Re-enacting on a budget

If you’ve even dipped your toes in, you have likely realized that reenactment can easily eat all of your money. Especially if you want all the goodies!

The entire time I’ve been in the SCA I’ve been either not working or working retail part-time, so I can’t drop a fortune on my kit. In part three of what seems to be a collection of newcomer’s advice, here is my advice.

(Note, a lot of this is about sewing, because that is my life)

1. DO buy the good fabric

Really, seriously, use linen and wool or at least cotton. You will be so much happier– cool when it’s warm, warm when it’s cool, not flammable. I know the shiny poly and rayon brocades are tempting! But please, please stick to less flashy stuff that is better made and more comfortable. Save the $100/yd Sartor brocades for people with trust funds.

Specifically I aim to pay $12-16/yd for wool and $6-10/yd for linen. The most I have EVER paid for fabric is $25/yd. (Well, for garment fabric. I’ve paid more for embroidery linen…)

Of course, I am lucky to have a discount fabric store near me. I also buy online a lot. Dharma has basic fabrics for low prices and their linen is surprisingly nice for the price. Burnley & Trowbridge have great prices for lightweight wools and since they specialize in pre-industrial revolution fabrics their color selection is really good for earlier periods as well.

2. Try and use less fabric

Ok, I’m spoiled in this regard because I’m a US size 0 and 5’1″ tall, but obviously the less fabric you buy, the cheaper. This can be achieved by piecing as well as carefully chosing which styles you use. 10th C Norse uses a lot less fabric than a houppelande.

3. Save the nice stuff for where you can see it.

I love my silk and linen threads, but for the hidden stuff on the inside I use plain old quilting cotton. I do recommend using cotton thread instead of poly–it’s basically the same price and it improves the life of your garments. Which leads us to….

4. Make do and mend

I’m bad at this one, I really am, because I am always excited to DO MORE MAKE BETTER TRY NEW. But really all you need is two base layers (shirts/smocks) and one of everthing that goes over that until you are sufficiently prepared for the worst weather in your region. If you go to a longer event alternate wearing and washing/airing your base layers. Having fewer clothes and mending or remaking them is more period than having new clothes all the time. Not that you shouldn’t ever have anything new, but even the queen doesn’t need now clothes EVERY EVENT.

5. Trade!

Lots of people will trade you for skills or services you have. Sew something for someone and they give you jewelry, or leatherwork, or whatever. It’s a good way to get new things AND help the community.

6. You don’t need everything right away.

I have a mundane tent. I mostly stand or sit on the ground since I don’t have a period chair. It’s not my favorite but it is what is practical for me right now.

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