Thursday, September 25, 2014

Completed Project: Quilt

I haven't posted any sewing projects in a while, so here's the quilt I was working on during August.

The block is 'flying star', from an 1840s (finished 1890s) original featured in Treasures in the Trunk.  I picked that particular design in order to use up small scraps from the various cotton dresses, aprons, and bonnets that I've made since my last patchwork project.  All recycled materials (batting is actually wool yardage from the skirt of my beige dress, backing is an old cotton sheet).  Machine pieced--because I needed it done fast--7 squares by 5, hand quilted in concentric semi-circular "fans", as per the original; wrap-around back to form the binding.

Flying Star patchwork quilt.

Close-up of flying star square.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

HFF #8: Jams, Jellies, and Preserves

I did the plums too early for this challenge, but a fortuitous late-season raspberry sale gave me something else to attempt.  (And, if all goes well, will lead to a fun treat in the future).

The Challenge: Jams, Jellies, and Preserves

The Recipe: Raspberry Jelly

Date/Year & Region: 1861, British

How Did You Make It:  Heated 2 pints of raspberries in a boiling water bath for c. 50 minutes to separate the juice from the berries.  Strained the juice through a muslin-lined colander to remove the rest of the solids.  Collected 2.5 cups of juice, added 2 7/8 c. granulated sugar, and heated on the stove on medium until the mixture started to 'gel'.  While heating, scooped off the 'scum' accumulating on the top.  Ladled into sterilized jelly jars and processed for five minutes in boiling water (deviation from period instructions).

Time to Complete: About 3 hours.  This involved lots of waiting for water to boil, and would likely go faster with practice and better organization.

Total Cost: $9 for 2 pints of berries; sugar to hand.

How Successful Was It: Well, it looks like jelly.  And the spoon tasted good.  Hopefully nothing went weird with the canning, so I'll be able to use it for some yummy desserts.

How Accurate Was It: I followed the preparation method as given, but using the (modern) equipment available to me.  Lacking a proper jelly bag or hair sieve, I improvised with available colanders and a piece of cotton muslin--no pictures of this step, as I prefer my camera not to be covered in berry juice.  Just to be safe, I processed the jelly after canning (5 min in boiling water), per these instructions.

Raspberries in water bath on stovetop.
Bruised raspberries in water bath
Pan of raspberry juice on the stove.
Juice and sugar on the stove.
Raspberry jelly, from an 1861 recipe.
Filled jars of jelly.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Flag Needlebook in Berlin Work, part II

Step 1: Berlin Work.  Based on the originals discussed in part I, I made the flag 42 stitches long x 28 stitches tall.  Each stripe is 2 rows of cross stitch, the blue field is 17 x 14.  I opted to do the stars as single cross-stitches, and went with a simple grid of 32 stars.  I actually meant to do a 33-star flag, on the presumption that my 1860s unionist persona was on a patriotic kick during the spring of 1861, but realized too late that I did the rows as 6/7/6/7/6 instead of 7/6/7/6/7.  So, I now have an 1858-59 style flag.  Go Minnesota! (Sorry, Oregon.)
Cross stitched American flag with 32 stars.

Step 2: Making the cover.  I used a scrap of my 'candy-cane' silk to back the berlin-work, sewing around the flag motif on three sides (fabric right-sides-together) and turning the seams to the inside.  The double thickness of canvas and silk is fairly sturdy, but I decided to stiffen it further by adding a piece of pasteboard between the fabric layers.

To make the back, I covered another piece of pasteboard with blue (tropical weight) wool.  I experimented with using an unsupported back--either flannel or the suiting weight, but decided I didn't like the floppy back with the solid front cover.

Step 3: Pages. The two "pages" are each made from red wool flannel, cut smaller than the cover and edged in white or blue berlin wool (blanket-stitching edge).

Step 4: Assembly.  Both covers were finished (raw edges folded in and closed with a running stitch), and then joined with whip-stitches along the formerly-raw edges.    The "pages were laid inside the open cover, and fastened with small stitches.  Silk ribbon was added to the opening edge to make a closure; additional ribbon was laid over the spine to hide the assembly sewing.  More ribbons on the spine for decoration.

Needle book of an 1858-9 American Flag.
Needle-Book Front Cover

Wool flannel pages in flag needle book.
Inside View

Solid blue back cover of flag needle book.
Back Cover
Excepting the star miscount, I'm largely satisfied with this project.  Next time, I think I'll stick with one flannel page, as this material was fairly bulky, and two pieces folded in half is a bit fluffier than I would like.  Alternatively, I could effect a sleeker appearance by using silk for the back cover.  

Sunday, September 7, 2014

HFF Challenge #7: Innovative Food

Mea Culpa.  I'm a day late on this challenge, having been mistaken that #7 was canning & preserves (it is, in fact, #8).

From "The Principles and Practice of Vegetarian Cookery" by John Smith (London, 1860)

Root, Herb and other Savoury Pies 
420 Potatoes two pounds; onions two ounces; butter one ounce; water half a pint. Pare and cut the potatoes, put a layer of onions cut small between the layers of potatoes, season with pepper and salt lay the butter at the top in small pieces, pour in the water, cover the whole with paste and bake. 

The onions may be replaced by mushrooms cut small. Hard boiled eggs cut in slices or small pieces may be distributed between the layers. Half an ounce of tapioca or sago is an improvement; these should be well washed and steeped in cold water before they are added, or they may be reduced to a jelly and added to the pie when baked. When mushrooms are not used the flavour may be improved by the addition of a little ketchup which may either be added when the pie is made or poured in with a little melted butter,etc., after the pie has been baked. Some add a little celery or powdered sage, sliced turnips, carrots, asparagus or other vegetables.

I'm justifying this for the "improvements in cooking" challenge, as vegetarianism was a sort of new fad diet/lifestyle option among mid-19th century reformers.

The Challenge: The Best Thing Since Sliced Bread

The Recipe: Vegetarian savoury pie of potatoes and onion (receipt 420), given above

Date/Year & Region: British, 1860

How Did You Make It:  I halved the recipe, using 1 pound of russet potatoes and one ounce white onions.  For variety, I also added one sliced carrot, a stick of celery, a pinch of parsley from the window-box.  Paste prepared according to receipt 190 for puff paste in the same volume (again, halved to 8 oz. flour, 4 oz shortening, 2 egg yolks, and 1/4 c. water).  Bake at 350F until crust is browning on the edges, took about half an hour.

Time to Complete:  A little over an hour.

Total Cost: About $2.00 (excluding eggs and flour).

How Successful Was It:  Fairly.  It was just a touch bland, and would probably benefit from a little more salt and pepper (maybe slightly more parsley).  The paste and veggies both baked very nicely.  I will likely make this again.

How Accurate Was It:  Only real deviation from the recipe was in the amount made and shape (I opted to make up the half-reduced pie as two rather generous 'personal' size ones).  Otherwise, I believe all the ingredients and methods conformed to the period.

Sliced vegetables for a Victorian savory pie.
Potato and onion pie from 1860 Vegetarian cookbook.
One personal-sized pie. 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Pattern Review: HMP-400, Historic Moments Cloth Doll Pattern

As I can only wear one historic outfit at a time, I decided to make a clothing demonstration assistant.

Meet Nelly:
1850s/60s style cloth doll from HMP-400 pattern.

She's made from Mrs. Clark's "Great Aunt Maude's Cloth Lady Doll" pattern.  Her first outfit, above, consists of the chemise, corset, drawers, apron and high-necked dress (all from the pattern), with an additional apron of my own design, and a sunbonnet based on Mrs. Clark's free sunbonnet pattern (as drawn from memory, scaled down to fit a 15" doll).

HMP-400 cloth doll with undergarments.

HMP-400 cloth doll with undergarments.

I've been enjoying making doll clothing so far.  The small pieces let me use up scraps from my other projects (this will be great with the wools and silks that aren't appropriate for my quilting activities), and they items go together really quickly.  All of Nelly's clothing has been handsewn--so far--and working on them has been a great opportunity to practice my hand-sewing in a low-stress way; doll clothing also makes for a very portable period project, and gives a great sense of accomplishment as it gets finished very quickly.  The downside to the small garments, in my opinion, is making the tiny eyelets.  Miniature piping is the other tricky bit.  For easier sewing, many of the instructions call for decorative buttons with functional hook-and-eye closures, instead of functional buttons with tiny button-holes.

The doll herself and the undergarments are made exactly as given in the instructions (save that I added a functional button and loop on the petticoat).  I think I made my seam-allowances too small on the corset, as it turned out a little loose.  It would also have benefited from some ironing during production (which it would have had, were I not sewing it in the car on my way to an event...). For the dress, I made some changes to the basic high-neckline bodice pattern.  It's gathered, rather than darted, but I didn't get the bulk down quite enough, making for a front that 'poofs' a bit above the waist.  The bishop and cap sleeve options were both among the given variants (there's also a pagoda sleeve, a puff sleeve, a bias sleeve, and with the wrapper, a coat sleeve).

What You Get With This Pattern: 

  • 39-page instruction booklet
  • 2 sheets of pattern pieces--done on writing-weight paper, not tissue--with pieces to create one doll and twenty garments/accessories, plus variations.  The dress pattern includes 3 bodice options and 5-6 sleeves to play with.

Rating: 5 stars
Difficulty: Varies from easy to intermediate
Accuracy: The shapes and methods are all good for the mid-19th century, based on my knowledge of women's clothing.  No pictures of original dolls are included, though the author provides some background information.
General Impression: A very complete pattern for a doll and her wardrobe: there are dress variations, underclothes, nightwear, and accessories included (no bonnets, per se, though there are two caps and a hood).  The clothes are all (almost entirely) pre-fit to the doll, making this pattern the easiest introduction to mid-century clothing that I've seen.