By Lady Violet Ruthvene in the SCA
This is an accompaniment to a lecture class I taught at the West Kingdom Collegium in November 2013. The goal is to help people in the Society for Creative Anachronism create largess — the small gifts that royalty give to their subjects, such as to welcome visitors, to thank people, & to otherwise show appreciation. Specifically, the goal here is to create largess in a more historically accurate style. This is the class handout.
Making Period Largess
Period items are preferable
- Adds to the ambiance of our game.
- Making period items stretches your own research & historical craft skills!
Consider making unisex, one-size, & multi-era items
- Gifts may be given to a wide range of people.
- Many items received are stereotypically feminine, so variety is welcome.
Give several small items instead of one large item
- Easier to transport.
- Can be distributed more widely.
- Include your SCA name & where you live in the SCA (example: Made by Lady Mary Mistie from Shire Somewhere, Mists, West Kingdom).
- List ingredients for any food/drink item or scented item in case of allergies.
Securely contain everything
- Make sure food/drinks won’t spill or leak if transported long distances.
- Pack fragile items (glass, ceramic, etc.) carefully.
Note: These largess items are not all perfectly period, but they are closer and help encourage a historically accurate mindset. This list is meant to encourage largess-makers to think about giving things that could be used by Medieval & Renaissance people.
Woven cords — Fingerloop braid, kumihimo, lucet, etc. Can be used for award cords if done in Kingdom or Principality colors (at least 36″ long). Long cords in miscellaneous colors can be used for lacing garments, as drawstrings, etc. Short lengths (at least 12″) are useful if in large sets (10-12 each) for lacing garments, ideally with metal aglets/points attached.
Pouches & bags — Drawstring bags, belt pouches, haversacks, etc., in natural fabrics or leather, historically accurate colors, small or large, plain or decorated, many historical styles to choose from!
Wooden boxes — Small ones for jewelry & accessories. Hand-make period reproductions, or buy blank or second-hand boxes to stain or paint with heraldry.
Feast gear — Drinking vessels, plates, bowls, spoons, knives. Simple to elaborate.
Eating knives — Buy small wood-handled knives with leather sheaths, & paint or tool the sheaths or burn or carve decorations into the handles.
Napkins — Hem a square/rectangle of linen. Could decorate a corner with small heraldic mark.
Games — Nine man’s morris, chess, checkers (draughts), backgammon (tables), etc.; can paint the “board” on fabric/leather for portability. Reproduction card decks & pairs of dice, include instructions for period card & dice games, plus reproduction coins for gambling.
Quill pens — Temper feather points in hot sand, then cut quill point.
Brushes — Made from natural materials, especially for calligraphers/illuminators.
Seals — Have a metal seal cast with the recipient’s device or the Kingdom/Principality device, or make seals by affixing a metal button with a similar device to a wood peg. Can also use generically medieval symbols, since people often used simple seals in period. Include sticks of sealing wax.
Food & drink — Avoid perishable foods, stick to preserved goods such as jams, pickles, hard candies, etc. Alcohols like meads & cordials can be OK if you know the recipients do drink alcohol. Always make sure the containers are very sturdy & sealed well. Label & date everything.
Recipe books — Print favorite period recipes (original & a tested redaction) on parchment in booklets.
Period spice mixes — Mix up spices like poudre fort & put in small ceramic jars closed with corks (can find at dollar stores). Label & include recipe books.
Camping spice kits — Common, but used-in-period spices (salt, pepper, cinnamon, clove, etc.) in small, labeled jars or bottles, that all fit in a wood travel box.
Soap — Make sure to label the scent & ingredients.
Candles — Pairs of tapers, singles if votives, pillars, or other shapes.
Lamps & lighting devices — Small pierced metal or carved wood lamps for candles or oil, or metal or ceramic candle holders.
Woven trims — Inkle, tablet, etc. Must be long enough to use around a neckline (at least 1 yard; add more to match cuffs) or as a belt (2-3 yards, preferably +2″ wide). Short matched pieces could be garters (see below).
Thread-covered or fabric-covered buttons: Be sure to include enough to close a bodice/doublet (12+) &/or two sleeves (12-20). Neutral & primary colors will be useful for more people.
Handkerchief — Hem a square of fine linen. Could trim with lace, embroidery, etc.
Wooden, bone, or horn combs — Many period styles exist from Viking to Elizabethan.
Coifs / arming caps — Make in large sizes, simple style (no trim), preferably in white linen, for men or women.
Mittens — Various Viking through Elizabethan styles exist, in knit, leather, & fabric.
Garters — Woven tied garters or leather buckled garters were worn by men & women throughout the Middle Ages & Renaissance. Make in large size, which can be tied smaller, & for leather, don’t punch holes (recipient can custom fit).
Belts — Make long (2-3 yards) to fit many sizes. Avoid solid white, red, green, or yellow as these are reserved for knights, squires, apprentices, and protegees in many kingdoms.
Jewelry — Made from beads, gemstones, chain, cast metals, knit wire, etc. Avoid plastic & other non-period materials. Avoid earrings because that requires pierced ears. Make finger rings multi-size. Make necklaces long.
Paternosters/rosaries — Make from ceramic, glass, or gemstone beads. Might avoid adding a cross (which wasn’t required in period), unless you know the recipient won’t mind. Can use a tassel or charm instead.
Fans — Feather, flag, & cockade fans are all common in period. Avoid folding fans (only common after 1590).
Tie-on pockets — Used mostly by 16th-c. women, can tie on under skirts.
Veils — Use fine white linen.
Veil or dress pins — Make from wire. Give in pairs or multiple sets.
Needle cases — From simple felt to elaborate blackwork or hard-sided versions in leather or metals.
Pincushions — From simple felt to elaborate blackwork.
Sewing pins — Make from wire.
Naal-binding needles — Carve from bone.
Lucets — Carve from wood.
Drop spindles — Carve or assemble from wood.
Beeswax — Can be used for either sewing or by archers.
Duct tape — Silver & black are often used by fighters.
Armor bag sachets — Use odor-neutralizing scents.
Cup/mug covers — Can be made from fabric, molded from leather, etc., usually with heavy beads on the edges & decorated on the top.
Utensil caddy — Make of washable fabric with slots for fork, spoon, & knife, rolls up & ties closed.
Tissue pouches — Make of washable fabric to disguise pocket-size tissue pack.
Illuminated note cards — Especially good for royalty as thank-you notes. Make in small sets.
Small notebooks — Hand-make or get non-spiral ones from dollar stores & decorate the covers.
Wands & soap-bubble solution — Can make wands from twisted wire. Make sure to securely fasten the bubble-solution containers.
Dolls & animal toys — Soft stuffed dolls/animal toys & carved dolls/animals, & played with by children.
Spinning tops — Carved of wood, & played with by children.
- Largesse Makers — Active Facebook group. Good ideas, photos, links, & project how-tos.
- Kingdom & Principality Arms, Colors, & Popular Use Badges — Get the correct heraldry!
Websites With Project How-Tos:
- Felted-wool needle cases, plus a West Kingdom demi-sun cover pattern, by Christian de Holacombe
- Brass Viking-age needle cases by Amanda Marksdottir
- Stamped leather cases by Coblaith Muimnech
- Drop spindles by the Joy of Handspinning
- Naal-binding needles by Instructables
- Thread-wrapped & fabric-stuffed buttons by the Renaissance Tailor
- Paternosters/rosaries by Chris Lanning
- Veil or dress pins by Cathrin Áhlén
- Coifs by Cynthia Virtue
- Icelandic mittens by Ásfríðr Ulfvíðardóttir
- Candles by Frugally Sustainable
- Wax seals by Offbeat Bride
- Quill pens by Liralen Li
- Period board, dice, & card games rules by Medieval and Renaissance Games Homepage
- Period sewing work box by Christian de Holacombe and Michaela de Neuville (useful for ideas)
- Plausibly historical toiletry set by Eulalia Piebakere (useful for ideas)