Sunday, March 29, 2015

Super Secret Project Revealed!

For the past couple of months, I've mentioned a super secret project to some of my friends. I was really excited to try something "new" and something I hadn't seen in person before. I made a yarn wig. I was heavily inspired by Rocking the Frock's Steampunk yarn wig. It involves elements I know how to do - mostly knitting, crocheting, and sewing with nice big yarn strands.

First, I created a knit cap. I cast on 64 stitches in the round on size 7 needles. The yarn I used was really stretchy. I tried to cast on 72 or even 80 and...way, way too big. I did 2x2 ribbing around the edge for an inch and then just did knit all the way around, increasing the stitch count to 70 to accommodate my own hair. Once it got to 7" in height, I decreased once in the middle of each needle and at the end of each needle. On the sides, I added "mini" side burns to cover up my hairline well. I tried on the hat, put pins where my ear started and where the hairline went back up under the hat. I basically put ten stitches to each needle and the knitted triangles - with the right angle towards the ear- before the ear.

I then put the hat down and wanted to wrap some yarn around one of those long hot dog balloons to make curls. My original plan was to wrap the yarn, pour a water glue mixture all over the yarn, and then pop the balloon once the glue dried. That ended up not happening because the hot dog balloons were one to a mixed bag at the dollar store and not a single bag I bought (all three!) had a usable hot dog balloon. Either the balloon had a hole or it just wouldn't blow up. It might have been me - I'm sick with pneumonia (medication for the win!)- but I could get the regular balloons to blow up just fine. Anyway, then plan went bust. So, instead, I took some cardstock, rolled it up tight, taped it, and then wrapped it in plastic wrap. This served to wrap the yarn around and make the curls.

Above is one of the curls after I cut it from the rest of the wrapped yarn (I just measured about 3 1/2" and cut the yarn at that point) and shimmied the curl off the cardstock.

While I was letting the glue dry, I started to cut a lot of yard long strands of yarn to add as "hair" all the way around the bottom of the hat. I also added a second line of hair around the original bottom of the hat where the triangles were and the back of the hat. This gave an added amount of thickness. I didn't have to add any hair to the top since my own hair - which is about a yard itself- would be adding the height and stability to the hat.

The hat after the round of strands were added.  It looked a bit ridiculous.

The above are pictures of all the strands pushed back and around. It's already starting to look!  However, I still needed to add some pieces.  First, I took about 30 strands that were slightly longer than the distance between my ears across my forehead.  I braided these and put the braid right at the edge of the hat, draping the strands over it.  This gave a bit of volume right at the front of the wig.   I then carefully sewed the front strands to the hat - and more to each other than the knit hat really- to help create an even look.  In the back, I sewed a few of them down but also sewed the curls to the back of the wig.  I also added a braid to the back to give it more of the look I was going for.   Because it looked plain, I added a little "cap" to the front with a pink bow.

The nice thing about this wig is you couldn't see my hair at all.  Also, it was warm -which was lovely considering it was snowing when I left for the event.  Just flurries but still, it wasn't exactly warm outside.

The wig has a lot more volume on me and I'll try to get some photos up of me wearing the wig soon.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Historical Sew Fortnightly March Stashbusting Challenge

The Challenge:March – Stashbusting: Make something using only fabric, patterns, trims & notions that you already have in stash.

Fabric: A I'm-not-sure-what-it-is-but-it-has-silk lampas like drapery fabric probably circa 1976. I also used dark green silk dupioni and sand colored linen in the dress. Oh, and muslin...

Pattern: My own! :-)

Year: 1750's/1760's more or less

Notions: Silk thread, cotton thread, ribbon trim

How historically accurate is it? It looks much better than it actually is. The fabric is too heavy for the period but the design is pretty well in keeping with the later half of the 18th century styles (mix of floral and stripes). All the visible stitching is done by hand as are the stitches holding the skirt pleats to the back bodice.

Hours to complete: If it weren't for the sleeves, I'd guess only 16 hours or so. Because of the sleeves, it took 22, I think...

First worn: Hopefully, this Saturday!

Total cost: All stash! Every last thing. The linen I used for the hem was one of those Joann's remnants I hoard. It was a half yard and 50% off so, maybe $4.50 USD? The green dupioni was also a Joann's remnant. Probably another $3 or $4 USD there. The main dress fabric I bought back in November off of ebay for $17.99 USD with another $16 for shipping (did I mention it's heavy?). The silk thread I got on sale for $2 sometime last year (I just remember there was a sale on silk thread so I gobbled up a few different colors). The trim....I don't remember where I got it or how much it was. I *think* it was one my NYC trips but I really don't know. Knowing me, I doubt I paid more the $2 a yard.

I draped the patten using an old bedsheet.  I've mentioned before how much I hated these sheets.  They used to be in my room at my family's beach home.  When Mom said she got them from my room, I thought she meant the lovely blue and white ones....  

Anyway, I originally cut it to do a closed front anglaise but I didn't like that idea and went with the stomacher front instead.

The back pleats are all very pinned into place.  Only the right side is draped and drafted for the final pattern in this photo.  

This is what my animals were doing while I was draping fabric.
Eventually, Abby decided to investigate why I was taking pictures of things other than her.  This is the final pattern for the back, front, and sleeves of the dress.

I cut out and pleated the back as well as I could.  It's still a little wonky at the top but if it really bugs me later, I can always patch it over with more fabric.  

I had to cut the fabric long ways and make sure the floral pattern was running down the dress correctly. More on the fabric itself later.

To do the front robing, I just made the fashion fabric 2" longer width wise towards the front.  I then sewed it to the lining along the front edge.  Once I matched the side edges together, this created a small overlap in the fashion fabric towards the front.  I stitched along the channel (where the fashion fabric met the lining at the front) by hand and used this as a guide to fold the robings.  

This is where I folded it and hopefully the photos make more sense.  I then ironed it down before attaching it to the back bodice section.  

The full finished dress!!

Close up detail of the sleeve.  I added the ribbon trim to the cuff edges as well as the front of the stomacher.  Despite having five yards, just doing the cuffs and the stomacher used every last inch of trim I had.

The back of the dress.  It looks more wonky that it really is because the dress dummy doesn't have arms.

The lining of the cuffs.  I wanted something that would go well with the dress.  I was going to cannibalize a UFO that had spring green silk when I saw this dark green remnant in my stash that went a lot better.  (okay, I compared the spring green to the fabric  Just no.  So I ran back and got the dark green.  It looked way better) 

The stomacher front.  I took what was left of the trim and ran it down the center stripe.  I had just enough left.

And this is what is left of the fabric I used for the dress.  It's maybe a half yard.  It's enough to do the sleeves over if I wanted to.  

Evil sleeves.   Okay, so the first time I put them in, it was totally my fault.  I matched the seams wrong and had to rip them out.  Fine.  Then the right sleeve kept giving me trouble.  It would bunch up at odd points or it wouldn't line up correctly.  It took 3 1/2 tries (the last time it bunched up , I just ripped out that section and redid it) before the sleeve looked okay.   

The fabric:  Well, truth be told - you are looking at only 4 yards of fabric.  With most 18th C dresses, you do need 9 yards - and even that doesn't feel like enough- because you need the matching petticoat, the dress, the self trims....tons and tons of fabric.   This fabric is over 52" wide (I'm not sure by how much, I measured the skirt and its 104" around so...not sure how much got eaten up into the seams).  This helped a lot for the skirts.   The front skirt is just a rectangular panel - 41" long- that I pleated to a strip of the fabric (3" wide strip that folded over).   The back of the dress isn't much different (just the back panel of the bodice plus a 41" long skirt).  Because of this,  I cut out the front from the excess above the back panel skirt, next to the back bodice.   

The sleeves and cuffs were cut out from the remaining fabric and the stomacher was cut out even more scrap (from next to the front bodice piece).  I used a little less than 4 yards to make the dress.  


Dress at the Met circa 1760
This was the main inspiration for my dress.  I was going to do the self trim along the opening but the fabric really is just too heavy to do that well.  That, and I didn't have any of the ribbon trim left. ;-)
Other inspiration pieces included this early 1770's dress at the Met, this pink and green dress recently sold at Christies (probably early 18th C based on the robings), and this one at the Met as well.  

Because of the yardage issue, I liked the idea of a closed front dress.  I liked the overall style as well because none of them are overly trimmed - it's more about letting the patterned fabric speak for itself.   

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Medieval Diet on hold - again

Last time, it was because I didn't have a kitchen for a couple of days. This time, I'm sick. I have pneumonia and the medication I need to take requires food. This means fasting is out the window. I'll probably go back to it Holy Week (next week, the week after Palm Sunday) but from now until Monday, the diet is on hold while I get better.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Medieval Salmon Dinner

14th Century French Fresh Salmon recipe:

Fresh salmon. Smoked (keep the chine for roasting), cut into steaks, and then cooked in water; [add] some wine and salt while cooking; eaten with Yellow Pepper [Sauce] or Cameline [Sauce]. Some dry it again (for eating) on the grill. In a pie (if you wish) powdered with spices; eaten with Cameline [Sauce].

If it is salted: cooked in water without salt; eaten with wine and chopped scallion. 

I cooked it in a 50/50 mix of red wine and salt water because it's frozen.  ;-p   

Honestly, it just sounded like it would go better with the Cameline sauce if I cooked it that way. I set the oven to 390F and cooked it for about 20 minutes since I only have one small steak for me.

The Cameline sauce:

15th Century English version

Sauce gamelyne. Take faire brede, and kutte it, and take vinegre and wyne, & stepe þe brede therein, and drawe hit thorgh a streynour with powder of canel, and drawe hit twies or thries til hit be smoth; and þen take pouder of ginger, Sugur, and pouder of cloues, and cast þerto a litul saffron and let hit be thik ynogh, and thenne serue hit forthe.

Translation: Cameline sauce. Take white bread and cut it; and take vinager and wine, and seep the bread in it. Then put it through a strainer and add cinnamon, and draw it two or three times until it is smooth; and then take powdered ginger, sugar, and powdered cloves and put those in with a little saffron and then when it is thick enough, serve forth.

14th Century French version

155. Cameline: To Make Cameline Sauce. Grind ginger, a great deal of cinnamon, cloves, grains of paradise, mace, and if you wish, long pepper; strain bread that has been moistened in vinegar, strain everything together and salt as necessary

My version:

1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1/3 cup red wine
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 whole long pepper
about 3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon ginger (probably more)
1/2 teaspoons cloves
1 pinch of safforn

I used the good ole very medieval blender (it's a nutra bullet) to mix this all up and then heated it up until it had the consistency of apple sauce.

How was it? I am so glad I made a ton of the cameline sauce because it is delicious! The salmon is just a sauce conveyer. ;-)

Monday, March 23, 2015

16th Century Lenten Pasta Dish

255. Several ways to make and cook macaroni for a day in Lent.
Get a pound of fine flour and a pound of grated bread that has been put through a fine sieve, and make up a dough with boiling water and olive oil mixed with a little saffron.  On a table make the dough so it is not too firm, but well mixed together.  When it is warmed up make the gnocchi - that is, macaroni- on the cheese grater and put them to cook in lightly salted boiling water.  When they are done, take them out and put them into an earthenware or wooden vessel, putting on them a garlic sauce made with ground walnuts, cloves of garlic, pepper and breadcrumb that has been moistened in hot water.  Mix everything together and serve it garnished with pepper and cinnamon.   - The Opera of Bartolomeo Scappi (1570) translated by Terence Scully

So, I didn't make the macaroni. I did call up my Mom and ask if I was a bad Italian for using Penne rather than macaroni. She laughed - not only does she do the same thing but my great Aunt (who is 93) called Mom up a few minutes before to ask a similar question - but in regards to chicken broth. Basically, I'm not a bad Italian and it's hereditary. :-)

Sorry I haven't made anything for the Historical Fortnightly in about a month. I was going to make gingerbread last week (sandlewood and long pepper!) but I ended up getting wrapped up in other things.

Anyway, back to the not-macaroni. I cooked whole wheat penne in salt water. Not exactly difficult.

The sauce recipe:

1/2 cup of breadcrumbs
1/2 cup of warm water
1/2 tablespoon of garlic powder
1 teaspoon ish of black pepper
1/2 cup of walnuts - ground up
1 teaspoon of salt

I first ground up the walnuts in the very period blender. I also added hot water to my already somewhat ground up breadcrumbs because I really was going to make gingerbread and just never got around to it. Since I didn't have garlic cloves (mine were dead), I used garlic powder. I threw this all in the pot to heat up with pepper. Unfortunately, it had the consistency of...vomit. Really, there is no other way to describe it. So, I added some more water and threw the sauce into the blender. About 20 seconds later, it looked much more like a sauce. However, it tasted like garlic flavored breadcrumbs. So I added salt which helped a lot - now it tastes like garlic bread on pasta. :-) I probably could add some olive oil to the mix to make it more yummy for a modern pallet.

This is after adding the cinnamon and even more pepper on the pasta dish. It really looks like a white sauce on pasta. Later in the recipe, it says a green sauce is also good. I might try that later.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Almond Milk and Rice

I made this rice dish a few days ago and realized I never posted the entire recipe!  I did mention it way back in 2012 - and I've made it every year during lent since then.

So, first, the various period recipes.  There are a lot:

Trust me, there are even more. They are all basically the same - rice, boiled in almond milk, with sugar. Sometimes you add more things, like cinnamon or raisins, sometimes you don't. For me, I add a lot of stuff because it's delicious.


1/2 cup Rice
2/3 cup Almond Milk
2 tablespoons sugar or to taste
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ginger
2 carrots
a couple handfuls of raisins or as much as you like

Boiling the rice is pretty basic - I tend to boil it over a medium heat.  Just boil it in the almond milk - our rice is WAY fresher than what they got in the middle ages so that boil and reboil thing isn't necessary.   Add the sugar to the almond milk.   Add the chopped carrots about halfway through it being cooked.  I like using the heritage carrots (if you look at the photo, you'll see a white carrot!) but regular modern carrots are fine.  About a couple of minutes before it's done, add the spices and the raisins - you don't want the raisins to swell up too much.

I eat this a lot.  It's sweet (because of the sugar) but it's also pretty good for you.  It has raisins, carrots, and almonds.   I made this on Thursday and it's just as good as I remembered.  ;-)

Friday, March 6, 2015

Friday's Dinner

Now that the kitchen is back in order (one of my brothers was kind enough to come over and help me move the fridge and stove back in place), I can cook again!  While on the mini break, I fasted most of the day and ate steamed shrimp with garlic ginger sauce on rice (Chinese food) at night.  Not exactly too terribly exotic, really.  In both Italy and England, there are mentions of shrimp (prawns), garlic, ginger, and rice during the 15th and 16th centuries. 

All I really wanted yesterday was hot chocolate and hummus.  So that's what I had.

Today, it was toast, olives, and olive oil with herbs to dip the toast in for lunch.  For dinner, I'm making Apple Pie but I crushed up the cinnamon sugar pita chips I had on hand for the upper crust (the original Italian recipe calls for cookies).  I'm also making some more apple flavored Sekajanbin but with a small difference - I used only the red apple flavored vinegar this time.  It's loosely based off of this 13th Century recipe for an apple syrup as well as the traditional sekajanbin recipe. 

EDIT:  Forgot to add the new crust recipe.

1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cup flour
1 cup of almond milk (probably could have used less)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon

It's much better than the previous lenten recipe I've used.  It's much fluffier for lack of a better word.   It still needs *something* so I'll keep playing with it. 

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Fixing up the kitchen

This week, I had a new tile kitchen floor installed - which is 1000%  better than what I had before.  Apparently, I had corkboard and vinyl stickers (yeah, I don't know either.)

However, once the floor was installed, the new baseboard didn't match at all and I could finally see the wall behind the fridge and oven...and it needed to be painted.  Badly.

What you see is the decades of paint this house has been through.  Pink in the 1950's.  The super bright yellow chartreuse right in the "seam" of the wall is from the 1960's.  The I'm not sure if it's a sunny lime or a not yet ripe lemon from the 1970's makes up the majority of the wall in the left side of the photo.  I should also point out, this was after I cleaned the wall.  It was even scarier before that.   This is what was hiding behind my fridge and oven.

So, I went to my home goods thrift store, the Community Forklift, which is just a few miles down the road from me.  I wasn't looking for exact matches to anything - I wanted to see what they had.  I knew I wanted a "sandy" color for the background, a terracota color for the bricks, and a glossy tardis blue for the new baseboard.   (More on that later)

I amazingly found all three for $2.50 at the thrift store.  I was shocked to find the glossy tardis blue but extremely happy.  I figured terracotta and sandy were fairly normal colors.  

I already had plastic wrap, blue tape, and some brushes so, really, all I needed was the paint.
First, I painted the tricolored wall with the sandy paint.

It looks splotchy in the photo because I had just finished putting on the second coat.  At this point, it already looked WAY WAY better than it did before.  I could have left it there but I wanted something cool and something that, when I sell my house in a couple of months, others will think is nice.  ...Meaning I couldn't paint in an elven door or a Tardis.   Although the wall is pretty well hidden when you glance at the kitchen, it's not when you are doing dishes at the sink.

The next day, I taped off the bricks - which was a LOT easier than I expected.

Since this is behind the fridge and the oven, I didn't care about perfection.  Not all the lines are exactly the same but they are all close.  The "bricks" are supposed to be the same size as the panel ones for consistencies sake - 7 1/2" by 2 1/2".  Once I got the horizontal lines up - which involved measuring every 2 1/2"- I then started on the vertical.  Once you have the first two rows done, it's just about copying those all the way down - no more measuring!   Pretty simple and then you paint!

I am a very messy painter.  Even if a little bit of the paint ends up outside of the edges, it's no big deal with this faux paint - they are supposed to be bricks!   Bricks sometimes have little notches or there are places where the mortar just didn't quite cover.  It's fine.

I waited two hours - I only did one coat- and then ripped all the tape off the wall much to my pup's amusement.

You can just see Abby's tail and back at the bottom of the photo.   Like I said, it's not perfect, but it's far less visually abrasive than the paint colors of the 3rd quarter of the 20th century was.  I'm pretty sure this will blend in with what is up on the walls now (and I can't take off because they put the cabinets over it) and won't jar anyone doing the dishes.  

Monday, March 2, 2015

Medieval Lenten Diet on Hold

There is one key thing you need to do the medieval diet properly - and that is a fully working kitchen.  Although I probably could run over to the Shepherd's Hut and use the portable stove - I don't really have a safe place to put it in my house right now.

My project of the day - besides sewing- is fixing the kitchen floor.  This meant that both the fridge and the stove had to be moved out of the kitchen.  Although the fridge works fine - it can be plugged in anywhere- the stove can't.  (Different plug and different amps).   Given that the ground is completely frozen - literally, we had an ice storm- I can't go outside and start a fire either.  I don't have a fireplace - one of the many reason I want to sell this place- so...the only thing I have is a microwave oven.  ...Which isn't very good at cooking medieval food.

For the next two days, I'm going to stick to the general rules (no meat) but I'm also going to have a pb&j and some root beer.  :-)