Now that all of the boring details about the necessities of sewing are out of the way, we can finally create something!
The most important (and wonderful) thing about most medievel designs is that they are created using rectangles and triangles. That’s it. No weird curves to figure out, no pleats, weird zig-zags, or other peculiarities. So in that sense, this should be one of the easiest things you could ever make. But, on the other hand, medieval tunics don’t really come in standard pattern sizes. YOU are the pattern. Sure, if you search around the wealth of information on the internet, you could probably find a pattern for a “men’s large”. But wouldn’t it be better to have something that is made just for you?
I’m going to offer a couple different options, then show you how to make the variation that looks the best (in my opinion) and is the most accurate.
The simplest “tunic” that you can make is the T-tunic. This is basically a t-shirt, made by you. Imagine a giant “T” made out of fabric.
Cut out the area under the arms, sew, hem, and voila- a tunic! You can also make the seams a little more curved under the arms to be more comfortable, and/or have it flare out slightly toward the bottom.
However. We are going to aspire to something a little more awesome than that.
The best basic tunic for Dagorhir (and looking awesome in general) is the Bocksten Tunic. This historic design was uncovered in Sweden in 1936. Here is a neat site with more background on the original. This design takes the basic “T” and adds gussets and gores to make it fit better and allow it to be more awesome in general. I’ve pulled my method from two main resources, that from House Marsvin, and Alric’s tutorial. The cool thing about this tunic is that it can easily be modified to make a tunic, or, by making it longer, a dress.
The first step to creating your tunic is figuring out the size you need to make it. For some of these measurements, you may find that it is easier to enlist someone else’s help.
Start by measuring from the top of your shoulder to around your knees. You are going to lose a little bit of that length in the construction process, and it will seem shorter once it is on, so it is generally better to estimate longer than you think you might need. This will be measurement A.
Next, measure from shoulder to shoulder. If you find yourself with a slightly larger midsection, measure that, divide it in half, and use that measurement instead. Add about two inches to this measurement to ensure room for seams and so that you have room to move. (A note for females: Your first inclination might be to measure the length around your chest and use that measurement instead. As good an idea as that sounds right now, those measurements will cause an extreme excess of fabric. We are going to add in gussets under the arms that will add a little extra room in that area. If you are extremely well endowed, you may have to modify this method slightly, but otherwise, don’t worry about it.) This measurement: Shoulder to shoulder + 2 inches = B.
Now, the sleeves. It may be best to get someone helpful to assist you in this one. You are going to measure from your armpit to how ever long you want your sleeves to be. This is measurement C.
Next, we need to figure out how wide to make your sleeves. Measure around your bicep and add about 4 inches. This is going to be the top of your sleeve and measurement D. Now measure around the widest part of your fist for measurement E.
Now, in order to make the tunic more comfortable, we are going to add gores to the sides that will give you more room to move. In order to figure out the dimensions of these, measure from your shoulder to your belly button, and subtract that number, from your overall length (measurement A, for those not paying attention). This will give you the length of your gores- measurement F. For the width, take the about 3/4 of measurement B. This will become measurement G.
Finally, we need to figure out the size of the gussets to place under the arm. I’ll admit, I don’t have a mathematical method for this. You are going to cut a square of fabric, and place it so that when you lay the tunic flat, it looks like there are triangles under the arms (see picture below). For my tunics (about a men’s small, or women’s medium) I used a 5″ square (that is, 5″ on each side). In order to make a men’s XL, I used a 7″ square. It may be better to wait until you have the sleeves sut out and connected to estimate how big you want to make yours.
Cutting the Fabric
First, the body. You are going to cut out two rectangles that are A by B. These will form the body.
Next, measure the arm pieces. You are going to create 2 trapezoids (one for each arm) using measure
ments C, D, and E. They are going to be C long, with D and E determining how wide either end is. For this, it may be easier to fold the fabric in half and measure against the fold. Measure half of D down from one side, and half of E down f
rom the other. If you are worried about getting the two pieces to be exactly the same, cut one out and then trace the other one from that.
Now, the gores. For these you are going to cut out two triangles. They are going to be F long and G wide. Measure F down the center of the triangle, and G across the base.
After that, you are good to start sewing! Here and here are some smart options on how you might want to lay out your fabric. Though take note that these are both options for if you want to make a 4 gored tunic.
Step one- Sew the two pieces for the body of your tunic together along the top. You may want to leave some space in the middle to allow for the head hole. Remember, you are sewing the shorter sides of the fabric (measurement B) together.
Step two- the sleeves. Separate the layers of the body of your tunic so that the right side of the fabric is facing you. now, you are going to need to find the center of your sleeve, length-wise. Just fold it in half and line it up so that the edges are together and the right sides are facing each other- like so:
Sew the edges together, and repeat for the other sleeve.
Now is when you need to have figured out your gussets. You are going to sew the four sides of the square onto either side of your sleeve, and the side of your tunic. Check Alric’s tutorial for a better explanation of this. Connect one side of the sleeve with gusset before doing the other side, and make sure to keep sewing the right sides of the fabric together. Once you get the first two sides sewn, fold the tunic in half along the top seam, line up the sleeve, and sew the other sides of the square to the sleeve.
Sew the side to the body of the tunic first, and then when you pin the last side, you can pin the rest pf the sleeve together as well and just connect them at the same time.
Now sew the other sleeve, and you have most of your tunic (and the hardest part) done!
Next, you need to insert the gores. Line up one edge of your gore with the side of the body of the tunic, remembering to keep the right sides together. Line it up with the bottom edge, pin, and sew, then prepare to line up the other side.
On this one, you will want to start pinning at the top of the gore (toward the armpit). Line up the fabric between the bottom of the gusset and the top of the gore so that it lays flat, then continue pinning down the length of the gore. Your edges may end up being slightly off, but you can trim those when you hem the bottom edge.
Sew in the other gore, and you have a tunic! Just trim a hole to fit your head through, and you are good to go! When figuring out the head hole, remember to start smaller- you can always take more fabric away, but you can’t add it back in.
If you read through all of that and decided that it was far beyond your sewing skills, but that you want to try something better fitting than the T-tunic, here is an awesome tutorial by Ilsa showing how to use your measurements to create a tunic with minimal sewing, and here is a similar design from the SCA.
And if all of this wasn’t clear enough, feel free to mix these ideas with some of the other tutorials out there. Modifying things slightly to make them easier is a helpful technique to make sewing less stressful.
Here is the final version of what I created for this tutorial. It is for a friend of mine, hence the size on me: