Category Archives: pattern


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




Nice sized bell

Our most recent tent was designed as a round tent, in keeping with my philosophy on the distributions of tent types.  And, as usual, it needed to fit a double bed between the centre pole and the walls.  I looked at two options;

  • a smaller version of the circus tent
  • a tent based on the picture below, with a lower eave and less slope in the walls.

Here’s the pdf showing the two options, you can see the double bed between the centre pole and the wall;
cathy and conrad tent Model (1)

Option 1 is slightly taller and has a slightly larger rope footprint than option 2.  They would both fit in a hatchback when packed up.  Here’s another manuscript showing a tent with similar proportions and steeply sloping walls, like option 2;

Detail from illuminated scrolls in Das Epos des Burgunder Reiches 16th century

And here is a picture of the tent we made:


We supplied the tent without the painting and the owners have painted it.  This photo was taken in September and it’s even more beautiful now that the painting is finished.


The tent takes about 22m of 2m wide canvas. Here are the layout diagrams and a useful pdf of them all;

roof layout

wall layout

And here are the pattern pieces;
roof cutting

wall cutting



Using Pythagoras’ theorum,  the guys need to be

sqrt((base radius+distance from base of wall to rope)^2+tent height^2)-radius of roof cone +extra to tie the rope

=4.5m per guy

The storm guys are at 45degrees and they are based on the centre pole height:

sqrt(2 x 3.5^2) +extra to tie ropes (2m)
=5+2=7m each

Total length of rope for 12 guys and 4 storm guys is 12×4.5+7×4= 82m



Pennsic plans

I have to thank Asfridr for pretty much all of this info.

We’re off to Pennsic this year and I’ve heard horror stories of the waste at the end of the event when people throw away the cheap tent and sleeping bags they bought just for the event.  I don’t want to be one of those people.

Also, it would be sort of fun to find a way to be there in a period camping solution.

Maybe we could use a rectangle of canvas like this boy scout advice from 1911?

The Illustrations of the Utrecht Psalter, hrsg. von Ernest Theodore de Walde, Princeton 1932 (Bibliothek der Reijksuniversiteit Utrecht)

The picture on the right is redrawn from the Utrecht Psalter – from about 900.  There’s an original here.

And now I’ve had a play, I’ve worked out that a rectangle approximately 2.5m x 5m will give me a shelter with a floor plan of 2m x 2m.  And a piece of canvas 2m wide could be used for a shelter with a floor plan of 1.65m x 1.65m, which is probably too small for two adults at Pennsic.

Oh well, we were looking for a lightweight camping option for May Crown

Family sized double bell

We’ve made this tent 4 times now.  It seems to be a popular size – you can fit a double bed and three single beds if you wish, or just a double bed and a lot of stuff!

Here’s my concern though: when you look at pictures of military camps, with lots of tents, most are round!  It would be better (?) to have mostly round tents, with fewer of these double bell sort.  Or find some other pictures, with more rectangular and double bell tents.

Anyway, here’s the layout, with rectangles for the beds and people (click to download the pdf) :

This tent style has had several door concepts:

  1. One 2m wide door on the long side
  2. Doors at each short end and in line with the poles on the long side
  3. A 2m wide door on each of the long sides

I like option 3 the best.  It means that you can open the whole tent to catch the breezes and you can put it into tourney mode with the doors up as verandah’s for extra shade.

This tent uses about 30m of canvas (including extra for a pole and tent bags).  Here’s the cutting pattern (and pdf):

The sewing layout:

And the detailed measurements used to make the shapes.  We usually measure one piece with these measurements and then use that piece as a template for the others.  The wall pieces have a 4omm sewing allowance, with 100mm for the eave.

The Innilgard Baronial Pavilion – design and construction

Innilgard wrote to the Lochac mailing list asking if anyone knew where they could get a new pavilion for the Barony.

My husband and I offered.  This is our biggest tent to date – the internal floor area is a bit bigger than 8m x 4m and the space between the poles is 2 canvas widths – 4m.

It’s based on the tent in this picture

Guidoriccio da Fogliano (detail) 1328
Fresco by Simone Martine
Palazzo Pubblico, Siena

One day I”m going to make one that looks more like this, with the stripes and the crows feet wall guys and the rectangular doors, but the Innilgard tent was a good start.

We did quite a few new things with this tent;  Innilgard wanted removable walls and we used a finial based on the extant one in the museum in Basel.  We also decided that we should provide 3 storm guys per pole, like in the fresco.

This is the plan and elevation I prepared so that Innilgard knew what they would be getting.

This version also shows the layout of the leather grommets around the roof eave for the guy hooks to go in.  After making the circus tent with alsomst random guys points, I knew I wanted guys at each quadrant for this one.

When you include space for the storm guys at a 45degree angle, you need a rectangular space at least 12.4m x 8.4m to set up this tent.

We decided to make 6 separate removable wall pieces, to give as much flexibility as possible.  To allow for the curve, we ended up with 2 rectangular pieces and 4 curved pieces.

This picture also shows the layout of the roof, with all except 2 seams sewn.

Here’s a picture of the wall connection technology;

We put the toggles 10cm apart.  In our next tent these will be further apart, probably 20cm.

We sewed the loops onto white tent tape and then sewed the tape onto the walls.

The toggles were sewn into the eave seam.

James made a jig with a piece of wood and nails to measure the distance between loops and the depth of each loop.  He would thread the cord around the nails and then mark the distances with a marker before sewing.

And here’s a picture of the roof finial we made, compare to the real one (!?) here;

There’s a ring on the other side too because James couldn’t make an asymmetrical thing.

We permanently spliced the storm guys onto the rings, so you always know you have the right rope and you don’t get tempted into using the rope to tie down a trailer, and then lose it.  (Thus speaks the voice of experience, sigh)

And lastly, here’s the cutting pattern.  If you leave out the rectangular pieces between the poles, you could also make a single bell tent 4.2m high, with walls 2.1m high and a diameter of 5.4m at the base and 3.4m at the eave.

Looking at this cutting pattern now, I can see that it wasn’t very conservative with fabric.  One of the things I usually really enjoy is seeing how little fabric I need.

We made the roof from 25m of 12oz canvas and the walls with 45m of 8oz canvas, that’s including the rectangular pieces that aren’t shown here.

A geteld pattern

We’ve recently obtained cheap canvas that’s 2.8m wide.  So there’s a bit of a flurry of tent making activity.

On Monday I (with help) cut out my new rectangular tent, so yesterday a friend came over for my Autocad help designing her new tent.

These were the design constraints we used;

  • Geteld shape
  • Able to use as a sunshade
  • tall enough to stand in
  • wide enough to fit a double bed a little way off the ground
  • look reasonably medieval in proportion

We used the same source drawing I used when I designed the soldier’s tents for my kids.

And came up with the following options;

The rectangles are an approximation of a double bed, and the vertical one is a “person”.  The distance between the poles is the 2.8m width of canvas, and the poles are 2.1m high.

The last option was fun.  We wanted to base it on a golden triangle, but then decided on a kepler triangle instead.  We decided we like the 3rd option best, so we patterned it on our 2.8m wide canvas and here it is.

My friend has blogged about the construction, including pictures of the finished object.

The finished geteld

Soldier’s Tents

That’s what we call them.  They could also be called mini geteldt’s.

Here’s a picture of the three we made so my kids could each have their own tent.  There’s another picture in the Rectangular tent post.

3 tents at Rowany Festival 2005

They were made from unproofed canvas which we painted later with a waterproofing material from the canvas supplier.  The fabric was much easier to sew, but the painting was difficult  as we needed to find somewhere it didn’t matter if the compound soaked through.   I now prefer to buy proofed canvas.

Here’s the picture we based the design/justification on.  You have to look carefully, but there are two smaller tents.  They could even be just the roof parts of a double bell tent.  This is also the picture I’ve used for the Circus and Dining tents.

The Czech wagenburg from the Hussite Wars (1420-1433 between Czechs and Germans). This illustration is from Das Mittelateriche Hausbuch, late 15th century.  Note the conical tents!

And here’s an indication of how to cut it out and sew it up.  It’s just a rectangle with half a cone at each end. The line in the rectangular part is the seam we included to make it long enough to fit a bed between the poles.

A friend uses the Custom Pavilion Pattern Generator to work out the size of the pieces you need to cut to make the end cones.