Introduction: Viking Underdress or Tunic From a Sheet

Want to go to a Viking re-enactment, but not spend a fortune on linen material? I had a double sheet that I could use, and have a sewing machine, so made a sort of realistic tunic. The top is based on a cotton blouse that fits me. the bottom has gores to provide flare from the waist to the floor.

You need:

A flat double sheet, preferably in a natural color and material

Thread, pins, needles

Large paper to draw pattern pieces

Measuring tape and pencils or pens

Sewing machine

Iron and

Ironing board

Reference material, thanks to Cynthia Virtue aka Cynthia du Pré Argent

Step 1: Create the Pattern

I decided to use a blouse to give me dimensions for the shoulders, neck opening and side seams. I used 2 cm for the seam allowances.

Picture 1: Place your blouse on the edge of a large piece of paper, with the buttons centered over the edge. Outline the shoulder seam from the edge of the neck to the top of the arm, then from the bottom of the arm down the side to the bottom. Remove the blouse, and pencil in the shape of the sleeve edge, and the opening at the front of the neck. The length was longer than my paper, so I wrote the length on the paper.. The width at the hip should be wide enough for your actual hip measurement. My blouse was a little smaller than hip dimension plus seam allowances, but the gore insert will take care of the difference.

Picture 2: Place the sleeve of your blouse on the edge of a large piece of paper, so the top of the sleeve is on the edge. Outline the sleeve. If the sleeve edge is not straight, you can outline it as is, but then we're going to measure the size of your hand to make sure it will fit through the sleeve, and make the pattern wearable. Measure around your hand. Add 4 cm for the seam allowance. Adjust the cuff of the sleeve pattern to half of that dimension, with the fold edge being straight.

How long should the pattern be? Measure from the top of your shoulder to the floor over your breasts. Add 2 cm for the shoulder seam allowance plus however much you want for the hem. I'm 166 cm tall, and my length was 152 cm. Note the dimension on the blouse piece. My picture shows 150 cm, but I added 2 more after that.

The skirt should flare from the waist to the floor. Measure the distance from your waist over your hip to the floor. and add the hem distance. (Mine was 101 cm.) Picture 3: You will need a pie-shaped piece of that distance, and two half-pie-shaped pieces. I had to tape pieces of paper together to make it possible to draw that large shape. Hold the tip of the measuring tape still, and draw an arc at the calculated distance. Make it as wide as the paper. You will adjust this width based on the material later. Using the same technique with the measuring tape, draw a half-arc. The straight center edge will be the side seam, while the bias edge will be sewn to the front or back of the dress.

Step 2: Cut Out the Material

Make sure that the length of the sleeve plus the length of the dress is going to fit on the sheet. Otherwise, this layout won't work.

Iron the sheet!

Sweep the floor where you'll be laying all the material.

Fold the sheet in half so that the top and bottom hems of the sheet are on the top and bottom. The middle of the sheet is the fold.

First picture: Pin one front and one sleeve along the fold. Place the neck of the blouse at the top of the sheet, not over the hem. Measure from the high point of the shoulder to the length of the dress, and make a small mark on the sheet. Pin the sleeve along the fold at the bottom of the sheet. Cut the material this way: Cut the shoulder, leaving the neck opening uncut. Cut around the sleeve and down the side, then cut straight down along the grain to the correct length. Cut straight over to the fold. Cut a tiny notch at the edge of the neck hole, but leave that uncut. Cut a slit up the center with the length that you have calculated for waist to bottom. Then cut out the sleeve.

You now have two layers of sheet that are cut apart by the first two pattern pieces. Second picture: Take one, and fold it in half in the same orientation as the first fold. Pin the front and sleeve on this fold. Cut the same way.

Third picture: The last part of the sheet will be folded in half perpendicular to the original fold, so the top hem and bottom hem of the sheet are together. Pin the gores on as shown, making sure the full pie-piece gore is centered and the other two are equidistant from the center of the material. Pencil in a straight line from the central point to each of the outer points. Fourth picture: Cut the material out in the same arc shape as the pattern.

Step 3: Assembly Part 1

Assemble from the top down, putting finishing touches on the neck and sleeves before moving down to the sides and gores. So far, you haven't cut out the neck.

Sew the shoulder seams together, putting the clips of the neck edges together. Press the seams open. Lay the blouse part as flat as possible.

How big should the neck opening be, and how long should the front slit be? Measure around your neck. The edge of the neck opening will not be hemmed, so you need the opening to be that size or a little larger. Draw an oval with that circumference and lay it on the dress top. Put most of the oval in the front, with about 1/3 in the back. Line up the edges of the oval with the clips in the material. First picture: Cut it out.

Now for the slit. Measure around your head. Subtract the neck opening circumference. Divide that by two for the minimum slit length that will allow your head through the top. Cut the slit, making sure it is following the grain of the material.

Second picture: Machine baste around the neck and slit to prevent stretching, and then finish the edge with some nice-looking stitch. You could get fancy with different colored thread, or hand-sewing.

Third picture: Now add the sleeves. Pin them on with a lot of closely-spaced pins since the sleeve will have more material than the opening in the body. Machine baste the sleeves onto the body, trying to avoid pleats in the sleeves. Iron open the seams. Fourth picture: Sew a nice patterned stitch across the seam. Stitchwork was not hidden in the Viking days!

Stitch the bottom of the sleeve, continuing on down to the waist, or about 5 cm past the bottom of the sleeve.

Step 4: Assembly Part 2

This is the part where I did a lot of rework. You need to add the gores, and you need to make sure that the edges of the material are inside - on the same side as the edges of the material on the sleeves and sides. I recommend using an ironing board, not a flat table, to make it easier to see the whole dress.

It's important that the grain of the material be sewn to the bias edges of the gores to prevent stretching.

Work on the center front and back gores first. Picture 1: Pin. The two sides of the front and back gores should meet at the ends of the slits in the dress. The point of the gore should extend a couple of centimeters past the end of the slit. Machine sew up to near the point. I hand-sewed the points, but more talented people can machine sew them. Picture 2: Hand stitch from the seam up to the point, making the stitches closer and closer to the edge of the dress side until, at the end of the slit, you are stitching at the edge. Stitch about 3 stitches back and forth to strengthen the tip. Turn down the second side of the gore and stitch from the very edge of the slit out to where the seam is already sewn. Clip off the tip of the gore material. Iron the seams open, and carefully flatten out the tip. Need rework? Hand-sewing makes that easier!

Next, sew the bias edge of the half-pie shaped gores onto the side edges of the dress. Pin from the bottom up, and make sure that the points of the gore pieces that are supposed to meet on the dress, WILL meet. Sew the gore edges onto the dress edges, leaving the side seams open. The on-the-grain edges of the gores will be sewn last. Iron open the seams.

Now for the last machine sewing! Pin the side seams from the underarms down to the floor. Picture 3: Where the point of the gore meets the side-seam, you will have many layers of material. Clip the seam allowance of the dress layer to the already stitched seam at the end of the gore. Do not cut the seam threads! Fold back the seam allowance on the lower part. Sew!

Hem the sleeves. Talk someone into marking the hem length on your new tunic dress, and hem it. You are done!

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