Thursday, October 28, 2010

Birthday Cakes Galore

And now for Something completely different....

I know you think all I ever think about is fiber, and, you're mostly correct. But for the last two months, my husband, Larry and I have been off on a slight tangent. It started when Larry got mad at me (which is extremely rare). As a peace offering, he bought me a gift at Michael's Craft Store. He was pretty sure he could find something there I would really like. What he came home with was a box that said Wilton Gum Paste and Fondant Student Kit. I thanked him profusely and then reminded him that I have a 50 % off coupon for Michael's that he could have used. Oh well!

We eagerly opened the kit and found all sorts of interesting tools and gadgets that we had no idea how to use. The only thing we couldn't find was instructions. After a search on Google I discovered that this was a kit to buy after you sign up for a Wilton cake decorating class. I didn't think that would happen because Larry hates going to classes and workshops. But I found out that he would rather attend a class than admit that he bought the wrong thing and return it. So, I called Michael's and found out that a month long class was starting the next day and signed us up for it. I enjoyed thinking that not only would I be getting to go to a fun class, but I was pretty sure Larry would be the only man there.

We had seen some really nice fondant cakes at the Oregon State Fair and Larry was eager to try his hand at it. So we walked through our local arboretum for inspiration and looked up some YouTube cake decorating videos and tried out the kit right away. We ended up decorating a cake and bringing it to the first class. The teacher was impressed, which pleased Larry. Afterwards, we brought this lemon flavored cake to my daughter's computer store and surprised her with it for her birthday.

We learned a few new flowers and trims at each of the four classes. For the final class we brought in all of the completed flowers to decorate a whole cake during class. Again, Larry couldn't wait. He finished his final cake days ahead of time and brought the finished cake to class.

For my final cake, I wanted to make a flower that wasn't taught in class, so I spent several days making orchids. I made them really bright with wild colors. Not exactly in the natural hues.

We were still using the same gum paste from our first class a month earlier, which became a little crumbly, and the flowers were a bit fragile. So, I ended up breaking some of them during class. It's a good thing I made lots of extra orchids and leaves. This is what I ended up with.

The following weekend, after soaking in the Umpqua Hot Springs, we went to a potluck dinner and concert at Seven Springs Ranch. The performance of Appalachian music by Kate Long and Robin Kessinger from West Virginia was a lot of fun.  It was a good opportunity for us to make another cake.  I wanted to try a new flower, so I made tiger lilies and Larry made some pretty roses.

Everyone thought the cake was beautiful, but no one would cut into it. To get it started, Larry removed some of the flowers and took the first piece.  People only cut pieces of the cake until they got to the section that still had flowers on it. So, Larry removed all of the flowers and the rest of the cake was eaten right away.  I used orange oil in both the cake and the frosting... Yum!

The next opportunity for making a cake was two weeks later, on my birthday. (Yes, I had to make my own cake) It was a yummy German chocolate cake with coconut pecan filling and cream cheese frosting. Larry made all of the flowers and decorated it while I was at work. He made the cake a unique six-sided shape by trimming away part of the cake edges. Hmmm... I wonder if this was because he couldn't wait until the following night to taste the cake.

He bought some over-sized birthday candles and used them for the center of his roses. His idea was that each person would get a piece of cake with a candle still burning on their plate. Then everyone makes a wish for the birthday girl (me) and blows out their own candle.  That was fun but it meant we each had 1/6 of the cake, which was a bit too much cake for each serving.

The reason for the big candles is because Larry's mom is having her 100th birthday party next month and his brother is really excited about having a cake with 100 candles on it. Knowing that a typical birthday candle will hardly last through one chorus of Happy Birthday, we didn't think we could light all 100 candles, take lots of pictures, sing the song AND blow out all of the candles before they are totally melted. These big candles worked really well for my birthday and we even have another birthday coming up in two weeks to experiment with some homemade, hand dipped large birthday candles.

After looking up YouTube videos of people blowing out 100 candles on their cakes, I wasn't sure it was such a good idea, after all.  Check it out here!    But, I guess we'll find out next month.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Felted Purse Finally Finished

I have been using the same leather purse for many years and it has slowly been disintegrating over the last few months.  At first, I sewed up the places where the side seams  came unsewn, but when the handle broke and the rest of the seams came apart AND I was carrying my purse around in a plastic shopping bag, I knew it was time to be replaced. So I gathered up some of my handspun yarn to choose which ones I wanted to use to knit up a felted purse.

I separated out some green, purple, brown and beige in my fattest yarn so the purse will be really sturdy. Then I knit a sample to see if I liked the combination of stripes together.

I ended up using the stripes on the blanket to compare the size of the sample before and after it was felted.

I gathered up a load of laundry and washed the sample to see how much it would felt.

It didn't shrink very much, so I gathered up more laundry and put it through another wash. As before, I used hot water for the wash cycle and cold water for the rinse cycle.

That was only slightly smaller. I didn't really have any more laundry to wash so I found some blankets that could use some freshening up before the cold weather set in and washed the sample swatch with those.  Then I put the whole load in the hot dryer. That did the trick. I also trimmed off the extra llama guard hairs on the lowest stripe. They were a bit prickly.

I noticed that the cast-on shrunk more than the rest of the rows, so I used a different cast-on when I knit the purse. I knit a rectangle for the bottom section and then picked up stitches from the edges of the other three sides and continued knitting in the round until the purse was as tall as I wanted, allowing for shrinkage.

Here it is before washing, being compared with the felted sample. I also knit some handles and felted those along with the bag.

I didn't have enough dirty laundry to felt it in three separate loads, so I put a load of my son's clothes in to wash (he usually does his own) and set it on the hottest setting. I soaked the bag and handles in cold water with a little dish detergent added before throwing them into the hot washer. After about five minutes, I took the bag and handles out and soaked them in cold water. Then I reset the washer to the beginning of the cycle and put the bag and handles back in. I repeated this a few times until I could see a significant amount of felting. After letting the washer finish all of it's cycles, I threw it all into the dryer. I was glad it felted enough in just one load.

Next, I sewed a lining and pockets (LOTS of pockets), including one pocket made from the felted sample swatch. I hate to waste all of the effort and yarn that went in to making the sample.

You can't see it in the pictures, but inside each of the big pockets, there are more pockets. Now I'm really organised!

Unfortunately, one of the handles disappeared. I searched through all of the clothes in the dryer a few times, but I couldn't find it. So I bought a set of handles from JoAnne's. (It was only $4, using my discount coupon.) A week later my son found the felted handle.  It looked something like a snake and had somehow crawled into one of his pants pockets in the dryer. Good thing it didn't look like a spider. He's really afraid of those. Here is the bag after it was finished. It's a lot heavier than my leather purse was, but I like it.

Now I'm working on a felted knitting bag. I'll tell you about it when it's finished.