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Holiday Tunic

embroidery icon embroidery
Skill Level: 

From the moment I resumed sewing garments in 2011, I was obsessed with learning to sew the cute ready-to-wear tops I could never justify buying for myself.

The second post I wrote for my blog, Goodbye Valentino, was about recreating the Milly brand peasant tops, and thus began a journey leading to my book, The Tunic Bible. My first garment, a silk peasant top, looked quite homemade but I was blinded by enthusiasm and after my investment of time and effort, I wore it with great pride. My mother bought the silk in Asia and I wanted to please her as much as myself.

Six years later, I see the progress I’ve made but I’m still obsessed with recreating beautiful ready-to-wear tops and pay regular visits to high end retail websites for inspiration.

Julie Starr and I designed a tunic bodice for The Tunic Bible that would accommodate unlimited neckline variations. After the book was published, we began customizing necklines with purchased appliqués, but at last I have the capability to embroider customized necklines.

This is my first tunic with a custom embroidered neckline, making this garment a dream come true!

Holiday TunicI wouldn’t exactly call the following steps a tutorial just yet, but in case you want to know what I did, here goes…

1. Download a design. I use the website which offers hundreds of neckline designs.
2. Convert the design to a format which is compatible with your embroidery machine. The website Embroidery Designs converted the files I purchased into a compatible format for my machine for free. Consult with your sewing machine manufacturer for options for your machine.

The photo below shows the design loaded onto my embroidery machine. The designs are big and require a larger hoop. My hoop is 360x260mm, but many of the neckline designs will require a more generous hoop size.

Holiday Tunic

3. Cut a piece of fabric slightly larger than the front bodice pattern.

4. Place the design approximately 2″ below the edge of the fabric. This should allow enough space for the pattern piece placement after the embroidery is completed.

5. Embroider the design.

The photos below show my practice sample embroidered in a single color just like the pattern download.

6. Cut a piece of fashion fabric a little larger than your embroidery design. This will be your facing. Stabilize the facing with your preferred method. In the sample I used a layer of organza. For the garment I applied Pellon EK 130 Easy Knit fusible interfacing to the facing.

7. Place the facing over the embroidery design right sides together

Holiday Tunic

8. Secure with pins and flip to back of embroidery design. (The color variation in the sample photo below is due to two colors of bobbin thread).

Holiday Tunic

9. Stitch around the inside of the embroidery (this is the neckline). Trim close to stitching.
10. Turn and press.

11. Trim the facing to a shape similar to that of the embroidery design and finish the edge by turning under or serging the edge.
Holiday Tunic

You are now ready to cut the front bodice.

For this embroidered neckline project, I selected an antique piece of silk dupioni which I embroidered with two embroidery threads, by Coats & Clark Polyester Machine Embroidery thread in Black and white on Mini King Spools. The two colors provided great contrast in the design and were striking against the emerald green background.

Holiday Tunic

I received the beautiful dupioni from a longtime family friend. The silk is old and possibly the loveliest dupioni I have seen or touched with its fantastic weight, drape and very few slubs. The vibrant hues shimmer and radiate the varying shades of green and black threads. Its unique colors are gorgeous!
I stabilized the fabric with a soft cut-away stabilizer thinking I didn’t want to place stress on the fabric with a tear-away stabilizer.
Since a companion embroidery design was not available for the sleeves, I found a design from my machine.

Holiday Tunic

I added back darts for a fitted back and a more flattering silhouette, then chose a shorter length just beneath the widest part of the hips (keeping up with the current ready-to-wear trend!)
And here we have it… The Holiday Tunic.

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Sarah Gunn is the co-author of The Tunic Bible and A Stylish Guide to Classic Sewing. She shares her passion for sewing on her blog, “Goodbye Valentino.