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Doodle Fusion Marco Raffiné Test Page & Review

The next 2019 WIP to FO Challenge update (posted a whole 3 years later…sigh) is this page from Doodle Fusion. I love this silly book so much and have completed a bunch of pages from it (unposted), as well as prepped some in my color wash attempts. As they’re all filled with an assortment of wacky monsters it’s hard to come up with a unique name to identify some of the pages so since this one was deliberately done solely with the Marco Raffiné oil-based colored pencils, it’s become known as my test page of such.

I started this Doodle Fusion page on September 8 2019 with the intent of completing an entire page with the Marco Raffinés to really get a feel of how they work and blend.

I really like these pencils! They’re inexpensive (especially compared to the Polychromos or Premiers), and though the different pencils can’t truly be compared as oil-based vs wax-based will give different results and be preferred for different projects by different artists, they have their own unique charm and have been a joy to use. They’re less vibrant than some other brands but are no less pigmented, so while you won’t get neon brights (making them not a good choice for a fun 80s page) they’re great for softer, almost whimsical looks. They’re also slightly water-soluble, as per my tests here.

The first three images below show the lazy progress made over the rest of that month. I’d worked on the page slowly, picking out individual creatures and sections at random depending on my mood at the time.

Posting my WIP-to-FO challenge publicly spurred me to continue working on it, and the fourth picture above was done in January of 2019. I did a bit more work that month and then my attention waned again…

…until October 2020 when I finally picked it back up, determined to finish it once and for all.

I added a fading border to the outer edges in order to test the pencils’ (and my own) shading and fading capabilities. Once that was complete I finished the remaining creatures and doodles.

Overall I think these pencils work wonderfully in this book. It’s a plain-paper coloring book which can make using wet media difficult (although the pictures are one-sided so bleeding won’t be an issue if you protect the subsequent pages with a sheet of cardstock or something. There isn’t a lot of tooth to the page which isn’t the best for colored pencils generally, but these have enough “stick” to really take to the page well. After 2 years the page looks identical to the image above with no bloom (as can happen with wax-based pencils) and no apparent fading.

The only flaw I can see with the Marco Raffinés is the color payout. A number of sections above (ie: the red ball cap, the red 6-legged monster near the middle, the purple creature at the bottom center, the crayon bodies) were colored with maximum pressure to get the darkest, fullest coverage possible. As you can see there are solid, even sections of color but no real “brightness”. To me, all of the colors have a softness to them, even at full strength making them feel almost desaturated. You can see the difference more clearly in my swatches below.

Every time I get new colored pencils I swatch them, labelling the swatches with the color name or number. The oil-based Marco Raffiné pencils (above) are lovely and soft, and very similar in tone to the Faber-Castell Polychromos (below), which are also oil-based.

The Polys have more colors but the feeling of the individual shades is still softer, almost velvety, whereas the wax-based Primsacolor Premier pencils (below) are brighter and more vivid. (Click on any of the swatch images for a better view).

If you’re looking for deep, bright colors then you might be dissatisfied with these…but for anyone else they make a great, inexpensive option to have in your coloring toolkit.

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The Time Garden – Quilt Page FO

This past Tuesday (Aug 2nd) was National Coloring Book Day. I’d originally planned to celebrate and post by working on a new page from one of my books but I’m working on a major knitting project that is requiring my time and my hands. Therefore instead I’ll be sharing some completed pages that were part of a previous blog post series of mine – my 2019 19 WIP to FO Challenge.

First up is the Quilt Page from Daria Song’s The Time Garden.

What I’d posted at the time:

This page took nearly 3 years (!!) to complete, due to nothing but me putting it off forever. I’d started it on June 11 2016 and finally finished it on March 7 2019 making it one of the 19-for-2019 WIPs actually FO’d during 2019.

The small sections and tiny details of the page made it ideal for fineliners. Except for some metallic accents (using my favorite Gel Xtreme pens that have lasted for literal DECADES) the whole page was worked with Stabilo 88s and Staedler Triplus fineliners.

The quilt flower blocks repeat on a diagonal so I chose a different color palette for each row and worked the same 5 colors for each stripe but rotated clockwise once for each repeat. (IE: the color that was at 12 o’clock in the first repeat was used at 1 o’clock in the 2nd, and 2 o’clock in the 3rd, etc). This kept the coloring more interesting than coloring the same thing many, many times over.

And then I stopped with only one set of repeat left to go. No idea why, but as I’d kept the paper with my swatch notes it was easy to pull out the matching colors and get to work finally finishing it up.

I used the same colors for the matching quilt flowers in the main character’s hair on the facing page. I’d had the idea of coloring her the same through the whole book so left her uncolored until I was ready to tackle her on all the pages.

It’s a busy, chaotic mess but it’s finally done!

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Bernat Capelet WIP to FO

Yesterday was World UFO Day. Ok- yes the day is meant to focus on sightings of Unidentified Flying Objects…but I decided to be a bit liberal with my UFO definition and look around my house for an Un-Finished Object to tackle.

I’ve had this Bernat Top Down Button Front Capelet on my grandfather’s old dress form since December 2021 when I “finished” it. I made it to keep me warm at work during the winter. It’s perfect in that I can throw it on over any outfit and still have my arms free from the elbows-down so it didn’t interfere with computer work. However even though I omitted the fold-over collar, the neckline still bothered me.

The edges of the button bands would often shift up and touch my throat or the underside of my jaw and it wasn’t comfortable. I’d planned to sew the corners down as a faux lapel and even left out two lengths of the original yarn.

And then I forgot about it…until today. In the spirit of my alternate UFO day I set aside everything else I was working on and spent 5 minutes sewing down each side of the ribbed bands. The buttons still open but now it won’t hit me in the neck any longer and this “finished” project is now officially done.

If you’d like to make your own capelet the Ravelry link to the free pattern is here or a direct link to the PDF is here.

I really enjoyed using World UFO day to work on one of my own UFOs and plan to make this a yearly tradition. Join me?


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Oreo Cake-Ball “Ice Cream Cones”

In honor of today being National Ice Cream Cake Day, here are some ice cream cones I made out of cake!

Cake pops are a great way to use up the extra cake bits you get from leveling or carving your cakes. I usually like to crumble the cakes into leftover icing, mix in sprinkles or peanut butter or some other add-in, then roll the mixture into balls and store in my freezer for future snacking.

In this case I’d mixed chocolate cake with crushed Oreos and vanilla icing and pressed the resulting cake balls into mini ice cream cones.

The ice cream “shell” is white candy melts heated in the microwave. Dip the cone in a few times to build up a thicker layer then top with sprinkles while the final layer is still wet.

Brown candy melt “chocolate syrup” and a red Smarties “cherry” make the final touch to help sell the illusion!


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Cake & Brownie “Sliders” with Cookie “Fries”

In today’s post I’m going to show you the super easy steps to make these yummy cake/brownie mini “sliders” that you can pair with sugar cookie “fries” for this adorable tromp l’oeuil dessert platter. While they’re a fun surprise for any occasion they work especially well for Father’s Day which happens to be tomorrow. Since they can be made with all store-bought supplies they can be whipped up last minute meaning you still have time to make them yourself!

These sweet treats have been around the internet for a LONG time, so this is by no means my idea. I actually got the idea from Bakerella’s blog back in 2009 and made my version pictured here for Father’s Day for my dad in 2014.

Angie’s original post is linked above, and she reissued it here with updated templates for other holidays and occasions including birthdays, Canada Day and the 4th of July.

Foodstuffs you will need:

  • vanilla cupcakes – “buns”
  • brownies – “burgers”
  • sesame seeds
  • sugar cookie mix – “fries”
  • Toppings: (all optional as desired)
    • icing – “ketchup” & “mustard”
    • granulated sugar – “salt”
    • orange starburst (or other taffy-type candy) – “cheese slices”
    • red gummy candy – “tomato slices”
    • green gummy candy – “pickle slices”
    • green candy tape/roll up – “lettuce”
  • Other candies to make any other desired burger toppings

I forgot to take pics of the fries-making process, but you can find the full instructions at the Bakerella blog post. Basically you bake vanilla or sugar cookies (I used Betty Crocker Sugar Cookie mix) and bake the cookies as wide rectangles which you slice into “french fry” strips once baked and then toss in or sprinkle with granulated sugar to simulate salt crystals.

Most versions of the faux sliders start with vanilla cupcakes for the buns and brownies for the burgers.

I baked mine using store-bought box mix but you can go an even easier route and purchase ready-made plain cupcakes and brownies to skip this baking step completely. Slice all cupcakes in half horizontally and then use a cookie cutter that best matches the bun diameter to cut burger “patties” from the brownies.

For the burger toppings I’d basically wandered the aisles at my local bulk store looking for candies that could pull double-duty as other foods.

I tested out a few orange taffy-type candies for the cheese slice and in the end went with orange Starburst. Laffy Taffy, Airheads or any other orange taffy that can be rolled flat would also work well. I found it easiest to squish the candy flat and then roll it out between two sheets of parchment paper. You can also use wax paper if necessary, as I did here for storing the candies and keeping the layers from sticking together.

I used the green portion from rainbow Fruit by the Foot to simulate lettuce by tearing it into jagged strips. If you can find an all-green version that would be even better, though my kids didn’t mind eating the other colors that were left over after I harvested all the green bits!

I used red gummy disks for tomato slices, first cutting them in half widthwise to get thinner discs, then I cut those in half again as a full circle of red candy would be a bit much with all the other candy.

My store didn’t have plain green gummy rounds to use for pickle slices, so I cut up some mint-leaf shaped ones instead.

Once you have all your toppings ready, tint some icing red and yellow to simulate ketchup and mustard, and then assemble your burgers as desired.

Mine had a slice of “cheese” on the lower “bun”, then the patty, and then tomatos, pickles and lettuce, all arranged to slightly overlap the sides so they’d be visible.

A drizzle of “ketchup” and “mustard” was the last step before placing the top half of the “bun” on top.

To really finish the look brush the tops of the cupcakes with a bit of water and then sprinkle on some sesame seeds.

Arrange them on a platter and sprinkle the faux fries around. If desired you can add condiment cups or little puddles of “ketchup” and “mustard” for dipping the fries into. These were as much fun to eat as they were to make and all these years later Henri still keeps asking me to make them again, which is the real testament to how much of a hit these were!

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Happy Towel Day

Happy Towel Day to all the hoopy froods out there! Here’s a free towel pattern (with custom mods) that you can work on while sipping your pan-galactic gargle blaster or some drink that is almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea.

I first came across this pattern at Craft Time at work. (Yes- my job came with a craft club. YES- IT IS AWESOME). A few of my colleagues have knit this towel pattern, found for free online here (Ravely link here).

The version shared with me was the row-by-row Word Document version that is available here. (I’m not sure if/how it differs from Dixie’s original pattern above). I really liked the texture and stripe but am not a fan of the single hanging strap. In my experience there is too much strain on a single point and it winds up stretching over time until the towel is sagging lower than desired.

To fix this I reworked the final steps to have 3 hanging straps per towel. (You can also do 2 but I didn’t want the middle to sag either). I also worked the contrasting-texture stripe in intarsia for an inset colored band that used up scraps of cotton leftovers from previous projects.

I’ve now made 4 of them (with matching washcloths using the leftovers) and have been consistently having 2 on my oven while the other 2 are in the wash, and swapping them out regularly.

The top two sets in the image below were made with Lily Sugar ‘N Cream cotton for the white and have buttons in colors that match the contrasting colors.

The two bottom sets were made with Bernat Handicrafter Cotton for the white and have plastic snaps in matching colors set through the natural holes in the knitting. (I’ve been using my snap kit paired with a set of assorted color snaps and have managed to always find the colors I need for my projects). They have held up wonderfully and none of the snaps nor buttons have come loose with time or multiple repeated washings.

Finally I used the remaining scraps from each towel to make a matching dishcloth using my favorite easy dishcloth/washcloth pattern.

1 Strap-to-3 Strap Modifications

  • Work the towel pattern as written through row 61, adding repeats if desired to make longer towels. (Note that my towels pictured have 7 extra repeats of rows 43-46)
  • Row 62: Slip 1st st as if to purl (yarn in back), k to last st, p1
  • Rows 63-67: rep row 62 for garter band at top of towel
  • Row 68: (hanging strips setup row) Slip 1st st aitp (yib), k9, BO 17, k10, BO 17, k9, p1. You will now have 3 sections of 10 live sts with 2 BO sections in between.
  • Row 69: (first hanging strip) slip 1st st aitp (yib), k to last st, p1
  • Rows 70-100: rep row 69
  • Row 101: SSK, k6, k2tog
  • Row 102: SSK, k4, k2tog
  • Row 103: SSK, k2, k2tog
  • Row 104: SSK, k2tog
  • Row 105: BO rem 2 sts
  • Cut yarn, leaving tail to weave in, then rejoin yarn to next set of 10 live sts.
  • Repeat rows 69-105 twice.
  • If you use snaps, wiggle the post of each side of the snap through an opening in a stitch before pressing. If using buttons, add a YO on row 101
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Super Smash Bros Ike Cake

Today’s the big day! Jakob is 15!! In honor, here’s the first of 2 cakes he got for his 9th birthday, back in 2016.

He asked for a “Super Smash Bros Brawl”-themed cake, specifically featuring Ike, a character from Nintendo’s Fire Emblem series.

This guy:

The first thing I did was isolate the logo:

Then I recreated it only now saying Happy Birthday Jakob.

This was done using my usual method of preparing the fondant cutouts in advance and then hand painting them with gel colors and vodka once they’d had a few days to harden.

I’m really happy with how he came out, even though his sword broke. The fondant wasn’t quite dry enough and the vodka didn’t evaporate fast enough so it cracked when I went to move it.

I was able to lay it together on the cake, however, so it wasn’t too big of a problem.

I prepared the cake with a really simple vanilla icing layer, in the exact manner I describe in my post on how to bake a cake and prepare it for decorating.

Considering the fondant pieces were done in advance, decorating cakes like this is really quick and easy to do. It was a big hit at his party- poor Ike never stood a chance!

Jakob’s other birthday cakes

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DIY Checkerboard Minecraft Creeper Cake (NO Special Pan!)

Jakob turned 8 in 2015 and if it wasn’t clear from Henri’s Minecraft party, Minecraft lootbags and Minecraft grass biome cake that same year, 2015 brought in the reign of one particular video game in our household. (They even had DIY Minecraft Halloween costumes that year!)

Jakob was obsessed, in particular, with the Creeper. This unassuming green dude looks real cute until he shows up and blows up.

I decided to take inspiration for the inside of the cake from the Creeper’s multitude of green shades, and to theme the outside on the tshirts the boys would be wearing to the party, with the following image:

While I own a round checkerboard pan kit, I don’t have anything similar for square cakes so I had to get creative. I ended up coming up with a way to get the checkerboard look without requiring ANY special tools, and you can do it too if you follow the steps below.

Step 1 is to bake 4 cake layers, each tinted a different shade of green I used 8″ square cake pans and tinted my batter with gel coloring to get 4 different shades.

These are the colors I went with. You can choose to use more colors and more layers if you like – to copy the actual Creeper would require 8 layers for an 8×8 grid. If you want to match the colors exactly I provide the hex codes for all 8 colors in my Minecraft Steve & Creeper DIY costume head tutorial.

I only own 2 8″ square pans so I baked my cakes 2 at a time.

The cakes will turn golden on top as they bake so my icing swatches came in handy to remember which cakes were which later on.

Unfortunately I don’t have pics of the next steps but they’re very simple to follow-

  • Trim the golden top and sides off each cake
  • Cut each cake into even strips. Be sure to cut each cake into an identical number of strips. If you look at the cut section of my cake below, you can see I cut mine into 7 strips.
  • Place a bit of icing on your serving tray (to anchor the bottom pieces) and place 7 strips of assorted colors side by side to form the first layer. (Replace “7” with the number of strips you have in your cake). Once your color placement is to your liking, add a thin layer of icing between the sides of each strip to secure them to each other
  • Add a thin layer of icing across the entire top surface of layer 1
  • Repeat the last 2 steps 3 more times to add layers 2, 3 and 4. This will have used up all your cake strips
  • TIP: when cut vertically from the end, the cake will have a gridded/pixel look. You can use the same technique to create any pixel art desired
  • The key thing is to remember which direction your strips run. When you cut the cake you will want to cut horizontally ACROSS all the colors, to get the checkerboard look. If you cut horizontally WITH the strips, your cake will look like long rectangles of color.

To finish the cake simply ice and decorate the outside as desired. I covered mine with solid green icing and a fondant Creeper face, then added fondant lettering to match the boys’ shirts and Jakob’s name and age.

I used the placement of the face as my reminder which way to cut the cake later.

As you can see from the cross-section, the inside worked out perfectly! It looks just like the Creeper and Jakob was thrilled.

Jakob’s other birthday cakes

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Adventure Time BMO and Gunter Cakes

As mentioned in my last Adventure Time cake post, Jakob’s obsession with the show covered both his 6th and 7th birthdays. For this year he had both Gunter cupcakes for school AND Gunter & BMO cakes for his birthday party.

Both cakes started with doctored box mix and store-bought icing that I adjusted even further by mixing in crushed Oreo cookies to either the cake batter or the icing.

The Gunter cake was Oreo cake with plain vanilla icing, and the BMO cake was plain white cake with Oreo icing.

To make Gunter I carved the cake to give it a rounded top and then covered it with black fondant (the only color I sometimes buy pre-tinted). All the other colors used started as white fondant which was then tinted with gel colors.

I then layered on a white piece for the face/body, a faux-parchment birthday message, black wings and black and white eyes, with a yellow beak.

It was a similar process to make BMO. I started with a thicker, rectangular cake and covered it with a pale teal layer of fondant.

Small bits of blue, green, yellow, black and an even paler teal were used for the details, and then I rolled snakes of the body color to create BMO’s arms and legs.

I decorated the base cover of each cake separately then transferred them to the serving tray before applying the finishing details.

Neither one made it home from the party!

Jakob’s other birthday cakes

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Adventure Time Cake

Jakob was obsessed with Adventure Time when his 6th birthday rolled around* so of course I HAD to make him an Adventure Time-themed birthday cake. (The obsession lasted so long that he had 2 Adventure Time cakes AND Gunter-themed cupcakes for his birthday the following year as well!)

Step 1 was to make a fondant BMO. Luckily I’d already made myself a plastic canvas BMO that I could use for easy reference.

BMO was made out of white fondant tinted with gel colors, and had long toothpick inserted underneath while the fondant cube was still soft. After letting the pieces harden for a few days I drew on them with edible markers for the finer details.

I made the fondant toppers by tinting small amounts of fondant into the appropriate colors then cutting out scaled paper templates of each character. I used a fondant knife to trace and cut the appropriate sections of each color then adhered them with water and a clean food-only paintbrush. The last step was to draw on any fine details with the food markers. I then repeated the same process for the logo/sword, substituting Jakob’s name for the word “TIME” in the title.

I baked, stacked and decorated a cake to look like a lovely day in the land of Ooo then applied all the toppers (except BMO) to the sides of the cake, using the moisture of the fresh icing to adhere them. The pieces were juuuust soft enough to form slightly to the cake’s curves so they wouldn’t pop off.

Because of the weight factor, I waited until just before serving to add BMO on top and insert the number candle.

The cake was a hit, and totally mathematical!

Jakob’s other birthday cakes

*There was no homemade cake for Jakob’s 5th birthday as it was included with the party experience.

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