The 10% Challenge

One of the people I like and respect immensely in the SCA is my friend Jarl Ullr Amaranthson.  I got to know Ullr when he started dating my dear friend AnneLyse and I later had the honor of bring in their wedding party.

Ullr is well known for his commitment to being as authentic to his chosen persona as possible.  And one of the things he challenges his associates to do is something he calls the 10% challenge.  The theory is pretty simple.  Often, when we consider upgrading our kit, we can get so overwhelmed with the big picture that we lock up and don’t move forward at all.  I have been guilty of this, and one of the things I have found in being a new peer is that I am even more susceptible to it, because Oh, god, person to be looked up to, people watching me, panic!  Ahem.  Right then.

Ullr’s challenge encourages people to focus on the small things.  For example, what are you eating with?  Is your feast gear built around a modern utensil set?  What kind of utensils would your Persona have used?  Upgrading that one thing is the 10%.  Then when it’s done, you take a moment, and appreciate your accomplishment.  Then ask, what’s next.

Currently, cash is tight in our household as my husband ends his GA position and works on finishing his thesis.  He’s job hunting, so we don’t have a lot of disposable income for the big upgrades we want to make. (Hello, Pavillion!  Sigh.  Someday.)  So, how do you do 10% when you don’t have a lot of cash handy?

My answer came to me recently while I was working on repacking my usual event kit and organizing the chaos that was my weekend necessities totes.  In one box, some of my jewelry had tangled up and around some beading pliers (I think they’ve been there since Pennsic), with bobby pins and hair ties.  Lots of bobby pins and hair ties.  These are the things that I am most likely to get on the road without or destroy, and I probably buy, on average, a pack of each every other month.  Which is kinda crazy.  That is a lot of elastic and plastic and…

So I asked myself, self, what would Aline have actually used to fix her hair? For answers, I started looking at the blogs of medievalists I admire, and I found a great one by a Laurel in Drachenwald on what she uses in her hair styling kit.  The nice thing about her suggestions is that I already have a lot of it handy.  Always a plus when trying to upgrade on a budget.  There are a couple of places I will differentiate though.  For one, I have found that while I can use a good thing wool thread to get my hair to stay where it ought, it doesn’t generally last in the ends of my braids as a fixative.  What I have found that works is 3-4″ strips of 1/4 wide, thin sueded leather.  For me, I get a better hold and staying time that way.  Leather can also be gilded pretty easily, making it a more decorative choice.  And it makes sense to me that leather workers would want to sell as much of a hide as possible.  These little strips are something I could see a housewife or lady buying in a handful at an inexpensive price.  Rather like hair bands and bobby pins today.

So, this weekend, I’ll be pulling those modern elastics and bobby pins out of my kit and making an initial round of replacements.  Hopefully, in the next few weeks, I can get most of this hair styling kit assembled and added to my regular travel set.

It’s a small step to be sure, but it’s 10% better than it was.  What will be your next 10%


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