Tracey Builds a Tardis!

Tags

, , , , , , , ,

The Tardis by Disent

Today’s post comes to me from guest blogger and dear friend Tracey Robinson. Tracey is a “Polymath Mom”, comprised of equal parts athlete, chef, baker, mortgage expert, knitter, crafter, sewist, decorator and organizational whiz. Tracey and family live in Toronto, where I swear she crams 48 hours into every 24. Here’s something she recently ‘whipped up’.

***************************

Tracey's Tardis

My son, Booker just turned 10 years old. I have enjoyed making his birthday cakes over the years. Some of them have tasted better than they looked. There was the one that fell completely apart coming out of the pan, and I had to use extra icing in an attempt to hide its internal injuries. Others looked better than they tasted. The famous “pancake-cake” I created for his Maple Syrup Festival themed Birthday party… That little bit of genius was made from 7 enormous pancakes stacked up, glued together with butter cream icing, drizzled with a vaguely-maple-flavoured brown gelatin set to look like syrup, and topped with a single butter pat (a lemon-flavoured Starburst Fruit Chews candy). It was beautiful…and horrible. Yuck. 

This year, I wanted to make a special cake inspired by his latest obsession: Doctor Who. 

Cubee___TARDIS_by_CyberDrone

Want to make your own Tardis?

To clarify, we are not talking about the Dr. Who of the 70’s with the frizzy hair and the ultra-long scarf, here. This would be the newer BBC version. I never really got into the old Dr. Who, myself. As a kid, I think the music freaked me out a little… still does. Anyway, if you know anything about Dr Who (new or old) you are probably aware that his time machine, “The Tardis” is a London Police phone box. 

I have never before attempted a fondant cake, so taking my usual, incredibly naive, oh-how-hard-can-it-be? approach, I decided to give it a try… 

Now, I’m going to come clean right off the bat. The cake itself was a cake mix. *gasp* I know. How horrible, right? What an absolute fraud. Yes. Yes, I am. My only defence against this unforgiveable shortcut is this: I had one shot at this thing, and I simply could not afford any cake mishaps (see above). There. I’ve said it. Duncan Hines. Can that be the end of that, now? 

Since I was not brave (or foolish) enough to attempt an “upright” phone box, I decided to make it lying down which just makes more sense, anyway. How would one even begin to cut an upright phone box cake? 

I started with a 9×13” white cake, which I trimmed of its silly rounded corners and leveled with a cake leveler. If you do not own a cake leveler, you absolutely MUST get one. It’s my favorite thing. There is just no excuse for a “humpy” cake, in my opinion. I cut my leveled cake cross-wise into 3 equal pieces which, once stacked on top of one another, became the perfect shape. I used butter cream icing (mixed with a near toxic amount of blue food coloring) for in between the cake layers. Next up: The fondant. I rolled out the blue fondant and managed to lay it over the entire cake, shaping it carefully around the corners and smoothing it along the way. It is quite forgiving and is a lot like working with Play-Doh. I don’t care how old you get- Play-Doh is just plain fun. Using white fondant squares for the windows and strips of blue fondant for the door and window trims (cut with a pastry cutting wheel) I slowly managed to pieced it together using a little water to adhere everything. 

Finally, I sculpted an angel out of white fondant using the bottom of a waffle ice cream cone as a base (for the angel reference, you’ll have to watch Dr. Who. I couldn’t explain it if I wanted to). Lastly, The Tardis would naturally see a little wear and tear travelling through space and time, so I used a small craft brush and some black decorator’s gel to add some scuff marks and “age” it a little. 

One thing that I hadn’t considered, was what blue fondant and blue food colouring would do to my hands…I thought that I would have “Smurf-blue” hands for several days, but after some extensive internet research, I found the answer: A paste of baking soda with a few drips of hydrogen peroxide scrubbed into the stains will remove all of the colour! It may leave a white “haze” on the skin, which can be removed with the gentle rub of a nail brush. This little tidbit of information was worth all the effort. 

Well, almost. 

The Tardis was a big hit, judging by the blue-lipped smiles. Oh, and the cake itself? Delicious. Thank-you, Mr. Hines. 

**************

As a post-script….

A police box similar to that made famous in the television series Doctor Who has opened to the public.

 

Cotton Candy

Tags

, , , , , , , , ,

 

Cotton Plant

It’s that time of year again! Time to cast off chunky wool and start thinking about spring fibers, spring colors and lighter knits. Though I am devoted to wool (and have vowed to spend summer knitting myself more winter sweaters), I’m always excited when ‘cotton-time’ comes around again. There’s something magical and vibrant about the way cotton accepts color, and boy, am I ready for color right about now!

Butterfly Mercerized CottonHere’s an old stand-by that has graced the shelves of yarn shops for decades. Because it’s so ubiquitous, I often forget what a pleasure it is to use. I think Butterfly is one of the few mercerized cottons that comes in a DK weight. Once marketed under the brand name “Kertzer Super 10″ and with its trademark sheen, it creates items with a graceful drape and a silky hand. It comes in, conservatively, 5 million colors. Most people associate Butterfly with crochet but I’m knitting up a sample of the Market Tote we’ll be making in Knitting 101. We’ll use it for Crochet 101 as well; it showcases stitch combinations beautifully.

Market Tote

Ever wonder what “mercerized” means? It’s a process by which cotton thread is treated with a chemical compound, originally sodium hydroxide, which causes the cell wall of the fiber to swell making it stronger, more reflective and easier to dye. Add to that the finishing step of “gassing” where the thread is passed over an open flame burning off stray threads. This gives mercerized cotton its shiny appearance and silky feel.

Thorny CottonAs a former resident of the deep south, I can tell you truly that cotton is a fuzzy ball of paradox. The puffy, fluffy bits are soft alright, but the plant is as sharp as a bag of razor blades made even more cruel by its curved and thorny pods and leaves. I’m always surprised by the unmercerized cottons, the natural ones with a soft, fuzzy feel like Rowan Handknit Cotton. They’re duller in finish with a deeper lustre that seems to drink the light right in. For our Crochet Project class, we’re making this precious cotton picnic blanket. The pattern is by Lion Brand, but we’ll be using the Rowan yarn. And check out these whimsical fruit-inspired potholders and trivets! I’m using this pattern from PurlBee for our summertime crochet workshop. Pretty, huh?

Knittin’ the Edge

Tags

, , , , , , ,

Rose Garden Cozy

It amazes me how much I’m learning while I work out a slate of classes for Rosehaven. It’s a bit of a trick to plan; we wanted graduated, skill-building bites of information, each with a fun and compelling project. We also want the projects to be truly rewarding and seasonally oriented.

Rose Garden Cozy 2

BlockingFor our Knitting in the Round class, I’ve devised a little tea cozy, thinking it might be a fun spring project that hits all the bases ofPicked-up Stitches small-diameter knitting, plus some handy-dandy extra techniques.  After I’d knit the outer “shell”, I realized that a lining was necessary for a few reasons: it would add a nice pop of color, it would make the cozy thicker and warmer, and would provide a fitted, stable base for any embellishments that might be added.  So, I picked up stitches at the top of the ribbing and worked the lining upward from there. The problem became the edges where the cozy is open to accommodate the spout and handle.

I hadn’t thoroughly thought it through on the first prototype. I’d worked a standard, slip-stitch selvedge at each edge, but found that it wasn’t beefy enough to camouflage the stitches needed to join the layers. I decided to pick up the selvedge stitches and work a three-needle bind-off and, though it worked, I couldn’t think how I’d work that technique into a two-session class. That sent me off to research some alternative selvedge options.

It’s a simple thing, really, but it’s worth having a few different selvedge methods in one’s mental tool-box. I discovered a good one while knitting my Sochi Cowl; although perfect for garter stitch, it wasn’t really right for this application. I tried a few and finally settled on an I-cord edge stitch. It is meaty enough (in fact, almost double-knit) to hide stitches and stable enough to provide a beautiful finished edge. Here’s a great video tutorial. Try it some time!

 

 

FO and Some Thoughts on BT

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , ,

Skydottir

Rowan Pure Wool WorstedI’ve finished my lovely Skydottir Icelandic pullover! I love it! The fit is exceptional, the shape is sublime, the pattern was perfect and easy to follow. It would be a cinch to customize this pattern with one’s own motifs; In fact, I added the peeries at the cuffs and lower edge. I’m dying to make this sweater again with my own peeries at the yoke and cuffs and using this wonderful Rowan Pure Wool Worsted that’s just come in at the shop. After this horrible winter, I’m determined to spend the summer months knitting winter sweaters.

This is the second Brooklyn Tweed pattern I’ve worked and I must say, I love ‘em! Each pattern is like a mini-knitting workshop. They are studded with new techniques, yet organized in such a way that one could use tried and true methods instead. The details are amazing. Among the many pearls of wisdom I’ve discovered while working BT patterns is an idea I’d sort of glossed over in the past: yarn dominance in stranded knitting. Like many, I quite naturally defaulted to working the background color with my right hand (I’m a thrower) while carrying the contrast color in my right, but there are places where a single stitch of background color gets lost in a sea of contrast. I found, through working this pattern, that I must think about every round, determining which yarn should be dominant. Here’s an example:

Yarn DominanceHere are two identical pattern rounds. I wasn’t paying attention on the first (lower) round, but look what happened when I switched the light-colored yarn to my dominant (left) hand! What a magical difference. Done right, one could use this dominance idea to actually ‘paint’ with stitches. I’m so impressed!

I wasn’t impressed with the neck bind-off prescribed by the pattern, however. I’d planned to use this tubular bind-off from Tech-Knitting. I used it on the Isolde Teague “Rose Red” beret last year and should have used it here. Oh well, small price to pay.

Whittling Down the WIPs

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , ,

Knitted Octopus by Lorna Watt and "Dapper Toad" Jill

There simply are not enough hours in the day! That having been said, for the first time in a long time, I feel I have my WIPs under control.

In the coming couple of months, I have a very full slate and some new projects I’m desperate to start. Lovely Lesley and I have two big shows coming up, both of which require travel and one for which I’ll be preparing and presenting demonstrations. I’ve also been blessed with the task of planning and teaching a full slate of classes for Rosehaven. That means writing the courses, designing projects, knitting the samples and writing the patterns. What a great job! :)

So clearing up the WIPs is not just a dream any more, it’s a necessity. I’m really enjoying my Skydottir. It is knit in the Icelandic style with the body and the sleeves worked in the round from the bottom up. The pieces are united at the underarm with a patterned yoke worked upward from there. It seemed to fly by! I have only  the yoke and neckline left to knit. 

Skydottir

Skydottir tensionI wanted to focus on tension with this project and, I must say, I’ve learned a lot. I’ve never been entirely satisfied with the tension on my previous stranded projects, so I thought I’d experiment with using longer floats. Carrying the left-hand yarn behind every stitch as I had been was producing a dimpled effect on the front of the fabric; catching the carried strand only every three stitches or so has just about solved the problem.

Beach House PulloverYou may recall the pile of orange tweed-ish yarn-without-a-project I had kicking around? Its first incarnation was as an ill-fated throw for the living room. It was frogged and then reared its (somewhat ugly) head as a top-down sweater with a stranded yoke. Frogged once more, it can currently be seen as the opening volley in the Beach House Pullover. Despite the sorry yarn (which has more lives than Mrs. O’Leary’s cat), I’m loving this all-over cable pattern and the deep, deep ribbing. I’m in a bit of a pickle, though. I think I may be a little short of the (unfortunate) yarn. I figure I might just make it if I knit the sleeves plain, cabling only the saddle portion at the crown. I’m in trouble otherwise. This yarn is discontinued (“Pois” by Adriafil) and I haven’t been able to scare up any more.

The Dreaded Noro

Convertible MittensAnd speaking of unfortunate yarn…the dreaded Noro Taiyo. Ugh. A dear friend saw my photo of the first pair of convertible mittens I’d made and wanted a pair exactly the same. I couldn’t bring myself to say no but should have had the presence of mind to suggest another yarn. Every time I pick them up, the working yarn virtually shatters in my hands. Terrible yarn. Just. Terrible.

More Socks!

More socks! Yes, indeed-y! Now that I’ve discovered the two-at-a-time thing, I feel pretty confident about jiffy-ing these out. Clearly, I’ll be knitting two-at-a-time in two different yarns on the next go-round.

CYC Swatches

Then there are the swatches for my CYC Instructor’s Course. They are, naturally, a little boring to knit but sometimes it’s fun and interesting to re-visit the fundamental skills we all take for granted. Keeps one from falling into bad habits ;)

And finally, the Big “T”, Timberline. Here it sits, all blocked and ready to be sewn! Perhaps I’ll have a finished object to show next post?

Timberline

 

 

Twice as Nice

Tags

, , , , , , , , ,

Twin Sheep by Momshoo on Etsy

Eureka! The cure! In the past, I’ve attempted to cure my “Second Sock Syndrome” by a variety of means up to and including allowing a year to pass before finishing the second one. Only modestly more successful was my last method of knitting two pair at a time alternating the style and yarn. Lately, I’ve been reading quite a lot about knitting two socks at the same time and, I must confess, I thought it was a bit of a cheat…until now.

Sock DetailThough I don’t always write about it, I try each weekend, when I tend to have large blocks of knitting time, to experiment with a particular yarn, project or technique. This past weekend, I decided to put my head around two socks simultaneously on two circular needles, a bit of a stretch because I tend to be a traditionalist when it comes to socks. Since I have no fewer than three sock projects going, two sample pair for the shop and one pair in Misti Alpaca Hand Painted Sock yarn promised to dear Hubby, I really needed to speed the process up. 

I’ve been knitting on two circulars quite a bit lately so the mechanics were not a problem. I found a couple of video tutes online to help deal with the cast-on; the best of the dubious bunch was Liat’s Limitless Cast-On which focuses on the magic loop method. Since I favor a tubular cast-on for socks, I wound up casting on with dp’s, then knitting the stitches over to circulars once the tubular cast-on was complete. 

Two Socks at a Time

I must say, my experiment has been a huge success! I worried at first that the time I spent fiddling with the position of the needles and yarn would offset any gains I’d made but not so. I found myself cruising along at speed in no time. I can see myself using this method for knitting sleeves in the round as well. A big bonus to knitting two of anything at a time is that both items are exactly alike :)

Tubular Cast-OnFor anyone who’s interested, here is my method for working a Tubular Cast-On in the round. I use it for socks, cuffs, hats and more. I’m sure I did not invent it, but it’s an easy method to learn and to memorize. Happy Monday!

Mother Nature’s Last Blast?

Tags

, , , , , , , ,

Pussy Willow Wreath

I certainly hope it is Her last blast because I am heartily sick of talking about the weather. As a gesture of optimism (or perhaps defiance) I shall spend the afternoon making a pussy willow wreath for the Church door. I have blank willow wreath and some (artificial) pussy willow sprays. I think I’ll keep it fairly loose as I’d like to add some delicately tinted eggs and little bird’s nests as Easter draws nearer. Won’t pussy willows look pretty on my door surrounded by the 12″ of snow we’re supposed to get this afternoon? :|

Natchez Trace ParkwayIt’s lucky I got home when I did. I was fortunate to have bare and dry roads the whole way back and a little sunshine to boot! Back in the late ’90′s when I was driving back and forth between Toronto and New Orleans quite a bit, I discovered a beautiful road; the Natchez Trace Parkway runs between Nashville, TN and Natchez, MS and represents the footpaths taken by our ancestors on their way to the mighty Mississippi. A National Park Service road, the Trace is closed to commercial traffic which means NO TRUCKS. (Any one who regularly drives the 400 series highways in Ontario or the Interstate roads in the US understands what a true blessing this is!)

I drove the Trace from Jackson, MS right through to Nashville last Thursday on my way home with a brief stop in Tupelo, about half way along. I can’t gush enough about the glorious scenery and breathtaking views along this road. The speed limit is slower than the Interstate, yet the road cuts about 100 miles off the trip, saves fuel and is virtually stress-free. I saw wildlife too! Deer, wild turkeys, armadillos and possums were plentiful; I even spied some Canada Geese flying home early (against my advice;)

Though I had a great time with friends and visiting old stomping grounds, I’m happy to be home. I’ll take advantage of this snow day by taking stock of my WIP’s…there are many!

Krewe of WooHoo!

The Home Stretch

Tags

, , , , ,

Mask by Gabriel Q

We are in the final, exhausting stretch toward the big day. The New Orleans Mask Market has been a great experience and a feast for the eyes. There are so many clever people gathered here displaying their shiniest and sparkliest, I’m tempted to take up mask making. Miss Laura shared her booth with the extraordinary Gabriel Q who makes masks using traditional Venetian papier-mache methods. 

As magical as it’s been, I’ll be happy to be back in my cozy home with my knitting in my lap and my doggie at my feet :)

Lets Play Dress-Up!

Tags

, , , , , , , , , ,

Mardi Gras Wreath

With only one week to go until Mardi Gras, all of New Orleans is in a gold lame, bejeweled and sequined tizzy. Everyone is out in a frenzied search for those last minute costume bits, gloves, wigs and, of course, more jewels…always, more jewels.

Even our canine friends got into the act at the annual Barkus parade, despite a day of gully-washing rain. 

Here at Royal Rags HQ, we are in the final throes of preparing for the 31st annual New Orleans Mask Market where Miss Laura’s glamorous full-circle cloaks will be for sale alongside Gabriel Q’s fantastical human-sculpture creations.

Miss Laura's DressIt has been a great honor to sew and fit Miss Laura’s own gown; and though I cannot divulge a photo, I can say that it is wrought of emerald green sparkle lame with touches of leopard and black and gold foil coin-dotted chiffon. Think fierce feline cupcake set loose in King Arthur’s court.

My own costume (though not nearly so grand) is coming along after several revisions. It is turquoise chiffon with a zebra glitter pattern. I hope I shall be dazzling.

We’ve made our chapeaux.

IMG_3752 IMG_3754

And today, I will take on these giant 8′ bat wings.

Bat Wings

Glory be.

Mardi Gras Mask

New Orleans or Bust!

Tags

, , , , , ,

Big Parade

Wind, sleet, snow, pouring rain and every conceivable type of precipitation made for a drive that was…shall we say, unpleasant? For hundreds of miles, Mother Nature let me have it! But, I made it, all in one piece, and just in time for the big parade.

Krewe du Vieux Parade

Believe it or not, I know these people!

I spent Sunday catching up with friends and today will dive into the miles of sparkly, vibrant, smooshy fabrics that Miss Laura has chosen for her famous Mardi Gras capes. It’s a great treat for me; I love to sew but I am rather conservative and, let’s face it, there’s not a lot of call for iridescent, bejeweled chiffon in Prince Edward County!

Janis's King Cake Cheesecake

Here is a little slice of heaven…King Cake Cheesecake concocted by Janis Rogers of Buffa’s Bar & Restaurant. Janis is a good friend who creates magnificent cheesecakes for every occasion. If you’ve never experienced Mardi Gras, you’ve probably never had traditional King Cake. Usually a risen dough filled with a cream cheese mixture or jam or marzipan and finished with a sprinkling of colored sugar, King Cake is a yearly staple.  It is eaten every day between the Epiphany (or “Twelfth Night”) and Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) which marks the last day before the start of the Lenten period. Almost every bar and restaurant has a King Cake on the counter; it takes on the most marvelous incarnations. Whatever the filling, King Cake has a surprise inside, a tiny, golden baby doll, or “Frozen Charlotte” as they’re traditionally called. If your slice of cake contains the baby, you are responsible for providing the cake the next day.

Here’s an inspired version! The King Cake Burger! If I get out of here without gaining 20 pounds it will be a miracle!

King Cake Burger

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 76 other followers