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Crafting With Kids – Easy Photo Ornament

It’s December 1st, and although stores have been in Christmas mode since even before (American) Thanksgiving, we’re now “officially” close to the holidays. Here’s a quick holiday project that’s easy enough for kids to make (with minor supervision). These easy photo ornaments are a great way to share cute images and make great gifts for grandparents. They can even be used as gift tags!

I used extras of my kids’ Santa’s lap pictures, but you can use school photos, family portraits, even pet pics!

Materials needed:

All materials as shown were found at my local Dollarama, though I’ve linked Amazon’s versions for delivery convenience.

For an ornament style, have draw or trace a circle around the desired part of your image. You aren’t limited to circles, of course, and can draw any shape you like. Cut out your shape and outline it with your choice of glitter glue. You can add other embellishments if desired, can trace only the outline as above or a later pic below, or fill in a part of the image as seen in the following images. Set aside to dry fully – at least a few hours, or overnight.

Prepare your tulle or ribbon as follows: make one large bow, one small one, and then tie two bells onto a 10″ length of tulle/ribbon, leaving about 3.5″ between them. You can trim the tail ends later. If unable to thread the tulle/ribbon through the bell’s loop, a yarn needle can help. You can also use the yarn needle (or the scissors or a hole punch) to make a small hole in the top center of the image.

Stack the small bow on top of the large bow and use the tulle/ribbon with the bells to tie them together, allowing the bells to dangle below. Cut all tails to desired length.

To assemble: Cut a 10″-12″ length of yarn. Loop through the hole in the ornament. You can use the yarn needle to thread the yarn ends through the knot of the large bow, or tie the yarn directly around the center of the bow bundle, between the two bells. Knot the two ends of the yarn together to create a hanging loop.

These hold up pretty well! While the step-by-step images were taken in 2017, the photos from here onward were taken in November 2021. This is an early, more simple version I’d made in about 2015.

The example ornament has the center spot in our wreath and it’s lasted quite well. I’ve written the date and kids’ ages on the back, and they create a nice memory during the holiday season.

Happy holidays!

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Baby Girl Baby Shower Cake with Fondant Flowers

Two weeks ago I shared the cake I made for my sister’s bridal shower.  As the saying goes, first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes Mommy with the baby carriage.

Sure enough, about a year later I got to make a baby shower cake for my first niece*!

This post isn’t going to be a full walkthrough, but rather a look at the process for designing and making a baby shower cake. As explained in my “how to bake a cake” post, it’s important to do as much prep as you can in advance. Not only do cakes need time to cool fully before you start to decorate, but some decor pieces need time to dry or set up.

My cakes always start with a sketch and some research. In this case I knew the number of people it would be serving, and that it was for a baby girl, but the rest was up to me. I decided on a layered cake with some kind of topper, and after looking at sample cakes online I vetoed a crib in favor of a baby on top of the cake.

I always make an Excel file with inspiration samples. The goal is not to straight copy anything you find, but to have a sense of what’s possible. At the time I didn’t yet have a baby mold so since I’d be hand-sculpting I collected an assortment of toppers that looked like something I could do.

I’d enjoyed texturing the fondant into ribbons for Laura’s bridal shower cake and so to tie the two cakes together I chose to make a sort of flower shape by flanging out the edges of pre-cut circles. The only thing I had to decide was if I’d color the edges or the centers of the flowers. I also had to make the fondant topper so it would have time to solidify before setting atop the cake.

The baby shower was on a Saturday and I still had residual exhaustion from finishing her last cake at 5am the morning of her party, so I got started early – on Wednesday.

I always like to assemble my supplies before I start. There’s a tub of white fondant, fondant shaping tools, my organized container of tools, paintbrushes and edible markers, my collection of gel colors, water, mini vodka bottles (for fondant painting), paper towels for blotting, and most importantly – the cake tin I’d be using for the top tier (so I could scale my topper appropriately. Plus my iPad for both inspiration and entertainment while working.

To make the flowers I used my fondant roller and silicone mat to roll out some fondant to about 2mm thick. I used a 1.5″ circle cutter to cut out 3 circles for each flower sample and flared out the edges by rolling over them with a ball tool on a foam mat. Using a food-only paintbrush and some pink edible color dust, I brushed the center of 3 of the disks and the edges of the other 3, and then loosely squished each circle with my fingers and pressed them together. I much preferred the pink-center version, so now I was able to make a proper sketch and decide on my topper (as I still wasn’t sure if I wanted a seated figure or the laying-down-with-blanket style.

A sketch really helps to visualize your plans. Once I saw how busy the cake would look with the lower tier covered in flowers I decided the blanket baby would be too much.

Next was to make the baby. In my research I found that the creator of the first baby in my inspo pic had a full YouTube tutorial available. Don’t shy away from tutorials, that’s what they’re there for! I keep up this blog specifically so my tutorials can help others, and to share what I’ve found. Here is the designer’s website with instructions on making the baby boy, and the video I followed for the baby girl:

How could I not recommend it? Look how cute it turned out!

Seriously, I love her!! My only mistake was in laying the head down while I worked on the body. Unfortunately it flattened out and I didn’t want to mess up the face by trying to round it out again. So my figure looks great from the front but her head is clearly a little squished from a side view – oops! I’d recommend perhaps laying the head in a bowl of icing sugar, flour or corn starch to hold it without applying pressure to any of the sides.

On the Thursday night I baked 2 cakes, and prepped them to cool as per my post linked above. Then Friday night was for putting it all together.

First I covered each tier in fondant – white for the flower base and a pink matching the baby diaper for the upper tier.

Knowing how heavy the solid-fondant baby figure was, I inserted a wide straw (ones for slushies are perfect) and cut it to be flush with the top tier. This would provide support and hold the weight of the figure so the cakes wouldn’t compress.

Next was to make more flowers. As for my sample, I rolled out a workable section of fondant, cut a bunch of circles, added some color to the center then squished the sides in. Be careful to not roll out more than you can handle at a time, so they don’t harden before you can flare the edges and squish them into shape. The flowers were applied to the cake with a bit of water on the cake and the adjacent petals. If necessary hold into place for a few seconds until it stays. Cover the entire base.

Remember to look at your cake from different angles. I hadn’t – I remained seated the entire time – and so I didn’t realize until I was looking at it later from above that there was a gap along the edge of the top cake where you could see the unfinished edge. Had I noticed in time I’d have pushed the top edge of petals up higher to fully encircle the top tier.

I had a few extra flowers in the end so I placed them around the baby figure, though that’s completely optional.

And there’s the finished cake! I absolutely love how it turned out. The flowers/petals give a great visual payoff that belies how EASY they are to make. Looks great and easy to customize with your choice of colors – I highly recommend!

And just as for her bridal shower cake, here’s a bonus pic of the mom-to-be with her baby shower cake. ❤

*whose arrival was followed immediately after – as in, less than 24 hours later!! – by my second niece! ❤

This post may contain affiliate links. This means I might make a small commission on purchases made through the links, at no cost to you.


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Kansas City Cowl & Noro Kureyon Review

Over the last few years I have occasionally been reached out to by YarnCanada.ca and offered yarn to review. Unfortunately life got in the way and my projects and posts were delayed. Here, then, is the first of such reviews.

The yarn I was offered this first time was Noro Kureyon. I was familiar with it, having worked with it in the past when knitting my mom’s Booga Bag as well as for my Tasha Tudor shawl. (Remember when those patterns were huge?? I think EVERY knitting blogger was making them. Both are free patterns, and both are enjoyable knits. Here are the links to the patterns: Booga bag by Julie AndersonTruly Tasha’s shawl by Nancy Bush.)

I’d knit the bag in 2004 and the shawl in 2005 so I was curious if the yarn was still as good as I’d remembered.

As per YarnCanada’s description, “Noro Kureyon is one of their higher-end, “indie” yarns, known for its artistic colors and hand production process. It’s a hand-dyed, 100% wool that comes in variegated colors that self-stripe as you knit. A wide range of accessories and garments can be knit with this yarn.” I was offered my choice of color, which was a hard decision to make! As you can see below the yarn comes in a TON of beautiful shades, each more gorgeous and interesting than the last.

I wanted to choose a pattern before selecting a yarn, as the colors would be the prominent feature. The yarn colors do sell out fast, and in fact my first choice color at the time had sold out before I was able to decide on a suitable pattern! In the end I chose color 368, and they sent me 3 balls.

Note: it looks like this color is currently not available on their website. This is what it had looked like at the time:

And this is how it looked when it arrived.

Aren’t the colors stunning?? I was swayed by the contrast of the bright blues, greens, pinks and orange against the more muted neutrals.

(Disclaimer – the images in this post from here until the mannequin were taken a few years ago with an old iPhone 4 that had a cracked lens – hence the purple halo in most pics. I cropped out and tweaked what I could, but I can’t go back and account for bad composition or staging, unfortunately).

As mentioned, I’d selected a pattern first: the Kansas City Cowl by Kim Guzman. (Free on Ravelry).

I thought it would be really cool to see the colors stripe vertically while the dropped stitches ran horizontally. Being one who gets cold easily, I also liked the idea of having a versatile garment that could be a scarf when on the go but then be pulled down into a shoulder-warming shrug/poncho when necessary.

I hadn’t read the pattern details initially so it wasn’t until I went to get started that I realized I wouldn’t have enough yarn. The pattern calls for 338m and the Noro was labeled as “plus or minus” 50g to 100m. I figured I’d knit the middle size and hope I’d have enough, but then common sense took the better of me and I decided to wind the balls up and run them through my yardage meter at the same time so I’d know for sure. I was hoping there would be an extra yard or two in one of the balls and I’d find myself luckily closer to my desired yardage.

To my surprise each ball was excessively short. Each was supposed to be “around” 100m, but I didn’t get anywhere close. I even wound each ball twice – once to wind into a cake and then a second time into a new cake so there wouldn’t be tension causing any issues. When I saw there was a rather large discrepancy, I also weighed the 3 balls.

These were my results:

Ball 1 – 263 ft or 80 m – 50g

Ball 2 – 257 ft or 78 m – 46g

Ball 3 – 262 ft or 80 m – 40g

I have no idea why the last ball was so much lighter than the first one which had the same yardage. The yarn does slightly vary from thick to thin so it’s possible there were more thin sections. (Note: it’s not a slubby yarn… it’s just occasionally not spun as tightly in spots).

Now knowing I was pretty short on the 340 m yardage my desired pattern required, I riffled through my yarn stash buckets and find something that would match.  There was some brown wool left over from a Sylvia Olsen workshop that matched in look and color…except it was leftovers, so there wasn’t much.  I measured that to be sure and had 88 ft (26.75m).  Armed with that, I formulated a plan.

The pattern starts with the cabled center section, and then stitches are picked up from it to work the body.  So my loose plan was as follows: pick the ball of yarn that began with the colors I wanted for the cable.  Then divide my brown yarn in half, and work as many rows as I could with it, and made a note so at the end I could work the same number of rows with the remaining half so it would create a matching border on either side of the cable. Then, in between, I would work as many rows I could as possible with the Noro.

Happily enough, it worked!

I knit the cable with one skein’s purple-to-black transition and then pulled the same color section from a second ball but reversed it for black-to-purple.  As the yarn is 100% wool I split spliced all joins for a seamless knit.

Then I divided my 88ft of brown in half, and used one half to pick up the stitches on one edge of cable, picking up inside the edge stitch for a nice border.  I’d marked off the middle of the half of brown, and had originally planned to use a full half on each side but after the pick-up row and 4 more rows it was already pretty wide.  I didn’t want 2″ of brown on either side of the cable so chose instead to cut the yarn there, reserving the same amount for the other side, and omitting the rest unless I absolutely needed it.

Next I took the two balls I’d cannibalized the purple/black from and matched up their colors, re-winding one in the opposite direction so that the front would be mirrored. The plan for the third ball was to find its center and reverse half so the entire cowl would look like one long repeat that went from the cable to the center back then reversed to the other side of the cable.

It worked great for the first two balls. I wound them off exactly as described. The one with the working yarn I wound around the cable & needles to keep it neat and out of the way. The other end I wound into a ball starting with the added brown that would be the final bit of knitting, and wound in the reverse direction. These two balls happened to be #1 and #3 and had such similar yardage and colors that it was super easy to wind one from front to back and the other from back to front and get a nearly mirrored result.

The middle, shortest one, wasn’t so easy.

I spit-spliced one end of ball 2 to the free end of each of the 2 wound balls and tugged off a few yards from either the outside or inside of the cake and wound it up onto ball 1 or 3. Looking down into the wound cake of the middle ball I could tell it didn’t have the exact colorway of its brothers, but it seemed to have an even repeat – raspberry to teal then green then the dark blends, then back to raspberry to teal then green then the dark blends. I figured it would be easy enough to split it into two equal repeats then reverse one for the center mid point of the back. I wanted the brighter teal coming first because both wound balls already had dark tones near the joins. It worked… until I got near the middle.

This is the only place, not counting reversing direction or adding in brown, where I’ve played with the colorway as dyed, and I’m telling you this so there are no questions as to why my colors don’t match any skein you might buy (though if this color is discontinued by now this won’t matter). Clearly the colors don’t make a repeat that I can just reverse, so I ended up cutting and spit-splicing to make my own sorta-repeat that I was happy with, that would form the middle of the cowl back.

Planning out the colors was by far the hardest part. Once my yarn was turned into one large frankenskein the project practically flew off the needles.

I did stop often to admire the color transitions. Noro yarns truly are gorgeous, and I’m always charmed by the interplay of colors I wouldn’t have thought to pair together.

The cowl is knit in stockinette with stitches dropped at the end before you seam the BO row to the opposite side of the cable. Besides the color play, the only modifications I made were to knit my length based on how much yarn I had left, and to not apply the pattern’s suggestion of slipping the first stitch of every row as I found it made the edge way too tight for my liking.

I couldn’t wait to try on the cowl as soon as I’d finished weaving in the ends! You can tell how long ago this pic was taken by the color of my hair at the time 😉

Because of my camera limitations at the time I’ve scrapped my other images and took new ones to do the project and yarn justice.

Here is the finished garment. I love the blend of colors so much!

One of the really cool things about Noro Kureyon is that you get these gorgeous color transitions but, because they’re 100% wool, you have the option of changing things up if you want to.

For example, instead of having a mirrored transition like I did here, if color blocking is more your style you could splice the balls together lengthwise, matching up the colors like with like, so as to end up with only one wider section of each color.

I couldn’t resist a detail shot of these vibrant jewel tones. There’s no color editing at play – this is just the yarn in all its glory on a sunny day.

For transparency, as mentioned above this brown section on either side of the cable is the only yarn not part of the Noro Kureyon skeins. It is very similar to a brown that appears within, and is also 100% wool, but is slightly thicker.

I haven’t knit more with Kuryeon over the years. I’m not sure why. Perhaps it was the price factor? At $10.95CAD per ball I simply haven’t had a project that I thought worthy of spending the money on. Not for myself at least, and the gifts that I make typically have had other requirements, like needing 100% cotton for dishcloths or superwash for baby garments that can be thrown into the machine. However knitting it with it again has reminded me just how much I enjoyed it.

Yes it’s 100% wool, but this is not scratchy stuff. It is soft and quite lovely. Sure you can use this for felted bags and slippers as it felts beautifully, but this is one of those few wools that I think is welcomed even against the skin.

I definitely recommend using it for your knitting or crochet projects. The only con would be the short yardage as mentioned above, but as long as you prepare and buy enough for your project, I don’t think it should deter you from trying Noro Kureyon for yourself. Also, this review is based on yarn received in 2017 so it’s possible that this is no longer an issue.

Stay tuned for a huge announcement from YarnCanada.ca coming later this week!

If you would like to pick up some Noro Kureyon for yourself, please visit YarnCanada.ca here. You can also find their full selection of Noro yarn here. All orders ship from Canada to within Canada only (sorry to my US and International followers!), with free shipping on orders over $85.00!

*Note: I received this product for free in exchange for an honest, unbiased review


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Easy Jughead Cosplay

There are 4 more sleeps until Halloween, and that’s plenty of time to make most of the costume and prop tutorials I’ve been sharing over the last few weeks. Today’s post is so quick and easy that you can make it in under an hour and probably have all the materials you need already!

Back in 2019 Henri couldn’t wear his actual Halloween costume to school because the Neighbor outfit (from Hello Neighbor) had a mask. It didn’t take any time to come up with a school-safe alternate idea for my little brunette food-machine – Jughead! Henri’s a voracious Archie comics reader and we joke that his favorite food is “food” so combining the two was a no-brainer.

The costume is really simple because you can wear any school-appropriate outfit that a teenager would wear. The main key to get the look is Juggie’s trademark hat, and then as a bonus you can include a burger to really sell it.

We went with the comics version, not the Cole Sprouse version from Riverdale, mostly because I didn’t feel like knitting the whoopie cap.

Step 1: A burger. If we’d had a toy or squishy burger I’d have used that, but since we didn’t I went with an easy thought bubble because Mr Jones is always daydreaming of his favorite food.

You can find free clipart online and prepare the image in any software that will allow you to manipulate images. My preference is Excel but you can also use Word, BeFunky, Photoshop, etc. You can also draw the image digitally in something like Procreate or draw it outright on cardstock and color it in with any art supplies you have already. You want to scale your final image to fit as large as possible on a single sheet of paper (if printing it) or can go as large as you like if drawing it on something larger like a Bristol board.

I’ve included the image I used here as a free download. For best results print directly onto cardstock or print onto computer paper and then glue it onto cardstock or cardboard. A panel from an old cereal box or shipping box from the recycling bin is perfect.

To finish the prop and protect it, laminate it with packing tape! I like to cut the image out first so when I laminate I can have a thin edge of tape just past the paper, so no moisture can get in. Cut out your image and lay strips of packing tape evenly across the front of the image, smoothing down any bubbles as you go. Next, flip the image over and repeat the process. Use your fingers to make sure the seal around the edges of the image is tight, and then trim away the excess tape. Finally, tape a stick of some kind to the back. I used a wooden chopstick from takeout sushi that I covered with white electrical tape.

Step 2: The whoopie cap. If there’s ANY key piece for a Jughead cosplay, it’s his unique hat. Cut a strip of cardboard the height of the cap, and long enough to go around the wearer’s head with about an inch of overlap. If you want to paint it gray do that now, though we didn’t bother. Cut the top into points and then try it on the wearer again to make sure it fits and that the points line up where the seam will be.

Draw or paint on the iconic buttons Juggie always has. I used permanent markers and White-Out. Finally, staple or tape the edges together.

That’s all there is to it! So quick and easy it can be ready for school the next day without keeping you up into the late hours of the night.


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Plastic Sword Repaint

As we count down towards Halloween I’m going to share a few more quick and easy projects that can improve an existing costume or be a brand new one. Today’s post is the former.

A few years ago the boys got Ninja Halloween costumes from Walmart. They weren’t fans of the faux weapons that came with the outfits so we went to Spirit Halloween and picked up a sword for each of them.

They both chose this one with a skeleton hilt. It probably belongs to a pirate, but they loved it, though they weren’t fans of the mixed color scheme. Henri wanted an all gold sword to match his Gold Ninja, and Jakob wanted an all silver look. I was quick to agree because differentiating between whose was whose would make my life as a parent easier.

Besides… how could I say “no” to these faces?*

The instructions are so easy I didn’t even take action photos! Using your gold and silver craft paint of choice, dab on paint over the raised areas. Leaving the grooves black will keep the depth and shadows. You can use a paintbrush, Q-Tip, even your finger, to dab on the paint. Wipe off any excess with a paper towel.

In this image I’ve repainted the bronzed skeleton silver to match the blade. I used DecoArt Crafter’s Acrylic from my local dollar store in Spun Gold and Silver Morning, but you can use any metallics that match your props. This gold and this silver are good options by the same brand.

You can see what a big difference it makes when comparing it to the original hilt! Luckily my silver matched the blade exactly but if it didn’t you could easily mix in some white or black to adjust the shade.

The second step was to do the same for Henri’s sword. Instead of a darker bronze like the hilt he wanted gold to match his costume. I brushed it on with a paint brush then quickly pounced on a crumpled paper towel to remove some of the paint and make sure the texture still showed through.

The last step for each was to fill in the skeletons’ eyes so they looked like gemstones. I used glitter nail polish for this but you can use anything sparkly you have on hand- glitter glue, nail polish, craft glue and loose glitter… even a tightly-packed glitter eyeshadow would work! Once dry, seal the eyes with clear nail polish or a protectant like Mod Podge. You can seal the rest of the sword if you like, with the same Mod Podge or a spray sealer, if you’re worried about the elements or long-term wear.

And that’s it! A few paint dabs to transform store-bought plastic swords into custom swords for my little Ninjas. So easy to do, and easy to adapt for any prop to add the color or wear you like. A touch of orange and green can add rust stains and oxidation, while dabbing on a few spots of red can imply the sword has seen more than the inside of a sheath.

You can find this year’s Halloween costume/prop/tip roundup here.

*Aside- it astounds me how much they’ve changed since 2017 when that pic was taken! This is the same duo in August 2021

This post may contain affiliate links. This means I might make a small commission on purchases made through the links, at no cost to you.


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Same-Size Fondant Balls Trick

It’s National Cake Decorating Day today so I’ve decided to share a project from my personal archives along with a tip to help you level up your cake decorating skills.

A few years ago I made this baby shower cake for one of my sister’s friends.

I didn’t take too many progress pictures so I can’t share a visual step-by-step, but the process is pretty similar for most of my cakes. A few days before the event I bake the cake(s) and then wrap them in saran while still warm to trap in the moisture while they cool down.

I’ve already shared a full post breaking down every step of baking a cake and getting it ready to decorate, and I followed the same steps for this cake except I covered the layers with fondant instead of icing.

The step that took the longest with this cake was to create the fondant topper. The dad-to-be is a hockey player so I was asked if I could create a baby ice skate for the top. It’s fully fondant except for the lace, and I made it about a week in advance so it would have plenty of time to dry out and harden before the party. I wanted the skate on a long skewer to make it easy to slide securely into the cake after delivery so I put the skate and blade together while soft so I could slide the skewer in and make sure the holes were lined up, but then I took them apart to dry separately. I didn’t want the weight of the skate to distort the blade before it was fully set up.

When there is going to be a lot of weight on a cake it’s important to have enough support in the lower layers so the cake doesn’t sag. First I covered the lower layer in a base of baby blue and then I broke a dowel into 5 pieces to create a support to hold the weight of the upper tier. I didn’t want to take a chance on any splinters getting into the cake so there’s a cut length of straw around each dowel. I also made a note for the recipient letting them know how many supports there were so there would be no chance of a guest receiving more than they bargained for on their plate.

I don’t have progress pics of the decoration itself but it’s fairly simple – the base tier was covered in strips of fondant in various shades of blue and white and then topped with a disk of gray on top to clean up the edges and hide the supports. The top tier was covered with white fondant and then fondant circles of blues and gray in assorted sizes. To get the smaller circles I used an assortment of cookie cutters as well as straws of varying thicknesses.

This is where the tip comes in! When creating a fondant pearl border for the cakes the easiest way to make sure you get all your balls the same size is to use a cutter to cut out identical pieces of fondant before rolling. You can use a straw for really small pearls or a cookie cutter like I did to get larger ones, or any size in between! It’s super fast and easy and eliminates the guesswork of judging how large a piece of fondant you’ll need to roll. You can use the same tip for clay work as well!

As you can see with my pearls, there’s still a tiny bit of variance. This is because I didn’t roll my fondant to the same thickness each time. I’d advise using guide rings on your fondant roller to get the same thickness every time.

I added 2 more circles of blue on top to give a contrast for the skate, and then the cake was ready for pick-up.

My box wasn’t tall enough for the cake so I used 2 skewers to hold the lid in place, and set the skate in a bed of paper towel in the plastic container from a package of strawberries. The holes in the plastic were perfect to slip the skewer that was inserted in the skate through.

Here’s the finished cake. I’m really pleased with how it turned out!

I also really love this image I was sent of the cake in place among the other desserts at the shower. ♥

Here’s an easy-to-pin reference image for those who don’t already follow me on Pinterest. 🙂

Hopefully this little trick will help out the next time you’ve got to make a whole bunch of identically-sized fondant (or clay) balls!

Note: Today is also World Mental Health Day. This year’s Mental Health campaign is focused on showcasing the efforts various countries have made to bring mental health care to their populations, especially during the pandemic. For more information about the campaign, please click here, and if you’d like to donate to the World Federation for Mental Health you can do so here.

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Bowling Cookies

It’s National Homemade Cookie Day in the USA today, and even though I live in Canada, who could say no to cookies? They’re tasty, versatile, and in these mid-pandemic days, a great way to provide individual portions per person.

Here’s an easy way to make a set of fun bowling cookies that you could even bowl with!*

I made these a few years ago for Father’s Day, as bowling has been a family sport since I was a kid. My dad was on a league through until Covid, and most of my siblings and I were on leagues at various times as well.

Back in the blogging heyday I used to follow a handful of cookie decorators (Sweetopia, The Bearfoot Baker and SweetSugarBelle were 3 favorites) and a big lesson I learned was how to use cookie cutters in creative ways. After deciding on “bowling cookies” I went through my bin of cookie cutters and pulled out 3 that would be perfect for this project.

The square cutter is from a nesting set similar to this one. Using it to create the lanes, choose the size that works best to fit as a multiple on the serving tray you plan to use. Rectangles would also work just fine. In my case I used the roughly 2″ square. The circle cutter is from a set similar to these. Used for the bowling balls, choose a size that looks appropriate on your size lanes. Mine is roughly 1″ in diameter. As for the bowling pin, this is where you have an opportunity to be creative! They do make actual bowling-themed cookie cutters, but I don’t have any so I used a Christmas bulb from a set similar to this one.

Step 1: Bake your cookies. You can use your preferred recipe of choice; I used my standard sugar cookie recipe adapted to taste years ago from this old Martha Stewart recipe. You want to avoid your cookies spreading while baking so be sure to chill your dough (before cutting works but after cutting is even better). Make enough squares (or rectangles) to fill the shape of your bowling lanes, plus a few extra to account for breakage. Bowling uses 10 pins so you’ll need to make at least that many, plus again extra to account for breakage. Finally, use the rest of your dough to make as many round cookies as you’d like. You really only need one to be the bowling ball, but I was serving a crowd so I made as many as I could with the dough that remained.

Step 2: Fondant toppers. If you prefer royal icing you could certainly line and flood the cookies and decorate them that way, but I find fondant a quick and easy way to get them done faster. Another example of this technique is here, where I used fondant to turn round cookies into records for a music-themed set.

Roll out white, ivory or cream fondant and use the same square and pin/bulb/etc cutter that you used for the cookies to cut a topper for each one. Moisten the back of the fondant (or the top of the cookie) with a bit of water and press the fondant into place, one topper on each cookie.

The bowling balls are a great place to use up leftover scraps of fondant. Roll out some black fondant then tear little pieces of your other colors and place them randomly on the black. Then roll over it some more to blend out the colors. Once you have it looking the way you like, use the same circle cutter to cut out enough toppers and place them on the ball cookies in the same way as above.

Step 3: Turn your base cookies into lanes. Start by using a yellow, orange or brown edible marker and a straight edge to draw stripes down your lanes to represent the individual planks of wood. I used a yellow Wilton FoodWriter and the edge of my transparent cutting mat. I generally prefer these AmeriColor edible markers so I tend to save them for when I’ll be needing to draw details because the Foodwriters are more broad-tipped.

Step 4: Wood grain, part 1. Using a paintbrush that’s ONLY ever used for food, dip it into a pot of brown icing gel color and blot onto a paper towel to get most of the globs of gel color off. Cheap plastic paintbrushes like what come in childrens’ art kits are perfect for this, but it’s super important that the brushes are reserved strictly for food use. Don’t worry about the messy bristles- the messier the better for this technique! Splotch the brown gel color directly onto the fondant cookie toppers. Try to pounce in a direction in line with the stripes you’d drawn so your wood grain goes in the proper direction. Repeat until you’ve done one full vertical row. In theory you could repeat this process on all the cookies and then move on to the next step, but I didn’t want to take a chance on the gel drying too much to reactivate so to be safe I did one strip at a time.

Step 5: Wood grain, part 2. Dip the same scrappy paintbrush into water and then brush lightly over the cookie to reactivate the brown tint and spread it across the fondant. Ensure to always brush in a vertical direction to create a faux woodgrain texture. Make sure to thin down the color just enough so that the stripes you’d painted earlier just barely show through.

Once you’ve completed the entire vertical stripe, repeat steps 4 and 5 on the remaining stripes of cookies.

Here’s the final look.

If you’re a longtime follower of this blog you’ll remember I’ve used this technique before, to make the hot tub for the Betty Boop cake for my mom’s birthday.

Step 6: Marker details. Use a red edible marker to add the characteristic stripes on the bowling pins…

…a black marker to add three dots to represent holes on the bowling balls…

…and the red marker again to add the triangular lane markers onto the lanes.

And that’s it! Assemble your pins into place at the top of the lanes and your set of bowling cookies is complete! I added a quick fondant ribbon sign to mark the occasion but that’s completely optional.

*Can bowl with them: If you take “bowl” to mean “stand up the pin cookies and flick a ball cookie at them, hoping to not get caught on the lip of one of the lane cookies”

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Use sandpaper to improve the tooth of coloring book pages

Today, September 14th, is National Coloring Day. Of course coloring isn’t limited to coloring books, but over the last few years they’ve definitely become more prevalent! Whether they’re your preferred place to apply color or something you only do with kids, you’ve likely noticed that the paper quality can vary greatly. From thick cardstock to what’s basically printer paper, the type of paper will affect everything from what media you can use in the book to if you can actually color both sides of the same page.

On average, most adult coloring books use a slightly thicker-weight white paper that can handle all dry media as well as water-based markers, with some bleed-through if you press too hard or go over the same spot repeatedly. Crayons and colored pencils will lay down pretty evenly as the paper has little-to-no tooth, but if you’re the kind of artist who prefers to work with a more textured paper, here’s a tip that can help transform the books you already own – sandpaper!

I’ll demonstrate this in my copy Archie’s Coloring Book (and there’s a video demonstration at the end of the post).

This is a great book that is jam-packed with tons of images of Archie and the gang, showcasing everyone from the core trio to side characters (Dilton, Moose, Cheryl, Sabrina, Josie and the Pussycats, Miss Grundy, Mr. Weatherbee), to the ‘Lil Archie gang. Even Jughead’s dog Hotdog appears in all his shaggy glory!

I first thought about this back in 2017 after watching one of SuperRaeDizzle’s videos on dollar store art supplies. If you don’t follow her you really should – she’s a fantastic artist who does a lot of art supply reviews and draws/paints with incredible realism. In the linked video she uses a sanding block to rough up a sheet of inexpensive Bristol board to give it a better drawing surface.

I thought it was really cool but didn’t think it applied to me – until I started wondering if the same technique would work in what I was using a lot of at the time – coloring books. In theory it seemed like it should work but with the paper so much thinner than Bristol board I didn’t know if it would work. Would it tear the paper? Would it destroy the printed outlines? Would the ink bleed?

I had to try it for myself. To make the results as clear as possible I chose a page that allowed me to clearly divide the page into two halves.

I left the Veronica side of the page untouched and sandpaper I had on-hand to lightly rough up the Betty side of the page.

Here you can see the before (left) and after (right). There’s no obvious distress to the page though if you look closely at the black line of Betty’s shirt near the guitar you can see faint striae where the ink was removed.

To hold the book open while I worked I used my pants hanger hack. Still highly recommend!

I then set about coloring the page with Faber-Castell Polychromos colored pencils. I was careful to color in both girls the same way, using the same colors and applying the same amount of pressure.

Right away you can see a difference! Coloring on the Veronica side was exactly like coloring with colored pencils on computer printer paper (though I think this paper is slightly thicker). It’s super smooth and flat without any tooth or texture at all, and the colored pencil glided over the page really easily. On the Betty side I could feel the roughened-up surface of the page and it gave the colored pencil something to grab to, making coloring a very different experience.

It’s difficult to put the feeling into words but coloring the Veronica side felt like I had to concentrate more, because my natural tendency was to use more pressure to get more color payoff, whereas on the Betty side the same amount of barely-there pressure gave a richer color payoff.

Coloring on the super-smooth side made me very conscious of trying to not color too hard because it took more work to lay color down. On the flip side, coloring on the textured side of the page made color application a breeze, to the point where I had to concentrate on not applying too much and losing any highlights.

Both sides are colored the exact same way, using different colors for shading. I didn’t want to do anything too fancy because this was only a test; it was more about seeing if the sandpaper would ruin the book or any attempts to color vs me trying to get a professional-looking result.

I’d sanded the guitar evenly down the middle and thought there would be a more obvious difference between the two sides but I’d say it’s pretty subtle. Again- the sanded side has more depth and more color payoff while using the exact same pressure as the unsanded side.

I was also curious if sanding the paper would affect marker application, so decided to fill in the music notes with a mix of sparkle and metallic gel pens, in black and charcoal. I was really happy to see that there didn’t seem to be any effect on how the gel ink applied, and that both sides had the same amount of glitter and shine in the light.

Finally I wanted to see if there would be any issues coloring on larger open areas, so I picked two colors and experimented with blending them to each other. In my first layer of color (2nd image from the left) you can see that both sides are streaky but the funny thing is it’s for different reasons!

Veronica’s side is streaky because I struggle with laying down barely any color…though I probably didn’t have a proper point on my pencil, which didn’t help. Whereas Betty’s side is streaky because that’s the grain from the direction I’d sanded. You can see it better in the image below (though I sort of like the streaky look on her jeans because it makes them look more like real denim LOL)

The last test that I did was to compare the difference that burnishing would make on either side. I went over both sides of the guitar with my beloved Prismacolor Premiere colorless blender and really tried to smooth any grain down and move the color to fill any remaining white areas. I have the page open in front of me as I type this and while my fingertip can tell the difference between the two sides it is SLIGHT, and definitely not as much of a contrast as the rest of the page halves.

(And truthfully I’m not completely convinced that I’d feel a texture difference there at all if I hadn’t sanded too hard in that spot, as you can see by the diagonal lines of indentation on the lower right of the guitar)

Here’s the completed page. If I didn’t know that one side had been sanded I would think that I’d colored harder on the right side, and possibly used a different color for Betty’s jeans and background, as I do feel that there’s a visible difference in this closeup.

I don’t find the difference is as obvious in this image, though I’m not sure if it’s because the black background is causing a distraction.

After trying this once I’m a convert! I have a large collection of coloring books and I think this technique opens up a world of possibilities for getting different effects and results with colored pencils, crayons, and pastels. The opportunities expand even further if you experiment with different grits of sandpaper!

Imagine coloring a fantasy scene and sanding a grassy area with one grade of sandpaper, bricks of a castle with another, and the bark of a tree with a third… you could get a whole range of textural effects within the image all before even laying down any color!

Other notes: in the video below you’ll see a little bit of ink smearing. That was due to pressing too hard with the sandpaper, so it’s avoidable but something to watch out for. I was happy to see that there was no consequence to the back of the sanded page, nor any texture transfer on the facing page.

Here’s a graphic for those of you who like to pin my posts, and as promised above, here below is a video showing this technique in action.

This post may contain affiliate links. This means I might make a small commission on purchases made through the links, at no cost to you.


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Happy Birthday Sweet Seventeen

Seventeen years ago, on September 7 2004, I started this blog. Yes, this creative passion project of mine is officially old enough to be in college and donate blood. It began on Blogger in the boom of knitting/craft blogs that fed blogrolls and Yahoo swaps and RAOK groups.  We’ve seen the onset of Ravelry and Worldwide Knit In Public Day, and welcomed pattern sources like Knitty, Craftsy, Twist Collective, St Denis Yarns and others before having to say goodbye to some of them.

With YouTube, Instagram and TikTok flooding the internet with video-based creative content, running a blog feels almost antiquated. I’ve been asked by friends and family why I don’t switch to another format but the truth is… I don’t want to. I love video tutorials. I follow a TON of craft-content YouTubers, and have saved a huge amount of “try one day” crafty TikToks to my favorites list too, so it’s not a critique of the other formats. They absolutely have their place, especially for some techniques or tutorials that can really only best be shown in video. That said, I still think there’s a place for blogs and photo-based project/pattern support.

My “blogaversary” this year falls on the first day of Rosh Hashana, which is the Jewish New Year.  I think that makes it perfect timing for a long-overdue blog restart. (I know, I know, I’ve said this before. Shhhh!) Coincidentally I was born on was erev (eve) Rosh Hashanna (we won’t say how long ago!) so Happy birthday to the blog, happy sort of birthday to me, and happy Jewish New Year!

To celebrate 17 years in the public craft domain I’ve scoured the site, my notes, folders, and metadata and picked 17 fun, interesting or long-forgotten items from my blogging history.

1-7

Numbers 1-7 are from the archives.  These are posts even I forgot about!  Some are helpful tips, some are free patterns/tutorials, and all are added to the How To section above.

8

Even when I don’t post regularly I get a steady stream of visitors (thanks!) and I’m always curious to see what search terms bring people my way.  So number 8 is my top referrer keywords from back in my Blogger days.  Funny enough it’s a tie between two completely random things that have almost nothing to do with my site: “cute japanese cartoons” & “hangman”.  I’m guessing the former is related to the time I knit a Japanese boy band, but the latter?  NO idea.

9

Number 9 is the results of my top search terms after migrating the blog to WordPress.  Unfortunately/fortunately Google has been encrypting the vast majority of search terms since 2013 so 9771 of my results are “unknown”.  Of the list that remains the top three terms are: “Toothless”, “pocketbook slippers”, and “pocket book slippers”, likely linking back to these two projects (Toothless, slippers).  Wanna know the lowest search result that brought someone my way?  “Long hair cut feet”.  I wonder how disappointed the searcher was to find my post was literally about a long hair transformation??

10

Number 10 is a really cool fact- I’ve had visitors from 170 different countries!  The majority are, unsurprisingly, from Canada and the United States, but rounding out the top 20 are the UK, Australia, Germany, Brazil, the Netherlands, Mexico, France, Iceland, Spain, Italy, the Philippines, Israel, New Zealand, Poland, South Africa, Argentina, Hungary and Denmark.

11-14

Numbers 11-14 are my the top 4 posts since switching to WordPress.  I had a hunch what these were because they keep Pinterest flashing up on my phone.  What I didn’t expect was that the top post would outrank second place by more than double!

15

I’ve spent the last few months poring over my unshared projects and planning out a blog schedule for the year.  For number 15 I thought it would be fun to look through my folders and see just how old my oldest unshared project truly is. There was a lot to wade through but I found it!  Coming in at over a decade old a crafty hack that you’ll see on the block next year dates all the way back to February 2010!

16

Looking through all those projects was a fun trip down a creative memory lane.  As number 16 here’s a little teaser of a post I can’t wait to share in full…

Any guesses?

17

And finally, for making down this far: number 17 is a picture of me at the same age as this blog.

Whether you’ve been here since day 1 or day 6204, thanks for being a part of my creative adventures. I run this blog for me, but I love sharing it with you. ♥

*All search terms and other totals above were accurate as of the date of preparing this post.


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Create This Book December Challenge – and Introducing a New One

It’s January, so that means out with the old, and in with the new… challenge. While I didn’t get as far as posting my backlog of projects and tutorials, the monthly posting (self-imposed) commitment did keep me going, and I’m going to take it a step further in 2021.

But first- let’s close out the current challenge. For the 12th and final time: each month in 2020 my 11yo son Henri and I chose a page from Moriah Elizabeth‘s Create This Book (vol 1) and each of us completed the page in our own books. Now the year has gone by, Henri will be 12 next week, and there’s a link to all past pages at the bottom of this post.

For December Henri chose the “Create Art with Wax” spread on pages 52-53.

Instead of coloring with the crayons, he wanted to try a heat-and-drip method. He used regular Crayola and Cra-Z-Art wax crayons, and I decided to get “fancy” and go with the Crayola Twistables I’d used back in May.

Note- don’t do this. First of all, if you don’t twist the crayon out enough, you can start melting the plastic. Secondly, the glitter ones kept making strands (like when you use a glue gun). Thirdly, they don’t melt that great before starting to scorch, and finally – they burn. As in, like a candle. As in they hold a flame and now you’re just holding fire. I was able to time how long to heat them for, but I wouldn’t allow my kids to try to heat these. Stick to using them on paper.

We used the candle as our heat source and started playing around. Looking back at this pic I remember how well I thought it was starting. It wasn’t great by any means – they didn’t melt well and they dried super fast so I only got one dab onto the paper before having to re-heat… but it seemed like it would be ok…

<cough> …and then this mess happened. I have no words. Like, it’s just… ugly. I tried to embrace the “no rules, just go with it” but then also tried to do… something? The combination doesn’t work. These crayons for melting doesn’t work. Nothing you see here works LOL

In fact I like the blotting paper I kept on the side better than the actual “artwork”.

I even like the dusting page where we swept up all the wax bits better than the actual art!

So it’s no surprise that once again Henri kicked my ass!

Seriously. The kid made a freaking sunset over water.

How cool is that??? I love it. I’m tempted to give him a canvas and a lighter and ask him to make me one for my wall. (Kidding).

(Mostly).

And that’s a wrap on the year!

Complete list of 2020 Create This Book Challenge pages:

Final thoughts: this was a really fun experience to do all year. I loved having an art challenge with my child, and getting to see his creativity and the ways it can be similar or different from my own. I loved watching him hunched over the book or getting excited over an idea, and I love that I have the book as a memento of his talents at this point in time (and future ones as we keep filling in the pages).

Favorite page(s) of Henri’s: I love his February because it’s got so many weird and random elements (pooping apple?!?) that reflect his sense of humor. Speaking of which, I LOVE his September page! Not only the idea but the execution. Oh, and his July! He made it look like a full magazine spread!

Favorite page(s) of mine: I think March was my most “professional” page, so the part of me that feels like the art I present to the world needs to be reflective of skill, I’m proud of that one. April takes me back to my childhood, as a card fold I learned in an early art class when I was about 8 or 9 is one I still use today for fun “talking” cards, and this page will always remind me of 2020 and social distancing and quarantining and cuddling with my boys and giggling over cool TikTok videos. I also really like my October. I haven’t freehand drawn anything publicly (outside of Becket stuff) and it felt good to flex those muscles again.

Finally I think I like November for both of us. I created my first OC in years, and he wow’d me with the details and thought he puts into his drawings. He doesn’t miss a thing.

So now that 2020 is done, it’s time to reveal my 2021 challenge. It’s actually one I was looking into about a year or so ago, but then forgot about. When it came to mind on Jan 1 I knew it was a sign, because one of my current goals is to teach myself Procreate, and this challenge can be either physical or digital. I sprung for the digital version, and on January 1st 2021 I sat down and did my first square in the One Year Doodle Challenge by Jennifer (SeaLemon on YouTube).

My short explanation is that it’s a year (undated, so you can start anytime, any year) of doodle prompts, but you can watch her full explanation video:

I’m going to do my best to do one doodle per day and then post the full month somewhere in the first week of the following month.

As a little preview, here’s my January 1 square “balloon”. I was going to draw a regular balloon but went for a balloon animal instead. If I’d been sketching by hand on paper, I’d have put in the actual 3D perspective with the other legs and ear behind the ones shown. But I’m still learning layers and shading and didn’t want to have the extra elements to get me frustrated. As it was I should have used the function that smooths the lines, because my balloon would look way better without wonky edges, and the smudge function annoys me because it doesn’t smudge like I feel it should… Nonetheless I’m quite pleased with my little doodle and looking forward to seeing how far I come by Dec 31.

Happy New Year!

This post may contain affiliate links. This means I might make a small commission on purchases made through the links, at no cost to you.