FFF 2017 #2

Folk (music) Festival Fashion, second garment for this year.

I’m a fan of Indian block printed cotton, but it’s pretty hard to come by. Especially as yardage. Even in finished garments I don’t see it often locally these days. I’m also fond of circle skirts, as you might have noticed. So when I found some Indian printed cotton bedspreads with circular patterns on sale cheaply, I jumped in and bought one.


It’s lighter weight fabric than I was hoping for, but the colours are lovely. I decided to make a loose dress that would also function as a pinafore/over dress. I started by cutting as large a circle as possible from the cloth. Then cut a bodice from the corners. Because of the limited fabric, it had to have seams front and back. Then I proceeded to make a series of changes and errors, all involving those centre seams! Silly me. I ended up with a bodice that fit, but which had only a tiny seam allowance centre front, which needed something applied to support it. I was struggling for a solution, until I remembered that I had yet to cut out the centre from the skirt circle. Aha! I could use that circle to both decorate and strengthen the bodice front. I had wanted a lower neckline, but given I’d had to cut the bodice short due to limited fabric, and couldn’t make the functionally decorative circle any smaller, the neckline depth was set.


The bodice is the pattern from the tricksy striped teal dress, only with the vertical darts left out so no fastenings are needed. That way I didn’t have to cut into the circle of the skirt. It’s lined with dark blue linen.

Here it is with the skirt on, all finished.


It’s not the world’s most flattering dress, but it’s comfy and fun and I like it. See the fullness of the skirt.


I’ve put a drawstring in at the base of the bodice, but I may not use it much. I think it looks better loose. Makes me want to twirl and dance.





FFF 2017 #1

That is, Folk (music) Festival Fashion. The first folk music festival I went to, I just wore regular jeans and tshirt type things. When I saw some of the interesting things other people turned up in, I felt like I had missed an opportunity big time. Guess who likes dressing up? So when there is a festival in the offing, I like to make an appropriate new thing or two. This one ticks both the wholemeal and vaguely-other-ethnicity boxes.

As usual, I’m having a “my goodness this fabric is great” moment. Really, I’d buy more of this in lots of colours if I could get it. However, I bought this as a bolt end, also as usual. Sigh. It’s mid weight cotton with a hand loomed sort of look and a relaxed crinkle. Launders and wears beautifully. I haven’t been wearing much brown of late, but this will take me back there a bit at least.

This is a half circle wrap skirt made up of 16 gores. Most are cut as balanced triangles, the end gores are cut with one vertical edge on the straight grain so the end facing/hems will be stable. It even has a pocket.


I’ve broken my usual rule of not doing contrast top stitching in order to add restrained interest, and to lighten the overall dark impression. The implement that makes this achievable neatly? Using my blind hemming foot to guide the top stitching. It works wonderfully well, as long as one can restrain it from running off the guide seam.


Garments with strings are a pain in the laundry. My solution is to make the tie strings detachable as so:


Here is the skirt on, with bonus towel on head:


And here, styled to head into town to an exhibition:


Belt for a Foundling

Back in April last year, I agreed to contribute to a mad plan by donating an item for a quest that would also be a gift for a friend. It needed to be an item that might be useful to a gentleman living in Calais in 1376. I have made a bunch of tablet woven belts for myself and others which people have been kind enough to admire. I decided to make another for this project. Construction started in October, and the belt finally made it to the intended recipient in January. Now it doesn’t need to be a secret any longer I can write it up publicly.

I went back to look at weave types though. My previous belts had mostly been random chevron patterns under the mounts. Defensible, but I felt like doing something different. I had always liked this extant band, and it is listed as mid 14thC and 8.5mm wide.

Museum of London “Textiles and Clothing” Fig 100B.

Then I found this image in a collection of extant medieval girdle images on , sigh, pinterest. The weave is rather similar.au.pinterest.com

This is the blog post it came from. The image itself seems to come from a Sotheby’s auction catalogue. A translated description in the post is:

“With a length of 128 cm and a width of 1,5 cm the original tablet woven band has been typical for a belt of 1340 to 1350. It is decorated with 51 metal mounts. Through the quality of the mounts it is supposed that the belt has been produced in France.”

The MoL band is silk. I’m thinking the Sotheby’s one is too (I don’t read German at all well but a few textile terms are familiar and the blogger has done her reproduction in silk). I did not have appropriate silk on hand. I had however recently found a worsted wool that weaves well (“Cool wool” from Dairing). Wool girdles are perfectly authentic though lower status I’m told. When doing my test weave with this wool, the weft behaved badly, twisting up on itself and forming tiny picots on the edge. So in this belt I used a cotton weft for ease of weaving.

Both extant bands are done in a single colour, but the SCA has sumptuary traditions for plain belts in any single primary colour. I would have been happy to make a plain red one, but I did not want it to be confused for a squires belt. So I used a red border and an off-white centre. These were the two colours I had of this wool.


However, after weaving it, I concluded that though I really liked the result, looked at with a medieval eye, it did not look rich enough. So I overdyed the whole thing with yellow. Though annoyingly, that meant that the weft then didn’t match the centre section of the weave. I will point out that the gentleman in question is known to wear very bright colours for the fun of it.


I’ve used 18 four holed tablets all threaded alternately S and Z. The edge three tablets on each side were turned 1/4 turn forwards each weft pass. The centre tablets were turned two 1/4 turns forward, then two 1/4 turns backward. I think the result looks pretty good except the border weave is a bit loose. That could be perhaps from the weft being a little heavy? or possibly that the double turn of the centre tablet takes up more length?  The resulting band was 16mm wide to match the buckle I wanted to use.


The MoL weave description is very similar except they split the centre pack into two section of alternating tablets, one half turned twice forward and the other twice back, then reversed. I couldn’t see why that was necessary, though I might later experiment and see what difference that makes.

The blog reproduction linked above uses six hole tablets and two wefts, which I don’t fully understand and anyway, I only have four hole tablets and wasn’t up for making 6hole.

Then I attached the buckle (copy of an extant one from Gaukler) and end and blinged it up with mounts. More mounts would have been a better match for extant examples, but this was as many as I could get at the time to work on such a narrow band. Riveted mounts seem to be more authentic, but again, working with what I had. Oh, the buckle is brass and the mounts are gold plated pewter.


Here it is as it would be worn, though only on my dress dummy.


and a pretty coiled shot for good measure.



Blood Plum Fest

I said I wanted some plums to bulk out my teeny tiny crop of damsons. A friend of mine is in the process of selling her house and she offered me some of her last crop of mariposa plums. I offered to help her pick them. Ta da, a lovely time picking, chatting and meeting one of her other friends ensued and I got what turned out to be 9.4kg of plums to take home!

What few fruit my rather young damson tree offered up this year:

and the mariposa haul on a very different scale:


My first aim was to make another batch of the spicey plum sauce I like so much. It’s fabulous with sausages and coleslaw and I’m on my last bottle from the previous batch. It’s basically a ketchup type thing made from plums. The recipe I use is from Stephanie Alexander’s “Cooks companion”. Below is what I did, which is a slight change in method. However, her suggestion of stoning the plums first and using a bag for the stones is a much better plan. Passing the stewed fruit through a sieve gives a lovely texture but is a silly amount of work and my arm is hating me for it.

Spiced plum sauce

1.5kg plums (except I scaled the whole thing up for 2kg of plums)
1 1/2 tsp whole cloves
1 tsp whole allspice
1 tsp black peppercorns
2 1/4 cups brown sugar
2 tsp salt
1 tbsp minced fresh ginger (I cheated and used the stuff that comes in a jar)
3 cups cider vinegar
4 tiny hot chillis, seeded and chopped

Bring all to boil until plums collapse.
Pass through a sieve to remove stones and spices.
Boil uncovered until it thickens. Note it thickens further on cooling. (aiming for a bit thicker than regular tomato sauce).
Bottle in sterilised vessels.
Wait at least a month before using.

4 bottles of lovely dark plum sauce:


Erbowle is a medieval plum pudding thing. It is basically plums stewed in wine, passed through a sieve, sweetened with honey and flavoured with salt and spices (I used cinnamon, pepper, clove, nutmeg) all to taste. I made it on my recent trip while helping in the kitchen. It occurred to me a little later that I could make it, bottle it and preserve/”can” it by boiling in a water bath. So, I did, though I left out the rice flour thickening for fear it would catch in the water bath boil. Hopefully that separation will stir back in after opening.


This is a plum chutney I have made before. I made double the recipe and used half again as much sugar, for some crazy reason. Why? Silly me. Next time I’ll try to stick to recipe. It caught a bit towards the end of cooking. I really hope I didn’t burn it. I couldn’t taste burn, but there are so many other strong flavours. Fingers crossed.


I also made jam. I tend to think that plums need a bit of help in the flavour department to make a nice jam. I’ve used this this rather excellent spicy recipe before and it was lovely in a rather savoury kind of way, so I cooked it again. It makes a very dark jam because of the wine I suppose.


All the above recipes were done in 2kg batches. The remaining plums I stewed up with a little wine and sugar and froze in batches to eat with my breakfast. Yum.

Sadly, my arm now hates me. Boo. I have a huge list of things I want to do and all.

Peach Chilli Chutney

Long time no post! I’ve been away but now I’m back and there is a backlog of posts to get through. I had three lots of free fruit arrive in my life this week. I’ve been working hard and having fun preserving them.

A friend of mine is an enthusiastic picker of neglected fruit trees. Someone he knows had peach trees with spare fruit, he kindly sent a big bag of them to me. They took a few days to get to me so there was a lot of heavily bruised fruit. The ~4.5 kg of peaches yielded half a kilo of good eating fruit plus 2kg of usable peach flesh.  Processing fruit takes time. It took me an hour to get from bag-o-fruit to that 2kg of chopped flesh ready for cooking.

I used a tweaked and multiplied version of this recipe. I made a slightly different version of it last year and it turned out brilliantly, aromatic and lively. Really nice either with curry or cheese sandwiches. That first batch has all been eaten, so I was glad for the chance to make more.


2kg peeled and diced peaches (prepared weight)
10 tiny red chillis, deseeded and chopped
2.5 heaped dessert spoon chopped ginger
2.5T cumin seed
seeds from 40 green cardamom pods
500g brown sugar
650ml cider vinegar

Put all of that into a wide pan, bring to boil. Cook uncovered on medium heat until it thickens. Bottle.

When I say tiny chillis, I mean tiny. These are from a plant in my garden. I’m a bit astonished at how small they are. I’ve used them as if they each have the heat of a more regular sized Thai chilli.