Wednesday, April 20, 2016

In the Mail

Another (small) batch of rune stones on their way to Traverse City, for the Dennos Museum shop.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Compare and Contrast

I discovered the first wildflower of the year, a hepatica, on the same day my garden shared the first blooms of the year, white crocus.

Which is better?

I really can't decide, each has it's own charm!

Monday, April 4, 2016

Historical Food Fortnightly: Challenge #7 Pretty as a Picture

I just have to start by saying EPIC FAILURE!!!!!!!!!!

Not only is NOT "Pretty as a picture", it tastes like paste!

I decided to attempt to recreate a mid-19th century molded dessert: jellies, cremes, blancmange or flummery. They are just so pretty!

However, I don't have easy access to either isinglass or calves feet to make my own gelatine, so I decided to try a flummery.

The original flummery was a kind of oatmeal broth or porridge. Over time, other grains came into use, in particular, rice - probably as the resulting flummery would be a pristine white.


Boil with a pint of new milk a bit of lemon-peel and cinnamon; mix with a little cold milk as much rice flour as will make the whole of a good consistence; sweeten, and add a spoonful of peach-water, or a bitter almond beaten; boil it observing it does not burn; pour it into a shape,or pint basin, taking out the spice; when cold, turn the flummery into a dish, and serve with cream, milk or custard, round, or put a tea-cupful of cream into a half a pint of new milk, a glass or white wine, half a lemon squeezed and sugar.

The Date/Year and Region: 1837 America

How Did You Make It:

I looked at many, many receipts for rice flummery; one suggested that rice ground in a hand-mill worked better than purchased rice flour. Another suggested allowing the rice and milk to soak overnight before boiling. Only one suggested using specifically "Carolina" rice.

I had several kinds of rice in the cabinet, plain white, jasmine, arborio, brown and even green; I decided to use the arborio, as the point seemed to be extract as much starch as possible.

I soaked it overnight and then boiled it, which resulted in a saucepan of goop. I strained it to remove the lemon peel, cinnamon and larger bits of ground rice.

Then into a fancy mold and the refrigerator, until well chilled. My attempts to unmold it failed utterly, so I scooped it into the bowl and surrounded it with cranberry sauce (receipt below) - I found many references to combining flummery and fruit.

Time to Complete: Hands on time, maybe 30 minutes. Complete time, 24 hours.

Total Cost: Unknown, everything came from the pantry or freezer, but probably less than $2.00.

How Successful Was It?: HORRIBLE! It looked bad and tasted worse, like lemony paste.
Will NOT be making this again. The cranberry sauce was fine.

How Accurate Is It?:  Well, my hand-mill was my blender and, of course, an electric stove and refrigerator. The choice of rice type was a guess, I've not spent any time researching 19th century rice.

Mrs. Ellis's Housekeeping Made Easy, Or, Complete Instructor in All Branches of Cookery and Domestic Economy : Containing the Most Modern and Approved Receipts of Daily Service in All Families, circa 1843, provided the following receipt for cranberry sauce.

"Cranberry Sauce.—Wash a quart of ripe cranberries, and put them into a pan with about a wine-glass full of water. Stew them slowly, and stir them frequently, particularly after they begin to burst. They require a great deal of stewing, and should be like a marmalade when done. Just before you take them from the fire, stir in a pound of brown sugar."

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Fabric for the Ladies: The Civilian Symposium 2016

The Civilian Symposium is full of highlights, but the most anticipated is the reveal of the "fabric" - each year all the female presenters receive a dress-length of fabric, with the instructions of "make a garment." Gentlemen receive a vest-length of a differing fabric.

This years fabric was an Italian cotton, in a fairly large scale, woven plaid. It had a very fine hand, much more like a wool challis than cotton.

The reveal looks a bit like this, except multiplied times 4 or 5!


Once in a while, the fabric immediately "speaks" and tells me exactly what it would like to become; other times (this time) it remains silent,leaving me to figure it out alone.

I started going through the many, many photos of original garments I've taken over the years and then through all the books and exhibit catalogs in my library.

Doing so caused my to notice something: plaids of this scale were nearly always wool or silk, not cotton. But I did come up with some possibilities:

1.) This one is in the Kent State University Museum collection. I've always liked the "bodice trimmed like a jacket" concept, but haven't yet constructed one. I also happen to have yards and yards of pale blue soutache that I could have used for the trim. But I decided against it; the fabric just seemed to casual for this dress.

2.) This a wool dress, the plaid being approximately the same scale as the provided cotton. The peplum, is actually a separate belt.It would have been a good choice, but it just didn't thrill me - I prefer something that will be a bit more of a challenge to figure out.

3.) This was my fall-back: if I didn't come up with any other ideas, I would make this one - at least it had an interesting sleeve! But I did find something else...

I had a chance to go off Island and took the opportunity to look for some coordinating fabric that might open up the possibilities:

Which lead to...
4.) But I came to the conclusion that the plaid was just too big, the sash would have been 20" wide!

Maybe a late 50's look?

5.) I drafted out this "tunic body" and even managed to make it fit with some tweaking, but it just would NOT work in the plaid - too many lines and angles coming together in strange ways. I do plan to make this in a solid silk or wool.


6.) Something interesting that would provide a slight challenge!

The fashion plate dates to November of 1859, I wasn't able to find a written description, but I'm fairly certain that either silk or wool was suggested.However, the cotton felt and behaves so much like a thin wool, I  decided to go for it.

Do to fabric constraints, I went with a small 90" hoop. I would have liked to suspend the bottom flounce from the top of the trim fabric, so it would look like a separate skirt, but there just wasn't enough fabric. I also plan on adding one more bow. I decided against going with a true pagoda, but did create a full bottom flounce for the sleeve and added a large open undersleeve.

And here are the other presenters: