Damson Gin Beginnings

The damson harvest has started. They are not as ripe as I would like but I have only a few days to get them processed. This bowl is a neat 3kg from maybe about a quarter of the tree?

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I rinsed and drained them and picked through for the ripest ones. 900g of those have been pricked with a fork and loaded into a sealable jar with about 150g sugar and enough gin to cover (this time ~650ml Houndstooth brand). They look prettily wintery with just the sugar poured in.

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Here with the gin added.

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Now they have to sit in a dark cupboard for a year. Up end the jar a few times early on to dissolve the sugar. Then ignore. At harvest time next year, strain off the liquor and enjoy.

Tomorrow I’ll pick some more and make jam I think, despite the forecast being for horribly hot.

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(mostly) Damson Chutney

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I have a young damson plum tree named Dorcas. She is laden with her first decent crop, now netted. I’m keenly monitoring the ripeness of the fruit. It’s starting to soften, I think I’ll be jamming in a few days.

The chutney is from fruit picked early for various reasons.  Mostly because I cut the top of the tree out to both make it easier to net and to keep tree small. Those branches had some underripe fruit which I’ve been ripening indoors. I’m turning this into chutney because any lack of flavour from the fruit will be masked by the heavy spicing.

There was only half a kilo of damsons, so I added some other plums and some cherry flesh that I’d pitted and frozen (they were disappointing eating as fresh fruit).

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I’ve used this recipe. It’s lovely, I’ve cooked it before. I altered the method a bit. Stew the fruit and spices with a tiny bit of water over a low heat until the stones are released. Pick out the stones, rub what fruit flesh came with them through a sieve back into the pot. Add the vinegar and sugar and cook until done.  It was only a tiny batch. ~900g fruit doesn’t fill many jars. Good colour though.

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Pickled Cherries

I saved this recipe from a newspaper back at about the turn of this century. Then I made it up 2-3 years ago. At christmas lunch we finally broached a jar. They were about as amazing as I had hoped, and wonderful with the baked glazed ham. Also grand in a toasted ham and cheese sandwich. So I’ve just bottled another half kilo before cherry season ends.

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Pickled Cherries
1kg cherries
750ml white wine vinegar (I used ACV)
2 cups sugar
6 cloves
3 cinnamon sticks
3 sprigs thyme
3 bay leaves
9 peppercorns

Bring the vinegar and sugar to boil in a saucepan*. Allow to cool.
Use clean, unmarked fruit. Snip the stems of the cherries back to 1cm. Pack into sterilised jars, fill the jars with the cooled vinegar mixture and seal. Leave for 1-2 weeks (I say years) before using.

*I misread the recipe this time and included the spices in the boil, never mind, other pickle recipes do this.

Gathered inset chemise

To my non reenactment readers I apologise. This post is long as it is and I realise has a bunch of assumed knowledge that I haven’t explained.
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I’ve seen several extant “late period” chemises with the hip fullness enhanced by gathered insets rather than the more usual triangular gores at the sides. Here is one from 1660, the picture is from Janet Arnold 4.  I really like them and would love to make one (or more). (I’ve now added a couple more gathered inset extant garments at the bottom of this post).

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However I’m currently making and wearing early 14thC garb. Then a friend shared photos of a fine linen alb from Switzerland dating to ~1310.

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Woo hoo! I thought. I’m going to use these two garments to inspire a chemise. I need another for a long event anyway and one in very fine fabric might make the too tight sleeves of my new blue gown a bit more buttonable. The picture above looked to me as if the gathered inset was set directly below an underarm gusset. I now think that is not quite the case. The extant alb has a bit more drapiness above the gathers than my version.

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I’ve used a very fine ramie voile which I bought cheaply. So I can make several of these if I like and not break the bank, which buying fine linen voile would, if one could even find it (the alb may well be in a particularly fine strain of linen which is now extinct). I cut out the garment, and then almost immediately wished I’d done it differently. I did the gathered side pieces cut together with the garment body. I now think they should, and would better be done as separate sections, sewn to the garment body. I did manage to hide the side seams pretty well in the actual gathers. The fabric is very wide, so I was able to cut the sleeves with the body piece also. the only separate pieces were the underarm gussets and the neck facing.

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I constructed each of the side gathers differently. Both are cartridge pleated. The first one doesn’t have a turn down at the top of the gathered section, and is bound by the bottom tip of the underarm gusset. This came out a bit uneven, but is nice and flat. Right side, then reverse view below.

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The second side came out much neater, but has more of a lump from the bulk of the pleats. I’ve turned down the top of the gathered section before running the stitches for the cartridge pleating. Then I’ve used a small piece of straight grain double fold facing (left over from the neck facing) to stabilise the gusset section the gathers are sewn to.

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The hem is a deep (7cm) double fold. Which is a good thing to do in very fine fabric. Gives it weight so it behaves better.

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However although the alb has a deep hem, looking again that seems to have basically a double fold hem with only a small turn under at the top.

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Here is the whole thing on. I will wear it with the blue gown in a couple of weeks and see if the gathered sections annoy me or not.

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And a silly action shot, just for fun. New garments often inspire me to dance.

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Adding in a couple of other extant side gathered garments:

The tunic found at Guddal. I think this might be 12thC? Probably a short man’s garment.

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A beautiful garment from “somewhere in the middle east”. Foolish me didn’t capture the information. I will see if I can track it down.  Make that 14thC Persian. I don’t understand how this would have been worn though.

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Repeating the prettier gathered section so it will be picked up when shared on other sites.

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Concentric HST little quilt

This has just gone to its family, so I feel I can share it here.  When a new baby in my circle intersects with a quilting enthusiasm…… I do so enjoy making these little bright quilts.

Design inspiration from an internet image search of HST quilts. I’ve done a few Half Square Triangle (HST) quilts before. This is just HST paired in light/dark contrast, arranged in concentric diamonds.

Pull a bunch of fabrics from stash, make sure I had an even split between light and dark (a few were hard to assign and I’d make some different choices if I was starting again). Cut enough squares.

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Sort the squares into light/dark pairs. Draw a diagonal line point to point on the pale squares. Sew a careful seam width either side of said line, cut along it. Press open and end up with a bunch of triangle pairs.

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Arrange them to please your eye.

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Then sew them all together. Rows then columns. Press so that the seams offset neatly. Layer, quilt, bind, label.

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Unlike the lattice insanity, this is machine pieced. I do quilt by hand though. Partly because the quilting stitches are visible, partly because I’ve not yet figured out machine quilting. I tend to do large stitch quilting for baby quilts though. This one was quilted in #8 perle cotton in shades of green/teal and blue. I rather like how it came out. Bright, fun and slightly brain twisty in the way that I like.

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Christmas Crackers

These are amusing enough that I’ve just made them for the third time. Not my idea. I’ve reconstructed the method from a glimpse of a picture some years ago.

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Take flat breads, these are done with Lebanese bread. Cut into 6-8 wedges. Snip off the bits that stop them looking like trees (kitchen scissors are the easiest tool for this). Lay on oven trays. Brush with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and finely chopped rosemary. Bake in ~160C oven for 10-15min until dry. Cool on racks. Bag up until wanted. I make them to serve with pate, but they are just flavoured crackers really so eat them with what you wish.

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The offcuts were tossed with olive oil, spread on an oven tray, sprinkled with a spice mixture and similarly baked until dry and a bit browned. In this case I used cumin, coriander, salt, pepper, chipotle powder, sweet paprika, celery seed. We will eat these as a crispy snack with drinks tonight.

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A gratuitous shot of my beautiful Maurice* who’s flowers were gracing the table.

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*”Maurice Utrillo” A glorious scented and striped rose from Delbard’s Painters range of roses.

Morello Cherries

Hello again. Very long time no post. I’ve been busy travelling, working on gifts and a large project that has so far escaped being posted here. So to get my hand back in, I’ll share with you what I did with my first tiny crop of morello cherries.

Teeny crop. Young tree. First time I’ve had more than one fruit.

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What to do with them? Morello cherries are sour, so they are more for cooking with than simply eating. A friend semi dries hers to good effect. So I pitted and halved them, and dried them in a low oven.

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How to make better use of such tiny scraps of dried fruit? Toast some pistachios, melt some dark choc with a bit of brandy and mix the lot together. The chocolate siezed but blended into a semi truffle sort of consistency.

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I’d not repeat that exact chocolate mix, but the resulting little balls made lovely little morsels. Papa and I demolished them with enthusiasm.

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Liberty nights

I’m publicising my nightwear again. Completely decently I promise. Fine lawn is cool to wear and folds up small and light for travel. Add a busy print and it’s more decent in the opacity sense. Liberty Tana is of course perfect. I made a kimono style robe for summer traveling some years ago from a beautiful orange tulip Tana. I’ve been wanting a gown to go with it. I decided to use some of the left overs from the lattice patchwork, including the tulip print.

While working on the lattice, I found this second hand purple dress. It didn’t fit, but I rather thought the fabric might be Liberty Tana. It was home made, so no label to identify it. I now think it probably isn’t, but it’s very close in quality.

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I used a little of it in the lattice. I deliberately kept the skirt whole, figuring it would be good for something needing acreage. Then I realised I could build a patchwork bodice, and use the skirt for this gown. I got a few squares out of the purple, enough to tie the bodice in visually. Measure the pattern. Work out a good size for the squares and how many are needed. Start laying them out:

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Assemble the rough shape. This is for the front.

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Then cut the pattern out of it, cursing when you realise you need to put darts in it.

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Assemble the bodice, all with flat felled seams to keep it single layer and minimum weight, maximum cool. Adjust the skirt so it can be attached flat to the bodice. To maximise fullness neatly, I put an inverted pleat at centre back. The hem is the original with a bit of tweaking where I redid the seams.

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A quick pic of it on. It’s baggy deliberately but the colours, though strange, work for me. No smile, I had a grump on.

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The neck and armholes are finished with teeny straight grain facings, a trick I’ve adopted from my medieval costume work. It uses little fabric, is fairly quick to do and strengthens the edge.

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Here it is with the robe over. I’m pretty happy with it.

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and a gratuitous label shot. In this case the label is recycled from a now too small shirt.

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Lattice is Layered

I had meant to do just one post to cover the latest stages of the insane lattice quilt. I’ve broken the prep of backing and binding down into two separate posts or this would have been a huge monster post. This post is really just a pic-fest celebrating having gotten this far.

Using proper layering technique as taught to me by a good friend makes more sense when working on a queen size quilt rather than the small cot quilts I’ve done more recently. There is just so much fabric and batting to deal with. This is the (wool) batting half laid out. The backing is already positioned underneath it.

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The patchwork beginning to be added, still folded in quarters.

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Last chance for pictures of the back of the patchwork sans papers

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All layered and safety pinned

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A final arty shot

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Now I need to refine my plans for the quilting pattern. I started to chalk it in but I’m glad I had to leave the house for an appointment because I’m not happy with plan A. More thoughts needed.

Quilt Pre-Binding Experiment

I spent all day Sunday getting the lattice quilt ready to layer. This was the second stage after piecing the backing. This lovely cotton shirting woven satin stripe fabric is what I landed on for the binding.

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It looks good with the backing (and you will see it with the patchwork a little later)

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I had spent a bunch of time thinking on how I was going to bind this quilt. The way I had stitched the blocks meant that I couldn’t open the edge seams without cutting the fabric or unpicking the hand stitching, neither of which I was up for. I usually apply the binding after the quilting is done. However if I did it then, I really didn’t think I could apply it this close to the edge with the squishy batting as part of the mix. So I thought I’d try sewing the binding strips on before both layering and quilting. It worked fairly well, but I had forgotten that all the edge pieces are on the bias. So sewing on the binding had the risk of stretching or condensing the edge. I seem to have stretched it just a bit, but I’m pleased with the accuracy in terms of closeness to the edge. I very much hope that slight stretching is tolerable in the finished piece.

First the binding strips are joined to be long enough for each side, then pressed in half lengthways. No pics of this, sorry.

Then I cut the protruding edge squares back to provide a cut edge guide. Leaving a neat 1/4″ from the block edges was the right measure to use the machine foot edge as the seam guide and just barely catch the block edges in the seam.

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The little black offcuts look a bit like moths or bats 🙂

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Machining the binding on:

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Pretty happy with this

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Then the binding is pressed away from the edge. I do like the colours and the stripe effect next to the patchwork. It will be a little less than half this width in the end.

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