Monday, February 28, 2011

Knitted Berry Hats

This is an easy pattern to knit for a premature baby, or a full-term baby.  I use bulky weight yarn for the full-term baby hats, and sport weight yarn for the premature baby hats.  You could also increase or decrease the number of stitches in multiples of six.

Supplies
  • One skein green yarn
  • One skein berry color yarn
  • Scissors
  • Yarn needle
  • Row marker
  • Size 6, 12" circular knitting needle
  • Size 6 double pointed needles
Hat Pattern:
  1. Cast on 54 stitches.
  2. Add row marker, and knit in the round until your project measures 6 inches tall.
  3. Decrease (change to double-pointed knitting needles when you feel the need to switch)
    1. Knit 7, knit two together, repeat all the way around (48 stitches remain)
    2. Knit 6, knit two together, repeat all the way around (42 stitches remain)
    3. Knit 5, knit two together, repeat all the way around (36 stitches remain)
    4. Knit 4, knit two together, repeat all the way around (30 stitches remain)
    5. Knit 3, knit two together, repeat all the way around (24 stitches remain)
    6. Knit 2, knit two together, repeat all the way around (18 stitches remain)
    7. Knit 1, knit two together, repeat all the way around ( 12 stitches remain)
    8. Knit two together, repeat all the way around, (6 stitches remain)
  4. Snip the thread several inches long, then pull through all six stitches.
At this point, you could simply weave in the ends and finish the hat, or add a poof ball.  If you want to make a berry hat, continue with the greenery pattern below.  I found this star pattern here, and thought I could adjust it to fit my needs.  Her original pattern was a bit small, so I added an extra row.  I also added a braid in a loop at the middle for the stem.

Before you are completely confused, here is what I mean when I write (rsd):

And what I mean when I write (wsd):

Berry Greenery
  1. Cast on 65 stitches.
  2. Row 1:  knit 5, *rsd, knit 10, repeat from * 4 times, rsd, knit 5 (55 stitches remain)
  3. Row 2:  purl 4, *wsd, purl 8, repeat from * 4 times, wsd, purl 4 (45 stitches remain)
  4. Row 3:  knit 3, *rsd, knit 6, repeat from * 4 times, rsd, knit 3 (35 stitches remain)
  5. Row 4:  purl 2, *wsd, purl 4, repeat from * 4 times, wsd, purl 2 (25 stitches remain)
  6. Row 5:  knit 1, *rsd, knit 2, repeat from * 4 times, rsd, knit 1 (15 stitches remain)
  7. Row 6:  wsd, repeat across entire row (5 stitches remain)
  8. Sew the one side shut, and add a braid for a stem.
When you are finished, use the ends to attach the greenery to the hat.

I will be linking these at these link parties.



Tip Junkie handmade projects

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Warm Hearts Warm Babies {Philanthropy #2}

Photo courtesy of http://www.warmheartswarmbabies.org/
I can't believe the month is almost over.  The time really got away from me.  If you are new to my blog, you may not know about my philanthropy goal.  I would like to participate and encourage my readers to participate in at least one philanthropic activity each month.  Last month we participated in the 1 Million Pillowcase Challenge.  If you would like to participate, please check out the project.

This month I would like to focus on Warm Hearts Warm Babies.  I first came across this organization a few years ago when I first started knitting.  Their goal is to create clothing for premature babies.  It can be difficult to find clothing, hats, etc. for premature babies, and they try to provide those items to those families.  On their site, they have links for many free patterns to knit or crotchet.  I am sure they would also appreciate anything sewn with a soft knit that is the correct size.

My friend Sarah has had two premature babies, her last one came about eight weeks early in October.  Haven has grown extraordinarily and now is the size expected of a four-month-old.  Tomorrow I will share a knit hat pattern for all my knitters out there.

I would love for you to email me any other knit/crotchet/sewing patterns that you would be willing to share with everyone this month.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Easy Reversible Bag

My absolute favorite magazine is a quarterly magazine (yes there seems to be a pun in there somewhere) called Quilts and More.  They always have so many cute ideas, and usually I see a few projects that I want to modify or use a piece of for something different, etc.

The most recent issue has this wonderful pattern for making a reversible tote (and instructions to make it a messenger bag instead).  I used some burlap that I found in the home decor sale section instead of the cotton recommended.  I like the extra heft of the fabric.  My sister's favorite color is yellow, and I love blue, and we love these colors together.  I am going out to Utah next month, so I hope she likes it!

I also used a twin needle for the first time with this bag.  The top side looks like two perfectly parallel rows of stitches, and the back side is this cute zigzag looking stitch.


What colors would you choose for your bag?

I will link this up at these link parties.  Check out the other goodies people link!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Broken Needles

Ah Nuts!  I was working on this really cute, quick, and easy bag to share with you, but alas, my needle broke.  Normally that's not a problem.  Just pop in a new needle and move on; however, I was using a twin needle (for the first time--I was so excited).  I only had one, and the store that sells them was closed when it happened.

I am getting a new needle tomorrow (and some spares), so I will share the bag with you then.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Fancy Food Coloring

I hope you are enjoying the cake tips and tools posts that I have put up these past two weeks.  I just found out that the cake baking post was one of the top ten viewed posts on Crazy Domestic this week!  Since they have been such a hit, let's keep it going with tips for using food coloring today.
  1. Food Coloring Markers:  are awesome!  Did you see my post for the thirtieth birthday cake?  You may have noticed some drawings on a couple of the tiers.  Several companies are now making markers that use food coloring instead of ink.  They draw on fondant just like a marker drawing on paper (just be sure to not poke the tip into the fondant).  You can also draw on royal icing and gum paste with the markers.
  2. Gel Food Coloring:  is the best food coloring for most of what I do.  The gel food coloring tends to have the richest color and helps with color saturation.  I use gel food coloring to color frosting, fondant, gum paste, and batter.  Gel food coloring is so potent, that you want to start by adding small amounts.  You can always add more food coloring, but you can't take any away.  This type of food coloring is also similar to paint as far as mixing colors is concerned.  I like the Wilton food coloring, and started with a variety pack.  Then I bought the larger individual containers when I needed to resupply colors.  The only downside to the gel colors is that they start to dry out after a while, and it is not worth the energy to try to get the gel to combine with your medium.  Just buy a new tub.
  3. Powdered Food Coloring:  is definitely something you want to use if you are trying to color modeling chocolate.  The water base of most food colorings will not mix with the chocolate.  Most cake supply stores sell powdered food coloring, but I haven't had much luck with craft stores that also sell cake supplies.  The powdered food coloring can be a little pricey, so I only use it with modeling chocolate.  If you can't find any near you, you can buy it online.
  4. Silver & Gold:  are actual possibilities with powdered food coloring.  You combine the powdered food coloring with a small amount of clear alcohol (like vodka) to create a metallic paint.  You then use a paintbrush to paint the food coloring onto whatever you want to color.  You don't need very much alcohol to create the paint; the alcohol dries completely and just leaves the silver or gold.  Be careful with the paint--I got a little on my table, and it took months to get off.  The powder does not easily remove.
  5. Solid vs. Variegated:  the more thoroughly you mix the coloring, the more uniform the color will be throughout your frosting/fondant/etc.  If you want a variegated look, simply do not keep mixing.  I created the flames for the thirtieth birthday cake by mixing yellow fondant, red fondant, and orange fondant together, then rolling out before completely combined.  I used the same technique with green, purple, and pink fondant to create this present cake, and white with blue for the water of this boating cake.


I hope that gives you a starting point for using food coloring with cakes.  I will be linking this post to these link parties.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

10 Tips and Tools for Frosting Cakes


Last week, I shared my top 10 cake baking tips and tools with you.  If you missed the post, click here.  Now that you are practically an expert {wink wink}, let's move on to decorating cakes.  Now, I don't actually consider myself an expert at all, but I love learning as I go.  If you are looking for lots of tips about decorating frosted cakes, you are out of luck.  Sorry.  The best advice I can offer in that arena is to cover with delicious candy or nuts.  The only time I stick with a frosted cake is when I am making it for a child.  Other than that, I don't think that I will ever try to simply frost a cake again, now that I know the smooth finish of a fondant-covered cake (another casualty to my "type-a" personality).  If you are interested in that aspect of cake decorating, stick around. 

When I started writing this post, I had a hard time finding ten tips, because I had about seven different aspects of cake decorating to talk about, but I had lots of tips for each one.  The post was getting longer and longer, and I thought that it would be overwhelming to new cake decorators.  To try and alleviate some of the overload, I am breaking this part into a few separate posts.  Today, we are going to focus on the basics of frosting.  In the past few years, this is what I've learned.

Frosting Cakes
  1. Picking the Right Frosting.  My very favorite frosting is the frosting from the bakery at King Soopers (kroger).  Did you know that you can buy frosting directly from the bakery counter for cheaper than the butter to make your own?  I really like the consistency, the flavor, and the color.  The frosting is really white, delicious, and a pretty stiff, so it holds up well under the weight of the fondant.  It also helps that it has a pretty long shelf life.  Go to your local supermarket and ask them what frosting they sell and for what price.  See if this is an option for you.  I am not a big fan of frosting from the shelf.
  2. Glue it to the Cake Board.  Use a smear of frosting to glue the cake to the cake board, that way you have no slippage as you try to frost or decorate.  You want your cake to stay put!
  3. Use a Turntable.  A turntable will actually help with almost every aspect of cake decorating.  To be able to easily turn the cake as you frost, fondant, or decorate, will make you job much easier.  It will also help when you try to even your frosting.
  4. photo courtesy of http://www.kmart.com/
  5. To Coat or Not To Coat?  I have seen, and been told, to make a "crumb coat" or "dirty ice" cakes before frosting them for the decorative/outside layer.  Since I cover all my cakes with fondant in the end, I think that is a wasted step.  Number one: I love frosting; I view cake as a frosting delivery system, so a thin layer just won't work for me.  Number two: why would I want to frost a thin layer of frosting, then repeat with another layer of frosting?  It seems like a waste of time to me.  Number three: if there are a few crumbs in my only layer of frosting, it doesn't really matter since it will be covered in fondant anyway. 
  6. Filling Seepage - Gross!  If you have a filling (other than the frosting) between the layers of your cake, make sure you build a dam around the filling with whatever frosting you will use to frost the cake.
  7. Use an Angled Spatula.  This will be one of your favorite cake tools.  The angle makes it easy to get a smooth finish on the frosting without getting your fingers into the frosting and making divots.  (you use the back of the spatula)
  8. photo courtesy of http://www.amazon.com/
  9. Start at the Top.   Here is how I frost a cake, I try to always have the edge that was on the pan (the bottom) as my top layer.  I have very few crumb problems this way.  I take a large dollop of frosting and drop it on the top of the cake.  Spread the frosting to the edges, then down the sides.
  10. Push--Don't Pull! Use the spatula to push the frosting from the center to the edge of the cake.  Be sure to NOT pull back on the frosting, or you will have crumbs pick up off the cake into the frosting.  To remove the spatula from the frosting, gently lift the spatula off while you are pushing.
  11. More is Better.  I found that you can always take frosting away from the cake once you get it all covered.  The frosting seals in the cake, so use lots to avoid crumbs.  Then use the spatula to remove excess frosting.  Simply turn the spatula on its side and scrape frosting off, leaving a thinner layer left on the cake.
  12. Smooth & Even.  Try to get the frosting as smooth as possible, but more importantly, get you frosting straight.  Try to keep your frosting an even width all around your cake, so the cake shape is easily identifiable.  To be honest, this is the hardest part for me.  Here is what I usually get, then I cover with fondant.  I just keep at it with the spatula, until I am happy or fed up :)


I will be linking this up to these fun link parties!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

My Husband...the Crafter

Tonight is parent-teacher conferences, so I know I will not have time to post tonight.  Instead, I wanted to share these two pictures with you.  When I was sewing and photo editing, like crazy this weekend to try and get my post ready for my guest post at I Heart Naptime, Adam was working on his own craft.  He made some otter's egg flies to go fly fishing.  It's still too cold here for fly fishing--he mostly ice fishes these days, but soon enough he will be back to fly fishing, and he will be ready!


Shhh--he doesn't know I'm posting this.  I just think he is so cute!

Monday, February 21, 2011

A Little Embroidery

So...I spent most of the day grading and grocery shopping, but I did manage to get a little bit of embroidery done. 

I finally got around to these cute aprons.  Adam's cousin has these two crazy little boys that are so fun!  They are wild and just what you would expect curious little kids to be like.  Their mom asked if I would embroider their names on these aprons weeks ago, and I just now finished.  It's not that it took long, but I was out of time, then out of stabilizer...I know excuses, excuses.  Anyway, here they are.  I think they came out really cute!  Now the boys' clothes won't get covered in fish slime the next time Adam and Mike bring the fish home to clean.




Adam's Grandma turned 92(?) this past weekend.  She loves staying cozy, so Adam picked out this turquoise sweatshirt, and designed this for the upper left breast.


I also embroidered some polos for a co-worker, but I am not quite finished, so I will post those pics another time.

Also, I know you think I forgot, but I didn't.  I am posting the follow-up to my cake baking tips this week.  The last post took a really long time to get together, so I needed a little more time to get the following post ready.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Guest Post at I Heart Naptime

Hi!  I have been so busy the last two days.  Want to see why?

Jamielyn is super sweet, and she is having me as a guest poster tomorrow on her blog I Heart Naptime with Chocolate Sundaes!  If you want to completel tutorial, make sure you head over to her blog tomorrow.

Many of you probably already know Jamielyn and her blog because she is fabulous.  If you don't, be sure to go over and check out her site.  I look forward to her posts every day, and I am sure you will too!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Knitting 201 {Double-Pointed Needles}

Why would you want to use double-pointed needles?

The only time I use double-pointed needles is when I am decreasing a hat and the project no longer fits well on circular needles--although, you can use them in place of circular needles for most projects. 

The first time I used them, I just bought them because the pattern I was using instructed me to switch from the circular needles to double-pointed needles.  I have to admit, when I first tried to use them, I had no idea what I was doing.  I tried to knit several stitches, then pass each one over to the next needle one at a time.  I kept moving the needles around and around, but it took me forever!  It was definitely one of my most ditsy crafting moments ever.  To save you from similar humiliation, here are some simple steps to using double-pointed needles.

Basically, what you are doing, is knitting one double-pointed needle into the project, and knitting another needle out.  When switching from circular to double-pointed needles, you begin by taking a double-pointed needle in your right hand (as in my previous knitting posts, I assume you are right-handed and knit like I do).  You knit stitches onto the double-pointed needle.  I usually split my project into thirds or fourths to determine the number of stitches that should occupy each needle. 

When the allotted number of stitches occupy the needle, let go of the needle in your right hand and pick up a new double-pointed needle in that hand.  Use the same process for the rest of your double-pointed needles.


I will be linking this up to these link parties.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Knitting 201 {Circular Needles}

Yes--that's right.  You are correct.  The "201" in the title means that we are stepping into the next arena of knitting.  If you missed the previous tutorials, click here to start at the beginning. 

Today, we are going to talk about knitting with circular needles.  Circular knitting needles come in various sizes as far as the diameter (width) of the needle, as well as the length of the needles.  My favorite brand of circular needles is addi TURBO.  I love how smoothly the yarn transfers from needle to needle, and the connecting wire bends more easily with the project.

There are two ways to knit with circular needles.  Either way you want to use them, you will cast on the stitches as you would a straight needle.

The first way you can use circular needles is just like knitting with straight needles, but they are connected at the back.  When using circular needles in place of straight needles, you cast on your stitches, then knit into the last stitch of the last row.  If you are right-handed (and knit like me) then your project will be on the left needle, and you will then grab the other needle in your right hand.  You continue to trade the two tips of the needles between each hand.  People often use circular needles to knit blankets because the circular needles can fit so many stitches.

The other way you can use circular needles is to make a tube with your knitting (like a hat), also called knit in the round.  To do this, you will cast on your stitches; you will need enough stitches to reach both tips with your stitches.  The final stitch will actually be on the needle in your right hand (again assuming you are right-handed and knit like me).  You will knit into the first stitch that you cast on.  You will continue to knit until your project has reached its required length. 

Make sure you do not twist your stitches before you connect when knitting in the round, or your project will not create a tube.

If you are going to knit in the round, you should place a marker on the needles after you cast on your stitches, but before you begin knitting into the first row.  You can use a piece of yarn in a different color, or you can buy markers from the store.  When you are knitting in the round, you will pass the marker from needle to needle each time you reach the marker.

I will be linking this to these link parties.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Experiments - A Variation on No-Bakes

Do you often experiment with recipes?  I have tried two in the last few days.  The first one, I burned, and we aren't going to talk about.  The second was an experiment with my no-bake cookies.  I was thinking they would be delicious with some marshmallows mixed in, or some chocolate chips.  I had white chocolate chips on hand, and since the missionaries were coming over in a couple hours, I thought that there would definitely be someone to eat them.

I made the cookies like I normally do, but after I mixed the oats and the chocolate mixture, I added the chocolate chips.  What I didn't count on, was the fact that the chocolate chips would melt so quickly.  I'm not really sure the experiment was a success, but not exactly a failure either.  They taste pretty good, but the texture is a little different.  I am looking forward to trying it with mini marshmallows.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

10 Tips & Tools for Baking Beautiful, Delicious Cakes

In the spring of 2008 I went to visit my sister for spring break.  While I was out there, her roommate Melissa wanted to try making fondant and decorating cakes.  My first cake was the egg pictured below. 

When my brother and his fiance (now wife) saw the picture, they asked me to make their wedding cake.  I made a few practice cakes, then their wedding cake, and since then, have made dozens of cakes for friends and family.  With every cake I make, I feel like I learn something new, so I wanted to share with you what I have learned over the past few years.  For this list, I am going to focus on baking and getting the cakes ready, not decorating, cakes.  Here are my top 10 tips & tools for baking beautiful, delicious cakes.
  1. Find a great recipe, and adjust for different flavors.  I live in Colorado, and the elevation and arid climate lead to tricky baking situations.  I use this basic recipe for almost all of my cakes: 1 box cake mix, 1 box instant vanilla pudding, 1/3 cup oil, 1/3 cup water, 5 eggs, 1 cup sour cream, 1 tablespoon vanilla.  I change the pudding and cake box flavors depending on the flavor of cake I want.  I also add other flavors of extract, and additions to change the flavor (ex. poppy seeds or coconut).  For white cakes, I adjust the eggs to more egg whites.  This recipe always comes out delicious, and moist.  Another important aspect of this is that this makes a dense cake, so I can decorate with fondant without worry that it won't hold up to the extra weight.
  2. Do NOT overmix.  I found that overmixing batter leads to weird waves in your cakes.  I have had several cakes come out of the oven looking like someone pushed the batter from one side, across the entire cake, and over the edge of the pan, dripping and burning down the side.  You should mix your cake batter so that all ingredients are incorporated, but nothing more.
  3. Use quality pans.  I like aluminum pans (that are light in color).  The lighter color helps the edges to not cook faster or darker.  I also like pans that do not have sloped edges.  If your pans can easily nest in one another (but they are supposed to be the same size) they have sloped sides.  My pans also do not have seams.  I treat my pans with care so they do not get damaged in the dishwasher or dented in the cupboard.
  4. Baker's Spray or Pam for Baking.  I heart this so much.  No flouring or greasing necessary.  No dealing with extra flour making a mess.  No dealing with paper towels and greasy fingers.  Wondering if you covered it enough.  This sprays on in seconds and completely covers the pan.  I haven't ever had a problem with the Baker's Spray and my favorite recipe.
  5. Use Cakestrips.  These are your best friend.  Have you even noticed that most cakes come out of the oven with a dome shape to the top?  This is because the outside, due to bakes faster than the inside of the cake.  Cake strips are about 2 inches wide, and vary in length.  They have plain muslin on one side, and reflective metallic fabric on the other.  You can buy them from Hobby Lobby, Joann Fabric, or Michaels.  It would be easy to make them, but with a 40% off coupon, who would want to make them?  When you drench the cake strips with cold water and wrap them around a pan, they keep the pan cool longer, and your cakes come out nearly completely flat.  This will save you lots of cake scraps when you level the cakes.
  6. Leave the cakes alone.  Don't open and shut the oven door a bunch of times, or bump the cakes when they are baking.  If you bump them enough, you will pop the bubbles that are created while baking, and the center of your cake will fall--leaving you with a dense crater instead of a delicious, airy cake.  Also, opening the oven door lets out the heat, so you do not have a consistent heat, and that affects baking time as well.
  7. Cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then flip onto cooling racks and cool completely.  I like to remove the cakes from the oven when a couple crumbs stick to the toothpick but are not gooey.  I know that the cake isn't completely done, but I also know that the heat will continue to cook the cake for several minutes out of the oven.  I like to give the cake a few minutes to finish cooking, and shrink.  When the air cools down, it condenses, and the bubbles that make the cake so delightfully fluffy decrease in size; this makes the cake pull away from the sides of the pan, and make it easier to remove.  Once ten minutes have passed, I flip the cakes over and thanks to my baking spray (see #4) the cakes slide right out of the pan.  Then make sure you cool your cakes completely before trying to cut or move them--they are sturdier when cool.
  8. Level your cakes.  This makes a huge difference when you fill and frost your cakes--especially if you are stacking them.  The cakestrips will help make the cakes level, but sometimes they don't solve all your problems (if you are like me, and switch cakes sizes, so you over fill your pans--oops!).  You can level your cakes with a large knife, or a leveller.  I am not talented enough to level cakes with a large knife (I carve and carve until there is nothing left).  I bought my Wilton leveler at the craft store, and they now make a leveler that folds in half for easy storage.  A leveler can also help, so your cakes are all an even width.  I am totally type "A" and love things to be even.
  9. Leveler cutting the tops off cakes.
  10. What is stacking?  There are two types of stacking: stacking layers, and stacking tiers.  Stacking layers of the cake refers to stacking multiple levels of the same size/shape cake into one larger cake tier.  Stacking tiers of cake refers to stacking multiple cakes of various shapes/sizes into a larger cake. 
    1. When stacking cake layers, you want to create a seamless look on the edge.  Even with a leveler, sometimes, the cake layers don't come out completely even.  When I cut a cake in half to create two layers, I mark the edge with food coloring in multiple spot to ensure that I can stack the cake together for the most even layers (if one side is cut slightly higher than the other, I wouldn't want the cakes to turn and stack the two largest sides on the same edge--creating an even larger difference).  You can use whatever filling you like when stacking multiple layers, but create a dam around the edge of the cake to prevent the filling from spilling out.  (See my Almond Joy Cake Tutorial for more information and a picture of a dam)
    2. When stacking tiers of cake, you need to use some stabilizers.  My three favorites are cardboard, straws, and frosting.  I use the cardboard to separate each layer, and create a base for each tier; simply cut the cardboard to the size of the cake, and glue the cake to the cardboard with frosting.  I push four straws into each tier that will have a cake on top of it.  Space the straws apart in a slightly smaller pattern than the next tier, then cut them so they are level with the cake top.  Smear some frosting on the top center of the cake to glue the stacker tier down.
  11. What about freezing?  Cakes actually freeze really well.  I freeze cakes sometimes, but not always.  I usually freeze cakes because I don't have time to bake and decorate the same day of the party.  I have frozen cakes for an entire week (frosted and unfrosted), with no noticable difference in texture or flavor.  When I freeze cake, I wrap it in two layers of plastic wrap (I know this sounds a little wasteful, but this prevents other flavors from creeping into the cake).  Although I have never tested how long it takes to thaw, I always take out the cake to decorate several hours before the party.  The other reason you may want to freeze a cake is for frosting purposes.  A frozen cake is usually easier to frost because of less crumbs pulling off into the frosting.


Thanks for visiting!  Come back later this week for details on decorating cakes.

I will be linking this up to these link parties.