Circuitboard Cake

There's a birthday in my household this week so I have been making a surprise cake, which I do every year. Apart from the year where all our stuff was in storage and I only had fairy cake tins, where I made surprise fairy cakes instead! This year I went slightly overboard and created a circuitboard cake! In fact it was an astable multivibrator circuit, in case you're interested - see http://www.play-hookey.com/digital/experiments/rtl_astable.html.

First I made the cake, and dyed a whole load of white roll-out icing green. I also dyed myself green which you would think would give away my secret mission but happily he is less observant than I feared. Then I iced the cake - this was my first mistake because I forgot to put something over the cake to make the roll-out icing stick! Usually either watered-down icing or jam is good.

sponge cake iced sponge cake

I had a whole stack of packets of sweets to use to create the components from. I needed transistors (round liquorice with a flat bit sliced out of them), LEDs (jelly dolly mixtures), capacitors (round dolly mixtures), and resistors. The resistors were easily as complicated as the whole of the rest of the components put together and next time I will just buy as many colours of write-on icing as I need to do the stripes! In the event I made the stripes out of various things wrapped round marshmallows, including red laces, the offcuts of the green icing, bits of liquorice chopped really small, and (for the orange and brown) coloured bits of dolly mixture, separated from the white bits of sweet, mashed together, rolled out, and then cut into strips.

raw materials edible components

So, here's the finished article (and a closeup of a couple of the components)

completed cake

edible component closeup

Home-Sewn Cushions

I have a little sewing machine and a newly-decorated living room. So what could be more obvious than making new cushions for my sofa? I'm planning a whole set but here are the first two:

Two new cushions

The one on the left is my personal favourite, it is felt flowers just cut out and then stitched onto the cushion with embroidery floss and running stitch. The other is the first one I did, with lovely turquoise beads sewn on and then stitching around them. Here are a couple of close-ups:

bead cushion close up flower cushion close up

The first cushion has an interesting overlap on its back, where my spatial awareness failed me when trying to sew layered overlapping things together inside out. The second time, I pinned the first seam while the cushion was the right way out, so I could be sure which way it would end up!

A Turtle and a Giant Baby Blanket

I've just finished another slowpoke, like one I made earlier, and this one is at least as cute!

slow poke in the sun slow poke

I realised after finishing this one that they original pattern has them with their heads looking sideways, maybe this is why mine always look a bit strange!! This one also doesn't have a tail ... when I came to assemble him, I hadn't made one and somehow it just never happened.

My next project is a square (or maybe more than one, who knows?) for the Oxfam Baby Blanket campaign. The plan is for loads of squares to be knitted and joined together into one large blanket which they display places to campaign on the state of maternal mortality in the world. Then they'll turn the squares into lots of baby blankets to be sent to places where they will be useful. I think its a great cause, this is how I'm doing so far:

charity square start

If anyone else is knitting for this then add a comment!

Fetching Fingerless Mitts (again)

Last year I made these lovely fingerless mittens from a pattern called "fetching" on the knitty.com site.

I've made some more! After a trip to Farfield Mill in September I bought one skein of lovely local-made wool. I adapted the fetching pattern, adding extra cable repeats at the cuff, elongating the middle section of the glove, and replacing the thumb with a vertical slit which is achieved by knitting the circular knitting straight for 8 rows just before the final cables. Here's the result:

And a little closeup on the cables, as I'm very proud of how these gloves have turned out (apart from the interesting 'S' shape I achieved when I did one of the cables in the wrong direction and didn't realise until I was almost finished the glove! We call that "a feature")

Crochet Robot

I recently met up with an IRC friend, Davey Shafik, in real life for the first time. A couple of days beforehand I realised that he lives in Florida and sometimes meets up with my good friend and phpwomen.org mentor, Ligaya Turmelle. This seemed like too good an opportunity to miss to send her something little, so I made her this (and finally it reached her so I can post about it! This was actually made at Christmas time):

He's just crocheted, nothing complicated, and I made him up although I've seen plenty like him doing the rounds on craftzine and similar sites. I know I'll get asked to make another so instead, here's the pattern and if you can't crochet, I'll teach you. He's a really easy toy and was quick to make. Lig says "he's cute" which is all the encouragement I need :)

Robot Crochet Pattern

materials: 3.5 mm crochet hook, DK (8 ply) yarn scraps, black embroidery thread, tapestry needle, toy stuffing.

N.B. These are British Crochet instructions, if you know what "single crochet" is then you need to convert it to American format, see my previous post on the differences, basically this is all "dc" which is "sc" in American terminology.

Foundation: 24 ch.

Round 1:1 ch (counts as dc), dc in remaining back loops to end, turn, crochet along the other loops (they were the front loops, then you turned the work, so they are kind of back loops now) back to start, join.

Round 2: 1 ch (counts as dc), dc all round, join.

Rounds 3-18: as row 2.

Finish Body: This is where we seam across the top of the round to make the shoulders, so hold front and back of body together and do 8 dc across both front and back stitches, as if using crochet technique to join pieces. Then crochet across the middle part, where his neck would go, then crochet closed 8 stitches at the end of the row too, going through front and back stitches together as before, finish off yarn. You should have a big square shape with a smaller slit on the top edge.

Cast on Head: With other colour of yarn, crochet a row of dc around the slit, (this is the basis of the head) join.

Rows 1-8: 1 ch (counts as dc), dc all round, join.

Now stuff the robot with the toy stuffing, as tightly as possible.

Finish Head: (Similar to method for shoulders) Fold flat and crochet two stitches together across top of head, finish off yarn. Weave in all ends.

Aerial: ch 8, finish off. Using yarn ends, stitch first ch to 3rd or 4th one in chain and join other end of aerial to middle of top of head (see picture).

Feet (make 2): 3ch, join to form ring. ch 1 (counds as dc), 5 dc into ring, join. 4 more rows of 6dc, and stuff the shape (its fiddly!). Then leave a long end, thread through remaining stitches and pull tight. ch 12 with long end and finish off. Attach to robot with yarn end.

Hands (make 2): make a little pom pom (I just sounds yarn round my fingers a few times and tied it round the middle with one end of a long tail of yarn, then cut through the loops). ch 18 with the long tail, finish off, and attach to robot.

Face: using black embroidery thread, embroider a face.

Pattern Notes

This is my first ever attempt at publishing a pattern, although I often make things by just beginning and then working in the right direction rather than finding a pattern. If you make him, I would really like to hear from you and if you have photos too then that would make me actually dance with joy :) Similarly if its unclear or you spot any mistakes then please add a comment - feedback is welcome!

Christmas Angel

Merry Christmas everyone!!

I spent last weekend doing a mad delivery round across the midlands but now I'm enjoying a quiet Christmas at home. I also finally got round to making the angel for the top of the tree, here she is:

She took up her post on top of the tree just in time, on Christmas Eve!

Easy Mincemeat Recipe

Most of my recipes are found on the internet, but this one is a scanned copy of a recipe my mum cut out of a magazine, probably sometime in the seventies. Its really simple to do and makes nice, sweet mincemeat full of apple tastes and not too sharp. I will say though it makes a LOT of mincemeat - mine turned into two dozen mince pies and a currant slice and I still have about a third of it left!

Ingredients

  • 1.5 lb of cooking apples
  • 2lb mixed fruit (like raisins and stuff)
  • 8 oz shredded suet (the veggie kind is low fat)
  • 10 oz soft brown sugar
  • grated rind and juice of one lemon
  • half a level teaspoon of mixed spice
  • 4 tbsp brandy

Method

Peel, core and slice the apples. Cook gently without water, stirring to pulp them. Cool.

Add dried fruits to all other ingredients, then stir in apple. Mix well.

Put into rigid containers - then either keep for a few days and eat, or freeze immediately. It doesn't keep long because of all the apple in the mixture. I froze mine and then made it into mince pies, then put it all back in the freezer. The instructions say to thaw overnight at room temperature but I found that an hour sitting in the kitchen while I cooked something else was enough to defrost it enough to be able to spoon it in as pie filling.

Let me know if you try this recipe and how it turns out for you by leaving a comment. Consumers of my mince pies may also comment :)

Christmas Cookery

I've excelled myself in the kitchen this evening, been there for a good few hours and here's the result:

From left to right: banana loaf, mince pies, more mince pies, gingerbread in a jar, mincemeat pasty thing. Not in the shot is the curry I also assembled for tomorrow night as I have friends coming over and I'll be rushing in late.

I'll post some recipes in the coming days, but for now here's some closeups:

The mince pies are just about cool enough to pop into the freezer now - like I'm a domestic goddess or something! For more Christmas recipes check out Elizabeth's blog.

Charity Natty Keyrings

At the knitting group I attend in Leeds (first Tuesday and third Wednesday of every month in Starbucks in Borders if you're interested) we received an invitation to join the "Knit a Natty Keyring" charity event. I can't find a website for them but here's a good description of what its all about. I signed up to make two and here they are:

The jumper one was supposed to have sleeves but I ran out of time and enthusiasm at about the same point so it's staying as it is :)

Ripple Blanket

I have a new niece, as I might have said already. Clearly we knew she was on her way a while ago and so I have been crocheting a blanket for this baby for a while. I chose to make a ripple blanket, crocheted in the round and using this pattern. The wool is Sirdar Snuggly DK and the hook was 3.5mm. I found that the pattern worked perfectly and the resulting blanket lay flat – however the snuggle wool is a bit thinner than normal DK.

Here’s the storyline:

The first photo was uploaded on 10th March, and the blanket was at this point with a final row to go when we got the call to say Natalie had arrived. I forgot to photograph the blanket after putting on the border as we were rushing off to meet her but here it is with its owner: