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Among the other things I was doing, as a Victorian housemaid at Holkham Hall, was explaining the various cake samples on offer to the visitors who were about to eat them. One of these cakes was Seed Cake. This is a recipe from Mrs Beeton's cookery book: a fairly plain, heavy sponge, with a lot of caraway seeds in it. Part of my explanation was that if they'd read any Swallows and Amazons, Enid Blyton, or other books of that era, Seed Cake was what always went with the Lashings of Ginger Beer. As I rather expected, I got instant recognition from people my age or older, blank looks from teenagers, and partial response from the 20s and 30s. I was surprised by the response from junior-school age and younger. Quite a few were apparently reading "The Far-away Tree" at the moment (that's one I've never read myself). Perhaps half recognised "Famous Five".
What absolutely delighted me, though, was a very small girl whose face lit up at the mention of the Famous Five. Yes, she'd listened to them! She knew about seed cake, and was thrilled to try some. "Listened"? Yes - her big sister (currently holding her hand protectively) was reading the Famous Five to her every night, and they were about to start a really big story.  Reading a story to your little sister - isn't that so much nicer than squabbling over the remote control for the TV?

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"Let us take you back to Victorian times as our cooks prepare for a Victorian Easter feast in the Old Kitchen. You can join in too with treats to taste and decorations to make, copper pots and pans to shine and help Branston the butler to lay the grand table."

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Found the Victorian boots, and got the Big Case out of the loft. Inside that, I have an extra petticoat, three lots of drawers, three aprons, the chatelaine, the sontag, a few pairs of stockings, plus some Posh Bits that I won't be needing. Also, the nightdress - the one item that isn't reproduction, it's the real thing (and very comfortable too). If I have room, I'll put the wrapper in - yes, 1850s style not 1880s, but it's a useful dressing gown and gives me a change if I need it. The white blouse goes in on similar principles.
What I can't find is any suitable headgear. There's a little lacy thing, a slatted bonnet (far too Southern ACW in style!) and a crocheted snood. Not sure what I need, but I may take white cotton with me and sew something when I get there.
And now, having drugged myself awake with coffee, off to make some food and then get back to the sewing of the blue blouse and skirt.
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Today was a working day, so didn't get a lot done in the way of sewing.

This morning, pulled out the real fabric, took off a 5" wide strip (so 45" long) that will eventually be the skirt waistband, intending to iron it to the right shape. Sorted through the fastenings drawer, found some big skirt hooks that will do to fasten said waistband, and a strip of hook&eye tape that may get used if I really run out of time - buttons can be decorative.

This evening, put on the corset, put the blouse body mock-up on over it, tried to sort out what was wrong with the yoke to put the shoulder seam several inches down my back. It seems that the sizes they give are fine for around me, but less useful when scaled by the same amount up and down. I've shortened the front by a couple of inches and lengthened the back by the same amount, while keeping widths the same, and the body now fits, with join between yoke and pleated body in the right place.

Tomorrow I make sure the sleeves fit (I expect they will, the armhole looks fine and gathering sleeves to fit the hole is easy enough), and check the cut of the neck hole and collar. Then on to the real fabric!

One other important step taken today: booked Thursday as holiday. I think I'm going to need it.
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 A bit more sorting happened (sock drawer and a few others), more washing got done and hung, and that got the dining room clear enough to be used as a sewing room.
Pattern traced on to clear plastic.
Cheap calico dust-sheet ironed for use as the blouse mock-up (thanks, Dave).
Calico cut out from the patterns
After much puzzlement, faffing, pinning, unpinning, and re-pinning, mock-up mostly assembled: yoke is together, fronts and back are pleated and attached to yoke, sides are together. Sleeves and collar are assembled ready to be fitted to the body.
But I still have to try this on over the corset, make any adjustments, do the same cutting and assembly on the real fabric, , plus actually fitting the sleeves and the collar and doing all the hemming and buttons and button-holes.
Plus the skirt needs doing.... solid waistband with hooks, pleat fabric on to it... I think I may completely cheat and have a selvage at the bottom so  that I can avoid hemming if if I have to. I may decide to wear the blouse tucked into the skirt, not over it, so that I don't have to hem the bottom (and can get away with less buttons)
Because I have to get all this lot done, plus packing, by Thursday night (and not too late Thursday either), and I'm out Wednesday. Three evenings. I may take sewing into work with me to do in lunchbreak, and on the train on Wednesday. I'm starting to consider grabbing a short-notice day off to get the sewing done.

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 It started well on Friday in work, when the Project That Will Not Die, died. I'm not sure if my taking garlic and wooden stakes to the final project meeting helped, or not (yes, really, I did). Red Nose Day bake-in included my being asked for the recipe for the cheesy potato scones I'd provided (thank you, Julian Hayley and Slimming World, for the recipe).

Saturday I made the aforementioned soda bread, and another round of cheesy potato scones, and then we had a Sam and Anne with us, ate nibbles (Anne had produced cakes and bread and bacon, and....) and then headed off to TORM.

The idea was to get the fabric and buttons for the Victorian skirt and blouse I need for Easter, but in fact I didn't find either. So naturally I spent nothing... well, apart from a few books on cooking in periods I didn't yet know much about (Georgian, 1800s, Victorian), and some jerky from Martin Cowley , but that doesn't really count, does it? Got an 1880s petticoat that needs a little work on the waistband and seams to get it up to my size, but having all those frills done for me, in heavy canvas, helps enormously, and £30 is well worth it! OK, so maybe the new drum did count... we had to take the car apart slightly to get it home, since 30" is a big drum. We saw fun things, like the steam-punk crossbows, and met fun people, like Chris and Lee (shopping for bridesmaid dresses - what, you mean not everyone wants their bridesmaid in a houppelande?) and didn't buy a portable cannon, nor any more booze.

Once home, Anne cooked at us. She'd wanted to do Irish cooking for an appreciative audience, so we let her, and did St Paddy's Day a few hours early. Mmm.... there aren't many people I'd let loose in my kitchen unsupervised, but she's definitely one of them.

Sunday, nibbles (her bread, my bread), then the Lounge for brunch (at their request), then home, watching the rain get harder, and then they headed back to London before the weather got any worse.

Afternoon - clearing up, sorting PCs (Dave's building me a new one), trying to find the craft room again, and trying to design the next birthday card I'm due to produce. Also meant to be writing a Swords turn, writing a review of Age of Arthur, writing an extra army list for publication, and just spotted a short story competition that looks interesting and I should make note of. But really, this is the weekend, and taking things easy and catching up on sleep may be more important, judging by yesterday.

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It arrived in the post from Holland yesterday: "Truly Victorian"'s "1880s Yoked Blouse". The idea was that now I'd know what was needed, so I could buy such at TORM. Sadly, while it tells me I'll need 2 2/3 yards of material, it fails to specify whether that's 45" or 60". It mentions a need for buttons, but fails to say how many or in what size, and suggests the type of material to use for interfacing, but fails to say how much, and on reading, never suggests where to use it. This is a blouse, not an outer coat or rigid bodice, I can't imagine adding interfacing anywhere, especially not in the heavy materials they suggested.

Searching the internet finds a PDF of the pattern sheet, but with added info on yardage: "45"/60" wide fabric" Huh? There's a difference, unless your cutting pattern for the 60" is extremely wasteful.

What I've found on Ebay is 45". I want enough for a skirt as well, and that can be pretty flexible. I've measured the skirt on my nice blue dress, the one I bought rather than made, and that's a 5-yard hem. If I get enough fabric to do this the same (and 4 yards would be plenty) that should give me enough spare for the blouse, if they got it wrong. 8 yards in total, at £7.50. £60... I think I'll see if TORM has anything cheaper, but I already know Herts Fabrics don't carry cotton, I emailed him and asked. The other fabric stall doesn't seem to do "on-line" - re-enacting the Middle Ages rather too thoroughly.

I think I've got some MOP buttons somewhere, though if I have time I'd prefer to do fabric-covered. Better check I've got enough scrap sheet cotton to do a mock-up.

Oh, and we'd better find the big table in the dining room again. Dave decided to redecorate, and the table's mostly folded up, and what's left is covered in boxes and dust-sheets.
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Last weekend was Spalding weekend - my first event with the Four and Twenty Blackbirds, demonstrating Tudor cookery at Ayscoughfee Hall.
Yes, I did get the kirtle finished. That went over the existing C13 linern shift, Dave's Dark Age boots, and I found some suitable linen headgear and a belt and pouch that were (amazlingly enough) from the right period. Eating gear and a couple of apples in the basket, suitcase packed with mundane kit, and off we went Up North.

It got long )

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Surprisngly well, actually. I got a lot of things done that weren't in the plan, mainly because I had a Dave around to enjoy, so we did things that it made sense to do together - like eating lunch out. Saturday he was working days, but Sunday he was on change-over, and Monday he managed to wake up much earlier than usual, so that was a day and a half of "ooh, look, I have a husband".  Lunches have occurred at the Lounge and at a Toby carvery. We also went to the Homebase 15% off day and got a new strimmer, a new laundry basket, and some more plants (aubergine that already has small fruit on, my one having failed due to neglect, and some herbs to go in the front bed), acquired and used bird food, watered everything that needed it, and on Monday, investigated a furniture place near the Toby and may have found a new 3-piece suite that isn't too expensive.

Despite two meals out, I've stayed in WW point limits, not even using exercise points or weeklies, and have lost 2kg this week. No major milestones, but I am now on less points per day than before. I'm feeling healthier - bouncy and efficient, with "brisk" being the default walk, rather than "amble" or "plod".

Techy stuff - both the new phone and the tablet now run Android 4. Ah, yes, new phone - Dave and I now both have phones from Virgin Media, same people who supply our broadband, TV, and landline. It's a pretty good deal. MIne's a Samsung Galaxy 2, and so far, I like. I'm very impressed by how easy transfer was - once the PAC code was in, and the number switched to the new phone, all my apps, wallpaper, everything, transferred itself automatically. Well, all except the WW app I use, that isn't on Android Market any more, so I had to re-download.
Also discovered that if I load Dropbox to the phone, it'll automatically upload any photos I take to my Dropbox account, so they're waiting on the PC for me when I get home. Handy!

Sewing? That kirtle has gone from a length of fabric and a cutting diagram on the back of an envelope to an almost-complete garment. Side-gussets, facing for the neckline (it's  a good job I never throw anything away, if you were to lay that facing out flat on the inside-out-kirtle so you could see the shape, it would look a lot like a linen trouser-leg, and for good reason).
I need to do some hand sewing where the gussets meet, to get the seams to work, and to finish off the ends of every seam so I don't have dangling threads or a tendency for things to come undone.
It would be a good idea to either finish all the seams properly (no chance) or to run the zig-zag machine over them (some chance) before they fray to death. It would be nice to hem the bottom, and the ends of the sleeves, rather than rely on the selvage to do the job.
What I've absolutely got to do, to make this usable, is the eyelets so the front opening can be laced up. Before that, I plan on sewing that facing seam in place on the outside - hand stitching is probably easier than the machine, as well as looking better.
Three evenings, plus some of Friday (morning before I leave the house, probable hand-sewing time in the hotel Friday night/Saturday morning). I'll do it.

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It's getting almost like old times.

Last night was a "rest" night - clear the dining table down and put the extension pieces back in, make a card (first time of "DIY decoupage" - take multiple copies of an ordinary card, cut out the motif from some of them, glue it to the base of another).

Today, I get into town to pick up two parcels and post said card, then back here and start Sewing. That isn't quite like old times - I used to have fabric all over the lounge carpet, but now I can't get down there to kneel next to it, hence the use of the big table. Check my measurements, check the cutting pattern, chop 4 yards of linen into various rectangles and triangles, apply sewing machine. There will then be hand-sewing to finish the seams and apply eyelets for the front lacing, and that may occur in front of the TV.
Lunch is planned to be "cheat's paella" so as to use up things in the fridge, dinner will probably be salad nicoise, but Dave will be back tonight, so it might be something we'll both like instead. Just not cold chicken. I picked up a reduced ready-roast chicken earlier in the week, and while that's a nice easy meal, I'm a bit "chickened out".

I'll also be investigating what looks like some medieval sandals for fit and adjusting as needed (pretty simple bit of leather-work), finding eating gear, medieval glasses, any cooking/sewing bits I might have that would be in period, and so on.

But first - coffee!


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September 2017



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