Saturday, August 13, 2016

Throw Pillows

Appliqued hexagon throw pillow
Fun fact: no actual sheep were employed in the
production of this item--not even in trade for wood.
A modern, if somewhat nerdy, version of the hexagonal patchwork I've taken up.  Hexes are 2/3 standard playing size, all the decoration is (necessarily) hand-sewn.  This pillow is one of a pair made for some awesome newly-married friends of mine.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Hexagon or Honey-Comb Patchwork

Here's one of my on-going projects: a hexagon patchwork quilt.  It's to use up all the little odd pieces left over from sewing garments.


The inspiration is a quilt in Eileen Trestain's collection, which I encountered while taking her class at Marge Harding's Century of Fashion Conference in 2015.  The original had 1.5" hexagons arranged into rosettes, which in turn were arranged in concentric circles with a dominant color in each ring. Two white hexagons separated each rosette.  While Ms. Trestain's quilt was dated c.1830s-1840s, an almost identical design--albeit with a striped background and only one intervening hex--shows up in this 1870s quilt at the Met.  The International Quilt Study Collection and Museum has another like it from the 1820s-30s, with what appears to be a chintz medallion at the center.

Hexagon patchwork is still used today, under the names "English Paper Piecing" or "Grandmother's Flower Garden". A description of the method appears on page 300 of Eliza Leslie's The American Girl's Book (1831, page 313 of the 1857 edition).  It even calls for arranging the hexagons into rounds of colored calico, with white hexagons at the center of and between each ring.

The method apparently remained a patchwork staple from (at least) the 1820s into the twentieth century, as attested by the many surviving quilts with hexagonal pieces in various arrangments: rosettes (and another), concentric "rings" of colorstars, and even random; these quilts could also get rather complex (even recursive) and may be organized in lines or around a central motif.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Tudor Ensemble

Today I dressed 16th century for the first time, in order to accompany Elise to the local Ren Faire. Though originally aiming for the early-mid century (late in the reign Henry VIII), I ended up making a few basics from The Tudor Tailor.  It turned out that Elizabeth I was holding court, so the lack of specificity served me well.

16th century smock and kirtle
Smock and kirtle.  
In addition to the smock previously described, I made a side-lacing kirtle with gored skirt.  The material is a brown linen-cotton blend (mea culpa) that I picked up at Hancock's a few years back.  The skirt is all hand-sewn, as are the eyelets and bodice finishing, though I did use a machine on some of the internal bodice seams to save time.  The bodice is lined with linen, and its front is interlined with canvas and more linen.  After wearing it once, I determined that some boning is needed along the eyelets to keep them from collapsing in an unsightly manner.  Otherwise, I was pleased to find that the canvas provided sufficient support.
Headrail, worn with 16th century attire.

The head covering I chose was the headrail, a square yard of hemmed linen; it worked incredibly well to keep my hair up and out of the way.  The hairstyle was two braids crossed around and over the head; the rail was folded and pinned over the hair. The Tudor Tailor explains how to do this, with illustrations. What surprised me most was that the rail--with one hairpin, two straight pins, and two linen strips--kept all of my hair up for twelve hours without needing adjustment.

Rounding out the ensemble, though un-pictured, are a pair of knee-length linen bias-cut hose (blue, of course), a small drawstring purse worn inside the kirtle, and a rough pair of leather turn-shoes.  I consulted Grew, de Neergaard, and Mitford's Shoes and Pattens for background on the latter, but as it's latest finds date from c.1450, it's at least a half-century out of date for this project. Pratt and Woolley's Shoes (VAM) was more helpful, as it includes two shoes from the 16th century, though both are men's.  It's noted that women's shoes follow similar, though less ostentatious, lines.  Even with the leather soles glued on to the sewn cloth ones (yes, that's why they're no pictures, it was rushed and very amateurish), the shoes held up all day, and even resisted the rain until the tail end of the event.  I didn't finish my garters in time, but two strips of torn linen tied in garter knots sufficed.

This outfit is still very much a work in progress.  Before it's next outing, I intend to add sleeves to the kirtle (laced at the shoulder), bones the side opening, and more eyelets. There will also be proper shoes, an apron, and hopefully a gown to over the kirtle.  I'm thinking green...

Saturday, August 6, 2016

HFF 2.16: Foods Named After People


The Challenge: Make a dish named for someone.  I have no idea who Charlotte is, but it is a name.  And thus surely counts...

The Receipt: A "Charlotte ala Parisienne" from Eliza Acton's Modern Cookery (page 326, sponge cakes page 362).
A CHARLOTTE A LA PARISIENNE.
This dish is sometimes called a Vienna cake; and it is known also, we believe, as a Gateaux de Bordeaux. Cut horizontally into half-inch slices a sponge cake, and cover each slice with a different kind of preserve; replace them in their original form, and spread equally over the cake an icing made with the whites of three eggs, and four ounces of the finest pounded sugar; sift more sugar over it in every part, and put it into a very slack oven to dry. The eggs should be whisked to snow before they are used. One kind of preserve, instead of several, can be used for this dish; and a rice or a pound cake may, on an emergency, supply the place of the Savoy, or sponge biscuit . 
A GOOD SPONGE CAKE.
Rasp on some lumps of well-refined sugar the rind of a fine sound lemon, and scrape off' the part which has imbibed the essence, or crush the plums to powder, and add them to as much more as will make up the weight of eight or ten fresh eggs in the shell; break these one by one, and separate the whites from the yolks; beat the latter in a large bowl for ten minutes, then strew in the sugar gradually, and beat them well together. In the mean time let the whites be whisked to a quite solid froth, add them to the yolks, and when they are well blended sift and stir the flour gently to them, but do not beat it into the mixture; pour the cake into a well-buttered mould, and bake it an hour and a quarter in a moderate oven.
Rasped rind, 1 large lemon; fresh eggs, 8 or 10; their weight of dry, sifted sugar; and half their weight of flour: baked, 1 1/4 hour, moderate oven. 
A SMALLER SPONGE CAKE. (Very good.)
Five full-sized eggs, the weight of four in sugar, and of nearly three in flour, will make an exceedingly good cake: it may be flavoured, like the preceding one, with lemon-rind, or with bitter almonds, vanilla, or confected orange-blossoms reduced to powder. An hour will bake it thoroughly. All the ingredients for sponge cakes should be of good quality, and the sugar and flour should be dry; they should also be passed through a fine sieve kept expressly for such purposes. The excellence of the whole depends much on the manner in which the eggs are whisked; this should be done as lightly as possible; but it is a mistake to suppose that they cannot be too long beaten, as after they are brought to a state of perfect firmness they are injured by a continuation of the whisking, and will at times curdle, or render a cake heavy from this cause.

The Date/Year and Region: American 1858 edition of a 1845 (?) English cookbook

How Did You Make It: Prepared the sponge cake per the first instructions and second ingredient quantities: separated five eggs, and beat the whites until firm. Separately beat the yolks, and added ~8 oz sugar, then the egg whites, and finally ~6 oz of flour.  I took the liberty of substituting almond extract (2 tsp) for the bitter almonds to flavor the cake.  Baked in a buttered pan for 1 hour at 350F.

Allowed the cake to cool overnight, then sliced the cake into 3 layers.  Put blackberry preserves on the bottom and replaced the middle section; spread raspberry preserves on the middle layer and placed the top back on.  Beat three egg whites* stiff and added 4 oz of sugar to make icing, then iced the cake, sprinkled on granulated sugar, and placed it in a warm oven to set.

Time to Complete: Just under 2 hours, including baking time, exclusive of cooling.

Total Cost: Ingredients on hand

How Successful Was It? The icing was considerably runnier that I would have liked: the egg whites were nice and firm until I added the sugar, at which point the whole thing liquefied.  This wasn't a problem for the top of the Charlotte, where the heat caused the icing to set nicely, but it made it very difficult to cover the sides.  Tasted nice.

How Accurate Is It?  The almond extract substituting for the bitter almonds has already been noted. The type of sugar to apply over the icing was not specified, so I guessed and used granulated.  It made a pretty (if subtle) effect.
1850s "Charlotte ala Parisienne" sponge cake, in progress.
Raspberry preserves on the sponge cake.

1850s "Charlotte ala Parisienne" from Acton's "Modern Cookery."
The finished dessert.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Lavender Wands

Three Lavender Wands, made at 2016 San Juan Encampment

While at English Camp this last weekend, Nancy taught me how to make lavender wands.  They were a pleasant project for the event: straightforward, pretty, useful, and sweet-smelling.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

English Camp

I've just returned from an extended weekend on San Juan Island, where we marked the 50th anniversary of the park--and 100th of the National Park Service--with a reenactment of the 1859 Pig War.  Lasting from 1859/60-1872, the Pig War had one casualty (the pig), and a larger-than-usual* number of friendly sporting and festive interactions between the two factions.  Basically, the English and American soldiers spent twelve years camping at each other.

*Among wars of similar duration.

Though the Americans ultimately gained/retained control of the island, the English certainly won for having a nicer camp location.

View from American Camp, San Juan Island
The wind-swept plain at American Camp.
View of English Camp with blockhouse, San Juan Island
Verdant English Camp, on Garrison Bay, surrounded by trees.
HBC reenactors, 2016 San Juan Island Encampment
HBC employees from Bellevue Farm played a key role in the
Pig War--or, at least, their pig did.
HBC officer reenactors, 2016 San Juan Island Encampment
Captain and Mrs. Mouat's excellent and comfortable arrangements.
Cricket match at San Juan Encampment 2016.
The best war re-enactments involve cricket games...
Tea during cricket break, 2016 San Juan Encampment
...with tea breaks.
Cannon firing demo at San Juan 2016 Pig War Reenactment
Madame Peppan and the Royal Marines
gave the event an explosive conclusion. 

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Book Review: Period Costumes for Stage and Screen: Patterns for Women's Dress 1500-1800

Cover Art for Period Costumes for Stage & Screen 1500-1800 by Jean Hunnisett

Here's another classic costuming reference: Jean Hunnisett's Period Costumes for Stage and Screen: Patterns for Women's Dress, 1500-1800. I previously reviewed the 1800-1909 volume here.

Period Costumes for Stage and Screen walks you through draping women's clothing for the 16th-18th centuries.  The first quarter of the book gives an introduction to measuring and draping, with techniques for constructing basic bodices, petticoats, and a variety of skirt-supporting hip pads. Chemises are also covered briefly.  The remaining three chapters each cover a century of clothing: specific support garments like corsets, farthingales, and panniers, as well as gowns and some accessories, such as partlets and ruffs.  Line drawings of dresses from period painting are included, as well as cutting diagrams.  The appendix defines some of the terms and tools used, and also offers guidance on skirt widths and estimating yardage.

There's a lot of material to cover, but I think the author does a good job of showing multiple versions of dresses, so that a determined designer can create a variety of garments for a given time period, using the same basic shapes but varying the sleeves, collars, trim, etc.  She does an impressive job of deciphering garment/cutting shapes from historical paintings.

I also appreciate the "philosophy of costuming" remarks made at the beginning of the book: in addition to distinguishing between designing "clothing" for realistic settings versus "costumes" for fantastic ones, Ms. Hunnisett recommends studying of original garments, and using the appropriate undergarments of the time period.  In a perfect world, every designer of historic costume pieces would take those last two concepts to heart.

This is definitely a good book for performance costuming: it focuses on recreating the look of a time period rather than making generically old-fashioned garments.  As with the 19th century volume, living historians can use this information, but it might not be ideal for their interpretive goals.  A costume which needs to look good from yards away is different from a garment which will be inspected at close range; theatrical blocking and quick changes may require sacrifices in accuracy which are antithetical to a true reproduction.  Ms. Hunnisett's book does address the later, but--being aimed at costumers--also gets into detail about simulating the different layers and garments for when true accuracy isn't possible or desirable.  While this makes sense for costuming a period play or film, I can't countenance such an approach for living history.

Score: 4.5 Stars. [Subscores: 5 for costuming, 4 for living history use]

Accuracy: The shapes are taken from period paintings, but the techniques and materials are often modern attempts to emulate the older methods.  Very useful if you're trying to recreate garments from Holbein's court portraits.

Difficulty: Intermediate to advanced.  While basic draping is explained, this isn't a step-by-step illustrated pattern: you'll need a fairly solid sewing background or a lot of enthusiasm (and good spacial reasoning) to use this book.

Strongest Impression: The world (of costume dramas) would be a better place if theatrical and movie costumers read this book and observed its advice.  Living historians will likely find the information useful, but should look into period construction techniques, and may find other titles more helpful to their objectives.