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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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Pixar CARS Cake

In 2011 Jakob was all about Pixar’s CARS. CARS toys, CARS books, even CARS bedsheets. So when he turned 4 that year, of course I had to make a CARS-themed cake.

Like most of my cakes, this one started with a sketch.

It was box-mix vanilla cake with pudding and egg add-ins, and vanilla icing between the layers. Except for the LEGO Piston Cup and candle, all toppers were handmade with white fondant that I tinted with gel colors.

The silver logo around Jakob’s name was made from black-tinted fondant and painted with silver luster dust mixed with a bit of vodka.

The top and back have a black & white checkered race flag, and the base of the cake is trimmed with icing. I was still learning how to properly prep a cake for fondant and you can see how lumpy the cake is, especially where it is starting to sag in the back. There are also a few cracks in the fondant in places.

The side decors were fun to make! Sally was the easiest- mostly blue fondant with black wheels, a white windshield/eyes and handpainted details. Lightning McQueen and Mater were a bit more involved, having more details to copy. To fill in the sides I also added Lightning’s number and the Rust-eze logo. All painting was done with gel colors mixed with Wilton White-White to be more opaque.

It was one of the first “figure” cakes I’d made and a different challenge than others I’d done at that point. I’m really happy with how it turned out, and the birthday boy loved it.

Jakob’s other birthday cakes

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Dinosaur Cake

Today’s quick post is a lesson in always tinting more icing than you think you’ll need!

For Jakob’s second 3rd birthday cake (the first being the Smarties one) I baked box mixes and cut them into shapes to stack and create this dinosaur cake. I believe this is the tutorial I’d followed in order to get the template pieces.

I’d been curious about decorating a cake with little icing stars like the ones you see at grocery stores, so decided to try it out using a star-shaped icing tip and store-bought icing that I tinted with gel colors.

As you can see from the image above, I ran out of the pale blue shade and mixed up a bit more to finish the back left leg… except I didn’t realize that I didn’t match it quite right!

The final touch was to make some spines out of blue fondant and insert them into the cake once they’d had a chance to harden.

Personally I feel he looks a bit more like a dragon than a dinosaur, but he was tasty and the birthday boy was happy so that’s all that matters!

Jakob’s other birthday cakes

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Number 3 Smarties Cake

Jakob’s 15th(!!!) birthday is coming up in a few weeks, so just as I’ve been doing for Henri, I’m going to countdown Jakob’s past birthday cakes.

Jakob’s first birthday cake was a simple homemade banana cake with an edible printed sheet.

I’ve never owned a food ink printer so I designed the image on my computer then brought it to a local restaurant supply store who offered the edible print service.

(I don’t have an image of the complete cake for some reason).

His second birthday pirate cake and pirate cupcakes were actually the first food tutorials I’ve posted on this blog. Which brings us to his third birthday. He had 2 cakes when he turned three, as he had both family and friends/daycare parties. For his family party I made this easy “number 3-shaped” cake.

All you need to do to create this cake is bake 2 round cakes. Mine were both 8″. One layer each will work, though if you want a higher cake you can tort and fill each cake so you have 2 layers.

Follow the instructions on the downloadable template above to create your shape. First cut and remove the center of each cake, leaving a ring-shape. Cut away a quarter of each ring, and then position the rings as a “3” to make it easier to see where to cut away the remining bit of cake. So that the cakes sit nicely together, remove a slice off the edge of each ring where the two cakes will touch, so the surfaces that touch are flat, not rounded. (Section 3 in the template).

Then all you need to do is ice and decorate your cake! I decided to keep the small inner cake sections and decorate them as well.

To make decorating super quick and easy, I used Smarties to cover each cake. The longest part of this was sorting the candy packages by color! Once I had them in individual bowls, the placement of each was pretty fast.

First I iced the cake (in my case, vanilla icing on a chocolate cake base), then covered it in the Smarties. I chose to place them in a gradient from darkest on the bottom to lightest on top, for an almost “sunrise”-looking effect.

One of the cake centers was iced and given candles for Jakob to blow out. He got to have this one for himself (and no one else got his germs from trying to blow on the candles!).

The other center was iced in a similar fashion to the main cake, using up the remaining Smarties. I believe we’d sent it home to a family member who’d been unable to attend.

Shaped cakes can be tricky but this one is really easy and looks great, and all it takes is 2 round cake layers, some icing and a bulk bag of candy.

It didn’t only look good- the birthday boy found it tasted finger-licking good too!

Jakob’s other birthday cakes


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DIY Twisted Sister Album Replica

Today I’m going to share the steps I took to create a prop replica of this Twisted Sister record album for a Becket stage show a few years ago:

We had done a skit routine to the song “We’re Not Gonna Take It” which was released 38 years ago today, on April 27th 1984. In addition to the skit requirements of tossing the record album around, in general props are often flung out of the way during quick set changes, and we didn’t want to take a chance on damaging an actual record, even if we’d owned one. Therefore I decided to make this stage-safe replica that I could easily re-make in case of damage or loss.

The basis of the record is a piece of stiff cardboard cut to size. Standard record albums are 7″, 10″ and 12″. Unfortunately the best piece of cardboard I had was only 11″ wide but since no one would be able to tell from the audience so I cut it into a square to use. The key was cardboard that would be thick enough to not bend or warp during the multiple rehearsals and performances. If your cardboard is too thin you can layer a few sheets together with glue.

To replicate the “You Can’t Stop Rock ‘n’ Roll” album, my next step was to paint the entire surface with black acrylic paint. I will be demonstrating the steps for this specific album but the same principles can be followed to recreate any required prop for theater or costume use. You can even copy your favorite albums for wall decor!

Many of my projects involve using templates and this one is no different! Once I’d chosen my cardboard I printed a copy of the record album to the appropriate scale.

Then I used the graphite trick of scribbling along the back of my image in order to transfer the design. These days I use carbon paper as I find it faster and easier, but pencils work well too.

With the back of the image covered in graphite (or with carbon paper underneath), I placed it into the correct spot and traced over all the lines. A stylus works great for this but you can just as easily use a pencil or ballpoint pen.

It’s hard to see the transferred image. I did play with the contrast to try and show it but it’s pretty faint.

Using the original album cover art for reference, I colored in the image with metallic markers and added highlights with a Derwent Drawing white pencil.

I used the same transfer method to add the album title…

…though this time I pushed a bit harder into the cardboard to give my marker ink borders. This can help contain a bit of the ink flow, if your markers are very runny. If you don’t have markers in the proper colors you can paint your album cover instead.

I had a close-enough color in my metallic markers so I used that for the band name and smaller lettering.

That’s it!

The final touch was a few coats of sealant for protection and then the album cover replica was complete!

This was a super easy and fast DIY that looks incredibly effective on stage, and because it was only cardboard and markers I didn’t have to add to our prop budget nor worry if it took some abuse and I had to remake it. That said, it was surprisingly sturdy and held up great through every rehearsal and all performances.

You can easily use the same steps to recreate any album for your own prop needs.

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Avoiding Chores with Coloring!

Did you know that today, April 7, is National No Housework Day? As a crafter, I’m ALWAYS looking for reasons to get more time in with my hobbies, so avoiding housework to spend that time doing things I love sounds like a FANTASTIC idea.

I can’t pretend this is the only day I’ve ever put off housework in favor of a project or seven though… Most recently I took advantage of a lazy weekend afternoon to do some coloring and try out a new background technique in a coloring book page. If you’d like to celebrate the holiday today by doing the same, read on for more info!

After going through my coloring book stash to see what fit my mood, I went with the super rad Like, Totally 80’s coloring book and picked a new page instead of working on one of the pages I’ve already prepped.

I wanted the quick satisfaction of using markers and this page had just the right mix of small details and elements. This book is single-sided which is great as you don’t have to worry about ruining an image on the back of the page.

To make things even more mindless, I gave myself a limited color palette. I found an 80s-inspired palette of these 6 colors:

…which I then matched in my Crayola SuperTips.

It was mindless, for sure, but I forgot that coloring is rarely quick! So I had no choice but to spend even more evenings avoiding housework.

Once all the small sections were complete all that remained was the background. It was too much to fill in with the markers so I reached for my Prismas instead.

First I filled in the entire background with a light gray (not shown). Then, using 3 colors that matched 3 of the marker colors, I went over the background again, doing large, irregular sections of color.

Next I went over the whole thing with a layer of black. My goal was to have the different shades give the black some dimension while subtly tying in the bright 80s tones.

The final step was to go over the entire background one last time, this time with my Derwent Burnisher. You can see the massive difference this makes in the image above – the background below the blue squiggle has been burnished, while the area above has not. There was no additional color applied; I merely flattened the layers of color using the burnishing pencil.

I really like how it turned out! It’s a silly, chaotic coloring book page but it was fun and I really enjoy the subtle depth the black background has by having the other colors underneath.

Looking back now I prefer the original background but at the time I’d felt it wasn’t bright enough to really SCREAM “80s”. I decided to outline everything (and also add random dots around the edge of the page for some reason…?) with a white Posca paint marker. These markers are great with colored pencils as they go over it beautifully without skipping, and once dry you can tint the paint with your markers or pencils.

To beat back the white glare I did just that. Using the same 6 SuperTips I went over the white paint to give every item an outline “glow”.

In the end I’m not mad at the final page (above), but I do prefer it pre-paint. That said, it was a lovely excuse to get out of housework for a bit and do something (relatively) mindless.

I hope you get to use today as an excuse to put down the vacuum or laundry and do something fun that makes you happy!

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