Make Summer Camp: Red Tunic

This is a report on one of my Make Summer Camp projects, a red tunic for costume play.  

No, I have no idea what I’m going to use it for. Mostly it was to practice making clothing, which is difficult for me—I oftenRed tunic start a sewing project, cut half the pieces, and then have to stop for six or eight weeks. And picking the project back up is challenging.

As you look at these photographs, please pretend that I’m not wearing those hideous swim trunks, those awful flip-flops, and that terrible green shirt.  It was a work at home day.  And I didn’t think to change for the photographs.

This tunic is based on the Simplicity pattern that came out at the same time as the second three Star Wars movies: #5480.  I had to make some adjustments for the fact that I didn’t have enough fabric for the sleeves, which I made short-sleeved; and for the fact that I didn’t have enough fabric for a matching belt.  My lady says that I have terrible taste when selecting colors, although the fabric itself is nice enough; it’s got some interesting weight to it, and hangs with some linen grace although it’s cotton.

Because of the inability to make a belt for this tunic, which I also had to scale up because I’m XXL not XL, I put a hook and eye on the inside left, to catch the fold-over on the front; and I also added some straps on the side, on the right hip, to tie the tunic shut with some flair.

I did gt Red tunicOr maybe it’s just a convenience of peasantry— this kind of thing appears often enough in yeoman garments from medieval times, all over Asia and in eastern Europe, though in the British Isles you’re more likely to see pull-over tunics and smocks. There’s room for trim to be added to this someday, if I want. For now, it feels finished.

From a critical point of view, there’s a few issues.  One, the fabric is very red.  This isn’t a typical color for an all-over garment for a man in our culture or society.  I wanted something for doing fire-related work in an elemental system; I also wanted to something that could be layered over other things, and that was reasonably summery.  But again, it’s a costume piece, not a serious garment.  When I look at the inside, for example, I see a lot of exposed seams that are unfinished and not closed up.  I need to learn to use a serger/overlock machine to learn how to fix some of this kind of stuff.  

I also think the hems are somewhat uneven, as are the bias strips that form the edging of the collar/strip across the front edges of the jacket.  There’s some potential, when making this again (in a more subdued hue, I promise!) of using some bright fabric or trim from the inkle loom along the edges.  This is certainly common enough in Viking-style clothing that I’ve seen in reconstructions and at SCA events.Red tunic

When the tunic is tied shut, the tunic covers shoulders and upper arms to elbows, and then past the waist to mid-upper thigh.  I couldn’t wear it without other clothes, but it makes an interesting addition to the wardrobe. Although, again, it’s really part of a costume wardrobe and not a serious garment on its own.

Although the fabric is garish, my lady and I feel that the cut of this garment is reasonably flattering to me and to my shape.  It could be longer or a little shorter and still work on me; it could be finished with an alternate color around both the hem and along the collar and still work; it could have longer sleeves, either with or without buttons and still work; it could be made of a heavier fabric, or lined in some way, and it would still work.  When I got a chance to wear it during my retreat-pilgrimage, it was admired to some degree, although people correctly recognized that it was still beginner work in some ways.

And yet.  And yet it’s the case that I made this, myself.  As with other things I’ve made, I did this one better than the last one that I made to the same pattern, because I have a better sense of what mistakes I’m likely to make, and I know to avoid them.  More experience, with more kinds of fabric, working toward the same pattern, teaches me important skills about both tools and materials that I cannot learn from reading a book.  So overall, I’d have to say that this was a successful Maker effort, largely completed on July 4, 2015.

I find it pleasing that I found a way to step toward a special kind of independence, by making a piece of clothing for myself, on my country’s independence day.

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  1. Were I you, doing what you are doing (Tai Chi every day for years) I am not sure I would want to finish my seams with a serger… they make it nearly impossible to alter… well, anything. I might fold over the ragged edges and sew, either each edge on each side of the seam, or one fold for both edges to finish the seam. Here’s an Amazon link to a search for “couture sewing”, without the quotes. One of these fairly inexpensive books might give you some ideas for hand sewing (which might be more up your alley anyway, given your interests, and now after you’ve spent a fair bit of time learning machine sewing.) Oh yeah, and I don’t think it’s garish at all, but then (1) I am not there to see in person and (2) I am a Chinese medicine doc, so what would I know from red and garish?

    • That’s a worthwhile point to consider, actually. Finishing the seams in the ordinary way is probably the best course of action.

      I do think the next time that I make this pattern, though, I’m going to make it a little more subdued.

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