Thursday, April 26, 2018

The 1920s One Hour Dress (a Great Misnomer)

I've been dabbling in the 1920s recently.

Last September, there was a Great Gatsby Lawn Party in Atlanta, that Jay and I went to with our friends Heather and Hannah.  Dardanella hosts these public parties in various cities and if you ever have the opportunity to get tickets for one, I highly recommend it.  Attending was a last minute lark, so I only had 24 hours to come up with something to wear.  (I ended up wearing a late 1910s dress that I already had on hand and stitched a couple of big millinery roses to a picture hat) Then Heather hosted a private Miss Fisher/Great Gatsby party, and now there is another Gatsby Lawn Party in May that we are going to. Great fun.  But I needed something more 1920s than my late 1910s dress.

I'd always wanted to play with making a "One Hour Dress," so step one was..  you guessed it:  research. A quick search in the Historical Sew Fortnightly FB group, turned up a number of blog posts on the dress and 30 minutes of reading blogs lead me back to a tips for the One Hour Dress at Vintage Dancer ( is a lovely site for down and dirty dressing for historical parties/events that don't require strict historical accuracy-if I'd had sense, I probably should have checked Vintage Dancer first)

Following the changes in fashion in the 1920s (and there were many!) took me down a rather fascinating rabbit hole and I finally settled on 1923-early 1924 as the look I wanted to emulate.

The One Hour Dress concept is credited to Mary Brooks Picken of the Woman's Institute of Domestic Arts and Sciences in Scranton, PA. The reprint I have includes a photo of a letter from August 3, 1923 and attests that Miss Leonore McCormack of the Women's Institute made the One Hour Dress in 34 minutes at a public demonstration at the second National Merchandise Fair.

There seem to be several versions of the original booklet out there: one, possibly two versions from 1924, a 1925 printing reportedly with some style variations and a 1929 edition called Easy Ways to Pretty Frocks)  Better still, there are several sellers on Etsy that are selling PDF scans that they have restored to excellent readability of the booklets.

I had a gorgeous black tissue silk saree with deep pink beading and embroidery that I do not remember buying (because it wasn't suitable for any sort of sewing that I do) but it was absolutely perfect for the 1920s.

I've been doing a lot of 16th century Italian lately and I was astounded at how little fabric a One Hour Dress takes;  I plenty of leftovers...  which was good because despite making a mockup, I managed to cut the top 6" too short.  *facepalm* I had enough fabric to totally re-cut the top -if I didn't mind losing the random embroidery motifs scattered over the fabric.  To keep those, I ended up adding a piece around the bottom to bring the waist low enough for the silhouette.  But with some judicious use of the excess border trim, my oops wasn't noticeable.

It's not a mistake.  It's a feature!

The dress definitely took more than an hour, but it was a pleasant and restful project and if we keep doing 1920s events, I may make several more to expand my 1920s wardrobe.  Now to figure out what I am going to do about a hat!

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Roman Moretum (or Strong Garlic Cheese)

Several friends have asked for my version of this recipe, so a blog post it is!

I first found this recipe while I was researching a Roman themed Royal Lunch last autumn in Grainger & Dalby's Classical Cookbook.  Grainger takes her redaction from the poem Moretum by Virgil. 1    Full disclosure: I did not do my own redaction initially; at the time I was focused on a palatable menu not experimental archaeology so I read her translated excerpt of the poem and used her redaction as written for my initial batch.

2 heads (25 cloves) garlic (no, this is not a typo)
8 oz Pecorino Romano cheese
large handful coriander leaves (coriander is the British name for cilantro)
2 heaped tsp chopped fresh celery leaf
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp white wine vinegar  (one of the people this was for was sensitive to vinegar so I used white wine)
1 tbsp olive oil

The Roman way to combine everything would be in a mortarium with lots and lots of grinding.  I used Grainger's alternate method:  my food processor.

   Reproduction mortarium from Der Romer Shop  
I kind of want one to try just one batch the real Roman way.

I have a Vitamix and I just tossed everything in and turned it on. Surprisingly, it was hard work getting everything combined.  Grainger says that the garlic juice and notes that the vinegar and olive oil are to soften the mixture not turn it into a spread.  I ended up having to add a little more wine & olive oil just  to get everything to congeal but followed the caution not to make it a spread.

It was so garlicky it was spicy.  The other garlic lovers at the taste test liked it, but I though it was a bit too much garlic (and I consider myself a garlic-lover). It was also a bit hard and crumbly and difficult to get onto bread to eat.

The next batch I dropped the garlic down to 20 cloves but it was still pretty in-your-face garlic. And it was still kind of crumbly.

My current version is very much a "based on" the original recipe.  I've toned down the garlic and added enough liquid to make it semi spreadable, just for ease of serving.  Is it entirely HA?  No.  But my first goal is to serve food people want to eat, so I am OK with my changes.

12 cloves garlic
12 oz Romano cheese
handful cilantro, chopped (I have never had anyone that dislikes cilantro notice it was in the recipe)
2 tsp celery salt  (buying celery that will go unused just for 2 fresh tsp of leaves seems wasteful to me)
white wine/white wine vinegar & olive oil as needed

Toss the garlic in the food processor & chop until juicy.
Toss the chopped cilantro & celery salt in and blend
Add the cheese, 2 tbsp white wine & 2 tbsp olive oil and combine, stopping frequently to scrape the sides.
Keep adding white wine alternated with olive oil and blending after each addition until your desire consistency is reached.

This past January Tavola Mediterranea (a fascinating food archaeology site that I follow) posted recipes for several other versions of moretum, at least one of them in a primary source I already own. One of these days I may make all the versions and host a moretum tasting party.  

Dalby, Andrew and Sally Grainger. The Classical Cookbook. Los Angeles, J. Paul Getty Museum, 1996.
Monaco, Farrell. "Edible Archaeology: Columella's Fresh Cheese and Herb Moretum." Tavola Mediterranea. January 15, 2018. Accessed April 25, 2018.

Monday, December 25, 2017

'Twas The Week Before Christmas....

Around Thanksgiving,  I had the idea to make Jay a short cloak to use as an offhand defense in rapier combat.  Master Gauge had given me the measurements on his ages ago but I could not remember them, so the idea went by the wayside. Until the Sunday before Christmas when I got the measurements again..

Master Gauge's short cloak was a simple thing:  two pieces of upholstery fabric machine sewn together, turned right side out and a collar added.  Easy peasy...  I can totally get this done before Christmas, heck, I can get this done in an afternoon.   What I hadn't taken into account was a flare up of my chronic Compulsive Elaboration Syndrome. <cue onimous music>

I didn't have any upholstery fabric, but I did have plenty of 7 oz linen.  Linen might even be better, I thought, since I'm sure it will need to be washed from time to time.  But 2 layers of linen still seemed a little flimsy...  elaboration #1: I added a linen canvas interlining.

Elaboration #2:  I don't like the look of a bag lined garment...  aaaaand I'd been wanting to play with a half bound technique that I learned in Master Jose's workshop this summer.  It was, of course, all hand sewing. But I loved the way it came out, so it was totally worth it.  It would, however, require that the lining go in by hand.
 inside (before lining) using Master Jose's technique

 Outside edge using Master Jose's technique

Elaboration #3:  This is so plain...  it really needs some trim -nothing fancy...  just some black bias trim.

When in doubt, add more trim!

Elaboration #4:   You know...  a second row of trim would make the cloak *really* pop...  and it's only Wednesday....

All in all, despite the time frame, it was a pretty restful, no-stress project.  I find handwork very zen and this was a 99% handwork project.  I finished by December 23 and had it wrapped and under the tree in plenty of time for the opening of presents.  Jay had not gotten even the slightest hint that what I was up in the sewing room working on was a gift for him.

Done, despite myself :)

It was a hit on Christmas morning.  He commented immediately that it had a nice heft for an off-hand defense and another rapier friend that saw it commented similarly.   While I think I would make it a couple inches longer if I made one again, all it all it came out well for a six day project.

 Christmas Morning (photobomb by Charlie)

Have the Happiest of Holidays, whichever you celebrate!

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Mistress Leda's Elevation

It's been an incredibly busy summer/autumn.  Since the last post  (six months ago!) I have taken 2 Modern Maker workshops, researched 16th century Ottoman hats and çaprast closures, written and taught classes on both topics, planned, cooked and served a Roman themed Royal Luncheon, made a mostly hand sewn 16th century Italian gown, researched collarless 16th century Italian partlets and planned, cooked and served a Vigil table for Mistress Leda's elevation this past weekend.  I may write about the other projects at a later date (or, knowing my penchant for procrastinating on blogging, I may not), but I want to write about Mistress Leda's elevation while it is fresh in my mind.

There were actually two parts:  a "Last Night as an Apprentice" party on Friday night and the actual Vigil Saturday morning/afternoon.

Friday night was a "Tavern Food" theme.  I made two recipes I'd used from the Royal Luncheon at Red Tower: The Strong Garlic Cheese and the Olive Relish, using redactions from The Classical Cookbook.

The Garlic Cheese recipe is from the poem Moretum, commonly attributed to Virgil. (Dalby 105) although I have taken liberties with the recipe. The first time (for the Royal Lunch taste-test) was as redacted and with the full amount of garlic suggested..  While tasty, there was so much garlic that it was spicy.   It also needs to be at room temperature to be malleable enough to eat.

I've made it twice since then and find that half the garlic is still garlicky enough for garlic lovers.  I also find that using white wine in far higher quantities than called for makes it easier to blend (even in my Vitamix) and easier to spread.  The recipe specifically says it should not be spreadable, but I'm cooking for people to eat and spreadable cheese is just better for people to eat off a buffet.

The olive relish (essentially tapenade) I made exactly to Dalby's redaction. It's a tasty, easy to prepare recipe that I can make in large quantities.  The one thing I learned from this recipe is that fresh rue is called ruda and available at foodie supermarkets, like Buford Farmer's Market.

There was plenty of (store-bought) cuban bread and some pretty amazing (if I say so myself) pudding shots with rumchata and bourbon cream to round out the table. If you try the pudding shots, Godiva makes an instant chocolate pudding, which I highly recommend.

Sadly, I did not get a single photo of the Friday night party.  But it was after dark, so I'm not sure how photos would have turned out anyway.

The actual Vigil on Saturday afternoon was an English "Cream Tea" theme.

Photo credit:  Mistress Sofya Gianetta di Trieste

The menu was brandied peach tartlets, shortbread, lemon curd, conserve of oranges, scones (plain and current), gingerbread, banana muffins and assorted nuts and dates.

I've collected enough "hospitality table" dishes since Mistress Alessandra's elevation  that the only thing I  added were some cute little chalkboard signs that I used to label everything.  I also had a master ingredients list in case of food allergies.

The food was a mix of documented and modern recipes.  I can't find reference to lemon curd any earlier than 1800 but Leda loves it, so it made the menu. I didn't specifically document my shortbread recipe -I've had it for years and at this point I have no idea it's origin.  But I've heard people say shortbread goes back as far as the 12th century, so it's not impossible that my recipe was HA.   With limited time and a table to fill, I blush to admit that I did not research as fully as I might have. The scones, gingerbread and banana muffins were all modern recipes.

The brandied peach tartlets used a redaction of  Scappi's Feast Day Cheese Tart crust.  That crust has become my "go-to" recipe pretty much anytime I need a crust for something.  The filling was peaches drained off when I bottled 2016's batch of peach brandy this past summer.

The conserve of orange was a redaction from Medieval Cookery.  It was a lot of work, but the house smelled amazing while it was cooking and it was pretty darned tasty when it was done.  This recipe is definitely a keeper.

The one big lesson from this table is not to plan such a heavily baked good table next time.  I was baking for the better part of three days and towards the end the oven started throwing sensor error messages...  probably because I had been working it so hard.

The other big project for Leda's Vigil was a new gown.  She had asked that I process with her, but when I do Italian at all these days, I usually do working class.  So I would definitely need a new gown suitable for court.

I  have to admit the gown project daunted me.  I had lost my mojo after the Modern Maker workshops this summer and with everything I had committed to for War of the Wings, this gown didn't get started at all until a week or so after I got back from War of the Wings.  But the Sewing Gods smiled upon me and I got a 90% hand sewn gown completed in just under 3 weeks  -mostly because I did not have to devote time sewing trim on.

While I love the mid 16th century, my personal aesthetic tends more towards the austere lines of Sofonisba Anguissola, so I settled on a painting by Antonio Giovanni Fasolo for my inspiration.

Portrait of a Family
Antonio Giovanni Fasolo
Legion of Honor Museum, San Francisco

We were in San Francisco in August and I dragged Jay to the Legion of Honor Museum in hopes of getting greater detail on the cuff embroidery and partlet, but the painting was not on view.  It apparently hadn't been on view in a very long while because one of the curators was sure the Museum didn't own it until he looked it up in their database.

I had picked up some cerise silk blend upholstery fabric at a Robert Allen Outlet sale this spring and had stalled on trying to document the pattern, but it would be close enough to HA for the gown.

I drafted the original pattern for the bodice in August using the Bara system and my notes from the Modern Maker workshop. The pad stitching (which I normally hate) went pretty quickly -possibly because I was under the gun at this point, possibly due to kitty support.

 Sam quality checking my pad stitching

Lafayette helping out

Someone on one of the many costuming boards I am on posted a trick for pattern matching that worked like a dream.  Use a non-opaque material for the bodice front pattern piece so you can see the fabric through the pattern piece and move it as needed until it's in the best spot for the motif in the fabric.
Nicely centered pattern on the bodice. Go me!

Marking and hand sewing the pleats was kind of tedious but the boys were on the job, making sure I didn't slack off.

 Laf supervising my work.

The Cat Union limits the number of hours a day a kitten can work, 
so Sam took over for the evening shift.

All the tiny pleats!

The fact that the fabric was intended for upholstery, gave the skirt a lovely voluminousness.  I had a blackand drawn work partlet that I'd made last year but never worn, since it was too nice for a working class impression.  But it would be perfect with this gown -and had the added bonus of being already complete.

While the dress was hanging before I hemmed it, I got it in my head that I absolutely had to have a pair of cuffs, so I knocked out a very unsatisfactory pair of cuffs and played with liquid starch for the first time.

There is a reason they call  it Corn STARCH. :)

I had intended to do a stiffened hem. but time ran out and I was lucky to get the hem marked and pressed up before we left for site.  Lady Ellison Summerfield, bless her, offered to hem the dress while I was attending to the Vigil table and she hemmed all 6+ yards of skirt on Saturday afternoon.  And with as stiff as the fabric is,  I don't think I miss the stiffened hem a bit.

The Elevation itself was lovely, if a bit nerve wracking.  Mid afternoon, Baroness Sibella, who was supposed to speak for the Populace said that she was too tired to keep her thoughts together and asked if I would speak instead.  After the initial terror at the thought wore off I managed to get my thoughts together and managed to say something mostly articulate when the time came.

Leda's Procession

photo credit: Mistress Jocosa d'Auxerre

Me in The Dress, with Leda's Laurel, Master Jose and Mistress Katrai

photo credit: Lady Rhonwyn

Now that the elevation is done I kind of feel like a kid on the first day of Summer Vacation  -wow...  what do I  want to do now?!?   Step one:  Clean the sewing room!

Charlie the cat says:
 /c vvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvv

Dalby, Andrew and Sally Gringer. The Classical Cookbook, Revised Edition.  Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2012.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Great Gnocchi Experiment #100daysofAS Day 13

Last month's Baronial A&S night was on how to make gnocchi.  However, neither Emmelina nor I could be there.  She'd only ever had gnocchi from Trader Joes and I'd recently had some amazing gnocchi at a restaurant so one Sunday in May, I invited her over to try making gnocchi ourselves.

I wanted to do a potato based version, to show Emmelina how much tastier fresh gnocchi was.  But since potatoes are a new world food, I got to wondering about period gnocchi recipes.  What did they use to make gnocchi before potatoes?

Thanks to the nice folks on the SCA cooks board, I was introduced to multiple pre-1600 gnocchi recipes.  They seemed to fall into 2 main types:  bread crumbs, flour & egg or cheese, flour & egg.   I was kind of curious about the difference in taste so the plan was to make one of the cheese based recipes, one of the breadcrumb based (from a 15th C Italian cookbook) and then a batch of the potato based, from Mark Bittman's: How to Cook Everything.   This was primarily a taste comparison, so things were a bit fast and loose historical research wise; I didn't redact the recipes myself and had to make some substitutions on ingredients.  At some point, I may redo the experiment for higher accuracy..  depending on the cost and availability of real Neufchâtel cheese (or try my hand at making it myself).

 Ready to start making gnocchi!

 Emmelina mixing the cheese gnocchi

From right to left:  Scappi's breadcrumb version, cheese gnocchi and potato based.

Cheese gnocchi (original recipe & redaction on the link)
Interestingly, the Aethelmarc redaction specifies Neufchâtel cheese. Doing a little research, I  found out that while the production of Neufchâtel dates back to approximately the 6th century what we call Neufchatel today is not really comparable. There was no real Neufchâtel cheese to be had at the gourmet Kroger with the extensive cheese department (which is the first place I tried) so I didn't try anywhere else.

Preparation wise, these went together pretty easily because I  remembered to pull the cream cheese out in advance and let it get closer to room temperature.  We did have to add significant additional flour to get the "soft bread dough" stage.  The quantity of flour was specified in the redaction, not the original recipe, I was pretty comfortable with adding the flour.

Breadcrumb Gnocchi  Recipe 69 from Libro B of Anonimo Meridionale: Due Libri di Cucina at the link.  Anonimo Meridionale is a 15th-century Italian book of recipes and there is a nearly identical recipe in Scappi's L'Opera.    The grocery bakery didn't sell fresh breadcrumbs (the woman at the bakery counter looked at me like I was from Mars when I asked) and I'd waited until the day before the experiment so I didn't have time to bake bread and make my own, so Panko breadcrumbs were substituted, mostly because I already had them in the pantry.  Ironically, it was in writing this that I thought about the option of making them from store bought bread.

 Like the cheese gnocchi, we had to add more flour than anticipated.  I didn't have high hopes for this recipe as we were putting it together. It was coarse and lumpier than the cheese gnocchi and felt like "peasant food"

Potato Gnocchi
I'd made Mark Bittman's recipe (at the link and in his How to Cook Everything) years ago, so I decided to use that recipe again.  Because you have to boil the potatoes (and peel them) and then roll each one over a fork for the classic ridged appearance, this one takes a lot longer to come together than the other two.  Like the other two, we had to add more flour to get a dough consistency that was workable. Emmelia was a pro in adding the ridges from the first gnocchi.  The other 2 recipes did not call for the ridges, which makes me wonder when the ridging started.  Like other 2 types of gnocchi, we piled them up on a plate in layers to await cooking.

We had a bit of a disaster cooking the potato gnocchi.  When we went to pop the top layer in the boiling water, we realized that they were sticking to each other and the ones underneath them.  In hindsight, I would add a little more flour and place them individually on a cookie sheet lined with parchment once they came off the fork.  The only thing to do was to just pull off chunks & toss them into the boiling water -all of Emmelina's beautiful ridges disappeared.  We dubbed them "post modern gnocchi" and ate them anyway.

The Taste Test

We put butter and freshly grated Parmesan cheese on all three types.  Scappi suggests a little cinnamon in addition to the butter and cheese for the breadcrumb so we added that for the breadcrumb gnocchi.

Not sure if it was the additional cinnamon or what, but the unanimous agreement what that we liked the breadcrumb recipe the best. (Jay got home just in time to taste test so there were 3 of us voting) Both the cheese and the potato were both very good though.

And so concluded the Great Gnocchi Experiment.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

The Two Hour Tarpus

I have a lovely buckram frame tarpus  that I  patterned off of a 1880s flowerpot hat I'd made several years ago.

It was fun to make, if a bit time consuming but has never sat on my head securely.  When Her Majesty commented on the hat's misbehavior in court,  I decided it was time to breakdown and make the replacement I'd been meaning to.

Village Hat Shop has fezes in a variety of colors for around $20 and I had several kicking around the sewing room. I thought that the navy one would make a good base to decorate. Note:  I have a large head even for a man (24" circumference) and Village Hat Shop XXL fezes fit me.

I started hand hemming a silk veil then came to my senses and checked Dharma Trading Company.  I could get a 44" x 44" silk chiffon scarf with hand rolled hem for $12.   $12 seemed a small price to pay for not having to roll hem silk.

And I had some lovely vintage sari trim that I'd found on ebay to use as the veil band. The hardest part of this whole project was finding really appropriate sari trim.  Luckily, I love to comb through e-bay!

Step 1:  Fold the veil in half, tack it to the hat in several places on the crown.

Step 2:  Cut the sari trim to just a little longer than the circumference of the hat

Step 3:  Fold the ends of the trim into points & stitch down.  Stitch a 12"-16" piece of lucet cord, fingerloop braid or kumihimo cord to the center of each point on the wrong side so that the end result looks similar to this:

Step 4: Center the trim on the hat and stitch down the bottom edge in the front between the veil.

Step 5: Tie cords together loosely in back

Step 6:  Voila, the hat is complete!

On other fronts, I am camp mistressing the Baronial encampment for Fool's War, working on a How-to class for Sekanjabin syrup, finishing a fencing doublet for Pietro (who recently became Baronial Rapier Champion!) doing research on Islamic embroidery, jewelry & plaque belts, working up a pattern for an Italianized entari, ala Titian's 1555 Portrait of a Lady and trying to convince myself that I don't need a set of Korean garb.  In other words, it's pretty much business as usual around here.

c. 1555
Portrait of a Lady
National Gallery of Art
Washington, DC

Sunday, January 29, 2017

2016 Projects in retrospect

2017 is off to a productive start.  I finally got around to remaking my turquoise entari (I ripped apart the first one this summer in a fit of pique (I'd never liked how it turned out) and then regretted its absence) to continue the process of fine tuning the pattern adjustments I made this autumn and in that vein, am making a new Viking gown to fine tune that pattern as well.  Not entirely sure either project is interesting enough to warrant a blog post, but between that and event stewardy things for Midwinter, that's been my month.

At the request of Mistress Jadi, I pulled together a list of what I accomplished in 2016.  I'd intended it to be a page for just her & Mistress Alessandra.  After I started, I thought it would be a good blog post (since I haven't posted for a while) but I couldn't change it from a page to a post and it took enough time to pull together that I am not going to re-type and format it.   Here is the link to the page itself if you are interested. (or click on 2016 on the nav bar above)