What started as a few friends sharing their love for sewing and renaissance garb has turned into “Sewing for Renaissance Festivals,” a Facebook group with more than 10,000 members from around the world.
The online group shares photos of completed work, asks for suggestions, or asks for help in finding materials. Locally, the core group of eight to 10 friends gathers once a week at members’ homes to sew garb for themselves, friends, family, and for custom orders.
With the popularity of renaissance fairs, like the annual Maryland Renaissance Festival held at the Anne Arundel County Fairgrounds, the market for fair garb continues to grow exponentially. It is estimated that more than 50 percent of the 280,000 Maryland Renaissance Festival attendees do so in medieval period costumes known as garb, a number that does not include the costumed entertainers, musicians or theatrical performers, all of whom are in their most authentic time-period outfits.
While attendees can rent garb for the day at the festival, many more prefer their own outfits.
“We are on a year-round hunt for sale fabrics, patterns and one-of-kind trim,” said Arnold resident Kathy Pettigrew while she was working on a custom order.
Pettigrew’s basement has been transformed into a comfortable sewing room with bolts of fabric, thread, rivets, buckles and rolls of trim to rival any high-end fabric store. She and her fellow seamstresses create bloomers to bodices, and court dresses to hats, and everything in between.
“There is a real sense of pride when garb I’ve created is unique and really stands out,” Pettigrew added. “I start by talking to the customer to find out what they want. What style and what colors? I love making things that are one-of-a-kind and really flatter the person who will wear it.”
The Maryland Renaissance Festival will take place August 27 through October 23 this year. During that time, the seasons will change, and the temperature could exceed 90 degrees or be as low as the 50s, so fabric choices are important.
“We try to only use natural fabrics … breathable cottons,” Pettigrew said. “Capes and coats may not be needed in August, but they will be by October!”
In 2014, the group created a venue where other sewers and vendors could gather to swap patterns and materials at low cost. That event has grown every year and now has to be held at a new location to house all of the vendors, food trucks, and artists. COVID caused previous events to be canceled, but the group is excited to host a sale this month.
The sixth annual renaissance garb and crafts sale will be held July 23 from noon to 4:00pm at the Anne Arundel County Fairgrounds, located at 1450 Generals Highway in Crownsville.
The event is a combination of a flea market, yard sale and craft festival, with new and gently used merchandise for renaissance festivals for sale. More than 30 vendors will offer a combined selection of crafts, artwork and jewelry for purchase.
Plenty of styles will be for sale, including renaissance wear, cosplay, steampunk, fantasy, pirate and fairy, as well as accessories. Dressing rooms will allow people to try on their garb to make sure the fit is perfect.
Additionally, food trucks, like Green Valley and EZ Access Eats, will be onsite. For the kids, there will be face painting and a vendor doing colorful fairy hair tinsel weaving.
There is no cost to attend. More than 1,000 people are expected to attend, and Pettigrew said she and her fellow garb creators are ready.
“During COVID, we were mostly home sewing!” she said. “So, we have a great inventory, and we are really excited to share our creations with fellow renaissance fair enthusiasts.”
For more information, visit www.marylandgarbsale.com.
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