So being a broke college student with I family, I have to be very frugal with my fabrics. I am always looking for new material, specialy at thrift stores, discount sheets, and curtains. When I go into a fabric store I am there for hours, I look for all the bargins, I will get a simular looking fabric if it is on sale or clearance, my family often gives me fabric, I have gotten some fabric cheap from family of freinds who no longer are able to sew, and some from auctions at events, so now I have a small stash of fabric.
One of the best ways I have found to save money is by not wasting fabric when cutting. If I can make a nice looking kirtle out of 3 yards instead of 5 or 6, I save money. Even if it is on sale for $2.99yd. Often times when using found fabric (aka thrift store) it may be difficult to find large yardages of fabric that could pass for being midieval. So If I can find 3 yards of a wool looking material, Yeah! I can work with it if is wider (54'' min) Most often I find cottons and muslins at thrift stores, along with small amounts of fancier fabrics which could be used as trim for a gown, or a shirt for my husband, son, or kid brother. Same thing for trims, I don't often use bias tape, since it is expensive, and I prefer to hem my edges, I have used satin ribbon for trim, I have used thin stripes of fabric for trim, just folding the raw edges under before sewing.
So below is the cutting method I have found to be the least wastefull when making a kirtle or a coat. Click on it to bring up a larger image. Remember this only works if you (or the person you are making the dress for) is shorter. If one selvege can touch your chin, and the other drag 1'' on the floor it is long enough for a gown that skims the floor. I, being aproxmently a size 7 or 8 need a minimum of 3 yards for a slim kirtle such as here, which is fine for camp/working garb, but I prefer 4 yards for my nicer garb such as this one.
1) Take all your measurements, write them down, and draft them on newpaper, newsprint, ugly or scrap fabric or even the lining fabric etc... remember seam allowances, and lacings!!! I use 1'' you really only need one front, one back and one sleeve, unless using it as a lining.
2) Lay fabric on a flat surface, folding the fabric over itself by about 2 thirds.
3) Lay down your sleeve pattern on the single layer of fabric not folded over, so that it takes the least amount of width (which for me is shown above)
4) Cut off the rectangle where your sleeves will be. Make sure this is as straite as possible, and close to your sleeve pattern (you did remember seam allowances on you pattern right?) fold this in half and cut 2 of your sleeve pattern. Save your scraps!!!! You may need them for gussets, or repairs.
5) Repostion your fabric so that the two non-selvage edges meet. Postion your front and back patterns so that they are touching on the bottoms, but have space in between on the top of gores.
6) Cut out your front and back peices first, then your gores. Then you should be ready for fittings.
Note that for 4 yards layout, I have 2 gores in the center, on one the folded edge, and one that will have a middle seam on the opposite edge, my gores may not all be the same width, but I do keep them aproxmently the same height. The two gores that are the same size I use as side gores, and the one with the seam I use as a back gore. But that is just my preferance. Also that the bottoms of the front and back pieces will flare out more with 4 yards and less with 3 yards. The circumferance of the hem of the four yard skirt is almost 1 1/2 times large than the 3 yard skirt.