4 Comments

Harry Potter: Knitting Magic (including a design by ME!)

I’ve been waiting so long to share this wonderful project with you, and I’m delighted that I finally can, because the book is officially out today!

Harry Potter: Knitting Magic – The Official Guide to Creating Original Knits Inspired by the Harry Potter Films

Featuring more than 25 projects, the 192-page book includes patterns for clothing, home projects, and keepsakes pulled straight from the movies – and even includes a few iconic costume pieces as seen on-screen.

There are projects designed with the movies’ actual costumes in mind, like the House Scarves:

…and the Beauxbatons students’ capelet:

…as well as projects inspired BY the movies like this gorgeous sweater based on Hermione’s time-turner:

…and this adorable hanger featuring the Sorting Hat and the animals that represent each House:

Even the staging and photography of the book is incredible- I mean COME ON-

This entire Umbrage scene is perfect!!

The book also includes fun facts, original costume sketches, film stills, and other behind-the-scenes treasures.

The book has already gotten really good press reviews (Martha Stewart, The Nerdist, Mental Floss, House Beautiful, Apartment Therapy, among others) and I’m seriously honored that I got to be a part of it, and thrilled to finally present my pattern: The Order of the Phoenix Lace-Knit Throw Blanket.

It’s a circular blanket knit from the center out in alternating strands of a beautiful orange/red hand-dyed yarn that reminded me so much of Dumbledore’s cherished phoenix Fawkes.

The center of the blanket features flames to represent the phoenix’ fire, and is separated from the next section by a jagged dividing line that is actually Harry’s lightning bolt scar.

The middle section proudly proclaims the title of the fifth HP book (and blanket inspiration) in an eyelet font.

Anyone who’s knit my Lullaby blanket pattern can attest that while it might seem daunting, the text charts are really easy to follow and work up pretty fast.

Finally the border section features Fawkes’ feathers, elongating in rows until finally ending in individual feather tips.

I loved every aspect of designing, swatching and knitting this blanket, and I truly hope you enjoy it too.

You can click HERE to get your own copy.


2 Comments

Crafty Compilation – w/e 01/07/17

2017.  Wow.  I can’t believe I started this blog roughly 13 years ago, nor that some of you have been around since the very beginning.  Whether you’re one of my original few hundred subscribers or one of the couple thousand who discovered my site when looking for my most popular Halloween DIY, hi there, happy holidays, and happy New Year!  I’ve got a lot planned for this little blog over the upcoming year, so if you’re an old friend- thanks for sticking around… and if you’re new- I hope you’ll pull up a chair and stay a while.

Some of you may note that I’ve slowly made changes to the type of content that I post.  I’ve never been a mono-crafty person, and the blog will always adapt to whatever creative pursuits I’m into at the time, whether they’re knitting or crochet, cosplay or cakes.  Coloring books are going to have more of a showing on the blog, as will as a variety of crafts beyond the yarn-based ones.  For the last two years I’ve taken step-by-step photos of all the projects that I’ve made with the intent to focus more on sharing helpful DIYs, tutorials and tips going forwards, instead of merely showing off whatever I’ve made.  I’m going to have more reviews coming up, both sponsored and non, and while there might be affiliate links popping up at the end of some posts, I can promise you that my reviews will always be strictly my honest, unbiased thoughts.

Another feature I’m going to add is a weekly roundup, to both keep track of and hold accountable to the projects I’ve got ongoing.  Not everything needs to wait for a finished reveal, and sometimes quick projects or small pastimes get lost in the shuffle of the day-to-day.  To that end – this is my first Crafty Compilation.  I plan to post these on Sundays and to cover the previous week’s goings-on, but this first one is being posted on Thursday because life LOL.  Amazing how, even when one is off work in post-op recovery, when it comes to crafting, there still isn’t enough time!  This first CC will cover some stuff worked on over the holidays, as well as last week.


Knitting

  • Gift knitting

Over the holidays I knit a special baby hat.  One of Yannick’s closest friends had a baby girl just before the holidays, and when he showed me the gifts he planned to bring for the friend and his other young daughter, I told him I knew just the thing to make for the new arrival.  The little girl’s dad has similar geeky tastes as we do, and I thought this pattern would be perfect.

I’ve knit it once before, back in 2013, as part of a Hallowe’en costume for a baby girl aptly named Leia. This was a pic of Jakob trying it on for me at the time:

jakob-in-leia-hat

and this is a pic of the little sweetheart in her full costume.  Cutest Leia I’ve ever seen!leia-in-princess-leia-hat

The pattern is very well written and it’s a pretty quick knit, even with all the icord.  The hat and the ear puffs each took a night’s worth of knitting to work up, then the assembly took barely an episode of Elementary.

leia hat collage.jpg

Forgive the bad pics, it’s hard to take hat pics without an appropriately-sized head! 🙂 I’m really pleased with how the hat came out, even though I’d knit it before and expected it to look the same.  One thing I love about this pattern vs others out there is how it incorporates ‘bangs’ and the center part (not clearly visible in these photos but seen better in the one of Leia wearing it above).

  • Drops v-neck sweater

I also completely frogged a sweater I’d been working on.  Back in September I’d started a garter-stitch oversized sweater with a lovely gray yarn from my stash.  I’d thought it would be perfect ‘no-look’ movie or tv knitting but after measuring a sweater I own that had the fit I wanted, I realized that what I was making wouldn’t have the proper shape.  Plus I’d been having a nagging feeling that the garter stitch was eating up too much of my limited yarn.  So I frogged it one evening last week and began this pattern instead.  I’m pretty sure I’ll have enough yarn, and if not I’ll work the neckband and/or cuffs in something contrasting.

photo-2017-01-09-11-02-39-pm

So far I’m at about 32cm of the 34cm I need to be at before splitting for the low v-neck.

Coloring

  • Doodle Fusion ‘Christmas Tree’

A few weeks ago I’d taken a page from Dede Willingham and done color washes across a bunch of my coloring book pages.  From what I’ve seen she primarily uses acrylic paints, but I mixed it up a bit, using not only paint, but also my Neocolors (seen previously here, in imagimorphia) and my Inktense (last seen here, also in imagimorphia).  This particular page, from Zifflin’s Doodle Fusion, seems to deliberately invoke a Christmas tree, so that’s how I decided to approach it.  I colored over the whole image with the Inktense in shades of green.  The first pic is immediately after wetting the pencils, and the second is the next day, after the page had dried.

doodle fusion christmas tree 00.jpg

My plan is to color the characters in colored pencil over the Inktense, keeping them muted and dark, but to color all the eyes and anything round-ish in bright gel pens, so they’d (hopefully) look like bright ornaments on the tree.  If you squinted at it.  Maybe.

doodle-fusion-christmas-tree-01

This was after my first pass with the gel pens.  I think I got all the areas I’d wanted, but I’m sure as I work on the figures I’ll find more.  I’m looking forwards to coloring the characters now in dark tones to really make the gel pen pop.

PS- this book is crazy, and I love it.  I’ll be showing a lot more of it in future posts.

I finally finished a page I started coloring back in November in the Disney Villains coloring book Yannick had bought for me, but as this post is getting long I’ll save them for another.  That’s another excellent coloring book that I’ve been working in quite a bit.

UPDATE: those pages are posted here.  🙂

Other Crafts

  • While the boys were off school for Christmas break I tried to keep them occupied with more than just Minecraft, Little Big Planet, or their new Skylanders Imaginators. Every few days we had ‘technology-free’ time during which we’d color, or do pencil puzzle books, and during one of those afternoons I taught them how to make their own stuffies.  However I took a TON of photos and so I’ll share the step-by-steps of their work in another post

Alright, that’s it for this round-up!

If interested in either the pencils or book that I’ve talked about in this post, you can check them out here:
Derwent Inktense colored pencils
Caran d’Ache Neocolor ii water-soluble crayons
Zifflin’s Doodle Fusion with illustrations by Lei Melendres
  • these are affiliate links.


1 Comment

Last-Minute DIY Pikachu Costume

All month Henri has been telling me he planned to wear his Creeper costume for Halloween this year.  He’s brought it up many times and even pulled the head out of the dress-up bin in our den to try it on and be sure it still fit.  And then this past Friday his class went to circus school for the day and he came home like this:

photo-2016-10-28-2-50-04-pm

and then told me he wanted to be Pikachu for Halloween.

This guy:

pikachu

Um.  Okay.  We had nothing at home I could use to make a physical costume, but I knew we’d be going to Walmart the next day so I told him if we found a set of face paint, I’d buy it and would paint his face like Pikachu.

Saturday we were at Walmart and found some inexpensive face paint, but then he started complaining that he didn’t have Pikachu’s ears.  I thought about it a little and told him we’d be going to the dollar store next; if he found a headband that fit him I’d buy some yellow felt and make him some ears.  He found a girl’s one with a plastic bow attached, but it was yellow and fit him, and they had a pack of felt with yellow in it so we brought it home and I set it aside.

Yesterday I was at my parents’ house for dinner and Henri made a comment about being excited to wear his Pikachu costume to school the next day and I realized – oh crap, Halloween is tomorrow!

Ahem.  Forgive me, my brain has been a little foggy lately.

We got the kids home and to bed and then I sat down and made Henri’s costume.  It was quick, and it was easy, and it used either dollar store supplies or things you may already have on hand, so if you’re stuck for a last-minute costume, here’s how you can whip  this up in plenty of time to go trick or treating tonight.  Grab a friend who’s dressed like a Pokemon Trainer and you can be your very own live Pokemon Go team.  🙂

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • yellow felt
  • yellow hair band (or any color band, which you can wrap with yellow ribbon)
  • face paint
  • stuffing
  • cardstock
  • black, yellow and brown permanent markers (I used alcohol markers because they were handy, but any permanent marker will do)
  • yellow yarn

post-pikachu-diy-costume-title

The first thing I did was carefully cut off the plastic flower on the head band, then I put it on Henri’s head and marked off where the ears should sit.  As it happens we have a large Pikachu doll that was the right size to trace for the ear shape, but you can just freehand it.

post-pikachu-diy-costume-01

After the ear shape was drawn, I drew a second line about a quarter inch outside it, for a seam allowance.  Then I cut out the shape through all 4 layers of yellow felt.

post-pikachu-diy-costume-02

The next step is to sew the ears together.  I used yellow thread and a simple running stitch since the ears wouldn’t really be under any tension.  I left the open end edges unsewn for about a quarter inch so I had enough fabric open to gather over the heandband.  If you don’t want to sew, you could also glue the sides shut, but if you do make sure to put the ear side that you drew on on the inside to hide the pen markings.

Next I colored the ear tips with a black sharpie.  The mess you see on the right is the transfer of ink from one side when I flipped it over to color the other side.  I’m showing you this so you can be prepared and cover your work surface.

post-pikachu-diy-costume-03

Once the tips were colored I stuffed each ear with some loose batting then sewed them over the sides of the headband where I’d previously marked.  I used a blanket stitch to close the open edge but you can use any stitch you like, or glue them shut as well.

post-pikachu-diy-costume-04

Here are the finished ears.  They look silly off but are kind of cute on.

photo-2016-10-30-9-59-10-pm

(Yes I had to try them).

While I was working on the ears I kept glancing over at the tail on our stuffed Pikachu and realized it wouldn’t take that much more effort to make one too, and surprise Henri.

To start I took some cardboard from our recycling bin and sandwiched it between two sheets of white cardstock with a regular glue stick.  To make sure it dried well I placed it flat on the table and set some heavy books on it.  Once the ears were done the cardboard had fully dried and I was able to trace Pikachu’s tail onto it.

post-pikachu-diy-costume-05

Then I cut out the tail.  I brainstormed a few different ways to attach it to Henri.  I don’t like the idea of sending a 7yo to school with a safety pin on his butt, so I came up with a belt method.  To make it work I carefully pried back about an inch of the tail section and folded the cardstock on each side outwards.

I used my Spectrum Noir markers to color the yellow of the tail and then colored the lower edge with a black Sharpie, completely overlooking the fact that it’s supposed to be brown, because I was working in dim lighting.  D’oh.  You can use any permanent markers, and do the proper colors.  🙂

post-pikachu-diy-costume-06

To make the belt section, I first cut two holes into each side flap.  I then threaded three strands of yellow yarn through each side, made a knot to secure them near the top, and then braided them into belts which I could then slide through the belt loops on his jeans and tie at the front.  I made them longer than needed because I didn’t have his waist with me to try them on, and had planned to cut the excess this morning but we ended up just tucking the ends into his jeans.

post-pikachu-diy-costume-07

And there you have it!  Add in some yellow face paint, bright red cheek circles and a black triangular nose and poof-

post-pikachu-diy-costume-08

You’ve got one happy Pikachu.

Have a happy and safe Halloween!

henri-pikachu-collage-site

—-

Looking for more Halloween costume ideas?  Check out here.


3 Comments

How to make a Minecraft Enderman head (with bonus diamond block trick-or-treat basket)

Some of you may, like me, be suddenly realizing there are only ten days left until Halloween.  No stress – there’s still plenty of time to make a Minecraft Enderman costume, complete with a matching diamond block trick-or-treat basket!

enderman-costume

For Halloween last year Jakob wanted to be a Minecraft Enderman.  For reference, these are the tall, spindly black figures who appear out of nowhere to steal your blocks.  They’re neutral mobs who can teleport and will only attack when provoked by looking them in the eyes (which, to be honest, is kind of hard to avoid, seeing as how they’re the most vivid part of the things!).

minecraft-enderman

In the game Enderman can’t actually pick up diamond blocks, but that’s what Jakob wanted anyways.  To be an Enderman carrying a diamond block.minecraft-diamond-block

I was fresh off my “Skylanders Sprocket wrench pulling double-duty as secret purse” achievement so I thought if he’s gonna be schlepping a box around anyways… why not make it useful and turn it into his trick-or-treat basket?  So that’s what I did.  🙂photo-2015-10-25-8-10-14-pm

The first thing to do was assemble all materials.  In total the two parts of the costume required the following:

  • 2 boxes (one large enough to fit over the wearer’s head, & a second box to be the treat basket)
  • craft paint in the appropriate colors
  • masking tape
  • ribbon
  • double-sided tape
  • scissors
  • craft knife
  • paint brushes
  • something to use as a palette (I used a styrofoam plate)
  • gauzy black fabric (optional, and I cut mine from a dollar store scarf)
  • spray sealant (optional)

Everything but the boxes and scissors came from my local dollar store, making this not only an easy costume to make, but a really inexpensive one too.enderman-head

ENDERMAN HEAD

Top row:

  1. Assemble all materials
  2. Cut off the flaps on the side of the box you want for the opening.  Tape down all other flaps securely, using double-sided tape on the inside and then masking tape to cover all seams on the outside.  Also use tape to cover the cut edges at the bottom.
  3. Measure out your grid on all 5 remaining sides of the box.  I used a simplified 8×8 grid for mine.

Middle row:

  1. Cut out the eye holes.
  2. Cover the cut edges of the eye holes with masking tape, then paint the Enderman’s eyes with two different shades of purple.
  3. Paint the rest of the Enderman’s head.  I followed a chart pattern using shades of charcoal and black but you can just as easily paint the whole rest of the head solid black.

Bottom row:

  1. Optional: tape a piece of sheer black fabric over the eye holes so they don’t show from the outside but can still be seen through on the inside
  2. Enjoy your new Enderman head!
  3. Wear with black sweatpants, a black sweatshirt, and black stretchy gloves.  Add a diamond block trick-or-treat basket for a complete Halloween costume!
  4. (optional- seal the paint with spray sealant, more on that below)

enderman-facets

diamond-block

DIAMOND BLOCK TRICK-OR-TREAT BASKET

Top row:

  1. Assemble all materials
  2. Cut off the flaps on the side of the box you want for the opening.  Tape down all other flaps securely, using double-sided tape on the inside and then masking tape to cover all seams on the outside.  Also use tape to cover the cut edges at the bottom.
  3. Mix aqua and white together to get a few different light aqua shades.

Middle row:

  1. Following an in-game image of a diamond block, paint one side in shades of aqua, making one lower corner darker for shading.  Repeat on the other 4 sides.
  2. Add a border to all 5 sides using the aqua paint at its full strength.
  3. Paint the inside of the box black.

Bottom row:

  1. Make 2 holes in 2 opposing sides.  Knot ribbon through the holes to act as handles.
  2. Enjoy your diamond block trick-or-treat basket!
  3. Add to the Enderman head for a complete Halloween costume.

photo-2015-10-31-2-00-41-pm

One optional step that I did but is not obligatory at all is to spray the painted sides with a sealant.  I didn’t know what the weather would be like on Halloween and didn’t want to worry about rain causing the paint to run.

photo-2015-10-31-2-06-17-pm

And that’s it!  The longest part in making these costume pieces is waiting for the paint to dry.  🙂

(PS: Looking for the big guy’s little buddies?  Check out my tutorial for Minecraft Steve and Creeper heads here!)

minecraft heads wip 12


1 Comment

Halloween help

My phone has been pinging quite a bit lately, notifying me that people have been saving my pins.  While I think that’s awesome, and am flattered, I was also confused because I couldn’t think of what I’d posted that would be so popular at the moment.  And then I remembered – it’s almost Halloween!  Sure enough, it was my Minecraft-related pins getting all the love, the Creeper/Steve head tutorial especially.

So for anyone who found my blog via those pins, or anyone else who’s interested, here are some quick links to my (few) Halloween/costume-related tutorials.  I do have more coming up this month, so be sure to come back and see.

For those with some boxes and paint lying around: here’s how to make Minecraft Steve & Creeper heads.

For those who need an easy addition to their Gryffindor robes, here’s a quick free scarf pattern.

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

And finally, for those with a lot of knitting time on their hands, here’s how to make a child’s first superhero costume, as well as a look at how I used that same pattern to turn Jakob into Superman for his first Halloween.

I hope you enjoy the links!  For my fellow Minecraft-loving folks, I’ve got a matching Enderman tutorial coming up, complete with his very own diamond block.  Stay tuned!

 


1 Comment

Pitfall: The Lost Expedition cake

Only 3 months late, here’s (finally) the completed Pitfall: The Lost Expedition birthday cake.
pitfall the lost expedition birthday cake
The morning of Henri’s party I woke up and went downstairs, peering cautiously into the gloom of the laundry room to see how the cake had held up overnight.  There’s always the chance for decorations to slip, or icing to crack or worse – to discover that one of the kids had found the cake and begun to dig in…so I was nervous when I slowly approached.

pitfall-cake-party-day-02

Then I breathed a sigh of relief.  It looked good.  I’d finished so late in the morning that I’d passed out, so seeing the cake again was a pleasant surprise.  I was actually feeling quite proud of myself.

pitfall-cake-party-day-03

Oh yeah, I thought- Henri’s gonna love it!  All that remained was to transport it to the party without incident and then it would be-pitfall-cake-party-day-01

W-wait.  Why does something look wrong…?

Oh.

Oh no.
pitfall-cake-party-day-05

Do you see it?

Remember in my last cake post when I was all cocky about the vines working out?  Hmm.  Looked like I’d spoken too soon.  The first vine I’d attempted had had a chance to set up while laying horizontally… so when I hung it over the edge of the back board to test out it held its shape perfectly.  The new vines, however… I’d rolled each out and tucked them into place under the top cake right away.  And they’d looked good.  ‘Great’, even, if I may be so bold.pitfall-cake-party-day-04

But overnight gravity took hold, and the once relatively-uniform vines began to sag slowly.  Some had narrowed enough to look delicate and thin, twisting and tangling among others in a pretty cool, natural way (see the ones on the right).  Others, though… like the ones on the left… they’d basically collapsed.  Luckily they’d thinned before falling, so the resulting puddle of vines still looked pretty natural, I guess…which was good because it would have seriously messed things up to try and detach them.  The only one I did detach was the vine that had attached itself to the waterfall.  I thought it ruined the illusion of flowing water to have a vine stuck up alongside.  😛pitfall-cake-party-day-06

This pic was taken on my lap in the car en route to the party, and is probably the only pic taken strictly with sunlight.  The color is pretty accurate though I find the blue too bright.  (That may have been my phone, it’s notorious for having a hard time photographing blues and purples accurately).
pitfall-cake-party-day-07

I took a last quick set of pics at the party before serving.  Here’s the backside.  You can see how the vines here too have thinned and sagged.
pitfall-cake-party-day-08

And here’s the finished cake, complete with Pitfall Harry himself.
pitfall-cake-party-day-09

I waited until the very last moment to stick him in the cake, partially to avoid the risk of snapping the figure, and partially so he wouldn’t absorb moisture from the cake/icing and then have the fondant soften and fold over.  I likely needn’t have worried… there was probably enough ‘paint’ on the front at least to seal the moisture out, but the back was still bare fondant and I didn’t want to take a chance.pitfall-cake-party-day-10

Add one quick candle for the birthday boy’s age, and then I wheeled it over to his table.  It was a huge hit!  The kids got their choice of location to eat from and we served some to the parents as they came to pick up their children.

pitfall-cake-party-day-13

In the end this is all that was left – a tiny bit of cake and a filthy board.

pitfall-cake-party-day-12

I had planned to take it home and pop the fondant off the base stand so I could use it again, but sadly I broke it.  The fondant ‘glue’ was so strong in adhering the stand to the cake board, that when I was trying to separate the two I cracked the plastic of the stand itself.  I was impressed with the strength… but unfortunately it meant I had to throw out the stand.  Ah well.

PITFALL CAKE COLLAGE SQUARE

All the ‘making of’ posts:

1. Making a Pitfall: The Lost Expedition cake, day 01

2. Making a Pitfall: The Lost Expedition cake, day 02

3. Making a Pitfall: The Lost Expedition cake, day 03 part 1- Pitfall Harry, crocodiles and a healing spring

4. Making a Pitfall: The Lost Expedition cake, day 03 part 2- assembly

5. Making a Pitfall: The Lost Expedition cake, day 03 part 3- finishing


Leave a comment

Making a Pitfall: The Lost Expedition cake, day 03 part 3- finishing

It’s been brought to my attention (*cough*Michelle*cough*) that I never finished posting Henri’s Pitfall cake.  That is correct… February sort of got away from me, so I’ll take care of that right now.  This post will cover the final details of finishing the cake the night before the party, and my next post will show the final cake at the party, complete, and enjoyed.  🙂

In my last Pitfall cake post I left off with the cakes assembled and dirty-iced.  I set them aside for a little bit so the icing could crust and mixed up some green for the grass.  I deliberately gave it a bit of an aged, almost faded color so it would match the tones of the fondant leaves and the brick wall.  The wall was so dirty and stained/old-looking that a bright, primary-colored grass base would have looked really, really out of place. pitfallcakeday03part03-04

I covered the top cake with the same cake-filled chocolate icing as I used on the lower base, blocking out an area for the small pool at the top of the waterfall.  Then I used green icing to block out the larger pool at the bottom.  Once the brown and green were done I used more white icing to thicken the base coat on the various water areas.pitfallcakeday03part03-05

Then I realized that the pool I’d created wasn’t wide enough to fit the crocodile I’d already made.  Oops!  So I used more white icing to widen the water.

My cakes are often like this.  Very rarely is something sprung to life, fully formed, exactly as it was in my head.  It might be close, in the way this cake very closely resembles my initial sketch, but the actual details in the getting there are always very fluid, and often borne of the desperation and delirium that comes from cake decorating in the wee hours of the night when stores are closed and coffee is cooling.pitfallcakeday03part03-06

Next I mixed up some blue for the water and layered it on over the white.  I didn’t worry so much about the edges where the water and grass meet as I knew I’d be placing leaves there, and I deliberately left it choppy on the waterfall where I wanted it to look like there was some motion and churning.  I also played with swirling my knife around to make the water look a bit rough because the waterfall would prevent it from being a clear, calm pool.  Above you can see the cake as I worked on it (with the parchment protection) and then how it looks once I removed the parchment.  I always keep the parchment in place until I’m ready for the finishing details as it’s much easier to remove dirty parchment from around a cake than icing from the cake board.

One of the things I’d been thinking about in the days leading up to D-day (decorating day) was how to make vines.  I figured I’d just roll out some fondant pretty thin and hope it wouldn’t crack once it dried.  But when at the dollar store that afternoon during my unexpected child-free time I hit on the idea to try using caramels.  pitfallcakeday03part03-01

I figured they were already pliable, and edible, just like fondant… but had a better stretch.  Hmmm…could this work?

pitfallcakeday03part03-02

I’d decided to do a quick test before going to pick up the kids from the party.  I softened 2 caramels in the microwave and then when they’d cooled enough to touch, added a touch of green food gels.  I kneaded it together just like dough/fondant and was thrilled that the caramel took the color evenly, with no streaking or dissolving from the added moisture.  I quickly rolled out a quick, curly vine and set it aside to dry while I was out.pitfallcakeday03part03-03

This is what I came home to (above).  A perfect, jungly-green colored, held-its-shape vine that was smooth, crack-free and best of all, delicious.  (Okay, there had been 2.  Yum.)

Sweet!

(Pun intended).vinepintereststrip

For my Pinterest friends, here’s a graphic for you!

Now that I knew I had the solution for the perfect vines, I got to work.  I wanted to set the vines in place before finishing the grass because I knew working on one could destroy the other.pitfallcakeday03part03-07

I rolled and rolled and rolled and rolled and rolled, placing each vine in place before rolling out the next one.  The vines that draped around the wall stuck pretty well with a tiny touch of water, only on places where I wanted a curl or end to stay up.  For the most part, though, I left them unstuck so gravity would work on the caramel and make it look more natural.*

I had an image in my head of vines hanging down like curtains, helping to hide the secret healing spring.  So for those vines, as I made each one I used the tip of a knife to lift the cake board that the top cake was sitting on, just enough to wriggle the end of the caramel underneath, and poking it in with a needle tool if I had to.

After the vines were done I tackled the grass.  My first thought was to use my grass tip and pipe out the grass like I’d done around the Betty Boop cake.  Only problem was I knew I was going to use my remaining green icing to do grass around the edges of the cake where it met the board and I didn’t think I had enough icing left.  I was tapping some piping tips against my palm, trying to figure out if I had enough icing mixed up for all the grassy areas, when I looked at the marks I’d left on my skin and got another bout of inspiration.  (My pain = cake gain).pitfallcakeday03part03-08

I used an open star tip and basically poked the hell out of the grass areas.  My icing had crusted enough to be an ideal surface, but if your icing is still soft I’d stop every now and then to clean your tip, as the grass effect works better with smaller pokes vs larger flat areas.  It was remarkably convincing for grass, and I’m really, really happy with how it came out.

Plus it left me with enough green icing left to pipe long, marshy grass/weeds around the base of the cake.  I did that, then stuck down the leaves I’d darkened, then decided to call it a night.

pitfallcakeday03part03-09

In the back you can see the remaining leaves I didn’t end up using.  Don’t worry, they didn’t go to waste.  The kids ate them all over the next few days.  🙂

pitfallcakeday03part03-10

I tried to vary the lengths of the grasses to make it look more natural than an even, trimmed border.  pitfallcakeday03part03-11

In these final two pics you can see the two sides of the cake, and the finished vines and grasses.  I’d added some long grass to overhang the vines as well.pitfallcakeday03part03-12

Next time – the cake in situ!

*remember this for my next post :/


1 Comment

Making a Pitfall: The Lost Expedition cake, day 03 part 2- assembly

For those following along, at this point in the Pitfall: The Lost Expedition cake process, I had fondant pieces, I had rectangular baked cakes, and I had some cardboard and a brick-wall-looking stand.  Now, on the night before the party, was the time to start putting it all together.pitfall the lost expedition cake day 03 part 02 assembly 01

Step 1 – cover the cardboard cutouts with tinfoil to use as makeshift cake boards.

pitfall the lost expedition cake day 03 part 02 assembly 06

Step 2 – Confirm plan.  At this point I got a piece of paper and made a note of the order in which I had to do each step, because if I’d gone out of order (like sticking the waterfall down on the top tier before icing the bottom, for example) I’d make things harder on myself than they’d need to be.pitfall the lost expedition cake day 03 part 02 assembly 02

Step 3 – carve the cakes.  I always use my largest unserrated knife for this, and have a large tupperware or two nearby for collecting the leftover cake (after being leveled or sculpted).

pitfall the lost expedition cake day 03 part 02 assembly 03

For the top cake, which would become the top of the waterfall, I didn’t level it.  My cake had baked up much thicker in the center, but in a large enough area that I could cut a thicker cake in the shape I needed.  If I’d leveled it first to the height of the outer edges I’d have had a much shorter cake for no reason.  If the cake had been wide enough to cut my oval twice and stack them, I’d have done it, but it wasn’t big enough.  I cut the cake from the thickest part and used some icing to ‘glue’ it down to the cake board, then set it aside.

For the lower cake I used the cardboard to carve out the right shape so I could butt the cake right up against the stand.  After making sure it fit, I set that one aside as well.

pitfall the lost expedition cake day 03 part 02 assembly 04

Step 4 – Solidify base.  I had my cake boards, 2 of them ‘glued’ together with icing.  I needed to attach my base somehow because otherwise the moment I’d try to transport the thing it would tip backwards, being so heavy, and separate from the cake which would be stuck to the board.  I stared at it a little while, wishing I had thought to Dremel 2 holes in the base BEFORE decorating, so I could quickly zip-tie it together, when I got an idea.  The base sat a few mm above my cake boards (less than 1/4″).  I couldn’t use glue or tape because I didn’t have any thick enough, but I did have fondant, and I knew that could dry pretty hard.  First I traced the shape of the stand onto the silvered board.  I took a few gobs (technical term) of white fondant and moistened them slightly so they’d be sticky all around, and pressed them down around inside the base’s outline.  I quickly put the base in position and pressed down on the lowest tier, using a knife handle to get into the back, and really squish the fondant and board and base together.  I waited a minute or two then tried to lift the base by the top tier… and the entire board lifted.  Success!

(Around this time I’d also cut open and re-taped a cardboard box, as seen above, for transport.  It was open at the front but had a closed back so I could carry the cake by supporting the back of the box instead of touching the stand itself when I moved it.pitfall the lost expedition cake day 03 part 02 assembly 05

Step 5 – After making sure the base was well-stuck to the cake boards I cut a strip of plastic from my baggie the width of the waterfall I wanted, and used packing tape to tape it down to the bottom of the lower tier.  I used a few smears of vanilla icing to glue my cake board down over it, sticking it well to the stand.  I didn’t want it able to move at all.pitfall the lost expedition cake day 03 part 02 assembly 07

Step 6 – I crumbled some of the leftover cake and mixed it into store-bought chocolate icing to make a rough, earthy-texture, and used that to coat the cake board for the cave floor.pitfall the lost expedition cake day 03 part 02 assembly 08

Then I set the healing spring into place.  I didn’t bother using anything to stick it down, the icing floor was still wet and the spring was heavy enough that I knew it wasn’t going to move.

pitfall the lost expedition cake day 03 part 02 assembly 09

Step 7 – Then I taped the waterfall up and into place with more packing tape, making sure it was secure.  I knew there’d be a cake sitting on top of it, but still…pitfall the lost expedition cake day 03 part 02 assembly 10

Step 8 – At this point I set the cakes into place.  I put the lower cake down first, using icing to glue it in place.  I protected the cake board with strips of parchment paper, then set the top cake down with some icing too.  Putting the parchment around the back and under the front (on either side of the waterfall) was a bit trickier, but I used the tip of a knife to ease the cake forward or up and wiggled the parchment strips into place.  Then I gave everything a dirty ice (crumb coat) with vanilla storebought icing.

pitfall the lost expedition cake day 03 part 02 assembly 11

I just realized the pics are out of order, and that I’d crumb coated the base before adding the top.  Ah well.

Oh- I included the waterfall in the crumb coat on purpose.  I knew it would later be mostly covered with blue icing, but I wanted there to be some depth to the water so it would look like it was moving.  I also gave it a deliberate thick, choppy layer at the base where it reached the cake (as seen in the last pic).  Waterfalls often have a churning, frothy spray at the base and this would help imply that.

Up next – the fun/scary part… decorating!


1 Comment

Making a Pitfall: The Lost Expedition cake, day 03 part 1- Pitfall Harry, crocodiles and a healing spring

Saturday morning I woke up bright and early to- *coughs* actually no.  Saturdays I sleep in.  But I did wake up somewhere around the crack of 10 or so and debated how to plan my day for the cake.  I had 2 hours until I had to leave to take Henri to a birthday party, then had some shopping to do with Jakob, and then would have to go back out to pick Henri up, so didn’t think I’d get any more progress done until once I’d returned at the end of the day with both kids.  But that was getting close to supper time, which would require clearing the table, so I wouldn’t want anything in progress that would dry up or break if I tried to move it or put it away for a few hours.

Hmmm.

The first thing I did was run downstairs and take a peek at the brick wall/cake stand to make sure nothing crazy happened over night, like the entire back sagging off or something.  Luckily, it was fine.  I did realize the colors were much more desaturated and ‘natural’-looking, vs the bright greens of the sprinkles I’d bought to use for grass, and the fondant leaves I’d made.  Hmmm.  They wouldn’t quite go together.  So the next thing I did was to thin some of the leftover dark green from the moss (this is why you save your palettes) and brush it over all the leaves that had stems.  I later wished I’d done them all, but at the time I figured I’d do the ones I knew I’d use, and come up with some way to salvage the smaller ones later on if necessary.  I ignored the long grass strands, having already decided I wasn’t going to use them.

leaves wip

I calculated that I’d have enough time to paint a first coat on the fondant pieces before leaving for the party.  Mostly to just block in the colors and give it a chance to dry while I was out.

fondant figures wip 01

The healing spring got a base coat of gray made by mixing Wilton White-White with Americolor black gel, first a quick base and then lightly tapping on some darker areas.  For the center of the spring I used White-White with a bit of Americolor teal.  The crocs got brownish green base coats made mostly by mixing up some of the previous day’s colors together.  It’s hard to see from this pic, but before painting the full croc I used a scribing tool to mark a scale pattern into the hardening fondant.  For the open-mouth one I blocked in some areas of white and red for the inside of his mouth.  I didn’t touch the struggling Pitfall Harry in between his jaws, not thinking I had enough time to pay attention to it before having to stop, get dressed, wrap the gift and shuttle Henri out.

palette

This was the state of my palettes when I left.  The artist’s-style one has pure gel colors that I could dab from as needed.  (The smear at the top was to help me identify which color was which… the darker ones are difficult to tell apart when in one small glob).  The styrofoam piece is what I was really working from, and the plastic hors d’oeuvres palette was there mostly because it still had quite a bit of white left over from the prior day, and a decent amount of brown that was still usable.

Had a minor change in plans – the birthday boy invited Jakob to stay as well, which gave me a few hours of time in the afternoon that I hadn’t expected.  I took full advantage, slapping some more paint down so it could dry.  The main hazard of painting fondant pieces with this White-White/gel colors mixture is that if you apply it too thickly, the White-White forms a latex paint-like ‘skin’ on the work.  If you touch it while it’s tacky (which can last a few days) not only can you leave fingerprints in the work, but I’ve had entire sections of color lift off completely.  Not fun.fondant figures wip 02

Here you can see more of the texture in the croc’s back.  You can also see the other colors added to make it look more natural and create the illusion of shadowy, raised eyes.  I deepened the detail inside the open croc mouth and blocked in Harry’s colors, getting a base coat down so I could finish it with details later.pitfall lost expedition fountain

These are the healing springs from the game.  Of course it was only on day 3 that I realized I’d forgotten to make the little side braces that decorate/support the top and bottom.  Ahh well.  Creative license.  healing spring wip 02

Using the game stills as a guide I darkened the gray with more black and roughed in the decorative areas.  The base had its 4 quadrants, the middle bit got some stripes, and I copied the box pattern around the top slab.  I did my best to copy the dark areas on the face too, as well as I could with my fondant carving.  I left any smudges/smears and added some around the top to make it look aged, like it had been sitting in a jungle for years.healing spring flash

Once the pieces were dry enough to handle I added teal eyes and jammed the head toothpick down through the other pieces.  A tiny dab of water was enough to stick them together.  Looks horrible with flash but it was the only pic that showed the eyes.healing spring no flash

Here’s a shadowy shot that looks most like the game’s version, I think.healing spring fo collage

And some final beauty shots, because once it goes in the cake it won’t really be seen.  For the ‘water’ I mixed together a few large dollops of Wilton clear glitter gel icing, a drop or so of White-White, and a touch of teal.  Unfortunately the White-White hid most of the glitter, but there’s just enough of the teal to provide the glow.  I really wanted to make the water pour from the head’s mouth but chickened out on actually brushing it down the face.  Ah well.

Now on to Pitfall Harry and his perilous predicament.

pitfall lost expedition croc

These stills show both the moment I was recreating (Harry in the croc’s mouth) as well as a clear view of his outfit.fondant figures wip 03

And here’s the final Harry piece.  Henri had complained that I’d given him black hair, and ‘everybody knows Harry has brown hair, Mommy’… so I softened it up a bit.  I also broke a tiny bit of fondant off the front of his chest, because Yannick asked me why Harry’s curves were so… Madonna-esque.  I tried to justify that he was straining, back arched… showed the pic… bent over backwards to show him… but other than laughing at me he wasn’t convinced 😛  I touched up Harry’s details and gave the croc an eye and more depth in his mouth.  The very last thing I did was to add a few more coats of white for the teeth, because White-White has a habit of absorbing base colors.  To make it opaque I actually used a small dab of thinned Betty Crocker icing mixed with the White-White, and that seemed to do the trick.

Now I had my fondant toppers, two cakes, and an ornate stand.  All I had to do was figure out how to put it all together.


2 Comments

Making a Pitfall: The Lost Expedition cake, day 02

Most of the cakes I make are a 2-4 day process.  The final 2 days are always baking 2 nights before the party (so Friday for a Sunday cake) and then decorating on the day before the party (Saturday for a Sunday cake).  I add a few more days prior if I need to make fondant decorations or anything that requires drying time.  This Pitfall cake, for as detailed as it looks, took 3 days.

Day 1: Thursday

When I got home from work I prepared the base stand to get it to look like a brick wall with a cave by covering it with fondant and scribing a brick pattern to match one from the game.

Day 2: Friday

In the morning before leaving for work I gave the stand a quick wash of color.  I needed to fill in the grout lines and give it time to dry before I got home.  In a small cup I mixed together 1 drop of black Americolor food gel, 1 drop of brown gel, and 6 ml of water.  I used a food-only paintbrush to apply the wash to the fondant, not aiming for any sort of pattern, and allowing the color to drip and run a bit before smoothing it around.  I let it set for a minute or two then dabbed at it with a paper towel to remove areas of excess, and then used the same brush with only water to remove even more color.  The goal was not to paint or finish the brickwork but to allow the dark color to seep into the etched lines and provide some aging.  pitfall lost expedition night 1 07

At this point it looks like a dark, muddy mess.

When I got home from work I rushed to bake the 2 cakes I’d need.  I knew I’d have plenty of time for them to cool before I planned to ice and decorate on Saturday, but I often use the oven for storing fondant bits overnight and didn’t want there to be any residual heat left inside it.

pitfall the lost expedition cake day02 01

When the cakes were cooled some I wrapped them in saran wrap to set aside for the night.pitfall the lost expedition cake day02 02

Then I prepared the table for getting down to some fondant painting.  These are the supplies I prepared: in the lid of my color box are a smaller box of Americolor icing colors and a bottle of Wilton White-White, then the contents of the case itself is my collection of Wilton icing gels and some regular, grocery-store-type food coloring.  I brought down some cotton balls thinking I might use them for blotting, but testing on a scrap of fondant revealed it stuck terribly to the wet sweet, and I quickly got rid of them.  I’ve got a measuring cup of water for rinsing my brushes, a small cup of water and syringe for adding clean water to my colors if I need to thin them any (the syringe gives you way more precision when working with tiny amounts of color than dropping by spoonful or pouring), and a small cup of the leftover dark wash from the morning that I’d kept moist in a tupperware for the day.  I’ve got a few sizes of food-safe paintbrushes and some paper towels for blotting, and finally at the bottom is my standard palette, left over from an old pack of hors d’oeuvres.

That’s the palette I use most often, and it works great with larger quantities of color, like when tinting icing sugar/water for the fondant toppers I make.  However when using tiny bits and blending a lot of shades I find it’s not as practical, and I eventually switched over to an artist’s style palette with small dabs of the gel colors on it, and a small styrofoam tray for blending.  The colors bead up on the tray so I don’t lose any to absorption.pitfall the lost expedition cake day02 03

I prepared the stand by putting it on my lazy susan, a wooden one from Ikea.  I’ve also got a glass one and a plastic Betty Crocker one, both from the dollar store, but this one is the one I always reach for.  I stuck a tub of icing in there to help weigh it down.  The stand is pretty heavy, especially with the fondant, but that was a precaution.pitfall the lost expedition cake day02 04

The first thing I did was to mix up a color that approximated the bricks I was trying to copy.  In the game they look like this:

pitfall lost expedition bricks

Now that I had the general shape scribed in and the darker grout lines, I needed to lighten the bricks to a faded, creamy, beige-ish color.  I began to mix up a color, testing on the paper towel until I had something that looked right.  You can see at the bottom of this next pic where I’d tried out a color that was too pale, and I had to darken it up a bit.  In the end I used some Wilton White-White as a base, then some brown and black Wilton gel colors, a touch of Wilton lemon yellow, and some of the morning’s dark wash water to thin it out.

pitfall the lost expedition cake day02 05

I painted small dabs of the resulting mix onto each brick individually, blending and smoothing until I got rid of the brush strokes and had something that looked like an old brick wall.

For the first time ever I took a short video of my process.  If you find it helpful and want more video tutorials, please let me know in the comments.  🙂

pitfall the lost expedition cake day02 07

After the back was done I moved on to the front.  The small amount of mixed color that you saw in the video was enough to paint the entire back and front.

pitfall the lost expedition cake day02 06

The next step was to add some greenery.  I knew I’d have a lot of grass and vines and leaves in the cake, but wanted to add more depth to the bricks so I used more of the dark wash and deepened it up with Wilton gels (leaf green I think).

pitfall the lost expedition cake day02 08

I used a messy brush to pounce the color in areas where moss would grow, mostly around the bottom of the back piece and around the top and sides of the front.  This is a great reason to keep those brushes that get all messed up, so you don’t ruin good ones!pitfall the lost expedition cake day02 09

As I added the moss I made sure to keep the brush from being too wet – the effect was supposed to be subtle – and I also periodically touched my brush in different areas of the mix where I hadn’t fully blended, sometimes picking up straight gel from the edge of the palette.  This gave me varying shades of green and a more natural look.pitfall the lost expedition cake day02 10

Finally I used some White-White and Americolor black and a touch of brown to get a nice varying gray shade for the rock cave.  Again I resisted the urge to overmix the color, so I could get depth to the wall.  Sometimes I touched in a bit more white, which lightened the grays, and then I’d go back in with a more liquid black, getting into the cracks.pitfall the lost expedition cake day02 11

Here’s the finished support, set aside for the night.  The front (above) and the back (below).pitfall the lost expedition cake day02 12