Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Steotch-Along 2014 Finished!

The good people at Steotch gave us eight options for finishing this year's stitchalong. I went with the one they used as their final version. Warning: Profanity ahead.


This one will be a gift. I'm not sure if the recipient has quite the sense of humor to appreciate the word choice; if not, I'll fix it next time I see her. I'm not thrilled with this year's pattern, but last year happened to be something so awesome and perfect for my household that it would have been very difficult to outdo. One project down, a billionty more to finish!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

I Caught the Stitching Bug

And it's really doing a number this time! Back in May I was already planning the next two projects after the wedding pieces once I learned that stitching while wearing the wrist brace kept my wrist from making bad movements. I cataloged my stitching stash (in Excel), went out to purchase the necessary items for a My Little Pony pattern and Dear Math (a pattern I purchased a while back), was very thankful that I don't keep track of thread miles, and finished the wedding pieces. Then I started looking at blackwork stuff for some reason (no really, I have no idea how I got there) and found a few more things I wanted to stitch.



Like ten. Plus a few others that I'd like to stitch someday. Ten things I want to stitch NOW.


Thus far I kitted up fourteen patterns with fabric and thread, have another four with fabric that still need thread decisions, and bought a small kit when I had coupons at Jo-Ann's but everything I wanted was on sale.


I started and finished three rather quickly (okay, so I still have to wash and finish finish two), and have been keeping up with the Steotch Mystery Stitchalong. Then I wanted a quick finished object. So I started a fairly simple, all black, no backstitching piece, Quoth the Raven.


But it's on 18-ct, small, stiff fabric, and it's a lot of counting over 120 sts across with minimal white space. Not that fast. So I started that small kit I mentioned.


But instead of sunflowers across the entire towel, it's honestly just those three in the center. While that should make it shorter, it annoys me that 2/3 of the Aida is blank. I keep wondering if I can put one or two sunflowers on each blank third with the thread it came with so I don't yet have a definitive end and it's less mindless than I'd like. So I started one of the blackwork patterns I kitted up.


But I have to really think about how to go about doing the outline. Like, pages of engineering paper and colored pencils to figure out what the heck I'm doing. So I started a 79 x 81 stitch simple pattern, no backstitching, 14 ct Aida, and a bunch of whitespace (or yellowspace, as the case may be).


So far, so good!

Friday, July 18, 2014

RAT Cake

In my PhD program, our qualifying exam is called the Readiness Assessment Test, or RAT for short. My husband just had his oral defense, so I baked a rat cake for him:


I should have taken in-progress pictures. It turned out very well, amazing considering I've never done most of the techniques I used for it. The poured fondant on the "cheese" cake base was a bit spotty on the sides, but no one really cared.


Both cakes were quick one-bowl cakes from Joy of Cooking, the Blitzkuchen recipe. I baked the rat in a loaf pan, then cut it and shaped it in a triangle-ish shape, kind of like a pinewood derby car. The "cheese" cake was baked in an 8"x8" Pyrex square pan. Both had a warm apricot jam crumb coat. I made almond-flavored fondant and used it in a couple of ways. I covered the "cheese" with yellow poured fondant and made some of the rest pink for the ears, nose, and tail. The rat is frosted with Joy of Cooking's Creamy Decorating Icing, a shortening/powdered sugar/milk blend flavored with a dash of almond and vanilla (that is pretty much exactly the frosting my grandmother always made). I used a grass/fur (multi-opening) tip but instead of using it in the traditional way and making the "fur" stand up, I dragged it slowly across, allowing the strands to curl like fur. I like it better than the usual fur frosting method. I considered making eyes and whiskers but figured I'd stop while I was ahead and leave it be.


Everyone enjoyed it, and I learned a lot. Things like:
  • Make sure to wash the sides of the pot while making the fondant or you may have some seed crystals that make your final fondant contain some crystallized sugar bits, giving it a bit of a crunch.
  • Don't let the apricot chunks go onto the cake if you want a smooth cake without apricot chunks.
  • Brown gel coloring doesn't get too dark. Just a bit of black to darken it up will cause your brown rat to be a grey rat instead.
  • Fondant really does need 24 hours of ripening. It really changes the texture.
  • The "grass/fur" tip makes better looking fur (in my opinion) when you let it kind of spaghetti across, like what I did, instead of making individual fur bits. 
  • Vanilla cake, apricot glaze, and almond (fondant) or vanilla/almond (frosting) flavors work very, very well together.
  • Don't thin the fondant too early. Instead of waiting for it to fully melt, I added a generous helping of boiling water to thin it and had to add more of the reserve fondant back in to thicken it again. I also had to wait for it to cool and thicken more before I could get the sides, which is why they have such poor coverage.
Any requests?

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Steotch-Along 2014 Clues #6 & 7

Apparently I didn't post #6. Here's what it looked like a couple of days ago:


And now, one more clue left, and it's looking great so far!



I'm hoping there will be a Snoop Dog quote to finish it up. We'll find out on Sunday!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Chicken Bag and Chicks

I came across an adorable set of a mama chicken and her baby chicks, something that would be perfect for an older toddler and would use only scraps (and one purchased skein of white because I ran out).


Pattern: Mama Chicken Bag (Ravelry mine)
Yarn: Caron Simply Soft in many colors
Hook: 4.0mm/USG for the wings, 6.0mm/USJ for the rest
 Timeframe: June 25 - July 6, 2014
Mods: Two wings, one color for the tail, added the comb.
Problems: The wings are a bit big because I used smaller yarn for the body, but that's okay.
Pattern: Super Quick Easter Chicks (Ravelry mine 2 3 4 5 6 7)
Yarn: Caron Simply Soft in many colors
Hook: 4.0mm/USG
 Timeframe: June 24 - July 4, 2014, less than a day per chick.
Mods: Needle felted eyes.
Problems: None!
Six of these chicks match the paisley colors of Mama's wings. The seventh is scraps from another project (coming soon!) because the black cat kept stealing the chicks as I was trying to make them. She doesn't particularly like it unless it's in with my crafting supplies and she has to steal it. Cat logic.


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Stuffed Creatures

After the sets of hats and booties, I had very little yellow Caron Simply Soft left. I was intending to make a stuffed duck for a gift and wanted to double the yarn to make it a bit larger. 16 yards is not that much, even for a small duck. Doubling the yarn made it impossible. Do I buy more? Double it with another color? Pick another creature to make?

Luckily, I had another reasonable (though not as soft) yellow in my stash:


Pattern: Filbert! the Baby Duck (Ravelry mine)
Yarn: Wool of the Andes Superwash in Semolina and Cascade 220 Superwash in Burnt Orange
Hook: 6.0mm/USJ
 Timeframe: June 22 - , 2014
Mods: Doubled the yarn, used a larger hook, needle felted the eyes for security
Problems: None!

I love the little curl in the ends of the wings! I also made a little stuffed owl:

Pattern: Confused Owl (Ravelry mine)
Yarn: Caron Simply Soft in White and Cascade 220 Superwash in Burnt Orange
Hook: 6.0mm/USJ
 Timeframe: June 22 - , 2014
Mods: Doubled the yarn, used a larger hook, crocheted rather than felted the eyes, and needle felted the pupils
Problems: None!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Steotch-Along 2014 Clue #5

The backstitching on Snoopy will be so, so wonderful when we finally get there!