Preparing to SCA

Originally posted to my Facebook page.

Someone I’ve come to think of as a friend is interested in joining the SCA. Naturally, I’m thrilled, because I love sharing my hobby like some people love sharing their religion. But this friend is very smart, which means that she rightly sees that going to school full time plus holding two jobs may be already as much as she can handle. The SCA is something that returns about as much as you put into it, so if you truly only have a spare half-hour a week to think about SCA pursuits, you probably won’t enjoy the SCA all that much, because that’s definitely not enough time to really dig into anything.

Or… is it?

Let’s say my friend just started on her four-year degree, or a comparable time of graduate school or internship or whatever. Let’s say that, like many people who are working two jobs while going to school, it takes her five years. Let’s say that my friend goes to school year-round instead of only from autumn to spring, or else that she increases her work load over the summers, so that all year she’s got about the same amount of free time, no more or less. And let’s say that that free time varies considerably, but she gets a general average of roughly 4 entirely un-spoken-for hours per week (not in class/work, not sleeping, not commuting), and that she gets it in segments of no less than half an hour at a stretch.

52 weeks/year x 5 years x 1 hour/week= 260 hours

And actually, that’s not bad at all.

In one hour, a person could:

* do one step towards making oneself a pair of custom, period shoes — drawing a (fabric) shoe pattern, cutting it out, sewing it together to test fit, transferring the pattern to a piece of leather, cutting it out, awl-punching the holes, sewing the bits together, soaking and turning the shoe, trying it on and going “Dang, I made a shoe!”
* do one step towards creating a nice warm hood.

* troll a thrift shop for feast gear. All a person truly needs is a plate, bowl, cup or goblet, spoon, knife, maybe a two- or three-tined fork, and a bag or basket to keep it all in. Bonus points, of course, if you have two large cloth napkins (one to act as a personal table cloth), a jar or dish for salt, and a small candlestick and taper candle so you can see what you’re eating in a natural-light-only feast hall.

* do more thrift shop trolling, this time for boxes, baskets, or chests. The perennial problem of any SCAdian is having a period-looking way to hold and carry things. Chests are especially nice, because they can hold your garb at camping events, and also act as seating within your encampment.

* do even more thrift shop or Craig’s List trolling (this will become a common thing), now for a tent, cot or some other bed type thing, blankets, and sheets. These will contribute greatly to your comfort at camping events.

* learn some very basic sewing stitches. Four stitches — running stitch, buttonhole/blanket stitch, whipstitch/overcast stitch, and backstitch — form about 95% of the stitches found in extant garments from the middle ages.

* learn some very basic embroidery techniques. Cross stitch, herringbone stitch, fly stitch, feather stitch, satin stitch, chain stitch, and broken chain stitch are all found in period garments, and aren’t hard to learn. Supposedly. I’m still getting there, but hey, at least I know what to do with one spare hour. 😉

* decorate one piece of wooden feast gear. Plain, yet beautiful.

* do some of the steps to make a period style of undercap, or at least get some of the steps done (future steps are for future hours!). This person loves to go way above and beyond the call of duty when it comes to garbing, and she’s an inspiration for sure. You can simplify most of what she does until it meets your own level of skill.

* make a braiding loom.

* make about 6 inches of kumihimo braid, using the above loom, for lacing up your eventual garments or for using as drawstrings on this or that. You can always use more braided cord.
* attend a “fighter practice” or other group SCA activity in your area and meet actual SCAdians. Okay, this actually usually lasts for 2-3 hours once a week, but it may be worth it, once in a while when you find you have extra time after all. In some locations, fighter practice only means fighter practice. In others, it means that fighters do their thing in one area, while everyone else gets together in other areas to sew, do pewter casting, leather working, embroidering, knitting, period styles of dance, and so on. You’ve got the whole of Facebook at your disposal, so ask around for the SCA folk in your area to tell you where to find information on what’s going on in your barony. Loads of people will leap to help, because they’ll want to meet you and introduce you to all the things they think are cool. The ones that sound cool to you, try them out. The ones that don’t sound cool… try those, too. You never know what will suddenly capture your fancy. If it’s not fun, at least you can say you tried, and you probably met some good people while you were trying it out.

* do a small amount of research into a particular time, place, or subject related to SCA pursuits.

* sketch out some garb that you think you might eventually want to wear.

* learn a period style of head covering.

* plot out a woodworking project.

* learn to card-weave. — Cathrin does this as edging on a hood, but woven braids/trims are useful in myriads of ways, plus they’re really pretty.

* learn to play a period musical instrument, such as a recorder or drum.

* take a fencing or archery class at school (they do have a Phys Ed department there, right?). Bonus: this comes with actual credits towards graduation.

* take a sewing class at school. The one and only firm requirement for participation in the SCA is “an attempt at pre-17th century clothing.” So, learn to make your own “attempt.” As I’m starting to learn, it’s intimidating if you don’t know how, but it’s actually not that hard, at least for some of the simpler garb items. Plus, it’s cheaper in the long run to make your own things (paying for fabric and notions) than to pay someone else to make them (pay for fabric, notions, plus their time and expertise). Bonus: graduation credits.

* learn to sing period songs or do period dances.

* take a medieval history, art, or literature class at school. Graduation credits, plus lots of knowledge.

* post to a blog, or at least a journal, about the things you’re learning, the things you want to try to learn, the things you’ve made. At times you’ll think you’re not really doing anything, but if you go back and look at all the things you’ve done so far, you’ll be impressed with yourself, and it will re-energize you to re-tackle a sticky problem or approach something you’ve been nervous to try.

You get the idea, yes? In 260 hours, you might very well manage to learn enough to feel confident talking about things at SCA events, as well as equip yourself with things that you’d want to wear or use at a day-event or camping-event.

This also, by the way, works with money. If you put $5 into a box (or bank account) every week for 5 years, you’ll have $1300 by the end of that time. That would go a long way towards the buying of a tent, or a really killer stash of garb fabric, or some tools (sewing machine, leather or wood working tools, cheese or soap making equipment), bedding, or whatever else you feel you want in order to be comfortable and stylish, and to learn quite a lot, going forward into the SCA.

You don’t need a lot of STUFF to participate in the SCA. But if you’re like me, you think that learning about material culture (the “stuff” of everyday medieval life) and learning to make the stuff is a big part of what’s fun. Well, there’s learning to be had, even if you can only spare one hour a week  for it. What would you know how to do, if you spent even just one hour a week for the next five years?