PAW Patrol is on a roll!

So, we finally made it! Pickle’s birthday party, take two. Which means; cake, take two.

The cake has spent the last two weeks in the freezer, carefully wrapped in several layers of cling film. I got it out on Wednesday evening and left it in the fridge overnight. On Thursday I left it on the kitchen worktop during the daytime to ensure it was fully defrosted, then back in the fridge overnight to keep it fresh until I needed it on Friday. I was a little concerned that the fondant icing might have gone a little sticky, but I carefully cut the wrapping off once it was at room temperature and was pleasantly surprised to find that it was as smooth and dry to the touch as it had been before freezing.

My next concern was the taste and consistency of the actual cake. Of course there was nothing I could do about that until the cake was cut. Fortunately, it smelt and tasted delicious and the texture was just what it should have been so I needn’t have worried at all. I would certainly freeze a cake again in future. It would help enormously when timings were difficult.

So, on to the decoration. Pickle has recently become a big fan of Paw Patrol, so thats what we went with.

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The mini figurines were bought from a local supermarket. I used a printout of the Paw Patrol logo as a template for cutting out fondant and built it up in sections.

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I used a food colouring pen to do the lettering and fill in details.

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The pups were a big hit once they climbed down off the cake too.

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Dagenham Dress

This was going to be a series of work in progress posts, but since it all progressed rather quickly and to a deadline, and injuring my wrist at rehearsal a couple of weeks ago made typing difficult, it’s ended up as a fait-accompli post instead!

I’ve been rehearsing over the last few months for a production of Made in Dagenham. It’s set in the 1960’s and is based on the true story of the women workers of the Ford factory in Dagenham who went on strike for equal pay. It’s a fun show with great music and of course it requires lots of great costumes in keeping with the 60s era. My character in particular needs several different outfits and since the wardrobe mistress has her hands full costuming everyone else, I offered to have a crack at making a dress for myself.

I’ve never really sewn a garment on my own from scratch before. I did a bit of dressmaking as a teenager, though only simple skirts, and always under the tutelage of my mum. My mum and I also worked together to make my wedding dress several years ago. I’ve wanted to have a go at something a bit more ambitious ever since I got a sewing machine for Christmas a couple of years ago, but until now had only ever done simple mending jobs, or basic projects like my crochet hook roll and Pumpkin’s pencil case.

So, after a little bit of procrastinatory research, I decided the only this to do was to bite the bullet and throw myself into it. A trip to the local fabric store and I was equipped with pattern, fabric, lining material and a zip.

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I was a good girl and put the fabric straight into the washing machine when I got home. Then read the pattern properly and realised I would need a few other things. Cue another hasty trip to a different haberdashery shop for interfacing, carbon paper, tracing wheel and a rotary cutter.

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Since I was between sizes, I had a go at grading the pattern out at the waist and further at the hips. I made a toile out of the lining fabric to begin with to check the fit and ended up adjusting the grading a fair bit. The red line above shows my first attempt.

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Tin cans make excellent pattern weights!

 

I spent a long time laying the pattern out and tracing it using the carbon paper and wheel. I still took a big deep breath before I started cutting it. (Rotary cutting wheels are awesome by the way!) There were quite a lot of moments throughout the project where I found myself starting to question each new step and whether I was doing it right or was going to risk messing up what I’d already done. I just told myself to suck it up and get on with it. I’m not always very good at doing that. Often projects sit and linger when I can’t quite bring myself to do the next step for fear of messing up.

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Once I was happy with the toile I moved onto the main fabric. I thought it could be a big challenge having to do all the pattern matching, but in fact having the lines to keep me on track really helped.

Sewing the shoulder seams would have been easier if I’d fully unpicked the lining after using it as a toile. I did have to unpick it all eventually, otherwise the construction wouldn’t have worked. Pulling the whole thing right side out through the shoulder straps required some mental gymnastics, but was easy enough. I would need to think through the seams allowances better if I was doing it again, in terms of which way they lie and trimming them better before flipping it through, as they ended up being a little bulky, but that’s just how you learn, right!?

Inserting the zip was a similar story. I’ve only done a zip once before – on Pumpkins pencil case – and never an invisible zip. The first side went in fine. The second side took me a couple of attempts and then when I flipped it round I discovered it was twisted anyway, so I had to unpick that side again and reposition it before stitching again. Fortunately it went in right first time after that and I was very pleased with the pattern matching.

This was the point at which I fell over at rehearsal and sprained my wrist, so the dress rested for a week before I could get back to it. But with the show looming I had to push on. I basted the sides together and my wardrobe mistress kindly helped to check the fit and mark the hemline and it was fairly straightforward after that, just a little slow.

The hem was the bit that I procrastinate over the most I think. With everything having gone together so well up to that point, I really didn’t want to mess it up at the final hurdle. I pinned and repinned and basted and pressed and eventually took a deep breath before chopping off the excess length. I hand sewed the outer fashion fabric for a neater finish on the outside and machine stitched the lining.

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I’m incredibly proud of the finished garment especially given it’s the first time I’ve made something like this, and to wear it onstage and pretend it’s a designer outfit is a fantastic feeling. I’m absolutely loving doing the show too. I got my nails done last week to help me get into character as well. So unlike me, but they complement the dress perfectly! Here’s to more successful sewing!

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More knitting, less blogging.

I’m sure I’ve been knitting a lot more again recently, but somehow I keep managing to forget to take photos of things, and though I’ve continued reading various blogs, I’ve not had much inclination towards actually writing anything. Actually, that also has a lot to do with life being very busy (though, when is it not!?) at the moment with rehearsals and kids and househunting (and all the stress wrapped up in that) etc. I knew that buying/selling/moving house is reckoned to be one of the most stressful things you can go through in life. Our first house purchase was fairly straightforward, but this move just seems ridiculously stressful and uncertain, and beset by problems of all types, and we haven’t even got to the packing stage yet!

April seems to have turned into birthday central in the last couple of years. My youngest Pickle, my niece and my mum, as well as various friends and children of friends all seem to have their birthdays within just a few days of each other. My niece requested some clothes for her doll, so when I mooted the idea of knitting a little something, my mum helpfully provided me with a bag full of assorted yarn and knitting needles while I was staying with her during the holidays. Fortunately I had my preferred circulars with me, so I had a go at winging it on a little jumper, inspired my a doll’s cardigan my mum found for me. Unfortunately, my estimation for how big to make the neck hole was a little off (dolls have BIG heads!) and I got rather frustrated and I left off before making sleeves for it, instead making it into a little tank top type thing with button down shoulders. It was more than a little dodgy, but hey, button practise is good for kids, so mum claimed it for use by her childcare children.

On returning home, I got a little more accurate information on the size of the doll, and then rooted around Ravelry for a suitable pattern, which turned out very much better! Apologies for the terrible quality phone-photo, but it turned out rather sweet.

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Pattern: Sweater from Snickerdoodle by Kristen Rettig

The pattern was good and easy to follow. I made the mistake of slipping stitches at the start of rows for the first few rows, which distorted the front edge a little, but you can’t notice it much when the buttons are done up, and my nearly 4 year old niece won’t mind anyway! The buttons were chosen by Pumpkin. I really liked the top-down seamless construction, and want to try it again on a bigger garment at some point. It was a very quick knit and has been safely packaged off to my niece today.

I’ve got a couple more things on the go at the moment; a pair of fingerless gloves for the hubby (which may or may not get done til the weather gets colder again!) and another baby ripple blanket which I’ll hopefully get finished very soon.

A blogging bat-hat-strophe!

I suddenly seem to be back on a yarny kick at the moment.

Pumpkin was invited to the super-hero themed birthday party of a girl in his class. I was reliably informed that her favourite colours were also pink and purple, so I hit upon the idea of making a hat in pink and purple, with the logo of a famous superhero, which I imagine is not the kind of combination that is readily available on the highstreet!

I found a charted pattern for the logo on Ravelry, and set to work. I’ve never done colour work before, so that was an interesting new challenge. My tension was a bit shoddy, as I struggled to catch the floats in evenly, and so the final logo was a little puckered in places, but overall not a bad attempt.

Unfortunately, despite thinking constantly all the way through the knitting process that I needed to get a good photo of it for blogging, I totally failed to snap any shots of it whatsoever, so you’ll just have to imagine how great it looked!

Pumpkin was also an utter disaster on the feedback front. He couldn’t give me any indication as to the little girls reaction when he finally gave it to her in class (only a couple of weeks after the party by which I’d intended to have it completed!) . Luckily I stood next to her mum in the pick up queue yesterday afternoon, and she told me it had gone down very well. How nice and reassuring it is to know that your handknits are appreciated!

World Book Day also inspired me to craft. Being the super organised mother that I am, I asked the boys what they’d like to dress up as for World Book Day, oh, about 4pm the day before, so we ended up with rather low-key costuming. Pumpkin went as Mog from the books by Judith Kerr, simply wearing a white T shirt, and a grey zipped jumper and grey trousers. He reluctantly submitted to having whiskers drawn on with eyeliner, but refused point-blank to wear the cat-ears-on-a-headband that his daddy had lovingly made for him. “I’m NOT wearing a headband, mummy!”

Pickle wanted to go as The Little Red Train, from the book sby Benedict Blathwayt, but since I didn’t fancy being up til the small hours engineering a train costume from a cardboard box, nor did I relish the thought of sending the child to nursery in such a costume, I persuaded him to go as Duffy Driver from the books instead. He was amenable, so a white shirt, blue trousers and (mostly) blue zipped top formed the basis of the costume. We dispensed with the necessity for a hat, since Duffy rarely seems to wear his, and the only thing that was required to complete the outift was a red tie. Short on time and short on materials, I settled on crochet as the quickest means of producing a tie. And sure enough, by the end of the day I had this:

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I’m not sure how fashionable a crochet tie might be, but a 2 year old fortunately doesn’t seem to mind, and he looked very smart!

Meet Toothless

Work on the Clanger has stalled, and it’s currently looking like a rather strange pink penguin.

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Instead, I have been working on the annual cake-creation for the Pumpkin’s birthday. He’s been very into ‘Dragons: Riders of Berk’ on CBBC recently, which is part of the same franchise as the ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ films, so he decided a couple of months ago that he wanted his party to be themed along those lines, including and especially, his cake.

I thought I could get away with the easy option of just stacking a couple of cakes to make the Island of Berk, and buying a couple of figurines or toys of Hiccup and Toothless to stick on the top, which he could then keep to play with afterward, but I scoured the shops for something suitable and couldn’t find what I wanted. So that left me with the not-so-easy option of attempting to make an actual Toothless Cake! For those of you not familiar with him, this is Toothless:

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A quick scan of google images and Pinterest showed me many rather impressive creations, and some less successful ones! Fortunately, some kind person has made an excellent Youtube tutorial, demonstrating exactly how to go about making Toothless in cake form.

I started with two large chocolate mud cakes (recipe here) and glued them together with chocolate ganache (recipe here). I’ve never carved a cake before, but once I got started, and with the tutorial for reference, it was actually alot easier than I expected it to be, and really quite satisfying seeing the dragon shape emerge.

IMG_3731 IMG_3733 IMG_3737Once the basic shape was there he was covered in ganache and left to chill out in the fridge overnight.

Covering him in fondant was more of a challenge. I started out trying to cover him using as few pieces of fondant as possible, but it was really hard to roll out a 2D shape that was the right size and shape to cover a 3D cake. I tried to cover the whole tail in one piece a couple of times, but ended up doing it in 2 pieces. Once I realised that actually it was possible to blend the two pieces so you couldn’t even see where the join was, the whole thing became much easier  and far less daunting to do. I think I used 3 pieces to cover the body in the end, and did most of the legs separately. The head was all done in one go though, including his ears and horns at the back of his head. Once the black icing was on, he only needed a few small extra details – eyes, claws, spines, tail fins and wings, and he was all done!

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I would have liked him to have a bit more texture to his skin, but there was no easy way to do it, so he stayed smooth-skinned. I also made some cupcakes with printed toppers of other characters from the show, which complemented the cake nicely.

IMAG2857 IMAG2860I received some lovely compliments from the grown-ups at the party, including a near-commission. The cupcakes went down well with kids and adults alike, and the kids mostly knew who the cake was meant to be! But the best moment was seeing the look on Pumpkin’s face when I held his hand and brought him to see the cake laid out on the table. He happily went round telling everyone that ‘Mummy said she couldn’t make a cake like that, but she did it!’  If that’s not the best kind of encouragement for trying something new and challenging, I don’t know what is!?

Snuggly

I realised I was rather chilly this evening whilst putting Pumpkin to bed. I found myself mentally skimming through my wardrobe for an appropriate jumper or cardigan I could throw on for the evening, and you know which one sprang to mind? Yes, my newly finished cardigan of doom snuggliness!

It’s been finished for a week now, and I still haven’t managed to get any decent photos, so here’s a quick shot I took on my phone, and a close up of the buttons I used.

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As you can see, it’s a little short in the body, which is a little frustrating, given that I thought I had added some extra length into it, but it’s certainly not a fatal flaw. The sleeves are lovely and long, so I can tuck my hands into them to keep warm.

The collar is a little gapey at the back of the neck, but again, not fatal. The fit around the waist could also have been a little closer, but it has a bit of shape to it, and a bit of ease means it’ll fit over layers of clothing in the winter without being too bulky.

All in all, it’s really not bad for my first ever knitted garment!

It’s done!

It’s done, it’s done!

The cardigan of never-ending doom is really, truly, actually, completely, wearably finished! Buttons and everything.

It won’t win any prizes, and I may not even wear it out of the house! But it is finished. Hurrah!

Pictures to follow, hopefully.

Excuse me while I happy-dance around the room.

Maybe now I can allow myself to work on some other things again and more regular blogging may resume.

Happy feet!

It’s been a while coming, but I have something off the needles again at long last. The anniversary socks are finally finished!
They got put down for several weeks, while I was occupied doing my most recent show, as well as reading more, but I took them on holiday with me and with the time to concentrate on it,  I managed to make a start on the heel. When I got back I knew I needed to get the heels finished, or I’d lose my place in the pattern and I’d have to rip back. Once the heels were done, I had the momentum to get them finished.

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I procrastinated a little over the bind off, but went with what was in the Earlybird sock pattern; Jeny’s Surprisingly Stretchy Bind Off. I actually ran out of yarn on one sock, but had plenty left on the other, so I did a russian join using the end of the other ball and had enough to finish. It meant there’s a bit of a sharp colour change just at the end on one of them, but I don’t think it looks too bad, and won’t be seen much as trousers will cover the top anyway.

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They’re a little longer than I expected, and a little shorter than I’d like, but they’re a good fit and quite comfortable to wear.

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It was my first time using real sock yarn. I love the colour changes. I think doing two at a time using magic loop is the right way to do it, as I know I’d suffer badly from second sock syndrome if I tried knitting them separately. Toe-up was great as I could use every last bit of my yarn without panicking about running out or wasting lots. I liked the heel flap construction – it made sense and gives a nice fit, although I did end up with a teeny tiny hole in the corner, which I guess is just about experience with where to pick stitches up from. I’d go down a needle size in future as the fabric is a little looser than I’d like, but all in all, happy feet!

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