Friday, 8 December 2017

A Good Cloth is Always Neat

One of the basic rules for me: keep your headcloth (wimple, scarf, veil, coiffe etc) as neat as you can. I am usually a big fan of big and untidy tidy, as often seen on the early Flemish masters, or I like my wool headcover for really cold days. The cloth is handwoven, with the frilled edge created during the weaving by additional weft threads.

For the Christmas-Celebration last year neither of my go-to styles would do, as it was organised by a Basel groupe, so my style needed to fit in more with theirs.

I nicked some of their pictures what show my attempt to blend in, I think it's not too bad

Photo: Not too bad for a style long not worn by me...

I used big fake braides made from unspun flax, made a new quick silk fringe (met his end by my cat the night after, I woke up to the whole thing kaput and all over the living-room floor), and wrapped my headcloth in a way what would be both warm and appropriate for the styles worn in Basel &  Alsace.

The new silk fringe
Photo: A. Reeves
Lighting the candles for mass.
Photo: Compagnie Basilisk

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Made of Almonds and Spice and Everything nice...

While taking the Online class by FutureLearn  by the University of Reading and Royal Historic Palaces (I can only recommend signing up for it too. It’s great fun, not too much to digest and yields some nice recipes and cook-alongs at ) there was the mentioning of Marchepan for Christmas and as banquet course for a Medieval & Tudor feast.

Last year I was invited to join the Christmas celebrations of the local Basel group, and I thought I’d prepare something small to take along what follows the feast-theme and would be something I could enjoy as well. Impressions of the Christmas-Celebration can be seen here

A baker at work, from a 15th century Franciscain Missel
© Bibliothèque municipale de Lyon (Ms 514, f. 6v)

So Marchepa(i)n* it was. Below the modern variation I worked with.

2 part of white powdered almonds**
1 part of powdered cane sugar**
As much orange flower water or rose water as necessary to form a dough.

It would translate to 200grs almonds, 100 gr sugar, 1-2 Tablespoons of flower water.

Mix almonds and sugar, add the flower water gently, little by little, until you achieve a mass what looks a bit like store bought marzipan.
Do not overmix, else the almonds start loosing their natural oil, and everything separates.
Form your Marchepains (I just cut them into shape, and was happy with it) and bake them in a moderate oven (150°C) for 20-30 minutes, until they start to turn slightly golden.

To decorate: Either use some egg-white and gold foil (if you want to be really fancy), or just some flower water with powdered sugar and some crushed dried flowers, or some food colouring (e.g. beetroot-juice for a nice pink)
I left mine with just a bit of icing sugar and flower water.

My fance not so fancy cut shapes.
I used parchement paper to separate the layers, as I made about 30 pieces.

The old fashioned way would be: Blanch almonds, peel them (great fun…), then grind them in a mortar, then add the sugar.
Careful again not to overwork them, else they separate.. like curdle and whey.

They are light and fluffy when freshly out of the oven, and a tad chewy the next day. I guess one could bake them a bit longer, to have more of a chewy cookie. I was a bit worried that the orange-flower scent would be too soapy for modern palates, but it evened out well with the almonds and the sugar.

*(spelling is optional… if you want to google it, skip the “i” and you’ll get English language results)
** I used organic ingredients for two reasons: powdered cane sugar isn’t a supermarket staple here, and beet sugar wasn’t used in the time period. So I had to pop by our local organic store for the sugar, and as they also had the powdered almonds, I figured I’d save myself a lot of work and use the already powdered blanched almonds. Generally I prefer to cook with organic local ingredients, as I think farmers deserve a decent income and I don’t like the thought of my veggies being transported over hundreds or thousands of kilometres.

Further reading:

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

What news Madam?

Almost 6 years since the last entry.

One might think I gave up the middle-ages entirely...
I don't do many events, and even less blog about it. Yet I was active, just more backstage as headcounter and organiser of a rather well known reenactment group than on the virtual plane.
On the sewing front - there were new items made, some eaten (by the bane of all reenactors - moths!), new friends made, some others lost to the summerland.

In the last couple of months medieval activity started to intensify again, and I found that I would like to have an archive to look back on things, like I have for the period around 1800.

I didn't sew any new things this year, or rather, I didn't finish them (apart from new stockings and a pair of new sleeves) A new kirtle* is still in the making, the sleevils are waiting now for months to be done.
I organised two events though, Köniz & Lenzburg, and I think the participants were more or less happy with my work, and we are already working a couple of months on Nykobing 2018.
I took up the harp 3 years ago, and waited 16 months for my little gothic one (not an exact replica, but the medium range, until I am proficient enough to upgrade), what requires me to take time to practice.
And last, but not least - I've got married in 2012 (and yes, Monsieur did come along to a travel to 1461 this year)

What I've found over the past few years -  and it rings as true today as it did in the past - that Slow-Reenactment actually works out for me.

Slow-Reenactment translates into "Don't buy / make quickly, but wait until you can afford to buy or to make the best quality of the item you need."
Believe me, it takes a lot of stress out of the hobby, and gives me the liberty to concentrate on other things, like the background work within our group.

My dresses are still decent, even if a couple of years old (admittedly, the indigo starts to fade or rub off at some bits), and a couple of stains won't wash out, yet a pair of new pin-on sleeves made the whole dress good for another year and satisfy my female vanity.
If I am invited to any event (apart from our own events I rarely participate, I neither have the health nor the time for field camps anymore), I have all I need, and even more important - it's a small enough baggage bundle that I am actually able to transport it myself on public transportation!

a quite moment in Köniz.
Photo by SD Reeves

So, what is brewing?
- I'd like to go to Dijon this winter, to see if I can't find some more input for a work about fashion we're editing.
- I'd like to finally finish the sleevils of that kirtle*
- To find time for my tablet woven belt. I know, a weekend would do, and I have my hopes set on the Christmas break.
- Practice writing. I need a better hand to note down music, my current scribbles are a disgrace.
- Add some bits and bobs to this blog as I go along.

*I use kirtle as the most easy to understand description of what I am working on. Depending on where you are, it can also be called: a dress, a gonne, ein Kleid, ein Hauskleid, une robe etc.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Dipping the Toes into the 14th century

I admit it, I went astray the last year, as I had no 15th century event on the horizon. Or rather - there were many nice events, but I couldn't attend a single one of them. Not Nykobing, nor Liebegg.

Though I had developped a rather soft spot for the 14th century these past 18 months, to my great dispair - I love it. I adore the lines of the buildings, the style of ornamentation, the weaving, the shoes, the veils and last but not least, the line of the dresses.

I grew rather tired of the ongoing competition among Swiss 15th century re-enactors (not that I enter in any, I am way too lazy for that), that I decided that I'd like to have a simple "medievalish" dress, without any research behind, just for my own pleasure to attend faires and such. If I'd only knew... I discovered that I can't work on anything "medieval" without references, the books just had a magical appeal, and suddenly I found myself working with techniques described in Clothes and Textiles, cross checking with findings from Switzerland and Southern Germany - well - I was playing the old game again ;-)

The first result was a simple dress. The fabric is a diamantina-weave wool, handwoven and dyed a gorgeous golden yellow with onion peel.

After having seen the diamantina fragments of Mavaglia (Ticino, Switzerland), I felt justified enough to use that wool. And on another note, it kept whispering "I am beautiful. I am soft. You need a dress made from me."

It is a very narrow dress, as I just had 2.10m length on 1.20m width, I had to cut the gores on cross-grain, so they appear to be darker than the rest of the dress.

The buttons (yes. Buttons. Even if the evidence for buttoned dresses in our region is scarce, I needed buttons. Just for the look. I am aware that the buttoned dresses are more common in France and England, while here apparently just buttoned sleeves were the fashion, but at that time I was still working on a "medievalish" dress) have a reinforcing linnen stripe, as have the buttonholes.
The rest of the dress is unlined, though the neckline and the hem are finished with a stripe of handwoven linnen. It was rather challenging, as handwoven fabric reacts differently than machine made, and very very different to the slightly felted wool I am used to work with. It is softer and it's very easy to pull too hard, though it didn't require much shaping, due to it's own elasticity.
The diamantina weave is warm enough for winter, though I was glad of my cloak when we visited Chillon in December 2009, and it is still light enough to wear in summer.

Completed with a chemise/smock, and worn with a three-piece-headdress (small kerchief to fix the braids on the head, a wimple and the halfcircular veil) - voilà - finished was "Maid Marion" or "Braveheart princess" as some visitors named me.

The belt has been made by Nina Rucińska, of , I bought it in 2009 while she attended a Company St George event in Gruyères. The purse is my old 15th century one, I rarely working on my embroidered one, after an initial boost on that one, I grew very lazy again. The shoes are made by me, under Stefan von der Heides supervision, soft goat-leather, following an artefact found in Konstanz. (I like making shoes, but they are a piece of work, I must say)
It was great fun to work outside my familiar timeframe, and I've learned a lot on 15th century costume by straying 100 years earlier. Retrospectively - it isn't a bad dress, but I am lucky it turned out the way it did, I might have as easily spoiled the whole dress. So - it is a dress post, not a re-enactment post ;-)
BTW: The picture on top of this article dates July 2010, as I was working on Lenzburg Castle, giving small lectures on artefact - replica - museumseducation. It was nice and warm, and I had my information stand next to a fountain, where all children loved to splash about. Though I then introduced them to the use of "medieval chantepleure" - the waterdispenser, and let them play with that, what resulted in many giggles, and less water splashing than the fountain ordinarily might have caused.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Silk Fringe

Those who were in Berne (Summer Event of the Company of Saynte George) might remember my silk-fringe of doom - aka the fringe for Montseigneur le Duc 's new standard..

Weaving on a hot summerday... Where are the sleeves?
Photo: A. Schläfli 2008

The fringe came along nicely, but I am displeased with it in several points:
a) I choose to set the tablets SZSZSZS. Doesn't look close enough to the fringes I've seen during the last few months (The one in Berne hung way to high, neither Francis nor I were able to spot a thing about the fringe)

b) as soon as I changed the direction, one bunch of fringes just poked out in a rather peculiar way:

Photo: A. Schläfli 2008

Photo: A. Schläfli 2008

Altough Francis considered it good enough, I am not satisfied. I gave it a try with some chemical dyed silk (no need to waste the expensive Indigo-dyed one), with the honeycombpattern usually resulting from doubleface weave.
It is better - looks closer to the fringe I've seen in the Capella Medicee in Florence, but I wonder, will it held the stress put on if fixed on a flag...