Category Archives: pictures


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




Looking good!

Here’s a picture of a tent that is often used to justify the hub and spoke method of construction;

Battle of La Roche-Derrien

And take a look at the photo I took of the nice sized bell last weekend;

2015-05-07 15.01.55

Look!  No framing, just a centre pole, good shaping of the roof pieces and a bunch of ropes!

I think there’s another manuscript picture that matches my photo even better – remind me in the comments?

The nice sized bell becomes a double bell


In almost all of the tent pictures where you can see the guy ropes, the guys have what we call crow’s feet.  Crow’s feet are the three (less often two) ropes coming off the eave of the tent that are knotted (it seems) into just one rope that is pegged to the ground.  Like this:

We’ve always struggled with the crow’s feet.  They’re difficult to adjust, we’re not sure of how to do the knot and mostly we’ve just put them in the too hard basket and gotten quite a good shape to our eaves anyway;

A few days ago, I discovered this picture.  It’s out of period, but it’s suggesting an alternative construction technique for the guys:

Maybe the guys go up to the centre pole and are sewn to the roof canvas, maybe the crow’s feet are then tied on to the main guy to hold out the eave?

What do you think?

European tent in cross section showing arrangement of supporting ropes and hanging walls. c. 1641.

A different way to cut out.

We’ve been making round tents for a while now.  When I look at the eave lines of the tents in manuscripts I can see that they’re very round.

leopold alterpiece 1492 detailfoglian5a

I’ve always cut the wall pieces with an arc at the top and bottom and get a very round looking tent.

cutting detail from the family double bell showing the wall and roof pieces
cutting detail from the family double bell showing the wall and roof pieces
single bell
single bell

Note the wavy shape at the eaves?  I think that’s because when we peg out the eave guys of these tents we don’t follow the line of the roof and put the pegs too far away from the base.  It’s counter intuitive, but something I’m going to keep an eye on.

You can see that the base is very round.

But many pictures don’t show a round base.

Hausbuch_Wolfegg_53r_53r1_Heerlager round tent detail

So I’m not going to cut the arc at the base of my next tent.It will give me more ventilation too.

I’d also like to use wooden pegs, as described in this great pattern/instructions for a Saxon Geteld.  They have a picture which is what inspired me this morning;

See the shape of the base?  Beautiful!

Aaargh!    I’ve written about this before

Nice pic!

This suggests that the base of the tent is not circular, but cut straight.  It makes sense – there would be less fabric wastage.  I also like the gap between the canvas and the ground – we’ve had trouble lately with the base of the tent taking longer than the rest to dry.  The increased airflow from this setup would reduce that problem.

We also need more wickerwork in our camp setup.

The Larsdatter Link pages list it as a detail from  Leopold der Milde section of an altarpiece, c. 1489-1492

This scene supports the thesis that double bells aren’t used as commonly as single rounds. Of the 14 tents shown, 2 are double bells.  The one on the right has a lot of shields shown, suggesting that it’s a tent for important people (6 of them!) and the other has a large open door – used during the day for meetings?

And, now I find that the bigger picture is, in turn, a detail from this;

It’s an altarpiece commissioned by the Abbey where the Saint Leopold III was buried and shows the lives of the other members of his family. It would be great to see some closeups of the other sections.

Here are all of the other sections.

Historically informed vs useful

Pictures of medieval encampments show mostly round tents, with the occasional large double bell and a few more rectangular tents. See?

Lots of people want a tent that they can fit a double bed in.  But if you do that with a circular tent you can end up with quite a large round tent.

You can do it easily if you put the bed between the poles of a double bell.  Or even in a bell wedge, with a double bed low to the ground.

It seems that the goal of historical reenactment conflicts with the desires of the modern world.

Edit 28/1/13:  Actually, I’ve just designed a round tent that you can fit a double bed into and isn’t too big.  when it’s packed it’s smaller than a modern tent with the same floor area is likely to be, because it only has one pole, and it’s only 4.2m diameter and 3.5m high.  The trick was remembering that I designed the circus tent to fit the frame for a double bed sized set of bed curtains between the pole and the wall about 1.8m in the air.  When the double bed is lower (in the most recent case, 0.7m) then the total bell size and height can be smaller.

I’m going to keep looking for encampment pictures. If you find any can you add them in the comments?

added 14/1/2012:  Landsknecht encampment woodcuts