Fighting Tunic for Ciar

Trying to get better about documenting my work so here’s what I’m working on right now. This is Ciar’s fighting tunic. She commissioned a fancy tournament tunic for, well, fighting in tournaments. So here is a quick and dirty Norse-ish tunic tutorial! (In the following pictures kindly ignore Baldr, supervisor pup extraordinaire, also my bare feet. I’m too lazy for photo editing)


I use the following:

Around the widest part of the chest/torso.

Around the hips.

Across the back of the shoulders.

Around the neck.

Top of shoulder to wrist.

Around the wrist.

Around the armpit.

From collarbone to as long as you want it to be.

Drafting the pattern and cutting the fabric:

The basic shapes for a tunic are two long rectangles(front and back), four tapered rectangles (sleeves) and two triangles (side gores). I am not doing any shaping or fitting here. This is slightly more complicated than a tee tunic, but not by much. Trust me. If you can handle a tee tunic you can handle this.

What you’re going to do is take the chest measurement and divide it in half. Make sure that number is longer than the across the back of the shoulders measurement. Because we want this baggier for freedom of movement I added about 5 inches to this measurement. That’s the short side of your two front and back rectangles. Take your measurement from the collarbone to as long as you want it to be, add 7-8 inches to account for seam allowance, hem, and meeting at the top of the shoulder. That’s the long side of your two front/back rectangles. Cut two of these.

Next up are sleeves. Take your shoulder to wrist measurement and add 2, that’s your length, mark this in a straight line. Take your around the armpit measurement, cut it in half and add 5. That’s the widest edge of your sleeve, mark this in a straight line out from one edge of your length line. Take your around the wrist measurement, divide it in half and add 2, that’s the short edge of your sleeve, mark this in a straight line out from the other side of your length line. You should now have three lines, one long one with two lines coming off the edge.

Now, from the point of the wrist line that’s NOT connected to the length line measure 2 inches in toward the shoulder. Mark that point and draw a straight line back to the wrist line. From the point of the shoulder line that’s NOT connected to the length line measure in 5 inches toward the wrist. Mark that point and draw a straight line back to the shoulder line. These two dots mark the beginning and end of the sleeve taper. Draw a diagonal line connecting them. Cut four of these.

This picture is upside down. The long straight side is the top of your sleeve.


Note: Sleeves can be tricksy little jerks because armpits are hard to fit, this is why the gods gave us gores. If you follow my directions and your armpit is too small to allow for freedom of movement do the following: cut two squares of fabric, unpick the armpit seam, fit the square so that one point is aligned with your under arm seam, one point is aligned with each seam holding your sleeve to your tunic, and the forth point is aligned with the side seam of your tunic, (it’ll form a diamond) and sew that sucker in. Hopefully you won’t need to, but knowing how to add armpit ease WITHOUT CUTTING WHOLE NEW SLEEVES is a life/sanity saver. 

Side gores! Super easy peasy. My basic rule of thumb is to take the long side of the front/back rectangle, subtract the shoulder/armpit measurement, and use 2/3 of the remaining measurement for side gore length on a tunic. Measure a 2-3 inch line (I like having the flat line at the top of my triangle rather than having it come to a point, I find it makes it easier to sew in later) From there measure out your length on a diagonal. Do the same from the other side of the line, try and get the angles the same. Alternately you can fold your fabric in half long ways and just measure out one diagonal line. Make sure the space between your diagonal lines is AT LEAST as wide as the difference between your chest/hip measurements (if any) Cut two of these.


Sewing together: 

Figuring out your neckline. I do keyhole necklines. I just think they look better than a round hole and they’re more forgiving size wise. Basically you can fit the neckline closer to your actual neck and still get your head through the head hole. So what you’re going to do is find the middle of the short edge of your front/back rectangle. Take your around the neck measurement and cut it in half. Add about two inches of give here. Measure it out so the middle of this measurement lines up with the middle of your front/back rectangle. Pin either edge so you know where to stop sewing the shoulders together. Determine which rectangle is the front one. Along that middle line cut a 3in slit. At the base of the slit snip two small notches angled away from the slit toward the bottom corners of the tunic. Very small, I’m talking quarter of an inch tops. What these do is allow you to hem a keyhole neckline. Yes you need them.

Sew the sleeves along the straight top edge, and along the tapered bottom edge. Set aside for a minute.

Sew the top of the tunic from your neckline pins out to the edge.

Take your sleeves, line the top seam up with the seam you just made on the top of your tunic. Shoulder to main body please. I know you’re all smart enough to not sew your wrist where your shoulder goes, but I’ve done weirder things so I’m specifying. Sew the front and back of the main body rectangles to the sleeve. Repeat for the other side.

Line your side goes up so the bottom of your side gore lines up with the bottom of your main body tunic. Pin into place. Sew from the armpit, down the main body, and down either side of the gore. Repeat for the other side.

Finish your seams (serge them, flat fell them, french seams, dealers choice here), and hem that sucker. Congrats on your new made-by-you tunic.

Fancy stuff:

Everything beyond this point is the embellishment I’m doing to make it a tournament tunic instead of just a basic Norse-ish shirt. This is all optional.

Cuffs. Ciar likes wide bands of contrasting color. So while I was cutting out the main tunic I cut out rectangles that I’m going to fit around the cuffs, collar, and hem, that I over dyed black. They came out more deep, deep red rather than a true black. But such is the nature of over dying. These will be folded around the hem, cuffs, and collar to finish them. I’m going to run a line of gold blanket stitch around them to make it extra pretty/ provide reinforcement on the edges.

They don’t look like much now, but trust me this’ll be pretty.


Side gores. Ciar uses a fox on her heraldry. So I embroidered the line work for a celtic style fox design on each side gore. I put them here rather than in the front or back because she is going to be fighting in this and it seems like the embroider may stand up better if it’s not directly in the front or back. Don’t know why, don’t know for sure if it’ll make a difference, but this is the choice I have made.

I use the sew through paper and trace your lines method of embroidery. Basically you lay a sheet of paper with your design over your fabric. Like so:

design layout

Then sew through it, tearing the paper out as you finish a section, like this:


Until you get this:

finished fox

Looks awesome and complicated and I didn’t have to free hand anything. It’s just tracing with string.

Seam embellishment. I’m debating running a line of herringbone stitch along each of the seams. We’ll see how time shakes out.

Pictures of the finished product (hopefully on her) once I actually, ya know, finish it.



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