Sunday, June 2, 2024

Raspberry Cordial and Other Treats for the Anne Picnic

 Yesterday's picnic was absolutely delightful!

 Lovely weather, beautiful setting, awesome people, yummy food!

Now, I'm going to hold off on telling you all about the picnic until we get the pictures back from our wonderful photographer (@samithefae), but I will tell you about the food!

" And I want you to come over early Saturday Morning to help me prepare lunch. I'm going to have the daintiest things possible. . . things that will match the spring you understand. . ."

~Anne to Diana in Anne of Avonlea

There were two options for food: 

1) order a yummy boxed lunch from the caterer we secured for the event

2) make and bring your own picnic lunch

I picked the later option. I wanted to try my hand at making myself a picnic lunch similar to those described in the Anne books (which I'd been listening to in audio book form all month to get myself in the mood for this picnic). Now there was always a chance that I'd be sewing up to the last minute and not have time to make my food, in which case I'd just have to see if there were any catered box lunches still available. . . but I was really, really hopeful that I'd have time to make my own food! 

Well, I had my outfit completely finished the afternoon before the picnic!!!! 100% finished, hat trimmed and everything with like 20 hours to spare! (Considering last time I made myself a new outfit for an event I "finished" it at the event, having this outfit done nearly a whole day in advance felt like a HUGE accomplishment.) Thus, cooking could commence!

After toying with different ideas in the back of my head for a week or two, this is the menu I came up with for myself:

Chicken Salad Sandwiches - These are not specifically mentioned in any of the Anne books that I can recall, but sandwiches are mentioned in the books and chicken salad just sounded good to me! Plus, I had some left over chicken in my fridge that needed to be used up so it was a practical choice too. 

Fresh Baked Bread (for the sandwiches) - all spring I've been making my own bread, and it felt like a very Green Gables-y thing to do.

Lemon Meringue Pie - In Anne of Avonlea she makes lemon pie for her (ill-fated) dinner for Miss Morgan. After listening to that chapter, I was craving lemon pie and just had to make myself one for the picnic! Anne's pies were topped with whipped cream, but I decided to do meringue for mine, just because.

Blueberries - Ok, these have no real Anne significance (though the Meredith children allegedly eating blueberries in the Methodist cemetery is mentioned in Rainbow Valley. . .)  I just happened to have blueberries and they sounded good.

Now I would have loved to also make some cakes and cookies and donuts like those mentioned throughout the books, but I knew I wouldn't have time to make everything, so I'd better call the above list of foods "good enough". Besides, there was one more thing I needed to make for the picnic, and I needed to make a lot of it so we could share it with all the attendees - Raspberry Cordial!

When my friend and I began planning the picnic we decided we just had to have raspberry cordial for everyone to drink. And as this isn't something you can just buy, I volunteered to make a gallon or so for people to try. (Don't worry, it was truly just raspberry cordial, not red currant wine!) After a few internet searches, I decided to give this recipe a try (despite the author rather mis-telling the red currant wine fiasco. . .) as it looked easy enough.

I began my cooking Friday night by mixing up the chicken salad. I used a recipe my mom gave me - the same one she used for our Easter picnic earlier this spring. Then I lost all motivation and decided to go to bed early - I could get up early and do the rest of the cooking first thing in the morning.

And that is how I found myself stirring a pot of frozen raspberries and sugar on my stove at 6 a.m. on Saturday. While the raspberries were cooking, I was mixing up the crust for my lemon pie.

Once the raspberries and sugar were cooked together into a syrup the concoction was strained through a wire sieve to remove all the seeds (and a lot of the pulp) It took a while for all the syrup to come through the sieve, so while it was drip-drip-dripping, I mixed up my bread.

I've been using this this gluten-free bread recipe lately as it's easy, and tastes good - not an easy combination to find when it comes to gluten-free bread! 

While the bread rose I ran outside to milk the goat - and came back in the house to find the raspberry syrup still dripping. While I waited, I pulled out the two half gallon glass jugs I intended to put the cordial in and made labels. Very fancy labels with crayons and scotch tape because that's what I had on hand.

Hey, it works!
Finally I decided enough of the syrup had dripped through for me to finish up this cordial. I poured about 3.5 cups of raspberry syrup into each jug, then filled the jugs up the rest of the way with hot water, put the lids on, and shook them up!

It was the most delightful bright red drink! I let the cordial cool on the counter while I made the filling for my lemon pie.
I used the lemon meringue pie recipe from The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook - because every recipe I've tried from that cookbook has turned out well - and this pie was no exception! I made my crust and filling stretch to make 2 pies - one little one and one normal size one. The little one would come with me to the picnic. The big one would stay home to be shared with the company we had coming for dinner that evening.

Isn't it the cutest little pie??
Once the pies were in the oven, I stuck the cordial in the fridge. After a bit, I decided it wasn't getting cold fast enough in there - so I moved it to the deep freeze. This cordial had better be cold by the time I need to leave for the picnic!

I rolled up to the picnic in style in my horseless wagon with a cooler full of raspberry cordial and yummy food in the back. Was the cordial cold yet? And what would it taste like?

It was! And it was delicious! Such a fun on-theme treat to share with all the picnic goers!

It was a lot of fun planning and making the food for the picnic - and the results were worth it. We plan on hosting more themed picnics in the future. . . hopefully those themes also have iconic food and beverages to be made!

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Anne Outfit Plans for an Anne Picnic

 My friend and I may have, somewhat accidentally and most certainly impulsively, started a fantasy event company early this year - and our first event is this coming weekend!!! (If you follow me on Instagram this probably isn’t news to you, as I’ve been sharing about our events there for a few months now.)

We’ve got balls and a tea coming up over the course of the next year or so, but for this first get-to-know you type event we decided to do a free picnic in the park - an Anne of Green Gables themed picnic to be exact! 

The idea is people can come dressed in their finest “cottage core” attire for a delightful afternoon and get excited about the larger, fancier, events we have coming up. I am, of course, also using this as an excuse to make myself a new Edwardian ensemble! One I’ve had planned for atleast the past 2 years, but haven’t made a priority, until now. . .

Ok, I suppose the real beginning of this ensemble was about 3 years ago when my mom gave me this white cotton nightgown. 

Nearly sheer, embroidered, white cotton - with a pin-tucked yoke and mother-of-pearl buttons. This thing was just begging to be re-fashioned into an Edwardian blouse! There was only one problem. I liked it as a nightgown. It was a welcome addition to my collection of summer sleepwear and I didn’t really want to cut it up. 

This issue was solved when I found an identical nightgown at Goodwill few months later. The thrifted nightgown could get refashioned into a frilly Edwardian blouse, the nightgown my mom gave me could stay intact!

The idea for a skirt to go with the blouse came about at some point in the past couple years when I found a pale green herringbone cotton on the clearance rack at Joann’s. The fabric was cheap and just screamed “TURN ME INTO AN EDWARDIAN SKIRT” - so everything that was left on the bolt (3ish yards I believe) came home with me for that purpose. (Doing research as I began actually sewing this skirt, I came to the realization that the reason this green fabric screamed at me so was probably because of this Anne outfit made by The Quintessential Clothes Pen. Her green skirt almost certainly influenced mine as I read her blog post about it shortly before finding my green fabric I believe.)

About a month ago, in preparation for our upcoming picnic, I pulled out the nightgown and green herringbone to begin the outfit. 

I decided to listen to the Anne series in audio book form while sewing to get myself in the mood for the picnic - and not an hour into listening I happened upon the perfect idea for a hat to complete the ensemble.

A hat trimmed with pink roses and yellow buttercups, reminiscent of 11 year old Anne’s first Sunday attending church in Avonlea! Fake roses and buttercups have now been obtained for just such a purpose. . .

At this point the skirt is complete, with the blouse and hat are well underway - on track to be perfectly completed before Saturday afternoon! All that’s left for me to decide on is what I’m packing in my picnic basket. . .  And I’ve got some Anne-inspired ideas for that too!

If you’re local and interested in joining us on Saturday info about the picnic can be found here!

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

The Butterfly Denim Wrap Dress

 As soon as I made Simplicity 8085 (8 years ago now!) it became my favorite pattern. Basic sundress in the front, wrap dress in the back, beautiful fit - it was fantastic! I went on to make that pattern 3 more times (and I highly doubt I'm done with it yet!), and it gave me a love for dresses that wrap across the back. Along with versions two, three, and four, of the Simplicity pattern, I also made the Wearing History 1939 sundress with a similar back-wrap feature. These dresses are all summer staples in my closet - getting worn year after year (yes, 8 years later I am still wearing and loving the original green dress.).

Thus, when, at an estate sale several years ago, I came across a vintage mail order pattern with this back wrap feature - obviously the pattern had to come home with me and be tried out!

A mail order Anne Adams pattern from, well, honestly I don't know the exact year, but the postage mark appears to say 1980, so probably somewhere around there. I decided to pair it with a light weight denim from my stash embroidered with rainbow butterflies all over. Someone had given me this fabric several years earlier, and I'd been waiting for the right project to come along for it - something that would look good in butterfly denim, without looking too childish - and I decided this dress was it!

The pattern was a size 16 - possibly not my size, but I didn't worry too much about that. Just figuring "wrap dresses are forgiving" I cut the dress out of my fabric with no alterations.

I sewed up the dress - and it was too big. Better too big than too small! I " fixed" this by just wrapping the dress a little tighter and adding small darts to the top edge of the bodice where it wanted to gape. The waist dart placement does not sit correctly at my bust thanks to this sizing issue, but the dress is comfortable, and looks decent enough from a distance, so I chose not to worry about that.

As for the waist fastening on this dress (the only fastening dresses of this style require), I decided to do something a bit different than I've done before and, rather than waist ties, I made a belt that buckles attached to the waistline of the dress. 

I carefully embroidered sturdy eyelets of different colors on the belt to match the colorful butterflies - only to discover that, as the dress was too big, the belt was really too long and none of those beautiful hand-sewn eyelets were at the right place to fit me.

Thus, those original 5 colorful eyelets are now a decorative feature, and the belt fastens off-center (we're calling that a design feature as well) with a 6th eyelet I sewed at just the right location.

There are two lessons I could take from this dress - "double check your fit and adjust accordingly before cutting into your fabric" or "just cut into the fabric, you can always fix things later! (There's always a way to make things work.)"

I probably should have learned the first lesson, but alas, my sewing practice better reflects the second.

Quirks and all, I do love this dress! I made it almost 3 years ago now (yes, I'm fearfully behind at blogging), and it's been worn regularly every summer since.

Last summer I wore the dress to spend a wonderful evening at a local winery overlooking the river with my friends, sister-in-law, and niece. My best friend took some photos of the dress for me, and after observing the photoshoot in progress, my niece requested to join in.

Any time kiddo! You can be in pictures with me any time!

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Last Minute Alterations to Wear the Dragonfly Volante

 After two years of hanging in the closet, I decided my dragonfly volante needed an outing - and the Renaissance festival was the perfect excuse to give it one.

A week before I planned to head to the Ren fest I pulled the gown out of my closet, and made the last accessory it needed to be wearable - a stomacher.

From my stash I picked a scrap of green and gold shot silk taffeta (given to me by a friend) and some metallic gold trim. 

Using an early 18th century stomacher in Patterns of Fashion 1 as my reference for shape and a Simplicity pattern piece as a guide for size, I cut out a stomacher from two layers of linen canvas. (The same canvas I used to make my sister's stays last spring.)

I sewed together the two layers of canvas and stitched boning channels.

The stomacher got boned with zip ties.

I decorated the outer silk layer of the stomacher with my metallic trim, then mounted it on the boned linen foundation.

And bound the whole thing with some petersham ribbon.

It was a quick and easy one evening project - and once it was done I figured I was all set to head to the Ren Fest at the end of the week - but then matters got complicated.

I tried on the gown - and oh my goodness. It was a shapeless sack.
Ok, so this style of gown is, more or less, a shapeless sack, BUT.
It should have had a bit more shape than it had.
I tried it on over my big hoop skirt. I tried it on over my small hoop skirt. I tried it on over my pocket hoops. Nothing looked right. It needed help.

I went to Pinterest and looked at all the pictures of Volantes I'd saved two years ago, and formulated a plan. My Volante needed a partial bodice lining to give it a bit more shape.

This partial lining wound up being super easy to add - just a pair of lacing strips with twill tape ties sewn into the back of the gown. Once the ties were all tied together they added just the amount of fit and shape this dress required!

There was now a clear distinction between bodice and skirt! But. . . the ties caused a different issue. The bodice was now just fitted enough when the ties were tied that the gown did not want to slip on easily over my shoulders. Uggg.

I fixed this problem by extending the front opening a good 6" or so and adding a couple hooks and eyes to keep it closed below the waistline.
Speaking of the waistline. . .

When I made the gown I made the waistline a little bit high - too high. So, while I was fixing the gown up to wear, I decided to lower the waistline a touch by extending the bodice pleats down several inches.

This was a pretty easy alteration to do and greatly improved the fit of the gown!

Bodice alterations done, I tried on the gown with my hoop skirts once more to choose which skirt supports I would wear that weekend. My small hoop skirt - the one I wore with my wedding dress - turned out to be the best choice. 

When I'd originally made the gown 2 years earlier I'd intended to wear it with my big hoop skirt (the one for the pink ball gown), and the skirt was cut and hemmed accordingly. 
Well, with the smaller hoops, the skirt was now too long. So, I spent the afternoon before I went to the Ren Fest hemming.

A new hem facing was sewn in!

And finally, two years after it was originally made, the Dragonfly Volante was completed and worn!!

In case you missed any Volante blog posts. . .

Here you can find the story of how it began

This post is all about the initial construction of the gown 

Here I share about the accessories I made to go with it

And here's my post all about my day at the Renaissance Festival where I wore it!