Some Useful Advice
These are hints, tips, and suggestions gleaned from my newsgroup postings
and emails over the years. I hope they will continue to be of use to some.
Shoes and comfort at events:
Provided you don't have any painful foot problems in daily life, you
might try what I've used to make some of my period shoes more comfy/padded/shock
- For use in already -existing shoes:
- Period method 1: Make a felt insole shaped to your foot
or an insole of a layer or two of soft thick fulled cloth. This
is good for shoes that have room in them.
- Period method 2: Line the inside of the sole with wool,
silk or cotton wadding or soft grass or rags. This is good for shoes
with a little less room.
- Non-period methods: Using modern gel insoles or sport insoles.
This is, however, good only for shoes with enough extra space to
accomodate the modern insole.
- When building your own period shoes:
- Method 1: a wool stuffed insole
When you cut out the sole and before you add anything else to the
shoe, cut a piece of glove/garment leather or soft fabric in the
same shape. Take a bit of wool wadding (carded wool, ready for spinning
works best for me. You may use cotton or poly batting if you prefer)
and shape it so it's about the same shape as your sole, but a little
smaller. Try it out by placing it on the sole and standing on it,
if it's thick enough, you'll notice a difference right away.
Keep adding bits of wadding to the pad until it feels good. Glue
the fabric/thin leather along one side of the sole, making sure
the edges are flush (so sewing will make this seam permanent)place
the shaped wadding into the pocket and glue the insole down all
around the edge, making sure the edges meet. Build shoe as usual.
You can also use this method to 'hide' a gel insole in a period
- Method 2: a foam stuffed insole
Cut out your soles, then cut two slightly smaller, but otherwise
identical soles from a high-density foam, about 1/6 of an inch thick
- old mousepads are best for this, or go to a craft store and look
Draw a pattern from your soles, with about a 1/2 inch 'allowance'
added. Using this pattern, cut two covers for the foam insoles from
a thin leather. **you may add additional padding of wool wadding
between the insole foam and its leather cover, if you choose** Glue
the leather covers in place (for best results, spread the glue thinly
on the foam), wrapping and gluing the allowance over the edges.
Glue this leather wrapped sole to the leather outer sole, using
the seam allowance. Trim off any excess of the insole covering,
and build your shoe. This technique can be used to add a shaped
foam support insole as well, but it will be tough to get right due
to the contours of such supports.
Another thing that will help is learning to walk barefoot - it's a different
technique, hard to describe, but it reduces the impact of the foot hitting
the ground. It's more of a weight shifting kind of walk, sort of like
trying to walk without making any noise on a squeaky floor (minus the
exaggerated tiptoe posture). Talk to some of the dance people in your
area, they may be able to *show* you how to do it. Remembering to walk
like this has helped my feet immensly at events. Hope this helps!
General advice to the SCA newbie on a budget
You may hear people saying that the SCA is an expensive hobby. That
can be true, but it can also be a great hobby to enjoy on a budget.
How do I know? I participated in the SCA for nearly a year while my employer
wasn't paying me and then when I changed jobs my second employer paid
my very little and that very irregularly. (both are now out of business,
what luck, eh?) Yes, I typed that correctly. I had to sew on the side
and use up my savings to cover basic living expenses, but I was *also*
working 40 hrs a week. Previous to this I was an actor at renfaires for
several years on 35hrs/wk at $6/hr. In California, in the SF bay area.
After 1991, so to those that live in Ca. will know how much I had to put
towards living expenses. Practically *everything*.
So, I was *very* poor. Yet I still managed to participate in my hobby.
- Bargain hunt!
- If you look, you can find all kinds of things for very very little.
Haunt sale sections and charity shops for things you need. Early on,
I spent relatively little on garb and feast gear. I often recycle old
fabric (one of my first sets of Elizabethans was made of old curtains,
rit dye, and upholstery trim) try to buy fabric when I have a little
extra cash ($20 in a fabric store with a sale section can go a long
way!). I save up and buy the reference books I cannot live without (and
when I worked next door to Lacis, i used to put books on layaway). My
feast gear cost me $6 all told, including a wooden bowl and cup and
my fancy horn spoon. $3 if you count the previous version which was
bowl, cup and small wooden spoon. I still use it.
Pack a picnic. Really.
- I very often brought simple food with me to events - bread, cheese,
apples. I didn't attend large fancy expensive events, despite invitations
to do so, as i did not have the money (and the one year I was going
to go to Twelfth Night it was flooded out...).
Barter your time and skills for room/board with established households.
- At faires and SCA camping events, I often traded work for food and
paid my freinds' household back slowly for any other food expenses.
Other times I baked bread (which is fairly simple and inexpensive to
do, but is very time-costly) for the entire encampment prior to the
event. I had freinds who let me 'room' with them in their spacious pavilion
until I could afford a tent of my own. I got rides with freinds to events,
in exchange for gas money.
Use your time instead of your money.
- I make a lot of my own simple jewelry, and find things in the oddest
places. I make all of my own garb and nearly all of it from fabric that
costs between $6/yd (costly for me!) and .50/yd. I go to libraries after
work and research there. I save things that will be useful in making
reasonably period looking other things. I have found them to be useful
time and again. Nearly all of my kit is reasonably authentic (or at
least reasonably medivaloid), because I took the time to try.
Dress simply and comfortably to start with.
- Nearly all of my early garb was 'simple', and it still mostly is.
I like it that way. I don't listen to anyone who tells me that I should
be wearing velvet. They can roast in summer heat if they like, but not
Borrow what you do not have, and be honorable about returning it.
- Since I have assembled a large amount of clothing and gear over the
past 10 years or so, on my small budget, I have things to loan to new
people starting out. And I have done so, for at least the last five
or six years. I'm not alone in keeping loaner items, and often you can
borrow garb from your group as well.
Be willing to learn from others, learn new skills, and share what
skills you already possess.
- I also share my thrifty tricks and techniques, and teach people how
to sew and spin and cook. I started out on $6/hr with some fabric remnants
and a basket and a wooden cup. Oh, and some freinds who helped me, the
way I help others now. Without those it would have taken me longer and
been much less pleasant, and I would have been less likely to want to
do this year after year.
What've you got? I bet you can make it go farther than you think ;)
On selecting sewing machines
I have two machines, one an expensive NewHome and the other a 'Jeans
Machine' from White. The new home is a good machine, but it's expensive.
On the other hand, the White has made at least 20 corsets, countless costumes,
and helped with re-covering my quilts. It is a portable, and its predecessor
(given to my sister because she needed one and my mother-in-law had a
fancy table model and no space for mine) is still going strong, after
nearly ten years (and only needing one tune-up after a cross country move)
of making garb and corsets and furniture bits. I loved the thing so much,
that I bought a new one after giving mine away. My m-n-l's *expensive*
machine may do fancy stuff, but the motor just sort of gives up after
long sewing, or any heavy sewing.
I consider it, from fairly long experience, to be essentially a portable
version of the huge cast-iron industrial model we have (although slightly
less likely to run away from an inexperienced seamster). It has the added
advantage of being easily carried, but not so light that it bounces off
the table. It also has a nearly idiot-proof buttonhole setting, and a
couple of reasonably fancy stitches for doing patching and holding better
than zigzag. It is also fairly inexpensive. Mine was about $200ish and
they can often be found on sale, as they are essentially working machines
and not ultra-chic hobby-sewer models. I think it is actually the bottom
of the line. It will have all you will need, and no fancy stitches (besides
the ducks...I still haven't figured those out) that you will never use
and may end up paying $$$ for those alone.
On the other hand, if you can find a used Singer, White or Kenmore from
the 1950's or 60's (these all look vaguely military, Heavy steel with
a crumpled industrial paint finish, NOT plastic cases) that is in good
shape, still in its table, and works, you will also have a good little
workhorse. The bobbins may require some hunting down, but otherwise these
are really easy to manage. Test before you buy. Hot wires are a bad sign.
You will also want to get a book on general sewing theory, just so you
don't have to call somebody to ask why two peices of fabric that were
the same size when you started somehow ended up being different lengths
when they came off the machine. I suggest that you check out used bookshops
and thrift stores. The ones from the 70's are especially entertaining,
and usually cheap. I have two. My favorite is the Singer Sewing Book,
1972. Comprehensive and full of interesting tips on decorative patches
and the tasteful use of rickrack....
On buying a used or antique spinning wheel
First, a book you should DEFINITELY have, if you are considering a used
spinning wheel of questionable history, is The
Care and Feeding of Spinning Wheels:A Buyers Guide and Owner's Manual_
by Karen Pauli. I got mine at Borders, but I seem to recall that Barnes
and Noble also carries it. It covers exactly this sort of problem!
- Meta-lists of
Anatomy charts of spinning wheels:
(specifially this one: http://www.jb.man.ac.uk/~caj/partname.html
Useful how-to guides:
On getting an older wheel:
For the sake of consistency, I'm assuming it's a flyer wheel. Spindle
wheels (great wheels fall into this category) have different characteristics.
If you can, take an experienced spinner with you for guidance.
Things to watch out for:
- Badly damaged
or missing flyer assembly.
- They *can* be replaced,
but it will be expensive if the model is an antique or a modern one
that isn't made anymore. What to look for : The flyer should have
two arms, even if only one has hooks. The rod that holds the bobbin
should be smooth and unbent. There should be a tensioning screw in
the front maiden that is operated by turning the top of the maiden
to increase or decrease tension. If the screw and knob are missing,
it's a no-go.
- The two vertical
bars that support the flyer assembly.
- The metal bar that
drives the wheel.
Cracked, chipped or otherwise badly damaged major parts:
- This includes
the drive wheel, table (flat supporting section, like a stool that
everything sits on), or any other large, integral wooden part. Legs,
however, can be replced fairly easily (see below).
No bobbins (spools), or only one, on an older wheel.
- If it is a newer
one, you can sometimes order bobbins from the manufacturer. Older
or antique wheels will require that you have a local woodworker turn
new ones for you, which can be expensive, unless you have relatives
or close friends who want to help out and do this sort of thing.
Things that can be missing/damaged and are easily replaced on all
- Drive band
- These can be ordered
from most spinning suppliers and can be fitted to any size of wheel.
- These are leather
on older wheels, usually a metal hinge on new ones.
- Can be replaced
with a dowel and some metal or leather hardware, depending on the
type and age of the wheel.
- Can be made from
flat stock fairly easily.
Metal hardware, such as screws, bolts and nuts
- A trip to hardware
store might net you some odd looks for toting the wheel with you,
but you'll get what you need. If you do not, replacement parts may
have to be custom-machined for your wheel.
- Small cup hooks
can be used to replace these.
- You can actually
buy new, readymade, furniture legs at Home depot and cut them down.
You should cut the top of the leg to an angle (if one of the intact
legs is loose, pull it out to look, and to use as a template), and
you may have to sand down the circumference of the leg at the join
for a good fit.
Leather 'eye' that holds the far end of the flyer assembly
- This is basically
a square of thick saddle leather with a hole punched in it, that is
screwed or nailed into a notch in the side of the rear maiden. Some
wheels use a wooden one.
"Optional stuff" (these are not universal parts - some
kinds may not have them in the first place)
- Brake band
- Used only on wheels
that use 'scotch tensioning', also easily replaced with strong cord
and a small spring. These can often be ordered from spinning wheel
Attached (integral) distaff
- Even if your wheel
had one of these to begin with, you can survive without it until one
can be made to replace it.
Vertical bar to close an 'onboard' spool rack
- My mother's wheel
had one of these that went missing and I replaced it with a dowel
until the original was located.
Getting your man to wear tights
Some men just can't handle the idea of wearing tights. I got around this
by telling one I sewed for that I'd be borrowing his most snug pair of
sweatpants to take a pattern off of (after he'd worn them, of course,
since they stayed shaped like him once he took them off). Never tights.
Medieval sweats, or trews, or hosen.
Quick 16th century girdles
- Beautiful heavy cord, alone or twined through a chain around the waist,
and the dangly bit is made up of one length of the heavy cord, with
the jewel tied or sewn to the end. Clasp at the waist with a matching
- Two similar chain belts hooked together, with the pomander/jewel
hooked to the end of the dangly bit.
- Two long chain-and-ornament type necklaces taken apart and put back
together, with a jewelled pin or buckle at the joint of the 'y'.
- If there is a Walmart (or other large discount type store) near you
, go to the accessory section and get two matching gold or silver chain
belts. You should be able to hook them together with small jump rings
(jewellry department of a hobby store or craft dept of any large discount
store) or safety pins. If you use safety pins, use at least four and
crimp down the catches so they cannot come open.
- If you want to use cord alone, you should get the heavy, 3/4" wide
drapery cord. Any fabric store that has home dec supplies should have
this in several colors and maybe even a few styles.
Period parasol sources
All listed below are online shops that make or sell straight-handle
flat-rib bamboo or rattan umbrellas with cotton, paper or silk covers.
I have not purchased from any of them, but I thought you might find my
research assistance useful.
- paper and cotton
chinese parasols (expensive, though)
- gorgeous traditional
japanese paper, silk and silk-laminated-paper parasols, prices given
in yen. Several different styles and quality levels given.
- A manufacturer and/or
reseller of thai paper, cotton and silk parasols. Several styles, including
silk with tassels or fringes. Prices given in US dollars, reasonable
Gift ideas for the reenactor or SCA person
- Jewelry appropriate to their chosen period would be good. If
you are shopping for a couple and they are in the same period, matching
brooches are great.
- Do they attend camping events/wars/etc? If yes, any of the
following would be great:
- A nice set of hangings for the inside of their pavilion
- A carpet, or set of small carpets for their pavilion
- A chest/table and/or a set of stools/chairs
- Wrought iron lamp/banner supports
- A portable firepit
- If not, then do they have any A&S pursuits or hobbies that inspire
A honey-substitute to use when cooking for those who are allergic
Since I have encountered people who are allergic to honey, and many period
recipes call for honey, I worked out a simple recipe for a substitute.
Below is the formula that I came up with so I could make things that would
otherwise have honey in them and they would still be edible for everyone.
Things like bread, cookies, sweet teas, homemade granola, tummy-drops
(see below), etc.
- Honey substitute: For bread recipes that call for a slightly
acid sweetener like honey, I mix sugar or the equivalent amount of fructose
with enough lemon juice and water (to taste) to make a thick syrup.
That fulfils the slightly acid chemical requirement without poisoning
- Tummy Drops: These are medicinal ginger pastilles, made for
people who can eat ginger but who don't like the sensory assault of
candied sliced ginger for an upset stomach.
I make them with powdered ginger and sometimes a dash of powdered cloves,
mixed with a honey (or honey-substitute) binder to make a paste, shaped
into pea-size balls and rolled in cornstarch, then baked on a low heat
(200-300 degrees) to dry.
They are an excellent natural upset-tummy fixer, and should be taken
one or two at a time with a small glass of water. I always label each
tin carefully so nobody gets sick from them due to allergies. Instead
of honey or my honey-substitute, you can also use thick karo syrup or
some other sticky syrup. Obviously, those who are allergic to ginger
should not eat these.
Controlling Baby at events
Leashes/leading-strings are plausibly period (for at least some of us),
and were documentably used late- and post-period (My reccollection puts
this at 16th-19thc) to keep babies out of the hearth while mother cooked,
and likely for other safety issues. I have not researched this specific
thing for our period, but I'm sure somebody has, and my guess is that
Also, my mother used the modern equivalent of this solution to keep my
wandering sister and brother safe (and dressed! the little back closing
harness tends to prevent the wee one from choosing to have "naked
time" when it might be inappropriate or unsafe), and may even have
used it for me. No ill effects, unless tantrums count.
In my experience, it allows the child to run around and tire him/herself
out (for naptime), allows independence/play/exploration within reason,
and is both physically healthier and psychologically/physiologically healthier
than penning a child, who is old enough to walk, up in a stroller.
We use one I made of 2" wide cotton trim on our son. He loves it.