Monday, 25 November 2013

Medieval Italian Costume

In these modern times, when everything from 50 years old and older is referred to as "costume", it can be awfully difficult to figure out what it was our predecessors wore when they went out partying. As it were. But Medieval Dead III was coming, and I refused to be undone!

Starting with Italian fairy tales, I finally came across a two line reference to creatures called Longana, faun like water spirits, not a million miles away from the Irish legend of Selkies. I could find no more (interwebs, why do you hate me so). I was saved however by Aodh who found further references under the alternate name of the Anguana. It confirmed the half woman-half goat legend and had a further reference to a harvest association, giving me enough to work with.

I ordered a bundle of rye straw from, which was almost as tall as I am! Cute kitty doorstop added for scale.

I had plans to teach myself straw braiding and do something very elaborate with the straw, but I ran out of time, so mocked up a simple pair of rams horn and a small sheaf to carry around as part of my costume. On the day, my make up, which really added the finished touches, was done by Fianna, and simple though it was, I thoroughly enjoyed this costume.

Voting was by popular choice, with each person entering in the costume competition having to give a little speech on their entry. Have I mentioned that public speaking terrifies me? In the words of Nessa, I'm getting plenty of practice this year, whether I want it or not! I forgot half of what I'd read up on, but I'm told I communicated enough to show I had researched my topic so yay. One more step towards being brave enough to actually recite something. And last, the winning costume entry. Granted you can't see the make up very well in these pictures, but trust me, it was fabulous. 

Tuesday, 19 November 2013


On top of an already busy week (the good kind of busy this week), I got my jam making on. Like baking, I don't eat an awful lot of jam, but I love the process, so I wanted to get it done this weekend to bring along to give to friends at the event this weekend.

The first of the hard frosts came last night, so I picked my dwarf crab apples just in time. The recipe I use involves equal volumes of apple with honey, so it can easily be adapted to any volume of fruit.

To start, I cut the apples in half and added just enough water to cover them. I put the pot onto the boil and after about half an hour, mushed up all the apples to release the juice. I boiled the mush for about another half hour, then strained the pulp though muslin cloth. My yield this year was just under three pints of juice, which is not bad at all!

The easiest way I've found to calculate the amount of honey you need is to empty one pot of honey into the pot, then use that to measure out the apple juice. This mixture doesn't require any additional gelling agent thanks to the naturally occuring pectin in the apples. I've made this in previous, wetter years, and I've ended up having to add commercial pectin, as a little too much has ended up being leached from the fruit. I set the mix to a rolling boil, and just once, about halfway through, skimmed off the skum that was building on the surface. To test the jam, drop a little of the liquid onto a chilled plate. If it has a jelly like consistency after a few seconds, it's ready to jar!

And good golly is it ready? This batch was very ready to set. It was almost turning completely to jelly in the pot by the time I got to the last jar. The tartness of the apples combined with the sharp sweetness of the honey just calls out for a crusty white loaf. Nom.

The jars on the left are the crab apple jelly, and that's the natural colour from the apples. The jars on the right are chilli jam, using Nigella Lawson's recipe, though I failed to get this one to set right this year. Though it too calls out for crusty white loaves... and bacon. Om nom nom.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

And I'm back...

I think I'm recovered from the weekend. My first ever formal class went well! I had an uptake of three students in the end, half of the limit I'd set for the class, which meant that I went through my material much faster than I'd expected. Having had time to think about it, there are some points I possibly could have expanded on more, and had more examples available for, but my students all seemed pleased and went away happy, so I really didn't do too badly.

Post class collapse (will that ever not happen? I just need more experience, right?) meant that I only fit in two others classes - Public Speaking for the Terrified by Salvino in the hopes that one day I'll actually be able to recite a tale at an event. The second class was Fingerloop Braiding by Mistress Johanna aff Hucka. I was delighted to get in this class as I'd been starting to look at examples online, but just couldn't figure it out - it was just one of those things I needed to see in person.

In the mean time, I've a black kirtle to make and a new skill to learn in the next week and a half for the next event, so of course I've started a new knitting project.  The pattern is a german one called Nanette, cuff down. I much prefer toe up, so I've translated the chart, and am just getting along with that. Woo, procrastination!

Saturday, 2 November 2013

New shinies

Alas, the class notes are still absorbing all of my time and with less than a week to go, I'm going to have to just hope that my first draft will be the master draft. But maybe I'll get a chance to teach this class in the future, and I'll be able to add in suggestions made at the first class.

That said, I took time out yesterday for my annual trip to the Knitting and Stitching show. I went with a list, most of which I managed to pick up, and walked away with no Oliver Twists silk tops this year (having 8 and no spinning wheel yet means this is probably a good thing.. or that I've exhausted their colour selection for the moment), and an unexpected new shiny.

Is she not beautiful? Proper, heavy, angled sheers. The gent at the stall was the nicest person, cheerful and chatty, believed in his product, and took it in good humour while I went through every sissors in the box, shreading the sample fabric he had out in order to find mine. I can't wait to use her.