For those of you who sew often, you likely understand how something as simple as draping fabric can also be very complex. For those of you who don’t, or who are novice sewers, the technique of fabric draping can involve more than just hanging fabric in a lovely way. It is not likely that a Roman emperor casually tossed a bed sheet over his shoulder one day and called it a toga, just as it isn’t likely that a lovely red carpet gown accidentally folds so perfectly around the waist of a posing starlet.

Technically, draping is the ability of a fabric to fall under its own weight into wavy folds. There are different strategies based upon the weight and stiffness of the fabric, its flexibility and tendency to stretch, and the general effect of gravity upon the fabric. Some softer, more flexible fabrics will make drapes that ripple and are more form fitting; stiffer and thicker fabrics will have less flow. When designing patterns, adding draping to your design increases the pattern-making difficulty immensely.


Drape Drape 3, by Japanese designer Hisako Sato, is the third in a series of books on draping. It gives introductory information about fabrics and how each type reacts to draping techniques, but the book puts you right to work without any fuss. There are several selections of tops and dresses to make, plus a pair of pants and some shorts. Like our Studio Book Series, Drape Drape 3 provides patterns in the back of the book for each garment. The book offers detailed diagrams, which is helpful when trying to wrap your head around lots of pleats and folds.

We thought we would see how Alabama Chanin techniques integrated into more heavily draped pieces. The pattern for “no. 13 one-piece boatneck tunic” appealed to us, as it is a very simple pattern to follow and has a nice surface area for our embellishments. The top works up beautifully using our lightweight organic cotton jersey in a single layer. We used a relief appliqué with embroidery of our Angie’s Fall stencil in placement fashion, around the neckline. You can view the instructions for this technique in Alabama Studio Style.

To make your own Drape Drape 3 à la Alabama Chanin top:



No. 13 one-piece boatneck tunic pattern (page 70 of Drape Drape 3)
2 yards of 60” wide 100% organic lightweight cotton jersey
Scraps of fabric large enough to appliqué
Scraps of fabric large enough to reinforce appliquéd areas
Angie’s Fall Stencil
Textile paint
1 spool Button Craft thread
Embroidery floss

Basic sewing supplies: fabric scissors, pins, needles, ruler, rotary cutter and mat, Alabama Stitch Book, Alabama Studio Style, or Alabama Studio Sewing + Design: all three of these books contain the basic sewing and embroidery techniques used to make this top.

Cut your fabric according to the pattern directions. Stencil the front panel of your top with our Angie’s Fall stencil, placement-style around the top. Stencil the same design to the wrong side of the scraps you will use to appliqué. Make sure to follow the instructions from Alabama Studio Style (page 53) to ensure that your appliqué pieces are sized correctly. Match the front panel stencil with the respective appliqué pieces, cut, and pin each piece into the correct place. Stitch the relief appliqué into place using Button Craft thread. We used backstitch embroidery and embroidery floss to embellish the smaller outside pieces. If using lightweight fabric, we recommend an additional layer of scrap fabric behind the embellished areas to reinforce the weight of your appliqué stitches. Trim away any excess fabric from the second, reinforcement layer to maximize the drape and flow of the garment. You may also use medium-weight fabric, but expect slightly less drape, and omit the second layer of reinforcement fabric.

Once you have completed your embellishment, follow the very concise instructions for everything but the neckline. Hand sew all seams with a straight stitch, using a single strand of thread. We felled our seams for this top, but let your own desired style dictate your finishing method. For the neckline, we applied our standard Alabama Chanin rib binding with a Rosebud stitch. Leave the hem raw.


Fabric weight – 100% organic lightweight cotton jersey, single layer
Fabric color – Midnight
Stencil – Angie’s Fall, placement around front and back neck
Treatment – Relief appliqué with backstitch embroidery
Textile Paint – Pearl Grey
Embroidery floss – Light Grey
Button Craft thread – Slate #26
Seams – Inside Felled
Rib – Rosebud stitch


8 comments on “DIY DRAPE DRAPE 3

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  1. Marianna

    omg, this is beautiful……wish I were further along with my a/c project list…..or perhaps I’ll drop everything and try this one. thank you for your inspiration.

  2. LG

    I love DIY Thursdays! Thank you for continuing to feature this blog topic and for encouraging the re-imagining of sewing patterns, AC-style.

  3. jonn

    Tanks, tunics, and tigers oh my – i LOVE this tunic! Just started my poetry project from last week and here is another beauty. Hope to stitch fast and be finished, or close, when the supplies arrive for today’s project. Stitch.Hope.Stitch faster.
    Thank you for highlighting the book and your vision of the tunic. This looks simple enough to make several :-]

  4. Rhea

    Would love to see a photo of the entire top being worn. I can’t tell from just an arm and shoulder if I’d like the style on me, but the work, the adornment, is lovely.

  5. Annhb

    I just bought this book last week and was wondering if I could make some of the simpler patterns! I am now emboldened! thanks!

  6. Elizabeth Boyd

    I recently bought a beautiful piece of navy floral silk chiffon that I think would look lovely with some pieces of lace appliqué scattered about. I also wanted to use a dolman sleeve pattern for it. Do you think this pattern would work with the silk chiffon?

    1. Alabama

      We wouldn’t recommend using our hand sewing techniques on this type of fabric. Since it is a woven, it will not translate the same as our cotton jersey. As for the pattern, it should work, just be aware that if you have used this pattern using jersey previously, you may want to go up a size since silk chiffon will not stretch. Hope this helps!

  7. Vija Merrill

    I noticed a seam along the upper aspect of the arm, from neckline to wrist, on your adaptation, whereas I could find no indication of such on the pattern (I only see an underside-of-the-arm/body seam). Did you decide to add extra form or alter the drape by adding that seam? I have my one-piece cut and stenciled, and have a few moments to decide whether or not to make that extra cut and subsequent seam. I’d love to hear your reasons for doing so.

    Thank you!