18th century

Making an 18th century Rich Cake for Christmas

Sadly I missed 'Stir-Up Sunday' this year, and now with only two weeks to Christmas I am belatedly making our Christmas cake! I usually make my mum's delicious boiled fruit cake, but I saw the recipe for a delicious 18th century Christmas cake via Colonial Williamsburg  and decided to give it a try.

It is indeed a rich cake, a pound each of butter, sugar, eggs, flour, then expensive spices, port and sherry, currents, lemon and orange peel.

 The first task is to cream 1lb of butter into a 1lb of sugar! Now I normally make cakes by hand with my bowl and wooden spoon, but this was too much creaming for me so I enlisted my old, but trusty, food processor to be my kitchen helper.

This was then added to my big mixing bowl
Next you add the eggs and mix them all together, after that the flours, spices and then the fruit which had been soaked in mulled wine and brandy for a week.

Then everyone got a chance to stir the batter and make their Christmas wish.
Then I baked it for over an hour in a slow oven, 170oC, it smelt divine as it cooked!

I forgot to take photos of it right out of the oven, but I let it completely cool, wrapped it in alfoil, poured more brandy over it and have tucked it into the fridge to mature. Sadly it should have a good two months, not two weeks, but it will still be delicious. I will decorate it on Christmas Eve and take some pictures then, so watch this space ...

I wish you a very Merry Christmas, thank you for your wonderful comments and friendship over the last 12 months. 

I hope your holiday season is filled with happiness and joy and that you commence your New Year with a keenness to enjoy your historical costuming!


Putting the a la polonaise together

As mentioned in my first 18th century a la polonaise post I am using Jennie's Portrait Gown pattern from Sense and Sensibility. Her patterns work well with my body and this one is no exception. This was my 12 days of Christmas project during my summer holidays 2011/12.

The young women in the Portrait Gown image on the left is far less busty than me, yet the same pattern fits my curvaceous body very well indeed and I like that in a pattern.

My fabric for this gown is a lovely blue and white toile pattern, very reminiscent of the 18th century, though not hand blocked of course.

Its a quilting cotton (muslin), bought on sale for the unbelievable price of $A2 per metre! I snapped up the whole roll which was 10 metres and lucky I did because I needed every last metre of it due to the need for fussy cutting as I wanted to ensure that the bodice front and back patterns matched and showed off the pretty cupids, lady on a swing, etc.

It was a hard task to match the fabric pattern as it wasn't printed as a mirror image, and as the picture to the right shows, lots of fabric was 'wasted'.

So what's 'fussy cutting' I hear you ask? Well its aligning your pattern and seam allowances to ensure the fabric design is positioned in the way you want it on your pattern piece. For instance I wanted the swinging girl right in the centre of my bodice, in the centre of my sleeve and the cherubs placed on the back panels. Here they are before being stitched up.

Front bodice
Back bodice
... and here they are stitched together ... I interlined the cotton with a white cotton sheet that I had in my stash. It's worked very well, giving better body to the very light fashion fabric.

See how the toile pattern is set central to the bodice
Back, not the best view, but you can see my intentions I think

Putting the bodice together was a delight, the sleeves went in without a hitch

Setting in sleeve
Attaching the lining
Sleeve at back when sewn in

Front of sleeve

Then I added the skirt onto the bodice and that went on smoothly as well. The pleating is a bit difficult around the back bodice 'v', it takes a bit of fiddling to get it right, well to my satisfaction at least!

Bodice 'v' attached to polonaise skirt, you can also see my boning channels
Same shot but from the right side, pleats are OK, could be better

The only issues I have had with this project is my own silly lack of attention mistakes and they were minimal. Its been a great summer holiday project between Christmas and 12th Night (5th January).

Over the last weeks I have made my petticoats, one in white and one in the fashion fabric and I used Kosha the Cat's online tutorial, though Jennie gives you an excellent how to in her pattern notes.

Metres of fabric for the fashion petticoat, lucky I bought 10 metres!
The project's not complete, I still have to add trims to the bodice neckline, boning to the bodice, lace to the sleeves, hooks and eyes for bodice closure, buttons and polonaise ribbon and make a smaller bum pad. My 'tuder-bethan' one is way too big and ruins the line of the gown. Oh and a new chemise, I have lost my beautiful silk/cotton one, most annoying!

As you can see in the piccies below, I tried the bodice pining method, but my curves just pop them right out, opps, perhaps too much Christmas cake, pudding, custard and chocolate me thinks over the 12 days of Christmas!

My hair is a very quick attempt at Georgian 'big hair' for the piccy, not really successful. Also, sorry for the blurred images, I'll put up better ones in my next post.


An a la polonaise, a gown of the 18th century Georgian era

I've stepped into the 18th century, well the end of it at least, to create three gowns, one a la polonaise, one a la turque and one a la Reine.

I've never dabbled in this period before, I usually jump straight to the 19th century from the 1650s. Mainly because opportunities to play with 18th century interested people is pretty rare where I live and there always has to be a reason to wear a gown! However I purchased American Duchess's beautiful silk Georgiana shoes and now I need gowns to wear with them, of course! Plus all the other accessories, hats, fans, gloves, underpinings, etc <grin>. These gowns will be worn at this year's Jane Austen Festival Australia in April 2012.

To start, I needed a whole new set of underpinnings, chemise and stays, though for the fittings of the stays, I used a t-shirt as the thickness is much of a muchness.

I have used the Mantua Maker Georgian stays pattern. It works a treat, with only minimal adjustments for bodice length and underarm comfort. It's made with five layers, silk cover, two layers of canvas, a layer of cotton wadding and linen. I used cable ties for the baleen boning, I like it, it's flexible, cheap and cheerful and no whales need to be destroyed, a very large bonus. Sprung steel boning could be used, but it's really not period. The issue with cable ties is that they are plastic and make a pair of stays quite warm to wear as air doesn't flow through, but there are work arounds to this that I learnt from the Marquise website. I highly recommend her instructions on 18th century stay making, it is brilliant! I have to say that these stays don't feel that much different from my Elizabethan pair of bodies. These are still to be finished, I need to add the busk and the shoulder straps. I will write a separate post on the creating of these 18th stays, eventually!

To create the chemise I will use the Marquise 18th century chemise tutorial, it's easy to follow and simple to put together. I will use a light cotton muslin, linen would have been preferable but I have none in my stash.

a la polonaise gown
I am starting with the a la polonaise and am using Sense and Sensibilities Portrait Gown pattern. I have said this before, but I love Jeanie's patterns, they work really well for me and need very minimal adjustment and this pattern was no different.

The test toile was almost perfect with a few exceptions such as shoulder length, my right shoulder is always a problem, carrying heavy school bags created a dropped shoulder that no amount of osteopathy rectifies!

a la Reine gown
Over the Christmas and New Year break I worked on the bodice, I hope to get it finished by 12th Night, that's Thursday 5th January, I will post images of the bodice creation then.

Here's the next blog post ... Putting the a la polonaise together