Teaching in the SCA Part 5: Class Description

Ok- by now you should have the name of your class and the scope of what you want to teach, the next super simple part is coming up with your class description.

Your class description is going to do 2 things

  1. Tell people what your class is about so they want to come to it
  2. Help you stay focused on your class’s scope when you are doing your class notes

You should have 2 class descriptions, one that is very small that can be tacked onto your class titles for when class descriptions are not published, and a more thorough class description.

Here are a few examples:


Class name Short Description Long Description
Funny Little Cordial Properties of humors in brewing Properties of humors in brewing. Covers the classification of medieval beverages and how to create a cordial based on a desired humor. Over 21 only.
History of Drinking Common Medieval Drinks History of drinks, how they affected society and culture. Includes samples and recipes of common drinks found in the Middle Age and SCA. Over 21 only.
Persona-Based Arts and Science How to easily incorporate your persona and research into your daily SCA activities. Don’t just let your persona stop with your name. Learn how you can easily incorporate aspects of your persona into your A&S projects, garb, and activities at events. Includes beginner persona information and more intermediate resources for the next step.
Putting the Right Foot Forward The first step to learning about buying or making footwear for the SCA Want SCA appropriate footwear, but don’t know where to start? Come learn the basic styles for different cultures throughout the SCA time frame so you can easily identify what footwear is right for you. Class notes will also include links and references for tutorials on how you make your own SCA footwear.

Between your name and the short description, a student should know enough about your class to be able to decide if they want to take it.

At Pennsic ( and hopefully a majority of events), class information is available online before the event so people can see what classes they want to take. This way they can plan their day accordingly. This is where you want the longer class description.

In the main class description ALWAYS include if there is a fee, size limit, age restriction, and what the student can expect to accomplish.

As I mentioned above, now not only does the student know what will be covered in the class, but so will you as the teacher.

For the persona class I know I need to include:

  • how to incorporate Personas into your A&S projects,
  • How to incorporate into your garb
  • How to incorporate into your activities at events.
  • Some intermediate resources for the next step.

That right there is the basis of my outline for my class ( meaning the next step is half way done)

Teaching in the SCA Part 3: Scope

By now you should know what topic you are teaching and how you want to teach it. The next step is figuring out HOW much to include in your class.

One of the most common mistakes new teachers do is either include to much into their class ( more common) or not enough ( not as common).

By the time your ready to teach something you know about, your probably of a fountain of information on the subject. Do Not Try To Cram All That Information Into 1 Class.

This is also why I recommend figuring out the format of your class before your scope. The amount and type of information is going to be different depending on the type of class you are teaching.

For example:

  • If your teaching a hands on class, you are going to want to focus on technique and less on documentation and history
  • If you are teaching a lecture class your going to want to focus on history, documentation, and where they can go for more information ( or to learn how to do it)

With my History of Drinking Class – I cover ALOT of time frame. I start with the invention of  alcohol and move quickly through coffee. I include a general history, leave out specific dates, and give our generics. I also have a handout with all the dates and an assistant who gives out samples of the drinks.  I specifically don’t go into recipes or specifics as there just is not enough time.

In my humors for brewing class I have over 27 samples I pass around KNOWING we will not get to all them. I just pick and choose which samples we play with.

I will be teaching 2 new classes at Pennsic this year, and will mostly be using them as examples through the rest of the tutorials.

  • A persona class that is going to be an “interactive” lecture series.
  • A shoe class that is going to be a show & tell lecture series.

For the SCOPE of the persona class I want to give them the basics of simple ways they can incorporate persona based items into their everyday activities. Talking very very basics here. As this is a basic’s class, I will make sure to include a handout for further information. If there is time at the end, I will have additional information ready for the next steps.

To determine your own scope. Write down the one thing you want them to learn. Now create a list of bare minimum items they need to learn/know/absorb in order to learn that item.

For the shoe class, I want them to learn the generic look of the shoe for their style persona.  For my list- they need to know the general “look” and shape of different shoes styles from Roman to Cavalier so that they can shop around Pennsic for the right shoes ( or even their local thrift store) That’s a lot to cover, so I won’t be going into construction or details. I will be giving them handouts that will include places they can go for specific’s, details, and how to learn how to make them themselves.

Some Helpful Hints:

  • Create a list and divide it into 3 parts- The information they MUST know in order for them to do the project or to get them hooked so they will want to learn more. 2. The information that it would be good for them to know ( you can cover this if you have extra time).3. Places where they can go for more information if they love the subject.


  • For hands on projects, time how long it takes you do the item yourself. Now times it by  3 or 4. That’s how long it will take you to teach it. It takes me 5 minutes to wrap a foot for a cast for shoe making- It takes me 15-20 minutes to teach it. 5 minutes for me to demonstrate the action, 5 minutes to answer questions, 10 minutes to watch them try to do it.


  • When timing your talks or lectures remember- You will 99.9% start late due to classroom change over. Deduct 5 minutes. Finish up with 10 minutes to spare so you can clean up, get your students out of the class, and the class ready for the next teacher. Allow 5 minutes of Q&A at the end ( as well as 5 minutes floating for when people want to ask questions in the middle). That leaves 35 minutes of teaching/talking time.


  • If you find that you have to much information for a single class- that’s ok. You can make it a series or a breath track. I only teach my shoe making class at Gulf Wars because there is to much information to cover in 1 or 2 classes at Pennsic.  You can have classes that build on each other ( ie they have to take each one in order) or you can have many classes that cover different aspects of the same topic ( breadth)

Gulf Wars Class Schedule

Below are the classes I will be teaching at Gulf Wars:
As always, please check the site booklet and class boards for the most up-to-date information

Beginning Shoemaking: Eastern Felt Shoe Making LECTURE ONLY

    Introduction to Middle Eastern Shoes: Come learn what shoes your Middle Eastern Persona would wear. First part of the class will cover documentation and extant examples (mostly Turkish and Egyptian), as well as social and religious customs. Second part of the class, participants can learn how to pattern their own Middle Eastern Shoes with instructions on how to make them out of felt or leather. Class fee $5 covers handouts and materials to pattern shoes.

  • Location: Al-Mahala Middle Eastern Area
  • Time: Friday 1:00PM
  • Length: 2 Hours
  • Class Fee: $5
  • Class Limit: 25
  • Under 14 with a parent only.

Beginning Shoemaking: Eastern Felt Shoe Making. HANDS ON

    A hands-on workshop to make a pair of wool felt shoes or boots worn in both the Middle East and Eastern Europe. Techniques taught in class can then be used for most other shoes or boots worn throughout the SCA time period. Should expect to work on shoes on own time to finish by end of war.

  • Location: Textile 1
  • Time: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday 10am – 11am
    1. Monday Class 1: General Shoes Pattern Making
    2. Tuesday Class 2: Cutting, Sewing, and Decorations
    3. WEDS-OFF
    4. Thursday Class 3: Sewing (part 2)
    5. Friday Class 4: Finishing
  • Class Fee: $30 for boots & $20 for shoes. Cost covers all materials (felt, soles, needles, thread, handout)
  • Class Limit: 14
  • Ages 12 and up (12-17 with parent)

Funny little cordial

    A look into the properties of humors in brewing: Medieval food and drinks were chosen and arranged based on their “humors”, a classification system of hot to cold and moist to dry that was thought to influences their temperament and health. Class will cover the classification of typical medieval beverages such as ales, beers, wines and mead as well as how to create a personalized cordial based on a desired humor. Over 21 Only. $5 for handout and samples

  • 1 hour
  • Over 21.
  • $5 for handout and samples

History of Drinking: common medieval drinks

    A look at the history of drinks, especially those in the between 3rd-16th centuries and how they affected society and culture. Class will include samples (and recipes) of the most common drinks found in the Middle Ages ( and in the SCA). No instruction on brewing provided. Over 21 Only. $5 for handout and samples

  • 1 and 1/2 hours
  • $5 for handout and samples
  • Ages 21 and up

Buying Leather For Shoes

I always like to have people do their patterns before they buy leather, mainly because leather can get expensive and they can take their pattern pieces in with them and get just as much as they need.

I ALWAYS recommend to go to the leather store, especially in the beginning, so you can touch and feel the leather. However sometimes you just can’t make it there, or don’t have a good one near you and you have to order online. I also have quite a few friends following this tutorial along at home so I took my camera phone on a Tandy-Field-Trip to touch, feel, fondle (it is leather after all) and document the things I think they should get.  Below are the items ( and the Tandy leather #) for the items that are a must have and recommended for making a pair of shoes.

Necessary Items:

  • Scratch Awl– It does not matter if you are sewing or doing leatherwork, you should have an awl in your supply closet. Normally around $5 or less, you can’t really share this with a group, so make sure you get your own. Tandy leather #3217-00
  • Waxed Thread- For shoes, for beginners, I recommend waxed thread or waxed nylon thread. Don’t get artificial sinew and Don’t get the braided cord. You want a minimum of 25 yards per pair of shoes . The number depends on the color.
  • Stitching Needle– You will need a minimum of 4 needles per pair of shoes. You will break needles, people new to sewing break more needles. They sell them in packs of 10 for $3.29 or 100 for $30. Tandy Leather #1195-00

Recommended ( you can do without but it makes life so much easier, a must for serious leatherworkers)

  • Adjustable Groover– The adjustable groover measures in a certain amount from the edge (ie your seam allowance) and grooves into the leather a line which you will follow with your punching to sew the leather together. These are more expensive at $20, so you can share one with a partner or in a group. However if you become serious about leather working, I recommend you get one for your toolchest. Tandy leather #8074-00
  • Stitching Chisel 5/64 or 2mm– Yes, you can do it without ever punching the holes first- yes you can still get even hole distance by using a fork. However, I HIGHLY recommend getting either the 4 or 6 prong chisel. It will save time, it will save your awl, it will save your hands, it will save your patience. They run about $14 for the 4 prong and $15 for the 6 prong. This is one of those tools you can share with other people, and I have some that people can use in class. However if you are doing the shoes at home I recommend getting one as you will use it for other leather projects as well.

Leather- The leather you use will depend on what kind of shoes you are making. Here are some general tips:

  • No Suede- Suede is a post period production technique…plus suede is harder to keep clean
  • If your fighting in your shoes, a heavier weight is better ( which you take into account with your patterning seam allowance). ie those in the 4-6 ounce range.
  • Don’t go above 5/6 ounce
  • Don’t go below 2/3 ounce
  • Don’t order a belly, they are to long and thin.
  • Look under tooling or finished leather
  • If you want to dye your shoes yourself, go with tooling leather
  • Yes you can get upholstery leather, but it will be thinner, so know that you will have thinner shoes.

Walking around Tandy, here were just a few different leathers I would make shoes out of.

  • Aspen Bison Sides– 5/6 ounce. $14.99 Sq Ft. Tandy Leather #9285. Good for heavy or fighting boots.
  • Tooling Sides -4/5 ounce. Tandy Leather #9157-94 or 9157-54 or any tooling side. Good for heavy or fighting boots/shoes.
  • Tooling Side– 3/4 ounce. Tandy leather #9157-93 or any tooling side. Good for fighting boots or regular shoes
  • Tooling Side– 2/3 ounce. Tandy leather #9157-92 or any tooling side. Good for regular boots or shoes.
  • 8+ ounce for soles. You can use 7/8 ounce leather-16 ounce “sole/armor” leather for the soles.

What are these sides that you keep talking about?

subdivisions-of-leatherLeather is sold depending on the part of the animal it comes from. To know what kind of piece you can use, you will need to know how many square feet of space your pattern will take up. However, you will want to order a bit more than just the amount you need, in case you need to work around imperfections.  For a pair of ankle boots-size 9 I needed 4.166 sq feet. HOWEVER, unless you want to piece your shoes together, order more than you need- normally 20%. So I would want to order at least 4.99 sq feet . If you say you need a 5 square ft of leather, you could get a piece that is 2.5 ft by 2 ft or you could get a piece that is 1 foot by 5 foot. This is why I recommend you call and let them know the sizes of your pieces or go in person.

  • Back – A side with the belly cut off, usually 15 to 18 sq. ft.
  • Belly – The lower part of a side, usually 4 to 8 sq. ft.
  • Bend- The top part of a side, average 9 to 11 sq. ft.
  • Single Shoulder- 6 to 7 sq ft.
  • Double Shoulder- 12 to 14 sq. ft.

IMG_20130925_133555I would never order a belly or a single shoulder for shoes as they are normally thin and long. However double shoulders, backs, sides, ext. are all fair game.

And of course- this is the #1 reason why I recommend going in person. If I had a pattern and time to go through this, I would be able to walk out with enough leather for the shoes for under probably $10.

Upcoming Middle Eastern Shoes Class

16th Century Ottoman Turkish Felt Shoes

16th Century Ottoman Turkish Felt Shoes

At the Shire of Dark River- 35th Anniversary event! I will be teaching  “Introduction to Middle Eastern Shoes”. The first part of the class will cover examples of extant shoes, two different Middle Eastern styles ( an earlier period Egyptian and a later period Turkish Ottoman), patterns, materials, decoration, and the similarity between Middle Eastern Styles.

The second part of the class will cover how to make either a pair of Egyptian or Ottoman Turkish shoes. For those wishing to make a pattern in class, please bring an old sock ( it will be destroyed) a roll of duct or packing tape, and 2 sheets of wool felt ( or 1/3 yard). There will be  handouts on the documentation of Middle Eastern shoes and how to create a pair of shoes from your pattern.  $1 handout donation.

As an added bonus Baroness Brigid Murchadha will be teaching a Middle Eastern Beginning Embroidery class later in the day, so you can start to decorate your felt shoes.

I will upload both a Middle Eastern Shoes Tutorial and the handouts for this class AFTER the event ( so if you want to put your best foot forward, you should really attend the Shire of Dark River- 35th Anniversary event!