Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Being Prepared: A Pennsic Prep Post

Procrastinating? Not I! Never!

I'm having a hard time getting the words to flow onto blank page, er, screen for the patterning post for the Barbie Dream Pavilion so I'm going to write up some camping season tips, focusing on Pennsic.

At East Kingdom Court at Pennsic 39

I've been to six Pennsics so far. I know for some that makes me a whippersnapper still, but if you've never been, I'm a veteran. I'm also going to give advice from a female perspective. But seriously, everyone should wear yoga pants to drive it. Life. Changer.

When I was new in the SCA I used to think people who went on and on about Pennsic were uppity. They are. But once I went I saw why it was hard to stop going on and on about it. It was like the old Boy Scout Spag's (JC Penney) skit: "Where'd you get that awesome belt?" "Pennsic" "Where'd you get those awesome shoes?" "Pennsic" etc.

First: You're going to forget something. Thankfully the new and expanded camp store is like Wal-Pennsic-Mart and the merchants are amazing.

Getting There:

Gas Money: Every time you stop for gas, take the same amount you spent in cash and put it in an envelope. Take this envelope and hide it in your car, where you can't get it and won't spend it, so you'll have gas money home.

Stay Awake: Stop every 3 hours to walk around, stretch, drink water, et cetera. Especially if driving through the night.

If you find yourself nodding off and need to get just a few more miles to an exit, hit the rumble strip. The jolt of adrenelin will keep you alert for a little while, but DO NOT DRIVE TIRED.

Let's say that again: DO NOT DRIVE TIRED. Stop and sleep in a rest area, a parking lot, anywhere, but don't kill yourself (literally) going on vacation. A few more hours won't change anything. Really.

Make a pact if you're carpooling (and you should carpool) that at least two people will be awake at all times. Don't be the jerks who all konk out and snore in symphony to the driver. I will hit the rumble strip and then you'll be awake people!

Figure out BEFOREHAND where half way is for you and scout stores and a restaurant. In my case it's Scranton PA, we have a beloved Waffle House we stop at outside of Scranton and we also know where the Wal-Mart is. By this point in the trip you will remember at least one thing you forgot. (For me last year it was sunblock). Unfortunately, you'll also buy at least one thing you don't need, like hostess cakes or a small disco ball.

Speaking of food, pack car snacks like you're a soccer mom. Orange slices, trail mix, pepperoni slices, cheese sticks... anything to keep you from spending $8 on a bag of Doritos somewhere in New York. Also, don't get hangry (see Psychological Prep later) aka when you're so hungry and your blood sugar is low that you get irrationally angry. The Snickers commercials aren't lying, you do turn into a diva and no one needs that.

Clothes: I wear yoga pants to drive in. It's summer, you're going to get swamp butt unless you have air cooled seats (and if you do, I'd like to borrow your car to go to Pennsic in). Wear comfortable clothes that you don't mind sleeping in if it comes to that, but can also set up camp in them (which means real shoes, don't try to push in tent stakes in flip-flops). I'll often pack a maxi dress to drive home in.

I come from New England. For us there are two routes really, the "Northern" through upstate NY and the "Southern" through CT and across PA on the descending route number plan: 90 to 84 to 80 to 79. Those towing large loads opt for the Northern route as it is less hilly, but pay more tolls. It takes about 10 hours with stops factored in, remember to factor in your stops.


I do not leave site once there, so I try very hard to pack everything I'll need or do without. It's ok to do without. Your vacation will be made smoother with less to pack/unpack/keep track of if you leave some of the extra "like to have"s behind. The decorative screen, the extra table, the gorgeous-but-givea-no-light glass lantern you have.... leaving them behind will make for a smoother Pennsic. And I say this as the Queen of "Like to Have"s.

Spray on SPF 50 Waterproof Sunblock BRAND NEW. Sunblock goes bad over time, and I get the higher SPFs for two reasons: first, I am a pasty white person borne of pasty white people and I need it, and second, because I will forget to reapply and the higher SPF will help me from frying to a crisp.

Aloe-vera gel or sunburn remedy - in a ziploc bag in your cooler.

Gallon ziploc bags - they are your friend. For repackaging leftovers, for putting valuables and class notes in to prevent them getting wet, to putting them in your shoes to prevent your feet from getting wet. Get a box, get two.

Moleskin. If you bring no other first aid supply let it be moleskin. It's padded bandage material for blisters. You're going to get them. Even if you were really good breaking in your shoes. Moleskin will save your life.


Put together a set of mundanes for driving home in including at least one pair of fresh socks, put it in a plastic bag and don't unpack it on site. This way you are guaranteed a clean set of clothes for take down and to drive home in.

I pack in plastic totes with locking lids. I try to keep it to two totes. It also gives you an instant "clean/dirty" system.

I don't do laundry on site. People do, or drive to town to do laundry. One of my camp mates has a portable foot driven washing machine called the Wonder Wash that works really well for her.

Think about the order of operations when packing. Make sure the ground cloths, tents, stakes, hammer and other "First Up" stuff, is packed last so it's first out of the vehicle.

Pilgrim bags vs. Baskets - I pack a pilgrim bag for my stuff because unlike a basket I can stuff it into a corner and no worry about it being smashed. Both are period, one may be more appropriate to your persona, but you can make that decision and weigh packability vs authenticity.


Because I can't improve on genius, Trystan's article on Newbie Garb.

Pack enough underthings for one for each day or for chemises, two days.

I wear split drawers. I teach a class on split drawers. I advocate split drawers. I bring a pair for every day of the war and an extra pair. They are fun, functional, period and I don't end up with a rash on my thighs and I don't end up with underwear touching the floor or a Porta Castle. Split drawers.

Pack for hot, cold, wet and muddy: which is easier said than done.

Bring things you can layer, especially bring a scarf or small capelet for night time strolling to cover your decolletage. Everything else usually stays warm but the chest area for me. A solid color pashmina will cover your head and lend a mysterious but period air to your garb.

Bring a yard and a half strip of white muslin or light colored linen. You can dunk it in the water and wear it as a veil or wrap around your head turban style to keep your hair out of the way for a cool but period look. This is especially handy while cooking.

I sleep in my viking underdresses. I used to sleep in chemises, but even the heaviest of chemises I find a little too revealing while dashing to the porta Castle in the morning or middle of the night. They double as underdresses that I can layer to stay warm or dry.

Make something nice out of polyester. Oh yeah. She said it. Ooooooooh! This advice was given to me by a fabulous Italian garb Laurel. Why? It's going to rain. Polyester isn't going to be ruined by some mud or getting wet and you have a backup dress if it's a monsoon but you have to be somewhere that demands fancy, like retaining, court, or meetings.

Psychological Prep:

You're not going to be used to spending this much time outside. You're not going to be used to spending this much time with your camp mates and you're not used to this environment. We used to joke about instituting the Athenean Banishment System and write a campmate's name on a slip of paper in a jar, if you got 5 slips you had 20 minutes to grab your stuff for the day and leave camp for 5 hours. You'll need a break from each other, even if you're (like) family.

Low blood sugar, also known as getting hangry, will cause epic camp drama. You don't want that. Eat something! It's hot, I know, and you're not hungry, but grab some jerky, a cheese stick, fruit, something. Avoid Pennsic Meltdowns at all cost.

Take "me time". I personally like to spend at least one afternoon at Herald's Point coloring. They have cold water, serve you freezie pops and free ice cream if you're there at the right time and it's wonderful to de-stress. Seriously, who doesn't love coloring?

Take "couple time". Go off with your partner and sit in Cafe Merhaba and relax for an hour or two, or watch a performance in the ampitheater, or just talk about something that isn't camp or dinner or kids, or camp mates.

There are some people who really really love drama. They are everywhere. Don't buy into it. If someone you meet has reams of tales of how everyone has done them wrong and doesn't recongize how awesome they are - tread carefully. They are likely a drama llama, and you're fresh meat for their old stories of wrongs done against them.

Don't worry! You're also going to meet THE MOST AMAZING PEOPLE IN THE KNOWNE WORLD!


You're not going to make every class/battle/party that you wanted to. That's ok. Prioritize. Pick 1 thing a day you most want to do, even if it's just wander the merchants for an hour, and do it. Everything else is gravy.

Put your damn cell phone away. It's hard for me too. I want to update Facebook and Instagram, show pictures of my day and the cool stuff, but try to limit it to a few minutes at the start and end of every day. You want to be present, that's when the magic moments happen. They won't come to you if you have a screen in between you and the War.

Volunteer. I mean it. Make it a high priority. We're a society, and that to me means that we work together. People give up their whole Pennsic experience by running Troll, University, The Watch, Herald's Point, the Lost and Found, Battles, Being Royalty... et cetera. Give a couple hours back. You'll learn something, meet new people and usually get some sweet perks! (see Herald's Point free ice cream above)

Don't plan to cook the night of Midnight Maddness. Everyone is going to be too excited, getting ready and scattered to make this a good idea. We opt to go to Ansteorran Chili Night, but you can also just plan to have dinner in the marketplace.

Also, eat before court and bring court snacks. I ended up in the Food Court with the East Kingdom refugees last year after court lasted over 4 hours. (Dear Master Malcolm Bowman, you are not yet forgiven) The landed Barons and Baronesses were being held hostage up by the dais and I was retaining (volunteering!) and most food stalls had run out of things or stopped serving. And you should go to court, but don't feel obligated to stay the full time. (Always leave between pieces of business like when orders are greeting each other, otherwise it's rude)


Many people like Seal-a-Meals for camp cooking. Many people are often right. This gives you flexiblity for meal times and very little prep. This is a great option for Peace Week or if you don't have a full kitchen set up. You really just need a propane burner and a pot of water.

HOWEVER - I live for family meal time and like to have at least 3 meals be done "from scratch" while on site.

Pre-cook as much as you can.

Hidden Gems;

There is free water and Gatorade at Chiurgeon's Point. It's usually orange Gatorade, but take a mug with you to class.

Have you seen the performances? You should.

Ansteorran Chili Night - Wednesday Night on the Serengeti. I'd never before had chili with Fritos on it.

I'll continue more on this later, but these are my first thoughts.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Fabric Stores: My favorites in New England

So I am often asked about resources. I'm always happy to share.

The Lady Fortune Shop Hop would be to start at the Auburn Fabric Outlet as soon as they open on Saturday, (get lunch at Not Your Average Joe's in Westborough) go to Sewfisticated in Framingham, then Fabric Place Basement in Natick.

Fabric Stores

Adventure Shopping -

The Auburn Fabric Outlet (Became $2.99 January 1st 2015)

773 Southbridge St
Auburn, MA 01501

Monday- Saturday - 10:00am-5:45pm
Sunday - Noon-4:45pm

Note: They lock the doors 15 minutes before closing and they WILL NOT cut after closing.
This is not usual fabric store etiquette, so be prepared.

I love this store, but I'm an adventure shopper. You cannot go with anything specific in mind, or you'll be dissapointed.

I've gotten silk, wool, linen and cotton velvets, but some days you do strike out.

Variety -


136 Howard St
Framingham, MA 01702

(other locations in Dorchester and Somerville)

Monday-Saturday 10:00am – 8:00pm
Sunday - Noon – 6:00pm

Upstairs is a bargain loft and there is a 10% discount to SCA members if you ask for it. Great selections of wools, linens and silks.

Best garment fabric store for value in Massachusetts (probably New England), they also have home decor fabrics and great remnants including leather.

Fabric Place Basement

321 Speen Street
Natick, MA 01760

Monday- Wednesday & Saturday - 10:00 am - 7:00 pm
Thursday & Friday - 10:00 am - 8:00 pm
Sunday - Noon - 6:00 pm

Great selection of faux furs, home decor, apparel and YARNS. Apparel notions you won't find elsewhere. Check the website for coupons.


333 Park St
West Springfield, MA 01089

Monday - Wednesday & Friday - 9:00am-7:00pm
Thursday - 9:00am-7:00pm
Sunday - 11:00am-5:00pm

If you need it, Osgood's has it. It won't be cheap, it won't cost your first born, but be prepared.

It's a giant warehouse of fabrics and it's easy to get overwhelmed.

Silks -


68 Tower St
Hudson, MA

Monday-Friday - 10:00am-5:00pm
Saturday - 10:00am-5:00pm
Sunday - Closed

High-end Home Dec fabrics and trims. Try to resist drooling over the fabric and walk swiftly to the silk remnant table.

Bonus: Downstairs is an awesome antiques shop


80 Market St
Lynn, MA 01901

Monday-Saturday - 9:30am - 5:30pm

Mostly high-end Home Dec fabrics and trims. The silks are going to be front and center when you walk in. RESIST.

Turn to the left, go downstairs and frolic among the discount fabrics and trims.

Sewing Machine Repair/Quilting -

The Charlton Sewing Center

12 Stafford St
Charlton, MA 01507

Monday-Friday - 10-6
Saturday - 9-5
Sunday - "by chance or appointment"

This is where my machines go, I love them. Cannot say enough good things about them, Cathy the owner is a treasure.

She's fixed everything from my great-grandmother's Featherweight to my computerized Viking serger.

Worth a Look -

Franklin Mill Store

305 Union St
Franklin MA, 02038

Monday - 10:00am - 6:00pm
Tuesday - Thursday - 10:00am - 8:00pm
Friday & Saturday - 10:00am - 6:00pm
Sunday - Closed

Home Decor fabric, trims, machines and yarn.

Out of State Shops Worth Visiting -

Marden's (Various locations ME, my favorite is Brewer)

What can't you find at Marden's?

The selection is mostly quilting fabrics, but I've found wool for $2 a yard. The location in Sanford is rumored to get really nice leather from time to time

Affordable Fabrics (Uncasville and Rocky Hill CT)

Everything is $2.99. Same family as the Auburn Fabric Outlet above

 If you have one I've missed I'd love to hear about it!

Friday, May 1, 2015

Facebook: Thank you all!

So a few weeks ago a wrote a post showing the pictures from EKU, I then pinned that post to Pinterest (I am sooooo addicted to Pinterest) and then the SCA Facebook page shared the link.

And the post blew up. Over 3,000 views.