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Pavilions-101-art - 6/28/99


"Pavilions 101" by Lady Giovanna Theresa Battista di Firenze. A two-part article on getting started making a pavilion for use at SCA events.


NOTE: See also the files: p-tents-msg, p-tent-const-art, tent-fabrics-msg, pavilions-msg, tent-making-msg, tent-floors-msg, tent-painting-msg.





This article was submitted to me by the author for inclusion in this set of files, called Stefan's Florilegium.


These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org


Copyright to the contents of this file remains with the author or translator.


While the author will likely give permission for this work to be reprinted in SCA type publications, please check with the author first or check for any permissions granted at the end of this file.


Thank you,

Mark S. Harris...AKA:..Stefan li Rous

stefan at florilegium.org



This article was originally published in Volume I (June 1999) of the Northshield

A & S magazine, "The Northstar".


Pavilions 101

Part 1: Getting Started


Well the solstice has come and gone officially marking the beginning of the Summer season.  In the SCA we have another annual occurrence that tells us that the warmer months are once again upon us; the first camping event of the season.

There you are dutifully setting up your nylon tent  that you bought in college or received as a gift from your parents one holiday or birthday long ago.  Suddenly your attention is drawn to the bright white walls and colorful dags of the group of pavilions near your camp.  Moving closer you see the space inside artfully arranged with furniture, a clothes rack and a bed!  Glancing back at your 2-3 person Coleman Dome Tent you can think of only one thing. "I want a Pavilion"!!!!!


WeÕve all been there.  However, there is a lot to consider before we make that type of investment.  Most of us do not have $800-$1000 at the ready to buy a pavilion from Panther or Tentmasters, so many of us have opted to make our own.  To date I have made 4 dining/ shade flys and 3 pavilions.  Needless to say I have learned a lot about what types of fabric, thread, wood, stakes, rope, designs, patterns, etc. work and I have made my fair share of mistakes as well as discoveries.  In the following series of articles I will share with you what I have learned in hopes that it will help you in undertaking this project if you so choose.


1) Where do I get started?

This is the best time of year to think about a pavilion.  A lot of people bring pavilionÕs to events, a lot of manufacturers are advertising, and itÕs the camping  season.  The next camping event you are at take time to walk around and look at the different tents keeping these questions in mind.  What type/ size/ style pavilion do I want? What do I need for space inside?  How easy is it to set up/ take down?  How does it handle varying weather conditions?  Can I transport it in my vehicle? Do I have the skills to make it or should I start saving now so I can afford to purchase it for next year?  Take the time to talk to owners, theyÕll tell you all about what they like and donÕt like about their pavilion.  They can also tell you where they got it or how they made it.  They may even let you inside so that you can experience the space.  DonÕt be shy.


2) Start making sketches.

You donÕt have to be Leonardo youÕre just drawing squares, circles, rectangles and triangles.  For a guide look at PantherÕs or TentmasterÕs catalogs.  They have the rough dimensions for their tents written next to the diagram of each tent style.  All you should need is some graph paper, pencil, ruler, compass (for the circles), and a calculator. The two equations that you will need is the Pythagorean theorem Ōthe sum of the square of 2 sides of a right angled triangle is equal to the square of the hypotenuseĶ (a + b = c  ) and 2r     to calculate the circumference of a circle. [     = 3.1415, r = radius of the circle] .  Make a good clear drawing and label all of your dimensions and look at the amount of wood you are going to need as well as fabric.  Unless you are really good with fabric (and you should be if you are thinking about doing this) it might be a good idea to get someone to help you figure out how much yardage you are going to need.  ItÕs usually a good idea to overestimate instead of running out of a certain color and not being able to find any more.  ItÕs also a good idea to talk to someone who is good with wood/ engineering to suggest which dimensions of wood you should use to support your pavilion as well as suggest places where you can get them.  You may want to take this person with you to help select the individual pieces if you are not confident in your own wood picking abilities.  ItÕs also a good idea to talk to someone who has made a pavilion before, they may have suggestions for you that you didnÕt think about.  They may also be able to offer changes or improvements to your design that will make a huge difference in the end.


3) Resources:

Some good places in the Twin Cities to get fabric for tents: S.R. Harris, Mill End Textiles, Suburban Tent and Awning INC, Harris Warehouse and Canvas Sales, Canvas Plus, and Minnesota Fabrics.  Take a look in the advertising sections in magazines for Civil War/ Revolutionary War/ black powder groups.  A lot of them have adds for people who make tents/ pavilions or who sell canvas.   The design for the wall tent that is used by the Civil War groups can be researched back to Roman times, donÕt limit yourself.

Use the World Wide Web as your guide.  Panther Pavilions (www.RenStore.com) and 4 Seasons Tentmasters (www.tentmasters.com) both have web pages.  Friends of mine, originally from Chicago, have a great web page dedicated to pavilions (www.adelphi.edu/~sbloch/sca/tents), they have a lot of links to other sites as well as great pictures.  They camp with the Enchanted Ground at Pennsic each year and I encourage you to go talk to them if you have a chance and admire their pavilion up close and personal.

The Compleat Anachronist has a pamphlet for sale titled ŌPavilions of  the Known WorldĶ which I really liked.  Good designs and clear instructions make this a great source for beginners.  I made my dining fly using the plan for the tournament gallery in this booklet.


As you can see there is a lot to think about when undertaking this project and we have just scratched the surface. A pavilion is a very challenging item to make and can be frustrating and difficult.  I donÕt want to discourage people, but I do want to be honest in letting you know that this is not easy.  You should be very confident about your sewing skills as well as your sewing machine.   I will tell you that when you do complete your pavilion it is extremely satisfying, especially when you think of the money you have saved in doing it yourself.  Do plan on spending anywhere from $100-$300, not cheap, but a lot less expensive than buying one ready made.  The part I like the most is you donÕt have to have a white tent!  Look at illuminated manuscripts, youÕll find pink, blue, gold, green, a whole rainbow of colors used for tents.   People who have seen my tents will certainly attest to their ŌvividnessĶ.   Have fun and be creative!  A roomy pavilion is worlds better than a nylon tent any day and they add so much to the decor and character at our SCA events.


Good luck in your project!


Lady Giovanna Theresa Battista di Firenze

(Elizabeth Pearson)

valkyr8 at yahoo.com


Pavilions 101

Part 2: Supplies and Assembly


In part one of my articles on how to make a pavilion we looked at the design process.  Now we come to the nuts and bolts of the project, the materials.  I have been playing with outdoor structures for four years and the most frequently asked question I get is Ōwhat do you use for fabricĶ.  In this article I devote a whole section on how to choose fabric as well as its treatment.  Because there are so many elements that go into creating an outdoor structure I decided to have a separate article devoted to them.  Hopefully I will address most of your questions.


1) You have your design, now what?

You want to sit down and seriously assess your sewing/ building skills as well as your tools.  I have an old Singer from 1953 that handles anything that I put through it beautifully.  I sewed my first pavilion, a 10Õ high, 10Õ wide x 12Õ long modified Viking A frame, on my portable Kenmore with few problems.  My Singer is a better choice, but my point is you donÕt need an industrial machine.  You do want to use a strong 100% nylon thread ( you can purchase this at most upholstery stores) and size 16 (leather) sewing needles.  You want to use a flat felled seam, sometimes referred to as a French seam,  when you sew your pavilion together. This is the type of seam that you will find on the side of your jeans.   It is a very durable seam and perfect for pavilions.  It can be tricky to use, but once you get the hang of it itÕs a breeze to do.  For an example on how to make this stitch try looking in the manuals that come with your sewing machine.  I usually sew a nylon or cotton webbing, that you can buy at upholstery stores, over the seams that run along the tension points.  I also use it to reinforce the fabric at any point that IÕm putting a grommet.   This will keep the fabric from ripping away from the grommet as well as keep your tent from stretching when it is staked out.  For these items  I go to Do It Yourself Upholstery in St. Paul;  they have a good selection, they are really helpful and they also sell grommets so you can get everything in one trip.  They are  located next to a Mill End Textiles as well.



I have found that it is not necessary to use heavy canvas when building a pavilion.  What you want to look for is a 100% cotton fabric with good weight and zero stretch!  Cotton denim is a good choice as is Sportweight.  Do not get a natural undyed fabric!!!!  I made this mistake last year and my pavilion and dining fly mildewed completely while they were still up at Pennsic!  Upset doesnÕt cover what I was.  If you still want to use natural undyed canvas you must treat it!  There are products out there made especially for canvas that you can buy at tent suppliers or United Stores; Camp Coat is one that I know of.  Some people have used ThompsonÕs Water Seal and have found that works fine. I have also heard of a product sold at Wal Mart that you can use to treat items against moisture, IÕm planning on using this product for my new tent so IÕll let you know how it went.  My suggestion is to treat any outdoor structure no matter what fabric you end up using.  When canvas becomes wet the fibers swell and act as a barrier to keep the rain out, however before the fibers become saturated the canvas will allow moisture to pass through in the form of a fine mist.  This isnÕt a big deal, but it can be annoying. Essentially what you are treating against is mildew getting a hold of the fibers in your fabric because once itÕs there youÕre not going to get it out and it will eventually destroy your fabric.  You can by fabric at tent or awning stores that is already treated however this fabric tends to be extremely expensive!!!!  $12 - $15 for a yard of fabric thatÕs 37 inches wide.  Once you start spending that amount of money you might as well go and buy a ready made pavilion.  The fabric I buy is typically 60Ķ wide and costs anywhere from $1.99-$2.50/ yard.  The fabric for the pavilion that I have just finished cost approximately $87.  This doesnÕt include the wood framework, stakes, rope, webbing, grommets, binding tape for the dags, plastic ground tarps, thread and needles.  All of this probably added another $50 making a grand total of $137, not bad for a 12 foot round pavilion.


3) Stakes and ropes:

In order to support your pavilion you will have to use metal stakes and good quality rope.  The rope I use is the 3/8Ķ hemp look rope you can get at Home Depot or Menards.  For my first tent I had my boyfriend at the time bend an angle in the end of a 12Ķ piece of 1/2Ķ steel ribar to use as a stake.  This worked all right for a while, but the hard angle eventually broke off after several uses.  If you have access to a torch you can soften the steel and make a curve on the end, these last a lot longer. Last year I decided to order a couple dozen tent stakes from Panther and I found the quality really good and the price reasonable.  I usually put slides on the ropes to help tighten them.  I buy a one inch diameter hard wood dowel and cut it into 4 inch sections and drill two holes through the dowel that I fish the rope through.  It makes adjusting the tension on the tent a lot easier than pulling the stakes up and hammering them down over and over.


4) Wood Supports:

Most of the structures I make donÕt require lumber larger than a 2 x 2 to hold it up.  My Viking tent uses 4, 10Õ tall 2 x 4Õs.  Originally I had the uprights made out of 2 x 6Õs that I had ripped in half, but when three of them shattered in the tornado at Lilies I decided to upgrade.  The center pole for my round pavilion is a pressure treated 2 x 4.  IÕve seen some pavilions with center poles made out of 4 x 4Õs which, in my opinion, is a bit much.  Once again if you have any doubts about what dimension of lumber you should use donÕt hesitate to ask a professional.


IÕm sure that I didnÕt cover every question you had but I hope I provided a reference point to guide your decisions on certain products.  After reading my two articles I hope I  have  prepared you to actually make a pavilion.  In my final article I will provide a plan for a simple shade fly.  It is a great project for beginners and I hope it will encourage people to move on to bigger and better pavilions.


See you next month!


Lady Giovanna Theresa Battista di Firenze

(Elizabeth Pearson)

valkyr8 at yahoo.com



Other publication notes: An earlier version of the article was first published

in the Baronial newsletter, "The Crystal Quill", June and July issue 1998. It was published in Mistress Therica's September 1998 issue of the "The Booke of

Divers Knowledge".



Copyright 1999 by Elizabeth Pearson. <valkyr8 at yahoo.com> Permission is granted for republication in SCA-related publications, provided the author is credited and receives a copy.


If this article is reprinted, I would appreciate a note in your publication

that the article was found in the Florilegium. In addition, an email to me

would help me track which articles are being reprinted. Thanks. -editor.


<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org