Tuesday, March 14, 2023

HFF 6.3: Pie

Detail from an 1850s painting with a woman's hands gesturing over a table of food.

The Challenge: Pie! [Yes, I set this challenge to fall on Pi Day.]

The Recipe: Pumpkin Pie (American) from Mrs. Hale's New Cook Book.
Pumpkin Pie (American)--Take out the seeds, and pare the pumpkin or squash; but in taking out the seeds do not scrape the inside of the pumpkin; the part nearest the seed is the sweetest; then stew the pumpkin, and strain it through a sieve or cullender. To a quart of milk, for a family pie, 3 eggs are sufficient. Stir in the stewed pumpkin with your milk and beaten-up eggs, till it is as thick as you can stir round rapidly and easily. If the pie is wanted richer make it thinner, and add sweet cream or another egg or two; but even 1 egg to a quart of milk makes "very decent pies." Sweeten with molasses or sugar; add 2 tea-spoonsful of salt, 2 table-spoonsful of sifted cinnamon, and 1 of powdered ginger; but allspice may be used, or any other spice that may be preferred. The peel of a lemon grated in gives it a pleasant flavor. The more eggs, says an American authority, the better the pie. Some put 1 egg to a gill of milk. Bake about an hour in deep plates, or shallow dishes, without an upper crust, in a hot oven.
I selected this receipt, out of several similar ones from Mrs. Ellis's Housekeeping Made Easy (1843), The Skilled Housewife's Book (1852), and Breakfast Dinner and Tea (1859), because it gave clear amounts of spice to include. The proportion of milk to pumpkin is not quantitatively stated, but compared to the other recipes it is probably around 1 quart milk to 1 quart pumpkin.

The Date/Year and Region: 1857, Philadelphia

How Did You Make It: I used pumpkin out of my garden. This batch was peeled/boiled/sieved as described in the recipe, then frozen for a few months, though I still have three other ripe pumpkins from that harvest which are ready to use, so I'm counting it as 'in season'. 

 I stirred together 4 cups pumpkin, 4 cups milk, 2 eggs, ~1/2 cup granulated sugar, 2 tsp salt, 2  Tbsp cinnamon, 1 Tbsp ginger. While the oven pre-heated, I rolled up a simple 1-2-3 pie crust, lined a pie tin with it, and filled the crust with pumpkin filling. I then baked the pie at 400F for 60 minutes.

Time to Complete: A bit over an hour, with the pumpkin processing done in advance.

Total Cost: Ingredients were all on hand.

How Successful Was It?: The pie eventually firmed up and it smelled very nice while baking. The finished product was moist, enough that I worry it might have been on the underdone side. The taste is spicy enough, but a bit bland. It's not as strongly pumpkin-flavored as most modern pies I remember.

I'll probably continue to tinker with this recipe, since I still have a lot of pumpkins that I need to do something with. I did try to drain off as much liquid as possible while mashing the boiled pumpkins, but perhaps using them promptly without freezing will make the difference in moisture content.

How Accurate Is It?: Other than freezing the pumpkin, I feel that I followed the instructions fairly well. I rounded down to 2 eggs to account for size differences from the 1850s to now, which I think is fair; even if this over-corrected the issue, the receipt allows for using fewer eggs. The texture concerned me: I know pumpkin pie filling starts out very liquid, and that the instructions said "stir round rapidly and evenly", but the consistency was closer to "soup" than "mashed turnips" (which is how the other recipes describe the intended consistency); fortunately, it seemed up bake up solid enough.

Monday, March 6, 2023

A Lace Bend Round, 15th Century

Braid and finished point.

Braid #25 from Tak V Bowes Departed. It's a two-color braid of 8 loops, in a spiral pattern which resembles a 2-ply cord. This braid wholly uses exchanges, which was good practice, since I've mostly done 5 strand braids where you pick up the active loops with an empty finger.

I worked it in gold and black beading silk (size FF), and fitted the ends with aglets to make a pair of points. I chose this braid as I wanted the cord to fit into the aglets, though it was almost too fine in this silk. However, the knotted ends of the braids fit the aglets easily and was able to I stitch them into place.

Sunday, March 5, 2023


This project is not of any historical import, but I always gets a little excited when I make something for daily wear. It's quite simple: I just traced my worn-out robe, and added to the seam allowances where it had gotten a little tight at the sleeve.

The finished garment is cozy and comfortable. It's fully made of purple terrycloth, with self-fabric facings are the neck, two pockets, and turn-back cuffs. The tricky part on this one finishing such thick fabric: I used French seams on the interior, and the four layers of terrycloth was about all my machine could take.

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Original: Wedding Dress, 1951

 Later than I usually go, but I really like the lines of this 1951 wedding dress in the Victoria & Albert Museum:

Wedding Dress by Norman Hartwell, 1951. VAM

Tuesday, February 28, 2023

February Mending

I think the stocking was a end that didn't get woven in.
The apron has a different two inches break loose each month.

Lots of little projects this month, mostly in my 1850s kit. I finally reattached the hook-and-eye tape that's been coming off my brown calico since sometime last year. I also worked on the gathering for my corded petticoat, repaired another 2" of gathering that came off my pink apron, and closed a small ladder that opened in my light blue wool stockings.


All mended. For now.

Friday, February 24, 2023

CSM Knit Rose

It's still winter, and the flowers aren' t growing. I suppose it's time to make some.

One knit rose.

I used Violante Fioravanti's CSM Rose pattern, using the option for 5 petals of 12 stitches each. To make life harder on myself, instead of installing the 60-cylinder, I knit the project flat on 60 needles on the 80-cylinder. The yarn is Knit Picks' palette, left-over from stockings. 

The green base ended up being larger than the petals (? both were knit on 60), so I decided to double it up and make some petals, which I think make a nice touch.

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Petticoat Quantities, c.1838-1865

This developed as both a side-project off of my research on flounced petticoats, and of a long-running project I've had to document the use of corsets and petticoats among the poor. I'm mostly looking at sources for pre-hoop petticoat arrangements, approximately 1850-1856, with the earliest source being the 1838 Workwoman's Guide. A few relevant passages featuring hoops, c.1856-1864, are also included.

Petticoat, c.1850s, in The Met.

General Remarks on Petticoat Layers

The clearest reference I know of for the number of petticoats worn is in Hints On Dress (1854), which advises wearing two petticoats only, in materials suited to the weather. The author mentions ladies wearing 3-4 petticoats to achieve their desired silhouette, though the author advises a 2.5 petticoat approach with a horsehair bustle/apron when additional loft is needed.

Harper's jokes in 1856 about women wearing ten layers including the dress, lace petticoat, hoop petticoat, cotton petticoat, corded petticoat, moreen petticoat, etc. This is definitely exaggerated for comic effect, though most of the garments named are attested elsewhere--they're just not worn at the same time.

In this anecdote from 1850, a woman wearing four petticoats is perceived as being pregnant, when she is actually trying to prevent her clothing from being stolen. To me, this implies that the norm was less than four petticoats, or else it would not have looked odd to the narrator.

A pickpocketing victim (the wife of a pawnbroker) described her pocket arrangement, which includes a pocket in her under petticoat, accessed through slits in her gown and over petticoat

Meigs' A Practical Treatise on the Diseases of Children (1858) describes the standard dress for children (which he deems insufficient) as including a flannel petticoat and one muslin petticoat.

Mrs. Weaver's instructions for a crochet petticoat (1862) advises that little girls wear them under hoops for warmth--along with the "usual" flannel. 
Late in the hoop period (1864), diminishing skirt fullness is supported by a single white petticoat worn over the crinoline, or a horsehair petticoat with a starched one above it.  

Clothing Allowances and Packing for Travel

British workhouse inmates at Gorey Union c.1842 are allowed 1 flannel petticoat and 1 cotton or linsey-woolsey petticoat as part of a whole suit of clothes. This outfit, intended to last for 11 months, includes one of each article of clothing, plus an extra pair of stockings.

In the same source, workhouse women and girls in Nottingham are also allowed 1 flannel petticoat and 1 woolsey petticoat as part of a single outfit. At Rathkeale Union, the budget also allows each woman 1 flannel and 1 woolsey petticoat. In this list, girls only have the flannel petticoat named, but this may be because their budget line is abbreviated in other ways relative to the adults (unlike the women, the girls' list has no shoes, caps or aprons). In the Clifton workhouse, women and girls are both allowed two petticoats; in Killmallock the two petticoats are specified to be flannel and linsey.

At a rather higher class, Miss Leslie's (1852) advice for sea-travel refers to both upper petticoats (of linen, worsted [wool], or silk) and wadded petticoats (silk). She does not give numbers for each, but her phrasing implies singular, at least while aboard the ship.
The Emigrant in Australia (1852) advises packing for 4 months without reliable laundry facilities. It gives "two flannel petticoats" (and no others) in the minimum supply list for female passengers; the middling example has two flannel petticoats and four other petticoats. To me, this suggests the wearing of one flannel petticoat at a time is possible for the destitute, but that 1 flannel petticoat along with 1-2 other petticoats at a time is assumed of the the middling emigrant, though this is speculative. Alternatively, the poorest woman could be wearing her two flannel petticoats at the same time, however that would mean having no changes for 4 months.

Real Life in India (1847) distinguishes between cambric slips, petticoats, and flannel petticoats, recommending that a lady pack for her trip 24, 36, and 4 respectively. The duration of the trip is not specified, but the packing list calls for 48 chemises (as well as 6 evening gowns of various types, if you were wondering about class), which suggests to me both an expectation of 6-7 weeks between laundry opportunities, and that the wearer is a relatively well-dressed individual. The distinction between cambric and plain petticoats might be related to activity or to different layers, with the different quantities allowing fresh (clean and pressed) petticoats to be substituted as needed. Proportionately, this wardrobe has 6 cambric slips and 9 petticoats per flannel petticoat. I'd guess that the lady is likely wearing at least two petticoats at a time, possibly 3 depending on the activity and weather.
At the opposite end of the social spectrum, a group of workhouse orphans traveling from England to Bermuda c.1851 had 3 flannel petticoats and 2 upper petticoats allotted to each girl (for scale, each had 6 shifts and 4 frocks). The terminology of "upper" and the ratio suggest to me that one flannel petticoat and one upper petticoat are worn at a time, with the flannel petticoats being changed more often. 
An 1853 charity school dress code allows each girl a white flannel under petticoat and calico upper petticoat. The pupils are poor residents of Marylebone (London), aged 10-14, primarily being trained for domestic service. Upon leaving the school at age 15, each girl is allowed to take her best gown and upper petticoat, a new flannel petticoat, two new shifts, two new pairs of black stockings, and a pair of new shoes.

Similarly, a clothing allowance for female prisoners in the UK in 1841 includes both a "petticoat" and an "upper petticoat" in the Kirkdale and Preston gaols. At nearby Salford, only one linsey petticoat is mentioned, though as it is in conjunction with a jacket and waistcoat of the same (and no dress/gown), this might indicate the skirt of a three-piece outfit rather than an undergarment. At Lancaster Gaol, a woolen petticoat and an under petticoat are issued. Leicester's list has "two petticoats." At Louth, one petticoat is supplied (worn under a gown). Cold Bath Fields has one flannel petticoat issued per prisoner.

Lower-paid female servants are advised to purchase 4 petticoats per year (and 3 gowns), while more highly paid servants with a 150% higher budget are advised to either purchase 6 petticoats total, or to buy 4 that are more expensive.  

The Careful Nursemaid (1844) advises girls going into domestic service to plan sufficient clothing to last between washing days; this includes two changes of linen per week, as well as "two flannel petticoats and two colored upper petticoats."


Instructions for Making Different Kinds of Petticoats

I'm including these sources because they flesh out the distinction between flannel and upper petticoats, and offer some insight into what kinds of petticoats were being made.

The Workwoman's Guide (1838) only has flannel petticoat instructions (in adult sizes). 

Plain Needlework (1852) likewise only gives cutting instructions for flannel petticoats. Which isn't conclusive, but I find it interesting.
Miss Leslie gives instructions for how to make a wadded or quilted petticoat out of old silk dress-skirts, and how to stitch flannel petticoats. She also has sewing and washing tips for brown holland petticoats and for making stiffeners and scallops on white petticoats.
Another example of the upper/flannel dichotomy occurs in this list of garments made at a needlework school. I like that they include the yardages used per garment, which works out to 2 panels for the flannel and 3 panels for the upper petticoats, each approximately 45" long when cut. An instruction book for such schools names the materials and amount of fabric to use for both flannel petticoats and upper petticoats.
The Common Things of Everyday Life (1857) advocates for wearing flannel near the skin, and gives instructions for flannel petticoats. The only other references to petticoats are for how to starch a 'supportive petticoat' (apparently with hoops) and how to pack a trunk (in which "petticoats that can bear weight" are listed separately from 'flannels").

These doll instructions (1860) include a flannel petticoat, hoop petticoat, and white petticoat.

Petticoats in Fiction & Miscellaneous Notes

Flannel petticoats appear multiple times in the 1836 central criminal court findings.

Not so helpful on the number's front, there's an amusing passage from Arthur's Magazine (1857) complaining about hoops and dress reformers alike: it gives preference to crinoline petticoats as being more graceful than hoops, while corded petticoats take second place: 
The always amusing Why Do the Servants of the Nineteenth Century Dress as They Do? (1859) complains about servants wearing corded petticoats, white petticoats with trimming, and hooped petticoats, instead of more practical dark petticoats without hoops. Three of these dark petticoats are sufficient to last one girl the whole winter. In one anecdote, a servant girl wears three starched petticoats over hoops, which prevents her from getting through doorways easily. 
In  "The Cage at Cranford" (1864, set 1856) Mary is judged by the Cranford laundresses for having two corded petticoats (deemed excessive).
In another short story, a lady wears her silk petticoat directly under her dress, with a flannel petticoat below the silk one.

In a third parable,  a wealthy lady rewards two poor orphans with sufficient flannel and stuff to make each of them a petticoat and a dress.

I'm not sure how to interpret this story, but it uses "corded petticoats" as a topic of conversation among sensible women with domestic knowledge (in contrast to elegant ignorance and accomplishments).
Depending on the year and occasion, the number and type of petticoats worn seems to vary between two and four, with two apparently being both the bare minimum and the most common number. Some English jails allow prisoners only a single petticoat, but otherwise two petticoats seems to be the accepted minimum, even for servants and for destitute women and girls in prison, workhouses, or charity schools. 
The most common arrangement seems to be a flannel petticoat worn below, with an upper petticoat of cotton, linsey or silk above it. The specific materials and colors vary with the season and the wearer's occupation: warmer fabrics in winter, lighter ones in summer; dark petticoats for work, exercise, or poor weather; finer white cotton or silk under fancy dresses. Ideally, servants should not be wearing fine white cotton petticoats with adornment (though that doesn't stop them from wanting to dress nicely).