Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Heraldic applique

My evening in front of the tv project has been appliqueing my local area's device onto a banner. Our old banner is fine, but doesn't get used that often since we are a Province. That means we don't have ceremonial representation, but have all the responsibilities of a Barony in the SCA. It also means that there isn't a specific individual to display the arms. They get put up at our own events and at one or two events a year where we have a large local encampment, but don't get flown on a particularly regular basis since it is more usual for us to have one or two or five members at any event and it is a pain in the butt to go to the storage shed and get out the banner for smaller groups. I thought it would be nice to have an extra to carry with me or lend out so we could have symbolic representation at more events.

This is just basic period style applique. Unlike modern quilt applique where the edges are turned under, period style is to couch gold cord or gilded leather over the edges. I was a bit worried about the edges of the green's tendency to shred, so I ran a small machine zigzag down first before couching over the top. I wish I hadn't, because it isn't as well hidden as I'd hoped. Not to mention the fact that the green is still a bit precarious. I got the idea and bought cheap materials and I'm paying for it. This thing won't last long. Oh well, I'm chalking it up up to practice, and if it gets used and demonstrates a need, I'll make another one from better materials.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Starting to think about Solstice

Yes, I am in the middle of prepping a feast, not to mention trying to get garb made for my kids. They only go to a few events a year and they always grow in between so I have to start from scratch every time. I decided to take a break from all of the required stuff and took a break and played with some beads. It probably wasn't great for my schedule, but I certainly feel refreshed. After I got about half way into it I decided that it would be perfect to go with the red fabric I picked out for making my Solstice dress. Rather nice when playing around accidentally accomplishes something useful.

I grabbed a bunch of randomness from my bead box, but I'm rather pleased with how it worked out. I had bought the silver plated plaques to decorate a Rus hat several years back and they have been staring at me ever since. I very rarely use silver, so I didn't have any great ideas, but it also meant that I wasn't saving them for any reason and didn't have to dither about whether this was the best use of them. Often taking things from my stash can be a negotiation with myself and I'm afraid to use the good stuff in case some better use comes along. Anyone else have that problem? I hadn't planned on having silver with this dress either, but I very much like the girdle, so I'm reconsidering the color scheme for the dress. Besides the silver plaques, which are Jill MacKay that I got on something like 90% off clearance, there are two shapes of flame jasper, some silverish beadspacers that I'd sorted out of a bulk lot that was supposed to be gold but didn't have good plating, some magnetic hematite rounds, glass pearls in both white and grey that I got for 70 cents a strand, and freshwater pearls dyed an iridescent blue/green/black that I got on an 80% off clearance. It's wonderful when all the super cheap clearance purchases come together and actually justify themselves and the fact that I have a stash. As I need about twice the beads for a girdle that a non-plus sized person needs, making a girdle is normally a significant outlay of money. This one wasn't so I'm rather proud of it for that reason alone.

Now, on to the fabric in the background. That's going to be the dress for Solstice. I've settled on doing a veste over a sottana, like this portrait of a lady and her little girl from the school of Veronese. I had considered doing the more common style with a doublet under the veste, but to be frank, I'm afraid of trying to fit the doublet. I've already got a sideback laced pattern that I love and fits, so this way I can concentrate on the veste. I'm going with the red for the outer dress. Now I just have to decide on what color I'm making the underdress. Black and steel grey are not my normal choices, but I'm sort of drifting that direction. I'm open to suggestions if anyone has any.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Making chardequince

A few years ago, I was sitting at fighter practice when a friend mentioned the fuzzy, hard, mystery fruit that one of their trees was growing. I just so happened to have been reading C. Anne Wilson's The Book of Marmalade, and thus could easily identify it as a quince. Before marmalade was made from oranges, it was made from the rather magical quince. The friends were kind enough to let me have the produce from their tree that year and since. I've had a lot of fun trying out some older recipes. They are moving next month though, so this will be the last year I get to play. That thought has made me sad enough that I've decided to plant my own quince tree. I'll have to wait a few years, but I know it will be worth it.

Quince aren't a popular fruit today, but medievally, they were known as the Queen of Fruit. They've been cultivated longer than apples. There are even legends that quince was the fruit that tempted Adam and Eve.
Full of tannins and pectin, quince don't get soft and juicy. They do get a beautiful floral aroma, however, and they smell amazing. They are a late fruit, not ripening until October and the first frosts. Cooking them is easy. Cutting them is not.

It takes a rather sharp paring knife. Much sharper than the poor neglected knives in my kitchen. I did have a sharpener in the back of the drawer, however, so that was easily remedied. The recipes I have for chadequince, the sweet and spicy quince paste I am making, calls for quartering the quince and then boiling them. I decided to do a finer chop, hoping it would make putting them through the sieve later easier.

The fruit in the picture has been cooking a few hours and is nice and soft. I'll put it through a fine sieve (and cheat a bit and put it through the food processor as well.) Then it goes back on the stove with equal amounts of sugar to fruit by weight.
There are a variety of recipes. I found several in the marmalade book I mentioned earlier, as well as here. There seem to be at least one in all my late historic cookbooks as well. I figured I'd try out a few options since I has quite a few quince. The first batch was sugar with heavy spices (clove, allspice, cinnamon.) I love the flavor, but was disappointed by the color. The spices turned the paste much more brown than I would have preferred. One of the best things about cooking quince is watching the magic of it turning color from the warm yellow gold of the fruit to a beautiful pink/orange/rose as it cooks longer.

For the second batch, I did something much more like Portugese membrillo. This form of quince paste is still popular for eating with salty cheese. It is the quince, sugar, and a bit of lemon juice and vanilla. I love the color, but the flavor isn't quite as exciting. Really nice though (at least from the spoonful I snuck as I filled the molds.

Chardequince was put into decorative boxes/molds in the Elizabethan period. Since I don't have any of those hanging around, I decided to try out some of my jelly molds. They are much larger and deeper than those made for quince, but I had them on hand. I'm hoping they'll look nice on my dessert table for the Fairytale Feast I am cooking for Toys for Tots in November. I've got them in drying out and setting now, so we'll see how it goes.

In the mean time, I made a small version shaped with a large cookie cutter to try. Not as decorative, but it is nice and thin and I put it in a warm oven to speed it up a little so it was set and ready to eat this morning after I made it yesterday. Here's the picture before I cut into it. It lasted about 5 seconds once my son tried it and shouted "Come on guys, it's CANDY!"