Thursday, July 26, 2012

Planning, planning....

I don't normally use my sewing machine for much except for finishing edges with zig zag stitch. My machine has been in the shop having a service for two weeks now, so I have been using the time to plan some new projects.

Of course, my 'to-finish' pile is as big as ever, but a lot of the items there need edging. So I will put that on hold until I get my machine back, and enjoy looking at Renaissance portraits and dreaming!

At this stage, I need a more comfortable pair of bodies and want another 3/4 length coat. I have altered my stays pattern to what I hope is a more comfortable and practical version, and I am still working out the plan for the decoration and neck treatment on the coat.

I will keep you posted!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

White and gold striped sleeves

The more hours I spend looking through Renaissance portraits, the more I come to realise that a pair of white and gold stripey sleeves is de rigeur for my persona.

Here are some lovely examples:

My favourite sitter, Bianca Cappello by Allori -

File:Allori - Bianca Cappello.jpg
Bianca Cappello by Allori -

Bianca Cappello by  Allori or his workshop-

Fontana portrait of Bianca Cappello -  bjws.blogspot.comFile:Alessandro Allori - Portrait of Grand Duchess Bianca Capello de Medici.jpg

Another Allori portrait of Bianca Cappello -

possibly Bianca Cappello -

And, just so this doesn't turn into a Bianca Capello fanpage(!):

Isabella de Medici by Allori -

Possibly Isabella de Medici and her son by Allori (1574 )-

Eleanor of Toledo by Allori -

Portrait of a Venetian Noblewoman by Fasolo -

Portrait of a Noblewoman -

Marie de Medici -

Portrait of A Lady -

Portrait of a Woman Aged 19 years by Gian Paolo Lolmo (c.1580) -

Family Portrait by Lavinia Fontana -

Portrait of a Woman with a Dog by Lavinia Fontana-

Flaming Yule Log Subtletie

Recently, my Barony hosted a Coronation and the feast had a Midwinter/Yule theme. As part of the entertainment for the evening, several subtleties were presented. One of the subtleties was a flaming yule log made of fig pudding and marzipan.

Subtleties are illusion foods that are designed to provide entertainment and interest at a feast. In period, they were often made to showcase the wealth and creativity of the host, and to do honour to important guests.

I adapted a recipe for Figey from the book Pleyn Delit. I did a test-run of the redacted original recipe, and it was delicious but didn't hold it's shape very well. For the final product, I added egg as a binder and extra almond meal to firm up the mix. I baked the mixture slowly in a log tin that was 3/4 full.

The mixing bowl full of spicy, fruity goodness
I forgot to take a picture of the log as it came out of the tin, but this should give an idea of how it looked. I used the leftovers to do a 'test' pudding to make sure the taste and texture was good. The yule log itself did not have flaked almonds on it though.

The pudding was shaped and a 'branch' added. The pudding was covered in marzipan which was painted with food colouring to look like a tree. I used a toothpick to put lines and whorls along the trunk and growth lines at the 'cut' end of the log. A depression was carved on the 'trunk' to hold an eggshell, and there was room for another eggshell in the 'vee' of the trunk and branch. Warmed brandy was poured into the shell and set alight to create the illusion of a flaming yule log. The subtletie was very well received by the guests.

The finished log before the eggshells were added

The high table at the feast

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Braid mania!

This is the entry token for the Midwinter Coronation that I recently attended. I just love that braid, and it inspired me to finally do something about learning to make narrow wares and braids.

So I bought this book from one of the lovely local merchants:

And when I got home from the event, my excellent Sister gave me this as a present!

I think the Universe may be trying to tell me something!

By the way, these books come from one of the nicest SCA merchants you will ever meet. Find her at

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

New treasure!

Ever since I first heard about filet lace I have been searching for netting needles. For over ten years, I have searched every op-shop, junk shop, antique shop and market stall I could find looking for one. 

Last week I popped into a junk shop in a country town, and what do you think I found? TWO! I felt like it was my birthday! With two different sizes, I am set to try my hand at filet net making.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Sugarplate Hellebore Subtletie

For our recent Midwinter Coronation, I was asked to make a subtletie with a hellbore (Christmas rose)  theme.

Hellebores image from

I decided to make the flowers and leaves out of sugarplate and the base and supplementary leaves out of marzipan.

I used a bowl to make a base of silver foil which I covered with tinted marzipan to create a 'knoll'.

The plate I used as a mould

The foil base for the knoll

I tinted some marzipan green and rolled it to lay over the foil base. I added extra marzipan leaves to cover the sides.

The marzipan knoll drying
I made the flowers and main leaves out of sugarplate. There are many period recipes available in books on the internet; I avoid ones which contain egg white because the sugarplate is not cooked. I use a mix of superfine sugar, lemon juice, gum dragon or gum tragacanth and rosewater. It tastes a lot like Easter egg candy.

I originally moulded my leaves and flowers by hand, but they were very irregular so I changed to a cutter.

Some leaves and flowers drying flat on a plate

I let some of the leaves and flowers dry in an egg carton to give them a more natural shape

I used green lustre dust to tint the inside of the flowers. In period, parsley juice was used as a green colouring agent, but it does not taste very nice, so I used a commercial colour.

Flowers drying on a bed of sugar

Next, I 'glued' yellow non-pareils one by one to the centre of the flowers. I used white icing as 'glue' and applied them individually with a toothpick.

I was really delighted with how they turned out. 

I left them to dry. A couple of days later, I noticed that the icing 'glue' had 'melted' the lustre dust and the yellow on the non-pareils. I was VERY disappointed.

The 'melted' flowers

Non-pareils drying - minus the lustre dust.

I had to do some cosmetic repairs with new non-pareils and lustre dust to make the flowers look better. Then I began the tricky process of putting the subtletie together.

The dry base ready for flowers

The first flowers are placed

The flowers and leaves are arranged and glued

The subtletie drying

The subtletie had to be covered and transported to the event site. I was worried about damage in transit because the site was up in hills and the subtletie had to survive very winding roads. It made it to the event safely, although a few non-pareils did fall off in transit and one flower cracked.

The completed subtletie ready to be presented to High Table.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Cornucopia Subtletie

Here is a cornucopia that I collaborated on as a presentation piece for the recent Midwinter Coronation. It was presented to High Table and was well received.

Another talented member of my Barony made the pastry shell of the cornucopia and pastry leaves. The cornucopia is ornamented with decorative pastry swirls.

I made marzipan fruits to spill out from the horn of plenty and supplemented them with gilded nuts.

gilded chestnuts

gilded walnuts

marzipan fruits dusted with sugar placed for presentation

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Sweete bag embroidery

Last night was the big Royal event where all the gifts and articles were presented. Although I was a little disappointed that I didn't have anything new to wear, I was really pleased that I got all my gifts and projects finished. 

The event was really wonderful. The hall was so beautifully decorated it took people's breath away, and the courts were beautifully done and really moving. The hard work of the populace of my Barony paid off, and the pieces that I worked on were really well received.

Here is some embroidery that I worked to go on an Elizabethan sweete bag. One of the newer members of my Barony did the design, and local artisans all worked one or two bags. The completed embroideries were sewn up into bags and filled with nougat and sweets to be given out to the Ladies of the Rose. They seemed to be quite delighted by the presentation, although I admit that I was slightly distracted by looking at their beautiful garb!

Polychrome embroidery with satin stitch, chain stitch and french knots