Sew that Funky Tunic White Girl

I have recently decided that I am really liking the longer tunics that seem to be in style these days.  At 5’8”, I’ve always appreciated any clothes that were sewn with extra length to them, so I guess this makes sense.  I don’t really remember at which pattern sale I acquired Simplicity 2690, but I knew when I bought it that I would be making View A of this pattern – the long sleeved tunic / mini-dress, just like the model in the picture is wearing.  Only perhaps with less paisley.  And less pink.

Even though I am not a paisley fan, paisley makes me think of the 70s, and the tunic as a whole did, so I wanted to buy a cute printed fabric that kept my tunic feeling a little bit 70s.  I wouldn’t go so far as to call it retro, but regardless, there was my mindset.  Surely many of you will hate the print I chose, as it is busy.  But I love it and am very into greens and browns these days so woohoo!  And bonus, it was a nice soft rayon knit.

Now this fabric was not all roses.  I had to pay careful attention when cutting it, as this was my first project to truly have “nap” to the fabric.  After it was finally cut and I went to begin the project, I was about to stay-stitch one of the front bodice necklines when I noticed a nice big blotch in the middle.  Not like a stain per se, but as if some liquid had spilled on it and caused the dyes in the fabric to bleed.  It was very noticeable, and I was upset.  Elizabeth was there at the time.  I ran some scraps under water to see if maybe the fabric just got wet.  If that were the case there’d be no point in using it as I would eventually have to wash the tunic.  The water did nothing to the scrap.  I still can’t figure out what caused that blotch.  At this point, I am guessing something actually got onto the bolt of fabric at the store, because when I went to recut that bodice piece, I had a very hard time matching  my stripey design appropriately without encountering more blotchy stains.  Grunt.

I did manage to cut another bodice piece.  But when I went to stay stich again, I realized I cut the WRONG bodice piece.  Double grunt.  And some expletives.  I am pretty sure I used no less than a dozen different curse words when I discovered my stupidity.  There was no way I was going to get another bodice piece out of the remaining fabric with the right stripe pattern and no blotches.  I was kicking myself.

Ultimately, I adopted the mentality that tends to rapidly become Elizabeth’s and my “mantra” when we are sewing – “Fuck it.”  I just used the incorrectly cut piece of fabric for the opposite side of the bodice than it was meant for.  Because the two bodice halves were angled, I figured I could make this work with minimal issues.  I was both right and wrong on that one, but more on that later.

The initial steps of the tunic were fairly simple.  I stay stitched.  I connected front bodice pieces to back bodice pieces at the shoulder seam.  Then I arrived at the dreaded facing step.  I was determined to do this much better than I had last time.  After ironing on the fusible interfacing, I overcast stitched the inside edge of the facing.  The next step, shown below, was to connect the facing to the bodice.

At this point, I had to look up “understitching”.  Thankfully, Elizabeth owns a sewing book that we use as a reference from time to time.  My take on a definition of understitch is a line of stitching made super close to the seam between a facing and the rest of the garment whose purpose is to add weight to pull the facing properly under the garment.  In the picture below, the bottom stitching is the “understitching”.  I read in the book that a three-point zig-zag stitch is good to add in extra weight for the facing to fold under properly.  I had seen some online instructions say a simple line of straight stitching is acceptable.  I liked the way my three-point zig-zag worked and will likely continue to use it in the future.

A few more notes about understitching.  After connecting the facing to the neckline like in the picture above on the right, you must iron the seams towards the facing.  When you do the understitch, you stitch extremely close to the seam line, through the seam and the facing only – the whole goal of this process is to make the outside of your garment’s neckline look correct and properly tailored – this means no extraneous stitches.  If your understitching wunds up showing in any way on the front of your garment, you have done something wrong.

One last thing.  Stay-stitching has now come back to haunt me twice on facings.  I did this facing MUCH better than my first one.  But when I do a third facing, I am going to be more careful about where I put my stay stitches.  So far they have wound up on the front of my garment both times.  Fail.  I will be stay stitching closer to the edge of my fabric the next time.

Next step was adding the little white inset piece to the v-neck.  This was easy, just putting it in the appropriate place and stitching it down.  I also overcasted the edges.  And I basted the bottom down into the reverse point that the pattern called for.  Man I hated that point later.  One thing I have to say before moving on.  I had been looking for something to use this white fabric on for a while.  It is the softest fabric ever.  I got it in the remnant bin at the fabric store.  Until I put it in this tunic, the only thing I had done with it was rub it repeatedly against my cheek.  I am going to have to refrain from enjoying the softness of this fabric while wearing the tunic, lest I endure funny looks from passersby or coworkers.

After the inset, I had to add the trim.  This pattern called for more trim than I wanted to use.  It wanted three rows of trim on the sleeves as well as a strip of it on the neckline.  Too much I say!  I only put the trim on the neckline.  I used a zig-zag stitch on both sides of the trim to secure it.  Below is the bodice, completed except for sleeves.

I began sewing this tunic during a girls night last weekend.  The picture below is about as far as I got before the night was over.  But the rest would be easy I thought.  Clearly I stopped taking pictures.  Ooops.

A quick note on sleeves.  I have sewn sleeves in two difference ways – (1) sewing the underarm seam first and then attaching the cylindrical sleeve to the bodice shoulder seam or (2) sewing the shoulder seam together most of the way, and then stitching the underarm seam.  Method 2 is MUCH easier.  No easing.  So far both times I have used method 2 have been for less fitted, more blousy sleeves.  I wonder if this is a trend.

By now I am pretty decent with elastic.  I easily made casings for the wrist part of the sleeves.  However, I did fail a little bit on the size of the elastic for the wrists.  I measured on my body, which makes enough sense, except that the size of the wrist casing was about 4x the size of the elastic.  I got the elastic in the casing very easily, but when I had to stitch the opening of the casing closed, that was tough because so much bunching was happening.  Note to self: it is okay for wrist elastic to be slightly larger in the future.

At this point, I did some seam clean-up and some overcasting.  The rayon fabric I chose frayed a TON.  Mom’s advice was that you only need to overcast seams if your fabric is easily frayed.  So I overcasted.  In the middle of overcasting the center of the v-neck area, I encountered a problem.  On my first try, I got quite a bit of a snag with my rapidly depleting bobbin.  It was so epic I decided to take a picture.  I mean look at that.  There are like 18 threads around that bobbin that are somehow connected to my tunic.  I could not figure out how this happened.  I wound up unscrewing the metal plate on the machine, using scissors to cut the crazy bobbin thread, and pulling out any stray pieces once I had the garment free.

The picture above on the right shows you how much fuzz and fabric dust had gotten inside my machine in the last 6 months.  I decided to use the snag as a good opportunity to clean that out a bit and make sure my bobbin compartment was free of uninvited thread visitors.

The last part of this project was attaching the top of the tunic to the bottom.  I wanted to do this in a method similar to the sleeves so that I wouldn’t have to worry about the openings being the same size.  But I followed the instructions which told me to sew the front and back dress parts together first.

The awful part came when I had to pin the two together and stitch.  Because of the point at the bottom of the V-neck, putting right side of the bodice to the right side of the rest of the tunic was a pinning nightmare.  I think I tried at least 3 times and spent about 2 hours just pinning.  Grunt.  But it did in fact work.  I did take some extra care to make sure that the point I had basted at the bottom of the bodice with the inset was EXACTLY what I stitched over to connect the bodice to the bottom of the tunic.

That disaster averted, it was time to use some bias tape to make the waistline casing.  That should have been easy but it was not.  First of all, the pattern called for 1″ bias tape.  I had purchased i think 5/8″.  And I had 1/2″ elastic to go inside.  Clearly that was not going to happen.  Back to the store.  Bought 7/8″ bias tape, and 3/4″ elastic.  I was going to have to be very careful stitching the bias tape casing to make the elastic fit.

Additionally, the pattern appeared a little small in the bust area.  As you can see there is a seam right in the middle.  That should have been closer to my waist.  This further confirms what I have read about patterns being created with a B cup in mind.  In the future I will be trying to make adjustments to any tunics or dresses that I make for this.  Wish me like.  In the meanwhile, I will hope that the tunic pattern is busy enough that people won’t notice the seam.

Anyway, back to the bias tape casing.  It turns out I was not careful enough with my stitching.  That was the hardest elastic I have ever had to thread through a casing.  My elastic threader actually let go of one end of the elastic in the middle once, and I had to start over.  I did manage to get the elastic into the casing, but jeeeeeez.

Below is my finished funky tunic.  I have a pair of white and a pair of brown leggings, and two different pairs of brown boots to wear with it!  Maybe I will wear this Saint Patrick’s Day, it has that one stripe with the clover looking flower.  Cheers to another project finished, even if it’s no where near perfect.  I think sewing is an exercise in learning to live with mistakes.


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