Trial by Armpit: Shibori Skipper Tunic

K, am I a fabric designer now??? lol! It sure feels like I put my own stamp on this tunic by hand dyeing the fabric myself before sewing it up.

Frivolous At Last - Papercut Skipper Tunic in Shibori cotton linen

This is the Skipper Tunic by Papercut Patterns. Last summer I made the crop top version, so I’m getting my money’s worth out of this rather spendy PDF pattern. (But let’s be honest, I can’t resist Papercut patterns. I will pretty much open my wallet up as wide as possible for them any day.)

Frivolous At Last - Papercut Skipper Tunic in Shibori cotton linen - back view

I modified the tunic ever so slightly by taking it in at the sides from the waist to the armscyes, so it has a slightly more a-line shape (more to do with the fact that I’m a size bigger on the bottom than the the top than anything else).  I also added in-seam pockets. Such a quick modification but it makes a world of difference; I’m really unlikely to reach for a garment that doesn’t have pockets when I’m getting dressed in the morning.

Frivolous At Last - Papercut Skipper Tunic in Shibori cotton linen

I put in an extra set of eyelets; the pattern calls for four sets but I wanted the tie to make two “exes” instead of one ex and one vee, plus I figured 5 sets of holes would provide a little more coverage across the chest. The pattern doesn’t include any fabric behind that tied-up opening (I’m sure there’s a name for that kinda thingy, but I have no idea). No doubt it would have been easy to add such a thingy, but I was in my usual rush for instant sewing gratification so I didn’t stop to consider how or whether to do that. No matter. I wore this to work recently and I wasn’t worried about flashing anyone.

Frivolous At Last - Papercut Skipper Tunic in Shibori cotton linen

I think the pattern placement turned out fairly well, don’t you? I forgot to try to match up the front plackets where the ties are but by chance they came out fairly close and it think it looks just fine. Who’s gonna notice but me, anyway?

Frivolous At Last - Papercut Skipper Tunic in Shibori cotton linen

Can I be honest for a minute here? (And when I’m honest, I swear.) Why the fuck do I sew with non-stretch wovens? While this tunic fits quite well, when I wear it I am reminded why I gravitate to all things stretchy.  The sleeves are restrictive when I reach forward and especially upward. I have since learned that one of the keys to range of motion in sleeves is to ensure that the bottom of the armscye is quite close to your armpit. If there’s a lot of extra space between your armpit and the sleeve (which is definitely the case with this pattern), the top or dress will pull up a lot as you raise your arm. Almost seems counterintuitive, no? In any case, after wearing this tunic I decided I needed more range of motion in the sleeves. An after-the-fact solution I found was to add underarm gussets. I basically opened up the bottom seam of the armscye, and sewed in an eye-shaped bit of fabric. It worked! The extra fabric provides a better range of motion, and I can reach up higher before the sleeve starts to grab and my hemline rises. It’s still not perfect (it would only be perfect if the fabric were stretchy), but it’s much better.

Frivolous At Last - Papercut Skipper Tunic in Shibori cotton linen - underarm gusset
The underarm gusset

BurdaStyle has a tutorial for adding sleeve gussets here, and Pia of The Overflowing Stash, who is amazingly detailed and meticulous in her sewing and fitting experiments, has an informative and illustrated post about redrafting your sleeve pieces for a ‘built-in’ gusset here.

Threads Magazine also has a great video explanation of how to modify sleeves for better arm mobility.

Frivolous At Last - Papercut Skipper Tunic in Shibori cotton linen

So maybe armed with those resources (ha! see what I did there?) I won’t have to avoid sewing with non-stretch wovens in future. But for now I think I’m going to sew up some comfy knits.

How about you? Have you had issues with restrictive sleeves? What’s your solution?

Overall, I am pleased with this tunic. I love the shibori pattern, the linen-cotton blend is very pleasant to wear (despite restrictive sleeve issues), and I adore the eyelets and rope tie at the front. This could work as a beach cover up, but as I mentioned, I’ve also worn it to work. (Granted, there really aren’t any dress code restrictions where I work. Case in point: one of my colleagues came by my office recently to show me the old, faded, worn-out shirt he was wearing that he’d had for over 20 years and to tell me how pleased he was that he found it in a box and that it still fit! *sigh*)

And of course I am happy, as always, to be able to say, why thank you, I dyed and sewed it myself! <insert smug sewist’s grin here>

Look little tunic, this is where you were born!

Bucket of indigo dye

Thanks so much for stopping by!

— Lori


13 thoughts on “Trial by Armpit: Shibori Skipper Tunic

  1. I’m loving it, the fabric, the pattern and it’s fits great. I’m agreeing with you with bemoaning non stretch fabrics but sometimes the appearance of the fabric forces you to buy it and you have to just deal with it. Actually most fabric forces me to buy it. I retired from a college and i get it about the dress codes (none).

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think you have good reason to feel chuffed about dyeing, sewing, then modifying this tunic to fit. It’s lovely. I also sew with knits 99% of the time for ease of construction and comfort.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Lori I can’t tell you how much I appreciated your link to Pia’s web page on arm gussets (probably a lot of other things too – I’ll be returning to her page for sure and bookmarked it to keep it handy!) I’ve been on wovens for almost a year! And I’m definitely up to my eyeballs in them so I can relate totally to what you’re saying about wovens and arms and necks and….I’m so ready for KNITS! But it took me that long to get my fit right and there’s nothing like wovens to teach a girl fit. I’m a fan of Papercut patterns too – I have their Aomori Twist Top sitting on my cutting table as I’m writing this. One of my first celebratory returns to knit 🙂 Thank you for such a luscious post. Love your tunic, your dying is gorgeous and I couldn’t help noticing your fit is spot on too 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Kathleen. Pia is really amazing when she decides to try something new in sewing, and we all benefit from her incredibly detailed notes on her experiments! Can’t wait to see your Aomori top.


  4. Love it!!!! It suits you and you look great wearing it. I hope you do more – it’s very inspiring.
    You and Coco Chanel! She always cut high armholes for good range of motion. Smart you for inserting the gusset. Thanks for the links. I’ll check them out.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I just inserted a gusset into the underarms of an old vintage dress that I had ripped the sleeve out of – I think while hugging someone 😀 I will check out these tutes for sure as I just sort of winged it.
    Working in tertiary education is hilarious in terms of dress code or lack thereof. The good part is you can set your own.
    Great make btw. I have this pattern but have only made the v-neck version. Have some fabric set aside for the square neck for summer but not sure about the tunic on me – love it on you though. Hmmm we shall see.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You must hug with great gusto! lol. I’ve been reading your recent posts about evaluating your style and based on that I really think you’d like the cropped square neck version. Give it a whirl!


What do you think? Leave a comment.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s