Sunday, January 31, 2016

Historical Sew Monthly '16 #1: Procrastination

The Challenge:Procrastination – finish a garment you have been putting off finishing (a UFO or PHD) or make something you have been avoiding starting

Material: Dupioni Silk, linen, and cotton

Pattern: My own with a mix of the Simplicity Ever After pattern if I remember correctly. Everything was cut out already, I just had to sew the stupid thing up!

Year: 1490's

Notions: Thread

How historically accurate is it? Dupioni silk isn't correct of course but neither is all the machine sewing on the inside of this dress. There is some handsewing around the neckline, the inside bodice hem, and the evil eyelets. The skirt sides and the shoulder seams are machine.

Hours to complete: Four since I already had it cut out.

First worn: Hopefully, tomorrow for pictures and then at a couple of events coming up this Feb.

Total cost: I *think* this was the goldensilks sale fabric so maybe $20 for everything?

More information:

I lost my lacings and I have no idea where they are. That's why the dress is pinned in the pictures. Also, my waistline/underbust and my dress dummies are in very different places - this is an underbust dress and not a lower rib/high waistline dress.

I was aiming for an underdress similar to these Venetians from the 1490's:

From the Realm of Venus site

I really love the late 15th and early 16th century Venetian fashions. They are comfortable and yet beautiful at the same time. I do have a matching pair of gauntlets and an overdress that will go with this gold underdress but neither were finished this evening, unfortunately. The overdress has issues that I think I finally figured out. Still, it won't be done until tomorrow at the earliest. I'm just glad I finally got the gold dress done since it's been sitting on the sewing table arm since October, I think. Maybe September....

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Historical Food Fortnightly 2: Culinary Vices

The Challenge:  2. Culinary Vices (January 15 - January 28) Some foods are really, really naughty. Globs of butter, lashings of sugar and syrup, decadent chocolate and wine. Bring out your naughty, indecorous side with foods associated with all the bad things, in the best ways.

The Recipe: (where did you find it, link to it if possible)  A Book of Cookery, 1591

To to make Bennets.

Put butter and water over the fier in a faire pain, and when it boyleth put therto fine Flower and Salte, and so let them boyle, but stir them well for brenning, and when it is wel thick, put it into an earthen pan, then break Egs into it and boyle them so togither, than boyle a good quantitye of Butter clarified over the fire, and with a spoone put in your other stuffe and so frye them till they be browne, and that doone, serve them foorth with Sugar on them.

The Date/Year and Region:  
1591, England

How Did You Make It: (a brief synopsis of the process of creation)

I realized this sounded and looked very, very familiar.  Sugar?  Eggs? Puffy pastry slathered in butter?  Beignets!!!!  I used this recipe for the measurements since it's made in a very similar way.  However, I followed the directions of the original 16th C recipe (only adding sugar to the dough that isn't included in the original).  

I put a stick of butter (sweat cream, salt) into a pot with 1 cup water.  I boiled that up and added 2 tablespoons of sugar, 1 cup of flour, and a few dashes of sea salt.   Once that was mixed, I took it to another burner so I could put the frying pan on the one I had been using.  I then added four eggs to the mix and put another stick of butter in the frying pan.

Side note:  For those that are long time readers and are thinking "Wait, isn't she allergic to dairy?  What's with this butter?" Yes, I was.  As of this past weekend, I've been eating dairy again.  What happened?  Even I'm not sure but there are two very good possibilities.  One, I really had a secondary lactose intolerance which means the gut itself is damaged - typically due to an illness- and it just takes time to heal back.  Two, and the far more likely knowing me, my vitamin D deficiency caused it.  Normal range is 20 to 50 for Vitamin D.  12 is considered low and when your doctor starts you on pills.  I was at 8.   It may have also been a combo of the two.  I really don't know.  All I do know is I've been gobbing down things like cheeze it's, cheddar cheese, and now butter like there is no tomorrow.  Tomorrow at work we are going out to eat and I plan on ordering everything smothered in dairy.   Mashy taters for the win!

Anyway, I stirred in the eggs to the dough and then made poorly constructed dough balls.  I threw these in the frying pan filled with butter.  After about three minutes, I'd turn them over.  After about six minutes, they'd go to the plate and get covered in organic powdered sugar.  

Time to Complete:  About 15 minutes.  
Total Cost:  I think the butter was $3?   Everything else I had on hand.

How Successful Was It?: (How did it taste? How did it look? Did it turn out like you thought it would?)  I ate Lydia pretty quickly...followed by Mrs. Bennet.  I also ate Mary and Catherine.  Yes, I named them after all the Bennets because they are Bennets.  Plus, with Pride, Prejudice, and Zombies coming out, can you think of a better food than eating Bennets in celebration?

So yes, it was good.  Very, very good.  They didn't quite puff up as much as I thought they would.  I might have had the butter too hot as the insides were still a bit doughy.   Still, they tasted like good ole fashion beignets.  I might make the rest of the dough (I put half in the freezer) for Mardi Gras.  What's more Mardi Gras than beignets?

How Accurate Is It?: (fess up to your modifications and make-dos here)  I added sugar to the dough and cooked it all on a modern stove top.  Other than that, it's pretty accurate.  And two sticks of butter, four eggs, and way too many calories to count is very much a vice.  :-D

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Modern Cooking: Harmony Soup

I bought a bag for $5 at my local "Amish" market of what looked like beans. On the side was a recipe for Harmony soup. I've never had Harmony soup before but, given the ingredients, I figured I'd give it a try.


2 cups of Harmony Soup Blend
1-3 lb of a whole chicken
3 quarts water
1 tablespoon of dry savory leaves
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 1/2 tsp garlic salt
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup fresh chopped onion
1 cup fresh diced celery with the leaves
2 tsp salt or to taste
1/2 tsp turmeric

Now, I didn't use a whole chicken - I had a pound of chicken breast in the freezer I took out instead. Also, I didn't have turmeric on hand so I left it out. I don't think it affected the taste that greatly.

Based on the directions, I dumped the entire bag of the soup blend into my soup pot, put some water in it, and let the beans soak overnight in the fridge. The ingredients of the soup blend are as follows: Hard red winter wheat, pearled barley, pinto beans, kidney beans, split green peas, red rice, black beans, navy beans, and safflower oil. I guess they coat the beans in the oil at some point? The bag itself wasn't oil so I'm not sure why the safflower oil thing was added.

Anyway, the beans soaked overnight and I threw away the water in the morning based on the directions. I'm not sure why you do that since the next thing to do is add a little over 3L of water back in but, eh, whatever. I also added the chopped up chicken breast, the spices, and let it simmer for an hour. After an hour, I added the carrots, onion, and celery. You just let it boil for another 20 or 30 minutes and then, soup!

Taste verdict: First, it smells heavenly. Seriously, if you just want your house to smell good, make this soup. It's not the least bit difficult and I bet, like me, most people have a lot of the spices and ingredients on hand.

Second, it's good. It's not an instant favorite but it's certainly something I'll make again. It's a bit too "light" for my normal tastes - I like heavy, full bodied soups and stews. However, it's good and it's one of those soups that you like more after you've eaten it, if that makes sense. I think I might change it up next time and soak the beans in chicken broth rather than plain tap water. I really think that will take it to the level I like. I'll also go an buy some turmeric. ;-) Still, if you are a Panera fan, I think you'll really enjoy this soup.

BTW, the recipe makes a LOT of soup. I might buy another bag before Pennsic and invite people over for soup. I probably have enough for ten or more hungry people, easily. Based on and other websites, a normal human's bowl full of soup is probably about 200 calories.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Historically Food Fortnightly 1: Meat and Potatoes

The Challenge:  1. Meat-and-Potatoes (January 1 - January 14) They’re a staple for the tables in the most rustic cottages as well as the fanciest banquet tables - and it’s also an idiom meaning a staple or the most basic parts of something. Make a historic “meat-and-potatoes” recipe - however you interpret it.

The Recipe: (where did you find it, link to it if possible)
The link to the recipe  To boyle a Capon. TAke strong broth of Marrow-bones, or any other strong broth, put the Marrow into a Pipkin with Salt: boyle your Capon in the Pipkin, and scumme it cleane, before you be ready to take it off, put in your Salt. Take a pinte of white-Wine in a Pipkin, for one Capon, if you haue more, you must haue more Wine: halfe a pound of Sugar a quarter of a pound of Dates sliced, Potatoes boyled, and blauncht, large Mace, Nutmeg sliced: if you want Potatoes take Endiffe, and for want of both, boyle Skirrets & blaunch them: boile all together, with a quarter of a pint of Uergis, and the yolkes of Egges, straine it and stirre it about, and put it to the Capon with the strong broth.

My translation: To boyle a capon.  Take strong broth of marrow bones, or any strong broth, and put the marrow bones in a stew pan with salt.  Boil your capon in the stew pan, and scim it clean.  Put your salt in before it's almost done.  

Take a pint of white cooking wine and put it in a stew pan - enough for one capon.  If you have more than one capon, you must have more wine!  Half a pound of sugar, a quarter pound of dates, sliced, boiled and whitened potatoes, large mace and nutmeg sliced.  If don't have potatoes take endif (no clue what that is)  endive and if you don't have either, take skirrets, whiten and boil them in a quarter pint of verjuice and with egg yolks that have been strained.  Stir it and then add this to the chicken and the broth in the other stew pot.  (Edited because this makes way more sense)

The Date/Year and Region:  England, 1615

How Did You Make It: (a brief synopsis of the process of creation)

First, I have no idea what is meant by "endiffe" so I ignored everything after the nutmeg part - it seemed to be another way to cook the potatoes for the stew.   Edit:  I found out that the author probably meant endive for endiffe.  Endive is an herb.

 Second, I don't have access to capons (eunuch roosters) so I used modern chicken breast.  Honestly, I doubt there is much of a difference due to how much chicken has changed in the 20th and 21st centuries due to our farming techniques.   The entire reason they neutered the roosters back then was to make them more plump.
I used redskin potatoes because a) I like them and b) despite this being a sweet recipe, you can't make sweet potatoes white, which is what the recipe called for so...

1 box of chicken marrow bone broth - my grocery store actually sells this
1 chicken breast, cut into pieces
1 tablespoon of sea salt
1 pint of white cooking wine
1 cup of sugar
1/2 cup of chopped up dates
2 large redskin potatoes, chopped
a pinch of mace slices
1 teaspoon nutmeg, grounded up since I didn't have the sliced kind

I boiled the chicken in the broth in one pot and boiled the potatoes with pretty much everything else (minus the salt) in another.  That's really it.  Once the potatoes were boiled, I mixed the two together.

Time to Complete: Half hour
Total Cost:  Maybe $15?  The cooking wine was $4.29, the chicken breast was $2.99, the potatoes were about $1.29 for a lb, the dates were $2.99 for the entire bag which I didn't use all off, and the chicken broth was $3 ish, I think.   Everything else I had on hand.   

How Successful Was It?: (How did it taste? How did it look? Did it turn out like you thought it would?)

It was so much better than I thought it would be based on the ingredients that not only will I make it again, I finished this bowl.  I seriously chomped down on every bite.   It's sweet (of course) but it's absolutely delicious.  It's roughly about 400 calories per a bowl - not bad since I'm on a diet.

I knew it would be sweet but I thought it might be too sweet and the chicken broth wouldn't blend well with the super sweet wine and sugar mix I boiled the potatoes in.  Instead, it actually blended perfectly and the broth cut down the sweetness of the sugar and wine to a point that it's more "fruit" sweet than super sweet.  The pinch of mace and the teaspoon of nutmeg added just the right amount of spice.  I thought I might add cinnamon or ginger to it but I really now think that would ruin the balance of the dish.

How Accurate Is It?: (fess up to your modifications and make-dos here)   Chicken rather than capon is really the big one. The potatoes were a bit of a guessing game but I doubt they are very different from what was available in the early 17th century. Of course, I used a nice modern electric stove top as well.  Overall, I'm very pleased with this one.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Modern Party Dress

I was invited to a semi formal Epiphany Party that took place last night.  Of course, this meant I needed to make a semi formal dress!   I honestly had no clue what to make.  Something vaguely 1920's? More 1950's?   I went through my entire pattern collection and came back across this:

It's Simplicity 5246 which is now out of print. The short strapless with the jacket looked appropriate for a semi formal and I had just enough fabric to make it work. I chose a remnant of pink metallic organza for the jacket and some super slubby pink dupioni that I've had in the stash forever for the dress. They matched perfectly.

I wasn't sure what size to cut out since I'm between sizes right now. I cut out the 12 and should have cut out the 10. It wasn't hard to take in. I used cotton for the lining and basted it to double check how the dress fit. The single biggest issue with the pattern was around the top front - I had to take the top of the princess seam in about two inches on both Princess seams. This wasn't a "I should have cut out the 10" issue but a problem with the pattern. It's easy to adjust for, just cut the angle above the breast more sharply than it is on the pattern. However, it's something to be aware of it anyone else wants to try this pattern.

I added straps for two reasons - I'm too big to get away with strapless and this photo:

Strapless just doesn't look right if you are sitting down. Ever. Plus, it was a Catholic event so...yeah, no.

Adding the straps was easy. Cut out two strips that are 3" by 15". Fold it in half and sew down the 15". Turn the strap and attach it at the seam where the back pieces and the side back pieces meet. (I undid the stitches here where the lining and the silk were joined and just flipped the dress, sewing the strap in place. This way, the only visible seam ended up being the hem) In the front, the straps go to the outside of the princess seams. I tried the dress on and marked how short the straps should be to make the dress fit appropriately.

Another change was with the hem. I'm not sure why they have the hem so terribly long but I ended up cutting 6" off in the front and just did the "hi low" thing for a hem. I'm not short (5'7") and the original hem length was only and inch or two shy of being tea length on me. To the lining, I got to use my new ruffler foot for my singer sewing machine. It was a learning curve but I finally got the hang of it and added silver tulle to the hem. Once that was attached, I flipped the edge up and sewed it down so that the tulle didn't curl under the silk and stayed down.

The jacket - I didn't make a single change to it but you can tell it looks vastly different than the pattern picture.  I have no idea why.

Overall, I'm pleased with the dress.  I wasn't sure at first but after getting a ton of compliments on it last night - I had ladies and gentlemen coming up to me to ask me where I got my dress- I realized it looked better on than I thought.  My favorite compliment of the night was a lady who said she had been admiring my dress from afar and that it reminded her of something out of Pride and Prejudice.  I'll totally own that.  :-)

Saturday, January 2, 2016

HSF/M 2015: Challenge #12: Re-Do Early Bustle Era Dress

The Challenge:  December – Re-Do:  It’s the last challenge of the year, so let’s keep things simple by re-doing any of the previous 11 challenges.
Fabric:  Silk taffeta, silk dupioni, cotton, netting
Pattern:   My own!
Year:   1869
Notions:  The turquoise trim, thread, hooks and eyes
How historically accurate is it?  Well, if it weren't for the crazy lining, it would be okay.  
Hours to complete:  Too many :-)
First worn:  Jan 2nd 2016  for the Christmas Tea
Total cost:  I have no idea.  I know the Valentine's day lining fabric was $2.50 a yard and I have a lot of it left over.  I think the silk taffeta was the $4.99 stuff I got from Golden silks this fall.  The dupioni was $3.84 a yard and I maybe used 4 yards of it?   The turquoise fringe trim was stash and I have no idea where I got it or how much it was.  Knowing me, it was probably ebay and therefore under$20 for the entire thing.  The Santa fabric was stash.  It was left over from my sister in law's quilt that I probably should finish posting....

My inspiration came mostly from a fashion plate at the Bartos Collection and a dress from the Met.   Loren of The costumer's closet gave me great advice on lining the skirts so they don't look de-puffed.  Thanks, Loren!

Somehow, my dress grew a tail while I was working on it.  I'm not sure how that happened.  You might be able to make out a black and white blurry shape in the upper left - that's Abigail.  She was excited that there was something hidden beneath the skirt!

The bodice lining.  I didn't have any cheap fabric or any scraps big enough on hand to line the dress with so....quilting cotton it was.  Santa was one hand but I only had enough for the bodice.  The sleeve and the underskirt are both lined in the Valentine's day print.  

Front of the dress.  The shoulders are a bit funky on me as well as the dress dummy but it's not super horrible.  Although, everyone was trying to look at my shoulders to figure out what the heck I had lined the bodice in .  I do need to add trim, buttons, and rework the bodice slightly.  

Close up of the apron skirt and the hemline of the underskirt.  I want to add puffs out of the blue/gold fabric.  The fabric is WAY prettier in person than in pictures.  It's a cross of aqua blue and an almost coppery goldish color.  The gold fabric is really a cross of gold and true royal purple (think a deep wine color).   

Back of the dress.  Obligatory butt bow is obligatory. 

Side view to show it really is a bustle dress.  :-)
So this qualifies for four of the 2015 challenges - blue, sewing secrets, stash busting, and out of your comfort zone.

  • Blue - The crossway of the silk is blue and I added a gold trim with turquoise stones to the hem.
  • Sewing Secrets- I doubt having a cat beneath your bustle counts but Santa and Valentine's day fabric probably does.   
  • Stash busting - everything is stuff I've had for at least a few months.  The trim is something I've had for years.
  • Out of your comfort zone - as some of you know, bustle scares me like nothing else in Historical costuming.  Give me 1890's sleeves, Elizabethan, or even something to completely hand sew that isn't a bustle and I'm fine.  Tell me I have to make a bustle and I immediately freak out.  I love the look.  It's a gorgeous period.  However, this is my fourth dress and this is the only one, in my opinion, that looks remotely like something they would have actually worn.   
I plan on adding a few bits to it before the next wearing.  I'm glad I finally made a bustle dress that looks halfway decent and not like a frumpy hot mess.   At least the skirt on this one came out okay without tears.   Although, there almost were tears when having to pleat the bottom hem - it took almost the entire movie of Castaway to get it right!