Hi all, a complete novice here (both to Empire & to larping in general).
I’ve been looking to make myself a nice big semi-circle cloak for when I join Highguard at E3 this year, which is fine, but I’ve found myself a little stumped when it comes to the actual fabric for it. I’d been considering going for proper thick (maybe even boiled?) wool, but I’m also very conscious of the fact that E3 takes place in July, and to be frank I’d rather not catch heatstroke & perish at my first event (dramatic though that might be!). That being said, I’d prefer to have a reasonably thick/warm cloak if I can, but winter-grade wool is probably overkill. I’m still leaning towards wool if possible, but what are people’s thoughts on cotton drill, for example?
To be quite honest, I feel a tad lost here, so any pointers towards types of fabric, ideal weights, or even manufacturers would be greatly appreciated. What materials have other people used?
Your concerns about wool are understandable, but consider:
If it’s that warm, you won’t need the cloak anyway.
A hot sunny day often means a pretty chilly night, and early mornings can be proper nippy too.
Wool is naturally water resistant and even in July British weather can be eccentric.
I’ve been larping for years and have made many bits of kit, and I would always recommend a coating weight wool for a generic cloak unless there’s a really good reason (allergies, vegan lifestyle, etc) not to.
Pure wool fabric is, alas, expensive. A high wool content blend gives you most of the advantages at a significantly reduced price. One very popular supplier with larpers is an eBay shop called Maggie’s Fab Fabrics - she sells a wool-cashmere-poly blend coating fabric in a variety of neutral colours including Highguard black at around £7 a metre, which is an incredibly good price for what you’re getting.
If you just want a lightweight rain cover/windbreak or don’t feel up to investing in wool just yet, cotton drill with waterproofing applied (either spray or wash-in) works pretty well. I’d strongly recommend buying or making a caped hood in wool if you go for this option - keeping your head, neck and shoulders properly warm and dry makes a huge difference in miserable weather.
My advice would be that the difference between midday and the evening is about equivalent to one good wool cloak.
If E3 is cool, you will probably layer up a little and the cloak will be that lovely toasty top layer. If it is hot, you will wear very little and throwing a wool cloak over the top, which can be draped at first and pulled tighter as the evening goes on, is actually easier than seeking out multiple layers. Also, it’s an investment for E2 and E4 when you realise how much you love Empire, maybe even E1 if you are feeling adventurous…
Natural wool (not washed with detergents) is lovely and waterproof because it is full of lanolin. You very quickly discover the difference between a warm cloak and a waterproof cloak when the rain gets heavy.
I’m in Highguard and my wool cloak comes to every event. Worn for most of the day E1 and E4, but comes out most evenings for almost all events. It’s just plain melton, I haven’t hemmed the bottom edge and it was cut along the selvedge so I’ve only hemmed and reinforced the neck with a little bias tape.
Can I suggest going for an Anvil hem? Keep the bottom edge about 10 inches off the floor and then if we have a muddy one you won’t get a soggy bottom edge to deal with. I also sewed on a hanging tape so it can be hung to dry on a tent wall or mid pole if necessary.
More importantly for both my warmth and Highguard brief I also made a wool cowl out of the same fabric, which gets worn on all but the hottest days as it keeps ears and neck warm and keeps the wind out. Also good for looking Highguard serious, and the wool has enough weight to mostly stay up by itself.
That’s a very good point about the evenings actually - I had been planning on making something quite warm so that it could be worn to E1 or E4 in future, but even in July it can get a tad nippy at night
My first impulse was to make something almost floor-length, cos “Hrnnngg Big CLoak”, but I’m definitely planning on an Anvil hem now, partly because it’s practical, and partly because finding enough fabric to cover my 6+ foot self from throat to ankle is somewhat of a challenge!
This is me in my nice anvil cut half circle cloak on Sunday morning of a very muddy weekend. Still mostly clean. 10 inches off the floor works for me, and you still have plenty of edge to wrap yourself up in to keep out the wind and rain.
Lindybeige does a great video on the benefits of wool cloaks:
Wool is an absolute wonder material. It’s durable, breathable, fire-resistant, anti-microbial, the best insulator, insulates even when wet, and still keeps you dry, and you can get different thicknesses. If you get hot, you can just throw back your cloak and let some cool, fresh air reach your body.
He’s a bit of a contentious source, but he’s not wrong about wool for cloaks. I have a lovely red nurse’s cape (which I intended as phys-rep for a Bloodcloak) and that thing can even be a little warm at times.