14 September 2011

Middle Eastern Man's Garb: A&S50 Challenge: Material Culture 19 and 20

Black and Green Middle Eastern Man’s Ensemble
A&S 50 Challenge: Material Culture 19 and 20
Sayyeda Samia al-Kaslaania
Coronation of Vladimir and Petranella

An ensemble for a middle-class man in the Middle East, specifically Cairo, during the Fatimid Caliphate (969-1172). Item 19 is the green tunic with a placket. Item 20 is the black wool tunic and matching pants.

Garments from the Mediterranean during the Middle Ages were generally loosely fitted tunics for both men and women, augmented by unseamed rectangular lengths of fabric. Yedida Stillman refers to this as a Pan-Islamic style of dress because the basic elements were the same across communities, excepting Persia.

figure 1 Extant Mamluk tunic with placket and
embroidered "necklace". Ashmolean 1984.353, detail.
Overtunic: Wool twill in a tropical weight, black; stitched with yellow and white silk-wool yarn. The adornments echo extant tunics, with the embroidered “necklace” as the focal point (see fig. 1). The slit-front neck is finished with black bias-cut linen and black cotton thread. The cut of the garment is, according to excavations in Egypt at Nalqun, the most common type of tunic worn by children and adults. Wide, unfitted sleeves are the norm during this period. The yellow and green tiraz (embroidered armbands) showcase a pseudo-script which bears foliated Kufic risers--almost animal-like in their appearance. Approximately 10-16 hours of sewing (purchased tiraz).

Figure 2 outlined extant tiraz. 10th c Iran. Royal
Ontario Museum. item 2008-9753-24, detail.
Tunic: Linen shot tabby fabric in a medium weight, green; stitched with yellow and white silk-wool yarn. The striking contrast of the stitching against the fabric is similar to extant tunics (see fig. 4). On the right sleeve is a single tiraz, outlined for emphasis, and worked directly onto the fabric (see fig. 2). The cut of the garment was selected to match the overtunic. This garment could also be worn alone over a qumîs (undertunic).  Approximately 10-16 hours of sewing.

Figure 3 Extant Mamluk pants, as they
appear in L.A. Mayer Mamluk Costume.

These two garments are nearly the same size so that they move as one garment when layered. In several illuminations a raised arm reveals a lining or a tunic of a complimentary color (see fig. 5). The illuminated garments also appear to be between knee- and ankle-length. Frequently the trouser ends are exposed at the ankles.

Pants: Wool twill to match the overtunic; silk-wool yarn to match as well. Pants are more difficult to research because they’re considered an intimate garment. I know of one extant pair of pants in colored stripes (see fig. 3), and a few illuminations of colored pants; however, most are illuminated as white (see fig. 5). The pattern is derived from the work of Master Rashid, who based his pattern on extant examples. Approximately 8 hours of sewing.

Figure 4 11th c Coptic tunic, wool with complimentary
colored stitching. Neckline finished with linen band.
Christie's Sale 9723 lot 273, detail.
Would-be Accessories: Completing the ensemble would require a few additional pieces. Over a skullcap, men would wear a turban colored to compliment the rest of the clothing, often with tiraz -embellished ends. A belt or sash would not be out of place around the waist, but is not required. Shoes could be plain thong sandals, “ballet” type slippers (see fig. 5), or soft leather short boots. A rectangular wrap would be expected in any sort of formal setting. Finally, all well-dressed men carried a mandil, or handkerchief. The mandil might be tucked into the belt or the sleeve, or simply carried in the hand.

Notes—color choice: Black is a rare color in the Fatimid period, likely because it was the royal color of a rival Caliphate. It is, though, still recorded as a color used for clothing in Fatimid trousseaux, according to Stillman.

Figure 5 1200's illumination. Note
red lining. Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris.
MS Arabe 5847 fol 4v, detail.

Fiber choice: Wool commodities in the Fatimid period were a distant second to linen, but well ahead of silk and cotton, according to S.D. Goitein in his six-volume tome on Mediterranean culture. Examples of fine woolen fabrics have been excavated from the Naqlun cemetery sites in the last decade.

Adornment: Tiraz (inscribed and adorned textiles) in this period were quite varied. While tiraz originally featured formulaic text, over time the inscriptions became less important and pseudo-script became acceptable. It came to follow that increasingly elaborate decoration became the focus, according to Paula Sanders. Tiraz could be woven, embroidered, or painted on to fabrics. Extant tiraz are housed in museums all over the world; a good selection of images can be found at the website Museums with No Frontiers.

Additional embroidered decoration on these garments were inspired by an extant tunic featured in Marianne Ellis’s affordable photo book Embroideries and Samplers from Islamic Egypt (see fig. 1).
Figure 6 Fatimid man. Museo Nazionale de San Matteo, no. 130.

Matching fabrics: Extant records show that matched ensembles were quite popular in the Fatimid period. Called hulla, these could include two to eight garments, some of which would be headwear.  Unfortunately, figural imagery from the Fatimid period doesn’t include illuminations. The readily available illuminated manuscripts, from a later time period, are mostly based on the same secular tale; thus featuring recurring images—all with white trousers. Garments for the lower body are seldom discussed in period writings, and few actual articles have been preserved.

Works Cited

Czaja-Szewczak, B., "Burial Tunics from Naqlun", PAM XIV, Reports 2002 (2003), 177-184.

Ellis, Marianne. Embroideries and Samplers from Islamic Egypt. Ashmolean  Museum/University of Oxford, 2001.

Goitein SD. A Mediterranean Society: The Jewish Communities of the Arab World as Portrayed in the Documents of the Cairo Geniza. Vol. 1. Berlkey and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1967.

Mellor, Charles. "Salwar." http://home.earthlink.net/~lilinah/Rashid/salwar.gif (accessed 10/08/2009).

Sanders, Paula. "Robes of Honor in Fatimid Egypt." in Robes and Honor: The Medieval World of Investiture. Edited by Steward Gordon. New York: Palgrave, 2001. 225-239.

Stillman, Yedida K. "Female Attire of Medieval Egypt: According to the Trousseau Lists and Cognate Material from the Cairo Geniza." Ph.D., University of Chicago, 1972. Chicago: unpublished.

17 June 2011

chickpea crepes, Andalusian recipeFood Challenge Eleven: A&S50 Challenge

Counterfeit (Vegetarian) Isfîriyâ of Garbanzos: Food Challenge Eleven: A&S50 Challenge
Savory crepes of chickpeas
Makes 8-10 crepes

13th century Andalusian recipe

Translation: Pound some garbanzos, take out the skins and grind them into flour. And take some of the flour and put into a bowl with a bit of sourdough and some egg, and beat with spices until it's all mixed. Fry it as before in thin cakes, and make a sauce for them.

1 c chickpea flour
4 t cinnamon
1/4 c sourdough (omitted for gluten-free option, no substitution was necessary)
4 eggs
½ t salt
1 t pepper
1 c water
olive oil or pale sesame oil (for frying, approx 4 T)

Combine the flour, sourdough, eggs, spices, water and beat with a fork to a uniform, thin batter. Use the ¼ c measure to add batter to the frying pan. Add water to the batter if the first one is not crepe-thin. Fry at medium high temperature until brown on both sides, turning once. Add more oil as necessary. Drain on a paper towel. Serve with sauce.

Many thanks to Baroness Ellen de Wynter and her family for testing this recipe for me. It is toddler approved.

Based on: How to Milk an Almond Stuff an Egg And Armor a Turnip: A Thousand Years of Recipes By David Friedman and Elizabeth Cook ISBN: 978-1-460-92498-3
http://www.daviddfriedman.com/Medieval/To_Milk_an_Almond.pdf Used with permission.

Banana chicken dessert

A recipe for Judhaba of bananas by Ibn al Mahdi
Al-Warraq, 10th century Baghdadi recipe

Translation: Peel the bananas and set them aside. Spread a ruqaqa (thin round of bread) in the pan and spread a layer of bananas over it. Sprinkle the banana layer with pure sugar, and spread another ruqaqa all over it. Repeat the layering of banana, sugar, and ruqaqa until the pan is full. Pour enough rose water to drench the layered ingredients, [put the pan in a hot tannur,] suspend a fine chicken over it [and let it roast] God willing.

10 oz Iranian lavash ( typically four sheets)
1-4 T rose water
3 ¼ lb ripe plantains or bananas
[strawberries, optional]
4-5 lb fryer chicken
½ c sugar
2 lemons

Oil the bottom of a pot. Line the pot with lavash. Cover that with sliced (or mashed) bananas and sliced strawberries, if used. Use one half lemon to sprinkle lemon juice over each layer. Sprinkle over them 2 T of sugar. Cover with another layer of lavash. Repeat, and top with the last layer of lavash. Sprinkle the rose water sparingly over that.

Slice 1 ½ lemons and slide the lemons under the chicken skin. Arrange your chicken so it is suspended above the layers. Bake the chicken until done—roughly 20 minutes a pound at 350°, to an internal temperature of about 190°—letting the drippings fall on and soak into the layered bread and bananas. Serve the chicken for dinner and then the dessert will be just the right temperature to serve. Ingus recommends a cold glass of milk with dessert.

• Cariadoc did it by running a hardwood skewer lengthwise through the chicken and laying it across the top edge of a pot.
• Samia did it by using a large convection oven and placing the chickens directly on an oven rack. The lavash and fruit were layered on a jelly roll pan which was placed on a lower oven rack beneath the chicken.
• Ingus made the banana-lavash layers in an 8 inch cake pan. Place cake pan inside a Dutch oven, cover with the cooling rack, and place chicken on cooling rack, suspending it about 2 inches above the lavash. Put Dutch Oven and lemon-impregnated chicken into pre-heated 350 degree oven for one hour, then turn chicken over for another hour.

NOTICE: Normally, 20 minutes per pound at 350 is sufficient to cook chicken, but the lack of heat from below because of the cake cooking there inhibits the roasting, and the meats within, around the thigh bones and along the spine, do not cook as quickly. Since the point of this was to have chicken that could service double duty, it is important to give it the extra cooking time to get the flesh fully brought up to temp.

Many thanks to Master Ingus Moen (of bardic fame) for the detailed cooking suggestions. Thanks also to Baroness Euriaut Deri for testing the recipe for a party so I could decide it wasn't awful!

Modified from: How to Milk an Almond Stuff an Egg And Armor a Turnip: A Thousand Years of Recipes By David Friedman and Elizabeth Cook ISBN: 978-1-460-92498-3 http://www.daviddfriedman.com/Medieval/To_Milk_an_Almond.pdf Used with permission.

12 June 2011

Andalusian Cheesy Bread

Cheese and Flour Cake
al-Andalus 13th century recipe

Knead the necessary quantity of flour, one time with water, another with oil, and to it add yeast and milk until it has the same consistency as the dough of fritters, and leave it until it has next risen. Next grease with oil a large earthen pot, stretch in it a piece of dough, and over it a bit of cheese, and over the cheese a bit of dough, and so a little of one, and a bit of the other until the last of the dough and cheese. Next cover it with dough as you did in the previous recipe and cook it in the same way in the oven. Afterwards, drizzle it with honey, sprinkle it with sugar and pepper and eat it.

1 1/3 cup white flour
⅔ cup whole wheat flour
3 Tbl olive oil
½-¾ cup water
1 packet yeast
3 Tbl milk
12 oz cheese (Munster or provolone, shredded)

Topping (use larger amounts with pie pans):
6-10 Tbl honey
1-2 Tbl sugar
¼-½ tsp pepper

Proof yeast in ½ cup of water. Mix flours in a large bowl. Combine yeast, milk, olive oil. Mix liquids into the flour. Knead flours and liquid to a very dry dough, let sit five minutes. Knead the dough for about 5-10 minutes, until fairly uniform. Cover with a damp dish towel and leave 45 minutes to rise in a warm place. Divide dough in about 5-6 equal portions, flour and roll out to size of your pan (glass pie pans work well). Layer with sliced cheese. Bake 45 minutes at 350°.

Sprinkle with sugar and pepper, then drizzle the honey over it while hot. "Put the honey on the bread hot out of the oven so it got all melty and sprinkle with sugar in the raw and fresh ground pepper. It was awesome! Sweet, crunchy, and a little spicy. Plan on one loaf per table of 8 as a first course."

Cariadoc: This should probably be done with sourdough instead of yeast, but we have not tried it that way yet.

Translation and original redaction from: How to Milk an Almond Stuff an Egg And Armor a Turnip: A Thousand Years of Recipes By David Friedman and Elizabeth Cook ISBN: 978-1-460-92498-3 http://www.daviddfriedman.com/Medieval/To_Milk_an_Almond.pdf Used with permission.

Many thanks to The Honorable Lady Brigid ingen Maol-Mhichil of Northshield fame for testing this recipe. Her thoughts on the awesomness of this dish were echoed throughout the feast hall. I am grateful for her support on my first feast.~~Sayyeda al-Kaslaania

10 June 2011

Borrowing cast iron

I recently made a feast with an egg and veggie dish. In order to keep it
hot for serving, we cooked and served it in cast iron pans.

We borrowed many pieces of cast iron for this. The trick was that each
person used a different color of nail polish to put a dot on the handle
(closer to the pan end so it took less abuse). Then after the feast we
could comfortably get all the cast iron back to the original owners.
Being an enamel, nail polish survives several visits to the oven.

Since cast iron is not period, what are other tools for getting hot
dishes to your tables when you have limited oven space?

05 June 2011

Lamb and walnut "burger" recipe, called Isfiriya

To Make Isfîriyâ (lamb and walnut "burgers")
Andalusia 13th century recipe

Pound the flesh of a leg until it is like brains. Remove the sinews and throw in pepper, half a spoon of honey, a little oil, as much as is needed, and a little water. Mix all smoothly with flour and do not neglect to pound it, and do not slacken in this, because it will cool and be ruined. Grease the pan with oil or fat, make the pounded meat into flatbreads and fry in the pan; if there be with the meat almonds or walnuts or apples, it will be superb, God willing.

12 oz lamb, ground [Substitute up to 6 oz with ground beef]
1 Tbl corn starch [use as a gluten-free sub for the wheat flour]
½ tsp pepper
1 tsp honey
2 Tbl olive oil
2/3 cup walnuts, chopped
[3 Tbl apple, chopped]
2 Tbl water

2 Tbl sesame oil for frying [This is pale, untoasted sesame oil]

Mix meat with remaining ingredients (the meat will absorb the water as dehydrated muscle), including optional walnuts, almonds, or apples. Make 8 patties and fry on medium to medium-high in a frying pan. Fry a minute or two on each side until cooked through.

Serve with garlic sauce and pita bread.

Translation and original redaction from: How to Milk an Almond Stuff an Egg And Armor a Turnip: A Thousand Years of Recipes By David Friedman and Elizabeth Cook ISBN: 978-1-460-92498-3 http://www.daviddfriedman.com/Medieval/To_Milk_an_Almond.pdf. Used with permission.

I am thankful for the recipe testing and other support offered by Meistari Katriona ni Chonarain of Northshield. ~~Sayyeda al-Kaslaania

03 June 2011

A Garlicky Sauce: Food Challenge Ten: A&S 50 Challenge

Garlicky sauce
Adapted from: Recipe for Thûmiyya, a Garlicky Dish
Andalusia 13th century recipe
Redaction by Sayyeda al-Kaslaania

Take a plump hen and take out what is inside it, clean that and leave aside. Then take four ûqiyas of peeled garlic and pound them until they are like brains, and mix with what comes out of the interior of the chicken. Fry it in enough oil to cover, until the smell of garlic comes out. Mix this with the chicken in a clean pot with salt, pepper, cinnamon, lavender, ginger, cloves, saffron, peeled whole almonds, both pounded and whole, and a little murri naqî'. Seal the pot with dough, place it in the oven and leave it until it is done. Then take it out and open the pot, pour its contents in a clean dish and an aromatic scent will come forth from it and perfume the area. This chicken was made for the Sayyid Abu al-Hasan and much appreciated.

5-8 oz of garlic cloves, peeled
1 tsp ginger, ground
¼ tsp cloves, ground
6 Tbl sesame oil
½ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper, ground
1 tsp cinnamon, ground
¼ cup almonds, ground
[pinch lavender, crushed]
¼ cup tamari or soy sauce
Olive oil for roasting garlic

Murri is fermented sauce, similar to soy sauce. Tamari is a soy-only sauce which is therefore gluten free. Soy- and wheat- sauce (sold commonly as soy sauce) would likely be closer to true murri.

Roast garlic: toss in olive oil and spread on a baking sheet. Bake for 10-15 minutes at 350 degrees F, stirring occasionally. When cooled, mash with the other ingredients. Let sit over night to allow the flavors to blend. Stir vigorously (or store it in a covered container and shake) just before serving. This sauce was made for Baroness Marwen de la Rivere of Northshield and much appreciated.

Clearly this recipe is far removed from the original-- and it turned out to be stunning. In preparing a feast which included some people who eat vegetarian and others with gluten intolerance, I revised this recipe to accompany roast chicken and savory crepes of chickpeas. Because I had already included in my feast one recipe that would be a culinary adventure, I did not include the lavender in this attempt. I certainly will for the next. ~~Sayyeda al-Kaslaania

Translation and original redaction from: How to Milk an Almond Stuff an Egg And Armor a Turnip: A Thousand Years of Recipes By David Friedman and Elizabeth Cook ISBN: 978-1-460-92498-3 http://www.daviddfriedman.com/Medieval/To_Milk_an_Almond.pdf  Used with permission.

Fish Cakes, called Muqluba al Turrikh

Maqluba al Tirrikh (Fish cakes)
al-Baghdadi, 13th century recipe

Take tirrikh and fry in sesame-oil: then take out, and place in a dish to cool. When cold, cut off the heads and tails, remove the spine, bone, and scale with the greatest care. Crumble and break up the flesh, and sprinkle with dry coriander, cumin, caraway and cinnamon. Break eggs, throw on, and mix well. Then fry in sesame-oil in a frying pan as maqluba is fried, until both sides are browned: and remove.

½ lb cod fillets
1 t caraway
2 T sesame oil, divided (pale “golden” Middle Eastern oil; not Asian toasted sesame oil)
1 ½ t cinnamon
½ t coriander
1 egg
1 t cumin
1 t salt

Tirrikh is a freshwater fish similar to salted herring. When using other fresh (or frozen) fish include the salt.

10" skillet, 1 Tbl sesame oil, cook the fillets 3-5 minutes on medium heat, removed them to paper towels to cool. Crumble the fillets into a bowl and add the spices and egg. The mixture will be moist, but should hold together well. Make 8 small patties approx 2" diameter and fry them in another tablespoon of sesame oil for 3-5 minutes each side, or until they are nicely crispy and brown. Carefully remove the patties to paper towel to drain, they are delicate.

Serve hot with warm pita and a vinegar based sauce.

I am grateful for the help of Maestra Giovanna di Battista da Firenze in testing this recipe, offering a revised redaction, and suggesting that salt and more spice was warranted. Her suggestion prompted me to see if the Internet held more details about what tirrikh might be, which allowed us to likely come closer to the original flavor of this recipe.~~Sayyeda al-Kaslaania

Translation and original redaction from: How to Milk an Almond Stuff an Egg And Armor a Turnip: A Thousand Years of Recipes By David Friedman and Elizabeth Cook ISBN: 978-1-460-92498-3 http://www.daviddfriedman.com/Medieval/To_Milk_an_Almond.pdf Used with permission.

02 June 2011

Eggplant relish served at Schutzenfest A.S.46

Another recipe for dressed eggplant by him (ibn al-Mahdi) too
Al-Warraq, 10th century Baghdad

Boil eggplant and chop it into fine pieces. Take a platter, and pour on it a little vinegar, white sugar, ground almonds, saffron, caraway seeds, casia, [and mix]. Spread the [chopped] eggplant and fried onion all over the sauce. Drizzle some olive oil on the dish and serve it, God willing.

Translation from: How to Milk an Almond Stuff an Egg And Armor a Turnip: A Thousand Years of Recipes By David Friedman and Elizabeth Cook ISBN: 978-1-460-92498-3
http://www.daviddfriedman.com/Medieval/To_Milk_an_Almond.pdf Reprinted with permission.

16-24 servings as an appetizer

1 1/2 lb eggplants
½ cup ground almonds
½ lb onion (two medium)
8 threads saffron
2 Tbl olive oil
2 tsp caraway seeds
¼ cup vinegar
2 tsp cinnamon
2 Tbl sugar
olive oil for serving

Pot for boiling water and eggplants (whole)
Frying pan for onions
Knife for cutting
Knife for seeding
Food processor

Pierce eggplants several times, remove the green tops and boil for about ½ hour. Cool slightly and peel off skin, chop. Chop onion and fry in 2 Tbl olive oil until limp and beginning to brown, about 10 minutes. Combine almonds, spices, vinegar, and sugar in a food processor, mixing to a paste and adding water to thin. Spread paste thinly on the plate, dump on chopped eggplant and chopped onion, drizzle with olive oil.

The Honorable Lady Brigid ingen Maol-Mhichil of Northshield fame tested this recipe and offered the revised redaction. I am grateful for her support on my first feast.~~Sayyeda al-Kaslaania

18 April 2011

Aloeswood/agarwood sustainable sourse

I have been doing more research on historical cooking and came across this helpful information. Aloeswood seems to be the word of choice in historical documents and their translations. Agarwood appears to be the modern equivalent word.

Technology from our research is used to produce agarwood in plantations. We have set up an internet company to help the farmers in Vietnam sell their products and you can find agarwood for sale at: ScentedMountain.com
The agarwood chips and agarwood powder sold by Scented Mountain is pure "raw" agarwood right out of the tree so it would be as "food grade" as you can get.
Robert Blanchette
Department of Plant Pathology
University of Minnesota

Naqlan, Egypt: New information resource

I'm just on the front edge of looking into this. It appears that excavations have been taking place in Naqlan, Egypt on Coptic graves from the Fatimid period.

"Most of the Naqlun textiles come from the Fatimid period (AD 969-1171), although a few could be of Mamluk date (AD 1250-1517). " Quoted from:

I'm very excited. Here's another one:

"The dating of the Naqlun tunic is based on the archaeological context, which points to the Fatimid period."

Please let me know if you have further resources.

14 April 2011

An Agricultural Fatimid Ceremony

An Agricultural Fatimid Ceremony
Sayyeda al-Kaslaania, March 2011.

The majesty and mystery of the Nile River has supported life in Egypt for millennia. The Nile rises almost magically during the hottest and driest part of the year, from June to September. The annual flooding not only gave the land resources it needed to sustain agricultural life, but also threatened it. If the level of the water climbed too high, the Nile broke its banks and destroyed surrounding infrastructure; if it failed to rise adequately the economy was crushed by famine. Many rituals involving the floodwaters had evolved throughout the years, and the Fatimid rulers of the Middle Ages continued this tradition faithfully.

During this period, a specially trained “guardian of the Nile” used Nilometers to track the progress of the flooding and report daily to the caliph. When the Nilometer indicated that the river had reached the proper height to support the community, a grand ceremony was staged to cut the earthen dams on canals used for watering crops. This was one of the few times in the year that regular people would have the opportunity to see the caliph, and he took good advantage of it. By making this a public ceremony every year, he reassured the people that the administration continued to support the infrastructure of the community, and thereby the economy.

Typical of the Fatimid period, these ceremonies were astonishingly grand. In 1047 CE, a procession of ten thousand fully-armored horses—adorned with jewel-studded gold saddles and tiraz embroidered saddle cloths—were led by ten thousand soldiers to the canal cutting site outside of old Cairo. They were preceded by many musicians, and followed by camels bearing heavily adorned litters of courtiers. As an act of piety the caliph himself rode a mule with only plain, unadorned tack. However, the white linen tunic he wore cost ten thousand dinars, whereas the average merchant class tunic cost about two dinars. The caliph was accompanied by royal parasol bearers carrying an elaborate parasol bejeweled with gold, cut stones, and pearls, and burning incense made from ambergris and aloeswood. Three hundred additional soldiers also joined the caliph on foot, each wearing identical brocade garments, made new for the ceremony. The processional path of the caliph was lined with common people who bowed before the ruler and called out blessings for him.

When he arrived, the caliph was greeted under a large brocade tent and given a ceremonial spear. At the proper time he walked out to the canal and threw the spear at the dam as the signal for workman to begin cutting it. After the caliph returned to his palace, a three day celebration continued  along the banks of the river where merchant class people ate and drank in celebration of their continued livelihood, solid in the knowledge that both the plantings will be a success this year, and that their government continued to be stable.

Source: Sanders, Paula. Ritual, Politics, and the City in Fatimid Cairo. State University of New York Press; Albany, 1994.

25 March 2011

Felted pouch, lined: Project catch up

Felted pouch, lined: Project catch up

Sometimes there are project that languish around the house for years before they speak to you. This wet felted pouch is one of those. I had made my layers too thin, so it wasn’t going to be strong enough for a belt pouch. Last month it came out of the box and I reexamined it. I decided to add a wool fabric lining in a color that was complimented by the wool tablet woven trim I had sitting around.

Ultimately, I think it turned out pretty well, and I plan to give it as a gift now.

If you’re looking to get into wet felting, I recommend using Lady Virag’s blog as a starting point:

This project wasn’t a challenge for me at this point. The work was all completed, I just needed to assemble the bits. Therefore I decided not to number it among my A&S50 count.

23 March 2011

Sprang thing: Learning experience

I took a class from Mistress Ealasaid at the Stellar University of Northshield. I was very grateful that she was willing to teach it, because I'd been trying to hook up with her to learn for a while. However, the day conspired against me. I couldn't see well enough or concentrate enough to participate in the class well, so in taking a break I didn't struggle hard to get back after a distraction.
Sad sprang thing, just off the frame

I learned enough, however, that I could go back to it a few weeks later with better eyeballs (i.e. no contacts in) and more sleep and make something happen to the string. And I could repeat it. Going to a Baronial meeting with my project, I learned that Lady Auda is an accomplished sprang worker and got some more tips.

The next project will be on the larger frame that my honey made for me. I think I can make a bag for holding fruit at out camp, and if I keep the twists dense, the fruit won't fall out. I'm not sure what I can with this sad little blue thing, however! It's about 10 inches long, and has some significant holes. The next one I will leave a stick in every ten twists or so, in case I spot something further down and need to back out a mistake.
Sad sprang thing, blocked

On this one, you can see the big hole (sprang is worked from the middle, so it's a mirror image), and in trying to correct that I created a series of smaller holes. These are just on the right side and starting immediately below the big hole (I work left to right). Once the big hole started, the end thread on the right never got twisted to it's neighbor. I believe that I split my yarn just at, or just below, the big hole.

I know that the Copts in Fatimid Egypt were using sprang, but I'm not sure in what capacity. I had thought it was to make head coverings, but all of the extant pieces that I can find now are from earlier than the Fatimid period. Feel free to share any tidbits you might have!

When I have something useful I will add it to my A&S 50 count. Clearly this is a learning experience!

18 March 2011

Award of Arms tiraz: Material Culture eighteen: A&S 50 Challenge

Award of Arms tiraz: Material Culture eighteen: A&S 50 Challenge
Sayyeda Samia al-Kaslaania
Copyright March 2011, Julia May

This past year I offered to help the Kingdom Signet by making an award “scroll”. In Northshield, we have a lovely practice of frequently giving scrolls made in media other than paper and paint. A woman with a Middle Eastern person was going to receive her Award of Arms, which is given in the name of the current King and Queen. I offered to make a tiraz shawl for them to present to her.

A TAPESTRY TIRAZ FRAGMENT, 9TH-10TH CENTURY, FATIMID.  Christie's Sale  5331, item 535. Indian and Islamic Works of Art and Textiles 11 April 2008, London, South Kensington

During the Middle Ages, rulers in the Middle East would honor selected people by giving them gifts inscribed with tiraz. In the Fatimid period these were called khil’a, or robes of honor. These “robes” ranged from a scarf or handkerchief (mandil), to a tunic, to an entire outfit (hulla). Typically they were adorned with a formulaic inscription: honoring god and the royalty, asking for blessings, and often including a date and location of manufacture.

Tiraz shawl completed by Samia.
The shawl I decorated was made from fringed fabric with two lovely bands of decorative weaving on each end. On one of the ends, in the space between the two bands, I embroidered the text of the award scroll. There are similar textiles in the Textile Museum in Washington DC from this period where the two lines of text are upside down from each other and centered around decorative bands.

17 March 2011

King's Hens redaction: Food challenge nine: A&S 50 Challenge

King's Hens redaction: Food challenge nine: A&S 50 Challenge
Chicken Omelet Recipe 

Cookbook: Ein Buch von guter Spise. Translated by Alia Atlas, copyright 1993. This is a literal translation of Daz buoch von guoter spise. The original manuscript was part of a household manual which Michael de Leone, the proto-notary of the Archbishop of Würzburg, had organized. The original is in the university library of Munich. This manuscript is dated as between 1345 and 1354.

28. Wilt du machen ein spise von hüenren (How you want to make a food of hens)
Chicken Omelet (King's Hens)

Diz heizznt küneges hüenre. Nim junge gebratene hüenre. hau die an kleine mursel. nim frische eyer und zu slahe die. menge daz zu gestozzen ingeber. und ein wenic enys. giuz daz in einen vesten mörser. der heiz si. mit dem selben crute. daz tu zu den eyern. damit bewirf die hüenre. und tu die hüenre in den mörser. und tu dar zu saffran und saltz zu mazzen. und tu sie zu dem viur. und lazze sie backen glich heiz mit ein wenic smaltzes. gib sie gantz hin. daz heizzent küniges hüenre.

This is called King's Hens. Take young roasted hens. Cut them in small pieces. Take fresh eggs and beat them. Mix thereto pounded ginger and a little anise. Pour that in a strong pot, which will be hot. With the same herbs, which you add to the eggs, sprinkle therewith the hens and put the hens in the pot. And do thereto saffron and salt to mass. And put them to the fire and let them bake (at the) same heat with a little fat. Give them out whole. That is called King's Hens.

Samia's Redaction:

1/2 tsp dried ginger
pinch anise seed, ground
2 pinches salt
pinch saffron
splash olive oil
1/2 lb roasted chicken
4 eggs

Preheat oven to 425 F. Beat eggs together. Add ginger, anise, salt, saffron olive oil. Chop chicken into small pieces and add to eggs. Pour into a greased pie pan. Bake 15 minutes until set.

Samia's Notes:

I added more eggs and more spices than Ms. Atlas did in her redaction. I have been playing with egg tarts for a time and decided to go with the familiar path when redacting this one. I happened to be out of fresh butter when making this, and substituted olive oil. With the extra eggs it had enough integrity to serve without forks (which was great, since I forgot to bring any!).

I'm not sure how to read "give them out whole". I wonder what shape pot these were cooked in originally. Mine was cooked in a straight-sided pie 8" dish, and I cut wedges to serve it.

To make this healthier, I would substitute 4 egg whites for two of the eggs.

10 January 2011

Hosen : Material Culture seventeen: A&S 50 Challenge

Hosen : Material Culture seventeen: A&S 50 Challenge
Sayyeda Samia al-Kaslaania
Copyright January 2011, Julia May

I have had the bug to make a fourteenth century Western European houppelande and accoutrement for a few years. Journeyman’s Rest, one of my households, has been trying to get us all dressed up like this, and we’ve progressed diligently but not to the end of the journey. The few things holding me up personally are the cotehardie, appropriate headwear, and the hosen. I started back in the day by tablet-weaving garters for my partner and myself.

This year I had the impetus to make Anglo-Saxon garb and decided that hosen would be an appropriate addition.

This fabulous website had more details than I needed for something that won’t be integrated into my regular garb: Chosen Hosen. Instead I used this article to get the idea of the shape, noting the bias runs along the shin bone: Making Medieval Cut Hosen. There was no way I would have seams under my feet (it would drive me crazy), so I simply drew out my footprint and added a seam allowance. The seam would be around the edge of my foot similar to shoes. I then measured my calf and the desired length of my hosen (from the floor, along my ankle to my knee, adding some to roll over the garters). I cut two pieces on the bias which accommodated these measurements which I marked with a center line. These were pinned around my leg and I started pinching out fabric. Once it kind-of fit I stitched along the pin marks and tried another fitting. As you can imagine, this kind of draping is a fast and wasteful process.

Not knowing the period method to finish hosen, I left the top edge unfinished (the bias doesn’t unravel).