Layout and Cutting:
Tunics and gowns from the early period were loose and flowing. Remember if you get stuck you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will do my best to help.
Always wash your fabric before you cut out the garment!
All you need is a mundane shirt that fits you well. This shirt must not be the type that stretches or fits like a second skin; loose and comfortable is the one you want. Tunics and dresses from the early period were loose and flowing. The length is up to you but keep in mind that the garb was layered for warmth, men wore short over tunics and a longer under tunic, and women wore under gowns, which swept the ground with a touch shorter over gown and sometimes a shorter gown over that.
Materials needed: Washed Fabric and matching thread, chalk, straight pins, yard stick, sharp dressmaker's scissors, iron and ironing board, table or cutting board (the floor will do), a functioning sewing machine.
The first step is to make sure the material is straight. Most material will twist out of straight of grain when washed, if you don't straighten it again you will have seams which are just fine until you wash the garment the first time then the seams will twist to the straight of the grain. An example of this is blue jeans which have a side seam that runs down the side for part of your leg then makes a bee-line for the front. The material was not cut on the straight of grain.
To check for straight of grain fold your material width wise (see Figure 1) with the self-edge even. Does the other self-edge line up evenly, too? If not you will need another person to help you to pull the material on the bias to straighten the grain. A couple of gentle tugs should do the trick. Fold the material again and check the self-edges. Repeat the tugging as needed. If the material is very wrinkled iron it before you cut out your garb.
Now you finally get to start this project. The first fold is with the right sides (pattern or darker side) together in half length-wise (see Figure 1) once again lining up the self-edges so that they meet as close as possible to perfect. This will be the center front and back of the garment.
The next step is to fold the fabric again in half so that the cut edges are together. Pay attention to lining up all the layers of the self-edges (see Figure 2). At this point you may experience the "it won't lay flat" blues, be patient and try again. The fabric (all four layers) must be flat with no wrinkles in the layers so that you get a nice even garment cut out. Once the fabric is folded and laid out flat and wrinkle free you are nearly ready for the marking step.
You guessed it, you get to fold again. This time turn the shirt you are going to use as a "pattern" inside out and fold exactly in half matching the side seams together. Carefully lay the folded shirt on top of the fabric matching the front edge of the shirt with the folded edge of the fabric (see Figure 3).Use this, along with the measurements you have so carefully written down and your chalk and a yard stick or other straight edge to mark the cutting line on the material. (What can't find them? That's okay, it's time for a break anyway.) Very brave souls (or the very rich) sometimes cut out this garb without the use of marking and straight edge, however until you get very brave or rich, marking is a lot less likely to lead to mistakes.
Marking the cutting line is very simple. (See figure 3 again) Remember to use the straight edge and allow for at least 1/2 inch seam allowance. Mark the cutting line in a different color than the seam line or make the seam line a series of dashes, the chalk washes right out. To mark the neck area follow the back of the shirt collar Mark the middle edge straight in a bit and the top edge straight down a bit then draw a very gentle arch from mark to mark. When cut this opening will be smaller than your head will fit into but it will be cut larger as we go so don't worry. And now it's time to cut out the garment following the chalk line. Do not discard the leftover fabric as you may want to add a "gore" to the skirt if you are making a dress or add a facing to the neck. You could also add extra length to the sleeves if you wish.
Since you want a nice round hem not one that will hang longer on the sides than the front and back it is necessary to "round" the sides by cutting away the "peak" at the sides. (See Figure 4) With this cut away the "skirt" area of the tunic or dress will hang evenly all the way around.
Next finish cutting out the neckline by cutting the neck hole a bit bigger on the top layer only It is vital to cut away only a little at a time, remember you can't make it smaller as easily as you make it bigger, so be careful. Try it on ... it should go over your head easily. Huzzah! It's time to start sewing.
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