Happy me


Egad, it's been almost a year since I posted! Still alive, still doing stuff, have some news I will be posting about in the next few days...


I am going to have to admit defeat on my Hordweard belt, I think. I had plans to do a tablet woven belt in wool dyed in period dyes, but it's proving hard even getting the bloody thing set up. This is my third attempt, and I left it so long because I was afraid I was going to stuff it up again.

After 5 hours of pain tonight I don't have a single threaded card and two hopelessly tangled skeins of wool. Argh. Hopefully I'll be able to get something going in cotton so people can see what I was trying to achieve, and I will try the wool some time in the future when I actually know what I'm doing.

The tablet weaving was always the bit that worried me the most, as I haven't done much of it in the past. It sounds quite pathetic when reading about other participants' adventures with spinning, weaving and dyeing and wondering what the Hell Wulf is doing with deer sinew but that's the way it works I guess.
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SCA garb

BIG bloomers

I'm nearly finished my Hordweard pants! They look decidedly huge spread out on the table, but then they are pull up pants with no elastic or gathering in the waist. They have to be wide to be pulled on over my thighs, which have enough meat on them to provide the main dish for an SCA feast.

There are two schools of thought as to whether women in the Dark Ages wore anything under their tunics. The first school is "we have no evidence for it so we shouldn't speculate." The second school is "we have no evidence for it but they were really, really stupid if they didn't because bare legs freeze in winter in cold climates."

I belong to the second school. I've had direct experience with this. Mordenvale's main event each year is our Spring War, which takes place at the start of October. Every year the weather is changeable - one minute barmy spring day, the next freezing cold, wet and windy. A couple of years ago I stupidly left my thermal undies and tracksuit pants at home, and the weather turned nasty on the Saturday. Even though I had wool clothes and a cloak on, I was still miserable because the cold was blowing up my skirts. I wound up leaving site so I could go and buy some pants to wear.

Anyway, my pants are a cross between Germanic men's pants (several pairs found from Denmark to Austria, and all very similar) and Persian salwar. The Germanic pants are clearly made for men - the legs look very much like modern skinny jeans, but they have these flaps/pouches at the front which clearly show off the manly bits. Persian salwar are unisex, but the Persian climate is very different to the European one, so the pants are cut very baggy. Not good for keeping warm (great for staying cool though!).

My pants are basically rectangles with triangular gussets that form a crotch. They are surprisingly comfortable if very big looking. I've also got woollen leg bindings for extra warmth closer to the ground.
SCA garb

Of shoes

Well, in a bit over 2 weeks the Hordweard project gets judged. AAAHHHH. I'm very nearly finished, but there's going to be a massive effort over the next couple of weeks to get everything done including the documentation. It's probably going to resemble an Honours thesis, but with jokes. And many many pictures of cats.

Tonight I cut my shoes. I've been doing a lot of research into C6 Anglo-Saxon shoes, which is sort of difficult because there aren't any C6 Anglo-Saxon shoes surviving. This lack of shoe actually tells us a lot about Anglo-Saxon leather - because you get Roman shoes from sites that were occupied by early Anglo-Saxons and Romans, but no early Anglo-Saxon shoes. This has led to the very compelling theory that early Anglo-Saxon tanning methods weren't as good as Roman tanning methods. It's known the Romans used vegetable tanning, because they tell us and the traces of the industry have survived. But if the early Anglo-Saxons were vegetable tanning, we'd have a lot more leather than we do. So the theory goes they were using the more primitive and less effective smoke-and-brain tanning. Yep, that's right, bashing animal skins with brains as a preservative. It's also known as "oil tanning" because you can use fish oil or plant oil similarly. It also sounds better.

I'm using a pair of shoes from a Danish bog as my basis. I spent some time feverishly hunting for oil tanned leather but couldn't find any, so I'm using vegetable tanned instead. I made some templates from felt first so I wouldn't go wasting my leather, and now I have to put holes in them with an awl so I can lace them up. But my head's going thumpy-thump, and holding leather and poking it with a very sharp instrument strikes me as being a bit foolish if you have a headache.

I was going to write about my braded cord belt (done), tablet woven belt (not done) and pants (nearly done) but I'm too tired so off to bed.
Tea addict

Further cooking adventures

Ah, the joys of redacting medieval recipes. The lack of quantities/portions, the lack of temperatures/cooking times, the occasional lack of critical ingredients or steps...

Raise this fun by a power of 3 at least when you start talking baking. I've started looking at Middle Eastern sweets, particularly those from the C15 Description of Familiar Foods. The French like to claim they invented many sweet treats we enjoy today - HAH! Thus far I've identified fudge from a C12 book, fondant, nougat, shortbread, brittle, and I'm pretty sure I've got the C15 equivalent of modern Turkish Delight (thickened and set with grain starch rather than gelatin). You at least get some sense of proportions of ingredients from most recipes - in some cases, you actually get quantities. But you still have to work out the cooking times and temperatures, and you don't always get the quantities (for instance, I'm pretty sure "some" sesame seeds is more than "some" almond oil).

One particular recipe I'm trying to work out at the moment is Virgin's Breasts. Oh, yeah, the fun we've had with innuendo ("do I have one breast, or two?" "boobie biscuits!" "tea and titties!"). The recipe is pretty simple -combine equal parts of clarified butter, almond meal, semolina and sugar, shape into breasts and put in the bread oven until done. BUT, as anyone who's made biscuits will tell you, there's a lot of different ways of combining those ingredients. And the lack of eggs makes things interesting.

The first attempt, I used ghee and creamed it with the sugar before adding the semolina and almond meal. They came out very dry and crumbly, plus I used choc chips to make nipples and they fell off. I also made them a little big, and they were a little too sweet for some people. But there was one important thing I realised - shortbread!

Saturday's attempt, I clarified my own butter (you melt it and strain off the solids) then added the sugar to make a frothy liquid, then I added the semolina and almond meal. However, I added extra butter, and used raw caster sugar which has extra molasses, to combat the dryness (I also used raisins for nipples). This time, they flattened while cooking (Little Girl's Breasts :)). It was almost certainly the extra butter and raw caster sugar, according to Harold McGee (On Food and Cooking is far and away one of the best books I ever bought). I also think I overworked the batter a little.

So, next time, don't add extra butter, use refined (white) caster sugar, use a spatula to mix in the semolina and almond meal rather than the KitchenAid.
Tea addict


Isn't it lovely? The lighter has a beautiful broken diamond twill pattern, which I can't do justice to in a photo. The plan is to make the lighter into a peplos and the brown into a cloak. I will have a bit of the lighter left, I'm planning to make a hood from that. The smaller roll is for making leg bindings.

And most importantly -
Officially Approved for use.
The Unknown Cactus

And another thing...

2 other things actually.

First, I'm on Facebook. Look for "Leoba" and you'll find me. I hate Facebook - but there's a great deal of SCA related activity happening there, so I signed up. I've doomed the world!

And second... this year's Tocal Tourney has a C15 Italian theme. Normally I don't make special garb for themed events, but the Steward is the absolutely awesome Lord Wulf, soon to be Master Wulf (and about bloody time too) so I'd like to make everything look good. I found a C15 Venetian illumination that actually has a woman in it and my fevered brain said "yeah... we can do that..." especially seeing as Reconstructing History has a good pattern I can use. So the RH pattern is C16 Florence so the sleeves and head gear are totally different but the body is right and that was what I wanted. So I've ordered the pattern and checked the stash. I might be able to do this!

I've signed up for Facebook. I'm going to make some late period garb. Next thing you know, Tony Abbott will actually start being a decent human being, pigs will fly and the world will come to a universal realisation that Twilight is rubbish.

Or maybe the world has slipped off its axis....