Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Corded Petticoats

I've been looking for images of original pre-hoop corded petticoats (inspired by my "Ladies' Layers in Detail" series over the 4th US blog), and here's what I've found so far.  Unfortunately, there aren't many closely dated ones, especially for the 1850s.

There are two main ways of cording a petticoat: one is to use fabric which has cords woven into it; the other is to sew cording between layers of plain fabric.  This may be accomplished by making small "tucks" in the petticoat, or by extending the hem facing to provide the second layer of fabric.

Genessee Country Village and Museum has two blog posts up about weaving corded material for petticoats. The first shows the fabric and the original it was based on; the second post has the finished petticoat.
Cotton corded petticoat with drawstring waist, c. 1840-1860.
I think this example has the cords woven into the material
rather than sewn in, but it's hard to tell from the picture.
The FIDM museum has an 1830s corded petticoat photographed on their blog (with the corded stays and sleeve supports of the era).  Like the Met original below, it appears to have individual cords sewn into small tucks all up the skirt.  The cords are set closer together near the hem and further apart towards the waist.
Petticoat with cords sewn into small tucks.
From The Met. 1830s..
Here's another that I wish I could see in person; it has a yoked top and lots of fine cords run parallel to the hem.  Again, I can't tell from the picture whether these are woven or sewn, though the final effect is consistent with petticoats I've made using the "sandwich" method of sewing cords into a deep hem facing.
Linen corded petticoat, c. 1840-55,
from Corsets and Crinolines
Finally, it's important to remember that corded petticoats aren't the only pre-hoop option for fluffing one's skirts. Quilted petticoats are also important (though I won't be wearing one in the summer anytime soon), and flounced petticoats also add a fair amount of loft.  There's also the original "crinoline":
Horsehair ("crinoline") petticoat, 1840s.
From The Met.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

HFF 2.2: Culinary Vices

The Challenge: Culinary Vices

The Recipe: A Trifle from Mrs. Hale's New Cook Book by Mrs. Sarah Josepha Hale (pages 366,)
For the sponge cakes (page 406):
Ratafia cakes (page 413):
For reference, the preceding almond cakes:

Incidentally, the month lead time means I won't be making my own ratafia, but there's a receipt for that too (page 446):

Macaroons (page 412):

And the "rich custard" (365):

Sugar, cream, brandy, wine, more sugar, more brandy, more cream... I think this receipt is very well-suited to the challenge.

The Date/Year and Region: 1857, United States (Philadelphia)

How Did You Make It:
Day 1: Ratafia cakes, and coconut macaroons.

Pounded just over 1 lb (~1.15 lb) of blanched almonds (initially with a mortar and pestle, the rest in a blender).  Mixed in 2 cups of powdered sugar (just over 1/2 lb) and 1/2 cup peach brandy; I also added 1/2 tsp of almond extract (diluted essence of bitter almond), in lieu of using actual bitter almonds.  It made a very sticky dough.  Rolled into balls and flattened into small cakes; baked on parchment paper at 300F for about 10 minutes per side, to "dry".  Mixed up icing with 3 cups of powdered sugar and 1 egg white and iced one side of cakes; dried in oven.  Having run out of icing, and having some difficulty applying it to the other side of the cakes, I opted to leave them half-frosted.

I doubled the macaroon receipt, to neatly use the whole bag of shredded coconut.  Unfortunately, this made the volume of ingredients exceed the capacity of any of my mixing bowls.  That's 1 lb shredded coconut, mixed with 4 pounds (ie, the whole bag) of granulated sugar and the whites of two eggs. Eight egg whites were separately beaten to a "froth", and then stirred into the batter.  Baked on parchment paper at 350F, for about 10 minutes on the lower rack and 5 on the upper oven rack.

Day 2: Sponge cake, custard, whipped cream, and assembling the trifle.

Sponge cake: Separated 10 eggs, beat the whites until fluffy, and the yolks until well-mixed.  Added 1 lb sugar, lemon juice, and minced lemon peel to the yolks.  Stirred in egg whites and 1/2 lb flour; baked in a greased and floured pan for about 40 minutes at 350F (until the center was solid).  Next time, I'd probably put it a little higher in the oven--it was on second lowest rack position, and the bottom/sides were getting a bit well done by time the center was baked.

Custard: I ended up making this twice to cover both trifles.  Put 1 cinnamon stick and the peel of 1 lemon in 2 cups of milk on the stove, on medium heat, and allow it to boil for between ten and fifteen minutes.  Meanwhile, separated 8 eggs and beat the yolks with 2 cups of cream.  Strained heated milk and stirred in about 1/2 cup of sugar.  Slowly added hot milk to the eggs/cream while mixing.  Slowly heated the custard on the stove top, stirring, for 1 1/4- 1 1/2 hours on medium low heat, until the custard thickened.
The whipped cream had... issues.  I started mixing 3 cups of cream, added 3/4 cup of sugar and 1 cap-full of brandy (about 1 Tbsp).  Added 3/4 cup moscato, and... the cream didn't set.  Probably, I should have gotten it fully whipped with the sugar, and then stirred in the other flavorings.  I tried straining the mixture, but it went straight from runny to grainy, and I ended up with...butter.  Sweet, alcohol-laced, butter.  [Fortunately, a friend decided this was brilliant, and whisked it off for French-toast purposes.]

I tried it again with the remaining cup of cream, only adding 1/4 cup of sugar, and the small splash of brandy.  It still, however, wouldn't solidify.

To finally construct the trifle, I started by layering slices of sponge cake with macaroons and ratafia cakes.  Even with two decent-sized dishes (and a third small one for a non-alcoholic version), I only ended up using about half of the ratafias and a quarter of the (double batch of) macaroons. Fortunately, the leftovers were tasty on their own.

I poured about half a bottle of moscato with a splash of brandy, over the cakes and let them soak while making the custard.  For the non-alcoholic small dish (not pictured), I used a splash of orange-flower water on the sponge/macaroons.   When the custard was thick, I poured it over the cakes, topping it off with minced orange peel and fresh-grated nutmeg.

The square pan was full at this point (even though the custard barely covered the cakes, much less being 2" thick), so I only added the raspberry preserves to the deeper round dish, and the small non-alcoholic one.  The whip cream didn't set, as mentioned above, and so I ended up drizzling it over the top.

Time to Complete:  A really long time.

Total Cost: *mumble*

How Successful Was It?: Better than last time!  The macaroons are yummy on their own, if not pretty, likewise the ratafia cakes.  The sponge had a nice lemon flavor.  The custard actually thickened this time, and had a delicate lemon/cinnamon flavor.  The whipped cream--the one portion of this that I wasn't at all concerned with--was a complete failure.  Twice.

The trifle ultimately came together well, with the different flavors mixing and complementing eachother.  I'm not usually a huge fan of soggy cakes, but only the sponge cake really had that problem--the ratafias/macaroons stayed nicely crisp.  It was, however a huge project, and if I make it again in the future, it will only be because I have left-over period cakes and cookies to to re-purpose.

How Accurate Was It?: Recursively accurate. :) I still need a better dish for layering trifles, but they ones I found worked pretty well.  Two things which I could have made according to period instructions, but didn't were the aforementioned ratafia, and the preserves--I opted for a ready-made in this case, because berries aren't in season at the moment, there was already so much else to do (and I have made jelly before according to a Victorian receipt).

Needle Book

This lovely gift from Nancy is too adorable not to share. From The Ladies' Hand Book of Fancy and Ornamental Work.  

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Salvation Army Aprons (WWI)

Salvation Army Lassies, c. 1917-1919
See for more information.
The Museum of Flight has some early 20th century events coming up this month, so I'm working on skirts and aprons for eight WWI-era Salvation Army "Sallies".

Based on the above picture, the aprons are plain, with a bib, skirt, and waistband.  The bib is open at the sides, but extends over the shoulder--the set of it suggests that a back bib is present, or perhaps straps to connect it to the waistband in back.  The pieces appear to be fit fairly smoothly together (ie, aren't very full), with back fasteners for the bib and waistband. The material photographs light and would need to be washable--most likely, it's a plain-woven white cotton or linen, easy to bleach and boil clean.

The lines are not dissimilar to Liz Clark's 1-2-3 Pinafore Variations; to make the pattern more closely resemble the picture, I raised the neckline, gathered the bib less (sides angled in slightly to compensate), and made the skirt less full, with pleats concentrated at the sides to give a flat front while preserving range of motion.

Of the available options at the time, I'd guess buttons as the most likely fastening method, with hooks and eyes, or ties also being possible.  Due to time/material constraints, I opted to use ties at the top of the bib and at the waist.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Sewing Guild References

Artist's rendering of the proceedings.
(Or the frontispiece to the Workwoman's Guide.)

Here are links to some of the titles and fabric stores that came up during the Fort Nisqually Sewing Guild meeting on January 16.

The Dressmaker's Guide by Elizabeth Stewart Clark (for sale here) is the book that was being passed around and constantly referenced.  The sewing support forum is found at

Nancy and Tracy also had a lovely presentation of workbaskets and sewing tools.  Virginia Mescher's article "The Case of the Lost Thimble" has additional information on this topic, including pictures of period tools and notions.  The sewing accessory book that was mentioned is Anna Worden Bauersmith's Fanciful Utility.

The Workwoman's Guide (1838) is the period book that was brought up several times.  A reprinted edition is for sale in the Fort's gift shop or your preferred book retailer; electronic versions are available free on Internet Archives and Google Books (the 1838 version has the pattern "plates" set into the text, while the 1840 version has them all at the end).

Some other period needlework books which I have found interesting include:

The Ladies' self instructor in millinery and mantua making, embroidery and appliqué, canvas-work, knitting, netting, and crochet-work (1853) includes all the aforementioned subjects and then some. Unfortunately for us, the author devotes most of her descriptions to what materials to use rather than giving details on how to execute the stitches.  Images primarily are of embroidery designs, as well as a few fancy stitches.

The Ladies' Work Table Book (1850) is another cornucopia of needlework techniques; I believe much of the plain sewing section was lifted verbatim from this book for the above.  Of the two, I find this one easier to navigate, somehow.

The Girl's Own Toymaker (1860) features period instructions for doll clothes.  The author of The Ladies' Work Table Book opines that sewing doll clothes is the best training for sewing human clothing.

The Sampler by Lady Elizabeth Finch (1855) is a guidebook for school sewing instruction; it walks through cutting and stitching various basic garments.  It's an interesting peek into sewing and pedagogical methods of the time.

Method for Teaching Plain Needlework in Schools (1861) has fewer garment instructions than The Sampler, but does provide illustrations of the different exercises and "plain sewing" samplers.  It also aimed at the public school teacher, and discusses how to arrange and a conduct a sewing class.

Miss Leslie's Lady's House Book (1850) covers many topics, including some very readable sewing advice and instructions for a few basic garments like shirts and chemises.

Fabric Sources
There are some "local" shops carry useful fabrics--I like Nancy's Sewing Basket in Seattle for silks and fine cottons; Portland's Fabric Depot has a nice selection of reproduction cotton prints; the Pendleton Outlet near Oregon City has lovely wools.  Here are some on-line retailers as well:

Reproduction Fabrics. The website is divided by era, which makes it easier to find good prints.  To be foolproof, call the store: they can direct you to good fabrics for your year and project.

Hancock's of Paducah. Also has a large selection of reproduction prints, but they are all mixed together (18th-20th century). Be sure to check the dates on the fabric before ordering (or compare it to original samples).  They also currently have the best price I've found on white pimatex cotton (a really good fabric for undergarments).

Originals by Kay carries garment-appropriate fabrics intended for historical reproductions, including gorgeous silks and hard-to-source items like cotton and silk net.  The proprietress is also a historic costumer and pattern-maker, so if you explain your project, she may be able to suggest fabrics for it. carries white pima and occassionally has other fabrics suitable for period attire (I once found a fun sheer silk in the home dec department).

Fashion Fabrics Club has a variety of silk, wool, and fine cottons (some in period patterns, some not); their sales can be very good.

Dharma Trading Co caters to the dye market, and carries lots of beautiful materials like silk gauze and longstaple cottons.  Most of it is white, however.

Puresilks has gorgeous silk taffeta, which is an absolute dream to sew, and makes lovely evening gowns, fashionable day-wear, and accessories.  Satin, and brocade silks can also be period appropriate, though harder to work with, in my opinion. Do not buy silk dupioni for period use.

Wm Booth, Draper caters to the Revolutionary war crowd, but some of the fabrics can be used for mid-19th century as well.  Silks, wool, linen, and cottons--including that cotton velvet in my basque.

Lacis carries finer grades of cotton and silk fabric, as well as coutil for corsets.  Incidentally, this a good place to look for esoteric fiber craft supplies.

Two Year Blog Anniversary

Left to right: Boat shuttle with extra bobbin, tapestry bobbins, sewing
machine bobbins (in ring), tatting shuttle with removable bobbin, lace bobbin,
embroidery floss bobbins and winder.  Top: spinning wheel bobbins on a "lazy kate".
Well, this little experiment has taken on a life of its own.  Starting with a vague idea of making some picture tutorials for mid-century reproduction sewing, it's expanded to cover unanticipated topics (cooking, hairstyles), objectives (book and pattern reviews), and eras (medieval to modern).  Since starting up this blog, I've learned four-harness weaving, spinning on a wheel, and netting; I've also dabbled in hair work, card weaving, and bobbin lace. I haven't improved my tatting or crochet, but knitting, embroidery, and drop spindle have gotten a little easier.  I've made considerably more sewn garments than expected.  I've met and taken classes from my on-line heroes Liz Clark and Carolann Schmidt.  I've learned about children's and infants' clothing of my main era.  I've gained the confidence to start a second blog on civilian ACW living history.

Not-So-Secret Blog Name Origins
The cutesy alliterative title comes from my brain fixating on silly puns and/or alliterative phrases any time I try to brainstorm a title.  Bobbins were chosen as a common factor among many of my different crafts (shuttles being less common, and needles carrying unwanted implications).

Future Projects To Anticipate
The Historical Food Fortnightly has started up again in January 2016, so more period receipts are definitely in the near past, present and future. In the spring, I hope to complete my first pair of Victorian shoes, and plan to attend the Civilian Symposium at Harrisburg (formerly "Ladies and Gentlemen of the 1860s Conference").  Volunteering with the MoF's Living History program is opening up some new eras and specialties I've previously overlooked.  At some point, I need to stop procrastinating my late-19th century spoon busk corset, and make a meaningful start on 1870s-1900s living history.  I'd like to make some accurate garb and finally join a medieval living history group. In the far distant future, there's a large spinning/weaving/sewing project tied up with the latter...

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Historical Food Fortnightly 2.1: Meat and Potatoes

It's year two of the Historical Food Fortnightly!

The Challenge: Meat and Potatoes

The Recipe: Potato Pudding from Mrs. Bradley's Housekeeper's Guide by Mrs. J. S. Bradley (page 37)
[Batter Pudding, with Meat.--Mix eggs, flour and milk, pour a little into the bottom of a pudding-dish, put any meat, well seasoned, and some chopped onion into it, pour the remainder of the batter over, and bake in a slow oven.] 
Potato Pudding.-- Boil them to a mash, rub through a cullender, and moisten with milk and two eggs, and lay in the meat as directed in the former receipt. 
Being concerned about under-cooking the meat (what with the baking it for an unspecified amount of time such that I can't actually see it), I opted to following a tip in the savory pie directions and stew the meat before baking: "Should the pie be meat that requires more dressing than the baking of the crust will allow or if it is to be served in an earthen pie form let the meat be previously stewed." (page 31) The instructions for stewing meat suggested that for fowls one should "[s]tew them very slowly in a small quantity of water, seasoned with pepper, salt, mace, and onion..." (71).  This dovetails nicely with the pudding instructions' call for "well seasoned" meat with onion.

The Date/Year and Region: 1860, United States (Cincinnati)

How Did You Make It: Peeled and boiled six small-to-moderate russet potatoes (seven probably would have been better). While doing so, I stewed a scant pound of chicken (cut into small pieces) in water, with a little salt and pepper (not measured), 1 tsp. mace, and half an onion, chopped.  Not having a "cullender" (colander?) to hand, I mashed the potatoes with a modern vegetable-masher.  Added the two eggs and 1/4 cup milk to reach a stiff batter consistency (ie, really thin whipped potatoes).

I lined the bottom and sides of a pie-pan with the potato mixture, placed the stewed chicken (and onion) on top, and then covered the meat with the rest of the potatoes.  I baked the the pudding at 275F for about an hour, until a smooth sort of "crust" was forming along the top.  It didn't brown, and I could probably have cooked it longer.

Time to Complete: About 2:10 (10 min prep, 1 hour stewing meat slowly, 1 hour to bake)

Total Cost: Potatoes, milk, eggs, salt and pepper on hand.  Chicken around $4; needed a new container of mace ($10), though only a fraction of this was used.

How Successful Was It?: Fairly.  It basically tasted like meat and mashed potatoes (I'd forgotten how nice chicken with mace is!).

How Accurate Was It?: My main departures here regarded tools: using the masher instead of the prescribed implement, and substituting a pie plate for a pudding mold.  Though there were few lumps in the potatoes as prepared; I think the suggested method would have results in no lumps at all. The onions were a bit ambiguous (mentioned in the meat pudding and stew, but not in the potato pudding which referred back to it...), so I just opted to include some when stewing the meat, and not add extra raw onions into the pie itself.  If nothing else, "highly seasoned" offers some latitude.  Spice amounts and baking times estimated.  Having little or no direction on consistency/baking time, the potato "crust" could be completely wrong in texture; I like it as is, but wonder if it's meant to have more liquid and bake longer.  

Mashed potatoes

Stewed chicken and onion

Meat and potatoes in pan.

Ready to bake.
And done.  Not that it looks any different.