Friday, October 31, 2008

How to Make Chocolate Cupcake Toppers

I experimented with making these little white chocolate Maisys 
this week for Jenna's birthday cupcakes. Had I been able to find 
these in the store, I would have bought them and saved myself the 
(what I thought was) trouble of making them, but Maisy -themed 
anything is hard to come by in this part of the world. So I had to 
make them, and they were so easy that I thought I'd post a tutorial 
so anyone who wanted to custom-make odd-themed edible characters 
might be convinced they were easy enough to do.

You will need:
  • White chocolate
  • Small plastic bags - doesn't matter if they have ziptops or not
  • Toothpicks
  • Wax paper (not in picture, sorry!)
  • Food coloring
  • Microwave oven
  • Scissors
  • Drawing or picture you want to turn into edible decoration

Step 1:
  • Find a picture you want to make edible decoration out of.
  • Or draw one (the heart and tree on the left are examples) on paper.

Step 2:
  • Place a sheet of wax paper over it, large enough to cover the entire picture.

Step 3:
  • Heat white chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl in the microwave oven 30 seconds at a time until just melted, stirring occasionally.
  • Add food coloring to desired color. I find it useful to use a toothpick to add tiny amounts of coloring at a time because a whole drop is too much. Stir to mix well.
  • Transfer tinted white chocolate to small plastic bag and snip a tiny corner off as shown. 

Step 4:
  • Squeeze all the white chocolate towards that corner of the bag and squeeze out as much air as possible through the tiny hole.
  • Pipe an outline of white chocolate on the wax paper, using the outline of the picture underneath as a guide. If the chocolate hardens as you work, put the bag in the microwave oven for 10 seconds at a time to soften it. 

Step 5:
  • If you are using a second color, repeat Step 3 and use the new color to fill in the details within the outline. Try not to leave gaps between the filling and the outline, unless you are planning to do a lacy/filigree sort of design like with the heart:

Step 6:
  • Keep filling in the space within the outline with more white chocolate, tinting it as you need to. Maisy is largely white, so I just used more of the earlier white chocolate to fill her in. I also snipped the original hole a little bigger to allow faster flow of chocolate as I squeezed the bag. It doesn't matter if the chocolate is lumpy within the outline 

because you can use a toothpick to "stir" it and smooth it out.

Step 7:
  • Add final details. I used regular semisweet chocolate chips (melted) for Maisy's eyes, nose and belly-button, rather than tint white chocolate brown. 

Step 8:
  • Add a "stake" at the bottom of your decorations to enable it to be pushed into the cake. This is as simple as piping a rectangular shape that is touching the bottom part of the figures.

Step 9:
  • Let dry half an hour.
  • Gently peel the wax paper away from the figures and stick them into your cake.
  • I used a star nozzle to pipe frosting on the tops of the cupcakes before sticking the edible figures in. The frosting was only about a quarter inch deep but with the "stake" inserted partway into the cake itself, the figures stood quite well without toppling over.


P.S. Sorry this post isn't about Emily's Halloween costume. It's finished but yesterday we celebrated Jenna's birthday and today we were busy with the trick-or-treaters and I didn't get round to sorting through the many pictures Dave took of her in it. Will post on it tomorrow!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Still Sidetracked

3 days to Halloween and I am still doing Other Stuff. 
A friend is going through a difficult time now with some family 
changes, including a challenging baby situation, so I thought I'd 
stop working on Emily's costume midway and put together a 
package of stuff for her. Mostly food - tea, hot chocolate, chocolate 
and other hopefully healthy snacks. 

But also a crystal necklace for her

and one or two of these fleece blankets for her little one. 
This stack of blankets would have been twice as high had I not 
run out of woolly nylon. It was just as well, since I shouldn't have 
been serging fleece blankets by the tens when Emily's sad outfit 
was being pointedly ignored. 

Making the jewellery was also a nice diversion because I hadn't 
indulged in that particular pastime for about 5 years. But it was 
slow going, since I was so rusty. That, and I'm still using the 
old pliers from the home fix-it kit lying around the house.

I did work a bit on the costume today, though. 
Its pinkness might be getting to me, I think.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Puppet Theater

While working on Emily's halloween costume, I've been sidetracked by 
a cold, restless children (also sick) and the general need to multitask 
projects. I find that this often happens when I am ploughing through 
a "serious project" (like a garment that needs to fit) or working with 
sensitive fabrics - like chiffon that frays like no tomorrow- or anything
 cut on a bias with the potential to stretch itself out of shape. Emily's 
costume is all three. And pink, to boot. So I paused in the middle of 
making it and instead sewed this simple puppet theater for doorways 
and hallways. I ran across this idea online here and here and thought 
it would be a nice, space-saving alternative to our cardboard puppet 
stage that may not live to see the new year.

Essentially it is a yard of fabric supported by a tension rod, the sort 
that shower curtains hang on. I got mine from Walmart for $1. My 
aunt Rosalind gave me several yards of children's fabric some time 
ago and it was perfect for a colorful project like this. Just for 
decoration, I added black triangles in a row at the top to form a sort 
of banner. Even with the embellishment, it took me under half an hour. 

I also made a second, upper curtain to frame the kids' puppet shows. 
As part of my ongoing effort to use remnants rather than going fabric 
shopping again (a bit ashamed of my recent binges), I cut up an old 
blue bedsheet I got at a garage sale, and sewed on strips of yellow 
sweatshirt fabric that I'd bought by mistake earlier. It is also supposed 
to double as Jenna's personal puppet stage should Emily end up 
hogging the lower one (which she did tonight). Not the best pictures 
here because I was too impatient to wait till morning to get the nice lighting. 

The girls quite enjoyed playing with it tonight, although Kate 
did not understand that it was not meant to be pulled down 
repeatedly with a crash.

Now back to serious sewing. Halloween is 5 days away.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Halloween costume I did NOT make

but that I badly want to own. Kathleen at Grosgrain not only sewed this 
(and corset undergarment not visible in the photo) but is also giving it 
away. Giving it away, people! Now if I win this, I don't have to work on 
Emily's Halloween costume after all. Not that I dislike sewing, I mean. 
But why sew a whole dress when I could be making bibs? 
Pick me! Pick me! Please, please, please....

Sunday, October 19, 2008


Jenna loves Lucy Cousins' Maisy and her friends. She has read quite 
a few of the Maisy books-owned and from the library and has watched 
her lone Maisy DVD over and over again. I generally am not crazy 
about characters but I must say that Maisy is a sweetheart. And we 
credit Maisy for teaching Jenna the entire alphabet. 

It wasn't easy as easy finding Maisy merchandise here as in the UK 
where she has a pretty decent following so I went online to see if 
Maisy softies existed. They did, but they looked nothing like the 
charming two-dimensional characters in the books.   

So in July I sewed Jenna a Maisy doll, which she has since carried 
around quite a bit. I was busy with other projects since then so poor 
Maisy was starkers for the next few months. Worse than the lack of 
clothes was my omission of her belly-button. Grr. This past fortnight, 
though, I rectified the belly-button thing,

gave her some clothes

and made her some friends! 
You can tell by the look on Maisy's face that it was 
all not a moment too soon.

Here's Charley

Eddie (my favorite) in his orange swimming trunks



Little Black Cat


and Panda.

The dolls were made of fleece, as were their clothes, with the 
exception of Tallulah's dress and Maisy's and Charlie's shirts. 
All the clothes are removable, which seemed to be very important 
to Emily, who had been watching the progress of this project with 
great interest. The staff in JoAnn were probably not very pleased 
with me holding up the cutting line with my huge bales of colored 
fleece, wanting only a quarter yard of each. I used to like felt for softies 
but have since discovered that fleece is a fabric with much more 
give - the seams are smoother after stuffing. The tradeoff is that 
embroidery is tougher - the fleece tends to stretch, especially small 
pieces of fleece like the ones for Cat's and Panda's faces. I looked at 
Panda's sad, misshapen eyes when he/she was finally completed 
and felt a mixture of remorse and pity.

Here's the Bus Bag to contain them all. Maisy drives several vehicles 
in the stories and I thought the bus was easier than, 
say, a tractor or an entire train.

Lots of applique. Discovered I had an applique foot in my accessories 
box after all - came with the machine and I never knew. I am most 
gratified that the Bus Bag was made entirely of scraps. Apart from 
the interfacing and piping which I went out to buy, I used whatever 
was in the remnant box, including the zip (recycled from an old duffle). 
The bag, surprisingly, took almost as long to make as all of Maisy's 
friends put together -joining the scraps together, I suppose.
 I like to think of it as my version of a quilt.

Why did I finish this two whole weeks before Jenna's birthday? 
It's all I can do to stop myself wrapping it up right now 
and giving it to her.

Here's another character I sewed a softie of in the pre-blog days. 
Last year I made Lowly Worm for Emily who loves Richard Scarry's 
Busy People stories. His red running shoe is removable too, as is 
evident from the wear and tear in the picture:

and because I had only two children then, I also made the apple car 
that he rides and flies around town in- yes, the windshield is 
transparent plastic. If I remember right, I cut up one of those bags 
that mattress protectors come in. 

It's hard to tell from the pictures, but the car is biggish - 
Lowly himself is about 18" long.

Going to take a break from sewing toys for a while. 
Need to get back to my poor neglected family. Plus, it's
10 days till Halloween and I need to get started on Emily's costume.
Will post pictures of that when it's done and then 
I can finally begin the big sewing project for Christmas! 
More on that later. I get shivers just thinking about it. 

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Two things that took my breath away

First, a quilt giveaway. Check it out!
No, people, I am not giving this away. I wish I were giving this away 
but I can't even quilt. Haven't got the gift of or gene for patience. 
But I appreciate a beautiful project that takes as long as something 
like this does. And this gorgeous quilt (yes, a QUILT!) is being given 
away by Elizabeth at Pigtails and Snails. Leave a comment by Friday 
on her blog to enter. 

And here's something else that left me speechless when I first saw it 
earlier this week. A dress made entirely of selvedges - the parts of 
fabric that are usually tossed. But look what Jodie from 
Vintage Ric-Rac has done with it - it's recycling at its best, 
not to mention absolutely tasteful.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Fabric Buckets and Stitched Art

My sister-in-law and mother-in-law recently celebrated their birthdays 
and a curious little idea had been brewing inside my head for their 
birthday presents some months before. It stemmed from the evolution 
of Emily's recent drawings which had me both astonished and slightly 
melancholic that she was all growing up. Add to that my insensible 
need to freeze bits of the present and this project was conceived. 
I like to think of it as one of those odd things that happens when 
motherhood and a sewing machine violently collide. It began with 
a little help from my sister-in-law, who got her children 
to do some self-portraits

and these fabrics to which I alluded in an earlier post

which became these fabric buckets

using this excellent tutorial for the buckets themselves. 
It was a lot of fun to turn line art into embroidery - 
I used the sewing machine, of course, since I don't have 
the patience for hand embroidery right now.

I got Emily to draw portraits of herself, Jenna and Kate 
for a similar present for my mother-in-law.

In her drawings, each sister has an accompanying doll below her 
which, for sheer laziness, I omitted from the actual stitching.

Ah, fun. 
And the best part was how thrilled Emily was to have had 
such a big part in this - her rendering of herself and her sisters 
that crazy mom went and sewed onto cloth. I hope I am this 
sentimental when Jenna hones her marker skills to the point 
of recognizable creatures. And little Kate - what will be 
her choice medium? 
Hm. Time will tell but I am in no hurry to find out - 
let the children stay young for just a little longer.

Speaking of young, here is an ancient and rather different sort 
of fabric bucket that I made almost 20 years ago before I even knew 
what they were called. It was made with my then-favorite material
- 600 denier black waterproof nylon. I used it in everything 
except garments. Ah, those were the days before bibs, and 
when my fabric shopping took me beyond cotton and flannel. 
I remember wanting this bucket to be a sort of shape-shifter 
and having grand plans for it as a hand tote, defensive weapon 
against muggers, haberdashery storage etc. It's faded and ratty 
now and in its twilight years has been home to the kids' 
Mr Potato Head parts. Today while getting ready to do this post, 
I saw it sitting in the living room with its plastic innards all around 
it where the kids had dumped them out. Said to myself, 
"Hey - prototype fabric bucket! Made without (the currently 
very "in") fusible interfacing, besides!" 

So here it is in all its configurations- enjoy.