Tuesday, August 23, 2016

You're Welcome

I checked my mail after about 5 days of letting it stew. Usually it's junk mail, sometimes coupons. Today when I rifled through and separated the wheat from the chaff I was pleasantly surprised. There's something special about receiving surprises in the mail.

I read it and I smiled. And thought about the next class I was going to teach.

The SCA is built on the backs of volunteers. Some people volunteer by running events, some people volunteer by teaching, some people just help in any way they can. I used to think the SCA was a place where I showed up and fun happened, now I understand it's a place where I show up and *make* fun happen. People shouldn't  expect others to make the fun happen for them all the time, the best and most inspired fun happens willingly. At least that's my take on it. Sometimes thanks comes in the form of a verbal "Thank you so much for your time" and sometimes it comes in the form of a token someone cast for you. In this case it was a handwritten card.

Whatever the form, a personal thank you really hits home.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

"Seems safe"

My husband, who eats fermented meats, was a little wary of the cultured cream I had going on the counter. "Seems safe!" he said nervously. "Of course it's safe! I asked two food goddesses how to do this!" I suspect, though, that if I had asked my mom who has a master food preserver certification, she would have words with me. Do you know what's not fun? Eating at a restaurant where you can see the kitchen with my mom. "That's not sanitary!" I still think she got my fav sushi restaurant in Reno shut down a long time ago, but whatever.

Watching Tudor Monastery Farm, I learned a lot about dairy safety and how to clean my equipment.

  • hot water in the churn to break up the fat
  • scouring, maybe with salt
  • let dry in the sunshine
I learned a bit about butter too. The culturing would have just happened because nature, so I think it's a process we modernly have to jump start. You can Google how to make it, but the recipes I found said to use packets of starter. I did not want to buy this, so I asked people! Yes, people! Pie goddess Eulalia of Medieval York: Eulalia Hath a Blogge posted a little bit about the process on facebook and I asked about it, and I also asked dairy goddess Juana per Gianetta's suggestion because I wanted my bases covered. Juana suggested getting the good stuff, Straus in this case, and said she used 1-2 tbsp of active culture buttermilk per pint of cream and let it sit out until it got all creme fraiche like. I went to Sprouts and found two brands of buttermilk, so I had to message Eulalia and say "Is this active culture?" to which the answer was basically "yes. I've never found one that isn't." But it's not going to say that on the side of the carton. 

I need to clean and reseal this grout, but I live in a rental. My motivation to do that is low.
All mixed in! What's not entirely evident from this picture is that the two ingredients could clearly be seen and distinguished.
So I stirred it up!

I then covered it with saran wrap. I filled my churn up one more time with water and went to bed.

When I ran downstairs the next morning to check on my little dairy production, I noticed a difference in the appearance of the mixture. It was just as bubbly but had a decent thickness to the top it didn't have last night. It was definitely cold downstairs last night because the windows were open in an effort to cool down the house so I'm hoping the heat of the day will speed this up so I can churn this stuff this afternoon! It doesn't usually top 70 in the kitchen which I believe is what I want to aim for temp wise.

My churn was looking good. About 2/3 of the water had slowly leaked out overnight but the leaking has definitely slowed. I filled it up with water again.

I then went out to get my hair done because you have to look good while churning butter. I came home and this is what greeted me.

Definitely like creme fraiche

So I dumped the rest of the water out of the churn and got churning!

Even though my churn still leaks water slowly, it does not leak cream. I think viscosity might play a role but I'm not a scientist. Either way it works.

Just dumped in the churn

after 10 minutes. I can't believe it didn't take longer.  
I did read that it is possible to over churn butter, so I only went for another 10 minutes.
Soon this will be clogging my arteries
I pulled the butter out using the dasher and put it in a Pyrex bowl for a rinse.
This is a lot of butter.

You really want to rinse the crud out of your butter otherwise it goes rancid. Use cold water, and manipulate the butter with a spatula or your hands to make sure you're getting out as much as possible.
You can see how cloudy the water is.
rinse #3
At this point you can salt your butter so it will keep longer, according to the internets. I used a bit of salt because I'm giving a lot of this away. I do not eat butter very often, to be honest. I just wanted to know what I was in for if I ran this as a kid's activity.

salt, coarse.

I mixed the salt in and I put the butter in it's final home, a 3 cup Pyrex dish.
About 2.5 cups of butter, I think.

Eulalia told me it can also be frozen. 

All in all, I think I could have used 4 pints total in my churn (1.8 liters, roughly) and been fine. I didn't have any cream explosions or other mishaps. If I were doing this with kids, I would not culture the cream (Eulalia said cultured cream churns faster, which I didn't know because it's my first time) but I would let it come up to room temp, which according to the internet also makes for a faster churn than fridge cold cream. Basically the cost for this experiment was $16.50, $4 of which I will get back when I return the Straus bottles for the deposit. If I could have found a smaller container of buttermilk, it would have cost less.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

As the world churns

I'm soaking my churn now. It is taking FOREVER, and I'd like my kitchen sink back. But I also don't want to put on actual clothes and run out and get a 5 gallon bucket so kitchen sink it is.

The more I study 16th century Antwerpen market scenes, the more I realize that iron hoops on barrels just don't seem to be a thing. I'm sure if I kept looking I'd see one or two here and there but my attention span is pretty much shot at the moment because I'm thinking about 582 projects.

The parrot pillow is plugging along. Got 3 leaves tacked down the middle yesterday. I'm just not feeling the motivation right now.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Snuffers and churns and brothel tallys

I didn't bring my laptop so I tried doing this post on my phone and that was terrible so here I am on a Danish laptop! You haven't lived until you've typed on a foreign keyboard.

Anyway I think I swore that I was going to go on vacation and NOT think about projects or SCA nonsense and for the most part I was successful until Sophie took me to Den Fynske Landsby in Odense, which is a 17th century living history museum that is SO COOL. The volunteers there were actually doing things versus just acting, so I saw beekeeping and weaving and repairing straw slippers and it was so great. Look at these natural dyes! I want to print this and frame it and hang it as art. So beautiful.

The gift shop was EVEN BETTER. Let me tell you why, friends. They had butter churns. Small, affordable, handmade looking butter churns. I mulled it over and before we left Odense I made Sophie take me back so I could purchase a churn. I purchased the large churn. Then Eulalia up in An Tir asked me if I could get the other smaller churn for her. I agreed.

After purchasing churn #1 I went to Hytteballe Antik in Odense. That is when my suitcase became perilously full.

Back in 2015 when I did the brothel party at A&S tournament with Vyncent I pored over a ton of brothel paintings. One common thing is drinks being tallied, either over the mantel or on the walls like this Beuckelaer painting or on boards like this Pourbus painting (check out the gal on the right). So here I am at Hytteballe Antik when I see this thing on the ground. I excitedly pick it up and ask Poul, the owner, what the hell it is! His daughter consulted a book about household objects and they couldn't find it, but I did not even care because I knew what I wanted to do with it.

What you can't see is the join work. HEEEHEE. Brothel Party 2017. I think if I use my cutting board mineral oil and the beeswax conditioner this should clean up really nicely.

I had to make sure this stuff would fit. I have since added a cushioning layer of Haribo and Ritter and other German goodies. Good thing I ended up bringing a big suitcase and my Rick Steve's backback carryon which expands to a size reasonable enough to hold my clothes and shoes and toiletries. As you can see I still have plenty of room anyway! The best treasure is going in my carry on bag.

While I was translating Maria's inventory I came across
-4 coperen snuyters (4 copper snuffers)

Thankfully in an article accompanying the inventory, one of these is pictured. I don't have the book with me so I hope I bought one that is close to a 16th century design.

This I also found at Hytteballe Antik! In Danish a snuffer is called a lyseslukker 

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Parrot Pillow update!

It has been 7 days since the last update. Here's what I've been up to, besides binge watching Netflix and playing Dota2 and languishing in the heat wave.

  • I stitched the inner "frame" of the applique down. 
  • I found a local  needlework supply store that has the 3 ply yarn I need, but ultimately I need to stitch everything down before I go in and figure out what colors I'd like to use for the couching. 
  • I decided that I wasn't going to bring this project with me on my trip, so if I don't finish it before Friday I'm not going to cry any tears of sadness. Being 3 weeks behind on a project is not the end of the world. 
Previously I mentioned I disregard the advice given to me by the experts. I thought I could go why in a little more detail. 

The first person I asked suggested a slate frame. Those are expensive, and I wasn't sure if given my motivation for this project that I'd ever do needlework again. 

I asked someone else, who suggested that I did not need a slate frame because applique does not require the intense tightness that something like gold work does. 

Another friend suggested I use a scroll frame, but I need to see the whole of the project at once, or at least be able to quickly see it all at once in terms of applique placement which I'm more or less eyeballing. 

Another friend suggested I use stretcher bars. 

I bought a q-snap frame because I did not want to spend a ton of money. Well friends, spending money on the wrong thing is a terrible idea. The wool has too much stretch for a frame like that. 

I again consulted the friend who suggested the stretcher bars. I was like "eh, I can spend $30 bucks on this!" When I went to a highly recommended needlework store and told the owner my project intentions, she was super rude and disregarded everything I said about making a reconstruction of a cushion find from the 16th century but I bought the stretcher bars anyway. 

When I got home and tried the stretcher bars, I realized they were not the way for me to go for a few reasons. I like sitting at my desk to sew. As a result I'm able to keep the fabric relatively flat to begin with. After some ridiculous anxiety over methods used, I just went with it. Most of the existing tension issues will likely be irrelevant once I stuff it with the feathers. 

In the below image I've laid out the appliques to give you an idea of placement. The brown leaves will likely be couched with gold, and they'll have "veins" as well. The blue rosettes are going to be couched with the green wool I laid over the rosette, and they'll be divided up into 4 petal sections. I'm not sure what color I'll couch the pale green rosettes with. Once everything is tacked down, I'll also assemble my parrot applique. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2016


Gianetta told me that I hadn't posted in awhile, and I guess she has a valid point but it hasn't even been a month. I'm busy sewing! And doing laundry. And binge watching Grace and Frankie and OITNB. And other shows. Very important summer things. Gianetta also told me to promote all my posts on Facebook. So if you're here from Facebook, welcome. Enjoy.

I tried draping my hose, which I can't do myself. But I tried. I failed. 'eey. So I had a friend drape them.

The cushion is chugging along. I had 4 different people tell me to do 4 different things with the applique. Slate frame, scroll frame, stretcher bars, stretcher bars with backing because the wool has stretch. I ended up not putting it in a frame for a number of reasons. The wool is springy and it was more hassle than I found it to be worth. It looks pretty good so far. I got distracted about 2 weeks ago and haven't picked it back up so my goal of finishing before July is looking bleak.

It's puckering a bit but once it is stuffed I imagine things will improve greatly.

I was contemplating cutting out small things and bringing them with me on the plane and on the train from Bonn to Berlin, then again on the train from Berlin to Copenhagen. I'd rather just enjoy the scenery and the in flight movies. I thought about cutting the hose out but I'm just not in the project headspace right now. It's been hot and unpleasant and I don't want fabric near me.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Polly wants a pillow.

At first I thought I could not possibly make a joke about pillows/cushions, but I realized I could. And I won't. Progress? Possibly.

Maria's inventory lists a few cushions.

  • -3 vrouwen matte stoulen mit een mans groene stoul ende 3 roode zitcussenen (3 women’s reed chairs with a green man’s chair and 3 red seat cushions)
  • 2 roode zitcussens mit papegaeyen (2 red pillows with parrots)
  • - 3 cleyne blaeuwe zitcussens (3 small blue cushions);
  • - 2 bancwercsche cussens mit 2 groote blauwe cussens (2 bench cushions with 2 large blue cushions)
  • - 3 oude bancwercsche zitcussens (3 old bench cushions)

At first I was just going to make red seat cushions but how could I say no to parrots? Easily. I hate parrots. My friends parrot bit me on my finger unprovoked when I was in college. It hurt. But maybe this will help the healing begin?

Once again, I turned to the English summary of cushions Textiel in Context by Hanna Zimmerman. I learned:
  • a nearly whole cushion was found and it was decorated with appliques
  • cushion was likely 50cm x 50cm or a bit smaller than 20x20. 
  • appliques on outer area had been outlined with linen thread
  • appliques are both 2/2 twills and 2/1 twills as well as tabby woven
  • back of the cushion was a tapestry weave but it's gone because the linen warp had decayed
  • feathers were not present in an incomplete pillow, but were present in 2 other finds. 
I requested Zimmerman's article, Sixteenth Century Appliques from NESAT IX and got some more detail than what was listed in the English summary in the book. 
  • The center lacks the regular pattern present on the border
  • the center appliques were crudely cut out and the stitching lacks the refinement of the border. My stitching can be as coarse as my language!
  • One of the center strips is selvedge
  • the border motifs have couched woolen yarn used as diagonals in the rosettes and along the length of the leaves
  • motifs possibly outlined with couch linen yarn
  • the center and the border featured embroidered little stars mixed in among the appliques
Maria's inventory leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to materials listed. Red, but what material? Going off of what I have learned so far about textile production in the Low Countries in the 16th century and Maria's socio-economic status, I am going to use a madder red wool broadcloth for the front of the pillow. This is backed up by the color and fiber analysis of the find in Groningen, though dye contamination from the materials being in contact with each other under ground is also a possibility.

  • background (i.e. cushion) contained red dyes of madder (red)
  • long strips in the border also red
  • one of the central strips contained mainly weld (yellow), 
  • the other central contained red and yellow and indigotin (from woad), and was probably brown or russet
  • the twill rosettes contained madder and weld and were probably orange
  • the other rosette was madder, weld, and woad (russet)
  • only two of the leaf shapes were analyzed and one was a yellowish orange, the other russet.
Because madder was found in all fragments, it's possible the madder from the cushion contaminated the other pieces. If this is the case the colors of the appliques would have been different.

The largely intact extant find from Groningen has an outer border and an inner frame of 2cm wide wool strips and I have remnants of a gold twill that would look amazing on the red, or I will use a teal wool twill tape that is 3/4" wide. I will applique a parrot in the middle of the cushion in the inner frame and I will use blue, teal, and green wool remnants. I will attach the appliques to the cushion using a linen thread. Between the inner and the outer frame I will applique leaves and rosettes like the extant find. I will use green for the leaves. For the rosettes I'd like to use a cream or white wool. I'll couch them down using wool thread. 

 Enjoy this crude drawing of my plans - I'm a pretty terrible artist. 

With the help of the Elizabethan Costuming group on Facebook I was bombarded with extant images of 16th century embroidered parrots. I was still holding out for an applique parrot and I hit the jackpot while perusing the V&A online and found an applique parrot who is hiding in the left corner of this bench cushion cover.

Item T.80-1946 from the V&A.