Making a “Saxon Geteld”
How much fabric will you need?
We have never actually calculated the yardage for making a tent, as we have always bought the fabric and cut the tent according to our cloth, so to speak. However, for a small (1 or 2 person) tent, using 45" to 60" wide fabric, you will need approximately 6½ times the desired height of your tent.
To scale up to a larger side-opening tent with extra panels, or to make a larger end-opening tent, you need to add about 2½ times the height of the tent for each additional panel.
Measuring and cutting out
Cut two isosceles triangles the full width of your fabric; the height slightly taller than the desired height of your tent (piece #1).
Using one of the right-angle triangles (piece #3) as a guide, cut out piece #2, not forgetting to allow about 20cm for the ridge pole casing. This piece must be cut on the fold, so it will open out into a "butterfly" shape (see further diagrams below).
Repeat the right hand side of the cutting diagram to get another piece #2.
You should end up with:
- Two large Isosceles triangles (piece #1) - these will form the back bell-end.
- Two "butterflies" (piece #2) - these will form the tent sides.
- Eight right-angle triangles (piece #3) - Six of these will form the front flaps
This leaves you with 2 pieces (piece #3) left over, which can be used to make ties.
Sewing the panels
All seams should end up on the inside of the tent! For strength you should use a run-and-fell seam
Stitch together the two piece #2s along the long edge. Open out and finish seam.
Stitch together the two piece #1s along 1 long edge. Open out and finish seam.
Stitch together 2 of the right-angle triangles (piece #3) along the selvedge (finished edge of the fabric). Open out and finish seam.
Stitch a third triangle on to the side of the panel, matching long edges, as shown. Open out and finish seam.
Repeat the last two steps with three more right-angle triangles (piece #3), taking care to "mirror" them so you have a right side and a left side. The two selvedge pieces will form the overlaps of the entrance flaps.
Insert the bell-end (#1) into one end of the tent body (#2). Stitch, matching bottom corners. There will be a gap at the top, which will need to be hemmed.
Take one of the front flaps (Three piece #3s). Making sure all the seams are on the same side, attach it to the front end of the tent body. Repeat with the other flap, taking care to "mirror" the two sides so the selvedges form a neat overlap.
Lay the pieces out before you begin to sew, to be sure you've positioned them correctly!
The ridge pole sleeve
Turn the tent the right way out and stitch carefully along the line shown to form the ridge pole casing, leaving 2 gaps for the upright poles. Mark the line with chalk first, and make sure the casing isn't too tight. If the casing is too tight it will grip the ridge pole when wet and be the cause of much wailing and gnashing of teeth on occasions when you must break camp in the rain.
Alternatively, you can sew ties at intervals along the centre line to secure the ridge pole to the canvas.
Hem the ridge pole sleeve edges, and the bottom edge of the tent. The manuscript evidence shows the ridge pole sticking out of the ends of the ridge pole casing (as we have illustrated here). To match this appearance you will have to trim the ends of the casing; however we have left ours long and have found that the dangling ends seem to act as rain spouts, directing water away from the tent.
Your peg loops will need to be long enough to go round a tent peg while allowing for a decent anchorage on the tent fabric. The peg loops on our small tent are made from offcuts of leather, each approximately 2cm x 25cm and 2mm thick; the large tent uses larger and thicker loops. Make stitch holes with an awl, position the loop ends either side of the tent seams (see illustration), glue them in place, then stitch them down. A one or two person tent needs nine loops in the positions shown on the plan view below. There are two loops at the front - one on each of the flaps.
To hold the flaps closed we have used cloth ties, about 30cm long, made from parts of the leftover triangles. Alternatively you could use leather toggles similar to those known from some of the archaeological finds of dark age shoes. Having experienced the problems of untieing wet cloth ties with cold hands in the dark, toggles sound like a good idea, however experience with other peoples tents has shown that this is not necessarily a better alternative. The Utrecht Psalter appears to show ties done up in a bow and this is the style we have used. Make your closure fittings, but don't attach them yet. If you haven't done so already, make some poles and tent pegs, wait for it to stop raining and take everything to a convenient field or large garden. The moment of truth - put up the tent and adjust the height of the poles. Once you are happy that the tent has been pitched properly, attach the ties. We have reinforced the attachment points with leather patches. The Utrecht Psalter shows one of the flaps opened up and tied back outside the tent to a point roughly in the centre of the side. We haven't bothered with the outside tie as you can use a tent peg to hold back the flap by it's peg loop.
Some people might argue about this, but we have never waterproofed our tents, and never had a problem. If you use thick enough fabric, construct and erect the tent correctly, and tie up the flaps during a downpour, you should remain snug and dry. We have found that light to moderate rain just runs off, while even heavy rain is held in the fabric and only drips inside if someone knocks the wall of the tent.
Care and Storage
Here are our top tips for a tear-free tent, with no apologies for stating the obvious.
Don't put it away wet! Taking it home wet is sometimes unavoidable, but it should be hung up to dry as soon as possible; if not outside, then in a garage or a dry shed, or over the banisters and hanging down the stairwell (you may never see your banisters again).
Check the tent over for any tears, holes, or places where the stitching looks strained, and do any minor repairs before they become major ones. Small holes can be darned; larger holes or rips may need to be patched. Put some leather oil or polish on the peg loops every so often to keep them from going brittle. Check the poles for splinters, and rub them with linseed oil once in a while to keep them weatherproof. If you have metal bits at the ends of your poles, oil them too.
Learn to fold your tent! This may sound daft, but it can make a big difference to ease of transport and storage, and will help to keep it in good condition.
Store your tent canvas in a warm, dry place. Make a bag for it, and use it - being used as a cat or dog's bed will do nothing for it!
Store the poles somewhere cool and dry, preferably on their sides - failing that, prop them in a corner well away from direct heat, to avoid warp.
Have "putting the tent to bed for the winter" as a group activity. It provides a good excuse for everyone to sit around chatting, and nicely reinforces your group dynamic! And, of course, your tent will stay in good condition for longer if it's correctly stored.
The instructions in this article are provided without warranty, express or implied, and any use made of this article is entirely at your own risk. Ydalir Vikings and its members cannot be held responsible for any loss, damage, misuse or other action arising from such use.