Other Crafts

And now for something completely different

Longtime readers of this blog may have noticed my crafty endeavours of choice: I bake.  I sew.  And I cross-stitch like it’s the only thing keeping me alive (or if not actually doing it, thinking about it and wishing I were).

But turning yarn into something wearable and/or snuggly has always eluded me.  I can knit scarves, provided they only use garter stitch, and years and years ago I had been taught by my grandmother to turn out rows of single crochet, but that had been long since forgotten.  It was too bad, too, because I have always liked the look of granny squares and wished I could make them.

When a newsletter from the local humane society came out asking for volunteers to make blankets to send home with new adoptees, I decided it was time to bring out the big guns, er, hooks, and learn once and for all how to granny-square.  It took a few different sets of instructions to finally click for me, but for the past few months, I’ve been turning out squares on a fairly regular basis.  It has absolutely gotten easier the more I’ve practiced, and it makes such an excellent and productive television-watching activity: it takes much less concentration than any kind of cross-stitch, and it’s a lot easier to undo a stitch or two if I slip up.

After a few months, fully confident in my double-crochet-and-chain skills, I decided it was time to try something a little more challenging.  I found an easy tutorial on Craftster, and now I feel like I’ve created an exciting new variation on that old playground greeting:

“Guess what?”  “Cat butt!”


(You can see the originals here: http://www.craftster.org/forum/index.php?topic=440074.0)  (This pattern is not my creation – I’m not good enough to attempt something like that!)

Mine’s definitely not perfect – kitty looks as though she’s got a little bit of a dislocated hip or two – but I think this was due to not being able to keep track of where my rounds started and ended.  Still, for my first non-square attempt, I’m pretty pleased!

And yes, there will be pictures of blankets forthcoming.

Cross-stitch and Embroidery

Summertime and the living is easy

Sorry for the clickbait: this isn’t a summery post per se, but bear with me, because there is a connection.

But first, a brief discourse on why you ought to Support Your Local Sheriff Gunfighter Stitching Shop.

A few years ago, I was out Christmas shopping with my dad, and we stopped into my favourite stitch shop for a quick purchase.  Naturally, I couldn’t leave without browsing at least a little bit, and that was when I saw The Kit.  It was a gorgeous picture of a calico cat resting on a piano and surrounded by oodles of music paraphernalia.  (I’ve always had a soft spot for calicos.)

“Oooh,” I breathed, picking it up to examine it more closely.  “Look at it, it….oh, wait, it’s not cross-stitch; it’s needlepoint.  Rats.”

“You’ve been stitching for a long time.  So what if this is a slightly different technique?  I’m sure you’d be able to figure it out.”

I squinted at the cover picture.  “Well, it does kind of look like half cross-stitch.  [Note: It’s actually called Continental Stitch.]  But I’ll leave it for today.  I’m not here to shop for myself.”  I set it back, planning to return sometime after the holidays.

My dad, in a rare moment of Acute Human Observation, promptly sent my mom to the shop the following week to buy it for me for Christmas.  She’s not a stitcher, but he gave her a description of the picture, and where in the store to find it.  She managed to locate the kit, and in the course of paying for it, struck up a conversation with the shop owner who quickly figured out who she was, and who the kit was for.  And actually tried to stop her.

“This is needlepoint.  The Witty Child doesn’t do needlepoint; she cross-stitches.”

My mom had to explain that all involved parties were aware of the technique used, and that I’d be willing and able to cut my teeth on something new.  And she left with the kit, which I unwrapped a week or so later.

But can you believe that?  The small business owner would rather have lost a sale than saddle a customer with an unsuitable item.  Does Michael’s, or Wal-Mart, or the discount crafty website do that, or offer that level of personalized service?  Support Your Local Stitching Shop!  I can’t stress that enough.

The kit (called “Gershwin”…and there’s your connection!) took me a few years of needling away at it.  I rarely stitch for myself, so my progress was forever being interrupted by birthday cards, birth announcements, Christmas ornaments…

I managed to finish it a couple of months back, and of course I had to return to my local shop to have it framed:


Didn’t she do a fantastic job?!  There’s no way I could have framed it half as nicely.  The framing complements the picture without detracting from it, and makes it look like a painting from a distance.

Support Your Local Stitching Shop.

baking, Cross-stitch and Embroidery, Other Crafts

Pink cake and orange cat

Hello there!

My mom had her birthday at the end of January, but due to work scheduling, I wound up having to make her cake the weekend before.  I saw the basic idea in an old issue of Woman’s World, which is a magazine that I would generally never, ever buy – except that this issue had featured adorable Hello Kitty cupcakes on the front cover, and I had been unable to resist it.  They also had a layer-cake version of the cupcakes inside, but their recipe used something like four egg whites in the batter and another two in the icing, with no mention of what to do with the yolks, so I quickly dispensed with that idea and instead used my trusty vanilla cupcake recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World as well as the fluffy buttercream icing from the same.  I also thought I might leave the kawaii characters off the cake, and maybe give it a more mature vibe.  Because nothing says “mature” like pink cake, right?

Ombre Cake 1

I, of course, did not think to get a picture of it while it was intact and free from candle holes.

Ombre Cake 2

Holy ombre, Batman!  I used varying ratios of gel food colours to get the different shades, and they worked like a charm.

Ombre Cake 3

That’s a chocolate-cream cheese filling between layers.  Since the cake itself is just vanilla and not overly sweet, it provided a nice balance and helped keep it moist for the next few days until we could get it all eaten.

She had to wait a couple more days to get the rest of her birthday goodies.  I always try to make a handmade card of some sort:

Surprised Hedgehog

And when I first saw this design on Urban Threads, I knew it had to be made into a t-shirt:

Meow Shirt

I did him in orange to look like her big ol’ furbaby.  He’s painted on – not embroidered – and I think the blue really makes him pop!

Thanks for looking – have a wonderful weekend!

Cross-stitch and Embroidery

Like, you know, whatever.

Summer of 4-2-1

If you read this blog regularly (thank you!), you might have surmised that I’m a bit of a grammar geek.  (Grammar tea towel, anyone?)  That geekery extends to language of all stripes, and almost annoying and [sic]-making as bad grammar is lazy speech.  Cami.  Mani-pedi.  *shudder* Appies.  Quit being so lazy!  You’re not limited to 140 characters when you speak, so snap out of it!

But by far, the one that sets my teeth on edge the most?  “Whatever.”  I freely admit that there are entirely appropriate moments to use it, for example: “Want to hang out tonight?  We can watch TV, or play a game, or whatever.”  That’s fine; it suggests flexibility and openness.  But ah, using it as a substitute for wit or accurate information?  Language FAIL!  “Actually, Jimmy, it was Neil Young who was in Buffalo Springfield, and not Neil Diamond.”  “Whatever.”  Um, no, Jimmy.  Big difference.

I suppose I could handle this if my mother didn’t use it constantly, as an all-purpose answer or conversation-ender.  But she does, and she uses its red-headed stepchild “Whatevie”, too.  She is my mother, and I love her, and this is what prevents me from grabbing the nearest crowbar (full disclosure: I don’t have one, so it’s not really a threat) and going postal.  And when I saw this design from Heritage Crafts, I knew I had to stitch it for her.


It’s called “Whateva”, as you may well imagine, and as an added bonus, the cat in the picture kind of looks like hers, albeit with a far worse attitude.  After busting my hump trying to find an appropriately coloured squarish frame for it, I opted for pragmatism and snapped up this bright blue hoop from my local stitching shop.  It’s not exactly an heirloom piece, so, you know…whatever.

General Sewing

The fastest cat alive!

Gather ’round children…there’s a story behind today’s creation.  (Isn’t there always?)

My cat has lightning-fast reflexes, and moves like a greased pig – particularly when checkup-time rolls around and she knows a car ride is imminent.  She honestly seems to sense when this is about to happen, which means that occasionally I have to tackle her like I’m trying out for JV football in order to get her in her carrier and get her to the vet’s office on time.  A couple of years ago, she had to stay overnight for observation, which compounded the tackle-and-ride trauma with apparent abandonment.  I had stopped by to visit her after work, and she was so mad she wouldn’t even look at me.  I felt like the worst parent ever as I poked my fingers through the cage bars in vain and, as there were other people around, tried not to cry over my new title.

And then I saw the sign.

Written hastily in red Sharpie, and taped over her medical information on the front of her cage, it proclaimed, “I’m fast!”

My first thought was one of smug validation: it wasn’t that my reflexes were slow.  My own rather unscientific observation had now been corroborated by a veterinary professional.  See?  She is fast, and the traumatizing tackle was necessary.  And then it hit me:

The cat had tried to do a runner.

And suddenly I felt the way I imagine parents of two-legged children feel upon receiving notice that their child has just displayed some sort of ungracious or otherwise unpleasant behaviour – like, say, getting stuck in the mud while the class was planting trees for Earth Day, and then refusing to hand her shovel over to the teacher so that he might dig her out, because she was under strict orders not to let anyone else use it.  (True story.)

Fast-forward a couple of years: kitty is happy and healthy, but since her annual checkup is getting close, I thought she could use a little jacket to ward off the autumn chill as she’s being shuttled from Point A to Point B.


I used McCall’s 5776, and modified View C to suit my needs.  The instructions called for fringing the edges which didn’t seem very aerodynamic and Flash-like to me, so I lopped off some of the extra fabric and finished with a narrow hem instead.  The Flash logo was cut from felt and sewn on by hand, and Velcro at the throat and under the belly keep things in place.

(She’s not quite as enamoured with it as she appears in the photo.  She doesn’t hate it, exactly, but whenever I try it on her, she does a little kitty moonwalk to try and get out of it.)


Any time is a good time for cupcakes…

Last week, I decided that I hadn’t baked cupcakes in a while, and it was high time to change that.  And just in case I needed a reason, it was my cat’s birthday – according to the official Humane Society paperwork, which may or may not be all that accurate.

In any case, I brought out my trusty chocolate cake recipe from VCTOTW, and gave then a kitty-centric decorating job, since I had some fondant left over from my dad’s birthday cake.  As one of my professional-baker friends noted, fondant lasts practically forever, and with a little kneading is good as new.  Suddenly, buying a whole box of the stuff for a few little cutouts doesn’t sting so much.


That’s blue raspberry frosting, by the way.  I can’t resist anything blue raspberry.  And, as my mother noticed, if you turn the cupcake 90° to the left (or your head 90° to the right), the cat turns into a bunny of sorts, like one of those bizarre optical illusions.


The birthday girl was mildly intrigued, until she determined they were non-fishy in nature.  “Thanks a lot, Ma.”

baking, Cross-stitch and Embroidery

Take me right back to the track, Jack!

Where does the time go?  One day, I was stitching up Christmas ornaments, and now, poof!  Finals, summer birthdays, that feeling of irritation that occurs when you upgrade your operating system only to find out that none of your (admittedly embarrassingly rudimentary) Windows XP software will run on Windows 8.1….

But I digress.

My dad celebrated a birthday a few weeks back, and in keeping with my Birthday Cake Rule*, I knew I had to come up with something good.  I had seen this cake on the Brown Eyed Baker some time ago and had been wanting to try it for a while.  Here’s my take:



Since my dad is just a wee bit (ha!) older than the BEB’s birthday boy, I passed on the rainbow cake in favour of something just a little more adult.


This is my modification of the basic chocolate cupcake recipe from…wait for it…Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World.  It’s rich and moist without being too sweet, nice and light, and goes down easy.  Absolutely worth skipping a half-day of classes to make!

I also took a break from needling away at the rather large needlepoint project that’s been occupying my leisure time to stitch him a card.  I saw the pattern in an issue of The World of Cross Stitching, and he rather reminded me of my parents’ cat.


*The Birthday Cake Rule, for the uninitiated: If you really love someone, you’ll make them a birthday cake, or pie, or cookies, or other dessert of choice, from scratch.  None of this store-bakery sheet-cake stuff.