Sunday, 19 January 2020

Food and snowball fight - Sten Stures ben celebration

The 19th of January is the anniversary of the Battle of Åsunden, where the Swedish regent Sten Sture lost his leg, and later died from the infection. This is celebrated through "Sten Stures ben" (the leg of Sten Sture) where you have snowball fights and eat chocolate balls. For more info on the battle, in Swedish, you can visit my Historiekullan blog. In 2020 it's 500 years since the battle, and our small 16th century group in Falun decided to celebrate it with a proper feast. Unfortunately we have the worst winter I can remember this year so there is no snow on the ground. When we arrived at the feast we had a discussion about finding snow that still remained in some ditches along the way, but that was it. Then some surpise guests turned up - and they had brought snow with them in a portable freeze box!

Snowballs and chocolate balls are ready
By now it was dark though so I don't have any photos of the glorious snowball fight that ensued. We basically put the freeze box with the snow in the middle and then it was about running to the freeze box grabbing snow and throwing it towards the other team.  Then we ate the totally non-historical chocolate balls.

I had finished my new shift, but since it was cold and dark I only have pictures of me wearing my gollar over it, so it's not visible. I wore my green longsleeved 1520's gown and I lent a friend my mustard kirtle and high collared shift so that she could join in for the feast.

For the feast I brought two dishes that I've worked on for a while and feel that I can share with you.

Hunters pudding

Hunters pudding, from the summer
The Hunters pudding comes from Townsend and Sons 18th century cooking and the recipe is available in both video and written format.

Here is my version of the recipe

300 g wheat flour
300 g of fat*
300 g of dried** fruits in small pieces
Peel of 1 lemon or lime (or candided lime or orange - suckat)
3 whole eggs
50-100 ml of milk
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp nutmeg

Put a big pot of water on the stove and bring it to a boil.

Mix the flour fat and fruit untill it feel almost like a crumble, with the fat and fruits all coated by the flour. Add the eggs and then milk until you have a fairly sticky dough. Depending on how dry the fruit is and how big the eggs are you migth need more or less milk. Add the spices, at least a tsp but even better more.

Take a piece of cloth, for historical accuracy use linen, I use a clean cotton towel. Put the towel in the boiling water until it's totally soaked. Then place it in a bowl. Sprinkle flour over the whole cloth, It's really important (I've learnt this the hard way) that all the fabric that will be in contact with the dough has flour on it. Place the dough in the middle of the cloth, wrap it up and tie it all together with a string. Tie it tight, the pudding will expand a bit, due to the eggs, but not too much. Put the cloth package int the pot of boiling water. I tie the package to the handle of the pot, so that the package doesn't drop to the bottom and comes in contact with the direct heat. Boil for 3,5-4 hours. It's hard to overboil a pudding, if you feel through the package it should feel firm and not squishy. I have better been safe than sorry and had it boiling for some more time. Cut the string and unwrap the cloth - eat.

* I have tried this recipe with butter, lard and margarine. Butter and lard both influence the flavours a bit. I definitely prefer butter to lard, but I actually think margarine works best. I would love to get my hand on suet one day and try it, but I've never seen that in Sweden.
** I try to use at least 100 g of xanthe currants (korinter), but for the reast it has been a mix of dried plums, dates, apricots, green raisins or regular raisins. All depending on what I've had at home.

Century and location - 17th-18th century, England
Difficulty level - low
Time - it takes a loooooong time to boil
Vegetarian - It contains eggs, milk and fat, the fat can definitely be substituted for margarine and the milk with water.

Onions in cumin* sauce

My other recipe comes from the great site Medieval Cookery. which in turns links to a web edition of a late 15th century cookbook in Dutch. The web edition has the original text, the modern Dutch and English versions side by side so you can compare them. This is a great side dish, with a surprisingly mild flavor to the onions.

250 g of baby onions - also known as pearl or boiler onions, max 35 mm in size (steklök eller pärllök)
400 ml of almond milk
2 slices of bread, made into bread crumbs
1 tsp cummin (spiskummin)
0,25 g saffron
1 tsp salt

Peel the onions and put them in a small pot. Cover them with almond milk, add in the bread crumbs. If you use fresh slices of bread remove the crust. Add the spices and bring to a boil. Once it boils let it simmer until the onions are tender. If you need to add more almond milk, to cover the onions, and the sauce gets too thin, just add more bread.

My version is a very thick stew, as a side dish it might be nice to make the sauce thinner and then just pick up the onions and don't eat so much of the sauce. The thickness of the sauce only depends on how much bread you add to the almond milk.

*cumin is spiskummin in Swedish, not kummin!

Century and location - Dutch 15th century
Difficulty level - low
Time - short
Vegan - it's a totally vegan dish.

Wednesday, 15 January 2020

The historical sew monthly 2020

The Historical Sew Monthly (HSM) has been part of my regular costuming ever since it actually was the Historical Sew Fortnightly. This year there are quite a few changes. One of them is that there is a general theme - sustainability.

With every challenge we’re celebrating the way fabric & thread were used, honoured, cherished, and re-used in the past. We’re also trying to lessen the carbon footprint of historical costuming, but creating with intent, and re-using whenever possible.
I think it's a good thing to try and be as sustainable as possible, and I will try to follow it and make use of my stash as much as I can.

Another change is that even if there are still 12 challenges, it is up to you to pick when you do the challenge, and they are open the whole year. I still think I will try to tie the challenges to a specific month, it's a good incentive for me to make things, but it's good that I can go back, or if I finish something before the set date I can still use it.

Here are this year's challenges.

January: Timetravelling Garments: Create an item that works for more than one historical era, or that can be used for both historical costuming, and modern wear. It could be an apron that could do 1770s or 1860s in a pinch, a shift that can work under many decades of fashion, or a historical cape you also wear everyday, etc.

We are well into January, and I haven't come up with anything for this. Or rather nothing that I need or would use. Since the overall theme is sustainability I don't want to make things just for making them, and then never use them.

February: Re-Use: Use thrifted materials or old garments or bedlinen to make a new garment. Mend, re-shape or re-trim an existing garment to prolong its life.

No idea yet

March: Green: Make something in a shade or shades of green. If you can also make it ‘green’ in the figurative sense, even better!

No idea yet

April: Local: Support your local industry and your local history by making something that (as much as possible) uses materials made locally, or purchased from local suppliers, or that features a garment specific to your part of the world.

Here I just need to decide what my definition of "local" is, it gets a lot easier if I include Sweden, and not just my area. As I say every year, I always have parts for my folk costume that I can make, and this would fit that challenge.

May: Basic: Make a garment that can be used for many occasions (like a shift, or the classic ‘Regency white dress’), or a simple accessory that will help you stretch the use of an already existing garment.

No idea yet

June: It’s Only Natural: Make something inspired by nature, or use natural fibres and materials in a way that stretches your usual practice (e.g. natural dyeing, using cane instead of plastic whalebone for corsets/stays etc.). Or challenge yourself and do both!

No idea yet - but first weekend of June is the Leksand Medieval fair, and if I'm doing something new for that I could try and fit the challenge.

July: No-Buy: Make something without buying anything. Whether it’s finishing off a UFO, using up scraps of fabric from earlier challenges in the year, sewing entirely from stash, or finding the perfect project for those small balls of yarn, this is your opportunity to get creative without acquiring more stuff.

No idea yetAugust: Celebration: Make something for a specific historical celebration, make something generally celebration worthy, make something that celebrates a historical hero, or just make something that celebrates some new skills you’ve learned.

My 1520s court gown will fit this on so many levels.
September: Sewing Secrets: Hide something in your sewing, whether it is an almost invisible mend, a make-do or unexpected material, a secret pocket, a false fastening or front, or a concealed message (such as a political or moral allegiance).

No idea

October: Get Crafty: Make use of your own skills or learn a new one to make something from scratch rather than buy material. The possibilities for learning and applying new skills and techniques are endless. Lace, pleated self-fabric trim, knotted fly trim, embroidery, dyeing, knitting your own corset laces, hand painting your own fabric...

No idea - but I could always use more lucet cord

November: Go Green Glow-Up: Be environmentally friendly and celebrate how your making skills have ‘glowed-up’ as you’ve used and practiced them by taking apart an early make of yours that no-longer represents your making skills, and re-making it so you’d be proud to use it. It can be as elaborate as a total re-make, or as simple as getting the ribbons or buttons you didn’t have time to source at first. You could even take something from a challenge made earlier in the year, and fix the tiny things you weren’t totally happy with.

I have two options here already. My pink 18th century skirts, or rather the pieces of it since I scrapped it earlier this year, or remake the embroider on my highnecked 16th century shift.

December: Community: It is the season of giving. Create an item that honours or supports the communities around you, whether Real Life or online

No idea yet

As you can see I don't have many firm plans for the challenges, but will probably come up with ideas later on. Last year I didn't finish many challenges, and I think it would be really fun if I could finish all 12 again.

Saturday, 11 January 2020

Pattern darning my new shift, don't look too close

So it was time to do the smocking, and this time I wanted to try something new. I wanted to try pattern darning, instead of the honeycomb smocking that I have done on the aprons. Pattern darning is related to darning, meaning that you weave the thread over and through the pleats created by the gathering, you don't see the sewing thread on the backside. has a great tutorial about smocking that also has illustrations on how to do pattern darning.

The main inspiration for using pattern darning is the shift of Maria von Habsburg, which has really impressive pattern darning in silver thread.

I didn't want to go for the exact embroidery of the shift, to be honest it's quite well known and would be easily recognizable for most 16th century costumers.

Thankfully though there are a lot of pattern books from the 16th century available online through Bildindex der Kunst und Architektur. I found the  Ein new Modelbuch auff außnehen vnd borten wircken ... Anno Domini 1526 and F(urm oder modelbüchlein. Augsburg zwischen 1527 und 1529), I especially liked this page with patterns

I set out to try the middle pattern, with the hears-like patterns. I used four threads of linen thread, since I wanted the thread to be about the same size as a pleat, to make it the pattern be built up from squares. It was a disasters, after one set there was no chance that it would look like the pattern. I ripped it up. I also realised that I needed a pattern that was more even between black and white. So I tried out the top pattern, but the result was the same. I ripped it up. Then I went for the pattern under the heart pattern, it was more even, and there would be no stitches that were very long over the pleats. It started out well, but it was too hard to count, since the pleats weren't as even as I thought. I ripped it up.

This was when I tried to free-hand a pattern, thinking that I could make up a simple chevron shape by myself. I couldn't so I ripped it up and went back to looking at simpler patterns. By now I had started to realise that patterns built up around small bars were probably the easiest patterns.

I decided to go for the bottom pattern. On the fifth try with pattern darning I decided to go through with it, no matter how disappointed I was with the result. Pattern darning turned out to be a lot more difficult than I thought. The pleats are not totally even, and they shift while you are working. It's also important to remember that for a round neck you need to keep the stitches tighter at the top, and then relax them as you work further down. This also adds to the uneven stitches.

This was the final result. I'm quite happy with it from a distance. While working on it I had to put it away and look at it from time to time, because I was not happy with the result when I looked at it closer. To me it just looks like a mess of uneven stitches. Also single stitches, meaning going over just one pleat, definitly had a tendency to disappear totally. 

The pattern darning stitch is a fairly loose stitch, it doesn't lock the pleats together, so on top and under the pattern darning I have made a row of stem stitches, that hold everything together. 

Even if I'm not happy, but content, with the final result I think it has been a very important project. I realised both that I should not do pattern darning on my planned fancy shift, but more importanty while working on the shift and looking around for more inspiration when I ripped up the embroidery and started over I realised that this is not at all the kind of shift that  want to have. I want to make a shift that has a lot less fabrid, so it isn't too bulky, and most painting seems to have the embroidery on a separate ribbon and not on the main shift fabric. I definitely think that for my fancy shift the easiest thing would be to find a particular painting that I want to copy so that I will know what the result should be.

I also took the time to digitize the embroidery patterns, which was a great way of learning the pattern and thinking about it. I simply used a spreadsheet to mark out the stitches. I have marked out one single repitition of the pattern. I have the pattern in PDF as well.

Tuesday, 7 January 2020

A new 16th century smocked shift

For my 1520s court gown I want to have a really luxurious shift with goldwork, but before I want to do that I need to test out methods and smocking patterns. I decided to make a shift that would be more likely for the lower classes. Since I'm using an upper class pattern, that takes up a lot of fabric and the smocking will take a really long time I doubt that a shift like this would actually have existed. If you were rich enough to use up so much fabric, then you would have had your shift in bleached linen. It's an example of how using the right materials and techniques still can end up being inaccurate. I see this as a learning shift, and I'm still going to use it for a lower class impersonation when it's done, but I am aware that it's probably too fancy.

Anyway...for the pattern of the shift I'm using this pattern from The front and back are basically a full width of fabric, and the sleeves are half a length each. For the pattern I'm using a linen from Handelsgillet. For my fancy shift I will probably use thinner linen, this one will end up quite bulky to wear under a kirtle.

I sewed the pieces together, but only around 15 cm at the top. I want to see how the smocking changes the shape before I decide on where the sleeve gusset will go in and how wide the sleeves will be. I also did a rolled hem all around the neck opening.

It's a lot of fabric for one shift

the top of the shift
 Then it was time to mark out where the gathering threads will go. I'm using a sewing ruler and a frixion pen, where the ink dissappears by ironing the fabric.

I don't mark out every single stitch, the important thing is that I get regular markings so that the gathering stitches will be straight on the horizontal, I will also use the gathering thread as markings for the pattern darning.

Then after almost a week of prepwork, it has taken me 4 days just to do all the gathering, then it's finally time to pleat it all togeher and finally start with the smocking.

Sunday, 5 January 2020

Favorite photos of 2019

This is my final post about summing up what I did in 2019, and these are my favorite photos.

Friday, 3 January 2020

HSM2019 round-up

I didn't finish many HSM challenges this year. I worked too much on non-historical projects and the challenges didn't really fit what I was doing when I did historical things. It's not strange that I picked up the HSM projects at the end of the year, when the main costuming projects were done and it was easier to just come up with small and fairly easy things.

Here are my completed challenges for the Historical Sew Monthly 2019

Challenge 6 - favorite technique
Giant sleeve ruffles - my favorite technique is rolled hems.

Challenge 9 - everyday
The Mustard kirtle - a kirtle that would work fine for everyway wear in the early 16th century

Challenge 10 - details
A smocked apron - an apron with tiny invisible stitches and smocking

Challenge 11 - above belt
Three 16th century rosaries - usually worn as an accessory on the belt

Challenge 12 - on a shoestring
A pair of lucet cords - total cost was less than $3

Wednesday, 1 January 2020

Costuming year in review - goal for 2020

Happy New Costuming Year!

It's time to lay out the plans for the coming year, and this year I have a few specific costumes that I want to finish. I have thought about all these costumes for quite a while, but now it's really time to make them public. My costuming year follow a certain rythm. During the spring it's planning and slow work, then comes May with the first historical events, in June-July the focus is on NärCon, August-September is usually mixed between historical events and ComicCon, before the costuming season ends with AvestaCon in late October. Then in November/December the planning starts for the coming year, and it all kicks of in January again.

Goal 1 - Swedish 1520's court gown
My main goal for 2020 is to make that 1520's court gown I have been talking about for a long time. I have started with the mustard kirtle that I will use as an underkirtle, and I am working on a new shift with blackwork in order to try out techniques before I make a really fancy shift with goldwork.

The gold gown to the right is fairly close to what I'm aiming for. For the courtgown I will need to make

  • a new shift - fine linen with goldwork
  • a new wulsthaube
  • a silk cap/hood with goldwork to go over the new wulsthaube
  • silk velvet gown
  • probably new shoes and jewellery

The 1520's court project is so big that I am trying to force myself to not do too many other projects but I have three in mind.

Goal 2 - Princess Daisy from Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games
This is the new costume with the goal of having a comfortable costume for NärCon. The plan is to construc the costume from sportswear fabric, to make it cool and comfortable. The challenges will be to order fabric, stretchy and wicking fabric in oranage is apparently only found in the US, learn to make resin jewellery and make all kinds of sport equipments. Daisy has a lot of different rackets, clubs and bats in her arsenal and I want to have at least one to carry around.

Goal 3 - Enfys Nest
I made Enfys Nest into a wearable state for Celebration, but now I want to go back and redo all the things that were rushed, the things that broke at Celebration and of course make the helmet. The goal is to have her finished before ComiCon Stockholm.

Goal 4 - a generic jedi librarian

I am not going to make Jocasta Nu from Attack of the Clones, but use her costume as inspiration for a generic jedi. I'm simply a bit bored with my x-wing uniform and want something else that's generic and comfortable, but still obviously Star Wars. With my set of skills the jedi librarian is a good costume, since it doesn't involve any leather work, she's not even wearing a belt, so it's basically just a sewn costume. I will need to buy a lightsabre though, and that will be the main investment for the costume.

So those are my goals, I have a lot of other small things that I want to do, for example I will need to make winter wear for my 16th century wardrobe, but these are my main goals for the year.