Monday, 28 October 2013

These Boots Are Made for Walking - a very, very late report from the Winter March

When it comes to reenactment, few things are as effctive as a planned event to get me working on Stuff I Need. In February 2013, it was time for Albrecht Bössor's annual winter march, when we test our kit and cooking skills under winter conditions - so I made boots with plenty of room for extra socks. Towards the end of May, it was time for a medieval pilgrimage on Gotland - and I made a travelling cloak to cope with the possibly fickle spring weather, and a leather costrel to solve the problem of transporting a day's worth of water.

This post deals with the boots and the winter march. The next one will be about the pilgrimage!

The Boots
The boots are the fourth pair of shoes l've made and I based them on a find from the ubiquitous Shoes and Patten-book from the Museum of London. There are several similar models described in Stepping Through Time, too, from 14th century Dordrecht.

The first boot, inside out - The finished boots before turning - The boots all done with laces untied...

I used my tried and tested slipper pattern (see this post) as a starting point and more or less draped the rest of the boot straight onto my foot with fabric. This is what our living room floor looks like when I'm making a shoe pattern...

Boot in the making...
The finished shoes were a number or two too large in order to comfortably accommodate two pairs of socks and still leave me enough room to wriggle my toes. During the march, the temperature hovered around zero degrees Celsius and we trudged though almost half a metre of wet snow at times. 

Stopping for lunch in the snowy forest
It didn't take long before my boots were completely soaked through. It was fine as long as we were on the move, but as soon as we stopped to cook dinner, my feet got very cold indeed. I was glad I had brought an extra pair of socks so I could change into something dry.

Cold feet - dry socks. Photo by S. Sternler
Another thing I learnt from the winter march was that wearing knee-high stockings with nothing else underneath my linen underdress was more than enough for warmth, but the underdress itself was not ideal. It only reached to a little below my knees, but there was a lot of snow and so it got really soggy really fast. And unlike wool, wet linen is both cold and uncomfortable and not something you want to have next to your skin. The wet underdress chafed my knees and calves and was rather unpleasant towards the end of the march. It's kind of obvious when you think about it, but there's nothing like personal experience for driving home a lesson in the properties of different textile fibres... 

So for the next winter march, I'll wear a woollen underdress instead. And seeing that it's only a few months away now, I should really get sewing...

Grew, Francis & Neergaard, M. de (2001). Shoes and pattens. New ed. Woodbridge: Boydell Press

Goubitz, Olaf, Driel-Murray, Carol van & Groenman-Van Waateringe, Willy (2001). Stepping through time: archaeological footwear from prehistoric times until 1800. Zwolle: Stichting Promotie Archeologie