Friday, August 27, 2010

Back to School With a Crochet Theme!

My daughter is starting kindergarten this year, and we are having fun shopping for school supplies for the first time.  Today, we were looking for a pad of drawing paper.  They have stacks and stacks of the same pad with different themed covers.  We were about to choose one with butterflies on it, when I spotted this beauty.  I think my daughter still wanted the butterfly one, but when she saw how excited I was about this crochet one, she chose it.  Such a sweet gesture from a 4 year old!  I also love that these pads come with a little handle.  I am planning to decoupage it and use it as a purse handle one day.

As we turned to leave the shop, we saw the matching backpack with crochet embellishments.  We didn't buy it, but I snapped a photo as I hadn't seen anything quite like it before.  Now, I am wondering if they had matching pencils too?  I must check next time we are there!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Best Way to Take a Break From Crocheting? Bake a Cake!


I have been working with fine thread and small hooks lately.  I am patiently waiting for Caron to get their stock of Tulip's Etimo hooks in. I have 2 sets of Etimo hooks, but ironically, the sizes I have been working with most lately, aren't in the sets.  Luckily, I will be able to buy them individually.  These are really my "go to" hooks!  I never thought I would say it, but it is hard to have to use one of my older hooks.  Caron has them listed on their website, but they haven't given any information as to when they will have them in stock.

What does all of this have to do with cake?  Well, when I am deep in the middle of a project, it is difficult to stop and take a break.  Sometimes I need a little incentive.  Baking is usually a good one.  At least I am still creating something, if not in crochet, at least something nice to eat!

Carrot cake is one of my favorite cakes to make and to eat.  I have tried many recipes and ended up altering an apple cake recipe to create this one, which is now a family favorite.

It was going to be published in Tension Magazine, but unfortunately for the moment, they have decided not to produce any more issues, so I decided to share it here.

It also makes a wonderful apple cake if you substitute peeled, chopped Granny Smith apples or fresh peaches for the carrots, and omit the orange peel and filling.

For a healthier version, I grind oats into flour and use 1 1/2 cups of this and only 1/2 cup all purpose flour instead of 2 cups.  I also use 1 cup of honey and only 1 cup of sugar instead of 2 cups.


CARROT CAKE WITH MAPLE CREAM CHEESE FILLING

Cake:
4 Cups carrots, grated
Zest of 1 orange, finely grated
2 Cups sugar
½ Cup oil
2 eggs, beaten
2 tsp. vanilla
2 Cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. Salt
1 Cup walnuts, chopped
8 Whole walnuts,for top of cake

Filling:

6oz Cream cheese, cold, straight from the refrigerator
2 ½ TBS. butter, softened
1 TBS. real maple syrup
2 tsp. orange juice
¾ Cup powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare a 10” bundt pan by spraying it with non-stick spray.  Place whole walnuts on a baking sheet and put them in the oven for 10 minutes to toast them.  Toss carrots, orange zest, and sugar together in a medium bowl.  Stir in oil, eggs and vanilla.  In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.  Merge wet and dry mixtures.  Stir in nuts.  Pour into cake pan and bake for approximately 30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Remove from oven to a cooling rack and let the cake cool for 10 minutes before turning it out of the pan.  



While the cake is cooling, you can prepare the filling.  In a medium bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter, maple syrup and orange juice together.  When it is smooth, gradually beat in the powdered sugar.  Set filling aside.  If your kitchen is very warm, you may want to keep the filling in the refrigerator while the cake cools.  


When cake is completely cool, cut it in half horizontally.  Remove the top half and spread the filling on the bottom half, reserving a bit of filling to use as “glue” to secure each of the whole walnuts on the top of the cake.  Place the top of the cake back on the bottom and decorate the top with the whole walnuts.  Serve immediately, or keep it in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Monday, August 23, 2010

A Beautiful New Door for My Studio!

As I have embarked on a career in crochet design, my husband has been working on learning the craft of woodworking.  He loves making outdoor structures, but I have been trying to get him to work on things for inside the house.  His first projects were for our daughter's room; a very useful toy box, and a doll bed that is a mini replica of her own bed.  I will have to post a photo of that one day!

Since we have made our spare room into a studio for me, we have been unhappy with the door.  It was recycled from my brother-in-law's apartment, and it has always been a temporary solution.  We were thinking of painting it, but  then my husband decided that he would make a wooden door with windows.  It is so nice for a studio to have natural light!  He went to work designing the door and looking for information, tutorials, and books on how to make windows and doors.  Interestingly, there aren't many resources for this, so he had to piece together bits of information and do some experimenting.  It was definitely a learning experience!   It was a proud moment when he unveiled the door to me.  It is truly the crowning glory of the studio.  I am trying to convince him to start a blog to talk about his projects and his learning process.  I think it would be a good way to keep a log of his work and see his progress, as well as a way to meet others with the same interests.  He doesn't know how addictive blogging can be....yet!

Here is a photo of the old door.  I tried to make it look decent in the photo, but it really just doesn't want to be a good-looking door.  Anyway, at least you can see the vast improvement!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Wrapping Up a Crochet Design Submission


I am always trying to think of new ways to present my design submissions.  It is especially fun to wrap up small submissions.  The photo above is of the "Ring-a-Ding-Bling" crocheted ring submission for the Vogue Knitting on the Go "Grannies" Book.  My hope was that they would love a submission that was presented as a gift.  They sent me an acceptance email a few weeks later.  I don't know if the wrapping had anything to do with it, but I would like to think it did!  I sometimes use leftover scrumbles from previous projects to wrap things up as well.  When you have a bag full of interesting shapes to choose from, it gives you ideas that you might never think of otherwise.  Now, I am brainstorming ideas for  presenting larger submissions!
(Ring Sample)

(Underside of Box)

Sunday, August 8, 2010

A Lost Freeform Crochet Treasure... The "Dutch Blue" Necklace


While organizing photos of my work, I came across photos of a necklace that I made for a freeform jewelry exchange a few years ago.  This is one of four pieces I created for the exchange.  I am so happy that I found these photos, as I had forgotton where I had saved them and I thought that they were lost!   It is made in the same method as the "Jewels of the Sea" necklace; I created many scrumbles and pinned them on my necklace form until I had an arrangement I was happy with.  What is really unique about this necklace is the pieces of broken vintage china I included.  In case you are wondering, I used a plate that was already broken and chipped.  I wouldn't have had the heart to break a perfect plate!  I did some embroidery on nylon net to make the lacy top for the center pendant.  I also cut leaf shapes out of felt and  embroidered the details.  There are also a few beads and sequins sprinkled around.  A true multi-media piece!
(Left Side)

(Right Side)

(Back)

(Center Front Pendant)

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A Crafty Use for a Crochet Design Prototype

My daughter loves pretend pets, and we have found some creative ways of making them.  One night, she asked me for a goldfish.  Unfortunately, we have had a few real ones that didn't last very long. So I decided we wouldn't be having any pets for a while.  She was in tears when I told her we weren't going to buy another one.  I tried to console her, by telling her that we could make fish out of paper and put them in a glass of water with some rocks that she could choose.  To my surprise, she was excited about the idea and liked it better than getting a real fish.  So we set to work drawing and coloring small fish on paper.  Then, we covered the paper on both sides with packing tape to make them somewhat waterproof, and cut them out.  I found a small glass while she decided on the rocks.  We filled it with water and she assembled the scene.  Now, it has become a weekly event.  We make new fish and change the rocks inside.  This week, while sorting out my yarn stash, I found a lily center prototype from the "Blumen" bouquet I designed for Berroco.  I thought it could be like coral in the bottom of the glass.  Once it was thoroughly saturated with water, it sank to the bottom and sat perfectly in the glass.  I think it is my favorite fish scene yet!  The uses for crochet are never ending!
(Lily from "Blumen" Bouquet)