In continuation of the previous section of this “how-to” series on tabards, today we shall be looking into how I construct my “single ply” tabards with the shoulder seam. These are my more commonly found amongst my monster kit staples to use up cloth or work with smaller pieces of cloth that won’t accommodate the simple “single piece” tabard discussed in Part One.
In Part One my thoughts on materials and equipment for making tabards have been shared, so rather than repeating myself I shall link you here and jump straight into the how-to. But first a quick word on some cloth terms.
The right and wrong way with cloth
I should probably explain what I mean by “right side” or outside and “wrong side” or inside of cloth. Surely cloth looks the same on both sides, right? Normally yes, though with patterned or satiny cloth you have a coloured outer and a duller/matte inside which makes it clear which is the side you want people to see (the outside/right side) and which side you don’t (the inside/wrong side). If in doubt, think about which side will be next or nearest to your skin when wearing the item.
Now, normally it’s not so important with tabards which side is the right or wrong side, except when you’re joining two pieces of cloth together. Ideally you want to be putting the join (the seam) somewhere it won’t be seen as it can get untidy (especially if you’re not the neatest of cutters). Also if I’m hemming a raw edge I turn the cloth to the inside/wrong side so it doesn’t impact on the overall look of the garment.
I mark the side I don’t want’ people to see with annotations which reminds me that this is the inside of my cloth when I’m putting the pieces together. What you should end up with is all your tatty bits of cloth and chalk marks and other oddities on the inside against your shirt and your unblemished decorated side facing the world at large.
If I’m adding decoration such as embroidery I work on the outside/right side because these are things you want people to see. So, to summarise – a quick rule of thumb: want people to see? Put it to the right side. Don’t want people to see, hide it on the inside.
Standard single ply tabard
I call this my single ply tabard because, quite simply, it is. Especially when compared with my reversible tabards which I will talk you through another time.
Picture the scenario – you need tabards in a particular colour very quickly and have dashed out to the shops to gather supplies. But the material in the perfect colour isn’t quite long enough to the length of tabard you want, or you get home to unroll it to find this is the case. I’ve mixed up measurements too many times to count (!), so here’s what I do after I have a minor meltdown and declare the world is ending and flop dramatically into a chair (handy chair not included).
- Cloth (in whatever colour you choose, though browns, blacks and greens work well for general monster kit).
- Scissors (Dressmakers or sharp ones!)
- Tailors Chalk and Tape Measure
- Needle and thread / sewing machine and thread
- Paper and pencil (optional)
- Neckline guild (optional)
- Decorative materials/threads/patches (optional)
First of all, the single ply tabard is simply a front and a back piece attached at the shoulders, with a hole cut for your head. This means you’ll have a seam at the shoulder (like a t-shirt) and the tabard will need to be tucked into a belt when worn.
Grab your minion or the person you are making the tabard for. Take measurements of the width of the tabard you want across the chest and down the length of the body from shoulder seam to below the knee. Don’t let your minion try and see this length until after you’ve measured it, otherwise you’ll end up with it being too short. If they are interested in gauging how long the garment will be, either demonstrate on their leg where it will eventually hang or hold the length up against yourself using your tape measure. Draw a rectangle and note these measured dimensions down on your piece of paper.
Add your seam allowance (of approximately 1” / 2.5 cm) to each side of your measured rectangle. This is because you should be hemming the outer edge of your tabard, but especially because you are joining the cloth together at the shoulders with a seam. If you aren’t bothered about hemming your tabard, don’t add a seam allowance to the outer edges, but make sure you add the seam allowance to the top which will be sitting on your shoulders. Write these numbers down, annotating your diagram and halve your new width value. Add this to your diagram and note your seam allowance for your records.
With the help of your minion lay out your cloth as smooth and as flat as you can – either on a large surface or the floor, trying to keep it as flat as possible. You can either fold a large piece in half and cut both pieces together or lay each section out individually for cutting if you’ve only got enough for one piece. Mark out your measurements on the cloth (with or without seam allowance) and cut out your rectangle. Once you have these two pieces decide which will be your front and back piece and mark these near one of the corners on the “wrong” side of your cloth as described above.
Now cut your neckline. I use my neckline guides, but you could cut a simply half circle in the middle of the upper edge of the cloth on the front and back or cut a slit down the centre of the front side. Don’t forget to remember your seam allowance! Cut your shape at the depth of your shoulder seam allowance – it might look a little funny, but when you’ve stitched your shoulders together you will have a nice neat circle once you’re done. When cutting your neckline you will have a slightly larger hole that you cut once you’ve turned and hemmed the area around your collar, and the hole should be a little wider than your head if you want to easily slip it on. Play around with a scrap bit of cloth before cutting if you’re unsure of what sort and size of neckline you want. If you’re cutting a “T” neckline by cutting a slit down the front of your tabard, you need to be careful about how you stitch your shoulders together. Turn and pin your neckline on the front and back pieces before sewing your shoulders so you don’t accidentally sew over your neckline.
Pin the shoulders of your tabard together and try on. Give us a twirl.
If you’re choosing to decorate your tabard, I would suggest doing this before sewing the front panel to the back to reduce the amount of cloth you have to handle at any one time. My experience comes from doing embroidery where having lots of cloth in your lap runs the risk of you stitching bits together that you didn’t mean to or causing the edges to fray badly as you work on the piece held by the embroidery hoop. However, if you’re doing fabric painting you may find it best to wait until you’ve finished your project so as to place your design better. I’ve not got any experience of fabric painting, so in the end it’s up to you.
Anyway, moving swiftly on …
Sew your shoulder seams, with your cloth right sides together. This means your wrong sides are facing outwards and you should have markings on both the front and back visible. You can either sew this seam by using a standard stitch, a back stitch or using the straight or ziz-zag stitches on your sewing machine. You want this seam to be sturdy as the cloth is going to be pulled away from the seam if the front or back gets caught once worn in the belt. Once you’ve sewn both shoulder seams I would trim the excess cloth and hem the raw edges to prevent fraying. You now have the ghost of your tabard.
Hem your neckline as you choose, and hem the sides and bottom of each panel of your tabard. Sewing a rolled hem and slip stitching are discussed at the bottom of Part One. I would urge hemming your tabard to keep it from fraying wildly, from shedding cut fibres everywhere and from becoming ragged (unless that’s you’re intention).
Try on the finished tabard and admire your handy work. Now you’re ready to go be heroic!