How to make a tunic

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A downloadable version of this document is available here.

The first of a series of videos on this subject is here. More to come as soon as they are produced.


Print off the “[1] Women’s Measurements” or “[2] Men’s Measurements” PDFs to record your vital statistics. You can print off any number of these for each of your family or group.

Depending on whether you prefer to work in inches or centimetres, add either 2” or 5cms to your measurements PLUS 5/8” or 1.5cms on EVERY seam edge as a “seam allowance” or it won’t fit! Note, a woman's basic dress is essentially an ankle-length tunic and the measurements and fabric layout need to be adjusted accordingly.

Get someone to help take your measurements - you’ll get much better accuracy that way (and have a good laugh).

Cutting Out


I would suggest washing wool or linen at 40C on a normal wash with a moderate spin speed. You actually need it to shrink a bit first so it doesn’t shrink after you’ve spent hours making your kit. Hang it over a pole or bannister rail to dry - you don’t want a wobbly weave from pegging it out.

Once your kit is made you can still machine wash it, but I would suggest a lower temperature and low spin speed to avoid more shrinking and felting.

Use the PATTERN CUTTING layout guide to mark out the pieces on the fabric. You can use chalk or pins. Measure everything TWICE before you cut it out!


You should have:

  • 2 x main body pieces
  • 4 x large gore pieces (triangular panels)
  • 2 x sleeves
  • 4 x small gore pieces

If you’re really adventurous you can create a roughly keyhole-shaped piece to face the neckline (see note at the end of this page).



Regardless of how clever you think you are, even the best of us make mistakes!

Pin and tack your kirtle together first and make sure it fits. Tacking is just a simple line of largish 1/2” (1cms) running stitches. Use white thread (or grey thread on white fabric) so you can see them clearly. Once you are happy with the fit, start machine-stitching or small hand-stitching the seams using matching thread. Use backstitch to hand sew if you do not want to use a machine. Please refer to the SEWING layout guide to assemble to pieces:

  1. ) Unless you have cut the front and back of the tunic in one length, stitch the shoulder seams together.
  2. ) Join the large gore triangle pieces together to form larger triangular shapes and the small gores to create diamond shaped underarm gussets.
  3. ) Attach the large gore pieces to the body starting at the bottom hem edge
  4. ) Attach the small gore pieces to the sleeves starting at the top of the sleeve.
  5. ) Find the middle of the top of the sleeve and line up to the end of the shoulder seam. Stitch both into place.
  6. ) Match up both sides of the tunic and stitch the remaining side seams.
  7. ) Hand sew all your hem edges: skirt hem, sleeves and neckline (if you are not backing it with a facing) Avoid using machine stitching as this shows up and looks a very obvious and out of place.

OPTIONAL: To add a keyhole facing to the neckline, cut the same shape neckline and create a band approximately 3” (7.5cms) wide. Attach this to the main neckline RIGHT sides together. Then turn the facing through so that it rests inside the tunic. Press the seam and sew the facing securely at a few strategic points to stop it from flapping outside in the heat of battle.

An alternative pattern for a gusseted tunic is available here

Any questions, please contact me at alix[at] and I’ll do my best to help.

Otherwise here are a few links to good information and diagrams on embroidery and stitching on the society wiki:


Basic sewing

Edges and hems


If you wish to insert a contrasting neckline, watch this short video on inserting a neckline

How to add contrasting cuffs, it is explained here

Credits: with thanks to Alix Cooper and to Lyndsey Kinrade for the neckline video