This week I’ve been making tunics for Master Donal O’Brien, and he’s been dropping by with bottles of delicious concoctions.
Because Donal was nonspecific about his exact culture and period, I checked out a number of tunic patterns and picked a style I knew was period accurate, and also extremely economical in terms of fabric usage.
I modified a traditional pattern, and was able to get two knee-length, long-sleeve tunics out of 6 yards, and another two tunics (one short-sleeve, one long-sleeve) out of a full-size sheet.
For the bedsheet version, I cut the front and back body pieces in two equal rectangles. I measured Donal from the nape of the neck to the knees and added four inches for his 45″ length, and for the width I used the width of his shoulders. Don’t add anything to these measurements! Even cutting at the exact shoulder width, There ends up being some give and the shoulder seams sit at or slightly below the crest of the shoulder.
Next I cut the sleeves, starting with an almost-square rectangle of 20″ wide and 21″ long. The length is determined by the measurement of shoulder to wrist. I sometimes add an inch or two and then shorten to taste, but I’m REALLY picky about having sleeves long enough. Sleeves can be left wide and baggy, or tapered by folding the sleeve in half and cutting a triangle of excess, starting at the corner on the shoulder side and narrowing to the desired wrist width. Whatever is left over after cutting sleeve squares gets folded in half along the long side (“hot dog”), then two trapezoids cut with diagonals of 35″ (or the length of your front/back minus half the width of your sleeve). I make the top of the trapezoid about 5″. The bottom should be at least 8-10″, but can be as wide as you like. The wider the flare, the more flare your finished tunic will have.
For the bolt cotton, I used a little bit of a different layout. This layout results in more scrap but also allows for wider flares, so if you want a fuller tunic, this is great. It really depends whether your fabric is longer (like the bolt cotton) or squarer (like the sheet).
Either way, you’ll want to either cut triangles or extend the gores into points to add some give to the armpits.
These were really simple to put together and very comfortable and flexible finished. They don’t take much fabric, and you can extend them to ankle length for Viking underdresses and longer tunics.
These patterns are based on 10th-11th century Viking, but are pretty passable for any kind of early-period tunics. Trim, neck shape/size, and sleeve length/shape make a big difference in what culture your tunic presents as. These are great in period linen or wool or affordable cotton.