There's been an unbelievable amount of demand for resources on Arya's jerkin (not surprisingly! what a ridiculous garment), and I'm finally getting started on a tutorial! I'm completely remaking mine from scratch, so it'll be easy to walk you guys through it alongside me.
This is part 1: materials, where I'll discuss the materials you need to create Arya's jerkin! Disclaimer: This is just how I made my cosplay! I'm not saying it's the right way or the best way.
I also want to note that many people interpret Arya's jerkin as solid fabric with stitches added on for decoration. My study of her costuming shows that this is inaccurate, so I chose to make her jerkin with separate strips, laced together. That's just my personal choice, and if you want to make your jerkin out of one solid piece and stitch on top of it, that's cool too! :)
For the body of Arya's jerkin, I used something called "webbing," which I originally knew only as the material that backpack straps are made out of. I originally thought her jerkin was probably made of leather (because... it's Game of Thrones), but when I looked at close-ups, the pattern looked very familiar:
I'm not saying that Game of Thrones costumers made her jerkin out of webbing, but I do think it's a damned good match for a cosplayer, and it saves you from having to cut even strips of fabric or leather (and bonus, the edges don't fray!)
I made my first jerkin from nylon webbing because I didn't know it was made in any other materials! I don't recommend this, because a) it's hard to distress, and b) it comes off looking shiny in certain lights! My new jerkin is made from jute webbing, which is a natural fiber.
I got 1" webbing, which I believe to be accurate to Arya's real jerkin, since I am approximately Maisie's size. However, if you are bigger than Maisie is (most of us are), I think you should consider sizing up to a 1.25" or 1.5" webbing to achieve the right overall look.
Although they do sell pre-dyed jute webbing, I couldn't find the amount I needed at the size I needed in the right brown, so I bought natural jute and dyed it myself. I used Rit dye (which you can get practically anywhere... even at Walmart!) in Dark Brown, Tan, and Pearl Grey. I don't have specific amounts for you because I kinda just winged it! Warning if you're dyeing your own jute: It takes dye very quickly, but lightens significantly when it dries. I'd suggest not only doing some test swatches, but waiting at least three or four hours after you dye the tests to make a decision on how to dye the rest of your webbing.
I calculated that for my jerkin, I'd need just under 27 yards of webbing. I calculated this by mocking up a pattern, measuring how many 1" strips would make up each piece, and multiplying the height of each pattern piece by the number of strips. I significantly overestimated how much webbing I would need — on purpose! — because I didn't want to run out. Jute webbing is ridiculously cheap, so I didn't see a problem with getting extra just in case.
You'll notice that Arya's jerkin is hand-laced together — yep, every single strip. (Are you sure you want to make this costume? Haha!) My tip is to sew while binge-watching Netflix. I got through the first one and a half seasons of Once Upon a Time making my first jerkin.
The lacing on Arya's jerkin is just a simple, smooth, round leather cord. The lacing that holds the front of the jerkin closed is a different leather cord — also smooth and round, but thicker. The latter I plan on picking up from JoAnn later, since I will need less than a yard of it. The former I ordered online because I needed it in bulk. I got 2mm cord in black. (I think you could easily get away with brown cord, too. Her jerkin is just so dusty and worn out that it's hard to identify colors beyond "neutral.")
I ordered one spool of 28 yards (25 meters) because I knew I'd need at least as much cord as I needed webbing (since each length of webbing is laced), plus some because there's more lacing per inch of webbing, due to the fact that it's sewn instead of just stretched out straight. (I hope that makes sense!)
UPDATE: I got through all of that cord and have completed less than half of the lacing. I went ahead and ordered two more rolls. So my updated suggestion is to buy about three times the yardage of cord than you did of webbing.
I laced my last jerkin with an upholstery needle, which is just... a big needle. Basically you need a needle that won't bend easily, and that has an eye big enough to fit your cord. It's easier to lace than it looks, because the webbing isn't terribly tightly woven, but you're going to be doing so gosh darn much of it that I still recommend you protect your hands with something — be that a thimble or a sewing palm or whatever.
You'll notice that Arya's jerkin is edged in a narrow, slightly lighter leather. I absolutely hate working with leather, so I am going to use a faux leather. My best tip on finding a material for this is to err on the side of "too dark." Her whole costume is so dark and worn that a bright, clean-looking white or cream will absolutely ruin the look.
I did my first jerkin with coffee-dyed bias tape. It worked (although the color is ridiculously wrong), and I certainly don't think bias tape looks bad. It's sure easier, since you don't have to cut it into strips! I highly recommend bias tape for a beginner. However, I don't recommend coffee dyeing. That shit is hard and didn't work that well.
I machine-sewed the bias tape onto my first jerkin. I think that will work if you are super careful and slow with it, but I was impatient and running late so I rushed it and I think it looks bad. I haven't decided yet if I'm going to hand sew or machine sew the edging onto my new version. I admit that I have a lot more confidence in machine sewing in terms of durability, so I'm leaning that way.
As for the yardage, I used 2 packs of bias tape (6 yards) on my first jerkin, but I also edged some parts that I later learned shouldn't be edged. I think with 5 yards you'll have more than enough. (Of course, I err on the side of having too much, because it sucks to run out and have to find something to match it.)
Other than those main materials, you will also need the following:
- paper for making a pattern (butcher paper, newspaper, or pattern drafting paper)
- measuring tape
- matching thread
- sewing machine or hand-sewing needle
- good scissors (I highly recommend Gingher Knife Edge Dressmakers Shears if you're at all serious about sewing)
Now go, my little water dancers, and fetch your materials! Once you have them, move on to my part 2: patterning tutorial. And to make sure you don't miss future posts, subscribe to my blog on the right-hand side of this page.