Friday, March 27, 2015

I am the queen of handsewn eyelets...

...or my grommet-setting die started chewing up fabric, ruining two otherwise finished back pieces for these corded stays.

More pictures to come.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Pattern (Kit) Review: Kayfig Cage

Finally finished my new 108" cage crinoline, from the Originals by Kay kit which I received for Christmas.

The cage went together rather easily.  The instruction packet lays out the measurements clearly, and walks you through the appropriate marking and assembly steps.The only sewing that is required is making up the waistband and attaching the tapes to it, but you're on your own for that, so sewing experience is assumed. The buckle caused me a some confusion at first, but that was primarily the result of over-thinking it.  

I much prefer using rivets to attempting to sew through the buckram, as I had previously done; that being said, I didn't like the way these rivets went in.  They had a tendency to deform when hammered; I tried varying my setting method to ameliorate this, but without luck.  I don't have enough experience to say whether these rivets in particular are the problem, whether my technique was incorrect, or whether rivets always bend that way.  They seem secure so far.

What You Get: Instruction packet (3 pages front & back, with placement diagrams)
1.5 rolls of hoop steel (about 45 yds)
16 end caps
c. 10 yards cotton tape
77 2-piece rivets

Items needed: waistband; pliers (to attach end caps), hammer (to set rivets), bolt cutters (to cut hoop steel), punch and/or awl (to make rivet-holes in the hoop steel and tapes, respectively) 

Pattern Score: 4 stars

Difficulty: Advanced Beginner--little sewing is required, but that is unguided; for the rest, spacial reasoning and ability to follow instructions are more relevant than sewing experience

Accuracy: Citations not included, but the materials are period.  Most of the images* I've seen for uncovered cages used smaller gauge wire in large quantity, like the needle & thread kit, but I'm satisfied with the shape.  

General Impression: The main things I like about this kit is that the math and proportions are all pre-done, and the hoop steel and tapes are of good quality.  I didn't like the grommets, personally. Still, it went together fairly easily, and makes a nice shape.  The instructions were very compact, and could use a little more detail at times.  This kit is the cheapest option I've found for making a good quality '60's cage, and my only lingering concern is those annoying rivets.

*Edited to add: three of the period illustrations in Nora Wraugh's Corsets and Crinolines show cages c. 1856-58 with the wider steels like this.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

1865 Dresses, research post

Getting ready for the 150th anniversary of President Lincoln's Springfield funeral; this means a whole ensemble for Mom, and hopefully some new '65 pieces for me.  The dress lengths I have in mind are light cottons: a plaid shirting for Mom and a floral-printed sheer for me.  Both are predominately black and white, and when properly accessorized should make nice, respectfully sober day-dresses which are not distinctly "mourning".

Dress research:

1865: The overall look is slimmer, and more tailored than in previous years.  Skirt fullness is moving towards the rear, leaving a flatter front.  Coat sleeves are ubiquitous, especially narrow versions, replacing the wide open sleeves of the late 50s and early 60s.  Flat trims are popular, and flounces (when seen) are more moderate than previously.  Hoops are still worn, though the shape is past round and getting pretty elliptical; skirts distinctly full towards the back with occasional trains.  With this flat/smooth look, gored skirts are becoming more popular, and pleating is superseding gauging.  White accessory collars have gotten narrower, and may be a narrow band peaking up from beneath a self-fabric collar. The high "spoon bonnet" of 63-4 is out; it is replaced by the "empire bonnet" and its competitor, the ultimately victorious fanchon.

Walking Dress, January 1865, Peterson's Magazine
April 1865, Peterson's
July 1865, Peterson's
The fashion plates and descriptions primarily deal with silks; even Janet Arnold's excellent Patterns of Fashion doesn't feature a cotton dress c. 1865.  While the lines and shapes may be the same, some high-fashion details never get translated into prints, and others are very rare, so it's good to check some original dresses in the target textile. Fortunately, the lovely SA ladies found some original sheers for study:

via beesfirstappearance

Silk Gauze dress c. 1865 from Kent State Museum
Cotton gauze c. 1865-66 from Kent State U. Museum
 Two sheer dresses, 50s-60s (L) and mid-60s (R),  image originally from Kerry Taylor Auctions
And I finally had some luck digging around the Met:
Dress, ca. 1865 (silk) from the Met
Cotton Dress c. 1865, from the Met
Dress, cotton, c. 1865, from the Met
I'd love to see a color picture of this one, ideally over skirt supports to show off that train...

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

HFF #21: Rare/Scarce Ingredients

The Challenge: Make a dish which requires an ingredient not readily available at the grocery store.

The Receipt: Chocolate and vanilla cream bonbons from The Confectioner's Manual (page 95).


Ingredients: 2 oz. of the finest picked gum arabic in a gill of hot water about 2 lbs. of the finest icing, 4 oz of french chocolate, 2 whites of eggs, and a few drop of essence of vanilla.

The soaked gum must be strained through a piece muslin into a basin, the essence of vanilla added to it, filled in with as much icing sugar as it will absorb: the whole into a rather stiff yet soft and elastic body. 

Dissolve the chocolate with about a table-spoonful water in the oven ;work this thoroughly smooth with a spoon and incorporate it with two whites of eggs of royal icing. Fill a biscuit forcer, having a quarter-inch tin tube adapted to it, with the white vanilla cream preparation, and push it out upon a large sheet of paper well dredged over with fine sugar; and as the contents of the forcer are pushed out with the left hand, with a small knife held in the right hand cut off the white cream as it is pressed out, in pieces the size of small filbert-kernels: as each sheet of these chops is completed place it on a baking-plate for ten minutes in the screen, merely to dry their surfaces. Next dip each of these white balls in the chocolate-icing, holding one at a time upon the tip of a fork so as to be able to place it out of hand on a close-made wire tray; and, when each is filled, sit them to dry for about ten minutes in the screen: they may afterwards be put away between sheets of paper in a box.

Gum Arabic: Also called "acacia gum", this in a plant-derived binder and emulsifying agent.  It shows up frequently in Victorian receipts and recipes (everything from chocolates to envelops). Apparently, modern uses are equally diverse (cocktails, artists' pigments).  After visiting two chain grocery stores, the co-op with the good bulk section, four specialty groceries, and an apothecary, I finally located some at an herbalist supply store.  The art store also carries it, but only as a pre-mixed liquid.
French chocolate: According to the explanatory notes earlier in the book, this is a chocolate made with equal weights of cocoa and sugar.
Icing sugar: powdered sugar, I believe
Royal icing: Based on page 96, this is egg whites, powdered sugar, and flavoring, all worked to a "stiff, but somewhat liquid" consistency.  Naturally, proportions are not included.
Gill: a unit of liquid volume equal to 1/2 cup (4 fl oz)

Region/Date: American, 1865

How Did You Make It? Chocolate: Prepare "royal icing" by mixing 6 TBSP pasteurized egg white (equivalent to 2 egg whites) with approximately 4 cups of powdered sugar and 1 tsp vanilla extract.  Melt 4 oz of dark chocolate (45% cacao) with 1 TBSP water on the stovetop; stir icing into melted chocolate.

Center: Dissolve 2 oz. gum arabic in 1/2 cup hot water.  Strain through a piece of muslin.  Add 4 TBSP vanilla extract and approximately 8 cups of powdered sugar to make a thick paste.  Drop with a pastry bag (improvised on this occasion from a folded piece of parchment paper with one corner cut off) onto a baking sheet, and dry in the oven for 10 minutes (lowest "warm" setting).  Roll in chocolate icing and set on a piece of parchment paper on a wire rack to dry--when set directly on the wire, they tend to droop and make a mess.

Time: 2+ hours, for half of the batch

Cost: Just over $5.

How Successful Was It? Nothing caught on fire this time!  Tastes alright, though the centers are more generically sweet than vanilla-flavored (which is why I kept adding more vanilla).  Looks could use definite improvement: the chocolate kept hardening so it didn't coat evenly, and the soft centers are liable to get deformed while dipping.

With how labor-intensive the process is, I probably won't make these again.  They don't look nice enough to serve to company, and take too much work for home use.  A second person (ideally, some sort of confectioner) would definitely make the process less onerous. 

How Accurate Was It? I used vanilla extract in place of vanilla essence, and the pasteurized egg whites,  Otherwise, very good. 
The highly-sought gum arabic
In solution
Vanilla cream for the centers
Dried centers
"Royal Icing"
Chocolate Icing

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Corded Petticoat (human-sized)

Recently finished project (now happily winging it's way to a certain deserving lady in MN):

Vital stats: 90.5" circumference at the hem; finished length 35" at CF, 37" at CB; 20.5" self-fabric facing, containing 58 rows of cotton cording, or approximately 145 yards; fastens at center back with two bone buttons; total weight 1 lb 6 oz.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

HFF #20: A Notable Event in History

Inspired by Jeannette's reference on the Facebook page, I looked up the menu for Lincoln's Second Inaugural Ball, and decided to try my hand at some 1865 fruit ices.

The Challenge: Make a dish served at a famous event in history.

The Receipt: "Orange Water Ice", from The Art of Confectionery (1865), to fulfill the entry for "Ices: Orange" on the Bill of Fare for the ball at Lincoln's Second Inauguration (1865).  As the syrup instructions were a bit dense, I also consulted Mrs. Beeton's.

Page 260: "ORANGE WATER ICE Ingredients the juice of 12 oranges, the juice of 2 lemons, the thin rind of 3 oranges infused in the warm syrup for an hour, and afterwards strained to the juice, 1 pt of syrup. Freeze the composition in the usual way* and set up the ice in its mould."

Pages 257-258: "FRUIT WATER ICE In preparing water ices the chief rule is to be careful of the amount of flavoring and sweetening used. The tendency of the freezing process is to destroy the flavor or at least to extract it so that in sweetening the mixture it is best to make it rather sweeter than necessary for use without freezing in the following receipts for preparing fruit ices directions are generally given to strain the mixture so as to exclude particles of fruit or pulp some however prefer it to be retained with the pieces of fruit congealed here and there among the ice of course every one can decide this question according to his own taste either way being very palatable. The use of syrup of different degrees of strength is recommended, as the best and simplest method for amalgamation with and giving body to the other ingredients composing the ices in many cases; however it will be quite sufficient to use the refined powdered sugar with out any previous preparation. In moulding fruit ices souffles and other small preparations it is often necessary to have the benefit of a freezing temperature without its being either proper or practicable to plunge the articles into the bed of salted ice. For this purpose a contrivance known as an ice cave has been provided. They are usually of copper or tin either round or square and may be of from twelve to twenty four inches in diameter with a depth nearly as great and a tightly fitting lid made with sides so as to admit of ice being placed on top of the cave. A very good substitute however can be improvised with a tin kettle of sufficient depth and good lid. When this cave is buried in the ice tub filled. With powdered ice and salt its contents will become nicely frozen and can be kept hardened for any required time."

Region/Date: American, 1865

How did you make it: Dissolved 4 lbs of sugar (mixture of granulated and powdered, as ran out of the former) in 1 pint of water; added the white of 1 egg and brought to a boil, stirring occasionally; added 6 fl oz cold water and allowed to boil again. Extinguished ensuing fire when mixture boiled over. Moved to a second burner, and continuing boiling for 5 minutes, scraping off the 'scum'. Placed peels of 3 oranges in the syrup and set aside for 1 hour. Juiced 6 'juice oranges', and a dozen 'cutie' mandarins, yielding 1.5 cups juice (probably should have had 2 cups). Added juice of 2 lemons. Strained the syrup and added 1 pint to the fruit juices (a bit over 1 pint remained, set aside for future use). Placed whole mixture in the freezer, stirring periodically.

Mixture was visibly thickening after 2.5 hours in the freezer; continued stirring at half-hour intervals for 5 total hours [as an alternative to having a proper ice-cream freezer; I think I picked up this trick from Mr. Cusick].  When mixture was approximately the consistency of apple sauce, I poured it into two pint-sized molds, and allowed it to freeze overnight.

Time: About half an hour of active work in the kitchen, five hours to initially freeze the mixture, 12 hours frozen in the mold, and a ton of time cleaning the stove afterwards. Would make again.

Cost: Price of oranges and sugar.  About $5?

How successful was it: It froze! Victory!  And I managed to remove them from the molds intact, too. Also tasted fairly nice; transportation had made the ices a bit soft, and the one which had more time to re-solidify before serving proved more successful, though both were eaten.

How accurate was it: Instructions were a bit vague, but I think they intended an ice-cream freezer (salt-water bath+inner container) to set the fruit ice before molding, at which point the described "ice cave" would be used--while the normal freezer sufficed for the latter, I was definitely taking liberties with the former.  Using two types of sugar wouldn't have been my first choice, either, but the syrup receipt did allow for three different types to be used, with varying amounts of egg white needed to clarify each.    

*Take a drink...

Clarified syrup with peel
Freezing the mixture
One ice
Two Ice

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

New Wrapper

Returning to the KayFig Wrapper Pattern with a new addition to the Ft. Nisqually dress-up station. Detachable collar from Simplicity 7212.