-out because I used a pen; don't use a pen, use a pencil).

T tunic tutorial 

Decide on a scale. On A4 graph paper I like to use 1 square = 5cm, but it's up to you.

So remember how I mentioned the width of the fabric you want to use? Plot that on your graph paper first, on the horizontal axis. When you're plotting measurements, round your fabric width *down*, and the size of each panel *up*. This does make it more likely that you'll have extra fabric over, but better that than not having enough!

T tunic tutorial 

Now, start plotting your panels on your paper. Your gore panels are plotted as rectangles initially - I'll explain when we get to that part of the cutting and sewing.

This is also where width of fabric can become a deciding factor in how you handle the body panels. If your fabric is narrow, it's more efficient to cut the body panel as a single panel that is folded in half. On the other hand, it can be more efficient to cut two body panels with a shoulder seam on wider fabrics.

T tunic tutorial 

A note here too, on the grain line - while in most modern patterns you want to use the straight grain, running parallel to the selvedge, it's perfectly acceptable to use the cross grain instead to get a more efficient layout.

Excess fabric can be used to make binding for your neckline (as an alternative to a blanket stitch finish), pocket bags (pockets in general aren't historically accurate, but they are convenient) or kept for other projects!

T tunic tutorial 

As to your fabric, it really depends on whether you're going for a historical style or not, what's available to you, and what you like to wear.

Historically, linen and similar fabrics were used for most under-tunics, since they were hard wearing so could tolerate the skin contact. Silk was also used by the very wealthy - it's softer and kinder to sensitive skin, but also very expensive.

T tunic tutorial 

Silk also won't tolerate as much rough handling as linen, and doesn't like to be washed too often. I would rate silk and linen about the same for breathability.

Wool tunics are documented, but they would have been an over-layer - it wasn't until comparatively recently that most garment wool was soft enough to not require a lining or under-layer.

Cotton would be a fine modern option. I'd avoid pure rayons as they're too hard to sew, but a rayon blend should be alright.

T tunic tutorial 

We'll continue tomorrow with the cutting and sewing!

T tunic tutorial 

An addendum, about the plotting - I took the photo of my finished graph plot before I had written in the fabric needed.

Firstly, you should check with the seller of the fabric as to what increments they sell in. A lot of physical stores only sell in 10cm or 20cm increments. Some other places - especially online - sell by the 25cm increment.

And, you need to account for shrinkage.

T tunic tutorial 

In part you already have by rounding down the width and rounding up the size of each panel on your graph plot, but as a general rule, I calculate for 10% shrinkage after washing. I find that linens generally don't shrink anywhere near that much, but cottons absolutely can.

Finally, you need to prewash your fabric. The only exception to this are fabrics with waterproofing treatments, or materials like vinyl or plastic. Otherwise, it needs a prewash.b

T tunic tutorial 

And you can wash almost all fabrics at home. With that being said, if your laundry has a sink and you can readily disconnect your washing machine's outlet hose to instead direct into said sink, this can be helpful. (Basically, you can directly monitor how much dye is coming out of your fabric and decide if you need to do multiple washes.)

I use regular soap powder for cottons and linens, prewashing cottons on a warm regular cycle and linens on a hot regular cycle.

T tunic tutorial, tangent on fabric prewashing 

For silks I use plain soap flakes (the brand sold here is called Lux, though Velvet soap can also be used if you can be bothered grating the bar up) but I'm told that Dawn dish soap or liquid Castille soap also work pretty well; I use a warm delicate cycle.

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T tunic tutorial 

Alright! Unfortunately, I don't have any photos for this part.

So, you have your pre-washed, dried and ironed fabric. You have your list of measurements. And you have your cutting layout.

Now you'll also need:
* Two rulers - one standard size, and a 1m ruler as well (a yardstick for imperial users, I think?)
* Tailor's chalk, chaco pens, or water-soluble fabric pencils or pens, in colours that are easy to see on your fabric.
* Pins, or coloured stickers

T tunic tutorial 

If you have one, a dressmaker's French curve or a set of French curve templates won't hurt, but you can get by without them.

Lay your fabric out flat on a suitable (clean!) surface. If you need to, use some small but heavy objects to stop it from sliding off (books, cups, clean pebbles... whatever you have to hand).

Using your rulers, start marking your fabric as according to the layout on your graph paper. Mark your seam allowances on your sleeves, body panel and gussets.

T tunic tutorial 

A note here - it is perfectly acceptable to make use of the selvedge (the edges that run parallel to your grainline) for historically-styled tunics. Though, I got a tip from another SCA sewist that you can use pieces of selvedge in place of cotton tape (traditionally used for reinforcing shoulders and necklines to stop them from stretching) so you could also cut off and save the selvedge pieces.

T tunic tutorial 

When marking your panels, it's best to first measure and draw a dashed or dotted line, especially on very long pieces like your body panel. Then go back and draw the line in solidly with your big ruler.

Check your widths as well as your lengths!

Also, if you have more than one colour of chalk, I find it helpful to mark the seam allowance in a different colour.

Once you've drawn your panels on your fabric, you can start cutting them out.

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T tunic tutorial 

Ack! I didn't realise until now that I posted the photos of the graph paper plot without any alt text.

I don't want to break the thread by deleting and redoing the toot, so here are the images again, with alt text.

T tunic tutorial - addendum (gores for longer tunics) 

Something really important that I only just remembered!

If your tunic is going to be longer than knee-length, it can be beneficial to have three or four gores rather than just two.

The gore panels are cut into right-angled triangles, which are inserted at the side seams to expand the hem. Two side gores is usually more than sufficient for a short tunic, but for a long tunic adding additional panels at the centre front and back helps.

T tunic tutorial - addendum (gores for longer tunics) 

With that being said, inserting the gores at the CF and CB without CF and CB seams is very, very tricky and hard to do neatly.

I'm not able to go into it with the tunic I'm currently working on though, but I'll try to add to this thread when I get a chance.

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