Tuesday, August 30, 2016

18th/19th Century Silk Robe

Another recently completed project: a turn-of-the-nineteenth-century robe.  The inspiration pieces are a series of fashion plates showing a flowing outer garment which is fully open in front and has short sleeves.
Purple open robe over white dress with purple hair bands and reticule, 1797.
1797 fashion plate from
Journal des Luxus und der Moden
From Journal des Dames et des Modes, 1798
The pattern was taken from a c. 1795-1803 example in Janet Arnold's Patterns of Fashion I (the garment is in the VAM collection).  I altered the pattern to omit the front bodice and shortened/re-shaped the sleeves to better resemble the fashion plates. The outer material is a silk taffeta with satin stripes; the lining is a lighter weight plain silk.

Edited to add pictures of the front (er, side):

c. 1797 Open Robe, Jane Austen Festival

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Aerophane Embroidered Purse

Silk purse with aerophane and chenille embroidery, late 18th century design.
Silk purse, based a c. 1800 design.
The design from an original dated c. 1790-1800, which is featured in 18th Century Embroidery Techniques by Gail Marsh.  I decided to make it up as a gift for a mentor and friend who is travelling to Bath for the Jane Austen festival.

The purse material is black silk taffeta (the original was black satin), with stem-stitch embroidery in green silk chenille; the roses are made from bias-cut strips of custom-dyed silk chiffon.  The lining is white silk; cord and tassels are made from size FF beading silk in black and gold.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

HFF 2.17: Myths & Legends

The Challenge: It’s time to make some legendary food! Pick a story from folklore (a myth, fantasy, legend, or fairy tale) that features food, and use a historical recipe to recreate it. 

Unfortunately, I didn't have much luck with mythic food--most of the references I found were vague (King Arthur has "meat" and "wine" at his feasts; Valhalla serves wine, mead, and pork), don't require cooking (apples appear in everything from Snow White to The Illiad to Genesis), or aren't possible to make (the gods' ambrosia).  There are some German and Scandinavian fairy tales which have soft cheese as a plot point--always keep some around to impress giants/trolls with your strength--but I'm not quite up for unsupervised cheese-making at the moment.
So, I decided to work with a more modern legend: The Titanic.  Well-documented foods, and legendary status.

The Receipt: Apple Meringue from the Titanic First Class Luncheon Menu for April 14, 1912

Receipt from The Mendelssohn Club Cookbook (1909):
Apple Meringue
Eight tart apples stewed with 1 cup water and put through a sieve; add 1 cup sugar. 1 teaspoon lemon juice and the well beaten yolks of 4 eggs; bake in a buttered pudding dish 20 minutes in a quick oven. Make a meringue of the 4 whites of eggs and 2 tablespoons of fine sugar. Put on top and brown lightly. Serve very cold with cream and lady fingers.
Served with lady fingers (Naples biscuit) from Practical Cooking and Serving (1908):
6 eggs
1 cup of flour
1 1/4 cups of powdered sugar
A grating of lemon or orange rind
The juice of half a lemon  
Mix according to formula. Press the mixture through a tube on to a baking sheet covered with paper in portions an inch wide and five inches long. Dust with powdered sugar and bake from ten to fifteen minutes without browning. Remove from the paper brush over the flat surface of one biscuit with white of egg and press the underside of a second biscuit upon the first. 
The Date/Year and Region: 1909/1908, Illinois/New York

How Did You Make It: Followed the instructions above, on a half-scale.  I baked the meringue in two single-serving glass bowls (lacking appropriate pudding moulds), at 350F for about 20 minutes, and a further 5-10 to set the meringue.  After cooling to room temperature, I refrigerated the meringues so as to serve them cold.

The lady fingers were less successful: I halved the recipe, but produced such a thin batter that I ended up doubling the sugar and flour.  It was still incredibly runny, making it difficult to arrange and bake. No pictures were taken, as they really looked awful.

Time to Complete: Unknown

Total Cost: Ingredients on hand.

How Successful Was It? Mixed.  The apple portion tasted and felt like applesauce (the egg made it stay together a little, but otherwise didn't affect the texture).  The meringue topping went together like a dream.  I rather enjoyed it, but my dining companion did not--they found it none too sweet and don't care for applesauce in the first place.  Contrarily, they loved the lady fingers, which I found mediocre: like thin, not-quite-crisp strips of sponge cake.  The flavor was alright, and having a solid accompaniment suited the meringues. but the cakes weren't really anything special.

How Accurate Is It? I omitted the cream from the serving suggestion, as I did not know what to do with it (whipped cream or liquid? plain? sweetened?).  Similar apple meringue pie receipts from the period do not call for it, and omit the lady fingers in favor of a pastry crust beneath the apple.  I couldn't fine my sieve, so a few small chunks of apple found their way into the dish, but they weren't particularly noteworthy.

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).
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 . 
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. 
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.