Wednesday, September 18, 2013

kid's garb blitz : Middle-Layer Tunic

For my middle son, I decided to assemble an 11th century Rus-inspired outfit. The first component for that was a new tunic.

I'd picked up some mustard-colored linen look from the remnant bin at Joann's (which has honestly been a gold mine for me for kid's garb fabric). Since the tunic is a layering item, the weight of the linen will be sufficient. He'll be wearing a white linen shirt underneath, and at some point, a wool jacket over top.

When I created my youngest's plaid tunic, I used a modern shirt that fit him as a basis to draft a pattern. This is a very common method of patterning in the mundane sewing world, and it takes a lot of the drafting work out. For this tunic, however, I returned to traditional measured patterning. This method allows you to make a tunic with a more precise fit.

When taking measurements, keep the tape measure loose- as in grazing, not tight against the body. The trick to getting measured patterns correct is to increase your measurement to introduce ease. There are very few areas on a garment where tight or exact fitting is necessary, but a tunic for a pre-schooler doesn't really have any of those. On my kid's garb, I try to stick with .5" of ease as a standard.

There are two areas in particular where a looser fit is better- across the chest and in the bicep, so those two measurements will be given a bit more ease than the others. You should also add in seam allowance. I add 1/2" allowance to all sides. Here's how I handled L's measurements:

Chest (measured around torso at widest point under the armpits):
  • Measured = 21"
  • Divided by 2 = 10.5"
  • Seam allowance at 1" (.5" each side) = 11.5"
  • Ease at .5" = 12"
  • Add .5" for additional chest ease = 12.5"
This works out to a full measurement of 25", but 2" will be lost to seam allowance. So the final girth of the chest will be 23", which provides 1" of ease each on the front and back. Some additional ease will be added in as well through the extra ease found in the underarm of the sleeve.

In my case, the hip measurement is not that much bigger than the chest (only .5"), so the insertion of gores just above the waist will account for that with no problem. If his hips were more than 1" bigger, I'd need to make sure that the gores included the width needed to clear the hips, which would potentially require the gore angle to be more significant.

Sleeve Length (arm from shoulder point to wrist):
  • Measured = 11"
  • Seam allowance at 1" = 12"
  • Ease at .5" = 12.5"
  • No additional ease required in length.
  • Measured = 6.25"
  • Divided by 2 = 3.125"
  • Seam allowance at .5" (the other edge will be a fold) = 3.625"
  • Ease at .5" = 4.125"
  • Add 1" for additional bicep ease = 5.125"
Since measurements like this are so oddball, though, we'll round up to the nearest .25", which makes it 5.25". This will create a very roomy bicep that will also eliminate the need for an underarm gusset. The exra .5" ease compared to what was added into the chest accounts for the process of actually putting the tunic on.

  • Measured = 4.5"
  • Divided by 2 = 2.25"
  • Seam allowance at .5" (other edge will be on the fold) = 2.75"
  • Ease at .5" = 3.25"
  • No additional ease required in wrist, unless the hand is significantly larger than the wrist. In such a case, measure the hand when it's positioned like it's going through a sleeve, and use that measurement for the wrist with no additional ease.
The next important step is figuring length and gore sizes. In the past, I tended to make shirts too short, so these days I go by a "knee-length" standard that I either stick to, or shorten by no more than 2". I'm going to go with 1.5" less on this tunic.
  • Measured (from 7th vertebrae to knee down the back) = 23"
  • Seam allowance at .5" (added before subtracting length) = 23.5"
  • Minus 1.5" = 22"
To figure out the gores, you'll need to know the torso length measurement. I measure that from the 7th vertebrae to the natural waist.
  • Length (determined above) at 22"
  • Minus torso length (11" in my case) = 11"
  • Seam allowance at .5" (for to top of the gores, since the bottom is already added in from above) = 11.5"
This will be the measurement of the edge cut on the straight grain. The gore base width (below) will come off one end of this at a 90 degree angle.

For gore width at the base, I'm going with 4". This is just a randomly decided measurement based on other tunics I've made. This includes seam allowance, so the finished gore (full triangle made up of two halves) will be 6" wide.

The final step is to adjust the shoulder so that the width of the shoulder more closely matches the actual measurement. Otherwise, the sleeve will hang much further down, since the unadjusted shoulder seam will fall across the bicep, instead of the shoulder. That type of sleeve is not incorrect for early period, and particularly Norse tunics, but on such a small frame, it's a little on the ill-fitted side. Reducing the shoulder width just makes for a better proportion on a young child.

In order to make that adjustment, I take the calculated width of the bicep (5.25" here), and cut that off the two top corners, so that the resulting edge is equal in length. This will allow the sleeve to exactly fit onto the space, and when it's all in place, the sleeve will actually be angled upward when laid flat, rather than straight out. It's helpful to know the shoulder measurement (from shoulder point to shoulder point, across the back), since you don't want the resulting shoulder width to be smaller than that. If you measure that out centered across the top, the end points of the shoulder measurement should be where the bicep measurement comes in. In this case, L's shoulder is 10.5", plus 1" for seam allowance, so the top edge should be no less than 11.5" across.

So applying all that into a pattern, I get this:

When working with measured patterns, it's also important to keep a close eye on your seam allowances as you work. I've allowed for .5" allowance, so as I stitch, I'll periodically double check my allowance with a stitch gauge. While it's ok to slide into a smaller allowance, I shouldn't go any more than .5" or I'll compromise my carefully calculated fit.

You'll note in the pattern that the gore appears backwards. In reality, the edge that's cut on the bias (the unmeasured edge) is the edge that will be sewn to the edge of the main body. The center of the completed gore is a seam that runs along the straight grain. This does two things: first, it offers better drape between the pieces, and second, it brings the bottom center point of the gores upward so that when it falls straight down with gravity, it doesn't extend further than the rest of the shirt. You can do a minor curved cut to enhance this, but I rarely go to that effort.

I hand sewed the tunic with white linen thread in pretty much the same way I always do, first by sewing on the sleeves, then the half gores, then folding it in half and sewing down each side. I finished the seams by flat felling them and used royal blue pearl cotton for contrast.

I was a bit worried that the tunic would turn out too long, but in reality, it's a precise fit. My son really is that lanky!

To see the rest of the photos, check out the Flickr set!

1 comment:

  1. wow I am really filled with admiration for your projects, and the documentation of your process, really fascinating and informative.