Thursday, December 30, 2010

Little dresses Part 2

I hope everyone had an enjoyable Christmas. I'm currently in Utah enjoying (not really) the fresh snow fall.

I'm finally getting around to posting about the second dress I made - for my oldest daughter. I have to say that I've never been more excited to put the sewing machine away than I was when I finished this dress.

McCall's Pattern #5742

I chose the patterns I chose because I thought from my very inexperienced perspective that the two were similar....but the only similarity I found is that they're both dresses.

Square neck versus round neck. Petticoat versus no petticoat. Ruffled hem band versus straight hem band. This second one is more of a spanish style versus, I don't know, an American style. There were a lot of ruffles on this one...

I thought the sleeves were a bit easier to do, though. It took me less time but I think this one was harder. It did help that I kind of knew what I was doing on this second go around.

I left off some of the details that the pattern called for because I didn't want them to look too different - and I didn't want to do any more hand sewing. Yes, I'm lazy. I admit it.

Something I didn't like is that the bodice turned out of bit wide. On the next dress I make I'm going to make sure the bodice fits a bit better.

All in all, I thought this was a respectable second effort.

(Jazz Hands)

Stay tuned for posts in late January. I've got some fun projects lined up for when I return from my trip to the Homeland (Oregon).

Friday, December 17, 2010

Crocheted Ornaments (continued)

As requested, finished ornaments by Stacy (on my tiny fake Christmas tree):

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Crocheted Wreath Ornaments

I believe I mentioned before that I was searching for an ornament pattern to crochet as Christmas gifts and after trying to come up with something on my own for about a week, I broke down and bought a book from JoAnn's. I'm a quitter like that.

Anyway, one thing about making Christmas ornaments that you have to worry about/deal with is starching your project so that it's stiff and hang-able.

What I do is take a plastic sandwich bag, spray some starch inside and put in the crocheted piece. Then you work in the starch so every part is wet, take it out and squeeze it between pieces of paper towel to remove excess starch.

For the next part, you'll need a surface that takes pins well. I used to have some cork boards that I used for this but they got lost in our many, many moves and so here I just used a piece of cardboard with plastic wrap taped over it (so the piece doesn't stick). Also, you can see that I drew lines on it to guide me but they didn't really help because the symmetry was a little weird (i.e. I had the lines in the wrong place!) - I hate wasted effort. And then I pinned the thing down in the proper shape - if you don't know what that looks like, here you go:

It'll only take a few hours to dry and then you can remove the pins.

And here's the final product (my apologies for the less than stellar pictures here - I am lazy, that's all I can say - Maybe Tammy can post a better picture of the finished product since she has one!):

I just used gold embroidery floss for the hanger and voila! A do-it-yourself Christmas present!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

'Tis the Season...

... For giving!

Been working on a few TOP SECRET Christmas projects lately, so that's why you haven't heard from me. Can't post about those yet, but I CAN talk about what to do when you don't have a project or two lined up ...

Do you ever find yourself with the desire to knit, but you have no one to knit for? Let's be honest, one can only make so many hats and cat sweaters for their own amusement before the cat's like, "Enough!". Ahem, you know what I mean.

I have a tendency to fidget and knitting helps keep my hands busy, so I've been participating in a monthly knitting group lately to get my knitting fix. We make knitted and crocheted hats, booties, and blankies for newborns (they are donated to one of the area hospitals, in this case, one that serves a high proportion of low income families). I've found this to be quite fulfilling. You get to make something cute, and your handiwork goes to keeping a fresh baby warm!

I'd been using a pattern from a book in recent months, but it required too much sewing in my opinion. I hate sewing together my work at the end. It slows things down too much! "Faster!", I said. So I found this cute little pattern for some quick and easy baby booties: Easy 2 Needle Baby Booties. Now, usually I detest garter stitch in my work, but these have a surprisingly pleasant shape when finished. And they are not a nightmare to sew, either. Keep in mind when you sew the back edge to make sure to pull the yarn tight at the heel. It should make a swirl-like pattern and be flat like the rest of the sole. Make sure and leave enough of a tail at the beginning AND end of your pattern so you have enough yarn to sew up the seems.

The pattern called for a crocheted chain for the bow, but I thought that would look like crap, so I did a twisted cord instead (you could also use a satin ribbon). For a twisted cord: measure how much yarn you'll need for a bow and multiple that by three or four times. Cut that length of yarn and fold it in half, tying the end. Affix the tied end to something solid and twist your yarn til it's tightly twisted (keep the yarn straight so it doesn't twist back on itself while your doing this). Then carefully fold the yarn in half (back on itself) and hold the ends together (one end will still be attathed to your solid object). It will want to twist around itself, so let it (it will only "want" to twist in one direction), then keep twisting in the same direction until it takes on what I like to call an 'old-fashioned candy'-like texture. Tie both ends of your cord and thread it through your booties! (I untie the tied end from the beginning and re-tie it to catch the new end, then trim the yarn ends to match.)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Stacy's Towering Chocolate Cake

Because I just made a huge post over on facebook about this - here it is for all future generations - my method for the hugely popular Towering Chocolate Cake.

(Recipes for Chocolate Butter Cream, Chocolate Mousse, & Chocolate Ganache below)

The cake is just a Betty Crocker box cake - Triple Chocolate Fudge. They make such awesome cakes, why mess around trying to find the perfect 'from scratch' recipe? My only caution is to make sure you don't over-bake because a dry cake is not a good cake. If you have a chronic dry cake problem, try adding 1/4 cup sour cream to the batter.

I use two boxes (mixing them up together) and split them into three 9 inch cake pans. I leveled them off using a leveler - a large bread knife also works well though it may be hard to get a truly level cake.

I usually use two fillings - a fruit and a mousse. I've used fresh strawberries before and those tasted AWESOME, but canned pie filling also works great if it's the dead of winter.

To stack, put a glob of frosting on your cake board and put the bottom cake on top of it. Put a thick ring of frosting around the edge of the cake.

** Important note - make sure your fillings aren't any thicker than your cake layers and that your fillings aren't thicker than your outside ring of frosting because they will leek out if there is too much in there....just sayin'.**

Put the fruit filling inside your frosting ring. Then put on your mousse. Place second cake layer on and repeat the same process.

For the last layer, I put the cake on bottom side up so you get a clean edge.

Put a thin layer of chocolate frosting over the whole thing. This is your crumb coat so it doesn't have to be pretty. Put it in the fridge until the crumb coat hardens. Put on another thicker coat of frosting, makin' it look smooth and pretty.

Pour your ganache over the top of the cake.

Pipe some frosting decorations, add some fruit and your done!


Chocolate Ganache

1/2 Cup chocolate chips
1/2 Cup heavy whipping cream

Heat it up little by little (30 seconds at a time). Then whisk the cream and chocolate together. If it starts to harden you can just reheat it.


Chocolate Butter Cream (I had to make two batches - this cake is definitely not low fat)

1 cup butter
1 cup melted (& cooled) chocolate - semi-sweet or dark - You can use chocolate chips or a chunk of chocolate.
2-3 tablespoons heavy whipping cream (or milk)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Whip the butter until it's smooth. Add the chocolate. Add the sugar. Add the vanilla & cream and whip until light and fluffy.


Chocolate Mousse:

1/2 Cup bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut in small pieces
2 large eggs, separated
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
3 tablespoons sugar, divided
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

Melt the chocolate and butter in the microwave 30 seconds at a time - should only take a minute at the most. Set aside to cool for a few minutes. Then whisk in the two egg yolks. Refrigerate.

In the bowl of your electric mixer, whip the two egg whites with the cream of tartar until foamy. Gradually add two tablespoons of sugar and continue to beat until stiff peaks form, yet the whites are still glossy and not dry. Set aside.

In another bowl, whip the heavy cream, remaining one tablespoon sugar, and vanilla extract until soft peaks form.

Remove the chocolate mixture from the refrigerator, and stir a couple of spoonfuls of the beaten egg whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten it, and then fold the remaining whites into the chocolate mixture, gently but thoroughly. Fold in the whipped cream.


Saturday, December 4, 2010

Little dresses

Lest you think I have dropped off the face of the planet, I'm here to say 'tis not so!

I've just retreated into stressed-out-about-Christmas-hermit-land from which I am emerging because I am DONE - yeah! Shopping done, packages mailed. I should get a freakin' gold medal!

Anyway, during my hermit-dom, I have, in fact, been making things!

Like this fancy little number:

McCall's Pattern #M5791

I saw this blue flocked taffeta at Joann's while I was scouring the Pennsylvanian countryside for Christmas ornaments and fell in LOVE. But I didn't get it just then. Seriously though, I couldn't stop thinking about. So I made a special trip to get it - the two closer stores didn't have it. It was a solid thirty minute drive both ways with two very bored children in the back of the car. I think I'm developing an unhealthy attachment to fabrics...

Anyway, it's for Ms. Pants, who is now the cutest nine-month old EVER. But I messed up on this dress SO MANY TIMES. I think some of my mess ups were just mind fatigue like 'I have to redo this AGAIN!? Why am I still working on this?! Someone PLEASE just finish this for me!'

This was the first time I had worked with a pattern so I learned a lot from trial and error. Zippers are not as hard as they may seem. Making an even gather is not so easy...Making a cloth bow is also not so easy. I really like how it turned out as long as I don't think about the visible errors.

Pants seems to like it, though:

Now to make a matching one for Ms. Madeline.