Musings of a Lady

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Vintage pictures

Many of my favorite bloggers and Facebook friends post vintage pictures of family members.  It is always fun and interesting to see fashions and styles of individuals we know.  Here are some of my family photos from the 20's.  Not all to be sure but the ones that have been scanned and were post-able at this time.  Enjoy!

Maternal Grandmother and my Uncle

Grandmother with two girl friends and my Uncle

Maternal Grandparents and Uncle

Grandmother and Uncle

Paternal Grandfather

Paternal grandfather and friends

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Le Modiste: New corset finished!

I started an 18th century corset last fall and know, there was no immediate need for it.  So, procrastination, procrastination...and then badda bing I needed it!  So, I put it together and finished the week before Pirate Fest in Vallejo, California.  There I was to join a group of like-minded folk to improv as early settlers in Nasau as a part of the government's (British government) to bring piracy under their profiteering control.  :) 

I used the JP Ryan corset pattern . that I bought at Costume College 2009

Laying out the pattern last fall.

I used white coutil, fashion fabric and interlined all the pieces with a stiff organza.  I didn't want a heavy corset and this particular style is lightly boned.  Additionally, I am not a large person but busty and without hips so I need support and a little shaping.
Putting it together - fashion fabric seen.  The back has not been added yet.
The fashion fabric is a twill canvas in aqua-teal with a discharged overall Jacobean pattern which is looks creamy beige.  Once the corset was sewn up (I had cut it out last fall and done all the marking) I got the boning fitted in and put eyelets (00 grommets) down the center back and tried it on.  Dang it! It was a bit large at the top because once laced the two center back  met pretty easily at the top.  :(   The problem that came up is that this particular corset pattern has the boning right up against the seams so if I took it in by the seams it would completely disrupt the stay channels.  Given the time factor - I needed it in a week - I decided to take in darts.  I took up 4  darts (one each at the side fronts and center back).  It worked and the darts didn't dig in at all.  Phew!

Next came the binding...okay machine or hand sew?  I learned last time that though it is a tedious process and takes for blinking ever, hand sewing is the only way to go and using anything heavier than dress or shirt weight silk is a nightmare.  So, I use a scarf weight silk, cut in bias stripes for my bindings.  In hindsight this was a bit thin but it was very easy to manipulate.

Getting the bias strips around the outside edges - lots-o-pins!

Getting around the inside corners I used a separate needle and thread to gather the strips to fit then pinned.
A section finished...hours later!
Almost done...
Done...This isn't fitting well in the mannequin but looks great on me.  Sorry no pics of that.

Back.  I lace with a loop at waist area to get myself in the corset.
What I like about the corset is the lightly boned frame.  Again, I am not a BBW but I am busty and I really need the support in that area but a little shaping as I have no hips per se. Another feature I like is the straps tying in the back.  The previous corset I had tied in front and I was constantly battling the peeping ties and straps when fully dressed.  Once a friend adjusted the back ties on this new corset I never had a problem with the peeping straps.  I did wear this out at Priate Fest, it was a warm day and I did all right in it.  I had the shape, the structure and support and not the heavy, caged feeling in a full blown set of stays.

Again, I didn't follow the sewing/construction instructions to the letter so there may have some things I should have done to make this perfect but as it is, it works for me.

My next set of stays will be Tudor/Elizabethan.  I haven't made one in years but plan to do something like: 

Thank you Gwendolyn-Eugenie Costumes for this image.

Thank you  - go to above link for original image and explanation.
I want it to lace up the front, as I have to dress myself.  I will probably use the Reconstructing History pattern and possibly 
then cut it to lace up the front.  This is the drawing board to get cracking on it. 

Monday, June 13, 2011

Le Cuisine - Shorties

Shortbread cookies in the shape of buttons!  I was reading one of my favorite magazines  Country Living - UK version (May 2011) and they had an article on baking called Best of British Biscuits and Buns (pg 150).    The recipe for shortbread buttons got me psyched for a bit of baking and the results are above.  I used a scalloped cookie cutter (biscuit cutter) for the bottom pair.  I like the results.  Did they taste good?  Anything with lots of butter tastes fabulous.  Shortbreads are so easy to make - although I had to translate British measures (metric) to American standards of measure and I had too much flour and had to add more butter to save the effort!

As I was sampling my little treats - not really wondering about the calories - I wondered how long Shortbread biscuits have been around.  So, with teacup filled and a few shorties by my side I rummaged through my references (a bookcase full of cookbooks).  This what I found:

According to Wikipedia (the one electronic source I used):
Shortbread cookies is a "... classic Scottish dessert that consists of three basic ingredients: flour, sugar, and butter."  Originally it was a sweet, dry biscuit with yeast that would have been called a rusk and was twice baked.  When butter replaced the yeast it became more of the biscuits (cookies) we know now.  Although, prepared much in the 12th century it is said that Queen Mary of Scotland's kitchens refined it - baking it in a round and cut into triangular wedges and flavored with caraway seeds.  They were called petticoat tails.  Additonally, shortbreads became special holiday sweets for Christmas and the Scots Hogmanay.

Now in my historical cookbooks I was only able to find a few historical references.   In Fabulous Feasts by Madelene Pelner Cosman,  a recipe for  burrebrede - The old English translated into shortbread.  As short is a derivative of shortening - the fat content of the biscuits or cake.  Looking at the recipe and comparing it to the one in the Country Living magazine it was the same portportion of  butter to flour and sugar but with the additions of  cinnamon, cardamon, ginger and allspice.  The Country Living magazine suggested additions of lavendar sugar, grated lemon peel  or a pinch of cinnamon.

The next reference I could find was in my Willaimsburg Art of Cookery developed by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.  On page 166 there is a Scotch Shortbread recipe.  This one has blanched almonds ground up in it and is ornamented with a strip of orange peel.  The recipe is cited as being an 'Old Richmond Recipe.  Prov'd Market Square Tavern Kitchen, 1937.  Isabel Beeton's Book of Household Management does include the Scotch Shortbread.  So, her Victorian recipe calls for the additions of 1 oz of sweet almonds, 1/2 oz of caraway seeds and a few strips of  candied orange peel.  She even provides time for production:  25-30 mins (not sure if that includes the 25-30 min baking time as well.  The average cost for a batch 2 shillings for 6 cakes (she has you create 6 cakes or rounds).

My last found references are in the 1950's version of The Joy of Cooking edited by Marion Rombauer Becker - daughter of Irma Starkloff Rombauer.  It is the only version I prefer. The latest ones don't have how to make jams and other useful things! And the The Book of National Trust Recipes by Sarah Edington.  Neither give a historical point of view but the recipes continue to be widely used.

Anyway, I have always liked shortbread cookies when I wanted something to satisfy a sweet tooth craving but not break the bank on sugar...I guess this doesn't work for the fat content...oh, well, life is too short, right?    In fact the recipe is basically one part sugar, 2 parts butter and 3 parts flour.  Adding ground rice or cornflour gives it texture.  I have never tried that.

Well, I love learning something new.  If you have anything to add about shortbread cookies please share.  I await your comments with my cup of tea and a couple of shorties.  Cheers.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Summer is nearly here?

Dearest readers you have probably been wondering where the heck I have been.  If so, many apologies for being off radar for so long.  I haven't posted since April!  Oh my, oh my!  Its been a rough 2 months.  I wasn't sure if I would have a job in the near future so my focus was getting something set up.  Being in education is pretty volatile at the moment and as a 23 year veteran finding a job as a teacher is difficult.  Budgets can't afford experienced educators.  With that said, I did get hired....PHEW!...and I am very much relieved.  Therefore, with that part of my life settled I can finally return my focus to my passions: art, sewing, crafting and cooking. 

When I have had a chance to free up my 'job' worried brain, I thought about how to organize my posts in the coming months. Someone most graciously awarded me the Most Versitile Blogger award so I want to maintain that honor by posting regular articles around historical cooking, sewing and other domestic arts.  Would that be of interest to any of you? So you may see post headings like:  Le Cuisine or others to give you a clue as to what I am up to at the moment.  I am still thinking it through, but will keep you posted.

Of course I have clothing projects still in the works - remember that corded petticoat?  Or those 18th century stays?  Oh, and how about...well you get the idea...lots of UFO's  (unfinished objects) and yet, new ideas on the drawing board.  Also, I have been trying out period recipes that I want to share as well as try out old-fashion but non-toxic ways of housecleaning.  Okay, I am a little weird that way - I am fascinated how are sisters of our past got through the day without Mrs. Meyers cleaning products.

Again, thank you everyone for your patience.  I will get back in the swing of posting next week.  I have a two week vacation, back to work to finish out my current contract and then a real month off!  Cheers.