Round Corner Round Corner

Our Kit

A member of Anonymous Morris is standing at the centre of a maypole dance to stabilise the central pole. We can clearly see his kit as is described by the rest of this article - black hat, shirt, trousers and shoes plus a rag jacket with black, white and purple tatters. Around him we can see children and parents taking part in a maypole dance.

Image courtesy of Dorsetbays

Our Kit

The Anonymous Morris costume is made up of black trousers, a black pirate shirts with baggy sleeves and black shoes. This is topped off with a purple tatter jacket and a black top hat.

If you have difficulty in getting hold of suitable costume, the bag may be able to loan items if we have them in your size.

Bells are worn around the leg, just below the knee. Bells can be of absolutely any style: single row or bell pads (we never specified a specific style, and probably never will). The bag has a supply of bells that can be loaned.

Top hats are usually the 'Christie' style – not too high and not too low. They can be decorated in any manner you like. Decorations to date have ranged from crocheted flowers to chip forks!

Tatter jackets are generally made by the 'ragman' and are loaned to members for as long as they are with the side. If you're really keen to make your own, speak to the ragman and you'll be given a supply of fabric in a useful combination of colours (the jacket will still remain the property of the side unless you provide your own fabric).

The ragman may appreciate offers to do the sewing, if s/he cuts the tatters and pins them beforehand.

How do you make a tatter jacket?

Find a black shirt (preferably cotton, as it will breathe better) in a charity shop. Loose fitting is best as you want plenty of freedom of movement. Cut off the sleeves. We usually cut off the collar as well.

Next, get a supply of tatters.

Tatters

The base colour is 'Cadbury' purple, which should make up at least a quarter of the tatters. The other colours are lilac, plum purple, black, white, sparkle black (black fabric with holograms printed on it) and occasional other fabrics that combine these colours. These should be sprinkled in fairly evenly, but with a bias towards the purple shades.

Poly cotton is by far the best fabric for ordinary tatters. It frays less than most others; it's lighter in weight; it's fairly cheap, and it can be washed. (Beware of cutting tatters from old clothes. Sometimes it works, but sometimes you end up with nightmare fabrics and have to replace the tatters later on as they fray into nasty strings and knots.)

Cut your tatters out with pinking shears or they will fray regardless of the fabric, and the frayed bits will wrap around other tatters and make a horrible mess. (If you sense the voice of experience speaking here, then you're correct!)

Cut several strips 5cm wide right across the width of your fabric. Then lay the strips on top of each other and chop them into 20cm lengths. There will probably be a bit of fabric about 30cm long at the end. Hang onto this and don't cut it smaller as we'll use it for the bottom row.

Most of the tatters will be poly-cotton, but we want some additional heavier, longer tatters on the tails and shoulders -- the aim is for them to swing out when dancing, and provide contrast to the rest of the jacket. Suitable fabrics include corduroy, velvet and patent leather.

Construction

Start at the bottom of the jacket with those longer tatters that were left at the end of each strip of fabric. Beginning at the bottom means that you can sew each row without the one hanging over it getting in the way.

Your jacket is unlikely to be level all around the bottom, so bear this in mind when planning your bottom row. About 10cm above the highest part of the bottom seam is probably best.

Now work upwards a row at a time with 20cm tatters all the way up the jacket. Space the rows about 9cm apart.

Pin (or glue) each row before sewing it. Make sure the colours are randomised, but with a good balance of colour over the row as a whole.

Rows can be sewn by hand or with a sewing machine. It pays to do a double stitch at the edge of each tatter. It takes a bit longer to sew, but will mean that losing one tatter (which will happen sooner or later while you're dancing) will not mean the tatters next to it coming off as well. Sew about a centimetre from the top of the tatter, so that the edge doesn't fray and cause the tatter to pull free.

The top row can be tricky. You'll probably need slightly shorter tatters for the top row to make the overlap look right. You will also need a tacking stitch part way down the tatter to stop it blowing backwards over the shoulder when you're dancing.

Finish off the top of the shoulder by sewing a sideways strip of fabric as an epaulette. This will hide the ends of the top row of tatters.

Finishing touches

Add two extra rows of heavier fabrics on the back of the jacket with slightly longer tatters. One row goes across the line of the shoulder blades and the other goes near the bottom of the jacket. Depending on the shape of your shirt, you may want to add a short additional row at the bottom.

The heavier tatters go just a cm or two underneath one of the poly-cotton rows. This means that as they swing out, they will lift the row above them, enhancing the effect.

Once you're done, trim the bottom row to give an attractive shape to the tail. The longest tatters should be at the middle of the back.

Any extra long tatters made of lighter fabric can have a giant sequin sewn on to give them a little bit of weight and encourage them to swing. (A bell is probably too heavy, you don't want to hit anyone)

Last, but not least, make sure you check your jacket regularly. No matter how careful you are, a couple of tatters are pretty much bound to work lose over the year. A stitch in time really does save nine.


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We rehearse Thursdays from 7:30 - 9:30pm, at St. James Church Centre, Poole, BH15 1JN