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brainstorming a class - when you don't know what to do...
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tashabear
tashabear
brainstorming a class
So it looks like I'm teaching a quick and dirty overview of the t-tunic for a canton meeting on Sunday. I agreed to do this yesterday. I'm busy all day tomorrow, and most of the night (unless the fireworks get rained out). So yeah... a class I've never taught, prepped in one day with no access to a place to sew. Fun. Not my usual teaching M.O.

So. Overview.

Quick history: appropriate from Ancient times through what... early cotehardies? When was that? 14th c? Even cottes are basically t-tunics, though they were cut very differently (closer to the body, more complex tailoring) and had fasteners instead of pulling over the head. That's not to say that more conventional t-tunics, using rectangular construction, aren't tailored. Danish tailors were doing set-in sleeves as early as the 10th century. (None of my examples have set-in sleeves because I have not yet had the chance to draft the armscye.) So tunics are appropriate for a lot of times and a lot of places. The difference lies somewhat in cut and construction, somewhat in materials, and a lot in embellishment.

Materials: NATURAL FIBERS. You will be more comfortable, less flammable, and look a lot more like the pictures. Linen, silk and wool -- cotton is extremely rare, and virtually unknown in Europe until almost the end of period. If you want to do Middle Eastern or Indian, you'll probably be able to do cotton, but I don't know anything about those cultures, so linen, silk, and wool it is. But wait, I'm from Northern Europe! Linen and wool. Easier to find than you think, and if you know where to go, how to work the sales and are brave enough to order online, you can find it affordably priced. (It doesn't take that much bravery; most online fabric stores will send you swatches.)

STORES:
Fabric Fix
45 Blaine St
Manchester, NH 03102

Martin's House of Cloth
4 Ridgewood Dr
Bedford, NH 03110
(603) 669-4127
http://www.martinshouseofcloth.com
Hours:
Mon-Fri 9:30 a.m.-9:00 p.m.
Sat 9:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m.
Sun 12:00 p.m.-5:00 p.m.

Phoenix Textiles -- online only. Get on their mailing lists; they'll send you coupons and sale notices all the time.

Fabrics-Store.com -- online only. Free swatches. Russian linen; feels very stiff when you get it, but it washes up nicely.

COLORS: Stay away from prints. Stripes and plaids are okay, better woven in than printed, but florals? Not so much. Solids, obviously. Bright colors are good, muted colors are good, but pastels? Meh. Colors easily achievable with natural dyes: yellows, reds, blues, browns. Black was harder to get than you'd think. Purple is okay to wear in the SCA -- that "purple for royalty" malarkey is for Ren faires. But royal purple? Not so much. Look for reddish purples, like red grapes, since they probably would have achieved purple by overdyeing. Green would have been overdyed, too, so olives and pine greens are very appropriate. A lot of people don't know that pink is period, too.

Wash and dry your fabric before you sew it. This will shrink it so you don't get a rude surprise after you sew your garment. Add some white vinegar to the wash (1/2 cup or so); this will help set the dye. It's also a good natural fabric softener. Reds will run FOREVER. Tossing a dye grabber into the wash will help, but always segregate your reds.

CONSTRUCTION: Basic t-tunics are made using what's called "rectangular construction" -- none of the pieces have curved edges. That's not to say you can't tailor in curves to make it fit your body, but it doesn't start that way. The basis is rectangles front and back, and rectangles for the sleeves. Add in triangular gores to add fullness to the skirt and diamond-shaped gussets under the sleeves for ease in the armpit, and you have a comfortable, well-fitting garment.

Period tunics have no shoulder seam. Mine do, because that's how they fit on the fabric, and that way I can adjust the shoulder fit. You can do this with a seamless shoulder by creating a false seam, but again, I can get a more efficient cut by making a separate front and back.

After I sew the front to the back, I make the neckhole. I even did a photostudy on how I do facings and posted it on Flickr. I would like to emphasize, however, that the facing should be sewn down before the hole is cut. You will thank me later, I promise.

If I make my front and back panels wide enough so they fit around me, I end up with a drop shoulder. My husband in particular hated this, so I started making the panels wide enough to fit his shoulders, and added side panels under the arms to add width where he needed it. I do the same for me with my smocks, to accommodate my natural bounty, but my side panels are wider at the bottom than the top for even more width so I can walk.

I add the triangular gores I mentioned before between the side panels and the front and back panels. Period construction has gores on either side and at the center front and back. I find them unflattering on me and on my husband, so I moved them 45* to the left and right front and the left and right back.

The diamond-shaped gussets under the arms can be tricky to insert. There are a few ways to go about this, depending on your level of sewing confidence. I used to split them and the side panels in half, sew the triangles to the side panels, sew the side panels to the sleeve, sew the whole assembly to the front and back panels, and then sew the underarm seam. It gives ease under the arm, but no stretch.

Or you can cut the side panel completely in half, sew the gusset to one side panel and sew that assembly to the sleeve, sew the other side panel to the sleeve, sew the whole works to the body, and sew the underarm seam.

Or, and this is the advanced version, slit the side panel, insert the gusset, sew the underarm seam while leaving an opening for the side panel, insert the side panel, and sew the whole works to the body.

It makes more sense in person or with pictures. I have a photo collection that has not only the set on facings, but one on assembling a tunic. It can be found here.

After that, it's all finishing. I'm not going to tell you how to hem sleeves and the bottom. Then you get to embellish with trim or embroidery.

And that's about it. I realize that this is really brief. I'll flesh it out later.

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i feel: creative creative

4 trips or shoot the rapids
Comments
esmerel From: esmerel Date: August 16th, 2008 03:28 am (UTC) (base camp)
If you're ever out this way, there's a place called Thai Silks (thaisilks.com) that has an amazing selection of silk from raw silk to brocade, for good prices. My mom's used the raw silk before for costume stuff.. not *technically* accurate for what she's doing but it's close enough for most people:)
tashabear From: tashabear Date: August 16th, 2008 03:31 am (UTC) (base camp)
Yeah, I've heard of them. Dharma Trading, too. I don't wear much silk, but my friends do sometimes. I may do a silk-lined coat this winter, though.
mushmouse74 From: mushmouse74 Date: August 16th, 2008 10:57 am (UTC) (base camp)
Ughhhhhh.
That makes me want to sew. Can barely get to my sewing stuff.
It looks like you've got a good class mapped out.
albreda From: albreda Date: August 16th, 2008 11:13 am (UTC) (base camp)
Delete my previous comment, I read LJ backwards. :/ Sorry!
4 trips or shoot the rapids