The final section of my “how-to” series on tabards covers how I construct my “reversible” tabards and some alternative ways to customise the standard template. These are typically made for knights in the Fools and Heroes system, but could be used to make useful monster tabard combinations e.g. guards and foresters, guards and noble militia, noble militia of two houses etc.
Reversible tabards are exactly what they sound to be – a tabard which can be worn with either side on display. I usually make these in the same colour as knightly tabards – one side plain for the Squire and Errant Knight, the other bearing the Order’s symbol to be worn and developed once the character is knighted. However, I can see how this could become a versatile piece of monster kit as it cuts down on the number of physical tabards needed whilst catering for the different npcs which are recognisable by their tabards.
- Cloth (in whatever colour you choose, though browns, blacks and greens work well for general monster kit).
- Chalk and Tape Measure
- Needle and thread / sewing machine and thread
- Paper and pencil (optional)
- Neckline guild (optional)
- Decorative materials/threads/patches (optional)
How to make reversible tabards
In essence you are making two single ply tabards and attaching them together, so you need enough cloth to make two tabards. These are made in a similar fashion to the single ply tabards in Part Two, and will have a shoulder seam, but these can be made to be laced or fastened at the sides using laces or ribbon. I will discuss this in more detail below.
First of all, take your minion and measure them across the shoulders and the desired length from shoulders to below the knee. Make a note of these measurements on a bit of paper. Add double your seam allowance (approximately 2″ / 5 cm) to these measurements as you will be stitching the front to back at the shoulders and the front panels of each tabard to each other. Make sure you annotate your diagram with this new measurement and the ½ measurement of the width to allow you to mark your collar equally. This tabard is designed to be worn tucked in a belt, but if you want to make it so you can wear the tabard without a belt, the instructions are included in an Optional Extras below.
With the help of your minion lay your cloth out as smooth and as flat as possible, either on the floor or a desk or table. Either fold a large piece of cloth in half, or cut each piece from a section of cloth, but you will eventually cut out four pieces of cloth (two front and two back pieces). Mark your measurements (the ones including the seam allowance) on the cloth and cut the pieces out. Decide which pieces will be front and back, and which piece will be set one and set two (this is easy if your reversible tabard is made with two colours, you’ll need a front and back piece of each colour). Mark each piece up near one of the corners on the “wrong” side of the cloth.
Mark and cut your neckline below the seam allowance at the top of each piece of cloth. Either shape the neckline with a deeper drop at the front, or even half circles, or a T-shaped slit. If you’re cutting a “T” neckline turn and pin your neckline before sewing the shoulders together now, but do not sew the neckline! Play around with different shapes on some scrap cloth before cutting your neckline if you’re unsure of what sort of neckline you want. Just remember that the width of the neckline needs to be as wide as your head so you can slip it easily on.
Pin the shoulders of the tabard together. The neckline for each set of tabards should match up when put together. If not then this can be corrected when sewing the two tabards together.
Optional: If you are decorating your tabard I suggest you do it now, particularly if you are adding trim or embroidery to only one “set” of tabards as anything you add after sewing the tabards together will most likely be visible on the other side.
With your “right” sides together sew the shoulder seams of each set of tabards so that you end up with two single ply tabards. Your markings should be facing outwards as you look at the cloth. Sew this seam using a standard stitch, back stitch, or using your straight/zig-zag stitch on your sewing machine. Trim the excess cloth at the seam. You could now hem the edges of the tabards and leave the two tabards separately, or you can continue on to make the reversible tabard.
Place the two tabards right sides together – front to front, back to back, matching necklines and shoulder seams. Pin the tabard down the sides and across the two “bottoms” of the cloth before sewing this seam closed. If you’re wanting to add side fastenings or anything to cover the shoulders, now is the time to do this. See the Optional Extras for more.
You should now have a rectangular piece of cloth which a hole in the centre. Turn your tabard inside out by pulling the front and back through this neckline. Press the front and back using your iron, smoothing any creases towards the opening at the neck. Turn the seam at your collar and sew shut using either a blanket or slip stitch. I prefer to do this by hand rather than using a sewing machine so that the stitches aren’t visible.
Once complete, try on your tabard and prepare to be knightly or go uphold the Law.
When I make my knightly tabards I designed them to be able to be worn without a belt at banquets or IC parties. To do this I add panels to the tabard which have button holes in to allow them to be laced closed. I use my button hole setting on my sewing machine to do this, but you could hand sew button holes or use metal eyelets.
I cut eight pieces of cloth (roughly the size of my palm) and sew them together on three sides to make four “tabs”. Iron these tabs flat and add your button-holes/eyelets. Use a different number of eyelets depending on how you decide to lace up your tabard.
Measure the distance from your shoulder seam down below your armpit to where you would like your side fastening to start. When you pin your tabards together, inset these “tabs” on the inside at the measured distance down from the shoulder seam. The raw edge of the tabard will be caught into the side seam when it is sewn.
When you turn the tabard inside out these “tabs” will now sit at the sides and can be laced shut using ribbon, cord, leather or simple boot laces.
I sometimes add rectangles of cloth over the shoulders at the request of some of my customers. I cut four rectangles of cloth and sew them together to make two panels. These are then added at the shoulder seams at the same time as adding the lacing “tabs”.
Examples of some reversible knightly tabards made using this method.