Mary O’Neil from Hot Potatoes has been on a year-long quest to sew the perfect tunic. Today she shares some tips she’s learned for altering patterns to create your own perfect tunic. Learn more about Mary and her Hot Potatoes company in her introduction, and don’t forget to comment on today’s post for your chance to win this week’s prizes. Tell us– Have you made a tunic? Do you have a favorite pattern? Do you have any good tips for details that make the tunic?

We have lots of great tunic patterns in the shop. Have you tried Jennifer Paganelli’s Sophie Tunic? The Emily Bell Sleeve Tunic? What about the Sis Boom Patricia Tunic for women? Amy Butler’s versions? The popular Schoolhouse Tunic from Sew Liberated? Tell us all about your experiences! Link to any tunics you’ve made!

A tunic is a perfect garment for any female. In your twenties? Wear it short, as a dress. Let it flow or belt it. In your thirties? Wear it with tight jeans. And as you get on up the scale, pair your tunic with jeans or Capri pants. A tunic can hide flaws, be cool and it’s always comfortable.

I went in search of patterns and, as many of you know, when a pattern has drawings of the garment on the front rather than an actual person in the garment, then there are bound to be problems. Usually a pattern without a real person in the real deal has not been tested. This was the case with my patterns. What should have been a wonderful weekend project was full of disappointment.

So I have made some changes to make your experience with making a tunic a happy one. I have now completed four tunics and three muslins. It is only appropriate to share what I have learned as every closet should have a tunic inside. I have now made one for my mother. It is mid-calf length with pants and she refers to it as her Indira Gandhi ensemble.

I made another for a friend and she is wearing it every time I see her.

I chose to make the one in this tutorial sleeveless, but that was a personal decision. I think it may have had to do with the 98 degree heat, before summer had even officially arrived. I chose several patterns. I worked most specifically with Butterick 4856 as I wanted a yoke with a slit. I also wanted no back seam as my figure is pretty stick straight. I have no junk in my trunk. I also embellished the yoke which is optional and depends on your fabric selection. New Look 6803 and Butterick 5392 were also used, or at least parts of them were.

Reworking Necklines
The biggest problem came with the neckline. I wanted something that felt open and cool. The neck needed to be low but not revealing. The neck from all the patterns was too high and either flopped open or needed a closure, making the garment cloying and hot. I have reworked the neckline to produce a garment that is wearable and comfortable.

Here is how I solved the problem. I lay the original pattern piece down and drew a curve that would drop the neckline down by two inches. I graduated the two inch point back up to the original neck point. See the red line? I have designated a stitch line and a cutting line. See the little scissors?

Reworking the Yoke

I had to adjust the yoke piece only slightly to get what I wanted. I have shown the original next to the adjusted piece. I only dropped ½ inch from the yoke neckline. I also made my yoke and slit a bit shorter.
When you cut out the two pieces for the front yoke add two inches to the length of each side where the yoke goes into the shoulder seam. Specifically, this altered piece is the facing for the yoke that has interfacing ironed to it. By making this adjustment you will have a tail to turn under for a clean finish.
I also found that I could cut out a large back facing from the contrast fabric. I used the pattern back to draw this piece and made sure that the facing was as long as the front slit would be. Take note that when this is attached sew wrongs sides together. This back facing gives a more finished garment and hanger appeal.With these revisions made to the yoke and pattern front you are ready to cut out your pattern pieces.

Tips for Sewing your Tunic Pattern Pieces
Your first point of confusion might be when you attach the yoke to the front piece. It takes a few minutes to understand how the curves work together.

My suggestions here are simple and critical: Mark the points on the yoke and the front very VERY accurately.

Pin and then hand baste the pieces together. It is worth every second of your time.

DO NOT CLIP at the pivot points, only clip these places AFTER you actually sew the yoke to the front on your machine. Pivoting these corners is the critical execution in making tunics a success. Believe me when I tell you I have ripped a seam more than once.

The iron is your friend. Press every opportunity you have. You will be gad you did.

Finishing the Tunic
If your pattern directs you to add bias tape, Here is a link to help if you haven’t worked with bias tape before. After the video starts there will be more little videos that pop up and there is one to show haw to miter corners. Refer to this when you attach the bias tape along the sides and bottom of your tunic.

For the shoulder seams and side seams I suggest making French seams as this tunic is going to be as lovely in the inside as it is on the outside. If your tunic has a back seam you will want to French it as well.

In order to make nice side slits I also found a great tutorial for this as well. Scroll about halfway down the page to Another Technique: Sewing a Bound Slit. With these revisions made to the yoke and pattern front you are ready to cut out your pattern pieces.

At this point I suggest you practice this technique. Make a sample. When you do execute this attaching of bias only work with one side in the beginning. Sew the bias tape around the side and bottom of the garment. Then start with the second piece of bias to make the bound slit. This insures that you have exactly the correct amount to bias to sew the corners and side and bottom edges of the tunic.

Refer to the link above about bias tape if you need help to miter the corners.

I also sewed bias tape around my arm holes. This is much more attractive than an armhole facing. I am not a fan of facings. Then I turned the bias to the inside and did two rows of top stitching to secure it.

My next step is completely optional. I cut out some of the dots from my contrast fabric. I placed them around the yoke and sewed them on with rough stitches using six strands of embroidery thread.

You’ll want to hand stitch the inside yoke down. Also stitch under the tails of the bias tape at the two side slits of your tunic.

Yeah! Finished!

This week you could win a complete fat quarter pack of Spring Street by Carolyn Gavin, Crafting a Meaningful Home by Meg Mateo Ilasco or a $25 Gift Certificate to Sew,Mama,Sew! Comment on any post this week for your chance to win!