Monday, February 6, 2017

A Nice Tea

"[Tea] is composed not merely of tea and cakes, but of bread and butter, of various relishes, and of fruits, either fresh or preserved."
Breakfast, Dinner, and Tea, Viewed Classically, Poetically, and Practically (1860) 
" Have in another tray, your biscuit spread, wafers, toast, cake, tongue, beef, or whatever is prepared to send, all neatly arranged, to take round as soon as you have served the tea..."
The Skillful Housewife's Book (1852)

I had the pleasure of hosting a small gathering of friends just before the snow set in, and took the opportunity to revisit some of my old Historic Food Fortnightly challenges.

Returning receipts included Victoria SandwichesTea Cakes, and my standby Dessert Biscuits (which have never actually been used for a HFF challenge). For a new challenge, I adapted Miss Beecher's Sally Lunn receipt (page 101) into buns, which were served with Miss Leslie's Whole Raspberries Preserved in Jelly (also not a HFF challenge, but made as a follow-up to the Pyramid of Tarts this last autumn).

1850s-1860s tea food
CW from top: tea cakes, more tea cakes, cherry jam,
preserved raspberries, Victoria sandwiches,
assorted dessert biscuits, Sally Lunn buns.

1855 Tea Cakes: caraway, orange peel, cinnamon
Tea cakes, from left to right: caraway seed, orange peel, cinnamon.
I didn't figure out what to do for savories this time around, but fortunately several of the guests thought to bring cheese and sandwiches, so we didn't get completely off balanced consuming sugary baked goods.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Hem Facing

In preparation for turning* the skirt of my black wool, I removed the hem facing that's been in place these last five years.
Hem Facing: 1860s Dress Component
Hem facing from my black wool dress.
Lessons learned:
  • The interior hem side of the skirt takes a lot of abuse, even when the exterior side shows little dirt or wear.
  • Attaching the facing with tiny stitches just makes more work.
  • White material was a bad choice.  Since making this dress, I've examined more original garments, the majority of which had hem facings of brown polished cotton.  Scraps of cotton prints are another, less common, option.  A few dresses (sheers and a couple odd cotton prints) had self-fabric turned hems rather than applied facings.

*Turning: remaking a dress by taking it apart and rotating/reversing the fabric so that stained and worn portions are out of sight.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Original Wool Quilts

I've been very busy with school and work lately, but haven't given up on textile projects (in fact, I've made a lot of progress on the knit undersleeves I hope to be wearing next winter).  One project I would like to do before the summer reenacting season is another period quilt. Sleeping on the ground, as I often do, wool layers are indispensable for staying warm through the night--even in summer.  To that end, here are some original wool quilts from the International Quilt Study Center and Museum:

The two designs I'm most interested in are this mildly complex ninepatch (c.1865), and this
touching stars quilt (c. 1850-1870).  There's also a nine patch/Irish chain (c. 1820-40) that's simply elegant and would be easy to piece by machine.
Touching Stars Quilt 1850-1870, IQSCM 1997.007.0422
"Touching Stars" wool quilt, c. 1850-1870
From the Ardis and Robert James Collection,
International Quilt Study Center and Museum, object 1997.007.0422.
Of the three, I'm inclined to try the stars.  It fits my reenacting year range nicely (1855-1865) and uses three different fabrics.  The diamond pieces give me a chance to try some trickier piecing (not all straight edges and right angles), while still admitting use of a machine.  Depending on how the fabric shakes out, I make omit the border or play with the design by incorporating additional fabrics.

As I already have a hexagon pathwork in progress (and it'll likely stay that way for sometime, considering the amount of hand sewing, and the fact that I acquire fabric for it by finishing other projects), I won't be doing my wool quilt in hexes.  There are, however, a number of lovely options: diamond hexagons (c.1855), Flower Garden (hexagon) (1850s), a hexagon mosaic (1860s), and hexagon star mosaic (1860s).

The beauty of these whole cloth quilts (and another one) is in their elaborate quilting.  I would love to make one, when I'm feeling on competent about my hand quilting.  Squares make a simple pieced quilt (Civil War Quilts also features an original wool quilt made up of different size squares, in that case cut from military uniforms.)

There are also two fancy wool quilts in the IQSCM online collection: an 1855 album-style "Crimean Quilt" and one only (aptly) titled "original", with diamond mosaic and applique (c. 1850-70).

Log cabin quilts made in wool also seem to be quilt popular after 1860, particularly after 1865. While this would be a great use for all the small pieces of fabric* left over when cutting out garments, the events I need blankets for are largely pre-1860, and wholely pre-1865. Still, here are two log cabins c. 1860-1880, and five log cabin variations from 1865 to the 1880s.

*The Tudor Tailor calls these left-over pieces of new fabric "cabbage", and I'm in love with the term.  "Scraps" is less elegant, and also allows for reused cloth.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

HFF 2.26: Descriptively-Named Food

The Challenge: Descriptively-Named Foods We all know those recipes that come attached to interesting and imaginative names - slumps, crumbles, buckles, trifles, flummery. Pick a historic recipe that has a descriptive title.

The Receipt:  Whipped syllabub, from Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management
INGREDIENTS – 1/2 pint of cream, 1/4 pint of sherry, half that quantity of brandy, the juice of 1/2 lemon, a little grated nutmeg, 3 oz. of pounded sugar, whipped cream the same as for trifle No. 1489.
Mode.—Mix all the ingredients together, put the syllabub into glasses, and over the top of them heap a little whipped cream, made in the same manner as for trifle No. 1489. Solid syllabub is made by whisking or milling the mixture to a stiff froth, and putting it in the glasses, without the whipped cream at the top.

The Date/Year and Region: 1861, London

How Did You Make It:  Blended together the cream, wine, brandy, lemon juice, nutmeg (1/4 of a nutmeg, fresh grated) and powdered sugar.  Given prior misfortunes with sherry, I tried using a white wine, as per the basic syllabub receipt.  I omitted the whipped cream topping, having run out of cream.

Time to Complete: 10 minutes

Total Cost: Ingredients on hand.

How Accurate Is It? Wine substitution and whipped cream omission noted above.

How Successful Is It? Not very.  This wasn't the worst dish I've tried to make, but it just didn't taste very good.  I was expecting the result would be somewhat like eggnog: creamy and nutmeg-flavored. It did have that, but the wine really struck a sour note and I gave up after two sips.  I think this has the potential to work with a different wine (maybe a moscato or other sweet dessert wine), but today was not it.  I was a little concerned that the lemon juice would curdle the cream, but that was not the case.

Whipped Syllabub, Mrs. Beeton's, 1861
Whipped Syllabub: not great, but it has potential.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Lip Salve & Cold Cream, 1857

I decided to mess around with some period cosmetic recipes. For the first experiment, I looked at some 1850s recipes for tinted lip balm. There were several receipts available, mainly using either wax or lard for a base, with rose or orange flower scent and a pink tint derived from alkanet or carmine/cochineal.

The first receipt I decided to try was the "rose lip salve" from The Druggist's General Receipt Book (1857).  It calls for white wax, almond oil, otto of roses, and alkanet root.  You basically melt the wax and almond oil together with the alkanet, then strain out the alkanet and stir in a few drops of rose essence.  I used white beeswax this time.  When made, the balm set very quickly, and had a pleasing pale pink shade and rose odor.  I have not noticed that it imparts any rosiness to the lips, but it sure looks and feels nice.
Ingredients for lip balm, 1857 recipe
Ingrediants: white beeswax pellets, sweet almond
oil, rose essence, and a dram of alkanet chips.

1857 lip balm in progress
The liquid lip balm fresh off the stove.
The color lightens as it solidifies.

1857 Pink rose lip balm
The finished lip balm.
I also decided to try a receipt from Miss Leslie's Lady's New Receipt Book (1850).  Her red lip salve calls for a fifty-fifty mixture of lard and suet, colored with alkanet and then scented with rose water, orange flower water, or "oil of rhodium".  Since I already had the other pink lip salve, I decided to try the "cold cream" variation of this, which uses a 1:2 ratio of suet to lard and skips the coloring agent.

I melted the lard and suet (tallow--finally found some!) together on the stove, then took them off and added a tablespoon of orange flower water.  This was actually a bad idea, as it caused the previously-not-boiling fats to "bump", ie spew all over the place as it suddenly boiled.  Not to self: get boiling chips for future batches, or wait to stir in aqueous components until its started cooling down.  Flying liquid fats not withstanding, it solidified into a nice white cream which seems to do its job decently.
Cold cream is meant to soothe chapped skin, so it's a timely addition to my winter reenacting kit.

For those who prefer to buy ready-made cosmetics, Little Bits Apothecary apparently uses historical recipes.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Fur Cuffs

Many thanks to Nancy for teaching me how to make these (she took Maggie Koenig's class at Symposium while I was off learning beadwork).  They are a lovely addition to my winter wardrobe, and proved very helpful in battling the cold weather at Santa Train: poor planning left me in lawn under-sleeves in 30F weather, but between my velvet pagoda sleeves and these deep fur cuffs, my arms stayed perfectly comfortable.

White rabbit fur, lined in white polished cotton, over a canvas interlining.

1850s style white fur cuffs
White fur cuffs.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Snoqualmie Railroad, December 16th

Cleaning up the blog backlog, here are some pictures from a fun event at the Northwest Railway Museum: Victorian Santa Train!  Despite the frigid weather, it was a great deal of fun to ride the antique train and to entertain families with carols and period toys as they waited to visit Father Christmas in the historic Snoqualmie Depot.

Northwest Railway Museum Victorian Santa Train
Riding in the cars.

Northwest Railway Museum Victorian Santa Train Caroling
Singing at the depot.