When I first began playing in the SCA I had NO IDEA how to sew, much less actually make clothing. I had an entire family to garb, and very little skill in doing so. I fumbled and bumbled and stressed my way through it.
Then Gulf Wars… 10 days… 3 people, including a fighter that would wear multiple outfits a day and a toddler who’d wear several each day as well. We needed clothes, a lot of them. I was on day number next of threatening to throw the sewing machine out the window and run away when I vented my frustrations to my laurel. Who raised an eyebrow and said “just make T-tunics!” My mental picture of an overlarge t-shirt wasn’t flattering on anyone, and I was vain enough that it mattered. “No really” she said “go look at the fighting tunic Jon borrowed from Elesar. It’s just a t-tunic.” I went and looked and it was like fireworks exploded in my brain. Here was a simple shaped 2 piece garment, that looked Good.
Fast forward a bit, and I’ve gotten a lot more experience making garb, but I still very frequently create T-tunics, and it always boggles minds how they can look. So by request.. t-tunics 201:
These are all T-tunic assembly:
By T-tunic I mean as few pieces as possible. Generally the sleeves and body piece are one piece. Sometimes additional length is added to the sleeves or gores to the sides. These should still fit well, and pass easily for historically representative garb.
Here is a booklet I created for teaching a T-tunics 201 class. I hope it is helpful, andplease do not hesitate to reach out with any questions!
The booklet is designed to be printed double sided, flipped on the short edge, and folded in half.
I had never attempted to sew a garment before the SCA.
I have the abundant hips of a modern woman who enjoys a well fed lifestyle.
So much trial and error!
Several months into my SCA journey I was given a handout on rectangular tunic construction by Hanim Gulenay, OL and HE Suvia filia Heriberti. This handout was a game changer for me. It was clearly written and explained tunic construction and alternatives in ways that made sense to a complete novice.
With permission from Mistress Hanim, here is the handout:
It has fantastic suggestions for fabric, the history of the pattern, as well as two patterns for rectangular tunics, a fuller one and a more fitted version. I use the more fitted version, and most of these notes will apply to that.
Referring back to that novice seamstress part, a half dozen dresses later I’ve finally learned a good bit about how to measure, cut, and assemble squares to fit a very not-square body. Here are a few notes that I hope will help:
The handout gives the following graphic for measurements:
A: I prefer a higher shoulder seam, so use a measurement that is just a little past my bra straps. I use favorite tank tops that aren’t tight but fit well for most of my measurements.
B: Because A is higher up on my shoulder, it’s important to start B from the same spot and measure all the way down to my wrist.
C: This is the measurement that took me the longest to work out. I was told to use my full shoulder circle, and then later to use half of that. What I’ve learned is that “it depends”. Generally, individuals with larger biceps and upper arms will want a larger armhole for more movement. For me, about ¾ of the total circle works well. I use a shirt with comfortable armholes as a starting point, and measure this way:
D: This measurement works with C, and it’s important that they stay together. The top of D must start where the bottom of C ends.
NOTES: This is probably the measurement I’ve played with the most to get the pattern to fit. I’m very pear shaped, and in order to have a fitted torso but enough ease to comfortably flare over my hips, I’ve shortened this measurement to about 5.5 – 6″. This means the flare starts higher on the sides, and affords me plenty of wiggle room, while still giving a nice silhouette.
Page 7: This page is where you’ll calculate the measurements for the side gores. Do add the 4″ of ease, and don’t forget seam allowances on both sides of pieces. Make a note of the top measurement of your top gores, you’ll need that in the next step!
Shaping the Pieces
Sleeves: The sleeve shape is not a flat top triangle, but actually has some shaping at the widest part as well. Like this:
Begin with the arm measurement plus seam allowance and draw that line. Add straight lines at a 90 degree angle that are the same length as the top of your upper gores. Then angle the sleeve inward until you reach the length and width of your sleeve and wrist measurements.
I’ve used this pattern a LOT now. For Viking underdresses, Rus over and underdresses, and even just cut the front all the way down for a perfectly fitted Ottoman coat.
Please feel free to ask questions if I can be of any help!