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.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Fancy Fair

Yesterday was Fort Nisqually's annual Sewing to Sowing event.  Here are a few of this items I made for our "fancy fair":

1) Finished two more beaded bracelets to display.

2) Rolled and strawberry pincushions for the donation table, and some pen-wipers (designs from The American Girl's Book The Girl's Own Book).
Rolled and strawberry pincushions, pen-wipers.

3) More brick pincushions, ditto.
Brick pincushions.

4) A small housewife/sewing roll, ditto:
Sewing roll or housewife.

Sewing roll or housewife, open.

5) For outgoing Event Coordinator Chris, a sewing bag.
Sewing Bag, 1840s design.
The print is from Barbara Brackman's "Alice's Scrapbag" line;
fabric and cotton satin ribbon from Fabric Depot.

HFF 2.9: Mock Foods

The Challenge: Mock Foods.

The Recipe: "Mock Oysters of Corn", page 193 of Miss Leslie's Complete Cookery: Directions for Cookery in its Many Branches
Take a dozen and a half ears of large young corn, and grate all the grains off the cob as fine as possible. Mix with the grated corn three large table-spoonfuls of sifted flour, the yolks of six eggs well beaten. Let all be well incorporated by hard beating. 
Have ready in a frying-pan an equal proportion of lard and fresh butter. Hold it over the fire till it is boiling hot, and then put in portions of the mixture as nearly as possible in shape and size like fried oysters. Fry them brown, and send them to table hot. They should be near an inch thick. 
This is an excellent relish at breakfast, and may be introduced as a side dish at dinner. In taste it has a singular resemblance to fried oysters. The corn must be young.
The Date/Year and Region: American, 1853 (49th ed.)/1837

How Did You Make It: (Half-scale) Heated 1/2 cup butter and a similar amount of lard on the stove. Grated two ears of corn, then used a knife to remove the kernels from the rest, as the operation was slow and messy.  Pounded the kernels, and mixed in 3 eggs and 1 1/2 Tbsp flour.  Dropped into the boiling fats and cooked until brown.

The first batch tended to come apart, so I added another ~1/4 cup of flour for subsequent batches, and they stayed together much better. The grease overheated after the second pan, so I started fresh with straight lard.  The "mock oysters" fried easier after that, but tasted basically the same.

Time to Complete: No clock in the historic kitchen.  It mixed up quickly (less than ten minutes), but it took a while to cook the endless-bowl-of-corn-batter.

Total Cost: Around $7.

How Successful Was It?: Every who tried them liked them.  Quinn thought they tasted a bit like fried oysters--enough to earn the name "mock fried oysters" but not enough to fool anyone.  Not eating oysters myself, I couldn't say; I they tasted like the state fair (fried corn), and were quite palatable, though a little salt would be a nice addition.  Definitely serve hot.  The half-receipt made plenty for 6 people.    

How Accurate Is It?: Meddling noted in the "how did you make it" section.  Used frozen corn rather than fresh, as it's not in season at the moment.  I would be interested in trying this again with young corn and seeing how that changes the taste.  Scraping the corn also produced more whole kernels than grating it did, but I think that was a necessary change (the grating was taking a long time and making a mess, and mashing the kernels after removing them produced the same effect quicker and with less waste).
Corn batter for "Mock Oysters of Corn" from Miss Leslie's Complete Cookery 1837/1853

"Mock Oysters of Corn" from Miss Leslie's Complete Cookery 1837/1853

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Micaila and Mill End

The talented and smartly-dressed Micaila has a profile up on Mill End's website.  In addition to showing off several of her gorgeous period creations, there's also a guide to some useful and hard-to-find period sewing supplies carried at Mill End.

Go check it out!

Friday, April 15, 2016

HFF 2.8: Literary Foods

The Historical Food Fortnightly Icon

The Challenge: Make a food mentioned in a work of literature.
"I saw Mrs. Jamieson eating seed-cake, slowly and considerately, as she did every thing; and I was rather surprised, for I knew she had told us, on the occasion of her last party, that she never had it in her house, it reminded her so much of scented soap. She always gave us Savoy biscuits. However, Mrs. Jamieson was kindly indulgent to Miss Barker's want of knowledge of the customs of high life; and, to spare her feelings, ate three large pieces of seed-cake, with a placid, ruminating expression of countenance, not unlike a cow's." -Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell

The Recipe: A Very Good Seed Cake, from Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management
INGREDIENTS – 1 lb. of butter, 6 eggs, 3/4 lb. of sifted sugar, pounded mace and grated nutmeg to taste, 1 lb. of flour, 3/4 oz. of caraway seeds, 1 wineglassful of brandy. 
Mode.—Beat the butter to a cream; dredge in the flour; add the sugar, mace, nutmeg, and caraway seeds, and mix these ingredients well together. Whisk the eggs, stir to them the brandy, and beat the cake again for 10 minutes. Put it into a tin lined with buttered paper, and bake it from 1–1/2 to 2 hours. This cake would be equally nice made with currants, and omitting the caraway seeds.
The Date/Year and Region: 1861, British

How Did You Make It:  As instructed, I beat the butter, added in 1 lb flour, 12 oz. of granulated sugar (ran short and so substituted brown sugar for the last two ounces), 1 oz of caraway seeds, 1 tsp ground mace, and 1 Tbsp ground nutmeg (I like nutmeg, and it did say "to taste").  Beat six eggs, stirred in 1.5 oz of brandy (1 wineglassful, according to this 1840s reference), and added them to the rest of the mixture.  Continued beating the batter until light and smooth.  

No oven temperature was suggested, so I opted to try my default baking temperature of 350F.  Baked the cake until the center was solid, about 40 minutes. [The lower layer was still a bit mushy, if no loger a liquid, so I did put it back in for another 10 minutes.]

Time to Complete: Just over an hour.

Total Cost: All ingredients on hand

How Successful Was It?: Tasted alright, though I'm still coming around to caraway seeds--as with rosewater, it just doesn't register as food to me, so I sympathize with Mrs. Jameson's "soap" comparison. The texture is very similar to the sponge cake I've previously made from Mrs. Beeton's.  There was a lot of batter, almost too much for the sheet cake pan; in the future, I'd likely use a larger mold or scale down the recipe. I'd also bake it at a lower temperature and line the pan with paper, as instructed, so that the sides don't overcook before the center is baked. The caraway flavor overwhelmed the mace and nutmeg, so next time I'd either use the currant substitution, or else reduce the quantity of caraway seeds.     

How Accurate Is It?: Used the electric mixer and stove, but otherwise complied with the instructions, such as they were. 
Seed cake from Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management, 1861

Monday, April 4, 2016

Early 1840s Sewing Bag

Late to the party, but Anna Worden Bauersmith did a lovely sew along earlier this year, providing templates and instructions to make a cute work bag based on this c. 1840-1845 original.  She's since started another one for purses (and even though my crochet is abysmal, it's so cute that I'm tempted to join in).

Here's mine:
1840s style Sewing Bag from Anna Worden's Sew Along

Needle pages on sewing bag, from Anna Worden's Sew Along.

Interior of sewing bag, from Anna Worden's Sew Along.

The brown and pink repro print probably came from Hancock's of Paducah; the pink cotton satin ribbon is from Fabric Depot in Portland, and the wool flannel "pages" are scraps from my stash (originally from Mill End in Minneapolis).  I opted to put a small pocket in each side of the lining, against the pasteboard, the better to keep track of thimbles and other little items.  I switched the ribbon trim from box pleats to ruching ("rose leaf wave trimming" in Miss Leslie's terms), as I can't seem to manage neat pleats in satin.

HFF 2.7: Pretty As a Picture

Historic Food Fortnightly Icon
The Challenge: Make a food as pretty as it is delicious. ... Um, right.  About that. Photogenic foods are not my forte (see every other post under the HFF tag). Nonetheless, let's see what happens

The Recipe: To Make Pancakes, from Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management.
1861 Mrs. Beeton pancake illustration.
Illustration from the 1861 edition.

Colored image, rolled pancakes.
Colored version, unknown edition.
I basically picked this receipt because there is depiction of how it's meant to be plated and it didn't involved elaborate molds.

Date/Region: 1861, English

How did you make it?
1467. INGREDIENTS – Eggs, flour, milk; to every egg allow 1 oz. of flour, about 1 gill of milk, 1/8 saltspoonful of salt. 
Mode.—Ascertain that the eggs are fresh; break each one separately in a cup; whisk them well, put them into a basin, with the flour, salt, and a few drops of milk, and beat the whole to a perfectly smooth batter; then add by degrees the remainder of the milk. The proportion of this latter ingredient must be regulated by the size of the eggs, &c. &c.; but the batter, when ready for frying, should be of the consistency of thick cream. Place a small frying-pan on the fire to get hot; let it be delicately clean, or the pancakes will stick, and, when quite hot, put into it a small piece of butter, allowing about 1/2 oz. to each pancake. When it is melted, pour in the batter, about 1/2 teacupful to a pan 5 inches in diameter, and fry it for about 4 minutes, or until it is nicely brown on one side. By only pouring in a small quantity of batter, and so making the pancakes thin, the necessity of turning them (an operation rather difficult to unskillful cooks) is obviated. When the pancake is done, sprinkle over it some pounded sugar, roll it up in the pan, and take it out with a large slice, and place it on a dish before the fire. Proceed in this manner until sufficient are cooked for a dish; then send them quickly to table, and continue to send in a further quantity, as pancakes are never good unless eaten almost immediately they come from the frying-pan. The batter may be flavoured with a little grated lemon-rind, or the pancakes may have preserve rolled in them instead of sugar. Send sifted sugar and a cut lemon to table with them. To render the pancakes very light, the yolks and whites of the eggs should be beaten separately, and the whites added the last thing to the batter before frying.
[A gill is 1/2 cup, and 1 oz of flour is around 1/4 cup; a saltspoonful is approximately 1/4 tsp, so 1/32 tsp of salt is needed per egg.]

Beat 1 egg by hand; stirred into 1/4 cup flour with a pinch of salt*, then added milk until a light batter was obtained (about 3/8 cup of milk used).  Melted 1 Tbsp butter in my smallest pan--it's about 7" across, or twice the surface area of a 5" pan, so I used 1 teacupful (c. 4 oz or 1/2 cup) of batter at a time to ensure the same pancake thickness as in the original receipt.  Cooked each pancake until solid, then sprinkled over with powdered sugar.  Rolled up the pancake and transferred it to a plate; sprinkled all with more sugar and served warm.

*About 1/4 of the 1/8 tsp measuring spoon, as that's the smallest size I have.  This would be easier if one were making a whole batch of pancakes

From a single-egg batch, I made two large pancakes; with the appropriate-sized pan, one could expect 3-4 per egg.

How successful was it? From a visual perspective, rather lacking. While the cookbook warned that flipping pancakes is difficult, I found the rolling of them to be much harder.  Then there was all the melted butter to deal with--the amount specified is at least four times more than I would ever use in that pan.

From a taste perspective, the pancakes were alright.  Mostly, butter and sugar flavors were coming through, with just a hint of egg.  If making this again, I'd try it with the optional lemon peel, and probably put preserves in half of the pancakes, just to compare.  They were a touch denser than the pancakes I'm used to, possible because this receipt has no leavening beyond the eggs.  I'm unlikely to make this receipt again for personal use, but would consider it for period use if a suitable occasion arose.

How accurate was it? The pancake was a bit larger than called for (as noted above), but otherwise in line with the instructions.
Pancakes from Mrs. Beetons's (1861) on purple transferware plate.