The Boho-Glam Tunic

A month or so ago, I spotted this collection of gorgeous caftans and tunics from Two New York on Design Mom. I loved their bohemian, and yet modern, elegance; and I loved the metallic detailing. The $280 price tag, on the other hand, was completely out of my range. So I pinned them and moved on, thinking that one of these days, I would figure out how to make one. And ever since, I’ve had tunics on the brain. Now that summer has officially started and my bathing suits are beginning to come back into daily rotation, it seemed time to give it a shot…and here’s what I came up with.

This particular tunic is made from two rectangular pieces of inexpensive cotton lawn fabric (purchased for $7/yard at Gail K. Fabrics). I painted on the metallic gold edging with fabric paint from Michaels. It includes one facing inside the neck, and everything else is very simply constructed with straight stitches and lots of hemming. Really, the whole point of the design is that the geometry and symmetry of the cut speaks for itself–nothing else is fancy. The only new skill I had to acquire in constructing it was gathering (for the area under the v-neck). I know, that’s pretty basic stuff, but I don’t have girls–I’ve never had need for a ruffle!

I was skeptical putting it together, but I love the way it turned out. Somehow, it seemed like something like this could easily devolve into looking like Princess Leia in scrubs, or some sort of Greek sphinx. During one try-on, Jim sweetly likened me to Cleopatra. Hmmm. I hope that was I ended up with strikes a delicate balance between exotic and minimal, but we’ll see. The great irony is that most of my pool time is spent at the local YMCA with wet and wild kids, damp towels, and lunch bags in tow–not exactly the scene for a piece like this. I think this tunic might be more appropriate for throwing on over a bathing suit and going out to dinner after a day at the beach (I’m wearing it over a swimsuit here), or a romantic getaway to Bali, or Hawaii, or Nice…(a girl can dream, right?). Or you could wear it on the beach, or maybe just around the house on a blistering hot day. Or, if you opt for sewing the sides up a little higher than I did, you could wear it sans bathing suit for a night out. Who knows? Tunics can really do it all.

But do you know what the best part is? This little number cost me less than $25. It might not be as well made as the Two New York tunics (well, let’s change that might “might not” to a “definitely”–I am, after all, a sewing newbie), but I can think of a lot of better ways to use $255, can’t you?

Ready to make a Boho-Glam Tunic? Find the full tutorial and all the pics after the jump.

And don’t forget–the FABRIC AND HANDLE TOTE BAG GIVEAWAY ends next Thursday, 6/16! Get in there and win a great bag to compliment your new tunic! And please note, you don’t have to include your email in the comment–it occurred to me that some might be uncomfortable with that. I’ll post the winner here and you can email me to claim your prize instead.

Happy Thursday!
Cotton lawn fabric, approximately two and a half yards for three pieces (two rectangles and a facing). The cuts you make will depend on how wide and long you want your tunic to be.
First rectangle should have width equal to (desired) finished width + 2 inches for seam allowance + 4 inches to account for gathering and length equal to finished length + 3 inches.
Second rectangle should have width equal to finished width + 2 inches and length equal to finished length + 3 inches.
We’re going to make a pattern for the facing based on the size of your favorite v-neck. The facing will basically be shaped like an oval with a point. The oval will have the diameter of your v-neck +8 inches. I’ll explain this later–for now, just know that you need enough fabric to accommodate it (2.5 yards total should be more than enough).
As an example of the math above, I wanted my finished tunic to measure about 38″ wide (from elbow to elbow) and 35″ long. Mine ended up a bit shorter and narrower than that–I learned a few things along the way–but I should have cut one 44″x38″ piece, one 40″X38″ to get started.
Paint. I used this Tulip Soft Fabric Paint in Metallic Gold.
Paintbrush or foam-brush
Freezer paper
Tracing paper
Basic v-neck t-shirt
Disappearing ink fabric pen
Basic sewing supplies
1. Construct the neck. Use your v-neck shirt and a pen to trace the lines of your fave v-neck onto tracing paper. Now, to account for gathering, you’ll need to approximately double the width of the neck. See how I did that in the picture below? The smallest V is my v-neck tracing, the cut-out has a doubled width.

Now place the v-neck pattern onto the top of your wider piece of fabric. The top of the pattern should be exactly aligned with the wider edge of the fabric (the top of the tunic). Cut out the neck.

Use your disappearing ink fabric pen to make two symmetrical marks 1/2 inch from the neckline, where you want your gathering stitch to begin and end. I marked mine approximately four inches from the tip of the V:

Set your machine to the longest stitch length it will accomodate (mine was 5.0 mm), and sew a straight “gathering” stitch between the two marks using a 1/2 inch seam allowance. Do NOT lock the stitch at beginning or end. Holding the hanging thread from the top of your stitch, gather the fabric.

Now “try on” the front of the tunic, adjusting the gathering as necessary to get the look you want. You can open it up some to make the V wider or tighten to make it narrower.

2. Put together the tunic. Lay the second rectangle of fabric on top of the first, right sides facing, and pin along the top.

Using a 1/2 inch seam allowance, sew the shoulder seams. If you thought, after trying on your front piece, that the V was a bit too plunging, you can increase this shoulder seam allowance to account for that.

3. Create the facing. First, cut a shallow semicircle from the second piece of fabric to serve as the back of the neck. You can do this freehand or use tracing paper to draw a nice, even curve that fits your neckline and then place it under the fabric as a guideline for cutting. Now you have a full neck.

Next, lay a large piece of tracing paper over your entire neck opening and trace the neckline.

Using a tape measure, place dots four inches from the traced line all the way around the neckline and connect them to form a oval-shaped donut.

This is the pattern for your facing.

Cut your pattern out of the tracing paper and use it to cut a facing piece from your fabric.

Now, finish the outer edge of your facing. I was thrilled to discover that my new sewing machine has a “serging stitch,” and I used that to finish my facing (see that fancy over-edge foot?). As you know, I haven’t had a machine update since my mom’s 1970 Singer, so perhaps all modern machines have this option? I think it’s glorious. If you don’t have a serging stitch, you can use a tight zig-zag to finish the facing’s outer edge or hem it by turning the fabric under twice and then sewing a straight stitch. I wanted to avoid hemming in order to preserve (to some degree) the translucence of my fabric.

Here’s the edge I ended up with.

Now, lay your facing on top of your tunic’s neckline, right sides facing. Sew the facing and the tunic together with a 1/2 inch seam allowance, sewing right on top of the gathering stitch that you made before.

Clip the curves inside the seam, then flip the facing to the inside of the tunic and press it down.

To secure, “stitch in the ditch” created by the seam on each shoulder, and topstitch around the back of the neckline, 1/4 inch from the edge.

We’re getting there!

4. Hem and sew the sides. First, lay your tunic out flat and use a rotary cutter or scissors to even out the side edges. If you’ve followed my instructions, your edges should be much closer to even than mine were, but you want to get them just right.

Now, before you do anything else, put on your tunic, grab your pins, and head to the mirror. Decide how long you want the “arms” to be, how long you want the overall tunic to be, and how far from your underarm you want to close the tunic. Mark all of these things.

To close and finish the tunic, there are lots of options. My choice was to begin by pinning and pressing the side edges as one would do to create a traditional hem (with a double fold). Once the edges were pressed (but not sewn), I turned the tunic inside out, placed side edges together with right sides facing, and straight stitched from the bottom of the tunic to my desired stopping point under the arm along the pressed line. This method ensured that the side of the tunic would be flush with the armholes, and preserved the rectangular shape of the tunic (the pic below is a bit difficult to interpret–see the press line, right where the pinheads are? That’s where I sewed).

Turn the tunic right side out again, exposing your pinned hem on the armholes, and stitch them up. I used a 7/8 seam allowance, but your allowance will depend on how much fabric you chose to hem.

Now the bottom of the tunic. Because I was trying to preserve length and was tired of turning and pressing double hems, I used the serging stitch to finish the bottom edge of my tunic. You could do the same with a zig zag stitch. Or hem it with a double fold.

Then I stitched a one inch hem (single fold) all the way around to complete the tunic. Which brought me here. A naked, but finished design.

5. Paint the stripes using freezer paper stencils. Lay the side of your tunic on your ironing board and use a ruler or quilting straight edge to measure lines 1.5 inches from the side seam in either direction. Iron straight strips of freezer paper down along the outside of these two lines. See what I mean?

Repeat this procedure along the armholes, then cover the space between the strips with gold fabric paint.

Once paint is reasonably dry, adjust tunic to complete the stripe on the top of the armholes. Repeat this process on other side of the tunic. Dry for 24 hours, then turn tunic inside out and repeat the procedure for the inside of the armholes, making sure that you imitate the exterior paint line exactly (because on fabric this thin, paint will show through). Let dry.

And NOW you have a beautiful, boho-glam tunic! I hope you enjoy it!

And please, do go to Fiji or someplace equally exotic and elusive and wear it for me. Send pictures!

Posted by Elisabeth at 3:24 PM
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Labels: diy, sewing, summer clothes, women’s clothes
Jessica said…
I love your idea to paint metallic details on solid fabric- it looks great!

June 9, 2011 3:51 PM
Erica Helmer said…
very cute, you should start a little business. i love your mama clutches too!

June 9, 2011 3:57 PM
PBL said…
Very cute! I used to love caftans. I may have to look for a pattern.

June 9, 2011 10:22 PM
luvinthemommyhood said…
So cute! Love it!

June 12, 2011 11:43 PM
Liz Stanley said…
so HOT! love this one too. perfect for the beach

June 16, 2011 2:13 PM
Sarahbloodletter said…
Good Job!I would totally rock this

August 3, 2011 11:15 AM
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