Sunday, February 21, 2010

Would you look at that f-ing snow?

I could've sworn I saw the snowplow go by a few hours ago...
Fortunately, with my Lent resolution to only work on finishing projects that I've already started (don't ask how many things I started on Pancake Tuesday...), a little enforced crafting time was not a bad thing.  I've already knocked a nice grey/black/white striped scarf off my Ravelry list (and into my Etsy shop, in all likelyhood), and I've really been going to town on my 'Ravelympics' (Ravelry Olympics) project.

I'm kind of keeping the Ravelympics project under wraps for a bit, because it was based in a comic idea and I don't want to spoil the comic - I plan on unveiling it when that particular strip goes live. I'm really enjoying it, though.  I'm more of a knitter than a crocheter, so it's a nice change of pace and a little bit of a challenge to myself, which was the point of the Ravelympics.  It's also nice to have a deadline to keep myself on target, or I think I would have already set it aside once I started to embroider the little accessory bits.

I've also got a few half-finished plushies I need to get finished up as well - besides wanting to put some up on Etsy, I also really want to submit something to Stuffed.  There's a couple of pincushions that just need to be stuffed and sewn shut, too. And two rooms I've started painting. And one room I'm in the middle of plastering the walls. And then there's the fabric that I just pinned to the moulding around the window for a bit until I had time to sew it into proper curtains...

Meanwhile, I've already got a list of five project ideas to start in on come Easter...better get back to clearing out some of this crafting backlog!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Vanilla-Rum Frosting

This round of cupcakes was not as pretty as they could have been - I was using up the last of a bag of 'natural' (read - 'no anti-caking agent') powdered sugar, and as it turns out, I don't actually own a flour sifter.  So, the icing's a bit lumpy, but still extremely tasty!

After the last batch, I had several requests for the icing recipe, so I made careful notes this time.

Vanilla-Rum Frosting:
Enough for 2 dozen cupcakes iced with a spatula, or one dozen piped.

1/2 lb powdered sugar
1 stick softened butter
1 teaspoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon spiced rum
food coloring (keep in mind that the icing will start off slightly yellow from the butter when choosing a color)

(I was amused to see that the alcohol content on the rum was actually less than that of the vanilla extract, but I suppose you could use rum flavoring if it's an issue for you)

Microwave the bowl of powdered sugar for 30 seconds. It sounds kind of weird, but since the frosting itself isn't cooked, microwaving the sugar on its own will get rid of that weird metallic taste the corn starch in the powdered sugar sometimes has. Add all other ingredients and mix well.  If the icing seems a bit too stiff, add milk in small amounts until it reaches the right consistency.
I like to let the icing rest in the fridge for a bit if I'm going to be piping it, as my hands are very warm and otherwise I can only do about 3-4 cupcakes at a time before I melt the icing too much to get any real definition.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Domestic Pursuits

Got a domestic little bee in my bonnet today, and started off the day with a round of cupcakes:
These turned out better than the last batch I made - those were tasty, but closer to the consistency of pound cake than I really like my cupcakes.  The cake recipe I found for these guys was nice and simple, with a bit more leavening to them.  Also, there was no separating of eggs involved.  It's not that I mind separating eggs, I just prefer being able to use the pasteurized eggs so I can lick the bowl afterwards with impunity.

Also, I think this may be the best batch of icing I have ever made.  Normally, my quick icing has a bit of a metallic taste to it, but I learned today that the metallic taste comes from the cornstarch they add to powdered sugar, and can be eliminated by heat.  All I had to do was zap the powdered sugar in the microwave for 30 seconds, and voilá! Granted, being vanilla-rum flavored didn't hurt the icing's placement on the all-time awesome icing chart, but still...

Meanwhile, I was doing a bit of organizing while the cupcakes were baking/cooling, and found this stuffed in one of my boxes:

Not in the best of shape, but the ink stain is only on the cover (and doesn't hide the original $2 price tag from Venture, of all places...does Venture even still exist?).  Being copyright 1976, all the examples look like they were done in worsted-weight yarn on burlap, but it's still a good book.  Handily enough, February is National Embroidery Month, so I thought I'd take the opportunity of stumbling across this to learn a new stitch.
Presenting: the Palestrina knot: 

As you can see, it took me a few to get the hang of it, but it makes a nice, textural line that almost looks like a row of joined French knots.  I could definitely see using this as an outline for something that needed a touch of emphasis, or as a simple border. I do have two fresh teatowels in need of embellishment, after all...

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

The cake is a lie!

I've been meaning to switch over to using more cloth towels in the kitchen, but I didn't want just plain white towels, so I broke out the embroidery box and got to stitching. It's all backstitch, except for the edging of the cake, which is done in about three rows of French knots.  I will never fear French knots again after this project.

The original intent had been to make the cake slice a bit more detailed, but I hadn't really thought ahead, and made the design much larger than it really needed to be (takes up about a third of the towel). Also, this towel, while lovely and soft, was a bit looser of a weave than I usually embroider on.  It's the first thing I've ever embroidered that's meant for actual use rather than being decorative, so I'm a bit worried about how it's going to hold up.  All the ends have been well sewn in and reinforced with Fray-Check, so I've done all I can, I think.  I just need to give it a good preliminary wash to get rid of my pencil marks, and it's good to go.

Next time I do a towel, I know two things to do differently, though.
1) Dig up my disappearing ink embroidery marker
2) Much smaller design - it's just an embellishment, not a display piece.