Battle skirt

Time taken: 11 hours
Materials: Black 1.2mm leather, black waxed awl thread, 25mm belt blank, antique brass buckle, antique brass rivets, antique brass 25mm rectangles (76), small pieces brown 1.2mm leather, red suede, 2m muslin cloth, Rit machine dye in black, gold paint.
Tools: Craft knife, scissors, edge bevelling tool, hole punch, speedy stitcher, pliers, mallet, rivet setter and anvil, paintbrush.
Techniques: Pattern making, leatherwork, fabrication, painting.
Difficulty level: Relatively straightforward once I’d worked out how to create the chevron pattern on the skirt.

I used these two pics as my main reference:

The first step involved getting out my quad book and drawing the shape of the skirt to scale, to show how many chevrons would be needed and where each shape would need to be cut and restitched to create the pattern.  Using this diagram, I transferred the pattern onto a large piece of leather (half a hide), cut slightly larger than I had measured to fit me to allow for each seam having an overlap of about 5mm each side.


The skirt is held on using a leather belt, so naturally there was dyeing involved.  I used chocolate brown but the reality is that this part will be completely hidden when worn, so it doesn’t really matter.


The skirt is also shaped in order to hang straight down, so I had to put two darts in the back to allow for my bum, and two on the skirt flaps at the front about where my leg meets my body, to allow for lady hips.


Then I riveted the belt on.  It’s just a plain one with a buckle and keeper and a few holes in case I change size.


Then, I cut off the bottom of the skirt along the first of the chevron lines.  This left me with the top belt part, and the bottom section still with its pattern on.  I then cut the top strip of pattern pieces from the bottom of the skirt, and hand stitched them onto the top part.  I did this for two reasons – first, because I was afraid I’d lose track of which part went where if I cut all the pattern pieces at once.  Second, I wanted the leather to be soft and worn, so the more handling of each piece the better.


I lined the pieces up so that the back split would be straight, and any extra would be cut off the front.  This work was mostly done while watching episodes of Orange is the New Black, and took about 4 hours in total. I was surprised and pleased to discover that the extra overlap had not shortened my skirt too much:


At this point I  got the pliers, some scissors and a knife, and made the bottom edge a little more raggedy.  I also hung it on the washing line and beat it with a file, then threw it on the concrete and jumped on it to scratch it up and soften it.

Then it was time to add the brass rectangles that come down the front.  The front edges needed to be trimmed straight, then the rectangles laid on and two holes punched for each one.  The backs of the rectangles were opened with pliers and the ends threaded into the holes, then squeezed together again to hold them in.


The hardest part about that was getting the holes lined up so that the rectangles would sit straight, even over the seams and joins. But if you look in the picture, the seams of the pattern do go right up to the edge, so that’s how it had to be.  Once they were all in, I ran along the back of each with hot glue, just to help keep them stable as I move and the leather softens.

Then it was time to add the decorative bits and bobs.  Qunari aren’t big on decoration, but this skirt has a red thong draped through a brass ring arrangement, running from front to back.  I did this by adding some short straps, riveted on and each with a brass rectangle on the end.  I cut thongs from a piece of red suede, and threaded them through.


Because my saarebas doesn’t belong to a karataam and therefore may not be exactly the same as Ketojan, I’ve taken some liberties with her decoration.  She’ll have some brass bands around her horns and the red thongs on her skirt hang down like tassels.  It’ll stil be pretty understated though.

The final part for this was to add a lining of grey muslin.  It’s hard to tell in the reference pics whether the skirt is lined or not, but I wanted to have some raggedy looking parts hanging below the bottom of it, and something to match the grey sash that goes around the middle.  Turns out dyeing muslin is harder than I thought.  I bought some fabric dye in grey, which came out a muddy brown.  I tried food colouring.  Finally, what worked to get the grey I wanted was Rit machine dye in black.  Instead of letting it cycle twice through the wash as recommended, I let it go through in one wash so the black didn’t completely take and I got grey.  Who knew?

The lining is riveted onto the inside of the skirt, and sewn to the edges to about knee level.  This should keep it in place where it counts, but leave some to flap around and show at the bottom.


I still have to do some work on making the lining look raggedy, and the sash will need trimming to length once the belt’s done, but I’m happy with how this came out.  Next step – the belt with the long hanging codpiece thing down the front!


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