Sunshades

Like so many things in the SCA, we seem to have made something that works, that people like and that we can’t quite document as an item used in period.

These are the sunshades used by the Barony of Stormhold for our monthly tournaments.  They’re easy to put up, dry, store and transport.  They were pretty easy to make and have lasted for nearly nine years so far.  We even made a pair for our neighboring barony, Krae Glas.

Photo by Faye Sutton Photo by Faye Sutton

I think the original inspiration came from this article by Charles Oakley.  Unfortunately, our first efforts didn’t include the front part, which seem to be pretty universal in the manuscript pictures showing tournaments.  The collection of links for merchant stalls and fairs include some more promising documentation however.

  Tournaments of the Castle of the Maidens (fol. 265v), 1463

Here’s our design
As the canvas we buy is typically 2m wide, it’s easy to make stripes approximately half a canvas width.  Each piece is flat fell seamed together and then the whole piece is hemmed.  The leather hole reinforcement is the same as we use on all of our tents.sunshade layout

To put up the sunshade you also need 4 poles, each 2.1m high, 12 tent pegs and  8 ropes.  You won’t always need 2 ropes on each pole, but it’s helpful on blustery, windy days.

Other uses
These sunshades/rectangles of canvas can also be used as an enclosed tent, or a larger, wall-less sunshade, or as a tent like one of these;

The Capitulation of Colle di Val d'Elsa
The Capitulation of Colle di Val d’Elsa by Pietro di Francesco Orioli c.1479

 

 

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5 thoughts on “Sunshades

  1. I was overjoyed a few years ago to find mention in the Accounts of the Lord High Treasurer or Scotland, for James IV, of 20 ells of canvas for a kitchen, in the same section as tents and related items. The conclusion I came to was that it was to cover any cooking activities when on campaign. Either that or a huge tarpaulin for the cart carrying cooking stuff. But I prefer the latter option. There are also 16th century illustrations showing various canvas covered shelters hosting people cooking or drinking, when the army is in camp, but I’ve not managed to find any medieval ones.

  2. Hmm, my earlier post doesn’t seem to have come up.

    Basically, my understanding is that canvas then was only 2 or 3 foot wide, so 60 feet of it would make the same sort of shelter size as I had at scouts or we have in my re-enactment group, probably not a full blown tent. Also I don’t recall any extra bits for it, I’ll need to check the accounts again. And anyway, surely to cook within as a ‘tent’ it would have to be pretty big, whereas the shelters you see in the pictures are open ended at least and I wouldn’t call them tents.

      1. No, because it didn’t exist in late 15th century Scotland. There are other sources, but I can’t recall what width they say exactly, but I have a vague memory of the usual sort of narrow weave, i.e. 2 to 3 foot wide. The Medieval taolors assistant says usually 50 to 114cm wide, so up to 3.5 or 3.7 foot wide. Unless of course you’ve got evidence for wider widths being made.

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