Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Heraldic Cookies

At an event recently, the birthday of a viscountess of my acquaintance was celebrated. As is my custom, I decided to bake something for her as a gift. And I just couldn't resist the though of making cookies decorated with her heraldry.

To start with, I made up a batch of butter cookies using my favourite recipe; that is, the one from Cookie Magic by Kate Shirazi.

The next layer was one of shop bought fondant, rolled out and cut out with the same size of cutter I'd used for the cookies themselves. These were set in place by simply wetting the back of each piece and pressing gently, bur firmly onto the cookie. I do intend to try making my own fondant for future baking efforts, but time was short on this one, so I couldn't afford failed attempts.

While those were setting, I make up a batch of royal icing (also detailed in the book above) and coloured it purple to get that Argent and Purpure look I needed for the heraldry. Little tip here; if, like me, you don't have purple food colouring available, make sure to mix your colours before adding to the icing. This makes it much easier to achieve an even result. 
For the first application of icing, I added dots along the scalloped edge of the icing, and drew out a basic heraldic lily in the centre of the cookie. It's important to let the icing outline dry before filling in the shapes. Filling in the petals too soon would have resulted in a leaking of the icing from the shapes and a messed up cookie. I found that outlining about 10-12 cookies at a time meant by the time the twelfth outline was complete, the first cookie could be filled in. 

Also, be sure to give the icing plenty of drying time. I left them for almost 24 hours on the rack and even at that they were inclined to stick together when stacked in a box. 

Voila! The finished cookies. Pretty and as I understand, quite tasty, and they were very fun to make. 

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

My First Designed Scroll

At the recent Scriptorium and Fencing Camp, I attended with a specific goal in mind; I knew I could copy images well enough, and if I practised enough my painting and blending would be passable, but I had a hurdle to cross in the form of designing and layout.

Using a quote from Alfred Lord Tennyson for inspiration, and chose this image as the inspiration for the flower border. I meant to take a picture at every step in the process, to see it all coming together, but my painting hand was faster than my picture hand, so the process isn't quite seamless.

This was also my first time using pergamenata and I quite love it. It takes the gouache so much easier than the paper I had been using. I cut down a sheet into roughly A5 size pieces, so they'd make nice frameable pieces, possibly even as gifts if they were good enough.

I drew out the image lightly in pencil then outlined in black calligraphy ink. The gold was applied as gold paint, and is also the reason all of the pictures are taken at a funny angle; I had to get the gold to show up well.

The flowers and leaves are painted in with gouache, and I'm much more pleased with the colour blending on this than on my last example. I think here the parchment I was using and that I was blending while the colours were still properly wet contributed significantly. 

One of the best parts of this project was when I stopped for lunch and looked back across at my inked design, and had a moment of not even recognising it. The next moment, it looked perfect, simply perfect. I didn't pounce my perg before I wrote my quote, something I'll remember for next time, as well as the need to practise my letters, but overall I'm very pleased with it. And most importantly, design isn't as scary now!

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Confering of the Order of the Ffraid

At Flaming Arrow 7 just gone, many deserving awards were given out, and among them was one for me. This weekend, just like the last award of it's kind I saw given out, I was fished out of the kitchen to be confered to the Order of the Ffraid.  

On this piece of magnificence, the calligraphy was done by Arianhwy Wen, and the illumination by Lady Agatha of Norwich. Now, while on the confering of my AoA I was very effusive about what it meant to me, on this one there are no words coming. This one represents something so deeply personal to me that there aren't words to do my feelings on the matter justice. To quote one line from the scroll "techer, artist, servaunt, merrie maicker" - thank you all. 

But so this post isn't all serious, I'm going to tell you the story of how I almost didn't received my award, also know as how the good gentles almost didn't get their feast. Court had started and myself and Lord Arpad were toiling away in foodie preparations. A number of cheers sounded up the stairs until I heard one that I was convinced had the ring of "Huzzah for the newbies!", and that also coninciding with the point where the kitchen wants to discourage random bystanders from the cooking stress points, I closed the door. I had barely wandered back to my preparations, wishing for the sake of the nest person to come up that they had the gossip of who received what, when a massive cheer sounded, even from through the closed door. I dashed over to pull open the door.... only to have the handle come off in my hand. Even while I took out my infernal device in the vain hope that someone had likewise left theirs on during court, part of my mind was wondering how long it'd take to rig up a pulley system to get the feast out the window and into service. Of course, no one was answered (but if you have a missed call from me on the Saturday night, now you know why), but not long after Lord Duncan came up to fetch me for court. A quick rescue operation later and feast was saved and I got to almost cry in front of the populace again.

Now, a quick note to finish off. Things are about to get a bit hectic; between the Drachenwald A&S exchange that I can't talk about, and the Festival of Fools preparations for the end of this month which I choose not to talk about lest I spoil the surprise, things might get a bit quiet around here. I have a few posts ready and in reserve, in no particular chronological order, to keep things going, and then I'll be back with newer, shinier posts, where I even plan on discussing my research and thought patterns in my plans! Scary stuff!

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Silk Stockings

Well over a year ago I decided to make myself a pair of silk stockings. They were put away into a pretty little box for transporting to demos and events... and were swiftly forgotten about. I took them back out to work on for the UFO challenge and remembered why they were put away in the first place. I nearly ate them with frustration, but I persevered, knowing I'd feel worse if they were put away unfinished again.

And here they are! The fit is terrible! Mind, I'm not saying that as a comment on my own sewing, there's nowhere I could take in any of the extra room on these unless I planned to sit very still and not plan on walking at all while wearing them. And even then I might be looking at being sewn into them.

There are gussets sewn into both sides of each foot, and the foot fit at least is cosy. The very point of the gussets were impossible to sew completely, so I embroidered over them with embroidery floss so as not to leave any exposed seams. All internal seams are folded over in a enclosed seam; something close to a flat felled seam where possible, and something only pretending to be felled at other stages. When I was cutting these out, I was a *teeny* but short on one sock, so I just piece that up with offcut. That section fits under the fold down cuff at the top of the stocking, so it shouldn't be seen anyway.

I tried to take a full length image of the stocking to show the general shape, but at this point Suzie decided there weren't nearly enough cat hairs on the stockings and improved them beyond measure by lying on them.

 Much better.

The Challenge: Challenge #8 UFOs & PHDs

Fabric: Silk taffeta
Pattern: Drafted myself based on period methods
Year: Throughout the 16th century
Notions: Polyester sewing thread, cotton embroidery thread.
How historically accurate is it? Annoyingly when I started this project over a year ago, silk thread wasn't to be found for love nor money, so I carried on with the closest colour I could find. Now of course, there's two shops close to me that stock a large range of silk sewing thread, but I decided to carry on as I'd started. So 90% - fabric, pattern and construction are period.
Hours to complete: Quite a while, I think 10-12 hours on this. It was hand sewn fiddly work that did it's best to remind me why it had gone into the UFO pile in the first place.
First worn: I had thought I'd wear them the next time I had my court gown on, but a quick test fit for the pictures has shown these bad boys are not going to even think of staying up without the help of garters. And the garters are going to have to wait until challenge 17.
Total cost: Again, this came from stash (can you tell I used to work in a fabric shop), but if made from new, I estimate about €12.