Monday, August 14, 2017

Blackberry Jam

Three pints of blackberry jam from an 1837 English recipe.
Blackberry Jam, from
The Magazine of Domestic Economy (1837)

Delicious seasonal food preservation: Blackberry Jam, from The Magazine of Domestic Economy (1837).  The receipt is quite simple: blackberries, sugar, and optional lemon peel or juice. Simmer for 45 minutes.

For this batch, I used 4 pounds of blackberries, 2 pounds of granulated sugar, and the peel of 1/3 of a lemon. It yielded 3.5 pints, and is quite tasty. The canning jars are, of course, modern. I opted to follow current food safety standards and process the jars for 10 minutes in boiling water.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Straw Bonnet

I'm slowly photographing and writing up up my recent projects, as there may have been a bit of a rush to get ready for English Camp last weekend.  One long-awaited wardrobe addition was a new straw bonnet.
Low spoon straw bonnet c.1859-1862, of 1/2" hemp plait, from the pattern by The Dressmaker's Shop
Straw bonnet blank, made of 1/2" hemp plait
It's from the same pattern as before (the Low Spoon Straw Bonnet from The Dressmaker's Shop), though I daresay my shaping worked better this time. Instead of hand-sewing the whole thing, I used a machine on the flat portion of the brim, then switched to hand-sewing when I joined the back and started spiraling the straw in to form the crown.  For this step, I skipped the pressing ham, and simply drew up each row of braid by sight, which I think produced a neater curve. I also took the precaution of applying full-strength fabric stiffener to the brim, which has definitely improved the bonnet's stability.

I ended up trimming the bonnet on-site (it may have lacked floral decoration at the Saturday cricket match), but will be re-working it before wearing it again.  First, because the lovely 5" wide pink silk ribbon curtain/ties started shredding as I attached it, and second because I miscalculated the lace circumference, and ended up with a lopsided pile of pleats to one side. The straw flowers work well with it, though, so I'll be keeping those in some configuration.  I'm tempted to aim for '62 on the re-trim, and wear it to Snoqualmie in September (and, likely, shift things around again for '59 wear next summer at English Camp).

Initial trim placement: wide silk ribbon bavolet and "brides",
pink, blue, and gold straw flowers under the brim and along one tab.

Monday, July 31, 2017

English Camp, 2017

The Pig War is one of my favorite summer reenactment events. In addition to being my only event which happens on the original site, it is also marks a reasonable and pleasant resolution of a situation which was, at the time it occurred, very serious and worrying.  In addition to sharing some interesting local history, it means we get to do a no-casualty war reenactment with more cricket games than skirmishes. Also, San Juan Island is lovely in July.

Refreshments for the cricket players. I made the tea cakes.

Home, sweet home.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Pence Jug, Getting Started

I'm (rather belatedly) joining the pence jug knit-along.  Having never used size 00 needles before, this should be interesting.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

In the kitchen

Messing around in the historic kitchen again this week, with generally positive results. I planned to make Mrs. Beeton's Beef Cakes, using some left-over roast beef and pork shoulder. The meat didn't grind up as easily as the the chicken croquettes, and the texture of the finished beef cakes showed it. The flavor was alright, though I added too much salt to both the cakes and the gravy. Next time, I would also either use beef drippings or lard, not bacon fat (which tended to overwhelm the other flavors). Taking advantage of the garden's seasonal offerings, I served the beef cakes with Boiled Turnip Greens, and followed up with a Red Currant and Raspberry Tart, utilizing our local sort-of-black currants. The turnip greens were fine; the tart also, though I used a larger proportion of raspberries and should have used either a shorter tumbler or more berries (or both).  Having some cherries to use up, I turned the extra short crust into Turnovers.


Cherry turnovers, based on a receipt in Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management (1861)
Cherry Turnovers

Beef Cakes, from Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management (1861)
Beef Cakes

Currant and Raspberry Pie from Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management (1861)
Currant and Raspberry Tart

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Bonnet Veils

Sun protection, and garish colors all at once.

1860s reproduction bonnet veils of silk gauze, and cotton net lace
Net half-circle net on bonnet, with silk gauze veils in
black, blue, and green.

Black and white lace comprise the majority of museum collection veils, with the odd smattering of green.  Period documents, however, refer to blue, brown, black and green veils (even used by men).  Non-lace materials, including barege, grenadine, and gauze, are also named; these marginally more utilitarian materials appear to have been favored as dust-protection in the event of travel and/or bad weather--Mary Chestnut's diary mentions ruining a lace veil while travelling, as no cheaper veil could be procured after several years of blockades.

The surviving lace veils that I've seen are rectangular or half-circular* in form.  In general, the decoration is concentrated toward the bottom and/or sides of the veil, leaving the face--and especially the eyes--clear.  The half-circle or "D" shaped veils are mostly black, though the Met and Smithsonian each have at least one white veil of this sort. The VAM has an adorable black veil with yellow trim (and BEES!).

White lace D-shaped veil from Belgium, early 19th century.
From the Cooper-Hewitt/Smithsonian Design Museum.
Black lace veil from France, early 19th century.
In the Met.
My simpler version is made of cotton net with lace sewn along the curved edge (net from Mill End in Portland, lace from Fine French Laces). I dyed it with forest green fiber reactive dye from Dharma Trading Co. While this veil worked very well for me, I am considering dying it black and embroidering spots on it.  I started with green because 1) I like green, 2) I'm tired of people deciding my black veil is mourning attire, and 3) colorful veils existed in the time period but aren't represented in any of my usual reenactment venues. However, I haven't found an example of a green half-circle veil, yet, so it may be necessary to dye it the better-documented black (though it still won't be quite so sheer and lacy as most of the examples).

The rectangular veils I made are silk gauze with silk ribbon (dyed "forest green" and "mountain blue" with the Dharma dyes, though the silk gives a brighter and yellower green than the cotton net did). Both are loosely based on this brown original veil posted to the SA by Pam Robles some years ago.  I also used it as the basis of my first bonnet veil (in black), though I could not duplicate the narrower stripes, and merely sewed ribbon to the silk gauge to imitate the thicker lines. I attempted something similar with the green, and blue, but the ribbon I dyed for the project snags and runs very easily, so I only put one stripe on each--I may add the other three if I can find a better way to sew it. I did hand sew the new ones, which went much more easily than the machine sewing on my first veil. The black gauze, however, though nominally the same weight, seems more light and delicate than the dyed material.

While I would like to find more diaphanous materials for future veils, these three have performed adequately at shielding my eyes from sun glare, while not impeding vision (and, as a bonus, distinctly reducing the number of people declaring me a widow). They've also sparked some interesting conversations with visitors and other reenactors.

*More like a half circle with a two-inch strip added to the flat side.


Sunday, July 9, 2017

Hard Pomade and Macassar Oil

Some sort of oil or pomatum is absolutely necessary to be used. Not only does it add to the glossiness of the hair, but it contributes to hold the hair in position. Some little care is necessary in order to impart to the oil or pomatum the necessary medium between limpidity and adhesiveness.
--Godey's, November 1855
I'm experimenting with a few more hair-styling preparations.  First, Macassar Oil from Mrs. Bradley's Housekeeper's Guide (1853). Like the "common hair oil" mentioned later in the Godey's article*, this is basically just colored, scented oil:
"Any quantity of sweet oil, and alkanet enough to give it a splendid red color. Scent with oil of bergamotte, lavender or lemon." 
I used 2 oz of sweet almond oil, with a generous spoonful of chopped alkanet root. After soaking overnight, I strained out the alkanet and stirred in four drops of essence of bergamot.

Maccassar hair oil from Mrs. Bradley's, 1853
Hair oil.

So far, I've used it once. I dabbed some oil on my hand, and brushed it through my hair, as I would apply a pomade. It seemed to give a similar sleek look, while dispersing easier. I couldn't say whether it is more or less effective for sticking the hair to itself. At some point, I should try one of the castor-oil-based receipts for comparison.

I also tried making the (second) hard pomatum from Mackenzie's Five Thousand Receipts (1854):
 Another--Take 6 oz. of common pomatum, add to it 3 oz. of white virgin wax, scraped fine. Melt them in an earthen pan immersed in a one containing boiling water both being over a clear and steady fire. When properly incorporated, keep stirring, until it is nearly cold, then put it into small pots, or make it up into small rolls. Perfume it according to taste.
I was a little concerned here, since the first recipe given has 20:1 ratio of fats to wax, while this second one was 2:1.  Nonetheless, I tried it, and rather like the results.  As expected, it set much stiffer than the soft version; practically, this limits how much you can get out of the jar at a time. When I tried it on a friend's fine hair (which was only moderately responding to the soft pomatum I previously made), it did seem to hold better. I think I prefer using the soft version on my own hair, as it holds well enough, and is a bit faster to dispense. I used the same scent ratios for this hard pomatum as for the soft pomatum.

Hard pomatum from Mackenzie's 5000 Receipts, 1854
Hard pomatum.

*The extract from Godey's goes on to state that "Common hair oil is nothing more than olive or salad oil colored red with alkanet root, and scented. It is far too thin to be useful, and it soils more than enough", while Macassar oil is supposedto belong to a superior class of hair products (scented castor oil dilluted with wine spirits). This may be a case of a specific name (Macassar oil) being applied to the more general category (hair oil).