Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Butter 101

Well, I didn't make it to War Practice after all, because we were all sick. However, I have officially signed up with the Pennsic University to teach Butter 101 twice (7/25 at 10am AS10; 7/30 at 5pm AS11), and gotten time off from work. So I should be there, assuming disaster doesn't strike.

Butter 101 came out of a class I took early on in my SCA career at the children's area. Basically, we just shook heavy cream in a container with a toothpick, and voila! Butter for feast! I stole this idea and taught it at the children's area at one of our local events, but I ended up shaking all the containers myself as the kids lost interest.

Finally I decided that adults might be interested in making butter, and have a longer attention span. Fresh butter is lovely, and much appreciated at any feast. However, to teach a proper class at a proper academy, one must have documentation and history to go with it. It's not really enough to say "butter is period, and we're making it". So I did some very basic research and wrote up a paper. I'm sure it's lacking in some areas, and it will probably continue to evolve, but here it is.

Butter Making 101

 Butter has been around for at least 6000 years. It is first mentioned in the middle east, but any culture that has cows has butter as well.
It has been made in Western Europe for at least 3000 years, probably longer.
The oldest "butter" ever found was buried in peat bogs in Scotland and Ireland. Between 3000 and 1000BCE they buried wooden barrels full of meat or dairy fat. It is unknown whether these were caches which were then forgotten, or whether there was some significance to their burial. 
The earliest butter was made by shaking cream in skin bags.
In the middle ages, once the cows were milked, the milk was set out to separate in pans.
After it separated, the dairy maid would skim the cream off the top. Then the cream was set in pans to sour slightly before it was put into the churn.
The churn was made of wooden staves held together by metal bands (much like a bucket), with a lid with a central hole through which the churn dash would go. The churn dash was a thick rod with a wooden piece on the end of it that fit within the churn’s diameter. The piece on the end would be square or round, with holes in it to allow the liquid through.
The dairy maid would then pick up and push down the churn dash over and over to agitate the cream until it separated into butter and buttermilk.
After she finished making the butter she would then knead it, which would allow the butter to be more uniform, and would get rid of more of the liquid, making it less likely for the butter to go rancid.
The butter would then be shaped or molded, and then kept in earthenware pots, or slabs wrapped in cabbage leaves.

 Different cultures have used all different types of mammal milk to create butter, or even used non-dairy fat to spread on their bread.
Mongols, for instance, who depend largely on dairy for their sustenance, use the milk of whatever mammals they care for in their region, including goats, camels, yaks, and horses. 
In the Medieval period, cows were not bred to type as they are now. There were no standards to breed to, so breeding was done to emphasize what was needed from the cow: larger quantities or better qualities of milk, or meat.
Breeds which are similar to medieval breeds of cattle include: Ancient White Park, British White, Devon, English Longhorn, Jersey, Guernsey, Norfolk, Suffolk, Kerry, Monte de Cassel, Veurne-Ambacht, East Flanders Red, and East Flanders White. In Ireland and Scotland, cattle were black, white, or red. 
Cattle were so important in the Celtic cultures that wars were fought over them. The Táin Bó Cúailnge epic is set in the first century CE, but the surviving manuscripts are 12th century. The main story centers around two super-fertile bulls and their value as personal wealth.

The Science

Butter is 80% milk fats and milk nonfat solids, 15-18% water, and 3% vitamins, calcium, phosphorus, protein, and salt (if added).
When agitated, air is drawn into the cream, mixing fat with water, and creating foam. The fat globules push against each other, breaking the exterior membrane and bonding together to make larger globules. This stable foam is what we call whipped cream.
With more agitation, the fat globules overbalance the air cells, the foam collapses, and leaks, creating butter and buttermilk.

The buttermilk which results from making butter is not the same as the buttermilk we buy in the store for making biscuits. Biscuit buttermilk is fermented, which is why it reacts with baking powder to create gas which inflates the biscuit dough to make it "light and fluffy". Modern dairies innoculate the cream with specific organisms, rather than leaving it out to let those organisms in the air innoculate it. This avoids the risk of it being innoculated with unexpected and potentially dangerous organisms. They do the same with cream that will be turned into butter.

Churning Songs

Hand churning takes a long time, and thus it became common to make up songs or charms to keep the dairymaid’s mind busy and to encourage the change from cream to butter to happen more quickly. Here are a few:

 1. (chant)
Come butter, come, come,
Come butter, come
Peter stands at the gate
Waiting for a buttered cake
Come butter, come, come
Come butter, come

2. (to the tune of “Farmer in the Dell”)
Churn churn churn
This is churning day
Till the golden butter comes
The dasher must not stay

Pat pat pat
Make it smooth and round
Now the golden butter’s done
Won’t you buy a pound?
Churn, butter, churn,
In a cow’s horn;
I never see’d such butter,
Sin’ I was born.
Peter’s standing at the gate
Waiting for a butter’d cake,
Come butter, come

Churn, butter, churn
Come, butter, come
A little good butter
Is better than none.

5. Churn Lilt

Oh, Mary had a churning
A-down by the wick (dairy house)
Sweet milk she would be turning
All into butter thick
Quick come butter, quick, butter
Milk and sweet butter
Quick come butter quick!
Would butter but come quickly
Full blither were we, I wist (wist= know)
With butter to the elbow
Buttermilk up to the wrist
Quick come butter, quick, butter
Milk and sweet butter
Quick come butter quick

Charm of the Churn

THIG na saor, thig;
Thig na daor, thig;
Thig na caor, thig;
Thig na maor, thig;
Thig na faor, thig;
Thig na baor, thig;
Thig na gaor, thig;
Thig na caoch, thig;
Thig na caon, thig;
Thig na caomh, thig;
Thig na gaol, thig;
Thig na claon, thig;
Thig fear a churraig bhuidhe,
Chuireas am muighe na ruith.

Thig na saora,
Thig na daora,
Thig na caora,
Thig na maora,
Thig na faora,
Thig na baora,
Thig na gaora,
Thig na caocha,
Thig na caona,
Thig na caomha,
Thig na gaola,
Thig na claona,
Thig loma lan na cruinne,
Chur a mhuighe na ruith;
Thig Calum caomh na uidheam,
'S thig Bride bhuidhe chruidh.

Tha glug a seo,
Tha glag a seo,
Tha glag a seo,
Tha glug a seo,
Tha slug a seo,
Tha slag a seo,
Tha slag a seo,
Tha slug a seo,
Tha seilcheag mhor bhog a seo,
Tha brigh gach te dhe'n chrodh a seo,
Tha rud is foir na mil us beoir, fearr
Tha bocan buidhe nodh a seo.

COME will the free, come;
Come will the bond, come;
Come will the bells, come;
Come will the maers, come;
Come will the blade, come;
Come will the sharp, come;
Come will the hounds, come;
Come will the wild, come;
Come will the mild, come;
Come will the kind, come;
Come will the loving, come;
Come will the squint, come;
Come will he of the yellow cap,
That will set the churn a-running.

The free will come,
The bond will come,
The bells will come,
The mares will come,
The blades will come,
The sharp will come,
The hounds will come,
The wild will come,
The mild will come,
The kind will come,
The loving will come,
The devious will come,
The brim-full of the globe will come,
To set the churn a-running;
Kindly Columba will come in his array,
And the golden-haired Bride of the kine.  

 A splash is here,
A plash is here,
A plash is here,
A splash is here,
A crash is here,
A squash is here,
A squash is here,
A crash is here,
A big soft snail is here,
The sap of each of the cows is here,
A thing better than honey and spruce,
A bogle yellow and fresh is here.
(continues for several more stanzas)

At Home Method

To make butter quickly and easily at home, use heavy cream (not ultra-pasteurized, but pasteurized or raw is fine). Pour it into a container with a lid, and add something clean to agitate it with (a marble, a toothpick, or something similar). Shake and shake and shake some more. Keep going past the point where you think it will be done.
The cream will become whipped (you’ll be able to tell—it will double in volume), and then when you hear a wet slapping against the side of the container, look inside to see if it’s done. You will see a thin white liquid and a thick yellow or yellow-white blob of butter. It will probably not be very smooth, unless you’ve been shaking the thing in a cement mixer or something.
Pour off the buttermilk (it’s fine to drink, or use in baking in place of milk—remember this is not fermented, so you probably shouldn’t use it in place of cultured buttermilk).
Add water to the container and shake some more, then pour off the resulting milky water.
Knead the butter until it feels smooth and mostly dry.
Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator, or use immediately.
You can also add salt, herbs, spices, or honey. I particularly like adding roasted or raw garlic to make garlic-toast.
An alternate method would be to use a churn of some sort, or an egg beater.


3000 year old butter discovered in Ireland. Antoinette Kelly. January 14, 2012. <>

Butter, Gastronomie Medievale. Bibliotheque National de France. January 14, 2012.
Most of the medieval images came from here, and their original sources are:
Tacuinum Sanitatus, 15th century: Le Façonnage de Fromage, La Preparacion de Beurre, Le Fromage.
Butter Manufacture. Dairy Science and Technology, University of Guelph. January 14, 2012. <>.

Churning Song 1:  Tegg, William. The Year Book of Daily Recreation and Information. London: William Tegg, 1832.

Churning Songs 2 and 3: collected by the Berea College Hutchins Library Special Collections and Archives in the Leonard Roberts Papers. January 14, 2012.

Churning Songs 4: Baker, Anne Elizabeth. Glossary of Northamptonshire Words and Phrases. London: John Russell Smith, 1854.

Churning Lilt: Mursell, James L., et al. Music for Living, Book Three, Now and Long Ago. California State Series, California State Dept. of Education, Sacramento 1958. p 103.

Charm of the Churn: Carmichael, Alexander. Carmina Gadelica: Hymns and Incantations. Edinburgh, 1900.

Churning Songs 1 and 4, Churn Lilt and Charm of the Churn were found on: Churn Songs, January 14, 2012. <>

Da Costa Hours, April, 1515.

Helweg, Richard. Complete Guide To Making Cheese, Butter, And Yogurt At Home. Atlantic Publishing Group, 2010.

Le Compost et Kalendrierdes Bergeres, Paris, 1499.

Meyer, Carolyn. Milk, Butter, and Cheese: Story of Dairy Products. Morrow, 1974.

Tain Bo Cuailnge from the Book of Leinster, translation by Cecil O'Rahilly

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Houppelande Class

This Saturday I'm heading to AEthelmearc War Practice for some fighting and friends and fun.
While there, I'm going to teach a class. Not a new class, which would actually contribute to my challenge (that would be silly!), but a class I've taught before: The Houppelande: A Classy Tent-Like Garment.
This is kind of a compilation of several other peoples' ideas, but since I actually made a houppelande, and at the time I hadn't seen anyone else teaching about it in the area, I decided to take the plunge.
In the interests of continuing to document what I've done already for the challenge, I am posting the handout. Also, that way I can direct people here after the class if there weren't enough handouts.

The Houppelande: A Classy Tent-Like Garment

A Houppelande is a garment designed to show off your ability to buy lots of fancy fabric, and then your ability to do nearly nothing while wearing it.
Unlike the cotehardies and kirtles that preceded it in Western European fashion, the houppelande is not fitted, and not terribly practical. Most houppelandes have gigantic sleeves and gigantic trains, and are meant to be worn with super-pointy slippers and gigantic headdresses, making it nearly impossible to do anything useful while wearing it since you’d be dropping your sleeves in the soup and tripping people (and yourself) on your slippers and train.

A noblewoman’s duties included the following, which the houppelande emphasized:
  • Looking pretty—wearing beautiful cloth is certainly helpful in this
  • Bringing a nice dowry to her husband’s household—and the proof of this is in the amount of fancy fabric she can wear and servants she needs to make her life simple enough to wear it
  • Running a household—which is possible to do while wearing a houppelande, since your staff and servants do the dirty work
  • Bearing children—a houppelande both makes you look pregnant when you aren’t and accommodates your pregnancy when you are.

The houppelande appears to have come into being suddenly in the 1350s or 60s, and been blamed on many countries, but owned by none.
Its popularity continued until the mid 1400s, when it began to diversify so much that it became several different garments, mainly the Burgundian kirtle.

One of the nice things about the Houppelande is its diversity. During its lifetime, it presented with a number of different sleeves and necklines, and men’s houppelandes especially had differences in length.
Early on it usually had a high collar, and frequently no belt.
Later, men’s belts moved about from below the hips to well above, or nonexistent, while women’s belts stayed directly under the breasts (emphasizing and accommodating pregnancy). Since men’s houppelandes were usually knee length or a little lower, having no belt was much easier to deal with.
By the end of the houppelande’s tenure, women’s necklines had dropped and deepened, showing a lot of the garment beneath.
Sleeves could be anything from the angel wing to the fitted, and were frequently a long loose sleeve with a large gap in it to allow it to be worn on or hanging behind, displaying the under-sleeve. For some reason, men’s houppelandes frequently had embellishments (metal bezants) on the left sleeve only.

Like any fashion, it started with the rich as a way to show off wealth, but then slowly descended through to the middle class. This descent meant that some of the people wearing it didn’t have lots of servants, and therefore needed to make some changes to make it a slightly more useful garment. This probably resulted in the shorter trains, belts, and fitted sleeves.

To our knowledge, there are no extant houppelandes, so people have had to come up with methods of making them by guesswork based on other known forms of tailoring and images of the garment.
Keeping in mind that people probably would have used their own tailoring knowledge to try and copy other people’s fashions at the time, it is quite likely that any or all of these methods were actually used in period, depending on what the person making them had to work with.
I am basing all of these patterns on a 60” wide fabric. You could modify some of them for 45” wide, or less, but 60” will waste the least amount of fabric.
Here are several ideas for the body:

 Method 1: The Circle with Holes
The radius of the circle should be the length you want the dress to be total, shoulder to hem (plus seam allowance for the hem).
Because you are making a full circle, you will probably need to piece together several widths of fabric to make this work. For this reason, any width of fabric could potentially work for this pattern, but narrower fabric will result in more seams. If you wanted a train, you would just add more length to one side of the circle (making an oval).
The dotted lines represent the edges of the fabric, and the solid lines are where you cut.

 Method 2: The Very Large Dress
This pattern comes from Mistress Corisander Seathewaite’s article on the houppelande and the burgundian dress.
She illustrates the layout of the pattern pieces a bit differently than I do, and her layout results in a lot more waste (to my mind), because she lays out each pattern piece end to end, meaning you need four lengths of fabric total. I find that if you get them a bit closer together, you can at least halve the fabric used, and quarter it if you aren’t using a fabric that has two sides (for instance, I made my houppelande out of wool flannel, which had no “good side”, so I could have repeated the upper part of the pattern instead of mirroring it and reduced the waste a bit more).
You could use the waste fabric to make gores to make your houppelande even larger in the skirt, but this will not look quite the same as many of the illustrations because the pleats will start a lot lower. 

 Method 3: Rotated Point Quarter Circle

This pattern comes from Cynthia du Pre Argent, and it’s the pattern I used for my houppelande.
She argues that this is the correct pattern to use if you want the pleats on your houppelande to come from the shoulder, as in many of the illustrations, rather than from the neck, as they would if you used the first pattern, the circle with holes.
I am showing two different layout patterns: the first I used, which I think results in the least amount of waste fabric, and which would take advantage of a patterned fabric where the pattern goes from side to side rather than top to bottom. For this pattern you would want four quarters, and with my layout you would need to sew the two halves of the last quarter together.
The second layout is Cynthia’s and would work best for a patternless fabric, but would not require sewing one quarter together.

Rather than putting in curves for the armscyes, you would leave two gaps where the sleeves go. The top of the triangle is the shoulder, and one side would be the gap for the armscye, and the other the neckline. You could insert a collar into the neckline, or two triangles of cloth in the back to make a nicely curved or straight back rather than a triangular hole. She argues that this is shown in some of the illustrations, especially in men’s houppelandes.

Method 4: Herjolfesnes (for narrower cloth)
This pattern comes from Dame Helen, and is based on Herjolfesnes #63 from the Greenland dig. You may know this as the “Greenland Gown” theory.
The layout is doubled, so you end up with 8 pieces, and sew the straight pieces to the diagonal pieces except in the middle (the center of this layout could be left whole rather than cut, unless you’re actually using 24-30” wide fabric).
The idea here is that you could use fabric from a very narrow loom, which would have been normal for those in the lower-middle or middle classes.

Upper classes would have had access to wider fabric, so would not have needed to use this pattern-style.
However, it also has VERY little waste, so that’s a plus for those of us who aren’t extremely wealthy today. 60” fabric is still expensive and not always easy to find.

 Sleeves and Collars
Here are some basic styles of sleeves and collars that you might wish to choose from:

     Trumpet, Angel Wing,  Cape,  Bag Sleeve


Sleeve Patterns:
Each of these sleeves can be as long and as wide as you’d like your sleeves to be, given the requirements of the fabric.

The bottom shows two different sleeves whose patterns go the length of the fabric rather than the width.
On the lower angel wing sleeve the curve on the top left side is your arm length measurement.

For each of the curved armscyes, you will want to take your arm length at the top of your arm and at the underside of your arm, and average the two for the median measurement, then draw a curve to match.

 The bag sleeve pattern is Cynthia’s and includes a slit for fashion, or to stick your arm through if you’re hot.
The bag sleeve can also be made with less width and no slit for a more fitted sleeve, such as might have been worn by middle class people.
To make a cape sleeve, simply cut a rectangle as long as you want the sleeve to go and as wide as you want, and pleat the top into your armscye so that the edges of the fabric meet at your shoulder.

Butterfly Collar                       Fitted Collar                   Deep Collar
The Butterfly neck pattern needs to be doubled and then connected with a parallel curve along the back of the neck (the pattern is for the front).
The fitted pattern needs to be doubled with the fold included. The front would not be sewn together, but allowed to fall open.
For the deep collar, simply leave the quarter circle pattern open in front, or cut a v-neck for any of the other patterns. It is usually shown with a lacing, but as the dress heads into Burgundian territory, that is sometimes omitted.




A theory on construction of the Houppelande: Cynthia Virtue's rotated-corner, circle plan houppelande. Cynthia du pre Argent, mka Cynthia Virtue. Published 2000. Accessed February 2011.

The Houppelande C.1355-1450. Allison Poinvillars de Tours, mka Lyn Parkinson. Published June 22, 1998. Stefan’s Florilegium. Accessed February 2011.

Houpelande Theory Class. Dame Helen (I’m afraid I can’t find any mundane information on this lady). Published 2001. Accessed February 2011.

Understanding Houpelande and Burgundian Clothing Construction. Mistress Corisander Seathewaite, mka Nancy Bourn. Published ?. Accessed February 2011.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Mongolian Headwear

My persona is a Welshwoman, and my husband's is a Mongol. As you may have guessed, this was highly unlikely to ever have happened in the Middle Ages. Yet, that's the SCA, in a nutshell. Therefore, when we won Crown several years ago, we looked around at all the other reigns and said, hmmm...there've been a LOT of 12th-14th century European reigns out there. Most of them are, in fact. Let's do something different: let's do a Mongolian reign!

Suddenly I had to have a lot more garb, because my Mongolian garb at that point consisted of one navy linen del and one peacock-pattern fabric del that wasn't even particularly well-made or period. I had no Mongolian headgear at all. Furthermore, my head is kinda small, and the crowns of our kingdom are not made for small-headed people. I needed padding, fast.

I started doing research on Mongolian garb and headwear, and found some really interesting stuff.
Most of it is questionably period, because the only real sources you can find for Mongolian clothing are paintings from the Yuan Dynasty and the Ilkhanate, and clothing from the 19th century.
Some of the sources I used then are not available online anymore that I can find.

Pretty consistently, I found that Mongolian headdresses involved a beaded felt "hat" with dangly beads hanging from it. That would work perfectly for padding as well (the above piece is from the National Museum of Copenhagen)

I used felt as a base, and then covered it with fabric. I have made four of them, red dupioni silk, gold dupioni silk, white habotai silk, and black linen. I tried to go for neutrals as often as possible to make them able to match whatever I had on. The only exception was the red, but as my kingdom's colors are red and gold, red goes with a lot of what I made for that year's garb.
Mongolian beads tend to be silver, coral, pearl, and turquoise. In the cases of the coral and pearl, it would have been more expensive because those are found in the ocean, and Mongolia is land-locked.

The first sets of beads I made were mother of pearl and carnelian, because I could afford them. Later on I made a set in pearl and coral, but the problem I ran into with the coral is that it so frequently has major flaws in it that, if you want to make a nice-looking set of beads, you have to cull over half of the beads you buy.
I also made a set in "lapis" and "turquoise" (mostly faux).

Because I wanted to make only a couple of "hats" but have lots of options as far as beads, I decided to make the beads detachable. In my research, I found some good illustrations of Mongolian ornaments, and among them was a set of silver pieces that attached together. The top one was an eight-spoked wheel with a red stone set in the center. The bottom one was a Mongolian knot. The top one resembled my kingdom's symbol, and I knew I had to use it.

I commissioned them from a wonderful metal-artisan in our kingdom, and had them set with carnelian. The bottom piece has four loops, each of which has a jump-ring through it. All of my beads attach to the jump-rings. I attach the metal pieces to each of the head-pieces with small jump-rings so they can be moved from one to another.
I can't seem to mess with the orientation of these photos, but you get the idea. The black one is currently holding the metal attachments. The black one and the white one have cabochons added, which is something that all of the Mongolian headdresses I've seen have. Mine are not as elaborate, partly for lack of time. They are attached with seed-bead bezels.
This year I also made a boqtaq, which is a medieval Mongolian hat specifically worn by members of the nobility. It was traditionally made of birch bark, covered with silk, and sometimes had a feather sticking out the back. There are numerous paintings of court ladies, particularly khatuns (Mongolian queens), wearing boqtaq. The problem is, there are very few extant ones, and the ones we have are mostly flattened and don't really resemble hats. It's hard to figure out how they were made.
Honestly, I winged it based on a picture of Chabi, and my knowledge of costuming. My version looks okay, but is not made traditionally, and the more I research, the less pleased I am with it. That said, I do enjoy wearing it.
(image from wikipedia)
I wanted to make it work with the head-gear I already had. If I made a second one (which is one of my goals for this project), I would make a head-piece for it specifically so that it could be attached permanently. Right now, I pin it to whatever is already on my head, and that is not the best solution, or the most accurate.
I searched around and eventually decided to use a haberdashery material called Sinamay, which is basically a straw fabric. I cut it into vaguely hourglass shapes, sewed them together, turned it inside-out, and then pressed the seams and sewed the last seam together. Then I covered it with gold dupioni silk (all of the pictures of boqtaqs show them made of red silk, but I didn't have any, and besides, gold is neutral enough to go with a lot of different outfits--my proper boqtaq will be red silk).
There is a flat bit on top that I made by sewing together two rectangles of silk and turning them, and then attaching them to the top of the hat. I would recomment in future tacking the sides down a little to keep them from flying off in different directions in high winds. Then I decorated the front and back with pearls and peacock feathers. I would probably decorate the front fabric before attaching it to the hat next time, as sewing through the center of the hat was a pain.

My boqtaq has a flare at the bottom as well as the top, to make it possible to pin it temporarily to various headgear. Pictures of boqtaqs show that they are tapered at the base, and then sewn with pearls to the headpiece. I will do this instead when I made another. The pinning works okay, but it is still a little wobbly. I also think it sits at too much of an angle on my head: images of them in period show them standing straight up.