Saturday, July 5, 2014

HFF #3: Today in History - Saturday Morning Spam

This challenge was serendipity.  Knowing I had a long weekend over the 4th of July, I thought that July 5 would be a good day for me to cook for the challenge. So I started googling historical events for July 5 and the very first site told me that on July 5, 1937, Hormel introduced Spam.  It couldn't get much better than that.

However, finding a Spam recipe was more difficult than I first anticipated.  For health reasons, we are a no gluten/grain, no processed sugar household.  And the recipe had to not make me gag when I thought about actually eating it.  (Ok, I am wimping out here, but when I say I am fascinated and horrified by 1950s recipes. Spam falls solidly on the side of "horrified")

This immediately ruled out recipes like Peachy Spam Dinner Loaf actually made this and my hat is off to them.They are a braver pair than I!

However, I found  pictures from a 1948 Spam cookbook on that included a recipe of something that met my criteria for the challenge:  Grilled Spam slices and stuffed eggs.

No processed, no gluten  -the only deal breaker was the white sauce (contains flour) or cream of mushroom (I'm allergic to mushrooms) soup they call for as a topping.  But substituting hollandaise sauce didn't feel like a deviation from the spirit of the recipe.

Shopping for Spam was an eye opening experience. Who knew there were so many kinds!

Jalapeno Spam, classic Spam, Spam lite, Low Sodium Spam...the mind boggles!

The amount of sodium in classic Spam was absolutely insane, especially since there were 6 servings in a can, so I went with low sodium.  Still more sodium than we eat in an entire day, but sacrifices must be made for the sake of historical research, eh?

Nutritional data for classic Spam

I must confess I cheated a bit on the stuffed eggs.  I bought pre-peeled, hard boiled eggs.  There are few things in cooking I dislike more than peeling hard boiled eggs (although I love eating them).  But, it was a "convenience food" and the 1950s were all about convenience foods, so it still seemed in keeping with the challenge.

The stuffed eggs part of the recipe was essentially a sort of bland deviled egg recipe and that went together easily enough.  Now that I know how easy deviled eggs are with pre-peeled eggs, I suspect there will be a lot more deviled eggs around our house.

I used Alton Brown's Hollandaise sauce which worked well.  (I used coconut sugar, since it was all we had in the house and it didn't seem to make a difference in the finished product)

Then it was time to actually open the can of Spam.  It certainly didn't win any points for appealing straight out of the can. in fact, it was rather disgusting looking.

Despite the recipe title being "Grilled Spam slices" the recipe said to broil the spam. I went with doing it in the skillet in hopes it would crisp up a bit.  Which it did nicely after about 7 minutes on each side. I also sliced it into sixths not fourths, which might have helped.

About two minutes after I put the Spam on, Jay said:  "what is that smell?  Is something burning?"  Spam cooking does not have a terribly enticing smell.  It's a little like burning rubber.  Definitely not tantalizing to the taste buds.

However, the end product was more edible than I expected , if ridiculous in the amount of fat and sodium.

The Challenge: #3 Today in History
The Recipe: Grilled Spam Slices with Stuffed Eggs
The Date/Region: 1948 
Total time: About an hour of solid work
Total cost: $2.69 for a can of Spam and $5 or so for the pre-hardboiled eggs
How successful was it?   It's not something I would make again, but it didn't have to force myself to eat it.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Historical Food Fortnightly Challenge #2, Take 2: Fig sauce

My failure at tomato mustard bothered me. And I had 2 pounds of fresh figs that I had bought at the bargain price of $2.99 for the lot at our Asian market this weekend.  The plan was to make goat cheese stuffed, bacon wrapped figs for a get together with friends last weekend, but I had made blueberry cobbler instead.

So it seemed to me I should take a second shot at Challenge #2.  Searching I found a recipe for fig sauce from the 1919 International Jewish Cookbook.

Stew figs slowly for two hours until soft; sweeten with loaf sugar, about two tablespoons to a pound of fruit.  Add a glass pf port or other wine and a little lemon juice.  Serve when cold.

It seemed easy enough and I had the ingredients on hand, so without further ado, I diced the figs and got them on the stove. Two hours seemed a much more reasonable amount of time to cook than the thirty minutes in the tomato mustard recipe, plus the fig pieces were significantly smaller to begin with, so they cooked down faster.

After thirty minutes, the figs were already well on their way to breaking down.

Trying to decide what to put the fig sauce over was a bit of a challenge, because after my last physical, I am gluten-free.  But since, technically speaking, the challenge entry was the sauce, I decided on a paleo shortcake recipe from Confessions of an Overworked Mom.  Jay was skeptical because neither of us are a fan of commercial gluten free bread, but I decided to give it a try anyway on the reasoning that shortcake is supposed to be a bit crumbly to begin with.

The dough seemed a little off to me..  both a bit moist and a bit crumbly.

But I got eight reasonably round shortcakes made and popped them in the oven.

At that point, the stewing figs were smelling pretty heavenly.  I ended up adding half the sugar to the raw figs. realized my mistake and decided to add the rest in at the end, as per the recipe.  But when I make this recipe again, I think I will keep my precedent -stewing with a little sugar was mighty tasty.  I added the port wine and the remaining sugar and it was so delicious at that point, I forgot the lemon juice.

The fig sauce might not look terribly appealing but boy was it delicious!

The shortcakes came out of the oven looking  suitably shortcake-y and I regretted not being able to make some whipped cream as a topping.

Still, even without the whipped cream, Jay approved whole-heartedly.  The shortcake absorbed the sauce deliciously and the almond flour made for a rich taste, especially combined with the figs and port.

I am going to call the fig sauce an unqualified success and put the recipe in my standard repertoire.

The Challenge: #2 Soups, Sauces and Gravies
The Recipe: Fig Sauce from International Jewish Cookbook
The Date/Region: 1919   
Total time: 3.5 hours largely unattended
Total cost: $2.99 for fresh figs.  Everything else was on hand
How successful was it?  Totally.  It was delicious!

Monday, June 30, 2014

Historical Food Fortnightly #2 The Challenge That Wasn't

So without any brilliant inspiration for the Soups, Sauces and Gravies challenge, I settled on a recipe I was curious about: Tomato Mustard from Vaughan's Vegetable CookBook printed in 1919, which I found on the fabulous  I chose this recipe mostly because I couldn't figure out what the end product would be...  it sounded a lot like ketchup...  but then why was it called tomato mustard.  My curiosity was piqued and that was enough for me.

The ingredients were pretty straightforward..I thought.

1 peck of tripe tomatoes
1 teaspoonful of salt
2 dessertspoonfuls of onions chopped fine
1 dessertspoonful of whole pepper
1dessertspoonful of allspice
1 dessertspoonful of cloves
1/2 spoonful of cayenne pepper
1 teaspoonful of curry
1 teacupful of mustard

Googling I found out that 1 peck = 13 pounds and change.  That was a lot of tomatoes, so I decided to do a half recipe.

I chose Roma tomatoes because they were on sale. had a handy measures and weights section and I learned that a dessertspoon was 2 teaspoons and a teacupful was a scant 3/4 cup. There was no equivalent for spoonful, but, as it turns out, that would not turn out to be an issue.

The directions seemed pretty basic:

To the tomatoes add the salt; let it stew a half hour, and strain through a sieve.  Add the onions, whole peppers, allspice, cloves and cayenne pepper.  Let it simmer down one-third, adding the curry and mustard. Then simmer half an hour longer.

So I quartered the tomatoes, added the salt and some water, set the pot on low for 30 minutes.  After 30 minutes, the tomatoes looked like this.

Clearly, they needed some additional stewing time, so I put a lid on the pot, turned up the heat a little and let them stew for another 30 minutes.

They looked like they were beginning to break down, but they clearly weren't anywhere near stewed.  So I let them cook and kept checking every 30 minutes.  After three and a half hours they looked like this:

Unfortunately, at this point, we had an engagement with friends, so I gave up and called the recipe a fail.  I'm guessing the failure came from either not dicing the tomatoes a lot smaller or that low on my electric range is a lot lower than low on a 1919 stove.

Either way, it was at least an interesting experiment..  even if it didn't satisfy my curiosity.

The Challenge: #2 Soups, Sauces and Gravies
The Recipe: Tomato Mustard from Vaughan's Vegetable Cookbook
The Date/Region: 1919  Guessing Britain
Total time: 3.5 hours
Total cost: $10 in tomatoes
How successful was it?  Epic Fail


Sunday, June 22, 2014

Catching Up

I am happy to say my tendinitis is subsiding nicely after not sewing for several weeks.  The down side of that is there is not a lot exciting to report.  But I have a thumb stabilizing brace and 2 refills on my anti-inflammatories, so I hope to test the waters on sewing again soon.

My Vesper Martini (from Casino Royale) got a lovely mention in the challenge #1 wrap up of the Historical Food Fortnightly   Which makes me happy, because I had been afraid I was pushing the envelope on "food" a little too hard with a cocktail.

I am still semi-uninspired for challenge #2: soups, sauces and gravies, not in part because when I went to reference my trusty copy of Jane & Michael Stern's Square Meals: America's Favorite Comfort Food Cookbook, I found that I had apparently gotten rid of it in a fit of healthy cooking.  I'd owned it for easily 15 years, annotated it extensively and just don't know where my head was when I sent it to Goodwill.  I found a reprint on Amazon but it won't be quite the same (and is currently in used book mail purgatory, so no idea when it will actually arrive) But I work best under pressure, so I'm still hoping for inspiration at the last moment.

On the sewing front, I am ecstatic to report that Historical Sewing is doing a reprise of the corset class in July, so I have a second chance to actually get my corset finished.

Other than that, there's nothing much to tell, which is a little anti-climactic, since this is the 50th post since I started the blog. So I will leave you with a picture of Mercury and Ziyi, who are just as unproductive as I've been lately.  More to tell soon, I hope!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Good News and Bad News

The bad news is that I finally went to the doctor for my annual insurance physical and the annoying and worsening pain in my wrist/thumb that I thought was just the beginning of arthritis is acute tendinitis. The doctor put me on anti-inflammatories and, and since I can't quit my day job where I use a computer for over 8 hours a day,  has suggested eliminating sewing as much as possible until it calms down significantly.  (This has been going on since the beginning of the year and has gotten bad enough that I have zero movement in my thumb and constant pain in my wrist)

This puts a severe damper on my projects in progress.  My corset class is over and it's totally my fault that not only do I not have a finished corset, I don't even have a correctly fitted mockup.  I am back burnering the project for a bit while I determine the best course of action...  but as I will explain below, I am going to find myself in need of a corset in the coming months.

My HSF Art challenge is also still not complete.  I am working on it slowly, but there is much handwork in the project and that is especially hard on my wrist. It will definitely need to be done in small chunks. That being said, I am going to skip the Politics in Fashion challenge.  I had lots of ideas, but none of them manageable with time, budget and current skills.  And since my corset was going to be my Shape and Support entry, I will have to rethink that challenge.

As to the good news, we have three excellent opportunities to play dress up in the next 3 months! In addition to DragonCon, which deserves its own planning post, a facebook re-enactor acquaintance told me about a civil war weekend in September near Atlanta.

If Jay and I go, it will be as spectators (and Jay as a civilian) but we will still dress up.  I know we can't meet re-enactor standards of historical accuracy, and honestly I'm not sure I want to try with everything else going on in life right now.  But I can do "relatively accurate"   Except that I don't have a darned thing Civil War currently in my closet..  not even a corset.  Still, I love a challenge, right?  *wry chuckle*

And we are planning on dressing up for the Mary Poppins sing-a-long at the Fabulous Fox Theatre in August.  The Fox is a 1920s movie palace in downtown ATL with the most fantastical Egyptian/middle eastern decor that was saved from demolition and now is a venue for theatre, concerts and, in the summer, classic movies.  We went to see Breakfast at Tiffany's there last summer and I thought  "ok  classic movie...  no big deal" and wore mundane clothes.  And was stunned at the amount of women doing various levels of Holly Golightly cosplay.

So this year when the summer series was announced and we saw Mary Poppins was being shown, it was a no brainer that we would go..  and go in costume!  I have a guilty secret..  I can sing pretty much the entire soundtrack to Mary Poppins.

A Mary Poppins cosplay has been on the backburner for a while.  Jay actually bought me the parrot headed umbrella (from the Disney Store) for Christmas.  And now I actually have a reason to get my act together and actually do it!

Julie Andrews as Mary Poppins

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Historical Food Fortnightly #1: Literature (or Shaken, Not Stirred)

I can't claim credit for this idea.  It was all Jay's. But I am old enough to admit that I am not likely to surpass this in terms of perfection  for the challenge, so here it is.   I also somehow got my dates confused and thought the challenge ended today, not started today, so I am (for once) ahead of schedule not behind..  yay! And it's kind of ironic that I will be late on my HSF challenge entry.

I would like to humbly offer the iconic Vesper martini from Casino Royale (published in 1953)

The Challenge:  #1  Literature
Date/Region:  1953.  Since Bond invented the Vesper, I'm going to say British for the region.

The first James Bond novel, Casino Royale, was published in 1953.  So it fits the pre-1960 requirement.
The 1953 cover, designed by Ian Fleming himself, from

The recipe itself comes directly from the book, which is about as primary as primary documentation can get. :)  In chapter 7, Rouge et Noir, Bond is in the casino and orders a drink.

"A dry martini," Bond said.  "One in a deep champagne goblet... three measures of Gordon's, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Linnet.  Shake it very well until its ice-cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon peel, got it?"

A few lines later he says:  "This drink's my own invention.  I'm going to patent it when I can think of a good name."    After a sip of the drink, he tells the barman: "Excellent.  But if you can get a vodka made with grain instead of potatoes, you will find it still better."  The name comes in the next chapter, Pink Lights and Champagne, when he meets Vesper Lynd and names the drink after her.  

Interestingly, this is the only time in the novels that Bond orders a Vesper.  In other books, he orders vodka or gin martinis, but still always shaken, not stirred.  The only other reference to the Vesper in the Bond universe is in the movie Quantum of Solace in which Bond drinks 6 of them. (which is quite the impressive feat, because one of these is pretty darned potent.)

The ingredients were as simple as a trip to the liquor store (or the package store as they say in Georgia). I was afraid we were going to have difficulty finding the Kina Linnet, but the store had 2 kinds of a French aperitif wine called Linnet. A quick Google illuminated us that they don't sell Kina Linnet anymore, but that the blonde Linnet would be an acceptable substitute.

The Gordon's Gin was easy to find, but apparently in 1953, Gordon's was a 100 proof gin and what you can readily buy now is 80 proof.  

Since the only specific for the vodka was grain not potato, we went with Grey Goose, which is our preferred brand to drink.  Technically speaking, this is not entirely period correct for the recipe, since Grey Goose wasn't around until the 1990s, but I am willing to cede this point of accuracy since the remainder of the bottle will remain in our liquor cabinet.

We are sort of cocktail geeks and are rather fond of a Manhattan or an Old Fashioned in the evening, so we had all the cocktail mixing tools (shaker, strainer, jigger) on hand already.

We did not, however, have the classic champagne coupe glasses that Bond specifies for the Vesper.

I actually looked around locally for champagne coupe, thinking I would pick up a pair and be more historically correct, but the only place I found them was Williams-Sonoma and I didn't want to spend $70 just for this challenge, so the trusty cocktail glass will have to suffice.

Pretty straightforward.  Put into the shaker 3 large jiggers of Gordon's, 1 of vodka and a smaller jigger of Lillet.

Actually, the picture is incorrect.  The ingredients go in the glass part of the shaker.

Shake until icy cold.
I'd say that looks icy cold, wouldn't you?

Pour into a cocktail glass and garnish with a slice of lemon peel.  

Time to make: 5 minutes.  Time to research...  much longer than that :) 

Total cost:  So hard to calculate since we bought whole bottles of liquor and only used a few ounces of each.

How successful was it:  Very.  *hic*

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Rhinestones are a Girl's Best Friend!

Life here is crazy busy at the moment.  We leave for our first ballroom dance competition on Wednesday and between work (which is more of a madhouse than usual), the usual errands required to be a nominally responsible adult. extra practice time and all of the girly things to be done in preparation for the comp (practice spray tan to buy foundation, hair cut/colour, mani-pedi, running around trying to find hair adornments with fushia/purple stones (harder than I thought!), fake hair, and an afternoon at the mall including a Sephora spree for more cosmetics), I am pretty much fitting everything in like a jigsaw puzzle.

My dress.  It's a Dore Designs gown...  I didn't make it, just used my dummy in the sewing room to photograph it.

All of that doesn't leave much for sewing, unfortunately.  My current projects are my 1880s corset for class and my Art challenge for the Historical Sew Fortnightly. Neither of which will get any significant time devoted to them until Memorial Day.  

But speaking of the HSF, I was astoundingly flattered to find that my 1920s rhinestone heeled dancing shoes made the Dreamstress's list of favorites for the Fairy Tale challenge.  I often feel like a country mouse seeing all the amazing things that people submit for challenges, so little moments like this really mean a lot to me.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

HSF #9: Black and White

Ironically, I am out of my sewing slump, just in time to have to focus on an entirely different sort of costuming for a few weeks.  Jay and I have our first ballroom dance competition coming up over Memorial Day weekend and oh my, the details to be settled before it.  Per my teacher, it's not just dancing involved, it's presenting an entire image.  As a costumer, I understand that...  but it somehow feels far sillier and artificial than lacing into a corset and doing historical costuming.

Anyway, between that and wrestling with corset mockup #2 for my corset class (that saga probably deserves its own post), the black and white book patterned silk 1940s dress which was my original plan for the challenge, clearly wasn't going to happen. But, being me, I couldn't just skip the challenge.  I love black!  And I'd still obsessed with black and white stripes, but darn it, I'd submitted my 1880s hat for the Tops and Toes challenge.  Then browsing Pintrest  doing "non-specific" research late one evening, I came across this picture of a fan from the mid 19th century.

And I thought...  hey.. in black and white that would make a great challenge entry.  Only, my freehand painting is pretty rusty.  But a stencil!   So I ordered a white silk fan and a stencil or two from Amazon  (Amazon Prime's free two day shipping is da bomb!) and was off and running, I thought.  I took a look at  Dharma Trading for silk paint and got a little baffled at what exactly I would need (silk painting is apparently far more complex than fabric painting..  who knew!) but Michael's had a silk painting kit on their website, so off to Michael's it was. Of course, the Michael's store did not carry said silk painting kit, so I ended up with a black fabric marker and would have to just hope for the best.

The fan, when it arrived, was definitely more ivory than white, but there was nothing to be done about that.  Determining the design was an easy enough process of sketching out the shape of the fan on paper and using the stencils to lay out each motif in a harmonious pattern.

Except that putting the stencils on the fan itself wasn't as easy as putting them on paper.  The fan wasn't perfectly flat and it's natural inclination was to close up a bit. So it was off to the cutting table where I used a few pins to keep the fan open and relatively taut for stencilling.  The next difference was that the stencils stuck to the paper much better than the silk but with some manuevering I got the first motif stencilled in successfully.

 This might actually work!

 The ever helpful Samuel L. Catson, supervising.

 Pretty pleased with the finished product.

 Until I saw the mess that the marker left on the top of the cutting table. Oh well.

 The finished fan in the light.

I'd been a bit worried that the fabric marker would bleed too much on the silk,  but it just softens the edges nicely.  I'm now inspired to buy more colours of these fabric markers to try the stencilling on silk organza for a Heian Period karaginu-mo...

So I'm feeling all pleased with myself, having finished the challenge five days early, and I go back to my original inspiration picture and realize that its from etsy, so essentially I have zero documentation for this (now completed) project.  But how hard can finding documentation on this be?  Well, after a good 4 hours of googling, trying the Met collection, V & A online, the Kent State Fashion Museum Collection and even the MAK and going through my own collection, I am forced to believe that my original source was either total misinformation or very non-standard for the mid 19th century.  

I can find hand painted fans and that painting fans was an acceptable ladylike pastime for genteel young ladies. But none look stencilled and the painting style is significantly different from my design. And let's not go into the style of the sticks. I thought about not submitting at all, since this is for the Historical Sew Fortnightly, but decided I would submit as a cautionary tale to always make sure you finish documentation before you start the project. *sigh*  Still, its a pretty fan.

The Challenge:  #9  Black and White
Fabric: silk and bamboo
Pattern: none
Year: possibly mid 19th century?
Notions: stencil, Marvy fabric marker
How historically accurate is it:  See above post
Time to complete:  2.5 hours for laying out the test design and then actually stenciling the fan.  Another 4 or so trying to document.
First worn:  not yet
Cost:  $15     ($4 for the stencil, $3 for the fabric marker, $8 for the fan itself)

Sunday, May 4, 2014

HSF #8: UFOs (Un-Finished Objects)

I am still mired in my sewing slump.  This is week three and I tried to make myself do some sewing to see if that would kick start my passion again. No such luck, but I did manage to finish something for the UFO challenge.

This winter I'd gotten behind in the Victorian Undergarments class I was taking and chose to move on to the next project to (try to) keep up with the class, even though I hadn't completed the drawers project.  Two classes later, they were still unfinished (but halfway done) so I thought it would be a manageable challenge for unmotivated me. Still, I am three days late finishing this challenge. *wry chuckle*

The challenge:  #8  UFO

Fabric: some lovely cotton lawn from Dharma Trading Company.  It has a soft broken in feel, like a favorite nightgown after only one washing. Also some cotton eyelet and embroidered trim from my stash.

Pattern: Truly Victorian 102 Chemise and Drawers

Year: 1880s

Notions: thread, grosgrain ribbon, 2 plastic buttons

How historically accurate is it?  60%  Pattern is accurate, but its mostly machine sewn (including the buttonholes), the buttons were plastic and the grosgrain was poly.

Hours to complete:  hard to count since its a UFO

First worn:  Not yet, perhaps never.  The complete openness of this garment, while historically accurate, does not appeal to me.

Total cost:  maybe $20 for the fabric (originally) everything else was from stash

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Another Endeavor (in which Our Heroine expands her horizons)

I must be significantly braver than I was last year..  or at least (more than) a little crazier.

Last year the Historical Sew Fortnightly was too daunting to come anywhere near completing.

This year, I started out planning to do every other HSF challenge.

Somehow that became every challenge.

And now...  heaven help me...  I'm thinking about doing the Historical Food Fortnightly as well. The link explains it better, but in a nut shell it's a spin off of the Historical Sew Fortnightly in which themes are presented every fortnight and you research and make a recipe meeting the theme from a period of your choice (pre-1960).

I've done some historical cooking as far back as childhood.  The city I grew up in had "The Old Stone House" which was built in 1838 and was kept as a museum by the local historical society.  

In the summers they had a day camp for kids centered around the house and other early 19th century activities. Everyone took a "pioneer name"  (mine was Millicent) and we learned how to make bannock on the fire in the kitchen of the house, learned about the herbs in the garden, and how to make things like soap and butter and kites and homemade ice cream.  

I also dabbled in historical cooking during my time in the SCA.  Friends that have known me long enough will remember the great disaster of the apple whiskey cake in which the recipe read "glass of whiskey" and I naively obliged..  not with the shot glass the recipe actually called for..  but with a 16 ounce glass that I normally used for diet coke.

But it was the "pre-1960" that really sealed the deal.  I am alternately fascinated and horrified by 1950s cuisine.  The rise of convenience foods. The ubiquitous jello salads.  The use of spam. The (more than) vaguely obscene rocket salad from the Better Crocker Kid's Cookbook from my childhood.  

And ironically enough, I just bought a lot of 1940s women's magazines on ebay solely because I wanted the single Delineator issue that was in the lot.  So I have ready reference material on hand.

Even better, we generally get together at a friends on weekends and each of us brings something to share.  This provides a justification for experimenting and a captive willing audience.  The only thing I don't really have is time..  and really, who ever has enough time anyway? (I am promising myself that researching and making a recipe will take less time than sewing a challenge entry..  we shall see just how delusional I am.. :)  )

So while other people may be translating medieval recipes from the original language for the Food Fortnightly, or making ornate eighteenth century dishes, I will be happily amusing myself in the early 20th century, pondering spaghetti stuffed peppers and finding out just how many recipes for jello salad actually exist.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Sewing Blues (in which our Heroine raises her spirits with shopping)

It's been a rather unfulfilling week sewing wise.  My hat for the HSF challenge was well received, but my current primary project is self-fitting a mockup for my 1880s corset and that is going every bit as frustratingly as I expected. My other projects are a mockup of a 1940s dress for the Black and White Challenge and finishing a pair of Victorian drawers for the UFO challenge but I'm not likely to have anything complete to post about this week, sadly.

I did, however, treat myself to some internet shopping.  I've been on an old magazine binge lately and have picked up some reasonably priced copies of 1890s-1910s issues of The Delineator on ebay.  I've also found a few 1920s fashion magazines online, so I started a "Research" page for the blog, in case these finds are useful for someone else.  I'm trying to find an efficient and economical method to digitize my Delineator issues; if I can, I'll post those for general reference as well.  I also started a "Fabric and Notions" and a "Tutorials" page, mostly to keep good info I find on my frequent Internet dives from getting lost in my bookmarks folders.  These are still very much works in progress, but perhaps they'll be helpful for someone besides me.

I also bought some Folkwear patterns and hope to have some more pleasant projects once I get the corset and the 40s dress completed.

Folkwear patterns.  I loved them in college.  Victorian, retro, ethnic, they all seemed a little magical and could be made from luscious fabrics that I desperately wanted to play with, but couldn't afford as a college student. (I've been battling my fabric addiction all my life.)

In my ideal world, I would have wandered campus in nothing but garments I'd made from folkwear patterns.  A friend of mine, Sarah, had actually made several folkwear skirts and shirts and I have to admit I was happily envious of her. But back in the dark ages when I went to college, even though I was far skinnier then than I am now,  Folkwear never made patterns in my size. (and, oddly enough,  it never occurred me to scale them up to fit)

So I really stopped looking at Folkwear for patterns and was almost surprised to find them still around when I started doing Japanese costuming a few years ago. For some reason, I found myself on the Folkwear site this week and, lo and behold, some of their newer patterns were sized up to a 3X! Of course, I had to buy...  several.  (after all, with the shipping they're charging, why pay shipping more than once!)

The one I think I'm most excited about is the 1918 Armistice blouse. I'm already envisioning ecru handkerchief linen and some of my antique lace collection for trims and perhaps lace insertion. Now I just have to get some of the less amusing projects completed!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

HSF #7 Tops and Toes (or Finishing the Hat)

This is the saga of my hat for Historical Sewing's 1880s bustle hat class.  This was a buckram frame hat using Truly Victorian's TV550 pattern.  Nothing is ever simple for me *sigh* and the first thing that I had to do upon starting this project was size the pattern up for my 24" circumference head.  I know this style is supposed to be a "perch" hat, but I also wanted it to be in proportion to my head.   Jay did some calculations and determined that I needed to size things up to 106% so I scanned in the pattern pieces (or what parts of them would fit in our scanner), taped together the pieces parts and did a mock up in butcher's paper.  
 So far, so good!

Sam supervising the laying out on the buckram

 The wire went on the buckram easily enough but I glued the flannel on and the bias tape around the edge. The glue did not want to come out of the bottle, so I got a small paint brush that I'd bought in case I was going to add metallic paint to the 1920s shoes and used the brush for this step.  This was a big mistake.  Huge. I should not be trusted with glue or paint (or home hair dye).  Despite my best intentions, I end up like a 4 year old finger painting.  I was decidedly unthrilled with the end result...  even though the fashion fabric would be covering it.

 Cutting out the fashion fabric.

90% of this was hand work and pushing the needle through crown buckram and pulling it out with pliers aggravated my carpal tunnel something fierce. Top that off with the brim opening being about 3/8" too large for the crown all around and I had to take a week's hiatus on the project.  At that point I was pretty sure I was never going to make another hat again in my life.

But the week's rest for my wrist, a wrist brace (and some good advice from one of my classmates, who is a nurse, on taking ibuprofen proactively to reduce the inflammation)  and I was back at it.  This time, the brim went together much tidier and fit the crown perfectly. Attaching brim to crown was no problem whatsoever and I found myself with a finished -albeit un-decorated - hat.

One hat. Desperately seeking trim

I'd known more or less what I wanted to do from the beginning of the class.  Despite the 1880s being a period of "more is not enough" trim wise, I was drawn to the slightly more austere style of hats like these.

Mrs Harris from

c. 1885 from

 And still being in the throes of my black and white stripe addiction, of course, there would be striped ribbon. I may have *blush* even chosen the blue fabric because it would set off the black and white stripes so well.   The rhinestone buckle was a glorious find in my favorite local fabric store for $3.00. The ribbon itself is frankenstein-ed by stitching 2 pieces of the black and white striped ribbon together lengthwise and then edging each side with a narrower piece of black grosgrain.

The finished hat

All in all, I am pleased with the result and will probably end up making more buckram framed hats in the future, despite all my swearing to the contrary.

The challenge:  #7  Tops and Toes

Fabric: Silk dupioni, grosgrain ribbon, crown buckram, flannel (for the mulling)

Pattern: Truly Victorian TV550 1880s Buckram frame hat

Year: 1880s

Notions: millinery wire, millinery needles, bias tape

How historically accurate is it?  I honestly haven't researched if they had buckram framed hats in the 1880s.  I did do a good bit of research to determine trimming that felt period appropriate.

Hours to complete:  far too many!

First worn:  I don't even have an 1880s dress to wear this with, but it was still a fun project

Total cost:  approx $45 USD ($22 for a basic millinery kit from Judith M Millinery Supply. $10 for half a yard of crown buckram (also from Judith M), $11.99 for a yard of silk, $2.50 for a yard of flannel.  Pattern, ribbon and feathers were from stash)