Maggie usually looks cute in any outfit, but sometimes everything comes together and I make something that just highlights how beautiful she is. This tunic was one of those things. It was also super simple, taking me only about 4 hours total and less than $10 in supplies.
For this project you’ll need two different fabrics. It works best to use a small all over print on the top and a larger, bolder print on the bottom. You’ll also need elastic thread and a coordinating trim. For this one I used large rick rack but in the past I’ve used ribbon and you could also use lace or piping. You can forego the trim but I highly recommend using it because it just gives it such a finished look.
One thing I’ve discovered sewing for Maggie is that it is VERY easy to overwhelm her in a large print. So as much as I may love a fabric with three inch foxes all over it it just won’t work for her right now. Also keep in mind if you want this to look like an expensive boutique outfit and not something you made in an afternoon keep your colors at least slightly muted and your prints clean. No sparkles, no Disney prints, no super saturated colors. All of those are fine and will make a cute tunic but it won’t look as chic.
To figure out how much fabric you’ll need measure the chest and the length from armpit to knee. The total length of your fabric should be the length plus 1-1/4″. I used a 7/3 ratio for Maggie’s but this isn’t set in stone. Just don’t make the border less than 2 inches or more than half of the total length. The width should be about twice the chest measurement. The shirring is forgiving here but that allows for several rows of shirring.
Prepare your fabric as you prefer. I don’t prewash but I give it a good iron. I then serge all the fabric edges EXCEPT the top edge.
If you have a serger the top edge of this tunic is the perfect place for a rolled hem. I’ve shown the settings we use on our Brother serger below but check your manual and test a swatch to ensure tension. If you don’t have a serger fold the top edge over 1/4″ and then again and hem.
Next lay your two pieces right sides together width wise and sew. If you are using piping or only want one edge of the rick rack to show pin it between the two pieces. I pin in a few places and to be honest I should have pinned more because I ended up ripping out a good three inches where somehow the fabric wasn’t lined up and it was all caddywhompus. Once the pieces are sewn together press your seam open.
If you are sewing the rick rack on top match the edge of the rick rack up with the edge of the fabric and sew down using a coordinating thread. Make sure it is covering up the seam.
Next pin the rick rack to the bottom edge of the fabric so the bottom peaks are just even with the edge of the fabric and sew down in the middle. This seems strange and weird but trust me it works out.
The next step is to fold the fabric in half so that is makes a large tube. make sure the trim is meeting. Pin and sew using a 3/8 inch seam (My seams are never super precise measurements, use a seam allowance that is comfortable for you.)
Now you are going to do the bottom hem. The reason I don’t sew the hem before I sew the back seam is that too many times the length of my fabric isn’t exactly even from end to end. This is usually because of serging which I tend to do too quickly. Doing the hem after allows me to adjust it and even out the length.
With the tube of fabric wrong side out fold up the bottom hem so that what was the top of the rick rack is now sticking out below the hem. Iron the hem and then turn right side out and top stitch down. When you are finished it should look like this.
Now the real fun starts. If you have never shirred a garment before let me tell you right now that it is addicting. I spent one morning driving to two different Walmarts just looking for elastic thread so I could make something.
Take your elastic thread and manually wind it around an empty bobbin. You want to put a little bit of tension on the elastic but not too much. Wind it until the bobbin is completely full. Thread your sewing machine as normal with the elastic thread in the bobbin and a coordinating thread in the needle. The more closely your thread matches your fabric the better your shirring will look. Set your machine to the longest stitch length.
Here is where I differ from other sewers. Most tutorials I’ve read for this have you draw lines across the fabric and sew along those lines. And you can do that. But I don’t really think it’s necessary. Make sure you have at least a 2 inch tail of elastic thread and starting at the back seam place your presser foot so that the outside of the presser foot is sitting just up again the rolled hem.
Sew a few stitches and then backstitch. Then sew all the way around the tunic until you reach the back seam again. Gently pull the elastic thread until there is enough that it won’t bounce back into your machine. Cut the thread and then tie both ends of the elastic thread together. If you don’t do this the elastic will pull out in the wash.
After one row you will look at your tunic and think “no way is this ever going to fit, it’s gigantic!” Trust me.
Starting at the back seam again place the outside of your presser foot so that it’s lined up with your first row of shirring.
Just like this!
In order to ensure even gathering you are going to have to hold the bottom of the tunic straight out from your machine with your left hand. With your right hand pull away from your machine just a little so that the feed dogs pull the previous row of stitching straight. It’s hard to explain exactly how this works but your machine will do all the work. You aren’t sewing gathers down like you would if it was a ruffle. You want the fabric to go through the machine as straight and flat as possible. Make sure as you sew that you continue to hold the bottom hem straight out from the machine so that your pleats don’t end up leaning to one side. Do this for several rows. It will get hard for the fabric to completely straighten out but that is okay. Make sure you tie the ends of the elastic.
For Maggie’s tops I’ve found 8 rows of shirring to be ideal but how many rows you do will depend on the size you are making. Check the width of the bodice frequently and when it becomes slightly smaller than your original measurement you should be done. If you are sewing more than 10 rows of shirring make sure you check your bobbin so you don’t run out of thread in the middle of a row. It’s not the end of the world if you do but it’s best not to.
When you finished sewing all of the rows press your bodice with a steamy iron. This brings all those gathers in and makes it look very neat. Now take at least five minutes and admire your handiwork before starting on the straps.
There are many many ways to do straps for a tunic like this. You can make halter straps, you can sew regular straps, you can sew two straps to the front and tie them through a loop of ribbon sewn to the back. For this version I made four straps, each about 20 inches long. The length and width are up to you.
Cut a strip of fabric twice as wide as you want the strap plus the seam allowance. Fold the fabric in half right sides together and stitch. About an inch and a half before you reach the end angle your seam towards the opposite edge.. Trim the seam allowance as close to the stitching line as you feel comfortable. This does make it easier to turn right side out, believe me!
Sew all four straps the same way, then turn right side out and iron. Next find the front middle of the tunic and pin the straps evenly spaced on either side. Sew the strap to the tunic using a zigzag stitch between the top edge and the first row of shirring. (I have no pictures of this in process because at this point Maggie was DONE being in the sewing room and was laying in the middle of a huge pile of crayons crying for no reason, but believe me it’s hard to mess up.)
Sew the back straps on by matching them up with the front straps. Once they are done so are you!
The straps can be tied at the shoulders or at the back. Maggie doesn’t like them at the shoulders and will pull on them. If you really want them tied at the shoulder you can sew the ties together. By not sewing them I’m hoping this tunic can transition to fall and I can put a t-shirt under it.
I hope your Simply Tickled Tunic leaves you as happy as I was!
As always, if you have any questions don’t hesitate to comment or email.