Yes, that’s a bad pun, if it even qualifies as one.  (I’m sure dads the world over are shaking their heads and taking an extra step away from me: “We’d never make a joke that bad.”)

This is just a short one, because I have no real backstory for this, but: just in time for Halloween, I managed to complete “Cat in the Moon” by Handblessings.

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This stitched up fairly quickly thanks to the negative space for the moon and the half-cross stitch.  I debated leaving the witch charm off because its shiny silver-like finish detracted (in my opinion) from the cat and everything else.  In the end, I painted on a thin coat of black enamel paint: light enough that you can still see the relief on the charm, but dark enough to almost “match”.  It’s just a shade larger than 4″ square, and makes an excellent addition to my minimalist Halloween décor.

Thanks for looking – I hope everyone’s having a happy Halloween! 🙂

Where my witches at?!

September 30, 2018

I’ll skip the whole “Ooh, Halloween!” preamble, because anyone who’s been reading this for a while knows how I feel about it (and if you don’t, check the Halloween tag).  Spoiler alert: I love it!  Obviously, joining the 2018 iteration of the Vintage Halloween Swap on Craftster was a no-brainer.  My partner has received her package, so I figured it was safe to post this now.

My partner’s era of choice was the 1920s-1930s, and “witches” was among her favourite themes.  This might have pushed me just a wee bit outside my comfort zone – my Halloween aesthetic runs toward “cute” and “cats”, and is just a bit more modern – but one of the fun aspects of swaps is trying something you might not ordinarily try.  An Etsy search for “1930s Halloween” yielded, among other things, a high-quality jpeg version of this image:

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(This, of course, is a low-quality image courtesy of a Google search.)

She was Art Deco-y and fun, and I decided to interpret her in embroidery.  Using my lightbox, I traced the basic outline in pencil before going over those lines with a transfer pen.  Once the design was transferred to my fabric, I colour-tinted the image before starting the actual embroidery.

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Naturally, I didn’t think to take a picture after transferring and before tinting.  This will be a recurring theme.

After setting the crayon, I used a simple backstitch to define most of the image – I had tried stem stitch, because I think it permits more gentle curvature, but it was proving to be too bulky and weird.  I used a bit of satin stitch on the witch’s eyes and mouth, an some French knots to create the polka-dot pattern on her sleeve.

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Her hands in the original image reminded me of a Barbie doll’s steel-fork fingers, so I attempted to humanize her a little bit.  Her overall look reminded me of something, too, but I couldn’t figure out what for the longest time, until it hit me: she’s a tad Claudette Colbert-ish,  I think.  Same era, same shot-from-the-left, same well-defined lips…

That’s a regular wood/bamboo embroidery hoop she’s framed in (5″), painted black to really make the colours pop.

When I had gone to Michael’s to pick up the fabric, floss, and hoop for her, I saw a display of unfinished wooden light-up decorations, and lo, they had a witch one.

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It did not occur to me to take a “before” picture until after I had started applying yellow paint – I told you that was a recurring issue.

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Even after one coat of craft acrylic, she looked pretty good, but this picture definitely showed me the need for a second coat – and that I had to paint the edges black as well.

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This picture doesn’t really do it justice – lit up in a dark room, it positively glows.

Consider Halloween crafting season to be officially underway – thanks for looking! 🙂

I feel like I’ve gotten away from baking cupcakes lately.  Maybe because it’s all been done?  I don’t tend to get too crazy trying new flavours or techniques, and there are only so many ways to blog about chocolate (“No!!”) or vanilla (“Really?!”) cupcakes.  It’s a bit like watching someone’s really terrible vacation slideshow.

Whatever my reason, conscious or unconscious, I decided to make some mummy cupcakes for Halloween.  And this time I did exactly what I didn’t want to do the last time I made them: I broke down and bought candy eyeballs by Wilton.  In my defense, I saw no less a baking authority than Anna Olson use them.  I can’t explain why, but I tend to trust her far more than I do most of those soi-disant “experts” on the Food Network – she actually seems to know what she’s doing.  If these little shaped sprinkles (as the package describes them) were good enough for her, well, they’d be more than adequate for my purposes.

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Adorable, right?  My frosting process was thus: fitted with a basketweave tip, I first piped a strip across the cupcake to secure the eyes, and then added my bandages in what I hoped was a random pattern.  I didn’t want to paint on a bloody-looking mouth this time, so I left negative space instead to let my dark-chocolate cake show through.  Did you know that it’s really, really hard to randomly generate the mouth shape you’re hoping for?  After the first couple, I started outlining the mouth before adding my bandages – only to discover that my cupcakes looked like they were wearing blackface.  Ugh!  Some of them look truly horrified at that unhappy coincidence; luckily the end product turned out completely inoffensive.

All was well until I stored the uneaten cupcakes in the fridge to be consumed the next day: when I pulled them out, some of them had arbitrarily dilated pupils – usually just one, but not every single mummy had that problem.  I assumed that somewhere in the room temperature-to-refrigerated-to-room temperature cycle, condensation had formed and dripped on some eyes.  They were kind of ugly, but still tasted fine.

A few days later, I made a batch of vanilla funfetti cupcakes for a friend’s birthday, and was able to use more of my candy eyes to Minion-ize them.

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(You’re not losing your mind; those are two different sizes of eyeballs.)

These guys made me smile so much, and I was determined to keep them looking good, so I kept them well away from the fridge.  But lo, by the next morning, some of my Minions were afflicted with the same ocular disorder that had plagued my mummies.

(I am so, so glad that I decorated these the day of his little birthday soirée, and that only the leftovers got bug-eyed.)

Having seen this happen with no significant temperature change, I can only guess that it’s not a condensation/temperature issue; rather, once the icing softens the eyes a bit, the pupils bleed.

Has anybody else had this problem with the Wilton eyes?  Or is there some trick to keeping the eyes looking (ha!) the way they should, short of using them immediately before serving?  At $4 a pack, I don’t think it’s worth fighting over, but I’m going to have to think long and hard before buying them again.

Oh, well.  Thanks for – ha, ha – looking. 🙂

We’ve established by now that I love Halloween, right?  Okay, good.  And cats?  And cross-stitch?  And most things retro?  Then you may be able to guess how excited I am about this finish!

I bought this pattern from Sastuma Street’s Etsy shop last year (at the same time I bought “Sorry We’re Dead“), but didn’t have time to stitch it before last Halloween.  That became my goal for this year!

My take on “Halloween Cat” (although there are in fact three of them in the picture) varies slightly from the pattern instructions.  The model was stitched on 32-count fabric over two threads; I used 28 count.  The model piece’s fabric is periwinkle, but I opted for this gorgeous hand-dyed “African Violet” I found at my local needlework shop – which, in spots, is a perfect match to DMC 554.  Oh, and rather than use the recommended DMC 3819 for the cat’s and kittens’ eyes, I seized the opportunity to use neon green from the same package I got the colours I used for “Sorry We’re Dead” last year.

Finished, and ready for washing:

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In its shadow box:

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A gratuitous back shot, just because:

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I thought it would be fun to take progress shots and set them to music.  I’m weird that way.  Enjoy!

It’s now framed and on display in the living room…at least for a few more hours.  Oh, and see what I mean about the fabric matching the thread?

Purple Match

As always, thanks for looking – and Happy Halloween!

I started my Halloween crafting early this year (as in, August).  While browsing Craftster one day, I saw sign-ups for a Vintage Halloween Swap and promptly submitted my information.  (It’s so much easier to rush the season if you’ve got a whole gang of Halloween-crazed crafters with you.  In fact, I’d argue this was hardly rushing it at all, considering some grocery stores are selling eggnog.  Yes, the Christmas beverage.)

My partner indicated she didn’t have a specific era of vintage in mind – which made my job simultaneously easier and more difficult – but mentioned that she was setting up a Halloween tree in her house this year and would like something to hang on it.

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I found the patterns for these guys on Etsy.  The set also included a cat and a piece of candy corn (neither of which were included in my partner’s preferred motifs).  Their original size was approximately 2 1/2 – 3″ at the widest point; I scanned each pattern piece at 150% to get a slightly more substantial finished product.  It’s really hard to see all the details in the photo, but trust me when I say:

  • the jack o’lantern’s features and the bat’s eyes are sparkly
  • the bat’s wing veins and blanket stitching are metallic purple (the better to glint off the Halloween tree lights, if there are any)
  • the ghost’s blanket stitching plus the bat’s fangs might look benign, but in fact glow in the dark.  I did not get a shot of them glowing, sorry.

The pompom garland was a happy eleventh-hour addition.  I was cruising the store for some little extras to tuck into her package when I happened upon bags of Halloween-themed pompoms, and couldn’t resist them.

They made a cute Halloween tree starter-set, but I was concerned that nothing had a truly vintage feel, which is why I started browsing Pinterest for vintage embroidery patterns.

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Because doesn’t everyone need a hand-embroidered tea towel?  I kept this pretty simple, with backstitch for pretty much everything except a little satin stitch to give the carving a warm, glow-y feeling.

It was a spook-tacular (sorry!) start to the Halloween season; stay tuned for more.

Thanks for looking! 🙂

…or maybe just sleeping.

October 5, 2016

It’s October, and you know what that means!  Pumpkin spice season?  No!  Well, yes, but…  Anyone who’s been reading this blog for a while knows that I love (love!) Halloween.  I don’t think a more perfect holiday exists.  Need reasons to love it?

  • No matter how old you are, you get to dress up in an awesome costume, without judgement or being deemed “eccentric”
  • It’s kind of all about the candy.  And not that gritty, aimed-at-kids stuff that populates the shelves around Easter!  No, you get miniature versions of your favourite chocolate bars, plus lots of spooky, seasonal goodies.
  • There’s no pressure to spend face time with weird relatives, or buy gifts for everyone, or fill your calendar to capacity with boring dinners and pageants.
  • There is no better excuse to rewatch It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown! or any of the umpteen Treehouse of Horror episodes (with I through VI being preferred).

Yep, I love Halloween.  Know what I’m less fond of?

Stitching on black aida.

But I made an exception (had to, really) when I saw the “Sorry We’re Dead” design on Satsuma Street’s Etsy shop.

 

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Honestly?  Stitching on dark fabric isn’t quite as wretched as I remember it being.  A bit challenging, sure, but no way would this have looked 1/10 as good on white.

Me being me, I couldn’t be bothered with following the instructions to a T; I left off a skull and some arrows along the bottom of the design (partly as a time-saver, and partly because skulls just aren’t my thing).  I also chose to ignore the colour key, and instead substituted in my own choices: the orange and pale yellow (chartreuse?) are from a super-cheap package of Day-Glo polyester threads I bought at Michaels and which heretofore had only been used in friendship bracelets.  The white “We’re” and the stars are done in DMC E940, which looks like regular white floss but which glows in the dark.  It’s a shame no one will get to appreciate it, as the finished product is currently hanging in my cubicle at work.

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Look at that back!  This is probably a more accurate representation of the colours.

Thanks for looking!

P.S. I have some limited-edition kitchen towels up on my Etsy shop…once they’re gone, they’re gone!

I want my mummy!

October 27, 2013

I’ll keep this short, because who wants to read about cupcakes when they could be assembling last-minute Halloween costumes?  (Speaking of which: according to WordPress stats, people are finding this blog by searching “Dolores Haze costume”.  This makes my day in ways you cannot imagine.  I wish I didn’t already have a costume lined up myself; there are at least a couple of people who would appreciate the reference.)

But…following my last rant about overpriced festive bake kits at Target, I saw an equally overpriced kit at Chapters to make mummy cupcakes.  The kit made 12, and it cost $10.50.  And, okay, yes it came with candy eyes, but how important are those to the overall integrity of the finished product?  And do they really taste like much?  So I broke out my trusty chocolate cupcake recipe as well as that for buttercream icing, and made my own, no doubt tastier, version.

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I used a basketweave tip (Wilton #47, I think) to pipe on the bandages.  That was tricky!  I’m a big fan of symmetry and pattern, and to try to maintain a random order of bandage direction?  Killer!  The eyes are mini chocolate chips, and the mouth is red gel food colouring applied with a toothpick (my parents’ idea; before they suggested it, my mummies had a bit of a Hello Kitty vibe and no mouth to speak – ha! – of).

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(Yes, that’s my mummy holding my mummies.)

Have a safe and happy Halloween, everyone!

Ahhh….I love Halloween.  I might have mentioned that before, but it bears repeating.  This is an entire day where you’re expected to wear a costume and eat candy.  If television would air Technicolor-filmed musicals all day instead of horror flicks, it just might be the perfect day.  And I don’t let being an adult (ha!) with a career (ha!  ha!) stop me – I’m shameless, and will show up to work in costume even if I’m the only one in the whole office who’s dressed up.

While browsing the Halloween department at Target recently, I was a little disappointed.  Sure, Tar-zhay had some different costumes than WalMart (for which I have yet to come up with an adorable, French-sounding pronunciation), but their candy selection was rather mundane.  Same old, same old – and nary an Eat-More in sight.  (These are a precious, precious commodity, and I would trade my strictly hypothetical firstborn for a bag of the minis.)

Ah, but they did have some different food preparation products – juice blends with ghoulish names, a set of four different sprinkles in test tubes, some cake mixes.  One that caught my eye made an orange-and-black marble cake with purplish icing.  Cute.  The price?  $7.99.  Eight bucks for something I could do myself?  No way was I paying that kind of money!  So I came up with this:

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This is the basic marble recipe from…well, you know.  I used gel food colouring to get the batters just the right shades, and then proceeded to fill and swirl as usual.

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With purple icing!  Clearly, my marbling skills need work; this one looks mostly orange.

Now the only hurdle to clear is whether my test audience finds black cake appetizing or not.  Come on, it’s chocolate….

While most crafty/cook-y bloggers are no doubt posting homemade cornucopia centrepieces or locavore turkey and stuffing recipes this weekend, I decided to bypass Thanksgiving entirely in favour of Halloween, which is frankly far more fun.

From the instant I first saw the recipe for Black Cat Cookies in Hannah Kaminsky’s Vegan Desserts, I knew I had to make them.  Because…OMG…cats and cookies?  That’s pretty much a whole-package dessert right there.  And yeah, I realize it’s just a jazzed-up chocolate cookie, but I loved the inclusion of black cocoa powder to get that deep colour.

I vant to suck your blood...

I probably should have used a metal cookie cutter instead of a plastic one with little details etched right in, since I found the dough just a tad sticky and difficult to use with the cutter I chose (my fault – I added more liquid than the recipe called for when my dough wasn’t coming together as nicely as I had hoped).  But any headache I may have had while rolling and cutting paid off later when I didn’t have to frost-in any features.

Okay, so they’re not quite black, but a deep brown.  But I found a no-frosting-necessary way to make them look darker:

Flip the background fabric around!  Score one for innovation!

Happy Thanksgiving!

When I first found this pattern, I was abruptly reminded of driving to the grocery store with my mother, my cousin and I sitting in the backseat, singing along with the golden oldies on the radio.  When the Eagles came on, my cousin went right on singing, labouring under the delusion that the woman they were singing about was itchy, not witchy, and then interrupted herself to wonder aloud just why she was so itchy in the first place.  (The unspoken consensus in the backseat seemed to be VD, although this is an archaic term that we didn’t actually know back then.) From the front seat, my mother pointed out that the woman was in fact witchy, not itchy, and this put rather a kibosh on our impromptu concert.

After completing “Scaredy Cats” from the Just Cross Stitch Halloween issue, I tackled “Witchy Kitty” by Brittercup Designs, and then turned it into a cute l’il pillow ornament.

I used plain old DMC threads instead of the fancy-pants overdyed ones recommended in the instructions, but I think it looks just as good.  The one thing I’m particularly proud of is using Kreinik glow-in-the-dark fine braid to do her potion; it makes the piece really pop.  I fashioned a corded hanger using the same colours I used in the design, and then….

….I backed it with some wicked cool fabric with glow-in-the-dark kitteh eyes on it before stuffing it.  I now have the better part of .3 metres of that stuff in my stash, and I’m going to have to find a project for the rest of it.

Happy Halloween!

(And now the Christmas stitching begins…!)