Monday, March 30, 2009

Red Dress

So for coronation, I have decided I want to make the "Red Dress". The pattern is from a commercial pattern I bought, and with the help of Lady Masina, I have moved the seam on the sleeves from the bottom to the back (period) and removed some of the "curviness" of the cut and made it more straight (period).

I'm still not sure what I'm doing to do with the neckline. Probably face it in the same linen as the dress, which will hide anything shown due to "see through", or perhaps face it with some of the black fabric I have left over from Jerot's t-tunic.

Anyway, with Lady Masina's help, I traced out the pattern on to painter's drop plastic, then adjusted it to fit me (size 26 from a size 24 pattern), then adjusted the cut and design of the sleeves to be more period.

Once the pattern was on the plastic, I cut the plastic out, and laid it on the $1 cotton mock-up fabric from WalMart. I sewed that together for fit, and Lady Masina again helped me make the little tweak adjustments (to make the bust tighter and more self supporting) make sure the waist cut is in the right place, and that the gore matched up with the new cut of the dress.

I got the linen (red) and sewed the ends together (to make sure the linen wouldn't fray). I washed the cloth in HOT water, on the rinse cycle, then dried it on HOT timed dry. (It filled up the lint filter.)

I bought an ironing board while I was out grocery shopping this weekend, and I will be ironing the fabric and cutting the pieces out from the pattern over the next two days.

There's a front, a back, two sleeves, and two gores. (A gore is a triangular shaped piece of fabric that is sewn in to add fullness to the skirt.) I will take pictures as I go.

Blackwork Sampler update

So I've reached the end of the left side, and as I suspected, I had to rip the entire bottom edging stitch out, as it was 2 stitches too short. I have started putting the border on that line, and will re-edge both top and bottom of the border when that's done, then take a picture before I start the next step. Don't ask me what it is, I only know I'm going to be doing it in red. I'm thinking of some fill work, but I don't know. Maybe a line of butterflies all the way around, and fill the butterfly pattern in. I'm also thinking of putting my name in the middle, in single line work, but I'll have to find a nice letter pattern. I still have ALOT of linen to fill this thing up. It's acutally pretty crazy what I've tried to start. I always do this. *sigh*

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

My First Blackwork Project - Sampler

This is my first blackwork ever. I'm making a sampler on 28 count Monaco fabric.

I have masking taped the long edged to prevent fray and basted the top of the fabric to my scroll bars.

I am using DMC cotton embroidery floss. I thought that since this was going to be such a large project and since it is also a learning project, I didn't want to spend the money on expensive linen and silk thread. I'm saving that for a coif later.

I started by measuring out a margin. My thought here is to frame it when it's done, which also means I don't have to do everything in Holbein stitch. So far, this is all back stitch work.

Once I got the margin measured out, I put in a border stitch, all the way around. This was a mistake that I didn't realize I made until I completed the top row of the key pattern, and my border stitch was 1 stitch too far to the right. This created a "hole" in my key pattern in that corner. I can't just pull out that border, since the floss has already marked up the fabric, and it would leave that line there, and I don't have room for another key repetition to cover the line without throwing the whole symmetry and margins off.

So I have a hole in the top right corner.

I'm currently going down the sides, and I'm now dreading the ends of the lines. Depending on how far I'm off, I might be able to pull out the bottom margin stitch and put the key pattern on the old line. We'll see when I get there.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

From a CR website on food

Mostly modern practices, but very good little factoids that could be used in documentation.


Wiki article located at: contains additional links.

Adamson, Melitta Weiss Food in Medieval Times. Greenwood Press, Westport, CT. 2004. ISBN 0-313-32147-7
Bynum, Caroline Holy Feast and Holy Fast: The Religious Significance of Food to Medieval Women. University of California Press, Berkeley. 1987. ISBN 0-520-05722-8
Dembinska, Maria Food and Drink in Medieval Poland: Rediscovering a Cuisine of the Past. translated by Magdalena Thomas, revised and adapted by William Woys Weaver. University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia. 1999. ISBN 0-8122-3224-0
The Fontana Economic History of Europe: The Middle Ages. Fontana, London. 1972. ISBN 0-00-632841-5
Food and Eating in Medieval Europe. Martha Carlin and Joel T. Rosenthal (editors). The Hambledon Press, London. 1998. ISBN 1-85285-148-1
Food in Change: Eating Habits from the Middle Ages to the Present Day. Alexander Fenton and Eszter Kisbán (editors). John Donald Publishers, Edinburgh. 1986. ISBN 0-85976-145-3
Food in the Middle Ages: A Book of Essays. Melitta Weiss Adamson (editor). Garland, New York. 1995. ISBN 0-85976-145-2
Henisch, Bridget Ann Fast and Feast: Food in Medieval Society. The Pennsylvania State Press, University Park. 1976. ISBN 0-271-01230-7
Hunt, Edwin S. & Murray, James H. A history of business in Medieval Europe, 1200-1550. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. 1999. ISBN 0-521-49923-2
Medieval Science, Technology, and Medicine: an Encyclopedia. Thomas Glick, Steven J. Livesey, Faith Wallis (editors). Routledge, New York. 2005. ISBN 0-415-96930-1
Regional Cuisines of Medieval Europe: A Book of Essays. edited by Melitta Weiss Adamson (editor). Routledge, New York. 2002. ISBN 0-415-92994-6
Scully, Terence The Art of Cookery in the Middle Ages. The Boydell Press, Woodbridge. 1995. ISBN 0-85115-611-8

Medieval food notes part 3

From same wiki

Fresh milk was overall less common than other dairy products because of the lack of technology to keep it from spoiling. On occasion it was used in upper-class kitchens in stews, but it was difficult to keep fresh in bulk and almond milk was generally used in its stead.[42]

Cheese was far more important as a foodstuff, especially for common people, and it has been suggested that it was, during many periods, the chief supplier of animal protein among the lower classes. [43] Many varieties of cheese eaten today, like Dutch Edam, Northern French Brie and Italian Parmesan, were available and well-known in late medieval times. There were also whey cheeses, like ricotta, made from by-products of the production of harder cheeses. Cheese was used in cooking for pies and soups, the latter being common fare in German-speaking areas. Butter, another important dairy product, was in popular use in the regions of Northern Europe that specialized in cattle production in the latter half of the Middle Ages, the Low Countries and Southern Scandinavia. While most other regions used oil or lard as cooking fats, butter was the dominant cooking medium in these areas.

I'd have to assume that Butter was scarce in the CR area.

In modern times, water is seen as a common choice to drink with a meal. In the Middle Ages, however, concerns over purity, medical recommendations and its low prestige value made it less favored, and alcoholic beverages were always preferred. They were seen as more nutritious and beneficial to digestion than water, with the invaluable bonus of being less prone to putrefaction due to the alcohol content. Wine was consumed on a daily basis in most of France and all over the Western Mediterranean wherever grapes were cultivated. Further north it remained the preferred drink of the bourgeoisie and the nobility who could afford it, and far less common among peasants and workers. The drink of commoners in the northern parts of the continent was primarily beer or ale. Because of the difficulty of preserving this beverage for any time (especially before the introduction of hops), it was mostly consumed fresh; it was therefore cloudier and perhaps had a lower alcohol content than the typical modern equivalent. Plain milk was not consumed by adults except the poor or sick, being reserved for the very young or elderly, and then usually as buttermilk or whey. Fresh milk was overall less common than other dairy products because of the lack of technology to keep it from spoiling.[52]

Juices, as well as wines, of a multitude of fruits and berries had been known at least since Roman antiquity and were still consumed in the Middle Ages: pomegranate, mulberry and blackberry wines, perry, and cider which was especially popular in the north where both apples and pears were plentiful. Medieval drinks that have survived to this day include prunellé from wild plums (modern-day slivovitz), mulberry gin and blackberry wine. Many variants of mead have been found in medieval recipes, with or without alcoholic content. However, the honey-based drink became less common as a table beverage towards the end of the period and was eventually relegated to medicinal use.[53] Mead has often been presented as the common drink of the Slavs. This is partially true since mead bore great symbolic value at important occasions. When agreeing on treaties and other important affairs of state, mead was often presented as a ceremonial gift. It was also common at weddings and baptismal parties, though in limited quantity due to its high price. In medieval Poland, mead had a status equivalent to that of imported luxuries, such as spices and wines.[54] Kumis, the fermented milk of mares or camels, was known in Europe, but as with mead was mostly something prescribed by physicians.[55]

And, as we all know, Beer was invented in Plzen. :D

Spices were among the most luxurious products available in the Middle Ages, the most common being black pepper, cinnamon (and the cheaper alternative cassia), cumin, nutmeg, ginger and cloves. They all had to be imported from plantations in Asia and Africa, which made them extremely expensive. It has been estimated that around 1,000 tons of pepper and 1,000 tons of the other common spices were imported into Western Europe each year during the late Middle Ages. The value of these goods was the equivalent of a yearly supply of grain for 1.5 million people.[67] While pepper was the most common spice, the most exclusive was saffron, used as much for its vivid yellow-red color as for its flavor. Among the spices that have now fallen into obscurity are grains of paradise, a relative of cardamom which almost entirely replaced pepper in late medieval north French cooking, long pepper, mace, spikenard, galangal and cubeb. Sugar, unlike today, was considered to be a type of spice due to its high cost and humoral qualities.[68] Few dishes employed just one type of spice or herb, but rather a combination of several different ones. Even when a dish was dominated by a single flavorer it was usually combined with another to produce a compound taste, for example parsley and cloves or pepper and ginger.[69]

Common herbs such as sage, mustard, and parsley were grown and used in cooking all over Europe, as were caraway, mint, dill and fennel. Many of these plants grew throughout all of Europe or were cultivated in gardens, and were a cheaper alternative to exotic spices. Mustard was particularly popular with meat products and was described by Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179) as poor man's food. While locally grown herbs were less prestigious than spices, they were still used in upper-class food, but were then usually less prominent or included merely as coloring. Anise was used to flavor fish and chicken dishes, and its seeds were served as sugar-coated comfits.[70]

Picking green grapes for making verjuice; Tacuinum Sanitatis, 1474.Surviving medieval recipes frequently call for flavoring with a number of sour, tart liquids. Wine, verjuice (the juice of unripe grapes or fruits) vinegar and the juices of various fruits, especially one those with tart flavors were almost universal and a hallmark of late medieval cooking. In combination with sweeteners and spices, it produced a distinctive "pungeant, fruity" flavor. Equally common, and used to complement the tanginess of these ingredients, were (sweet) almonds. They were used in a variety of ways: whole, shelled or unshelled, slivered, ground and, most importantly, processed into almond milk. This last type of non-dairy milk product is probably the single most common ingredient in late medieval cooking and blended the aroma of spices and sour liquids with a mild taste and creamy texture.[71]

Salt was a ubiquitous and indispensable in medieval cooking. Salting and drying was the most common form of food preservation and meant that especially fish and meat were often heavily salted. Many medieval recipes specifically warn against oversalting and there were recommendations for soaking certain products in water to get rid of excess salt.[72] Salt was present during more elaborate or expensive meals. The richer the host, and the more prestigious the guest, the more elaborate would be the container in which it was served and the quality and price of the salt. Wealthy guests were provided with salt cellars made of pewter, precious metals or other fine materials, often intricately decorated. The rank of a diner also decided how finely ground and white the salt was. Salt for cooking, preservation or for use by common people was coarser; sea salt, or "bay salt", in particular, had more impurities, and was described in colors ranging from black to green. Expensive salt, on the other hand, looked like the standard commercial salt common today.[73]

42^ Adamson (2004), p. 45.
43^ Hans J. Teuteberg, "Periods and Turning-Points in the History of European Diet: A Preliminary Outline of Problems and Methods" in Food in Change, p. 18.
52^ Adamson (2004), pp. 48–51.
53^ Scully (1995), pp. 154–157.
54^ Dembinska (1999), p. 80.
55^ Scully (1995), p. 157.
67^ Adamson (2004), p. 65. By comparison, the estimated population of Britain in 1340, right before the Black Death, was only 5 million, and was a mere 3 million by 1450; see J.C Russel "Population in Europe 500–1500" in The Fontana Economic History of Europe: The Middle Ages, p. 36.
68^ Adamson (2004), pp. 15–19, 28.
69^ Scully (1995), p. 86.
70^ Adamson (2004), pp. 11–15.
71^ Scully (1995), p. 111–12.
72^ Adamson (2004), pp. 26–27.
73^ Henisch (1976), p. 161–64.

More Medieval Food Notes

From same wiki article:

A bread-based diet became gradually more common during the 15th century and replaced warm intermediate meals that were porridge- or gruel-based. Leavened bread was more common in wheat-growing regions in the south, while unleavened flatbread of barley, rye or oats remained more common in northern and highland regions.

The most common grains were rye, barley, buckwheat, millet, and oats. Rice remained a fairly expensive import for most of the Middle Ages and was grown in northern Italy only towards the end of the period. Wheat was common all over Europe and was considered to be the most nutritious of all grains, but was more prestigious and thus more expensive. The finely sifted white flour that modern Europeans are most familiar with was reserved for the bread of the upper classes. As one descended the social ladder, bread became coarser, darker, and its bran content increased. In times of grain shortages or outright famine, grains could be supplemented with cheaper and less desirable substitutes like chestnuts, dried legumes, acorns, ferns, and a wide variety of more or less nutritious vegetable matter.[35]

One of the most common constituents of a medieval meal, either as part of a banquet or as a small snack, were sops, pieces of bread with which a liquid like wine, soup, broth, or sauce could be soaked up and eaten. Another common sight at the medieval dinner table was the frumenty, a thick wheat porridge often boiled in a meat broth and seasoned with spices. Porridges were also made of every type of grain and could be served as desserts or dishes for the sick, if boiled in milk (or almond milk) and sweetened with sugar. Pies filled with meats, eggs, vegetables, or fruit were common throughout Europe, as were turnovers, fritters, doughnuts, and many similar pastries. By the Late Middle Ages biscuits (cookies in the U.S.) and especially wafers, eaten for dessert, had become high-prestige foods and came in many varieties. Grain, either as bread crumbs or flour, was also the most common thickener of soups and stews, alone or in combination with almond milk.

While grains were the primary constituent of most meals, vegetables such as cabbage, beets, onions, garlic and carrots were common foodstuffs. Many of these were eaten daily by peasants and workers, but were less prestigious than meat. The cookbooks, intended mostly for those who could afford such luxuries, which appeared in the late Middle Ages, only contained a small number of recipes using vegetables as the main ingredient. The lack of recipes for many basic vegetable dishes, such as potages, has been interpreted not to mean that they were absent from the meals of the nobility, but rather that they were considered so basic that they did not require recording.[37]

The importance of vegetables to the common people is illustrated by accounts from 16th century Germany stating that many peasants ate sauerkraut from three to four times a day.[38]

Fruit was popular and could be served fresh, dried, or preserved, and was a common ingredient in many cooked dishes.[39] Since sugar and honey were both expensive, it was common to include many types of fruit in dishes that called for sweeteners of some sort. The fruits of choice in the south were lemons, citrons, bitter oranges (the sweet type was not introduced until several hundred years later), pomegranates, quinces, and, of course, grapes. Further north, apples, pears, plums, and strawberries were more common. Figs and dates were eaten all over Europe, but remained rather expensive imports in the north.[40]

Common and often basic ingredients in many modern European cuisines like potatoes, kidney beans, cacao, vanilla, tomatoes, chili peppers and maize were not available to Europeans until the late 15th century after European contact with the Americas, and even then it often took a long time for the new foodstuffs to be accepted by society at large.

35^Adamson (2004), pp. 1–5.
36^ Scully (1995), pp. 35–38.
37^ Scully (1995), p. 71.
38^ Cabbage and other foodstuffs in common use by most German-speaking peoples are mentioned in Walther Ryff's dietary from 1549 and Hieronymus Bock's Deutsche Speißkamer ("German Larder") from 1550; see Melitta Weiss Adamson, "Medieval Germany" in Regional Cuisines of Medieval Europe, p. 163.
39^ Scully (1995), p. 70.
40^ Adamson (2004), pp. 19–24.

Medieval Dietics

Taken from the wiki article, sources below.

Medieval scholars considered human digestion to be a process similar to cooking. The processing of food in the stomach was seen as a continuation of the preparation initiated by the cook. In order for the food to be properly "cooked" and for the nutrients to be properly absorbed, it was important that the stomach be filled in an appropriate manner. Easily digestible foods would be consumed first, followed by gradually heavier dishes. If this regimen was not respected it was believed that heavy foods would sink to the bottom of the stomach, thus blocking the digestion duct, so that food would digest very slowly and cause putrefaction of the body and draw bad humors into the stomach. It was also of vital importance that food of differing properties not be mixed.[10]

Before a meal, the stomach would preferably be "opened" with an apéritif (from Latin aperire, "to open") that was preferably of a hot and dry nature: confections made from sugar- or honey-coated spices like ginger, caraway and seeds of anise, fennel or cumin, wine and sweetened fortified milk drinks. As the stomach had been opened, it should then be "closed" at the end of the meal with the help of a digestive, most commonly a dragée, which during the Middle Ages consisted of lumps of spiced sugar, or hypocras, a wine flavored with fragrant spices, along with aged cheese. A meal would ideally begin with easily digestible fruit, such as apples. It would then be followed by vegetables such as lettuce, cabbage, purslane, herbs, moist fruits, light meats, like chicken or goat kid, with potages and broths. After that came the "heavy" meats, such as pork and beef, as well as vegetables and nuts, including pears and chestnuts, both considered difficult to digest. It was popular, and recommended by medical expertise, to finish the meal with aged cheese and various digestives.[11]

Terence Scully, Food in the Middle Ages,
10^ Scully (1995), pp. 135–136.
11^ Scully (1995), pp. 126–135.

Czech Cuisine

So I went to a place called The Bread Lady for lunch today. She was selling "Moravian Chicken Pie" and I tried it. It was served warm, and it was good, but it was just pie pastry and white meat chicken. Like an unadorned pot pie. I would have loaded it up with garlic and cheese. But I got to thinking about period Czech food. What did they eat? How did they come by their foods? What spices did they use? How hard would it be to re-create these dishes? How expensive would it be to make for the family/shire/event? Most importantly, how does it taste?? Is it bland? Does it use a preponderance of foods like don't like?

Only one way to find out:



The Czech history, tradition and food culture all started about 1200 years ago, on the Czech lands, starting with the early Slavic settlement around 6th century. The whole cooking method and tradition has its root in the peasant’s culinary rituals inherited and used almost the same for centuries. Preparing meals over open fire is a great technique kept for centuries, giving special flavor to food ingredients. Agriculture is still today one of the most important resources of food, together with raising and growing cattle herds. It is known that Czech Republic is a country of fat food and rich consistent dishes, most of them animal based, usually consisting of Pork, cabbage and doughy dumplings smothered in gravy. However, lighter and healthier foods like salads and more vegetables instead of meats have increased in importance of their every day diet. Seafood, though rarely served or prepared, is imported and used in fancy restaurants. Fresh water fish is available, and even the national Christmas dish is made of water carp. Neighbor countries like Germany, Hungarian and Austria have influenced the Czech cuisine and put a mark on the national dishes and culinary methods. Still, the Czech style of preparing dishes is apart from their neighbors’, and has a distinctive Czech mark.

Garb Patterns

Well, I've finally created my first pattern, with the help of the very knowledgeable Lady Masina. That woman is a treasure trove of information!

I had bought the Burda 7977 pattern but I've never worked with patterns before. So I followed Lady M's instructions and brought .4 mil painter's tarp, magic markers, my pattern, cloth measuring tape, and Lady Katherine graciously supplied the see through ruler. We laid the pattern out and took all my measurements and then drew the pattern onto the plastic, then drew it again with my measurements. We even made the modern armhole into a period armhole with the seam in the back, instead of the bottom.

I've bought some $1.00/yd Wally fabric for a mock up and I think I'm going to get started on that Wed/Thurs night. Amanda and Kim have a "sewing circle" on Friday nights, so I'm fully planning on going to that on a regular.

Once the mockup is done, I'll put it on, and see where I need to tweak, then take it apart and retrace the pattern on the plastic from the actual material pieces. This will give me yardage measurements and actual fit/hem/seam allowances for the red dress that I want to build. (I want to find silky wool, but I'm terribly afraid it's going to be $14/yd and I think I'm going to need quite a few yards. *sigh*

I'll try to keep up with my sewing work here. Lable: red dress.

Friday, March 6, 2009

How I envision this is going to work

I am a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) currently living in the Shire of Cathanar, located within the Kingdom of Atlantia.

My persona is Dáma Eleonora z Praha, which is Czech for Lady Eleanor of Prague. She is from the rough time period of 1350-1450 in Prague, Bohemia, which is now the Czech Republic. Her father is a successful merchant that travels from Western Turkey to France, buying and selling everything from glassware to fabrics to leather to spices.

This blog is to serve several purposes:

  • To provide some sort of documentation, research notes, and tracking for the Arts and Sciences 50 Challenge.
  • To provide an outlet for my in-persona diary (fleshing out my persona, trying new ideas).
  • To provide an out of persona journal of my SCA activities/thoughts/opinions.

Comments will be moderated, but are welcome!

Please come on this crazy journey with me through the early renaissance/mundane (modern) experience! You can subscribe to this blog through RSS feed (see side panel) which is supported in Internet Explorer 7 and most other browsers.

In service to the Dream, my Kingdom, and my Shire,