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.

Onwards!

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.

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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?

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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!)

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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.

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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)

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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.

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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).

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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).

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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We'll continue tomorrow with the cutting and sewing!

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.

Follow

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.

T tunic tutorial 

Start with your body panels. If you're cutting one long body panel, fold it in half and iron this crease in place. I also like to mark it with chalk, just in case the crease falls out during sewing (though chalk can also wear off, so stickers are probably your best bet).

Mark the centre point as well. We'll come back to this later.

Next, cut your sleeves and gussets, and then cut your gore panels. Set the gore panels aside for a bit.

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And now, it's time to set up your sewing machine!

If you have one and you're not aiming for a fully historically accurate tunic, you can also set up your overlocker (or serger).

If you've cut two body panels, mark in the shoulder width on these and sew first.

Otherwise, take your two sleeve panels, fold in half with the long edges meeting, and iron in the centre crease (or mark it).

T tunic tutorial 

I'll take a break for a bit, and then continue with some photos from a tunic I partially prepared earlier 😇

T tunic tutorial 

Updates may be a little sporadic as I'm doing them while sewing, but here we go!

First, take one sleeve and one gusset. Sew one edge of the gusset to one long edge of the sleeve panel, *but* - make sure that you start and end your stitching lines *inside the seam allowance*. That is, if your allowance is 1.5cm, start your stitching line 1.5cm in from the raw edge of the gusset.

Repeat for the other sleeve, ensuring that you'll have a left and right sleeve.

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You should end up with two sleeve pieces that look like this.

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Match up the centre point of the sleeve panel to the shoulder crease/seam of your body panels.

Again, *without sewing over the seam allowances*, sew the sleeve pieces to the body panel.

It's absolutely fine to flip everything over and sew from the other side to get all the stitching lines to meet! Just don't go over the seam allowance of the gussets.

T tunic tutorial 

And now it gets even more fiddly again! Fold your sleeve over at the centre mark. Notice how your gusset just sort of hangs down? Fold the gusset upwards now.

Sew the two loose sides of the gusset to the opposite edges of sleeve and body panel, once again without going over the seam allowances. Try to avoid leaving any gaps as well, as best as you can. (If it comes down to it, filling in a gap with hand stitches is fine!)

It should look like this:

T tunic tutorial 

Finally, sew up the sleeve seams. You may need to pull the gusset seam allowance back towards the gusset to stop it from getting caught in the seam. It's also a good idea to flip the sleeve over and check that the stitching lines meet on both sides where the gusset seams begin.

In a few more hours we'll get onto the neckline, before we start dealing with the gores. Mark which side of your tunic will be the front.

At the point, your tunic will look a bit like this.

T tunic tutorial 

Apologies for delays, we had power outages yesterday and I'm back at work today, but we'll continue later tonight with the neckline, gores and side seams, and a work on finishing.

T tunic tutorial 

Alright - no photos at the moment unfortunately, but I will hopefully have some in a few!

So, remember how you measured your shoulder width(s) and the front and back of your neck? And the drop to a comfortable neckline height? That's where these come in.

First measure and mark your shoulder widths on your body panel crease (if you don't have shoulder seams).

Next, on the *back*, measure and mark your back neckline width. This should be consistent with your shoulder widths.

T tunic tutorial 

If it's not, it's safer to have the shoulders a bit wider than the neckline too wide.

Now, on the centre line of your back panel, measure down about 7cm. This is the usual comfortable back neckline drop, though if you have a very long neck you may need to go a little further.

Draw a (roughly) symmetrical curve from the outer neckline width, passing through the centre line at the marked drop point.

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Repeat for the front. Your front neckline drop will likely be a lot more - a good point to measure from is the divot in your collarbone at the base of your throat. I find that 10-15cm isn't unusual.

T tunic tutorial 

Now, flatten out the top section of your tunic, so you can see both arcs. They may not meet at the centre/shoulder line, which is definitely a problem - so carefully adjust them so the neckline meets nicely across the centre line. (Make sure it's not a sharp curve either - that'll be harder to finish.)

Mark your hem allowance as well. If you're intending to finish it by hand, it's worth running a line of stay-stitching around the neckline to stop it from stretching.

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Sorry all, more delays on this one... Hopefully tonight.

T tunic tutorial 

Alright, I'm back, sort of.

Your neckline isn't quite done at this stage. Most tunics of this style, if they didn't have more specific neckline styles that allowed for being pulled over the head, would have had a keyhole neckline.

So, if you want to do this neckline style, mark a point 10cm or 15cm down on the centre line from your neckline.

If you want to make a facing for this section, I recommend this tutorial: weallsew.com/create-a-one-piec

T tunic tutorial 

You can also finish it with buttonhole stitch (create a buttonhole bar section at the base of the split to prevent tearing).

If you do the facing, do this before finishing/hemming the neckline.

Now that the neckline is mostly done, let's move on to the gores.

T tunic tutorial 

Take one of your gore panels, your chalk, and your long ruler. Lay the long ruler diagonally across the gore panel - you're going to mark a line diagonally from one corner to the opposite corner.

This turns the panel into two right-angled triangles. Measure at the narrow end of the triangle, and mark the point where the width is equal to two seam allowances (so if your seam allowance is 1.5cm, mark where the gore point narrows to just 3cm).

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With right sides together, pin the long straight edge of one gore to one of the body panels of your tunic. The short edge should line up with the hem. Sew from the hem upwards, to the point you have marked. (You can trim off the excess fabric from here.)

Repeat for the other gores.

Next, pin the gores together on the diagonal edges and sew. You may need to adjust and distribute fabric a little - the diagonals have a nasty habit of stretching.

T tunic tutorial 

Finally, pin the remaining body panel sections together, being careful to ensure that the extra fabric at the tops of the gores isn't going to be trapped in the seam. Again, you may need to adjust and distribute fabric a little.

Carefully sew the remaining side seams down towards the hem. Start your stitching line where the base of your sleeve gusset ends, and carefully ensure it meets the stitching line of the middle of the gores.

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You have most of your tunic completed now! But you still need to do some finishing.

If you have one and you're not going for a historic look, overlocking is perfectly acceptable. If not, zig-zag stitch will do, and some machines do imitation overlocking stitches.

Historically, flat-felled seams (like you'd find on jeans) are an option for some areas. More commonly, the seam allowance was simply tacked down with running or whip stitches. Hems would often be double-fold.

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