There’s been a lot of discussion recently on the West Kingdom facebook group about garb for newcomers and how to get them the information they need.
I feel like I really can’t help very much with buying garb– other than my new hood, I’ve never bought any garb in my life
(If you want very accurate handsewn headgear, The Medieval Needle sells great stuff, but it might be a litttttttle steep/intimidating for brand new people. But seriously this hood is gorgeous, I am very pleased)
BUT. If you want to learn how to sew, that I can help with!
So here is my Completely Unqualified Guide to Learn How To Sew Garb:
- You’ll need to learn how to sew. Handsewing at minimum, especially if you don’t want to invest in a machine– you can do things by hand that machines really can’t do. Fundamentally it’s pretty simple– thread goes in needle, needle goes in fabric– but there can definitely be an intimidation factor. I recommend YouTube and Pinterest for lots of videos and guides.
- Cool! You know how to sew! Awesome! Next steps– what to sew. Mistress Sylvie has a great guide to making a basic tunic which is a good all-purpose unisex beginner garment. The great thing about her guide is that it covers the whole process, with flat-felled seams, so that you don’t have to worry about other seam finishes. Highly recommend!
(Psssssst: there’s also a reasonable chance that someone will be willing to make you one of these, help you make it, lend you a sewing machine, give you fabric, help you shop for fabric, etc…… we like helping! Ask us!)
- If you decide that this is a thing that you enjoy, or that for whatever reason it is more practical for you to sew garments than buy them (You are an unusual size, you are interested in a particular time period instead of “generic medieval,” you live somewhere where shipping is a pain) I suggest two things
- Get a sewing machine. I highly recommend what I have, which is a 1985 Husqvarna Viking 150. You can find them on ebay pretty cheap, and they are indestructible. They don’t have any bells and whistles but they WILL speed up doing all those long, dull, skirt seams.
- My absolute recommendation for a First Garb Book with everything from basic tunics to intricate men’s pleated gowns to headwear to WHERE DOES MY STUFF GO is the Medieval Tailor’s Assistant.
Most of the earlier garments are just rectangles and triangles, which makes them really simple to cut and assemble. PLUS this has the best guide I have encountered on draping and drafting a body block as well as drafting sleeves. Seriously. The sleeves in here make sense. It’s kind of incredible. LOVE this book.If you continue to enjoy this there are much more specific books and websites to look at, but if you are getting started at this sewing thing and just want to have something that’s simple to make that makes you look really good…. this is where to start.
- There are a significant number of pattern brands that make patterns for our time periods! Sadly none of them are sold at Joann’s, but in the Internet Age that doesn’t mean much. A full pattern brand review will have to wait for another day, but suffice it to say that
- You Do Not Need patterns for anything pre-14th C, you just need a ruler and some basic math
- If you know how to sew but are intimidated by drafting your own, more complicated patterns, Period Patterns is not a bad source. You do need to understand how garments go together because the instructions are…. vague.
- Reconstructing History patterns cover a HUGE range of styles and time periods, and the research is good…. but I have had issues with their sizing. Definitely do a mock-up
- If you want to go hard-core late period, go for the Tudor Tailor. These also require some understanding of how clothes work, since the instructions can be minimal.
…..I will likely come back to this and add more, because I was SUPPOSED to go grocery shopping and got side tracked writing this, but hopefully this is a good place to start!….