And now for something completely different…

The last few weeks have been all about shoving me forcibly outside my comfort zone. Usually entirely in manners of my own devisings, really, but when you pause and go ‘what on earth have I gotten myself in for!?’ very shortly thereafer, you know you have found yourself solidly outside your comfort zone. It’s entirely because of various events that have been going on recently. The first was the Lady Mary Memorial Tournament, which was a scavenger hunt this year. Not a ‘find the object’ hunt, but a ‘complete these tasks’ sort of quest, done in teams. I.. am a competitive person. I don’t say that with pride, it causes me more grief than anything else, but when it comes to leaving points on the table in a ‘friendly’ competition.. well that was just not going to do.

My best beloved and I pretty much act like a set in most things, and this was no different. First up was well within my balliwick, teaching a class in 60 seconds. Saponification is (relatively) easily explained, and I have a slide deck! 8 takes later (I kept getting to 63 seconds, grrr!) and voila! One challenge done and dusted.

Next up, I decided to face the harder ones (for me at least) and dig into scribal. A whole lot of web searches later (and talking myself in.. and out.. of the idea) and I found some scroll blanks that looked to be not too hard. I knew full well that these were going to be very beginner, but my goal was to enter anything in the category, and not let my amateur efforts hold me back. Everything is still closed here, so I was hunting through the house for something to make a scroll from. I decided to go with cold pressed watercolour paper (8″ x 8″) and the watercolours that went with it. I have no clue why I own watercolour paper and watercolours, I haven’t used watercolours since elementary school, but there we have it, so off I went. It worked not too badly! I did a basic layout with pencil and then took a deep breath and went for it. I need smaller brushes for white work (found some for the second scroll!) and more opaque white would help too. Also? That lion is a nightmare, but I am generally pretty darn pleased with myself. The challenge was to work up scroll blanks for two specific baronial awards for the hosting barony.

Returning back to ‘things not done since elementary school’, there was a challenge to produce period music and after some asking around, we settled on a recorder duet. My spouse can play recorder, any of the dozen or so that live in our house. I last played recorder sometime in the early 1980s. I do still read music, but remember exactly zero fingerings. Fortunately the piece we found had a harmony part sufficiently simple that I could learn my four notes (yes, literally four notes for my part!) and off we went.

Phew, I think that’s enough new for one post, stay tuned for more pushing me outside my comfort zone that happened all through May!

Coffee Sock

Inspired by Engineering Knits over on her youtube channel, I couldn’t help myself but go spend a little time in the late 19th century and knit myself up a coffee sock. Okay, so the pattern calls it a ‘knitted coffee strainer’, but coffee sock has such a better ring to it. Reusable coffee filters are not even a little bit of a modern invention, and a knitting book from the 1890s included a handy pattern. Engineering knits decided to be sensible and knit hers from a worsted weight cotton so that it would go more quickly. I am not so smart. I did, however, take a step up from the tiny size 10 crochet cotton up to the 16/2 weaving cotton, that’s something right?

From The Butterick Publishing Co “The Art of Knitting” published in 1892 https://archive.org/details/artofknitting00butt/page/n5/mode/2up?ref=ol&view=theater

The pattern calls for 124 stitches, but as I have neither a fancy 19th century coffee carafe, nor a desire to go back to the crochet cotton that might give me that gauge (it has no other measurements, perhaps the coffee carafe is huge, and my yarn is right? I suspect not.) and I’m trying to fit it into my beloved giant mug, I have 80 stitches on 2 mm needles. Knit a while, then do a row of holes to thread around a wire, then go back to knitting. And now? It’s a sock. Well at least a sock toe for someone with a very pointy foot. Knit around and around and around, decreasing as you go until it’s a cone. I ultimately decided to decrease 8 stitches (evenly spaced) every 3 rows, which would give my coffee sock a very rounded cone shape. I was aiming to have it fit in a coffee cup, not a tall skinny pot, so that suits my needs well.

In working it, and in playing with it for a while afterwards, the pattern never says to put the wire through the holes, the pattern actually says to hem down to that increase row, but as with most vintage patterns, lets you M1 however you see fit. I went for a yarn over, but there’s no actual holes in the picture, and the metal ring appears to have been based right to the top of the hem. So score one for assumptions. They do specify that they are only decreasing 3 stitches every 4 rows, which is why the picture is quite a bit longer and pointier than mine. To be expected, I am basically making a mini one.

I went and dug out some brass wire (in an effort to minimize the rusting of this), but its a little softer than I’d like, still. I hemmed that in, and gave it a try. Forgive the videography of the clip, no one in this house is especially good at filming.

For those who don’t want to watch 2 minutes of coffee pouring, the tl;dr of it.. it works! It works brilliantly, actually. No grit at all at the bottom of my cup, the coffee was nicely strong enough. After it was brewed, it was literally just a nice cup of coffee, no ‘well I’ll drink it because I really should’. I gave it a rinse out with water, and you can see that it’s a bit stained, but it dried fine and doesn’t feel gross or that it took unreasonably long to dry. Pretty much, success all around, other than my wire is too soft to support it full of coffee. Not insurmountable, but that’s the only downfall.

I promise I washed it!

Plague Remedy

A quick diversion of the blog to post my plague remedy as found for the Lady Mary scavenger hunt, as posting it directly to FB was ending poorly. 🙂

There were many suggestions of plague cures over the three centuries that the Black Death periodically ravaged Europe. Some medical, most religious, but one enterprising German physician in the early 16th century decided to turn to alchemy to assist his patients. Enter Doctor Caspar Kegler (ca. 1461 – 1537) He was amongst the earliest to promote his ‘secret recipes’ as a sure fire (provided God’s will was with you) plague preventative, most especially his aqua vitae and his “Doctor Caspar Kegler’s Electurary”, made with genuine unicorn horn! Electurary refers to a paste like concoction, generally taken by spoon.

One of Dr. Kegler’s plague pamphlets https://daten.digitale-sammlungen.de/~db/ausgaben/zweiseitenansicht.html?id=00028840&seite=1&fip=193.174.98.30

A 1529 plague pamphlet (shown above) of his offered this recipe:

First wash and cut the celandine and place the parts in a pot with as much wine or wine vinegar as will fit. Next take a different glass vessel that is specially fashioned so that it can be turned over on the first edge of the pot, so that its bottom stands at top. Make a gum from beaten egg whites and flour and seal it well. Set it near a fire’s coals so that it dries well at all places. Then place the pot in a circular fire so that the coals do not touch it but are at a distance of a half ell. Let it boil without interruption for six hours. When these six hours have passed, take it from the fire, let it grow cold, and break the seal. Place the plant with the root in a clean cloth and wring it out little by little until complete. Hold the liquid in glasses prepared so that no smell is allowed to enter. Keep this until it is needed.

Kegler, Eyn Nutzlichs vnd trostlichs Regiment (1529), fol. 20v

It is unclear on if this is a cure or a preventative, but he assures us that it has been used to help more than three hundred people over four epidemics and was recommended for monks and country gentlemen looking to treat large groups.

Celandine could mean either of two plants, Chelidonium majus (greater celandine) or Ficaria verna (lesser celandine). The former is part of the poppy family and has been used for herbalism as far back as Pliny as a detox plan. (The 21st century follows a long line of ‘detox plans’, nothing new under the sun.) The latter plant is part of the buttercup family, and was commonly used to treat hemorrhoids, and seems far less likely than the great celandine. The purgative nature of that plant fits in with the common themes of plague cures of the time, in preventing blockages of the natural flow of the body.

So clearly, if one is faced with the black death and you cant’ get your hands on some genuine “Doctor Caspar Kegler’s Electurary!”, you might just have to try some water of celandine, or preferably some antibiotics.

Reference: Heinrichs, E. (2012). The Plague Cures of Caspar Kegler: Print, Alchemy, and Medical Marketing in Sixteenth-Century Germany. The Sixteenth Century Journal, 43(2), 417-440. Retrieved May 5, 2021, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/24245417

A Modern Herbal: Celandine, Greater https://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/c/celgre43.html

April is for Padded Work

I was vaguely musing on what to do for the Padded Work category of the EK Embroidery guild samples. The usual is stumpwork, which while it can have some padded work, is best known for being exceptionally fine work, usually with a wired edge so that it can be posed in 3D. It’s gorgeous, it’s fussy, it’s tiny fiddly work and while usually that is 100% my jam, I wasn’t feeling it. There was a ton of meh about doing a stumpwork piece.

Then, at a panel, someone had done a trapunto piece, and it was gorgeous and simple but elegantly so, and someone in chat noted about the Tristan Quilt being in period and I had a ‘where have you been all my life’ moment.

Just one panel!

So, some back story. The Tristan Quilt is how its most often referred to, but it is probably better referenced as the Guicciardini Quilt, as it is suspected that it was made for the Guicciardini family of Florence, and figures in the quilt (Tristan) bear that family’s arms. It is a bed covering that was made between 1360 and 1400 (or so), with the story of Tristan and Isolde quilted into it in many panels. It’s monochrome, dark brown thread on cream coloured linen, and is enormous. The chunk at the V&A is 320 cm x 287 cm (126″ x 113″) , the chunk at the Museo Nazionale del Bargello in Florence is 238 cm x 207 cm (98″ x 81″) and there’s speculation of the missing bit being as large as either of those chunks, or possibly a little bit larger. (For reference, a modern queen size mattress is 60″ x 80″) and current research speaks to them being part of one giant quilt to start, and hacked up in later eras. (Randles) They are the oldest surviving examples of decorative quilting in Europe, and I fell in love.

Dude and his spotted horse.

So! I had my inspiration piece, and then I went hunting through online images to find a wee bit of the giant whole that I wanted to add to my samples. I considered the horses, but once they were down to something that fit into a 6″ x 6″ square, they were too small to stuff with any sort of interest. Then I found the fish. And well, that was that. Fish it was to be!

Fishies!

I chose a natural oatmeal coloured linen for my backing fabric, and then took some linen embroidery thread (conveniently stranded for me) and dyed it with an unholy combination of iron, pomegranate, walnut and padauk to get a fairly good dark brown. Not quite as dark as I wanted, but good enough.

Dyed linen thread

While a lot of trapunto is done by either cutting, or teasing apart the loosely woven back fabric to shove your cotton, or wool, batting into the stuffed sections, and then adding a backing, the original was not done that way. The stitching is shown on both sides, and the back fabric is as tightly woven as the front, so it is speculated that it was stuffed as they stitched. I went with that tactic on my fish as well. While there is no indication of traced out lines on the original, I have no illusions about my artistic skills and used modern washable fabric marker to trace out my fish and some background squiggles.

The blue is so startling. I promise it will all go away.

Being a ‘stuff as you go’ experience, it makes the most sense to start in the middle and then work your way up and down. So fish first! Stitch an area, add wool fleece (the original was cotton, I’m using wool because it’s what’s in my house.), shove fleece to where it’s supposed to stay, stitch more. Then add some details on top, and shove more fleece in. It’s a fairly basic procedure, all in all, if a little fussy to get the fabrics to stay relatively flat, with the fleece not spilling too far.

Fishie backside.

The stitching, even with fighting with fleece, went quickly. I used a basic back stitch throughout, and it was really a satisfying experience. I can utterly see why they’d choose something like this for a giant area, it is pretty zen and works up pretty fast.

A hem around the edge and then a quick bath to get rid of the marker and then voila! Fishy, fishy, fishy, fish!

All done!

References:

Randles, Sarah. “One Quilt or Two? A Reassessment of the Guicciardini Quilts.” Medieval Clothing and Textiles, Pp. 93–128. Accessed April 30, 2021. https://www.academia.edu/4523166/One_Quilt_or_Two_A_Reassessment_of_the_Guicciardini_Quilts.