Other Crafts

Easter greetings that are quick like a…well, you know

I’ve gotten myself hooked up with a few different snail-mail groups over the last several years. Who doesn’t like getting a bit of mail that’s not a bill or a solicitation for money? I wanted to make a few notecards to send out in anticipation of Easter, but I’m not the single most artistic person out there (read: I can’t draw or paint).

Last year, when I was still essentially scared of playing around with the Silhouette Cameo cutting machine, I had downloaded a file of three bunnies shaped like…well, like those marshmallow candies that are everywhere at this time of year, and with the wording “Hanging With My Peeps”. My friend and I cut out a few repeats of the pattern out of heat-transfer vinyl and made tea towels. I thought about using the file again, but didn’t want to mess around with getting the lettering on straight. Mind you, the bunnies were cute on their own…

I wound up cutting out six sets of the three bunnies. When I resized the file so that they’d fit on the blank notecards I bought, I discovered they’d fit perfectly on sheets of this glittery cardstock I’ve had for probably the last 15 years. I bought it because it was sparkly and pretty, and then had no idea what to do with it. Also, that much pattern can be a bit much in one big chunk, but in smaller shapes? It works!

Once they were all cut out, I took the plunge and started shuffling them around to see how any three given patterns looked side-by-side-by-side. I have a hard time with being random, and this takes every ounce of self-uncontrol that I have in me.

Once I was satisfied with my groupings, I glued them down on my card blanks:

I elected to colour in their eyes and noses just to give them a bit of definition.

And there we have it: quick, simple Easter cards!

I did use a cutting machine for my bunnies, but I think this could be achieved with a bit of patient tracing and cutting with scissors…although if I were doing that I’d probably not bother trying to neatly cut eyes and noses. I used a plain UHU glue stick to affix them, nothing fancy. And they were a great way to use up smallish pieces of paper that might not have gotten used otherwise.

Thanks for looking! 🙂

baking

Just like Grandma used to make…

I’m not kidding, guys. The bake I’m sharing today is my grandmother’s recipe. I can’t share the actual recipe here under penalty of haunting, but here’s one that’s relatively similar. Just, you know, not as good (of course). 😉

These were the sugar cookies I remember growing up, and they’re different than most. I was…pretty old…before I realized that when most people say “sugar cookie” they mean some weird, buttery cutouts decorated to the nines with icing that’s very pretty but makes my teeth hurt to look at it. The cookies I knew used Crisco, giving them a beautiful, neutral flavour; they were sprinkled with coloured sugar before baking, giving them a pleasing crunch. They’re never too sweet, but sparkle prettily on a plate. When I was a kid, my mom used to get out her shaped cookie cutters at Christmas and enlist her helpers to sprinkle sugar in artistic and realistic designs – but when I got older, I learned they taste just as good cut out in plain circles with a little red-white-green sugar on top for colour.

With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, I got the idea to cut them out into heart shapes and use a variety of coloured sugars to try and recreate a conversation heart aesthetic. If you’ve been with me for a while, you’ll know that I’ve got a bit of a thing for conversation hearts.

And look at them, sparkling prettily!

The big cookie cutter was bigger than I realized, so I soon switched to an antique one (with a wooden handle and all!) to churn out some smaller cookies.

“But wait!” I hear you say, “What’s conversational about these?”

I did prepare a batch of bright-pink royal icing, ready to pipe all sorts of sweet and snarky sentiments, but…it wasn’t to be. I used a recipe from a pretty well-known baking blogger, and although it came together perfectly – and stiffly – in the bowl, it was a mess on the cookies. It might be OK for flooding the entire surface with icing, but not for detailed work. Would I use that recipe again?

About the only positive thing I can say, besides the fact that it dried glossy and gorgeous just like the recipe said, is that it might be handy for people who are bashful about declaring their feelings and don’t want to put themselves out there too much:

“‘Be mine’? No, that says, uh, ‘Mr. Mint’.”

So while I did not wind up with my bevy of conversation hearts, I did wind up with a really delicious batch of sugar cookies to show for it, which is a victory in my books.

Thanks for looking – Happy Valentine’s Day!

Other Crafts

I have all the tender sweetness of a seasick crocodile

Other subject lines that were considered for this post:

"I've got garlic in my soul."
Rejected because: As an individual of Ukrainian descent, of course I have garlic in my soul.  Heart, soul, genes - you name it, it's there.  If I still ate meat, I'd probably be working my way through a coil of kubasa from Tenderloin Meats as I type this.

"I wouldn't touch you with a thirty-nine-and-a-half-foot pole."
Rejected because: In these fourth-wave days of aerosolized droplets, this actually sounds like sound public-health advice.  Thirty-nine-and-a-half-foot poles: when two metres just isn't enough.

Back when Craftster still roamed the interwebs, one of the members posted a picture of this same scarf she had made for herself, along with a bit of a rant how, as soon as she posted it on social media, everybody and his brother dogpiled on her: “Can you make me one? I neeeeeed it!” Several duplicates later, she was sick of the yarn colours and didn’t want to see the darned thing again, when all she had originally wanted was something cute to wear to a holiday party.

My crochet skills at the time were pretty rudimentary and I wouldn’t have dared attempt this for myself back then, but I’ve gained a bit of confidence and really wanted to try it this year. I didn’t include it as a Craftmas post because a) this was for myself, and not a gift, and b) I didn’t have it finished by the 25th. But who cares? It’s still warm and cute!

It’s folded in half in the picture above – the bottom half (not seen) is solid red, and altogether it measures 138 cm in length. I didn’t take a lot of in-progress shots because it worked up fairly quickly and there wasn’t a lot to be said. It’s done in Corner-to-Corner (C2C) crochet, which means that instead of working in either horizontal or vertical rows (depending on your perspective), you work it on the diagonal.

Like this:

See how that one side is much longer than the other? There are lots of great tutorials for it online, so I won’t attempt to elaborate further except to say that if I can do it, anyone can. The way you work “squares” of stitches at 90-degree angles to one another makes for a lovely soft and squishy texture.

The eyes and nose are crocheted, too, and then sewn on, and the mouth was free-hand sewn on. I was going for his devious, plotting smirk.

(I promised my model anonymity in the form of decapitation.)

Even though Christmas is over, I’m still going to wear him until the weather warms up – hopefully he’s recognizable by the general public.

Thanks for looking – Happy New Year! 🙂

craftmas, Other Crafts

On the third day of Craftmas…

…my true love gave to me: a sparkly bauble for the tree.

It happened like this: my friend was trying to think of something he could give his immediate team at work for Christmas that wasn’t just a three-pack of Lindt chocolate or something else that had been done before. I saw a tutorial to make glitter-filled ornaments, and that pretty much settled the matter. (Are you noticing a theme in this year’s Craftmas posts yet? Hint: it’s glitter! I swear that was unintentional.)

We started out with a container of 80mm disc ornaments from our friendly neighbourhood craft store and removed the cap from the top of each…

Mike McEwen’s Beijing dreams will go unfulfilled, sadly…

…poured a bit of Polycrylic (we had to venture a bit further afield for this; the big box store next to the friendly neighbourhood craft store charged twice as much for half the amount) into each one and swirled it around to coat, before inverting the ornaments in an egg carton to drain the last few drops out…

…and then went wild with glitter! We poured some into each Polycrylic-coated ornament using a funnel, and then shook/swirled it around to coat the entire inside before emptying the excess glitter back into its container.

We didn’t stop there, though. We used the cutting machine to cut everyone’s name out of permanent adhesive vinyl, plus “2021” for the back of each one and a few snowflakes for good measure, and then set to work personalizing each one.

Of course, we had to remove the excess vinyl (“weed”) first:

I made a couple for my neighbours, but he was a machine putting together the ones for his coworkers!

We even had a bit of pop-culture fun with these:

All in all, these were a really fun project to put together. We have almost an entire can of Polycrylic left over, so I suspect there will be more sparkle in the future.

Thanks for looking – Merry Christmas! 🙂

craftmas, Cross-stitch and Embroidery

On the second day of Craftmas…

…my true love gave to me: some hoops for the wall (or the tree)!

This is indeed serendipitous timing: I downloaded the patterns for these hoops exactly one year ago (based on the “printed” date at the bottom of the pages). Someone on Lettuce Craft had stitched one of the designs, and I absolutely loved the typography. I immediately went off to download a digital copy of the magazine they were from (the November 2020 issue of Cross Stitcher, if anyone’s interested) even though I knew there was no way they were happening last year, not with 10 days to go before Christmas.

This year, however, I started early to make sure they’d be done. Although I loved the typography, I didn’t love the original colour scheme – the yellow-green looked so wishy-washy – and so I chose my own colours for a bolder, simpler look.

The holly berries were supposed to be red cross-stitches, but I had some beads on hand that worked perfectly. The gold metallic accents were my substitution, too, and worth the frustration of working with metallic thread.

I framed the finished pieces in 4″ wooden hoops that I sprayed with glitter spray paint – it’s not a solid, disco-ball kind of glitter, but adds a bit of shimmer to the plain wood. It also carried the theme of the iridescent fabric, which doesn’t show well in the above pictures. But take a gander at this progress shot:

What a beaut, huh?

My other moment of inspiration in making these: because stitching on pieces of fabric that are too small to fit in a hoop or frame properly is the worst, I cut one large piece and marked off thirds, then centered a design in each third.

My mom laid claim to two of these as soon as they were done, and the third went to a friend. No matter where they hang, though, I hope they spread some holiday cheer.

Thanks for looking! 🙂

craftmas, Other Crafts

On the first day of Craftmas…

…my true love gave to me: a card to spread greetings merry!

When my friend and I first made our foray into the world of cutting machines last year, we didn’t realize their full potential. I made a couple of Schitts Creek-themed masks using heat transfer vinyl (HTV), and we experimented with HTV on tea towels, but…how many vinyl-ed tea towels or whimsical pop culture masks does anyone really need? As such, the Silhouette sat largely untouched until I discovered that by upgrading my software to a paid (ahem!) version, I could open and cut SVG files rather than importing only PNG or Silhouette-formatted ones.

After making the haunted house box card and pumpkin banner for the Halloween Spooktacular Swap, I was feeling good about my paper-crafting abilities and scanned SVGcuts.com for something cute and Christmassy. I wasn’t disappointed.

I liked the elegance and (relative) simplicity of the Rooftops Box Card, and decided it was perfect to send to my aunt and uncle.

It creates such a neat effect with just four shades of cardstock.

A better angle to show the dimension (I used 3D foam squares to affix Santa’s sleigh):

And just for good measure, a close-up of the glittery snow I added before assembling:

There may or may not have been glitter all over everything, including my pants, by the time I was done.

I also decided to try my hand at North Pole Rudolph. This one was part of a larger set, and didn’t have an instructional video so I was left studying the product image carefully and trying to make mine look like hers. I think (?) I succeeded.

More glitter on this one, too, but what’s Christmas without at least a little bit of glitter? The designer had used a red adhesive gem for his nose, but I had mini pompoms, so that’s what I used. I hope it stays on until it arrives at its destination!

It’s a little hard to tell from the picture above, but this is a tri-fold card:

(The colours are truer in the first shot, but this proves that it can actually stand up.)

It just dawned on me that I didn’t take pictures of the back of either card, but be it known that I stamped a festive message on each one. They went out in the mail yesterday, so should be ready to spread good cheer in just a matter of days.

Thanks for looking! 🙂

Cross-stitch and Embroidery

Yo ho ho and a bottle of…milk

Just a short blast for today, because there’s haunting to do…

I love Halloween. I love cats. So cats dressed up for Halloween feels like a no-brainer, especially if I can work a Satsuma Street design into the mix.

One-Eyed Jack is one of their new Halloween ornament designs for 2021. I was too impatient to order and wait for the kit, so I purchased the PDF pattern from her Etsy shop and printed it out at home so I could start stitching right away.

And you know what they say, kids…if life gives you white perforated paper in your stash when a pattern calls for black, grab a Sharpie and make it so (or “sew”). 😉

I altered the pattern slightly to make his markings look a bit more like my parents’ cat, and I left the plumage off his hat, but definitely added all the sparkly beads and sequins as prescribed.

Because I apparently have too much time on my hands, I created (another!) stop-motion video of the process:

He was a big hit, and is currently affixed to my parents’ refrigerator door via the magic of magnets, keeping watch over any tasty treasures that might get put in there.

Thanks for looking – Happy Halloween! 🙂

Cross-stitch and Embroidery, Other Crafts

Halloween in a box

After what felt like a lifetime away from swapping (it was, gentle reader, a little more than a year), I signed up for the Halloween Spooktacular Swap on Lettucecraft at the very last possible moment to turn their five-some into a sextet. My partner described her style in her questionnaire as vintage with a touch of gothic. The original parameters of the swap were for either one medium or two small items, but we agreed that an extra crafted item would be fine, too. With these guidelines, I pulled together a perfectly vintage-y, slightly goth-y Halloween package.

The very first thing I decided on was this vintage-inspired banner.

I cut out the pieces using my Silhouette machine, “aged” the pumpkins a bit, and then glued the works together. To add a bit of dimension, I used adhesive foam squares in between the pumpkins’ layers to make them pop.

A few close-ups:

One of her favourite Halloween themes listed on her questionnaire was “Sleepy Hollow”. Etsy came through for me, and offered up the perfect little pattern designed to fit a 4″ hoop.

But what to do for an extra crafty item? Maybe something like…

…run with her love of old-school movie monsters and alter an Altoids tin into a spooky tea bag tin (individually wrapped, of course, because we all know not to eat open Halloween treats).

It would have been weird to send a package without a note or card or something, right?

The haunted house card (and the banner!) came from SVG Cuts. This was the second time I’ve put one of their box cards together, and it was deceptively simple to make.

I added in some candy (of course) and a few little Halloween-y extras just for fun, and voila – Halloween in a box.

Thanks for looking – stay spooky! 🙂

baking

What’s more portable than a peanut butter and jam sandwich?

When I asked my dad what kind of dessert he wanted for Father’s Day, he replied, “Cookies.”

Of course.

He didn’t care what kind, as long as they were cookies. That kind of carte blanche is a little overwhelming – the least he could have done is given me some ideas for flavour profiles, key ingredients, that kind of thing.

After leafing through my extensive cookbook collection, I happened upon the Peanut Butter and Jelly Cookies from The Vegan Table by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau. I had made them once, years ago, and remembered them being good. I also really liked that they weren’t just peanut-butter, but also didn’t involve chocolate. It’s been done.

The dough came together wonderfully! The one thing I did differently from the recipe was to use plain all-purpose flour rather than the pastry flour called for, and frankly, I don’t know how much of a difference it makes. These weren’t heavy or tough in any way.

One other elevation these got from the last time I made them was that I used my homemade strawberry jam to fill them. Perfect, local strawberries with no preservatives? Yum!

These ones bake at 375 degrees (and not 350 like, oh, every other cookie out there), which freaked me out a bit, but…10 minutes per batch at 375, and these looked absolutely perfect. The bottoms were browned but not overdone, and the moisture was baked out of the jam and left a dense, fruity gem in its wake.

Fun fact time! If, when you’re attempting to transfer freshly-baked jam-filled cookies from the cookie sheet to cool, you drop one of them face-down (of course) on the table, the second-worst thing you can do is try to pick up the jammy blob with your bare fingers. The worst thing you can do is then try to lick your fingers to get the hot jam off them.

Despite this hot, sticky contretemps, these turned out beautifully! They’re tiny and tender, and wouldn’t be out-of-place at a tea party. The man of the hour was suitably impressed, so this was a win for everybody.

Thanks for looking! 🙂

baking

The next best thing to the deli

About a month and a half ago, when I was finally, tentatively exploring the freedom granted by rolled-back restrictions, I found myself in Indigo looking for a gift card for Ricky’s birthday. I can’t go into a bookstore and not look around, and while I was wandering through the magazine nook I saw an issue of Pioneer Woman magazine. Because I’m a good daughter, I bought it for my mom. Because I’m not a great daughter, I wound up reading it before she got a chance. Most of her recipes feature too much meat for my liking, but there, nestled in the middle, was a triad of recipes for savoury buns including these beauties.

Be still my heart! Unlike everyone else on the planet, I didn’t drop into hardcore baking mode last spring, but these looked too good to pass up. I hadn’t worked with a yeasted dough in forever, and this seemed like as good a time as any to get back into it. And with time off work over Easter, it felt like a great time.

The first thing I did was toast my sesame seeds over low heat. It started out feeling a bit like a zen garden as I continually moved them around the pan to ensure even toasting, but became decidedly less zen as I became impatient and increased the heat approximately every 75 seconds to speed it along. Miraculously, they didn’t burn, but developed a beautiful golden slightly-less-pallid colour.

My everything-bagel seasoning, all mixed and ready to go. Those huge patches of black are poppy seed, and not pepper (just in case you thought I liked living on the edge).

Once I made my dough and spread it with cream cheese and sprinkled it with about half my mix, it was time to roll these up and slice them. The one way I deviated from the recipe was to use my trusty 9″ x 13″ Wilton cake pan and not a 9″ pie pan as recommended. The pictures accompanying the recipe showed squished, stunted buns. (No pictures of the process, sorry; my hands were covered in flour and dough and cream cheese and I wasn’t about to start smearing that on my phone.) The tops got brushed with melted butter and sprinkled with the remaining seasoning mixture. Because I wanted these for breakfast and not a late-afternoon snack, I stopped at this point to cover my pan with plastic wrap and stick the whole works in the fridge rather than let them have their rise.

The next morning, I pulled them out of the fridge, removed the plastic wrap, and set them in a low oven with a cake pan of water for steam, until they looked like this. It was quite the relief to see them rise and puff up like that, because when I started making the dough the day before I had panicked that I had killed my yeast due to a difference in opinion of what constitutes “lukewarm”. It looks like I dodged a bullet, because these filled out beautifully.

Baked juuuust until golden. You can see how they expanded even more!

These were so good! The dough was tender yet sturdy enough to hold the buns together, and the cream cheese and everything-bagel seasoning complimented each other perfectly. I probably could have scarfed the entire pan by myself, but instead I shared them and everyone who tried one had only good things to say. Although they’re marvy hot out of the oven, they’re just as good at room temperature – which isn’t something I can always say about cinnamon buns.

Now I think my next project will be the spinach and feta variation. It must be healthy if there’s spinach in it, right?

Thanks for looking! 🙂