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The last tutorial was about making belt sashes/flashes to show heraldic devices for knightly/noble/militia characters. I’ve found that some people prefer arm bands to something hanging from the belt, particularly if they already have quite busy belts, so thought I would share the way I make arm bands and a few variations I am yet to try.

Some people also use armbands to denote rank if their system allows it, rather than stitching rank insignia onto every item of kit they own.

There are more tutorials here, but if you a particular request for a tutorial, add it to the comments below.

 

I’ve usually been making arm bands from bed sheeting with felt embroidery because they can withstand being washed regularly. My argument for regular washing is that you’re often lying down in the mud on your back or side when you’ve been lethally wounded and awaiting the aid of a physician or other healer. Whilst a belt sash is more likely to be caught up in layers of cloaks/robes/other cloth, you’re more likely to be lying on your arm band. Therefore, in my household, it has to be washable at 40°C!

 

The basic armband

This is the base for any alterations you’re going to make in the future. In short it’s a rectangular piece of cloth – either long enough to tie itself or short enough to encircle your arm whilst wearing minimal kit before it being laced up. I say short enough for minimal kit under the assumption that you will be wearing this armband when you’re in your shirt sleeves or whatever is being worn as an IC under layer at banquets.

And, similarly to the belt flash, there are one-ply/two-ply instructions.

One-ply

Measuring the length and depth of your arm band

Measure the circumference of your arm when wearing minimal kit. Try and flex your arm  a little if possible as you don’t want it too tight when your arm is flexing but not too loose when hanging freely or at rest. This measurement gives the long side length of your armband. Decide how deep you want it and note these measurements on a quick drawing of a rectangle.

Measurements for cutting a single ply arm band

Add a 5/8” (1.5cm) seam allowance to all sides of the rectangle. Prepare and cut out your cloth.

Decide how you are going to fasten your armband. In this tutorial we’ll be lacing it up, though an alternative could be to add velcro, buttons, elastic or tie it with itself like a long bandage.

How to roll a raw seam

You are now going to hem your piece of cloth. First fold your edges one by one to the seam allowance and press flat with an iron. Unfold the seam and do the next until you have a line marked at your seam allowance on each side. Now fold the edge of your cloth to meet this line before rolling it over. This encases your raw edge in a neat seam. Pin the seams and sew with a straight or backstitch. I suggest working on either the short or long sides first before folding the remaining sides on top of your worked edge.

Odd and even numbers of eyelets

To lace up the back you need to work a series of eyelets or button holes up the back through which to thread your bootlace/leather cord/braided wool string. Decide how you want to lace the item (working down from the top to bottom) and mark at regular intervals down the open sides of your armband.

I personally like to use 7 as it creates a nice pattern but you can use as many or as few as you wish. Choose your spacing so that your holes are starting and finishing within your stitched seams. Having marked your holes either stitch your button holes to fit your cord (0.5cm holes are usually ok for a standard round bootlace) or apply your eyelets according to the packet instructions. You can also hand sew your eyelets, but I’ve not got much experience of this.

Either open your packet for boot laces or cut your cord. I’ve found using a 4-hole boot lace is long enough for most armbands if you’re not putting them over armour, however getting the length right to accommodate armour takes a bit of trial and error. If in doubt cut a piece that is long enough to easily lace up the armband when it’s flat on its front. When it’s fitted you can choose to trim and seal your bootlace or keep it long to be tied in a floppy bow. I’ve found that having your lace longer is better if you’re tying the armband yourself!

Try on your armband with your kit. Your fastening should go at the back of your arm so the large blank space can be seen. With the help of a mirror, or a helpful friend/minion, mark where you want your symbol to sit. I usually put mine at the centre of the armband, but you may prefer to have it sitting further forward so it is visible when someone is looking at you head on.

Wear your arm band with a smile!

Apply your design – either embroidery/applique or fabric pen/paint – and then you’re done.

 

Two-ply

Measure the circumference of your arm when wearing minimal kit. Try and flex your arm if possible as you don’t want it too tight when your arm is flexing but not too loose when hanging freely or at rest. This measurement gives the long side length of your armband. Decide how deep you want it and note these measurements on a quick drawing of a rectangle.

Decide how you are going to fasten your armband. In this tutorial we’ll be lacing it up like before, though there are alternative ways. Another method is described in the Variations.

Measuring for a two ply arm band

Add a 5/8” (1.5cm) seam allowance to all sides of the rectangle. Prepare and cut out two pieces of cloth. Decide which will be your top and bottom, and make a small mark on the WRONG side of the cloth.

Decorate your armband before sewing on the back

Fold your seam allowance, pin in place and hold your armband on your arm. Using a mirror or a friend, work out where your main design should be on the cloth and mark with chalk or slip a pin through the centre where your decoration will do. Apply your decoration by embroidery/applique or fabric pen/paint.

Sew the back to the front with RIGHT sides together

When ready, it’s time to sew your cloth together. With RIGHT sides together pin your decorated outer and the underlayer together. Make note of the orientation of your applique/design and pin the top and short sides together along with part of the bottom. You should leave about a hand span of space to turn your cloth through, though you could leave as little as three fingers width if the cloth is fairly lightweight. Sew the hem using a straight/zig zag or backstitch and turn your armband through the space you’ve left. Close this with a slipstitch or other closing stitch and press the whole lot with your iron so it’s nice and flat.

To lace up the back you need to work a series of eyelets or button holes up the back through which to thread your bootlace/leather cord/braided wool string. Decide how you want to lace the item (working down from the top to bottom) and mark at regular intervals down the open sides of your armband.

I use 7 as it creates a nice pattern (see above) but you can use as many or as few as you wish. Choose the spacing so that your holes are starting and finishing within the stitched seams and mark all your holes. Now stitch your button holes to fit your cord (0.5cm holes are usually ok for a standard round bootlace) or apply your eyelets according to the packet instructions. You can also hand sew your eyelets, but I’ve not got much experience of this.

Turn your armband, sew the final hole closed and add your eyelets

Either open your packet for boot laces or cut your cord. I’ve found using a 4-hole boot lace is long enough for most armbands if you’re not putting them over armour, however getting the length right to accommodate armour takes a bit of trial and error. If in doubt cut a piece that is long enough to easily lace up the armband when it’s flat on its front. When it’s fitted you can choose to trim and seal your bootlace or keep it long to be tied in a floppy bow. I’ve found that having your lace longer is better if you’re tying the armband yourself!

Wear your arm band alone or with other pieces of kit like a belt sash or tabard

Try on your armband with your kit. Your fastening should go at the back of your arm so your design can be seen and so you can tie the laces yourself. You now have a snazzy new piece of larp kit.

 

I have found having the armband laced to begin with helps putting it on as you slip it up over your armour/kit then tighten once it’s in place. This requires the longer laces so that you can work the item over any protruding pieces of armour such as elbows or negotiate loose edges such as chain shirts etc.

 

Variations

Long version

I prefer using laces and having a shorter armband, however I know it can be a real fuss to make all the eyelets and lace it up, so here is a longer version that is designed to be tied like a bandage around the arm and display your mark/heraldry.

Measure the circumference of your flexed arm just above the bicep. Your aim is to be tying your armband around this point as the way the muscles expand to the wider point will stop the band sliding down your arm when tied. Multiply this measurement by 2.5 – 3 to give you the longer ties to either side of your central section (feel free to play around with this to give you the length of ties you want). Add a 5/8” (1.5cm) seam allowance to each end to give your long side measurement. Decide how deep you want the band and add the seam allowance to that measurement. Mark all these on a rough rectangle sketch you should have made (noting your seam allowance) and you’re all good to go.

You now continue making the armband for one-ply/two-ply as above, ignoring the instructions to add the button holes/eyelets. When applying your decoration, try on your armband and tie it roughly where it will be put eventually. Mark the centre of the design on your armband and use that to position your design work. You may find that your design ends up further to one side rather than centrally placed, but that’s just because of your you’re tying the band and where you choose for the knot to sit. The last thing you want is to have the knot jammed into your armpit making movement difficult, particularly if you’ve chosen a thick cloth to make into a two-ply reversible band …

 

Reversible armbands

If you fancy making a re-useable armband that has two versions of a design (for example a militia member and their captain, or a member of a noble house and their man-servant) or two separate designs, you can adapt the two-ply method to accommodate. When adding the motif to one piece of cloth, do the same to the other piece. Place these two pieces RIGHT side together and sew together as normal. When you turn them inside out, you will have the two designs on either side and it’s up to you which one you wear facing the world.

 

Stiffening the armband – using interfacing

If you want a nice crisp finish to your cloth you could stiffen the upper piece with fusible interfacing which can be bought at most fabric shops or in the haberdashery section of John Lewis / Fenwicks or similar department stores. I usually use the mid-weight stuff in white as it’s very versatile and I usually have some scraps kicking around in my cloth box. Just remember to read the instructions on the bottom of the sheet before using it(!) – it normally requires a low iron heat and pressing for about 8 – 10 seconds.

When cutting your cloth, cut the interfacing to the same dimensions and prepare your cloth before decorating. This may make it harder to sew and cause creases in the cloth if you scrunch it whilst sewing, but so long as your cloth is ironed before the interfacing is applied and smoothed afterwards you should be fine.

When applying your interfacing you should note that there is a “dull” clothlike side and a bumpy/shiny side to the interfacing. Place your cloth RIGHT side down on your ironing board, put the interfacing bumpy/shiny side down on top and pin/hold in place. Put a clean tea towel or another piece of cloth between the fabric/interfacing pile and your iron and press for the required time. You want to hold the iron in place over a section of the pile and put your weight through your arm into the board through the iron rather than smoothing back and forth. Once this is done move onto the next section of the pile until you’ve pressed the whole lot together. A check on whether your interfacing is now fused to the fabric is to try and peel them apart. If it gives a little or the edges peel, just press these points for a few moments and try to peel them apart again. You have now got a stiffer piece of cloth that can be treated the same way as any other piece of cloth, though your WRONG side is now the top of the interfacing.

 

Experiment and see which method you prefer for making your armband. And like the belt flash, make many and give to your minions to create that unit pride.

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