Gores: converting a straight hem to a curved hem
by Katla járnkona

When making either a Norse undertunic or a Viking apron dress, you will have triangular gores to add to the fullness of your hem. However, when using the rectangular construction layout, your pattern pieces will be composed of straight lines. You will want your hem to be curved.

If you start assembling your pieces before you have rounded out the bottoms of your gores, the sides of the gore will be too long particularly if you are matching the pieces at the hem at pinning upwards to the waist); consequently, the tip of your gore will be higher up than the waist. Plus, when you are ready to hem the assembled garment, the middle of your gores will seem to be too short, which will result in your garment being shorter than you intended.

Following are instructions for how I create a rounded curve. Perhaps it is self-evident to you (I hope so!). But, if not, this page can be your guide to prepare your gore pieces (and side pieces) to have a rounded bottom that is ready for you to begin assembling the tunic.

Triangular gore: Steps for creating a curve

1) Your basic gore consists of an isoceles triangle; the hem at the bottom is flat. But, in order for the garment to hang evenly, you want it to be curved. This goal is shown on the image at the right. Your first step is to fold the gore in half.I recommend that you iron the fold.

2) On figure 2, I have shown a red line that will be used to fold your gore into quarters. Note, however, that you must accomodate your seam allowance (shown with the black dotted line).

3) Figure 3 shows the appearance of the gore after this second fold (folding from left to right). You can see that the fold does not extend over the seam allowance. You can also see the remant of fabric at the bottom. That remnant must go in order to round out your hem line to a curve.

4) Figure 4 has a blue line marking the cut that you will need to make.

5) Figure 5 has that small remnant at the bottom cut away. It also shows the fold line for your next fold. For this fold, you return the top portion back toward the center line, but only 'half' way; the effect is to divide the gore from quarters to eighths (folding from right to left). Once again, I recommend that you iron your fold line.

6) Figure 6 shows the next cut line that you'll need to make. Since you have returned a portion of the fabric back toward the center, you can see (in the drawing) the seam allowance. Unless you mark your fabric for the seam allowance (not necessarily a good idea, but I've done it when I sew by hand), this line on your fabric is actually imaginary.

7) Figure 7 shows your gore after you have made this cut.

8) Your goal is the final image on the right. The light grey lines show the iron marks from your folds. Now you have gone from a straight line to a curve line. More importantly, your curve line has the correct length for the gore to measure the same from the bottom to the top.

Iron your gore flat. You can now use this gore as a pattern to trim the other three gores. Then you're ready to begin assembling your tunic or apron dress!

Trapazoid gore: Steps for creating a curve

If you are making a Norse undertunic, you will also have four side pieces that are trapazoids, rather than triangles. The method that you will use to round the bottom edge is essentially the same as for the triangular gore, except that your top piece (the under-arm seam) is a line rather than a point. Remember, this isn't rocket science! It doesn't have to be precise, just close enough.

1) Determining where to place your first fold line is easier for this piece because there is an equal seam allowance on each side of the gore. Fold the short side (the one that has a 90°ree; angle at the bottom) over to the long side. You can mark the half-way point on the top part of the gore to give you a guide on where you want the fold on top; the rest of the fabric is then lined up so that the two edges are parallel. Again, I recommend that you iron your fold in place.

2) Figure 2 shows the piece with the fold made (from right to left). Note that there is an excess bit of fabric at both the top and at the bottom of the piece. You don't need to cut anything to the top; you'll want that straight line when you assemble all the pieces. The blue line at the bottom shows the cutting line for the excess fabric.

3) Figure 3 shows the piece after the fabric has been cut at the bottom.

4) Figure 4 shows the placement for the next fold line, the red dotted line. Like the 'quarter' fold in figure 3 for the triangular gore, this one needs to reserve the seam allowance, shown by the black dotted line.

5) Figure 5 shows the fold, right over left. You can see the extra fabric for the vertical seam allowance. Iron the fold in place.

6) Figure 6 shows the cut line (in blue) at the bottom of the gore. At this point, you may find it easier to flip the bottom of the side piece over to show the extra fabric on the bottom, to determine your cutting line.

7) Figure 7 shows the side piece after this second cut as been made.

8) Your goal is the image on the right. Once you open your trimmed side piece, you'll see the fold lines from the iron and your rounded edge. Iron this piece and you can use it as a guide to trim the other three side pieces.

 comparison of regular trapazoid side piece with alternate method where the side piece is trimmed to the waist

What if you are using the 'alternate' method of construction on your Norse tunic so that you have, visually, a rectangular piece at the top of a trapazoidal piece? You will treat this piece as if the top portion wasn't there at all (but don't cut it off!). The method is the same, but your middle line for your fold will be at the waist line of the fabric.


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