Sunday, August 28, 2011

Another Post About Storage

The thing about acquiring historic stuff, is you then need historic methods of storage. I had started to gather historic storage methods before the Guild, I bought a wooden chest as a prop for faire one year, and my mother bought me a beautiful pack basket, and has been supplying me with various other baskets for years. The first year of Das Geld Fahnlein I used the wooden prop box and bought an unfinished simple toy chest as my period storage, everything else got hidden in the corner of our tent.

At the beginning of last year storage was even more on my mind as we tried to become even more historical and get rid of as many modern intrusions as we could. I made big canvas duffels for Stephen and I to hide our hiking backpacks. Now the packs go under the bed in their sacks and even the kids who crawl into our tent will not catch a glimpse of the modern stuff. During the first season my lovely prop box slid out of the back of our truck at an intersection and got pretty smashed up. It is not repairable since it is plasterboard and was not too durable to begin with. But Stephen had been inspired by the folks at Das TeufelsAlpdrücken Fähnlein  who sat down for dinner on chests and bundles (much more historical than chairs.) Stephen made me a beautiful wooden box where I store all my accessories: modern toiletries, historical sewing projects, playing cards, gloves etc. He also held a guild workshop to help people make their own boxes. Three more people in the guild got theirs completed, a few are still in progress, including the two Stephen started for himself! Fellow guild member Magda also got into the historical packing thing. She had already owned two wooden boxes, but she made canvas sacks for her bedding, plus sacks for other members of the guild who would arrive each morning with their things in plastic bags or backpacks. She also bought an unfinished toy chest like mine, and she bought a large beautiful pack basket to add to her impression.

I painted my toy chest in Reischach colors so we could tell mine apart from Magda’s, and filled it with tent accouterments like the rope bed tightener, our religious paintings, and our game boards. I dug out three big baskets that were also left over from my days as RenFaire Props Master to hold our clothing and some of our bedding plus all the random stuff that got thrown in at the last minute. We were given a chest as part of a wedding gift so Stephen used it for his accessories and personal items.

At the end of last year I started to seriously think about storage for our bedding. I get cold very easily, so we not only pack sheets and pillows for our bed, but we packed at least three wool blankets, a couple of fleece blankets, some linen blankets, an electric blanket, and a historical sort of coverlet to throw over the whole thing. Yes, this is probably excessive, but I hate being cold. In the spring I bought waterproof canvas to cut and sew into bundles and I bought cotton webbing to wrap around the bundles and make them into backpacks. Then I tried to figure out how to sew them together to make them look like historical bundles. I even got Stephen to help and we both decided that not only were the bundles probably not sewn together at all, but they were most likely made of tent canvas or bedding material with everything else bundled up inside it. Why carry more things than you absolutely need? But I was determined to have dry bedding that could be transported in the back of the truck, so Stephen and I wrapped our bedding up like burritos in a tortilla then wrapped the webbing around like ribbons on a gift package, and did manage to get it on people’s backs! This spring we had an in-period set-up day and marched in to the Connecticut Renaissance Faire with bundles on our backs.

The packs were not perfect, if you needed one thing from inside you had to take the whole thing apart. Also the webbing slipped around on the waterproof canvas. After the May show I stitched three of them into big "u" shapes with one end open, my next step is to sew two horizontal lines of webbing on to the sacks, leaving open spots through which to thread the vertical webbing. That will secure the sack and make it into a pack. I have not done this yet, but it is on my list before the end of September.

Meanwhile I am totally jealous of fellow guild member Magda, who proved at our last two events that she can unpack and pack up all her gear in a completely period way. Her boxes, baskets and bundles just sit on top of her little rug (that goes on the floor inside her tent) in a pile until the cars are allowed on site. Magda is the person that has the next largest amount of stuff next to Stephen and I, and keeps her tent open for the public during the day just like we do. She and I go back and forth in some very low-scale competition to up our historical game, though really we stay pretty well even, and the more historical we are, the entire guild benefits. In this case, Magda has reached the goal before me, but I hope I’m not too far behind. As of the spring my last major things in modern containers were the kitchen stuff and the tents.

Since our niece recently came to live with us, we had to clear out our spare bedroom, which was really the place for all of our LH supplies. A lot of them went into our bedroom and the sewing room, but I knew the 4 plastic bins of kitchen gear would never make it into either room. So one bin of barely used stuff went into the attic, some of the nicer looking stuff that I did not want to bring to every show went on shelves in the den. For the stuff that goes to every event where we are cooking, I bought another toy chest, but stained it this time. And put all of the cooking utensils in it. If I want to cook with it, it has to fit in the one box (or be a big cast iron pot, which does not belong in a box in the first place.) All of our historical eating gear has gone into a basket, so when the high table needs to be set for dinner, anyone can do it, and when the dishes are done, the stuff for Stephen, Alysa and myself can go right back in the basket. I even sewed little pouches for the plates and bowls out of scrap wool so they have padding in the box and basket. Which leaves only one kitchen item left, and that is the food itself. This fall I want to be much better about removing plastic bags before getting to camp if possible, and using plain canvas tote bags or baskets to carry groceries in. My newest purchase is a really cool cooler basket in which to hide our perishables. It holds 5 gallons, the basket supports 300 lbs if someone sits on it, and the cooler liner is removable when it needs to be washed. I can't wait to use it!
Brown box for cooking stuff, basket for eating gear, the basket is really a cooler.

We’ve still got to come up with historical methods for hauling around tents, ropes and stakes, but I’m feeling that finishing up the bedding bundles, plus urging Stephen to finish his two wooden chests are good steps to move us into the fall.


  1. This is inspirational. Thank you for writing this. We tend to find we have more and more "stuff" that seems to go to events with less and less period storage in which to keep it. It has been a sore trial, but you give me hope of a way to do this fairly inexpensively.

  2. I'm so glad to hear that it is useful! I've been staring at paintings set in shipyards and country picnics looking for evidence of bundles, boxes and baskets. I think barrels and bundles were used a lot more in period than we use them now, though backpacks, suitcases and tote bags could be considered the modern equivalent for a lot of those cloth wrapped bundles.

    At events we've found that when we arrive we never manage to put everything away before opening time, and we always try to start packing up before the end of the day, but this is almost impossible when everything is in plastic totes. Having period storage makes set-up and tear-down so much easier.

  3. Everything you've said is right on!

    Ever since we hauled gear to/from one of our first events we came to conclusion we needed period storage and transportation gear. But it's only been recently (4 years ago) that we've started making our own packs and now baskets.

    Part of the drive was because we needed to keep modern containers out of camp in a big way. ( But, more than we realized, we also really needed them for their original purpose; to contain and carry.

    That basket cooler is a really cool find. One of our members has one, but it's no where near as durable as yours. I think you're really going to love it, it's a very nice solution to the "cooler problem".

    Finally, it sounds like your next step (and ours too) is to build a hand/horse cart!