Yesterday marked the end of our Easter holiday break. This year, Easter landed smack bang in the middle of the school holidays, which was great! It was also close to ANZAC day (a major memorial for World War I, which is a public holiday in Australia). This meant Stephen could take just three days off work and get a whole bunch of continuous time off. Yay!
Easter for me means Rowany Festival. Many years ago (like, about fifteen!) I joined the SCA and went to my first Festival. This is held every year at Easter, taking advantage of the two public holidays and the nearby full moon for perfect autumn camping conditions. If you are familiar at all with the SCA in the US, you may have heard of “Pennsic”, which is similar — a huge medieval camping event. Rowany Festival is the Australian equivalent.
This year, Isobel and I left Stephen minding the little ones, and we spent four nights away. We haven’t been camping for more than one night since … hmm, I can’t think how long! I went a little mental preparing for this one, as you need to spend the whole time in medieval costume. Four nights of camping was enough complexity for me to be thinking about without this added “little” detail!
We knew this Festival would be colder than usual, as we’ve just moved to a new site in the Southern Highlands (about two hours South of me in Sydney). It gets COLD there at this time of year! Those of you in the US will probably snort when I say it got down to almost freezing overnight, but for Sydney-siders, this is a big deal. Where I live, we don’t experience a frost, even in the depths of winter! Camping out in the cold is therefore pretty darn unusual.
Here we are, all rugged up about two hours after dawn: I’m wearing my market day gear that I finished sewing in time for the event, and Izzy is wearing a borrowed gown from a friend in the same campsite. What you don’t see here, is that in addition to the chemise (undershirt), gown, shoulder partlet, and woollen red cloak, I’m also wearing my pyjama pants, a red petticoat, and two pairs of socks!
Market day is the highlight, for me, as everyone tends to wear their prettiest medieval outfits, and the “tavern” area turns into a marketplace with everyone selling medieval stuff (belts, home-spun yarns, pottery, you name it!). I picked up a beautiful tudor-green mud for Stephen, and something for my Mum for Mothers’ Day later in the year (Hi Mum!).
I managed to finish most of the clothing we needed in time for the event, but I was still hand sewing the inside of my woollen cloak whilst enjoying the sun in the campsite on the first full day we were there. To give you an idea of the amount of sewing I got through, here is a list of what I made:
- 2 white chemises
- an early tudor corset, for me
- 2 kirtles (supportive dresses). Mine was green; Izzy scored a wonderful plum coloured one
- 2 partlets (white shoulder coverings)
- 1 almost full circle wool cloak — scarlet! Izzy was using my old one with the fake fur
- 2 pairs of reversible detachable sleeves, Izzy’s green and beige, and mine, green and blue.
- A white linen apron for me
Wow, that was a lot of sewing! There’s a lot of work still to do, such as sewing eyelets where the lacing goes (I cheated with some lacing tape for the event), and by hand sewing the hems where they are machine-basted. I also need to hem the cloak, but as I “fulled” the wool first (partly felting it) I was able to get away with leaving it raw for a few days on site.
Ultimately I will make an over-gown for these outfits which laces across the tummy in the Flemish / Netherlandish style. This was all heavily inspired by the work done by Drea Leed, on the Elizabethan Costuming site (an excellent resource for anyone interested in this sort of thing!). Here are pictures of her version. I used her corset pattern generator to make the corset (which I forgot to take with me, d’oh!) and I also used the chemise pattern (the authentic version) for our white undershirts.
Rowany Festival has much more to offer than just camping in medieval dress: there is dancing, fighting, archery, children’s quests, feasting … pretty much anything you can think of that was medieval you can do it (or learn about it) at Festival. Such fun! I’m already looking forward to next year, when we might take Will along too.
But let’s face it, camping with a medieval contraption like this over your campfire is reason enough!