Thursday, January 31, 2013

Is it period Garb? Child's long sleeved Tunic

Item- Child's green long sleeved T-Tunic with key hole neck line
Materials- Body - 1 yd x 45" 100% printed cotton
                            Facing- 30" x 14" 100% cotton hand dyed
                            Thread- 100% poly
                            Button- 1 1/2" wood button
                            Button loop- Braided 100% cotton embroidery thread
Time to complete - 15 hours
Cost- Approximately $3.00

So I have finished my son's long sleeved tunic. First I started with one yard of a pre-washed clearance Christmas cotton that was left over from another project. The cotton is printed with a forest green and gold scroll pattern. The cotton was cut into the same pieces as extant tunics, and art work from the earlier medieval period through out Europe. Rectangular front (with key hole) and back, slightly tapered sleeves, four triangular gores (two of which are split in half), and two under arm gussets. I used one of my son's large T-shirts for initial measurements, and added several inches to the hem, and made the body and sleeves 3 inches wider to leave plenty of room for seams and growth. Due to the shape of the fabric, the gores were cut out cross grain to the sleeves and body, fortunately the pattern is small and busy enough that the change in orientation of the pattern is not noticeable.

Everything on this tunic is hand sewn. The tread was a gold poly thread in my stash, which matched the gold in the pattern. I used a running stitch with about 8 stitches to the inch, and a back stitch about every inch and a half. Afterwards the seam allowances were folded over to encase the raw edges, and the whipped stitched down. This was done for every seam. The hem and the cuffs were only folded over a few times to encase the raw edges and to take up some extra fabric, then whipped stitched down, with about 5 stitches per inch. I decided not to include the front or back gores, so there are only gores in the side seams of the garment. I actually kept track of the time it took me to create this item. It took 2 hours of casually sewing (ie.. while watching netflix) to complete one sleeve! All in all it took 12 hours of sewing to complete the garment excluding the facing. Although I am sure that it could have shaved a few hours off if it had my whole concentration.

After the body was sewn my son and I searched through my stash for another cotton for the facing. The bit of hand dyed yellow is what he finally decided on. Again I used my running stitch, fold over allowances and whip stitch it down technique. After the boy tried it on and ran around the house we decided that the key hole needed to close, so I braided a short length of embroidery thread to create a loop, and found a small wooden button and sewed them onto the top of the key hole. The pictures above show some detail and are a bit closer to the color than the photos taken with the flash, also excuse the wrinkles.

Notes, Thoughts, Observations-

Tips for new hand sewers-
Having decent light and a comfortable position with hand sewing is key. I found that having the garment on top of a pillow on my lap helps to keep my neck from straining, and my eyes from going cross eyed. Take a break every once in a while! Also pins are your friend, and make sure your fabric is taunt when stitching down the seam allowances, other wise your fabric can twist, pull or bunch. Make sure your stitches are even and are closer than the length of the seam allowance, and at least 1/4 inch away from the edge other wise it may pull through and unravel. Finish your seams, even if you have tiny stitches, finishing your seam will make your garment strong. The hand sewn finished seams I have found to be stronger than machine sewn seams.

Thoughts on sewing for children in the medieval times-
This small simple project took me a total of 15 hours to complete, including cutting, sewing, pining, and fittings on the boy. As I said I was sewing this casually, but with my full attention it would probably been closer to 10 or 11 hours. I can't imagine though how a medieval person at home with children would have been able to possibly give their full attention to a sewing project. Granted they would haven been quicker because of practice, but even still one simple garment for a child would take a day or two to complete. Now imagine if you had 3 or 5 children who grew like weeds, and needed to wear these items everyday, not just for a weekend here and there!!! It definitely gives me greater insight as to why young children were clothed in dresses, and many artwork depicts boys in simple baggy tunics without undergarments. Hand-me-downs would be essential.

This is baggy on the boy. It is made to grow into. The bottom hem and cuffs can be let out two inches, and the body is quite roomy, and the neck is big. The undershirts I will make will have a square neckline to make sure his neck stays warm in nasty weather.

Things I would do differently-
I should have decided what fabric to use for the facing before I had the body sewn together. It would have been much easier to line up the fabric and sew it on when it lies flat. I also should have ironed both of them before hand. Because I didn't do these two things, I had to put a few tucks into the facing to get it to lay right. Ironing the seam allowance would have helped them stay in place while sewing. Also I wish the fabric could have been a bit longer so I could have had all the pieces with the same grain and have the patterns line up. I am debating about running some ties through the cuffs to keep the garment from covering his hands...

Child being a goof ball in finished tunic
What is Period About it-
The cut and construction- (aside from the gores being cross grained) All of the seams have been hand sewn and finished in ways that have been used in period. The garment is constructed like extent T-Tunics. The fit- Artwork depicts many children in baggier clothing, plus the knee length is commonly seen on adults as well as children.

What is Not period about it-
The Fabrics and thread. Cotton was rare in early Medieval Europe. There are few examples of cotton shirts, but it is very uncommon and expensive, and when it was found, from what I can tell by my research  it was white when it was found. (although I could be mistaken). This tunic if it was medieval would have most likely been linen (silk being easily ruined). Any pattern would have either been woven into the fabric or embroidered. The fabric was also wider than medieval looms, so the placement of the pattern on the fabric would have been different. Poly thread was unheard of, so it would haven been linen thread also. Also as I mentioned above, the gores are cross grained. Nor am I sure a button closure is period either.

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