Friday, August 29, 2008

Rectanular Construction Tunics-Introduction the Birth of a Tacky Tunic

Many years ago when I was still in high school I received a copy of Tournaments Illuminated. In that issue there was this amazing article by Lady Muireann ingen Eoghain ua Maoil Mheaghna, about how to make a tunic with rectangular construction. I had never heard of such a thing before. I was amazed that this woman had taken measurements from a actual surviving garment from the middle ages, and made a pattern from it. A garment that wasted virtually no fabric. Since these were the days before I worked at a fabric store, I had no stash to speak of. Making the most of my fabric was a necessity. I devoured the article, copying down her cutting layout in my sketch pad. My little mind was spinning from this new idea, and I had to try making my own. So I pulled out some atrocious plaid knit that I had found at a second hand shop (taste in fabric was still a few years away), and I set about making my first "real" T-tunic. It was a functional disaster. I didn't have enough fabric to make the center gores out of the plaid, so I fudged it, and I used a lightweight lavender cotton for the center gores. It matched. . . in a way. I read the bit in the article of inserting points by hand, so I left the top inch of the gores un-sewn intending to come back later and close up the gap by hand. Well I never did, I never hemmed it either. You would think that it would have been falling apart after the first wash, but I wore that unfinished tunic for years. Eventually I stopped wearing it, and it lurked in the bottom of my garb box taunting me. I would proudly wear my newer creations all the while knowing it was there just out of site. Finally I gave it away, I couldn't stand taking it apart, and I had friends who could use the garb. Finally I was free if the curse of the Tacky tunic, that is untill I was sitting by the campfire, and across from me was my friend proudly wearing my old tunic.

I've gone on to make many more tunics using Rectangular Construction. Once I had mastered the formula for measuring they went together very quickly. I found that when I tried to take a shortcut, and use the quarter & cut method it never worked right. I would end up spending more time fixing the shortcut than I would have taken to just do it right the first time. Thus I was converted. When I sing the praises of Rectangular Construction I often watch peoples eyes gloss over. The number of pieces, inserting gores, math!?! Quite a few people looked at me like I was crazy, and went back to their preferred way of cutting. I was not discouraged. I wanted more people to use this method because it's the right way! OK so there is no right way to do anything, but I really loved the way that this worked, and just wanted to share. So what was I going to do? I started making them for friends. Then I guided a few friends through making their own. Next thing I knew I was teaching my first A&S Class. I find myself popping into costuming forums and giving advice, I even started a photo tutorial On my Livejournal. Sadly that never got finished because I moved, and the half finished project has yet to resurface. Well I still want to spread the love of Rectangular construction.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Center front Gore placement

Inserting a center front gore into a rectangular construction tunic can be pretty intimidating at first glance. Not to mention taking a pair of scissors and cutting a slash up the front of a perfectly good tunic seems like an unnecessary cruelty. That is until the first time you get it right, and you realize how nice and full your skirt can be. Getting it right took me a awhile to discover. For years I kept hearing people say hand sewing is the way to achieve a perfect gore. I knew that would work, but I am a visual learner, if I cannot watch someone or see pictures it is harder for me to understand what I am being told. So after many years of trial and error I finally developed a technique that gives me a beautifully finished gore that I can be proud of.

I would like to share with you my technique for inserting center front gores, and hopeful this will take away some of the mystery, and get you to making your own. I should inform you that this technique does not give you a perfect point, rather it gives you a rounded peak that will lay flat without puckers traditionally associated with machine inserted gores.

Start with a flat topped gore. The top of this gore is approximately 1" across.

This is the top of my Center Front (from now on Center Front will be abbreviated to CF) slash before I have clipped it.

This illustration shows the clipping placement, and how to align the Tunic and gore for your first pin placement. The first pin is tricky because you are pinning it on upside down. The pieces will align the right direction when you begin spreading out the slashes.

Spread the slash apart, pinning every 1/2" inch or so. This allows you to align the edges of the gore and the CF slash. If it helps imagine your tunic front is an accordion fold fan, the handle is your CF slash, and you are closing it.

Now that you have your Gore and tunic pinned it's time to sew your seam by hand. Trust me about the hand sewing, a machine cannot match the control hand sewing gives you. Begin your seam at least two inches from the peak of the gore. For my projects I usually use a 1/2" seam allowance, but use your personal preference.

Here you can see the sewn seam from the gore side.

Here is the gore as viewed from the wrong side. Don't worry about the excess at the top that's about to get trimmed off as it has fulfilled it's purpose.

Now we need to finish the seam. To do this I usually fold the seam allowance over as if I were making a flat felled seam.

Now I whip stitch the seam allowance to the body of the Tunic.

Finished seam from the back. After you have the gore inserted you can sew the rest of the seam with your machine.

Finished seam from the front. Pay no attention to the wrinkles I didn't lay the fabric flat when I took the picture. When I wear the gown there isn't a wrinkle there.

Well I hope this helps you in your costuming endeavors.