Sunday, March 29, 2020

Productivity In The Time of Covid

We are living in strange and frightening times. For the last fortnight I have been in isolation except for essential medical appointments because I am especially vulnerable to infection. I am regularly house-bound because of illness, but this is something different. Usually I suffer terribly from FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) because I am isolated and sick and everyone else is out having fun. All Lochac face-to-face SCA activities have been suspended, so all my friends are now missing out too. Everyone is feeling sad and anxious. Anticipatory grief is a real thing.
My doctors are also playing around with my medication which is affecting my mood, pain levels and blood pressure. Plus a family friend died unexpectedly this week, which was a horrible shock.

I have been feeling low as well as guilty because I feel like I should be counting my blessings and making the most of this time, and I really haven't managed to get anything much done. So many talented people posting tutorials and pictures of completed items online and I am struggling to get the basic stuff like dishes and washing done.

An SCA friend sent me a meme today that really helped. It said something to the effect of "It's OK to NOT be at your most productive during a global pandemic!" Obvious stuff, when it is put like that, but I was so caught up in feeling bad about wasting time that I hadn't thought about it logically.
So if you are feeling the same, please be kind to yourself. It's only natural to be anxious and feel uncertain during a pandemic! Follow health guidelines, stay safe, and do whatever you need to do to get through this time.

With thanks to Violet for the right meme at the right time
And thanks to Cathy for the supportive words and the great title.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Embroidery Designs - Acorns

I hope all of you are well and taking care of yourselves. Enjoy these acorn designs.
From The Needle's Excellency (Boler) - 1634 held at the British Museum  available at Modelbuch Muse

From The Trevellyon Miscellany (1608) available on Pinterest. More information can be found here:

From A Scholehouse for the Needle (1632),  individual pages reproduced on Pinterest

From A Scholehouse for the Needle (1632),  individual pages reproduced on Pinterest

From A Scholehouse for the Needle (1632),  individual pages reproduced on Pinterest

From Lotz 106 by Jean Le Maistre (1564) at 

Pattern from _Lucidario di Recami_ by Iseppo Foresto, published by Jeronimo Calepino, dated 1564. reproduced at Modelbuch Muse

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Isolation Embroidery Challenge

I've started a hand-embroidery challenge in my SCA group to try and help keep everyone feeling connected and motivated during the suspension of activities. The idea is that all the participants will work on one or more hand embroidery challenges over the enforced break, and share our progress on the baronial Facebook page. Then, when events resume, we display our finished items in person.

The tricky part was accommodating various levels of expertise and confidence, while still offering a theme that had something for everyone. In the end I settled on an open theme and open technique. People can work on heraldic items, UnFinished Objects (UFOs), items for upcoming competitions or largesse, or even those big projects that have been on the Wish List for some time - whatever they like. Sounds super exciting, doesn't it?

What it means in real time is that I’m faffing around deciding what to do for the Challenge (i.e. wasting time being overwhelmed by the possibilities of doing All The Things). In the mean time I decided I need to stop wasting time and that I really should try and finish this embroidered partlet I started for the baronial Heraldic Challenge.

Normally partlets are my favourite thing to embroider but I’m hating on this one because the pale lilac thread is really hard to see, so my stitching is sloppy, plus it is reinforcing how much my eyes have been impacted by medication in the last couple of years.

DMC stranded cotton seahorses done in split and double running stitch on a base of leftover cotton broadcloth due to financial limitations.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Suspension of Activities

Copper engraving of Doctor Schnabel (i.e., Dr. Beak), a plague doctor in seventeenth-century Rome, circa 1656 Image from:

An announcement was made on the weekend by the Kingdom Seneschal and Crown that all face-to-face SCA activities would be suspended until the end of April (when things will be reviewed). The next couple of months were going to be jam-packed with events, as we are going into Autumn here in Lochac, and it is the perfect time of the year for garbed activities.
As an immuno-compromised person, the announcement is a little bit of a relief, but I am also feeling a bit lost and sad. We haven't had many cases of Covid-19 in my state yet but bans on mass gatherings and suggestions to restrict contact are designed to stop a spike in contagion which our health services would not be able to cope well with.
So, this seems like a good time to review plans, finish off projects and do some tidying up. The change in plans has left me floundering because the next several weeks were entirely mapped out. (Plus, I don't have an infection at the moment for a change!)
I have masses of unfinished projects, tons of paperwork to do, and so many ideas I'd like to start, as well as needing new garb, so I will never be bored. The challenge will be how best to use the time.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Making Heraldic Bunting

This week I have been testing out paints for a group project to make heraldic bunting for events.
I've been testing how different paint types cover and how rich the pigments are.
Even though I have been in a big rush to get the samples done in time for the next SCA meeting, I have really enjoyed the painting. I am thinking that I might try making a painted banner - when I have a bit more time.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Red and Gold Tie-On Sleeves Made From A Sari

I made these sleeves last year as a bit of an experiment. I found a child's tunic made from a sari in a local thrift shop, and loved the fabric. Although a modern fabric, it did not look jarringly modern, and I felt that it would make a nice pair of detachable sleeves.

I carefully washed and dried the tunic. Unpicking it was challenging as the fabric is delicate and has gilt metal threads through it. I would not be surprised if it is a silk or silk blend fabric. The garment had obviously had several adjustments for a growing child, and there were interesting tucks and joins all over the tunic.

I also removed the trim which was pretty but very much the worse for wear.
Once the fabric pieces had been carefully pressed, I positioned my sleeve pattern so that the pattern was facing the same way on both sleeves while trying to avoid any holes or damaged areas.
Cutting the wine coloured cotton lining fabric was much easier; no patterns or mends to worry about.
I usually don't use my fashion fabric as a pattern, but I was in a big hurry for this project.

Once the sleeves and linings were cut out, I edged them with zigzag stitch to reduce fraying. I then machine sewed the seams, and finger pressed the inside of the sleeves open. I hand sewed the seams open with tiny, hidden stitches. I then put the lining and sleeve together inside out.

This is always a step that I have trouble with. I just can't seem to visually 'get' how they are supposed to go, so I usually baste or safety pin along where the seam will be prior to sewing, and then turn them right way out to make sure the insides of the seams are hidden and the fashion fabric is outside and facing the right way with everything looking correct. Only then do I turn it back inside out, pin and sew. After another double-check, I clip the curves on the armscye and then turn the sleeve the right way out.

I usually baste or pin around the shoulder part of the sleeve to make sure it is sitting right and then I work the eyelet holes. This is a job that I detest as it is very painful for my fingers. I usually can only do one or two holes a day.

When I had the eyelets done, I hemmed the wrist area. I turned the fashion fabric up first, and stitched it down with tiny hidden stitches. Then I pinned the lining into place, slightly shorter than the outer fashion fabric hem. (This stops the lining from rolling out.) I then stitched the lining wrist hem down.

I think I paid around $4AU for the sari tunic. It is delicate and probably won't last too many wears, but I was happy with how the sleeves turned out and I thought it was a worthwhile experiment at a good price.

Friday, March 6, 2020

Recipe for a Tart of Spinach

Pastry recipe from A proper new Booke of Cookery.
Declaring what maner of meates be best in season for al times of the yeere, and how
they ought to be dressed, & served at the Table, both for fleshe dayes and Fish daies.
with a new addition,very necessary for al them that delight in Cookery. 1575.
Available at

To make short paste for a Tart.
Take fine Flower, a litle faire
water, & a dish of sweete butter, & a litle
saffron, and the yolkes of two egges, &
make it thin and as tender as ye may.

Recipe for A Tarte of Spindage from The good huswifes Jewell.
(Wherein is to be found most excellend and rare Deuises for conceites in Cookery, found out by the practise of Thomas Dawson. Wherevnto is adioyned sundry approued receits for many soueraine oyles, and the way to distill many precious waters, with diuers approued medicines for many
diseases.) 1596

To make a Tarte of Spinadge.

Take Spinadge and seeth it stalke and
all, and when it is tenderly sodden,
take it off, and let it drayne in a Cul-
lynder. and then swing it in a clowte, and
stampe it and straine it with two or three
yolkes of egges, and then set it on a chafin-
dish of coales, and season it with butter and
Suger, and when the paste is hardened in 
the Ouen, put in this Comode, strake it

Recipe for Poudre Fine - Le Menagier de Paris

"Take an ounce and a drachma of white ginger, a quarter ounce of hand pciked cinnamon, half a quarter ounce each of grains and cloves, and a quarter ounce of rock sugar, and grind to powder.

I omitted dsffron from the pastry and Grains of Paradise from the Poudre fine due to lack of availabitlity. I only used spinach and parsley leaves in the filling mixture. I'd like to try this again with grated boiled eggs rather than whisked to see how the texture compares. I'd like to try adding non-white sugar to my poudre fine to see how the taste compares (eg. raw or palm sugar).

3 egg yolks
Pinch of salt
2 C plain flour
200g unsalted butter at room temperature
splash of milk to moisten

I added the salt to the flour and mixed, and then I rubbed the cubed butter into the flour/salt mix. When the mixture resembled fine crumbs, I mixed in the egg yolks and kneaded lightly. I added a splash of milk for extra moisture (but an extra egg yolk would have been better). I baked the pastry in a pie pan at 200 degrees C for 15 minutes. I didn't have baking beans to hand, so I pricked the base with a fork to prevent the pastry rising.
When the pastry was cooked, I removed it from the oven and cooled it on a rack. When it was cool, I filled it with the spinach mix and baked it (see below).

Tart Filling
500g cleaned, chopped spinach (frozen is great)
250g ricotta
250g grated tasty or mature cheese
200g dried parley or a large bunch of fresh (to taste)
7 small/medium eggs
dash of pepper and salt (to taste)
1/4 tsp powdered clove
1TB each of sugar, ginger and cinnamon

I mixed the spinach, parsley and spices together before adding them to the whisked eggs and mixing until well combined. I spooned this mix into the pre-cooked pastry casing (I made 2 smaller ones) and baked at 180 degrees C (FF) for 35-40 minutes. I added more spice than I normally would have because I tend too under-spice. It would also be fun to play around with different types of leaves and herbs.
This amount of mixture made too much filling for the pastry below. You could double the pastry, but I cooked the rest of the mixture up into a frittata.

Some comments I received included:
"Good ratio of greens to egg and cheese. Base is crunchy which I like but a bit thick"
"Good base for a dish, with a subtle flavour. Would benefit of being served with a sauce or relish"
"Excellent base, moist and crumbly. The spinach flavour is a little overpowered by the base; it is otherwise gorgeous"
My family also enjoyed it.

As always, I am indebted to those members of the Populace who take the time to comment on recipes so that dishes can be improved.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Partlet with Holly Embroidery - Update 4

I'm pretty happy with how the 'border' turned out. Something different from the other partlets in my wardrobe, anyway.

The next big decision to make was which lace to use. I still haven't found the time to learn to make bobbin lace, so I had to use commercially made lace from my stash. I wanted gold, but the bright gold really made it look to Christmas-y. Luckily I remembered a lighter gilt lace that I had tucked away.
I'm really pleased with how it looked once sewn on. I also added a line of small running stitches in single thread to finish off the hem area. 

Now that the pain of all those little berries is not as fresh in my mind, I am already thinking about other colour combinations that I could do! Hemming first.

Monday, March 2, 2020

A recipe for Hirchones or Yrchouns - Hedgehog Meatballs

This is a fun recipe that I have made many times. Kids and adults alike get a kick out of these spiky little meatballs.

The original recipe is from Two Fifteenth Century Cookbooks c 1430-1450  (Harleian MS 279);view=fulltext


Take Piggis mawys, & skalde hem wel; take groundyn Porke, & knede it with Spicerye, with pouder Gyngere, & Salt & Sugre; do it on þe mawe, but fille it nowt to fulle; þen sewe hem with a fayre þrede, & putte hem in a Spete as men don piggys; take blaunchid Almaundys, & kerf hem long, smal, & scharpe, & frye hem in grece & sugre; take a litel prycke, & prykke þe yrchons, An putte in þe holes þe Almaundys, every hole half, & eche fro oþer; ley hem þen to þe fyre; when þey ben rostid, dore hem sum wyth [leaf 30 bk.] Whete Flowre, & mylke of Almaundys, sum grene, sum blake with Blode, & lat hem nowt browne to moche, & serue forth.

My Recipe
Several of the people in my SCA group don't like pork, so I used beef this time around. (I find using pork results in a tastier, more moist meatball.) I omitted the pig stomach due to modern sensibilities. I used raisins cut in half instead of currants because they were what I had to hand. I decided not to colour the hedgehogs; I like them brown.

1.5 Kg beef mince
1.5 tsp ginger
1.5 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
50 slivered almonds
raisins cut in half

I added spices to the mince mixture and worked it with my hands until it became very sticky. I shaped the mixture into oval 'hedgehog' shapes and added raisin pieces for eyes. I studded the balls with almond 'spines'. In the past I have pre-toasted the almonds, and they get a bit over-browned in the oven. This time I left them un-toasted and stuck them in the meatballs. Use your own judgement based on your oven.
I cooked the meatballs in a moderate oven (180 degrees C) on a lightly greased tray for 20 mins until brown.

Some of the comments I received included:
"The texture of the beef worked nicely, but more spice would be appreciated. Otherwise fabulous."
"I liked the crispy almonds and the raisins were a delightful addition to the flavour"
"Was a little dry but was well spiced and seasoned"

Adjust the spices to your (and your audience's taste). If I make these for my family or people I don't know, I use small amounts of spice. People who are used to medieval food will probably want more spice. I have also experimented with the texture of the mince. Mince from the supermarket tends to be quite coarse, but if you can get finely ground mince it produces a remarkably different texture and mouth-feel in the finished meatball. I have even tried these with chicken mince.