A Schoolhouse Tunic and Potency

Schoolhouse Tunic pattern turned into a dress with ties and pockets in green linen

I forgot how powerful it is to sew my own clothes.  Laying out my fabric and pattern, I wondered at the enormity of it all.  I’ve been sewing my own clothes since I was a teenager.  Why in the world did this project feel so significant?

Schoolhouse Tunic pattern being cut out
Schoolhouse Tunic bodice, in progress

Then I realized.  It had been nearly three years since I’d put needle to fabric to make a piece of clothing for myself.  It was substantialy longer since I followed a pattern to make my own clothes.  I hadn’t fully recognized how completely I’d let this piece of myself slip away.  In the past decade I’ve improvised a handful of garments for myself.  And I’ve sewn from patterns for my children.  But, I have to go all the way back to High School before I can come up with a piece of clothing that I sewed for myself from a pattern. 

Tie hack for a Schoolhouse Tunic Dress
Bodice and skirt pinned together ready for assembly on a Schoolhouse Tunic

There are all sorts of reasons this happened, and why it’s changing now. But, as I snipped into my fabric along the predetermined lines of the pattern, waves of recognition crashed over me.  Matching seams and watching this dress take shape, I knew this is a piece of me that must remain. 

I’m ready to step back into this power.  It lives in the creases between all the choices that are required to construct a garment.  I want to embrace the feeling of existing inside this much potential.  Taking the reigns this completely is awfully uncomfortable.  But it is also an invitation to expand, and it’s one I’m ready to accept.

My growth happens in the details of the decisions.  Each choice brings me a little closer to understanding myself.  This dress supplied plenty of those inflection points. 

Green linen Schoolhouse Tunic Dress hack, front view

As I sewed it up, I could see that it was going to be big.  Immediately my mind started creating remediation strategies.  With each fitting, I’d pinch in the fabric here or there to see how much needed to come off.  There was plenty to pinch and pull.  I had a lot of excess.

Then, in this flurry of effort to fix, there was a moment when I was trying it on and I just stopped.  I turned my back to the mirror.  Truth be told, I turned my back to the mirror and I closed my eyes.  I told myself to stop envisioning what it looked like on me.  I needed to figure out what it felt like.  Of course I was asking myself how it fit.  I checked to see whether it was constricting and how I could move inside it.  I looked at all the practical questions.

But, I wanted more than that.  I wanted to know how I, as my own unique self, felt inside this piece of clothing.  I found, to my surprise, that it felt potent.  I wanted it to feel just like this.  I liked the extra ease around my arms.  I enjoyed the way I could change the shape of the dress with the tie.  This fit wasn’t a problem to be solved at all.

And that’s the best kind of making: asking, listening, and coming to understand the answer for me.  That is the power I’m returning to.  In my sewing.  In my writing.  In my relationships.  In the ways I spend my days. 

Green linenchoolhouse Tunic Dress hack, side view
Green linen Schoolhouse Tunic Dress hack, back view
Green linen Schoolhouse Tunic Dress hack, back view


The pattern is a School House Tunic by Sew Liberated. I was inspired by Meg Fussell’s versions where she used this pattern as a base for two gorgeous dresses. 

Contrasting facings and pockets made from a thrifted shirt on a Schoolhouse Tunic


The dress is made of green linen, which I bought locally.  The facings and pockets are made from a thrifted shirt I was ready to move on from.  I love the pattern of the fabric, but really didn’t love the way the shirt fit.  I’m glad the shirt lives on in this dress.

Tie detail on a green linen Schoolhouse Tunic dress


I lengthened the skirt into a dress and added pockets (drafted from a ready-to-wear dress I own).  The part that most drew me to Meg’s dress was ties she added, and I particularly loved how they tapered at the end.  I liked the idea of wrapping these round and round me.  So, I made them long enough to wrap around the front, back and tie again in the front.  Alternatively, I can wrap around the front and tie with longer ends in the back.  But, I very seldom do.  It feels somehow safe to be wrapped up in these ties.

I also added split cuffs to the end of the sleeves. Oh, those cuffs. I sewed them on three times before I got it right. First, I attached them with the split facing inward, how I envisioned wanting them. But, once I tried on the dress I could see that I really wanted them to open on the outside. I ripped them both off and sewed them on again, only to put one of them on backward. I was leaving on a trip immediately and wanted this dress with me. So, I wore it for a few weeks with the slits facing in opposite directions. I highly doubt anyone noticed. Finally, when I returned, I managed to get them both attached properly.

Green linen Schoolhouse Tunic Dress hack, front view