Ponderings (the Renaissance Faire)
On Saturday my family took a trip to our “local” (southern Wisconsin) Renaissance Faire, and it got me to thinking a lot about conservation and consumerism…(of course, these days most things get me thinking about conservation and consumerism!)
I was watching the Faire workers–the street characters, the performers, the shop workers, and so on…and at least in public where people could see them, they generated no garbage. Each had their own cup, many had a bowl and spoon dangling from their belt or hidden away in a pouch, and foreheads and hands got wiped clean on a lot of kerchiefs. (Or sleeves, I guess, depending on how expensive your garb was.) The queen even had a lady in waiting who followed her around with a tray and a cup (the cup had a square of linen over the top to keep debris and bugs out), and periodically she would say imperiously, “I will have my cup,” and the lady would remove the linen and hand the chalice to Her Majesty. Never (and I discovered later that this is actually part of the rules, which makes sense) did one see a Faire professional sipping from a paper cup or eating from a disposable plate, or cleaning with paper napkins. (Okay, Ladies Room being the exception. But the flushable privies were busted that day, unfortunately, and so we didn’t even see much of it there. (That also gave rise to all kinds of other traumas with my hates-public-restrooms-anyway daughter who took one look at the smelly poo-and-paper-filled holes in the portapotties and immediately went completely hysterical.)
The public–not so much with the conservation. Potato wedges with processed cheese drizzled over them, chicken tenders pressed into the shape of stars, everything served in something that needed to be thrown away. But the Faire workers were walking living proof that it absolutely doesn’t need to be that way. At all.
Along similar lines, I have gotten interested lately in historical costuming (I made all the family’s costumes this year–my husband already had a shirt, and my daughter’s chemise still fit from last summer, but other than that we were all dressed in my own work. I’m not a great seamstress by any stretch, but this still makes me very proud), and one of the things I’m learning about clothing construction from the time is that people, especially the poor, figured out how to make ther clothing with practically no scraps. If you sew and have ever made anything from a commercial pattern, you’ll know that vast amounts of fabric are left over when it’s all done. But these patterns, many of which can be found online (check here, and here, and here for just a sampling), use primarily rectangular construction, with a lot of right-angled pieces that can be laid out with very little waste. A skirt can be as big or as small as you have fabric for; a shift’s length can be whatever will let you get the most out of the cloth you have. And even the “scraps,” such as they are, are usually squares and rectangles themselves and can be re-purposes fairly easily (as an apron or just a portable napkin to wipe your hands on…and where do you think the idea of patchwork quilting came from,anyway?) (Okay, just to be clear, I’m not aware of a patchwork quilt tradition in Elizabethan England, I’m talking about women who made their family’s clothes and found a way to turn the scraps into blankets to keep everyone warm during the winter. I mean, come, on, it’s not like they headed into town and bought bunch of fat quarters of fabric at the local Quilters Mart.)
Again, it’s the whole principle of there not being tons of anything available, so make the best use of what we have and don’t waste it. Food, cloth, utensils, everything. Use it, and when it’s not useful for its current purpose, repurpose it into something else useful.