Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Two Pairs of Socks

Made in the usual fashion (for me, that is).  Each stocking is cut in two pieces: a main piece, seamed up the back, which covers the lower leg and the top of the foot, and a welt which fits under the foot.

The Met has a pair of original wool stockings built along the same lines (two pieces of knit material sewn together), though I've made mine of cotton.  They're quite comfortable, and sew up quickly.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

HFF #2.10: Breakfast

The Historical Food Fortnightly Icon

The Challenge: Make a breakfast food. To quote again from Mrs. Beeton:
2144. It will not be necessary to give here a long bill of fare of cold joints, &c., which may be placed on the side-board, and do duty at the breakfast-table. Suffice it to say, that any cold meat the larder may furnish, should be nicely garnished, and be placed on the buffet. Collared and potted meats or fish, cold game or poultry, veal-and-ham pies, game-and-Rump-steak pies, are all suitable dishes for the breakfast-table; as also cold ham, tongue, &c. &c.
2145. The following list of hot dishes may perhaps assist our readers in knowing what to provide for the comfortable meal called breakfast. Broiled fish, such as mackerel, whiting, herrings, dried haddocks, &c.; mutton chops and rump-steaks, broiled sheep’s kidneys, kidneys la matre d’hotel, sausages, plain rashers of bacon, bacon and poached eggs, ham and poached eggs, omelets, plain boiled eggs, oeufs-au-plat, poached eggs on toast, muffins, toast, marmalade, butter, &c. &c.

The Recipe: Fried Rashers of Bacon and Poached Eggs, from Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management

Fried Rashers of Bacon and Poached Eggs:Cut the bacon into thin slices, trim away the rusty parts, and cut off the rind. Put it into a cold frying-pan, that is to say, do not place the pan on the fire before the bacon is in it. Turn it 2 or 3 times, and dish it on a very hot dish. Poach the eggs and slip them on to the bacon, without breaking the yolks, and serve quickly.
To Poach Eggs:
Eggs for poaching should be perfectly fresh, but not quite new-laid; those that are about 36 hours old are the best for the purpose. If quite new-laid, the white is so milky it is almost impossible to set it; and, on the other hand, if the egg be at all stale, it is equally difficult to poach it nicely. Strain some boiling water into a deep clean frying-pan; break the egg into a cup without damaging the yolk, and, when the water boils, remove the pan to the side of the fire, and gently slip the egg into it. Place the pan over a gentle fire, and keep the water simmering until the white looks nicely set, when the egg is ready. Take it up gently with a slice, cut away the ragged edges of the white, and serve either on toasted bread or on slices of ham or bacon, or on spinach, &c. A poached egg should not be overdone, as its appearance and taste will be quite spoiled if the yolk be allowed to harden. When the egg is slipped into the water, the white should be gathered together, to keep it a little in form, or the cup should be turned over it for 1 minute. To poach an egg to perfection is rather a difficult operation; so, for inexperienced cooks, a tin egg-poacher may be purchased, which greatly facilitates this manner of dressing ecgs. Our illustration clearly shows what it is: it consists of a tin plate with a handle, with a space for three perforated cups. An egg should be broken into each cup, and the machine then placed in a stewpan of boiling water, which has been previously strained. When the whites of the eggs appear set, they are done, and should then be carefully slipped on to the toast or spinach, or with whatever they are served. In poaching eggs in a frying-pan, never do more than four at a time; and, when a little vinegar is liked mixed with the water in which the eggs are done, use the above proportion.

The Date/Year and Region: 1861, British

How Did You Make It: Fried bacon until crisp (the way I prefer it).  Boiled water on the stove, placed eggs in water, and simmered until the whites were solid. 

Time to Complete: 20 minutes

Total Cost: About $2 for a small quantity of good bacon; eggs on hand.

How Successful Was It?: One of the eggs broke, but I managed to get the other out whole, and they did cook through. I feel that this dish was successfully prepared.  That being said, I prefer eggs cooked hard, so I probably won't be making this again.  The bacon was tasty.  

How Accurate Is It?: Very, save that I used the stove instead of fire.
Poaching eggs.
Poaching eggs.  They didn't fully stay together, but it seemed to work.

Fried bacon and poached eggs, from Mrs. Beeton's, 1861.
Fried bacon, one poached egg, and one slightly-exploded egg.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

First Foray into Straw Plaiting

Working on some more large projects, which will hopefully be post-worthy in the next few weeks.  In the meantime, here's my first attempt at straw plaiting.
Three strand plaited/braided straw.

It's just a basic 3-strand, using 1/2 split straw (the red things are straw splitters: 2, 3, 4, and 6-way). I've already learned a lot about working the straw wet and folding--rather than bending--it.  The next objective is to split it finer while keeping the pieces even; after that, I hope to make the edges smoother and the ends neater when I work in a new length of straw.  After that, it's fancier braids, and eventually producing something like this:
1858 plaited straw from Hawaii, in the Smithsonian accession #66A00050.
Straw plait for bonnets, made in Hawaii, 1858.
Currently in the Smithsonian.
It's 1cm wide, and appears to be a 6-strand plait.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Book Review: Creating Historical Clothes

Creating Historical Clothes: Pattern Cutting for the 16th to 19th Centuries by Elizabeth Friendship is another recommendation/loan from Elise, a lady of excellent literary and sartorial taste.

This book reminds me a lot of Period Costumes for Stage and Screen, so I'm afraid comparisons are inevitable.  Still, there are a number of differences between them.  First, Creating Historical Clothes covers the 1500-1900 time span in a single volume, while Period Costumes does it in two. They also differ in method: Period Costumes teaches you to drape patterns, while Creating Historic Clothes instead gives a solid introduction to drafting and grading flat patterns.  Though both are aimed at historic costumers, and are well-supplied with research and period images, I'd say that Creating Historic Clothes puts slightly more emphasis on the "historic" portion, Period Costumes for Stage and Screen on the "costume".  That being said, they cover similar ground, so a person who already owns one may find the other unnecessary.

Creating Historic Clothes starts out with a 60-page introduction explaining how to use the book to make your own patterns (whether historically authentic, passable, or "inspired by"), and manipulating basic patterns for bodices, sleeves, skirts, and trousers.  Honestly, if you're interested in drafting, this section alone is worth the price of the book and it should see you through modern as well as historic patterns. Cartridge pleating (gauging to us mid-Victorian sewists) is also explained, though few other sewing techniques are handled.

Each section thereafter is divided up by century, with a two-page summary of fashion trends illustrated by period paintings, a glossary of costume terms, and a list of artists active at the time.  It then goes through explaining how to draft patterns for bodices, sleeves, skirts, and foundation garments.  Most of these are given in 5-15 year increments; for example, the 17th century chapter has bodice instructions labelled: "early 17th century", "1630-1645" (plus two variations), "c.1655-1665", "bodice with tabs", "c.1655-1670".  Trends which do not follow the calendar are noted--so, if you're looking for late 1790s Empire gowns, you'll be directed to the early 19th century pages.

Note that undergarments (except for foundation pieces) and accessories are not included; the good news is that shifts/chemises, drawers, and petticoats are relatively straightforward, and the last can often be adapted from the included skirt patterns.  Corsets/stays and various skirt supports (farthingales, panniers, hooped petticoats, bum rolls, bustles) are included.

Given the wide scope of the book, I am impressed with the amount of nuance included.  You will likely want to consult additional references for specific historic impressions.  For example, the 1850s-60s section of the book gives a pagoda sleeve, which is a valid style--looking at other period images, however, would also point you towards bishop and coat sleeve options (which could easily be adapted from the basic straight and two-piece sleeves in the basic drafting section).

Score: 5 stars for costumers, 4.5 for historic sewists

Accuracy: High. Some fine details are lost in the sheer amount of information, but it shows original images and references period manuals (as well as secondary sources).

Difficulty: Intermediate and up.  You're on your own for the sewing, but the pattern manipulations are well-explained.

Strongest Impression: A versatile, well-researched costume-patterning book that I'd recommend to anyone costuming a period play or film, doing history-themed cosplay, or learning to draft patterns. Living history sewists will likely find this book useful, particularly if looking for a single title that covers four centuries of women's clothing; others may want more period-specific sources, and/or ones which cover period sewing techniques in greater detail. Someone with a large collection of costuming books may find this one redundant.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Originals: Chiné Basque Outfit

Because we all need to drool over antique garments inspiration.  This lovely ensemble comes from K. Krewer's collection, one of many displayed at the Civilian Symposium earlier this year.

The owner describes it thus:
Chiné Basque Outfit
c. 1858-1860
Basque outfit of beautiful floral chiné silk with wide aqua and white stripes. Basque bodice heavily decorated with silk ribbon-- 2 rows in bretelles, 3 rows at the sleeve cuffs (with beautifully puffed bows), and 3 rows on basque skirts. Front bodice closure with hooks & eyes, lined with white glazed cotton.  Skirt is lined with white glazed cotton, box pleated onto petersham band, finished with self hem and silk tape sewn to inside edge & extending beyond the edge.
1858-1860 Chine Basque Outfit, K. Krewer Collection
Striped chiné silk with large floral design.
Front of Chine Basque, K. Krewer collection
Detail of basque front: warp-printed fabric and ribbon trim.
Sleeve of Chine Basque, K. Krewer collection
Sleeve, with ribbon trim and bow.

Back of Chine Basque, K. Krewer collection
Back of basque.  Note the trim placement
and the "swallow-tail" ends of the bow.
Neck edge, chine basque, K. Krewer collection
A white collar could be basted or pinned over the neck edge,
which is finished with self-fabric cording.
Back bow on chine basque, K. Krewer collection
Once more, that is a lovely bow at the back waist.
This original garment is the property of K. Krewer; the pictures are my own, posted with permission.  

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Book Review: Civil War Quilts

Cover: Civil War Quilts by Pam Weeks and Don Beld
Civil War Quilts by Pam Weeks and Don Beld
Book review time! This installment examines Civil War Quilts by Pam Weeks and Don Beld.  I learned of this book on Barbara Brackman's Material Culture blog.

First off, I want to say that this is a pretty book.  It's full of pictures: original quilts (fronts, backs, inscriptions, close-ups of individual blocks), reproduction quilts, templates, period illustrations, original letters, even photographs of some of the nineteenth century quilt-makers.  It's basically everything I want to see in a book on historic quilts.

The book is organized in two distinct parts. Ms. Weeks uses the first half of the book to examine surviving quilts with Civil War provenance: one made by a recuperating soldier, fourteen others by northern women (mostly in groups).  She gets into great detail on the patterns and techniques used, and also flushes out the story of the makers--when identified--using census data and local histories. Mr. Beld's half gives techniques for reproducing quilts, including full-sized templates for each block* in the original quilts, and a few bonus ones from the period. Finishing techniques, tips for signing blocks, and a short fabric guide are also included, all extensively illustrated.

In addition to the large number of pictures, I really like the detail that this book goes into: the sizes and number of blocks in each quilt are given; inscriptions are featured (and most are copied into the text); finishing/quilting methods are addressed; the authors even point which signed blocks are in the same handwriting versus different ones.  There's a bibliography at the end, and footnotes are used throughout. There's even a table comparing the original quilts, so you can quickly relate location/date/construction method/etc.

The only downsides I see to this book are ones of editing and format.  At times, the narrative seems to run between different topics and cycle back in a less-than-ideally-organized way.  I also encountered a dozen-odd typos in a casual reading; in a 192-page book, that's not a lot, but it's more than I usually notice.  A number of pages near the end were devoted to the "Home of the Brave" project, in which quilters make reproduction ACW quilts for the families of current Armed Forces casualties.  While laudable, that portion seemed tangential to the main topic (though this book would be a very useful for someone engaged in that work).

Score: 4-4.5 Stars

Accuracy: High. It's all original quilts.

Difficulty: Most of the reproduction quilt projects are suitable for a beginner (nine patches and other straight-seamed blocks).  Period techniques are fairly well explained.

Strongest Impression: Overall, I find this a highly informative book with good, quality research presented in a beautiful and useful way.

*Each patchwork block, that is.  There are also a few applique designs in the original quilts, but only one applique template--an eagle--is included.

200th Post

I'd meant to have something more substantial for this nice round number, but a piece of exciting news will have to do: I've been accepted into graduate school for Museum Studies!

For those readers wanting more actual content, there will be a book review posted shortly, once I manage to stop dancing long enough to edit it.
Frontispiece to Fashionable Dancing by Cellarius
Current scene from my abode, sans gentleman.