There aren’t a lot of historical costuming events in New Zealand, and one that I’ve never managed to get to is the annual Levin Medieval Market. Levin is only an hour and a half up the coast from Wellington, and I (finally) had the weekend free this year, so I decided it was time to go.
I put the word out to friends, and not only did Hvitr & Madame O put their hands up, Hvitr already had a 10th c Viking outfit, and Madame O committed to making a 1360s ensemble like mine if I’d help her with the pattern. Juliet came down from Palmy, and we four went to the fair!
Very conveniently, Juliet’s parents live in Levin, so we Wellington girls headed off just past 7am (gah), drove up, met Juliet there, got dressed, and then headed out
I was warned ahead of time not to get too excited about how medieval the day would be: I was told to expect standard market fair with the Order of the Boar doing fighting demonstrations and a few other re-enactors.
I’m really glad I had the warning, because it was very true. It was a few reenactors, maybe 15 stalls with any real relation or attempt to be anything medieval, 30 stalls with handmade things ranging from fabulous to twee, and another 30 stalls selling imported tat. And two stalls with plants that Juliet and I drooled over but couldn’t buy for reasons of practicality.
There weren’t really any reenactors doing anything but battle-y stuff either, which was quite sad. I would have loved to have seen a tent about food, or textiles and clothing. (Psst, if anyone involved is reading this, if you’ll give us a tent or pavilion space like the one the musicians have down below, I’ll show up with 3-4 other people in 14th c dress and we’ll sit and sew and do clothing and sewing demonstrations all day! We could probably even wrangle some food historians to talk about our lunch.)
Much to my surprise, our group had the most accurate medieval clothing of all the women I saw. We ran into one person I know could have beaten us, but she’d worn her old first attempt for reasons of practicality. We were all reasonable beginners in the era, so I was hoping for some really polished, impressive outfits, but alas, either everyone else focuses on other things, or they had all decided to save their outfits for a less hot day.
Even more to my surprise, we didn’t get asked questions about our outfits, or asked for photographs! There weren’t many people dressed up, but I’ve still never felt more anonymous in period attire. It was lovely, but very odd. (I did have a tiny run-in with a costume snark (wearing totally modern cheap polyester clothes, natch) who sniffed because my outfit wasn’t entirely hand-sewn while I was chatting to a Morris dancer about how we were handling the heat while standing in line for the loo. She then proceeded to declare that the Morris dancers outfit wasn’t right either. C’est la vie!)
So now, the day in photos!
One of my favourite stalls was a blacksmith who travelled around in his own caravan-house, with a portable forge, and…
…wait for it…
…his pet chickens!
The chooks got let out of their coop at the market, and just wandered around, foraging in the very nice grass, and being adorable.
We had lunch very near their stall, so we threw them a few bits from our picnic.
We brought a full picnic, because while there were food stalls I (wisely) distrusted that they would have eats I would be enthusiast about.
We packed nice cheeses and breads and swamp dragon eggs (green and scaly with big hard round yokes) and fire dragon eggs (green and stripey and bright pinky-red inside) and rhubarb and ginger cordial, and Hvitr got ambitious and made delicious venison pies from a Medieval recipe:
Madame O bought amazing antique loom drops from when NZ had a larger textile production industry:
I desperately wanted some (of course!) but couldn’t think what I would do with them. As soon as I got home I realised I could have used them to make a really neat coat-hanging rack for our entry, which we really need! Gah!
Juliet admired beautiful NZ made wool blankets (but it was too hot for them to be really appealing):
And both Juliet & I bought beautiful hand-whittled wooden spoons from a maker who was sitting there whittling as he sold. We noticed them early in the day but decided we would come back for them later, and when we did we found the ones we wanted, with spiral handles, had already sold. Alas!
Maker to the rescue: he took the ones we liked best, and quickly whittled in some spirals for us! Now we have gorgeous spoons (mine is heading to my parents in Hawaii) and a great story!
The best part of the market was after lunch, when the events had died down a bit, when we discovered that the horses from the medieval horseback demonstrations were just chilling in little stalls, and we could go pet and cuddle them:
The other best part was after the market, when we hung out in Juliet’s mum’s much cooler garden and took pretty pictures:
We have decided that the day was wonderfully fun, but next time we’re just going to have our own picnic, so we can get up at a more civilised hour, and pick a cooler location (where we don’t have to walk to the carpark).
And I have decided that wimples are where it’s at, because I forgot to apply sunscreen to my chest and got a rather nasty sunburn. Ouch!