Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Bag Tunic, Complete

I have finally finished the Egyptian bag tunic I decided to make for the "Black and White" HSF Challenge.

As I feared, I did not manage to finish it for the May 15 deadline. By May 16 I had succeeded in cutting the keyhole neckline, sewing the side seams, and fringing the hemline.  I stitched the seams simply by folding each edge and whipstitching each folded edge together on the wrong side of the garment.  I was planning to enclose the seam by folding the edge back toward the seam and stitching them together, but that may create an awkward lump at the point where the bottom of the armholes starts, so I'm tempted to leave the seams as they are.   

The tunic didn't get done on May 16 because, after sewing up the sides and cutting the neckhole, I tried the tunic on, and found to my dismay that it was way, way too long.  Unbelted, at least six inches of tunic trailed on the floor, making walking impossible. With the tunic belted, I looked as though I was wearing a marshmallow.  Not a good look for me, or for anyone.  

So I cut about 5 inches off of the bottom of the tunic, and started fringing it again.  Now it is just long enough to lie upon my instep when unbelted.  I have to belt the tunic to make the width of it manageable. I've found that there are two viable ways to belt it.  The first involves running the belt through the armholes and tying the belt in front, so that it passes around the front and sides only, leaving the back free.  I like the look of the tunic when belted with this method, but the tunic doesn't seem to stay put very well this way; the cloth at the sides keeps slipping out and dragging on the ground, which usually means that one side soon becomes noticeably longer than the other.  The second method involves putting the belt around my middle from outside the sleeves while my arms are raised to at least shoulder height.  Tying the belt on this way holds the width in place better without looking too awkward; this seems to be the best compromise between grace and practicality.  

I folded the fabric over once around the armholes and sewed down the edges with a running stitch.  (I still dislike doing running stitch, but it doesn't show much in this particular location, and I need the practice.)  I didn't need to use a double fold because the sleeve end, like the edges that were seamed together, was a selvage.  

The neckline is finished with a rolled hem and the black cord is sewn around the finished edge, working from the reverse side so that the stitching doesn't show.  In the past, I have failed miserably at stitching rolled hems, but I discovered a website that explains the technique clearly enough for me to obtain a fairly decent-looking rolled hem; you can check out the directions I used here.  Once the neckline was hemmed, I used one piece of cord to trim the vertical part of the keyhole, and a second piece to trim the round part.  I allowed the cord to extend about 8 inches from each end of the curve so I can use the cord to tie the neckline closed, as in the sketch from Mary Houston's book that I reproduced in my last entry about the tunic. 

Overall, I like this tunic, but if I make another, I will make it narrower.  I should also see if I can find a fabric that is a bit drapier than the ramie I used here; I think that would result in a more graceful looking tunic. 

The Challenge:  #9 Black and White

Fabric:   Three yards of white ramie, purchased from a vendor on Etsy.

Pattern:   Pretty basic.  The tunic is nothing more than a piece of wide cloth, folded in half lengthwise and sewn down the sides at a distance of about 14 inches from the top fold, with a keyhole neckline placed appropriately on the folded edge.  I followed the information pack from the Petrie Museum on issues such as finishing.  Apparently, the Petrie's bag tunics are only shirt length (92 cm/36 inches long by 102 cm/40 inches wide), so I ignored their suggestions on proportions and made the tunic ground length and as wide as my fabric.  That may have been a mistake, but at least the results of it are interesting.  :-)

Year:   The Petrie Museum's bag tunics date to about 800 B.C.E.  They were worn during the Middle Kingdom, but became much more popular during the New Kingdom, according to the Petrie's on-line material on the subject. 

Notions:  Londonderry brand white linen thread, 80/3.  2 yards of black mohair cord from Wooded Hamlet Designs.

How historically accurate is it?   The pattern is based upon historical finds.  The ancient Egyptians were known for their ability to weave very fine cloth, and the sources I mentioned in my original post on this project suggest that they made ramie fabric, though it's unclear whether they used ramie for the clothing of living people and not just for the wrappings of mummies. I'm even less certain about the mohair cord, which is made from goat hair.  The ancient Egyptians certainly kept goats; but did they spin goats' hair into wool to make cord?  Did they use wool cord to trim their tunics?  I don't know; none of the tunics I know about have such trim on them.  Also, I can't be certain about the authenticity of my main construction stitches. All told, I'd say this one is about 60% accurate.

Hours to complete:   About an hour and a half for sewing the seams, 15 or 20 minutes to hem the armholes, approximately 30-40 minutes to try to even out the bottom fringe (the original fringe looked much nicer--I'm not much good at cutting fabric straight) and perhaps an hour to hem the neckline and add trim. Maybe four hours or so, but life kept interfering (which is why the finished product is about six weeks late).

First worn:  So far I've only worn it to check length and experiment with belt placement.  I hope to get some photographs to post here and on the HSF page by the end of this week.

Total cost:   A bit under $40.00 USD (nearly $30 for the fabric, including shipping, and nearly $9 for the mohair cord, including shipping).

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