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Secret’s Out!

Harry Potter Knitting Magic cover

It’s official! And it’s also OFFICIAL! As in – it’s THE OFFICIAL HARRY POTTER KNITTING PATTERN BOOK, licensed and everything!

And now that it’s in pre-order status, I can finally tell you all (a little) about it!

I’m so excited to be a part of this gorgeous book, and beyond thrilled that my pattern was one of the ones chosen for the cover! There will be 28 patterns in total, 208 pages, and includes costume replicas, projects inspired by the films, film tidbits, behind-the-scenes info and more.

I can’t wait to share more info and pics as it becomes available, but in the meantime here’s the lovely cover.

It will be released on January 28 2020, and for those of you interested in pre-ordering, you can do so here.


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Secret, Secret, I’ve Got a Secret…

You guys.

YOU GUYS.

Books Literature GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

There is so much going on behind the scenes for this little blog, and I had all the plans to get it all going in the first half of this year but – YOU GUYS

Something came up. I was already falling behind because of other commitments I’d taken on, and then I was approached with an opportunity that was just… magical.* And I know – I KNOW – that is the LAMEST of excuses, but trust me when I say THIS WAS WORTH IT. I feel so very lucky and could not pass it up, even if it means shuffling other things a bit later down the pipeline.

I CANNOT wait to tell you all about it, but I’m under legal contract ** and can’t talk about it just yet. Just trust me that as soon as I can, I will. And in the meantime, you can follow glimpses of what’s going on with me via my Instagram, either through the link in the sidebar or directly here.

*Was that a hint?  Maybe.  <<innocent eyes>>
**Yup. 


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How to Bake a Cake and Prepare it for Decorating

Henri’s 10th* birthday party was last weekend, and while I’m not a professional by any means, I have made enough cakes by now (not to mention the 40 or so ones I’ve yet to post) that I often get asked for tips or help.  So I decided to put together a step-by-step guide on how I prepare a cake for decorating.** 

I’ll get more into the “how to bake a cake” part in a future post, as there are a lot of little tweaks and tips for the baking part itself…but this post will cover specifically how to prepare a basic cake for decorating.

Note #1- I typically bake my cakes 1-2 days prior to when I plan to decorate, which – depending on the desired outcome – is 1-2 days prior to the cake’s due date. (IE: if the cake is for Sunday, I’ll bake it Thurs or Fri night, then decorate Saturday night. If it’s a very involved, sculptural cake, I might bump those dates back a day each to leave more time for decorating.)

Before you can bake the cake, you need to prepare your pan. This step ensures you’ll be able to remove the cake from the pan once it’s baked. Some people line their pans with parchment, but I use this method:

  • Grease the pan’s bottom and sides with either Pam, margarine, or butter
  • Drop a tablespoon of flour onto the greased pan
  • Over the sink (I learned the hard way) slowly rotate and tilt the pan until the flour fully coats the bottom and sides, tapping if necessary to move things along
  • Make sure it’s fully covered, touching up bare spots if necessary
  • To remove excess flour, hold pan upside-down over the sink and smack the bottom of the pan a few times. The loose flour will fall into the sink.

Note #2- They make a ‘baker’s’ version of Pam that has flour mixed in already.

Note #3- I’ve heard of, but never tried, using Pan Grease in lieu of the above. I’m planning to try it out sometime when I don’t have a deadline looming 🙂

  
Pan Grease

1 cup shortening
1 cup flour
3/4 cup vegetable oil

Mix well with electric mixer and store in airtight container. Does
not need refrigeration.

Note #4- It doesn’t matter what kind of flour you use. One time I’d bought the wrong kind of flour for a recipe and had no use for it, so I used that one for preparing pans until it had been all used up. Ever since I use all-purpose, but you can use whatever you’d like, including nut-based and gluten-free flours. I’ve also seen people use cocoa powder when preparing pans for chocolate-based recipes.

Note #5- Don’t try to tap out the excess flour over a garbage can unless your pan is small enough to hold lower than the rim of the can. I learned this the hard way…

Once the pan is ready, you can prepare your batter, then pour it in. Some cakes need to be left alone, but for my regular birthday-type cakes, I drop the pan on the counter a few times so the air bubbles in the batter can raise to the surface and pop.

Once the cake is ready to come out of the oven, a very important step is to let the cake set in the pan for about 10 minutes. Try to remove it too soon and it will fall apart, but wait too long and it will get very difficult to remove. My standard is to set my oven timer for 10 minutes and use that time to get out the items I’ll need for the wrapping step coming up.

Once 10 minutes are up, your cake is ready to remove from the pan. Loosen around the edges with a knife. I also like to sort of “tuck” the knife under the cake and give it little test lifts to help ease it from the bottom of the pan.

The photos above show how I used to remove the cakes from the pan- I’d flip the pan over onto a flexible cutting board, then use a 2nd board to flip it back to right-side up, before sliding it onto a tray to allow it to cool overnight.

However- I don’t do this method any more. Instead I remove the cake from the pan and place it immediately onto a long length of Saran Wrap, which I then fold over to seal. Then I turn the cake 90 degrees, place it onto a 2nd long length of Saran, and wrap it again, so the 2nd layer covers any gaps in the 1st. I do this immediately after the 10 min rest in the pan.

Once the cakes are wrapped in Saran, you can leave them to cool. I’ve done this up to 5 days in advance of serving, and the cakes still came out perfect. In fact, I’d recommend this even more for cakes made in advance- unlike my previous method of leaving them uncovered, the Saran traps the heat and steam into the cake, leaving them dense and moist and delicious instead of dry and crumbly.

Leave the Saran-covered cakes somewhere dry and cool where they won’t be disturbed. (Don’t leave them stacked as the top one might sag, I only did this when I took the photo as I was trying to estimate how tall the finished cake would be).

Allow the cakes to cool at minimum overnight. A cake might feel cool on the outside but still have residual heat trapped inside, and icing and decorations will slide right off.

Once cooled, you’re ready to level and tort. (Tort is just a fancy word for “cut the cake in half, horizontally). For best results, use a knife long enough to fit across the narrowest edge of the cake.

Slowly and evenly cut off the rounded cake dome, starting at one corner then easing your way across until you can go straight down along the cake. Keep your hand steady and try to hold the knife as flat and parallel to the table as you can. Once you’ve cut all the way across you can remove the scraps for eating or other uses. I always like to have a storage container handy as well to hold the cake scraps which I use later with any leftover icing to make cake pops for my kids.

In the demo cake shown here, I didn’t tort, but if I would have it would have been at this step. Using the same knife as above, cut the cake horizontally into two layers.

Note #6- I recently picked up these cake level guides and OMG they’re perfect! I clipped one to my knife and held it flush against the table as I cut and I’ve never had a cake turn out as perfectly level before. I <3.

Before you can begin decorating, you must consider your base. Is the cake to be moved? Is it going to be heavy, and need a cake board? For the cake shown, I iced, decorated and transported it on the white tray, and I would use the same method with any other tray or cake stand. If this was a tier in a larger cake, however, I’d be using a cake board.

Put a dollop of icing into the center of where your cake will go. This will “glue” your cake to the tray/board and keep it from sliding around. Center the cake into place and give it a little push down to adhere.

Fill your cake. Do a border of icing around the edges of the cake and then fill it with more icing, jam, whatever you’d like. Then place your other layer on top and press down lightly. I often flip it so the flatter bottom of the cake layer becomes the top of the cake, but this 9×11 was a bit too large and thin for me to feel comfortable flipping without risking breaking. I’m a klutz after all…

Before I begin to ice the outside of the cake, I protect the tray/stand/surface with parchment paper or wax paper. Cut off a narrow piece and then cut that into pieces to fit around the edges of the cake. For a rectangle or square cake I’d cut 4 narrow strips, if it was a round cake I’d cut the full-size strips into thirds and slightly overlap them to surround the cake with a hexagon of paper.

See the crumbs on the parchment? That’s why it’s there- to protect the base from crumbs and icing. The crumb coat (shown) isn’t part of the decorative exterior, it’s used (and named) to capture any loose crumbs that would otherwise fall off as you work. Ice the cake on the top and all sides, but don’t worry about covering every inch of the cake. The main thing is to trap the crumbs and fill in any gaps in between the layers of the cake.

Note #7- Mine is sloppy. Both the crumb coat and the upcoming icing. This cake was for fun. If you are planning to cover the cake in fondant later OR planning to have smooth or knife-edge sides, then you should make sure your crumb coat is smooth as well, or it will be more difficult later.

After the crumb coat I like to put the cake in the fridge to set the icing. This isn’t completely mandatory, so don’t stress if you don’t have room in your fridge. Place the cake somewhere cool and undisturbed for about 30 minutes, or until the icing crusts over.

Once the crumb coat is done you’re almost ready to decorate. The cake just needs one more layer of icing. If I’ll be covering with fondant, I put a thinner layer. It’s more to smooth the top/sides and give the fondant something to ‘stick’ to vs a layer of icing to eat. If I’ll only be using icing, then I put a thicker layer, making sure to cover the cake completely.

For the cake in these examples, it was just for fun and I wasn’t going to be adding decorations, so I gave it a quick layer of thicker icing. I made it even but didn’t spend any time trying to make it smooth.

Whether or not I’ll be adding fondant, or additional decorations, this is the point at which I’ll remove the parchment/wax paper strips. Gently lift them away, making sure not to drop any icing blobs onto the cake or tray. If necessary, use a sharp knife to break the seal of any hardened icing that is connecting the papers to the cakes.

Note #8- Even if the icing on the strips looks clean, I don’t add it back in with any remaining icing to re-use. It’s more likely than not that there are cake crumbs within.

And here’s the baked, iced cake, ready for topping with fondant decorations, candies, candles, or anything else you have in mind.

Hopefully this basic instructional was helpful! If you have any questions that weren’t answered, leave them in the comments and I’ll update it with my answers.

*I know, Henri is 10 already!  Can you believe it? 

**This is only how I do things, after the last 10 years of trial and error.  I’m not saying it’s the only way, nor even that it’s necessarily the right way.  It’s just my way, and if it helps you, it can be your way too 🙂


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WIP to FO Challenge- 19 for 2019

It seems like everywhere you look online these days, people are taking stock of 2018 and setting goals for moving forward.  The first few days of the new year tend to be all about making resolutions, and to that end- here’s one of mine:

I resolve to turn the following 19 wips (works in progress) into FOs (finished objects) before the end of 2019.

I’ll write at length about each project when I finish (and post) about them, but for now here’s a short blurb for each:

1. FO Project Jars

wip yearly fo jars

I need to rip out all the individual lengths of yarn (1-10 yards long, each), match them up with what project they were from, and put the separated yarn into jars designated for each year.

2. Harvest Moon Pullover – crochetwip crochet harvest moon

I started this sweater on November 25 2016 as a way to use my adored Noro Silk Garden limited stash on something for myself.  Limited yarn + crocheted pattern with big holes = a sweater that might fit… right?

3. Granny Rectangle Blanket – crochetwip granny rectangle blanket

I started this blanket on August 9 2015 as a way to use up random sock yarns I figured I’d never get around to using for, y’know, socks.  Figured out how to make granny squares as rectangles and then alternated with white for… some reason.

4. & 5. Ralph and Black Sheep’s Sweaters – sewing & cross stitchwip boys toys sweaters

I started these sweaters for the boys’ favorite stuffed animals a few nights before Christmas 2016.  They were intended to be little surprises for them but instead they’ve sat in a bag ever since.  Sadly Jakob is no longer as into iHasCupQuake as he used to be, so I’ll need to rip out the stitching on the front of Ralph’s sweater and hope it doesn’t leave gaping holes in the fleece.  Then I’ll have to figure out new designs to personalize the fronts, find where I put the sleeve pieces, and sew the little sweaters together.

6. Drops V-Neck Pullover – knittingwip drops knit vneck

I started this deep-v sweater somewhere in 2015 or 2016.  It’s slouchy and soft and I want to wear it already.

7. Fluffy Shawl – knittingwip fluffy shawl

I started this shawl on April 6 2015.  It’s been sitting untouched in a bag since roughly that Fall.  I love how the colors blend together (black Sandes Garn Sisu and purple/green Noro Kureyon Sock) and would like it to be done and hugging my shoulders.

8. Comfy Socks – knittingwip fluffy ankleless socks

According to myself, I started these socks 2 FULL YEARS AGO.  They’re supposed to be my ‘take along’ knitting but because I haven’t finished designing the pattern, I never take them with me to work on.  I need them done so I can reclaim the needles and portable hanging knitting bag and start being more productive again.

9. Fun Fur Vest – knittingwip fun fur vest

I started this Bergere de France vest in 2012(!!).  My Ravelry projects page has it listed as completed on Feb 10 2015 but clearly it isn’t.  No ends are woven in, it might need armhole cuffs, and I think I was debating overdying the entire thing black.

10. Doodle Fusion Marco Raffiné Page – colorinwip doodle fusion marco raffine

This page from Doodle Fusion was started last summer (I think) using only my set of Marco Raffiné oil-based colored pencils.

11. Grimm Fairy Tales Alice Page – coloringwip grimm alice in wonderland

This page from Grimm’s Fairy Tales was a test to see if I could get good results using dollar store colored pencils.  I’ve since moved the pencils somewhere else and want to finish the image so I don’t need to dig them out any more.

12. Grimm Fairy Tales Little Red Page – coloringwip grimm little red riding hood

Those of you who follow me on Instagram would have seen this page from Grimm’s Fairy Tales back when I started it in June.  I love how it’s turning out and want to see how well I can complete it.

13. Imagimorphia Eagle 2-Page – coloringwip imagimorphia eagle

This double-page spread from Imagimorphia was started in the Fall of 2016.  I loved coloring the tiny rainbows and then lost steam.

14. Imagimorphia Egypt Page – coloringwip imagimorphia egypt

I honestly don’t remember when I started this page.  Luckily I’d blogged about it!

15. The Time Garden Quilt Page – coloringwip time garden pattern page

I don’t recall when I started working on this page in Daria Song’s The Time Garden either but judging from other posts about it I’d made in April 2016, I’m going to guess it was about that time.  I have NO idea, however, why I stopped it so close to being done.

16. The Princess Bride Fred Savage 2-Page – coloringwip princess bride fred savage

This page was blogged when I first started it, way back in March 2017.  I don’t want to move on to another page in the book until this one is done, though, so I need to make the time to finally get it finished up.

17. & 18. & 19. Harley Quinn, Betty Cooper & Teela Wall Hanging Trio – plastic canvas

wip plastic canvas girls trio

I’ve never shown these before, except for the odd glimpse in the background of Instagram pics.  I started this trio of plastic canvas portraits when I moved in August 2017.  While I love how they look in black and white (and blue), I designed them to be in full color and I’d love to see them complete.

Think I can do it?  Want to play along? Use the tag #19WIPtoFO2019 so I can see how many you get through!

ps: As I’m about to post this I just realized that 19 projects means committing to completing more than one per month.  Months that are already pretty busy with Becket, work, kids, commissions and all the new projects I want to work on and might come up over the year… Wish me luck- I’m gonna need it!!


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Last-Minute Eevee Amigurumi

One of Henri’s closest friends is a little boy named Matthew.  They used to see each other at the bus stop every morning, and then during recess/lunch at school, but at the beginning of this school year Matthew had to switch to a different elementary which falls within the French school board.  This means that the boys only get to see each other at playdates, which is sad for both of them.

Because of this, Henri’s been SUPER excited for Matthew’s birthday party, which was this afternoon.  The two of them love playing Pokemon together and trading cards, so for Matthew’s gift I picked up a new set of cards.  I showed it to Henri last night while he was coloring a card to go with it, and he said “too bad there’s no Eevee in the box.  Matthew’s FAVORITE Pokemon is Eevee.”

I nodded noncommittaly and handed him the markers.  Then he added, casually, “I sure wish you could have made him an Eevee for his party.”

Oh.

Don’t get me wrong- I love making handmade gifts, and  I’ve often added little handmade touches to store-bought presents.  But… Matthew’s party was the next day.  And Henri mentioned this at 8:29pm.

Well.  I’m nothing if not optimistic!  (And a night owl).  I hopped into Ravelry, poked around at some options, and settled on this free pattern by Clare Heesh.  I assembled my materials,

Photo 2018-10-20, 2 44 22 PMmade a quick post to my Instagram story about how crazy I was… and then got started.

I worked the pattern as written, with the following changes:

  • used random worsted yarn from my stash and a 3.5mm hook (because I couldn’t find my 3mm)
  • crocheted inner ears instead of sewing on brown felt (because I didn’t have any handy)
  • fluffed up tail too

I was finished crocheting the body pieces by 12:43am:Photo 2018-10-20, 12 43 38 AM

Next was assembly!

Photo 2018-10-20, 2 51 39 PM

First I stuffed the body, then sewed on the legs.  After that I sewed on the tail, followed by the arms.  The next step was supposed to be to sew the head onto the body, but I found the stuffing kept wanting to pop out of the body, so I basted over it quickly with the tail of the white yarn.

Photo 2018-10-20, 2 52 17 PM

I inserted safety eyes then sewed the head down, whipstitching at a 1-to-1 ration between the head and body pieces.  I stitched the ear centers down to the ears, then sewed those onto the head as well.  Finally was the fun part: the fluff!  I looped lengths of the white yarn around the neck then brushed it out with a cat brush until it was super soft and fluffy.Photo 2018-10-20, 2 53 36 PM

And here’s the finished Eevee!  I didn’t trim the fluff, instead I sort of folded it into place and used the end of my crochet hook to stab it into the body, similar to how you’d do needle felting.  The last thing I did was to use the cat brush and brush out the white end of the tail to give it a bit of fluff too.Photo 2018-10-20, 2 07 20 AM

I think she’s so adorable that I don’t mind that I only finished her at 2:15am LOL

UPDATE: I showed her to the boys this morning and they were beyond excited.  Henri squealed, and Jakob was so happy with her that he jumped off his bed to come hug me and say “great job Mom!” which MADE my morning and is EXACTLY the reason why I stay up til crazy hours doing things like this.


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Halloween projects you’ll still have time to make

Halloween is in two weeks, so you know what that means- time to start scrambling for (not quite) last-minute costume ideas!  To help out, here are some costume-related projects from my archives that are short enough to get done before the 31st.  🙂

how to make minecraft steve and creeper heads

Still my most popular post- for those with some boxes and paint lying around: here’s how to make Minecraft Steve & Creeper heads.

enderman-costumeIf you’d prefer instead to teleport in out of nowhere and swipe your candy, here’s how to make a Minecraft Enderman costume head complete with his very own Minecraft diamond block trick-or-treat candy holder.

henripotter02

Speaking of apparating- for those who need an easy addition to their Gryffindor robes, here’s a quick free Gryffindor house scarf pattern.

viking vest how to square

For those with a young’un eager to train a dragon, here’s how to make a viking vest.

dollar-store-pirate-accessories-01

Easy props for your budding buccaneer made from dollar-store items.

post-pikachu-diy-costume-title

And finally, here’s a quick and easy Pikachu costume!

I hope you enjoy the links!


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Happy New Year!

*waves*  Hiya guys!

I’ve been gone a while, but this blog has never been far from my mind.  Every project I’ve made has a whole folder of step-by-step pics taken for eventual tutorials and posts I want to make.  Earlier this summer I told myself I’d restart on September 11.  It’s my birthday and this year (as on the year I was born) it coincides with the (Jewish) New Year, and I thought it was a very fitting time.  New year, new(ly 41) me, new projects, even new (to those who don’t follow me on Instagram) hair color!

Of course I didn’t think about how busy the day OF would be.  D’oh.  Yesterday was a holiday and I spent it with family, enjoying their company and staying mostly offline.  So now, a day late, but with a mind full of intent, I’m making this post.  I don’t have pics ready, and I don’t have anything in particular to share today.  It’s just something I didn’t want to put off any longer.  This is my blog, and I’ve got nearly 100 projects I’ve been wanting to share.  This year, I will.

Shana tova.  🙂