Monday, June 11, 2012

Well, I didn't get around to posting that disappointing-progress pic of my little cross-stitch angel, and have cake decorating to write about as well, but today's post is about what I did this past weekend.

I joined the Saturday Crafting Session and Sunday morning's stencilling workshop at Sew It Together's 2012 craftbloggers' get-together in Canberra. I'm so glad I went - it was wonderful to meet so many friendly and interesting women and the many and diverse projects that others were working on at the crafting session. I took along my little cross-stitch (but didn't get it out in the end; too much concentration needed so too likely I'd be doing something wrong constantly on it).

I also took along my bag of knitting UFOs. The main item being a black baby romper I started over 4 years ago and abandoned around 4 years ago. As it turned out, I'd almost completely finished the project, apart from knitting a not-very-fancy edging on to the hand flaps by picking up and knitting from stitches perpendicular to the stitches in the hand flaps themselves; a new-to-me skill made harder by there being 41 rows but the instructions saying to pick up only 33 stitches.

After some agonising, I just did 41 stitches and it seems to be working out fine. I am positive the reason I put the project down so close to the finish line was the worry over that 41>33 issue. So now the hand flaps are finished. Less than 2 hours of knitting was left to do, and that includes re-doing the first hand flap edge after I worked out the tension a bit better on the second one. Sheesh.

Remaining work to complete this project:

A back, 2 fronts, the hood and 2 hand-flaps. Yep, pretty much all of it was already knitted.
1. Duplicate-stitch a smiley jolly roger onto the back of the romper - first I need to re-chart a jolly roger design as I'd created a 20x20 stitch version based on a 50x45 stitch version belonging to another project, but now I've realised out how small 20x20 will actually be, I need something more like a 30x30 for this little back-patch

2. Sew the romper's pieces together (easy peasy!)

3. Add a zipper (my first zipper-into-knitting effort; a bit scary)

There were plenty of other bits of knitting in the UFO bag including several WTF items. One pair of black partially knitted pieces seem to be a false start on the baby romper, done in a different yarn. I don't really remember doing that but the yarn does seem very shreddy so it was probably not enough fun to knit with.

Some of the other pieces are remembered-abandonments of disappointing results, and others are simply impossible to place. Exhuming the UFOs was a productive exercise and I am now keen to finish my romper so Baby2 can wear it when he arrives in September.

What else did I do? Apart from picking up some cool stash at the pop-up market stalls on Saturday, I also enjoyed trying out fabric stencilling at Sheridan's workshop on Sunday morning. Much easier to pick up and do than screen printing, so it's a more realistic craft to experiment with. And it was really fun playing with the paints and seeing the completely different ways others in the class approached their stencilling. I will definitely be doing more of this - my quest for something that yields quick results in crafty play seems to be answered by the lure of fabric paint.
My stencilled bag- happy with the shading technique

The bag I stencilled was a good exercise in how to do shading (and how not to). I am such a slow stencil-cutter that I only completed this bit in the end. I cut another stencil but was not completely happy with my drawing so will probably recut the stencil using somebody else's artwork for my next effort. I know how I want to colour it, and am looking forward to giving it a go.

Many of the other stencillers used the Power of the Stencil and made some great repeat patterns. Others did interesting things using one pattern and paint colour overlaid by another. Many left me in awe of their fast and confident sketching and stencil-cutting abilities!

Earlier in the week I tried my hand at modelling with fondant (cake decorating course #2), but that's a post for another day.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

May crafting efforts

Well, I did a little bit more on that teeny weeny angel cross-stitch but it's still well away from being finished. I did take it to show my friend and she didn't hate it, so that's a plus. Maybe it will be done by Christmas...

What I DID manage to do this month is practise my cake decorating skills a little bit more.

My friend who is getting married next March announced in April that she likes the look of buttercream roses. I am decorating the wedding cake as a present to the happy couple, so what she likes - I learn!

Now, I didn't learn how to pipe buttercream roses at the last cake decorating course I did (my first), and it's not on the agenda for the next course which starts in June. YouTube showed me how to make them and I realised I haven't got the necessary piping nozzle (I tried the 'similar' ones I own and they are NOT going to do the job) and would be struggling without a special thing that's like a darning mushroom to twirl about in my fingers as I gaily pipe away. So buttercream roses are on hold until the necessary shopping is done. I now have a darning mushroom thing in my possession.

In the meantime, earlier this month I iced a raspberry swirl butter cake (thanks, White Wings!) with a double batch of homemade buttercream, piped some fancy edgings and had a go at piping flowers with rolled fondant centres. It turned out a little wonky, but passable.

Some of my colleagues were duly impressed, some horrified (the icing! so red!), but most importantly it tasted good and the graduate trainee who was leaving our team appreciated the gesture and the flavour.

I have realised that piping with a cheap plunger is rubbish compared to using an actual icing bag. Have asked for a good set of piping nozzles or a gift certificate at the local cake decorating shop for my birthday. Fingers crossed!

On to working with fondant a little more... on Sunday night I made 12 double daffodils which will tomorrow night be placed on top of 12 vanilla cupcakes for a Biggest Morning Tea fundraiser at the office. They are not consistent, some are fairly wonky even, but they are done, and they were a good learning experience.

I've discovered that to do fine petals, you really have to add the special stiffening stuff to the fondant or else it just flops. If you don't mind chunky petals, they hold their shape ok. If you work too slowly with the fondant, it cracks. It's worth adding strong colours to small bits of fondant, then working smaller bits of the coloured fondant into weaker colours if you want to (eg) change yellow to orange.

Also, making small frilly trumpet things is a pain in the ass. There must be a knack to this that I have not yet found, although the bottom row was the last set I made and I was happiest with those, so I did start getting better at it. These will not be my last daffodils, but I don't plan on doing these every week, either...

So that was May. I'll post a progress shot of the cross stitch at the weekend and try not to feel discouraged at the lack of visible progress. More cake pics in June! One lesson every week and I'm really looking forward to those.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Very slow progress!

Well, it's been a long time since I blogged - most of my online sharing has been via Facebook since my little girl was born. But there is a craft bloggers' convention right here in Canberra in June which I'd love to attend, so here I am, reactivating my blog at long last!

I have been working on this as my only 'active' cross stitch WIP for over 4 years now. In a good quarter, I get a few hour's work done on it. In a bad quarter, I don't even get it out.

It's worked over-one and coming up nicely, but I really wish I'd used a larger piece of fabric.

The border alternates between a block of 4 xs in one thread and an eyelet in a variegated silk. It's been hard to find a fast way to work it but about 1/3 of the way around I finally just went ahead and did all the crosses and am now following back through with the eyelets.

I'm visiting the people I am making this for in mid May, so perhaps now is the time to really get it moving! I'd love to be able to deliver it in person instead of mailing it.