$20 Garb Challenge

Recently, a friend of mine sponsored a contest to create a full set of garb using thrifted items. The rules stated that whatever materials we used had to add up to less than $20.

Here’s what I came up with (sorry about the lack of image quality):

I made a kilt, Bocksten tunic, and a short hangerok.

Ironically, my inspiration came as I was standing in the thrift store and came across some pseudo-plaid, and decided to make a kilt. I cut my square in half, then sewed the short ends together in order to make it long enough, then followed these instructions, http://www.garbtheworld.com/pgs/foldkilt.shtml to fold my kilt.

With that done, I made a Bocksten tunic based on Alric’s tutorial- http://www.dagorhir.com/gear/content/garb/bocksten_tunic.php.

I then simply sewed two squares together with straps for my hangerok and had some decent garb.

But in order to add a bit of detail, I sewed a stitch of different color around my tunic neckline and top hem of the hangerok for some color, and safety pinned some necklaces that I borrowed from my roommate to emulate the viking/celt style of broaches to hang necklaces from.

I ended up using 15 of my $20, and I wish I’d been able to devote more time to my entry, but I’ve been too busy recently to put as much detail into it as I’d have liked.


Back to life.

I’ve decided to brush the cobwebs off my blog and update a few things. Yay updates! School has been really busy this semester and I haven’t had time to sew a thing. However, my ever growing box of fabric has been calling my name for a while, and I’ve decided to take mercy on it. The fabric was grateful to see the light of day again.

First, I’ve been working on a wonderfully warm fleece dress for winter. The main part is pretty much done, but I’ve decided to step up my game from here on out and add some embroidery. It should turn out looking pretty good, once I practice a little more….

It is essentially a modified tunic, with a few pieces combined to try and cut down on the overall bulk of the seams. I also put a little more time into the neckhole on this one and I am much, MUCH more pleased with it than any previous attempts.

Also, I found this today and it immediately jumped to the top of my to-do list. After all, who wouldn’t want a dinosaur hat!?

I’m going to try and update this some more in the upcoming days/weeks as I finish more projects, but unfortunately I can’t make promises.

A corset of course

One of the projects that I wanted to attempt this summer was a corset. I’m not really a girly-girl, but I just kind of like the idea. Unfortunately, my first attempt didn’t end up well enough that I feel skilled enough to offer instruction to others, but I thought I would pass along where I got my ideas from and a few tips on what NOT to do.

First, here is my inspiration. I didn’t want to try and create something with boning on my first try, and this seemed to accomplish that very nicely.

It’s a pretty straightforward tutorial, but I had a little trouble getting the shape right. I started off by sewing a tube, pinning it to my body, and having my little sister break the seam with a seam ripper. That worked pretty well, until I tried to modify it later because I thought it didn’t fit very well as I was holding it up to me. I forgot that there would be tight lacing helping the fabric to keep its shape, and decided to take some “extra” fabric off the front. It still fits well enough, but there is now a much wider gap at the top of the back than at the bottom.

If I were to do it again, I would try to make the corset using this type of method. It seems to waste much less fabric, and doesn’t rely on guesswork.

This is a tutorial from Threadheads that shows another idea of how to put things together once you have a pattern (which you can make on your own, or try something like this).

Basically, the best advice I can offer is to try something, and if it doesn’t work, try something else.

Here are some samples of my efforts:

Here is the front of the corset

And the back. See what happened to the lacing? :/

Also, some nifty tools I found that made the project easier!

D-ring lacing tape (awesome) from this person on Ebay. And eye and hook tape from this person.

To the machine!!! (Tunic tutorial)

Now that all of the boring details about the necessities of sewing are out of the way, we can finally create something!

The most important (and wonderful) thing about most medievel designs is that they are created using rectangles and triangles. That’s it. No weird curves to figure out, no pleats, weird zig-zags, or other peculiarities. So in that sense, this should be one of the easiest things you could ever make. But, on the other hand, medieval tunics don’t really come in standard pattern sizes. YOU are the pattern. Sure, if you search around the wealth of information on the internet, you could probably find a pattern for a “men’s large”. But wouldn’t it be better to have something that is made just for you?

I’m going to offer a couple different options, then show you how to make the variation that looks the best (in my opinion) and is the most accurate.

The simplest “tunic” that you can make is the T-tunic. This is basically a t-shirt, made by you. Imagine a giant “T” made out of fabric.

(c) Scion d'Ur-- Original Directions

Cut out the area under the arms, sew, hem, and voila- a tunic! You can also make the seams a little more curved under the arms to be more comfortable, and/or have it flare out slightly toward the bottom.

However. We are going to aspire to something a little more awesome than that.

The best basic tunic for Dagorhir (and looking awesome in general) is the Bocksten Tunic. This historic design was uncovered in Sweden in 1936. Here is a neat site with more background on the original. This design takes the basic “T” and adds gussets and gores to make it fit better and allow it to be more awesome in general. I’ve pulled my method from two main resources, that from House Marsvin, and Alric’s tutorial. The cool thing about this tunic is that it can easily be modified to make a tunic, or, by making it longer, a dress.


The first step to creating your tunic is figuring out the size you need to make it. For some of these measurements, you may find that it is easier to enlist someone else’s help.

Start by measuring from the top of your shoulder to around your knees. You are going to lose a little bit of that length in the construction process, and it will seem shorter once it is on, so it is generally better to estimate longer than you think you might need. This will be measurement A.

Next, measure from shoulder to shoulder. If you find yourself with a slightly larger midsection, measure that, divide it in half, and use that measurement instead. Add about two inches to this measurement to ensure room for seams and so that you have room to move. (A note for females: Your first inclination might be to measure the length around your chest and use that measurement instead. As good an idea as that sounds right now, those measurements will cause an extreme excess of fabric. We are going to add in gussets under the arms that will add a little extra room in that area. If you are extremely well endowed, you may have to modify this method slightly, but otherwise, don’t worry about it.) This measurement: Shoulder to shoulder + 2 inches = B.

Now, the sleeves. It may be best to get someone helpful to assist you in this one. You are going to measure from your armpit to how ever long you want your sleeves to be. This is measurement C

Next, we need to figure out how wide to make your sleeves. Measure around your bicep and add about 4 inches. This is going to be the top of your sleeve and measurement D. Now measure around the widest part of your fist for measurement E.

Now, in order to make the tunic more comfortable, we are going to add gores to the sides that will give you more room to move. In order to figure out the dimensions of these, measure from your shoulder to your belly button, and subtract that number, from your overall length (measurement A, for those not paying attention). This will give you the length of your gores- measurement F. For the width, take the about 3/4 of measurement B. This will become measurement G.

Finally, we need to figure out the size of the gussets to place under the arm. I’ll admit, I don’t have a mathematical method for this. You are going to cut a square of fabric, and place it so that when you lay the tunic flat, it looks like there are triangles under the arms (see picture below). For my tunics (about a men’s small, or women’s medium) I used a 5″ square (that is, 5″ on each side). In order to make a men’s XL, I used a 7″ square. It may be better to wait until you have the sleeves sut out and connected to estimate how big you want to make yours.

Cutting the Fabric

First, the body. You are going to cut out two rectangles that are A by B. These will form the body.

Next, measure the arm pieces. You are going to create 2 trapezoids (one for each arm) using measure

ments C, D, and E. They are going to be C long, with D and E determining how wide either end is. For this, it may be easier to fold the fabric in half and measure against the fold. Measure half of D down from one side, and half of E down f

rom the other. If you are worried about getting the two pieces to be exactly the same, cut one out and then trace the other one from that.

Here I've got my two layers of fabric ready to be cut out at the same time (I'm making short sleeves on this tunic).

Now, the gores. For these you are going to cut out two triangles. They are going to be F long and G wide. Measure F down the center of the triangle, and G across the base.

After that, you are good to start sewing! Here and here are some smart options on how you might want to lay out your fabric. Though take note that these are both options for if you want to make a 4 gored tunic.


Step one- Sew the two pieces for the body of your tunic together along the top. You may want to leave some space in the middle to allow for the head hole. Remember, you are sewing the shorter sides of the fabric (measurement B) together.

Step two- the sleeves. Separate the layers of the body of your tunic so that the right side of the fabric is facing you. now, you are going to need to find the center of your sleeve, length-wise. Just fold it in half and line it up so that the edges are together and the right sides are facing each other- like so:

Sew the edges together, and repeat for the other sleeve.

Now is when you need to have figured out your gussets. You are going to sew the four sides of the square onto either side of your sleeve, and the side of your tunic. Check Alric’s tutorial for a better explanation of this. Connect one side of the sleeve with gusset before doing the other side, and make sure to keep sewing the right sides of the fabric together. Once you get the first two sides sewn, fold the tunic in half along the top seam, line up the sleeve, and sew the other sides of the square to the sleeve.

Sew the side to the body of the tunic first, and then when you pin the last side, you can pin the rest pf the sleeve together as well and just connect them at the same time.

Now sew the other sleeve, and you have most of your tunic (and the hardest part) done!

Next, you need to insert the gores. Line up one edge of your gore with the side of the body of the tunic, remembering to keep the right sides together. Line it up with the bottom edge, pin, and sew, then prepare to line up the other side.

On this one, you will want to start pinning at the top of the gore (toward the armpit). Line up the fabric between the bottom of the gusset and the top of the gore so that it lays flat, then continue pinning down the length of the gore. Your edges may end up being slightly off, but you can trim those when you hem the bottom edge.

Sew in the other gore, and you have a tunic! Just trim a hole to fit your head through, and you are good to go! When figuring out the head hole, remember to start smaller- you can always take more fabric away, but you can’t add it back in.

Here are some options for the shape of your neck hole, and here and here are some finishing methods if you feel like getting fancy.

Other options

If you read through all of that and decided that it was far beyond your sewing skills, but that you want to try something better fitting than the T-tunic, here is an awesome tutorial by Ilsa showing how to use your measurements to create a tunic with minimal sewing, and here is a similar design from the SCA.

And if all of this wasn’t clear enough, feel free to mix these ideas with some of the other tutorials out there. Modifying things slightly to make them easier is a helpful technique to make sewing less stressful.

Here is the final version of what I created for this tutorial. It is for a friend of mine, hence the size on me:


…And all the rest.


Now that you have thread that perfectly matches your fabric, you need to acquire something to help you sew with it. To be completely honest, I haven’t found much difference in the different needles that I’ve used. For most fabrics, a good “universal” needle will accomplish what you need. There are various types of needles for embroidery work, or thicker fabrics, but unless you are planning to work with those, a standard needle should be sufficient. 


Scissors are a very important tool to use when starting a project. You could get your pet rat to gnaw apart the fabric pieces that you need, but it probably won’t turn out very neat. Oddly enough, a poor pair of scissors can have almost the same effect. You know that pair of scissors that you keep in your room and use for pretty much everything under the sun? Turns out those aren’t so great for cutting fabric. If you have been using your scissors to cut paper, plastic, etc., your scissors have been significantly dulled since you bought them and will have a hard time sharply cutting through fabric. Do yourself a favor- buy a pair of scissors and save them just for sewing. They don’t have to be overly fancy, but the kind with a bent handle will make cutting straight lines much easier.

Another note- if you plan on cutting large amounts of fabric that frays (i.e.- all the linen and cotton that looks wonderfully period) you may want to invest in a pair of pinking sheers. This snazzy tool will cut the fabric in a sort of triangle pattern that will help to keep your fabric from falling apart at the seams.


There are a couple odds and ends that it is helpful to have on hand:

Pins– I have two types, standard pins with plastic balls on the top, and longer pins with flat, “melt-proof” tops. Lately, I’ve found myself using the flat headed pins more and more, simply because I don’t have to worry about them if I stop to iron a seam. They are a little more expensive, but I’ve found them to be very worth it. Pin cushions are nice, but not necessary. Just make sure you have a safe place to set your pins so you don’t step on them.

Iron– There are going to be certain hems and seams that you will want to press down before sewing, and it’s a good idea to have an iron on hand so your super-easy-to-wrinkle linen doesn’t look like you just slept in it, rolled around in the dirt, wrestled a bear, swam through a creek, and then wrung the shirt out and threw it back on. Unless, of course, that’s the look you are going for. But even then, it’s a good idea to keep an iron around during the sewing process. If you don’t have one, just steal one from a friend, parent, or random stranger.

Straight edge/measuring tools– The ability to draw straight lines could make or break your project. Medieval styles are made almost entirely with straight lines, and no matter how straight of a line you think you can draw, it will probably end up crooked. Do yourself a favor and stick at least a ruler in with your supplies. Of course, rulers are only so long. I recommend a yardstick to make sure you can measure most of your lines in their entirety. You will also want to keep a measuring tape on hand. While not so useful for measuring fabric, they do a wonderful job of measuring people.

Seam ripper– No matter how wonderful of a sewer you are, you are going to make mistakes. Probably often. Just embrace it now and get a seam ripper, no matter how invincible you feel. You’ll thank yourself later.

Marking pen/pencil– These can be incredibly useful for marking your lines and patterns. Regular pens can work, but aren’t guaranteed to wash out later if you mess up. I’ve got a nifty one that washes out if I just brush lightly at it with a wet washcloth. It’s saved me a good deal of frustration while marking out patterns.

Snacks– You are settling in for a project now. You are going to need nourishment. So find yourself some sugar and caffeine, and lets get to work!

Up next- a super spiffy tunic that even you can’t screw up!

The right tools for the job

Unfortunately, the fabric fairies don’t magically show up overnight and turn material into awesome clothing. But who needs pixie dust when you have a sewing machine?

For future reference, I’m going to assume that you have access to a sewing machine. You can sew things by hand, but it requires more patience than I possess. If you choose this path, all the more power to you.

Sewing Machines

For the less tenacious of us, sewing machines are one of God’s greatest inventions. (No really, look in the fine print. God came back on Day 8 and gave Eve a sewing machine.) For any guys out there who think sewing is women’s work, etc., just remember that it is a sewing MACHINE. There are all kinds of wheels, gears, and mechanical bits inside there that make the sharp, pointy object impale the helpless fabric as it is drug to its doom.

Now that we are all on the same page, it’s important to find a good machine. You can wander into your local Joann’s or Walmart and pick up a cheap one, but the best sewing machines are actually the older ones. Way “back in the day” while your parents were climbing uphill both ways in snowstorms to get to school, sewing machines were all made with metal parts. The one’s you find in stores now have mostly plastic parts. This allows for them to be cheaper and lighter, but in the long run, more likely to break down.

Instead, go pester an older relative or scour the thrift stores looking for a nice, old machine that has all of its parts. That may end up being the tricky part. If you find one that is too old, you may have a hard time locating pieces for it if something *does* happen to break. I was blessed enough to acquire my mom’s old machine when she got an (even older) new one. It has all metal parts and runs great. I haven’t had to fix a thing in the time that I’ve had it, which is more than I can say for most of my other electronics and machines. Try to find a manual for your machine that will show you how to thread it and explain any idiosyncrasies that the machine might have. Each machine threads slightly differently, and setting it up the wrong way could either jam your machine or give you a headache. Neither of these are preferable.


As wonderful as a good sewing machine is, you still need a few more things to start your project. Thread is a very vital piece to the sewing puzzle. It is the only thing that can hold your projects together. (I tried duct tape once. Never again.) There are a number of resources that try to help you skirt the need for thread and even a sewing machine, and I’ve tried several of them. But my experiences with things like Wonder Under, Stitch Witchery, velcro, and, yes, glue, have left me with a mess and an immediate desire to undo what I just did so I can do it correctly. I mean really, thread is generally between $1-2. Just suck it up, make the purchase, and take the time to do it right.

The main thing to keep in mind while picking out thread is that you want it to match your fabric. Sure, you can get an additional color if you feel fancy and want to try some kind of embroidery later, but for the actual construction, you want thread that matches and helps hide any mistakes. The best way to pick out thread is to take a little piece of your fabric with you to the store when purchasing your thread. Also, try not to rely on just the color that the thread looks like on the spool. If there aren’t any employees looking over your shoulder, unravel the thread a little bit and hold the individual thread over your fabric. This will give you a better idea of what it will actually look like. After all, you aren’t going to stick a large bundle of thread on your finished product, so why compare it that way to begin with? Looking at a single thread may actually help if you have an odd colored fabric that you are working with, or if the store simply doesn’t have your shade. The thin line will be less noticeable in general, and will help you to get the closest color, if not an exact match.

~Next, more information to keep in mind before starting your project~