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Tunic Drafting 101

A beautiful handmade Bell Tunic.
A beautiful handmade Bell Tunic.
Tips and Tools

  • Always pre-wash your fabric

  • Make sure you iron your fabric

  • Helpful tools: chalk, pencil, ruler/straight edge, paper, string, measuring tape, scissors, ironing board and iron


How to Sew a Facing

A facing is a piece of fabric used to finish raw edges on a garment at open areas, such as the neckline, armholes, and front and back plackets or openings. Whatever the type of tunic you decide to make, it will likely need a facing around the neckline. This is the most complicated portion of sewing your tunic but is well worth the effort!


Non-stretch fabric should be used for this part of the tunic.


Drafting the tunic facing.
Drafting the tunic facing.

The neck hole is very easy to eyeball, but for actual measurements, the hole is based on the circumference of your neck with extra diameter for a looser fit. You can use a bowl that is close to that measurement or trace a custom circle with a string and a pen. Trace that circle out on a sheet of paper.


Mark a slit about four or five inches down from the bottom of the circle. The slit is the difference between your neck circumference and your head circumference. Since tunics don’t stretch like t-shirts, you have to add that extra space to get your head through. To get an exact length for the slit measure your head and neck, then divide the difference in 2 and add a seam allowance.


Mark out from the circle how big you want your facing (the extra bit of fabric that you sew to the edge of your garment and fold down to conceal a raw edge to be) and make sure to add extra for seam allowance.


Cut out the pattern, and make sure the circle and slit fit over your head. If not, make the slit longer.


Trace the facing pattern out on the facing fabric. Mark the inside slit and neck hole on the back side of the fabric. Cut the entire facing pattern out, but do not cut the neck hole out of the fabric yet. If you do that you will be very very sad.


How to line up your facing.
How to line up your facing.

Once your tunic is ready to have a contrasting neckline sewed in, place the good/outside side of your facing to the wrong/inside side of your tunic fabric.


Center your neck hole horizontally on your tunic, then vertically place the neck hole with about 1/3 of the neck at the back of the tunic, and 2/3rds at the front for a more comfortable fit. It needs to be more forward because the front of your neck is full of silly stuff like “jugulars” and “wind pipes”.


Then sew along the neck and slit markings, stitching the facing to your tunic fabric.


When sewing the slit, make sure to change your stitch length so it is shorter, leaving only a single stitch length at the very bottom of your slit. Leave enough space between the left and right side stitch lines so you can cut down the center, between them, without cutting the threads, or having it immediately fray.


How to cut out the neck and slit.
How to cut out the neck and slit.

Now you can cut out the neck hole and slit, being careful not to cut any threads in the slit. Cut straight down the center to the final stitch, making sure not to cut it.


Before you turn the facing outward, make little V shaped cuts in the seam allowance along the outside perimeter of the neck portion. Make sure the cuts are only in the seam allowance! This prevents the seam allowance from bunching up and allows it to press out better.


Turn your facing outward to the outer side of your tunic and iron it flat.


Finishing off the facing.
Finishing off the facing.

At this point, you can finish the outside edge of the facing in a number of ways. You can hand sew it down, satin stitch, turn under and machine stitch, or cover it with trim. Whatever method you choose I would recommend that you pin everything very carefully to make sure the neckline doesn’t stretch too much.


Drafting a Bell Tunic

Now that you know how to draft and sew a facing you can choose the type of tunic you'd like to make. The first of the two we'll see, and the simplest, is the Bell Tunic.


What you'll need need:

  • T-shirt that fits you well

  • Tunic fabric

  • Facing fabric


How to align your t-shirt and fabric to trace.
How to align your t-shirt and fabric to trace.

Fold your tunic fabric in half horizontally and again vertically. Fold your t-shirt vertically and lay over your fabric making sure that your t-shirt's folded edge lines up with your fabric's vertical folded edge and that the highest point of your t-shirt lines up with your fabric's horizontal folded edge as seen in the image.


Trace your desired tunic bell shape leaving extra room for seam allowance and arm movement. You can always take a seam in if its too big, but it’s much harder to make it bigger once you’ve cut it too small.


Make sure your fabric stays folded perfectly. I recommend pinning the fabric together along the inside of your traced line.


Cut it out, add your facing, then sew along the seams on either side and hem the sleeves and bottom edge.


Drafting a T-tunic

Where to take your measurements.
Where to take your measurements.

First, you'll need to take your chest, waist, hip, bicep, sleeve length and desired tunic length measurements.


Take your chest measurement, divide it in half, and add four inches. Then add a seam allowance for each side. This will be the width of the body of your tunic.


The length of the body can be whatever you desire. I personally prefer it to sit right around my knee. When measuring for torso length, make sure to measure from the top of your shoulder right where it meets your neck. Then add seam allowance to the top and bottom of your length as well.


A drafted T-tunic.
A drafted T-tunic.

For your arm pieces, take your flexing bicep measurement and add 2-3 inches plus a doubled seam allowance for the width. Then, measure out from the top of your shoulder down for your desired length.


If you want a long sleeved tunic with a fitted cuff you should measure around your fist and use that as width for the bottom of the sleeve (plus 2-3 inches and doubled seam allowance), and taper your sleeve down. When you taper the sleeve, start the taper from around halfway to make sure you have room for the bicep. This is not necessary for a short sleeved tunic.


Gussets and gores.
Gussets and gores.

For the underarm, we will be adding a piece called a gusset. It is just a square that helps give extra mobility in your tunic for your arms. I usually make squares 5-6 inches plus seam allowances.


Lastly, on each side of your tunic, we will be measuring out a gore. How wide to make them depends on how flowy you want your tunic to be. I usually make each of them at least half the width of the body. The length of your gores should be the length of the body of your tunic minus half of the width of your arm piece minus your gusset measurement. It should sit right up under the gusset when sewn in, but you can make it a little shorter if you wish.


Cut out your tunic pieces and prepare your facing.


How to begin sewing your pieces together.
How to begin sewing your pieces together.

Sew the pieces of the body together, insert your facing, then center the arms on the seams of your tunic as shown, and sew.


On the front right side of the tunic, take your gusset and pin it so that one side is pinned to the body, and the top side is pinned to the sleeve. Sew those two sides to the tunic.


At this point, turn the tunic so that it is outside-in, and sew the sleeve seam together making sure to sew the other side of the gusset to the back of the arm. Sew down and finish sewing the gusset to the body.


Sewing in the gores.
Sewing in the gores.

Make sure to stop sewing right after the gusset is sewn, as we need to put the gore in underneath. Repeat for the other side.


To sew in the gores, line up the bottom edge of the tunic and the bottom of the gore, and sew up one side and down the other. Trim any excess fabric, and repeat for all gores.


Hem the bottom of the tunic and the sleeves.


Then get Fancy




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