When I say belt sash/flash I’m referring to the square or rectangle of cloth folded over a belt or sat on a belt which denotes loyalty to a group or collective or shows a personal motif or heraldric device – basically another way to add a bit of colour or distinction to your kit. These can be relatively simple or as complicated as you so desire, and make a nice item to give to other people if they join your “house” or family or unit in a LARP system. There’s a nice thrill I find when you notice other people wearing the same piece of heraldry as you because you’re all part of the same unit – a nice bit of visual camaraderie.
So, here is my tutorial on making your own belt flash. For other tutorials see here.
For my thoughts on cloth that can be used for larp kit, see here also.
The humble belt flash
The belt flash is basically a piece (or two pieces of cloth) slung over a belt, but there are variations on the theme. They can be made of any material though I usually go for hard wearing cloth and felt/embroidered heraldry. Rose over at Rose Foundry did a beautiful one made out of dyed leather, as seen here, but this just highlights the things you can do with a strip of material.
There are two ways with a “simple” belt flash as described below:
One ply flash
This is literally just a piece of cloth tucked into a belt so that it hangs either side. Cut a rectangle of cloth as long and as wide as you choose, ideally long enough so it hangs nicely when folded over the belt. I suggest hemming the edges so they don’t fray with use, but it’s as simple as that.
Two ply flash
This requires a little bit more sewing. Cut two matching rectangles of cloth as long and wide as you want, adding about an inch onto each edge for your seams. Iron your cloth. Pin these two pieces of cloth together and stitch most of the way round, leaving a gap around the mid-point of one of the narrower edges. Trim your seams (if you choose) and turn the flash through the hole you have left. Iron again. Tuck the remaining seam allowance back inside the sash and stitch closed with a slip stitch or blanket stitch. Wear your flash tucked over your belt with a smile.
You don’t have to fold the flash over your belt, but instead can thread it onto your belt along with any other pouches or adornments.
Single hanging piece (one/two ply)
Make the one/two ply flash as described above and set to one side. Measure the depth of your belt and add a little “room” to your measurement – for example if you have a 3 inch belt, allow 3.5 inches of space. Measure this measurement from one end of your flash – this point will be your fold that will sit at the top of the belt. Fold the flash here and pin the front to the back. Sew the two pieces together using a straight, running or back stitch. You now have a loop through which to thread your belt and a single hanging piece of cloth. Wear with pride.
Double hanging piece (one/two ply)
Make the one/two ply flash as described above and set to one side. Measure the depth and add a little “room” to your measurement – giving 3.5 inches for a 3 inch belt. Fold your flash in half and measure your measurement down from the fold. Pin the front to the back and sew together. You now have a loop to slide onto your belt and bits of cloth hanging below. Go show off your creation!
Note: you don’t have to make the fold even – that is making the front the same length as the back. So long as you fold evenly and the front lines up with the back you can have any length at front or back with your flash. So if you fancy only having a small tail to your flash at the back and the bulk of the length at the front, it all depends on your folding.
We’ve also been assuming you’re only using a single colour, but this can be done for any combination of colours once they’ve been stitched together.
Jazz it up a bit – adding decoration
You don’t have to add decoration, but most belt flashes show some form of symbol or heraldic device which should be included. With a one ply flash you can add this after hemming, but with a two ply flash you should probably do this before stitching the two pieces of cloth together – in a similar method to the two ply tabards.
RIGHT side up (the outer facing upwards as described here), place the cloth in your embroidery hoop (similar method to decorating with felt heraldry) or on your working surface. Pin your felt on (for applique embroidery) to the stretched surface across the embroidery hoop, or do your embroidery (work in progress photos included for a recent project below) and add your decoration, or prime and paint according to the medium you are working with. Press your finished piece on the back once you’re done to flatten it out a bit.
(From left to right) Cut two pieces of cloth; put the “front” piece in your embroidery frame; chain stitch heart and outer shield, with rough outline of spears; satin stitch fill the spears; the finished article, pressed and ready for battle;
Note: pressing involves putting your weight through the iron into the cloth, not smoothing the cloth out with the back and forwards motion you usually use to iron items. You are setting the back around the embroidery/applique/paint (if appropriate), not flattening the cloth out again.
Then continue as described above, making sure that the RIGHT sides are pressed together as you sew your seams. A check of this is when you pull your flash inside out to hide your raw seams you can see your pretty decoration and not your messy back.
The bottom line is to be proud of what you’ve made and wear it. Give it away. Make more and give to the other people in your unit. But most of all have fun.