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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

LTAW #4: Tabard Part 1 (Simple Tabard)

This is part 1 of LTAW's tabard making 2-part special. For part 2, go to

For this week's LARP Thing A Week, I made a simple tabard. A tabard is a great and super easy way to dress up a medieval fantasy LARP costume.

Here are some brave knights wearing tabards:

And of course, we've all seen the musketeers' tabards:

Wikipedia says:

In the late Middle Ages tabards, now open at the sides and so usually belted, were worn by knights over their armour, and usually emblazoned with their arms (though sometimes worn plain).

Tabards are easier to make than other garments, can reflect personal creativity, and can also show unity in a group (because the group can create their own costumes, but where the same tabards, and have instant identification). For those reasons, you'll see many LARPers sporting this piece of costuming. You'll also see NPCs sporting very simple tabards like the one I'm making here to represent creature skin colors and the like (I don't know which chapter I stole this image from; if you know, leave a comment):

So, on to making a tabard.

I bought this lovely red for my tabard. I'm going to add some extra decoration with gold later on. I don't recommend that anyone stick to one solid color, because you might be confused with a monster (especially if you pick the wrong color). But, I'll cover adding decorations and other features in Part 2.

A word about fabric selection: choose something thicker for your tabard. Thin stuff is great for spell packets. And stretchy stuff is supremely difficult to work with (and will pull in on itself on a tabard and look goofy). Muslin, canvas, upholstery fabric, and other thick fabrics work well for tabards. Thinner cotton blends will work, but you may find you need to sew two layers together if you use it (which makes for a reversible tabard; getting you more gobbies if you're donating it!)

I'd recommend that you buy 2 yards of whatever fabric you like. Generally, that's enough to make 2 tabards, but it'll save you some sewing even if you're only making 1. My fabric was 48 inches wide, which is pretty typical, but fabric comes folded in half before it's rolled onto the cardboard. So, it only looked to be 24 inches wide. Well, we'll make use of this fold. I cut it along this fold so I was left with two pieces 2 yards by 24 inches. Here's my cat inspecting my work:

Now, I put aside one of those pieces (to make another tabard or whatever), and folded my piece in half, right about where the cat was standing. Then, I folded it in half again the other way. Here, in the corner where all your folds meet, you cut a head hole. Don't make it very big; you can always enlarge it later, and it's really much bigger than it appears.

Here's what it looks like when I unfold the fabric:

Most fabrics have a tendency to fray:

The edges of some synthetics can be (carefully) melted to prevent fraying. But the easiest way to prevent fraying on any fabric is with a hem. The simplest hem is to fold the edge over, then fold it over again and sew it into place. Here's a hem on my fabric:

Now, I won't actually be hemming this now, because I'm going to do something neat with the edges in part 2.

Put the tabard on and mark the length you want. I like mine to go about mid thigh and be a bit longer in the back.

Tie a belt or sash around your waist, et voila, a simple tabard. (This one is a bit short... good thing I have another piece!)

Join me in Part 2 when I add some features to dress up my tabard.

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