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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!

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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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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How to Make a Wedding Dress Cake

Three-years ago today my baby sister Laura got married. Since I never shared the cake I’d made for her bridal shower, here’s a full step-by-step tutorial on how to make your own Barbie/Fashion Doll wedding dress cake!

One important step that often gets overlooked is transport. As I’d be driving the cake to the party, before even starting to bake I had to make sure I had a way to bring the cake with me safely. First I selected the platter I wanted to use – in this case a pizza oven tray – and made sure I had a box that fit. This crate saved from a Costco run worked perfectly. I used scissors to cut one of the sides so I could flatten it and slide the cake in, and the packing tape was there to re-tape the box again for the ride.

Once I knew I had a way to get the cake to the party I was able to plan the cake itself. My mom and I had spent an afternoon looking for a brunette Barbie/generic “Fashion Doll” that would resemble my sister. Knowing the doll’s height allowed me to plan how many cakes I’d need to bake. I used a Wilton “Wonder Mold” dress pan to bake a vanilla cake and added height with an additional chocolate cake baked in a pan that matched the width of the dress mold.

Note- as this is a very picture-heavy post I tried to group as many together as possible. You can click on any image to view it larger if desired.

As explained in my “How to bake a cake” post, I always bake a few days in advance. Optional: make a simple syrup by boiling together an equal amount of white sugar and water and set that aside to cool completely. While it’s cooling prepare a few batches of buttercream icing using your favorite recipe. I used Wilton’s. You can flavor them as you like; in my case most of it was left plain but I took out enough to fill the chocolate cake and mixed in crushed Oreo cookies to make an Oreo icing. After the syrup is fully cooled, tort and fill each cake (I like using my favorite cake leveling helper) adding a drizzle of syrup to the layers to keep the cake moist until the party. For mine, the chocolate cake was split into two layers with the Oreo icing in between, and the vanilla cake was split into three with the plain vanilla icing. Don’t forget to “glue” your cake to your platter of choice with a dollop of icing.

You can see the significant height difference achieved by torting & filling the cakes!

Once the cake base was ready I used watercolor pencils to change the doll’s eyes to match my sister (using techniques from Poppen Atelier) and tucked the doll’s hair up to keep it out of the way. I also wrapped her lower body in saran wrap. It’s an optional step but as I wanted my sister to be able to keep the doll it made it easier to keep it clean.

Decide where the doll would be inserted and use a knife to carve out a channel for her legs. Note- I didn’t realize my channel was off-center. This resulted in the dress looking bulkier in the front than the back. Just something to keep in mind when making your own.

Then cover the cake using the remaining icing. Smooth it but don’t stress about making it too even as it won’t be seen later. Once fully covered, roll out white fondant to a diameter matching the height of the cake, doubled. Using a rolling pin with levelers can help keep your work even.

Cover the cake base with the fondant and trim the lower edge. Use a separate piece of fondant to make a dress bodice and moisten the inside with a bit of water to help adhere it to the doll, then insert the doll. To finish prepping the dress, roll out a fondant snake to fill in the gap between the dress and bodice, and smooth to blend evenly.

If you are planning to have wording around the base of the cake platter, cut out your fondant letters now so they have a chance to harden. We were having the party right after my sister’s birthday so I cut out the words “HAPPY BIRTHDAY BRIDE-TO-BE” and brushed them with gold “paint” made by mixing pearl dust with vodka. Tip: use a medicine syringe for easy dispensing of small amounts of vodka to avoid over-diluting your dust and needing to add more.

Now you’re ready to work on the dress’ ruffles. Be forewarned – this takes a long time. Cake decorating always does, but looking at timestamps from my images I can see the ruffles portion alone took about 3.5 hours. (It also adds a lot of extra weight to the cake which is partly why I used the pizza tray as my platter – I didn’t want to take a chance on a plastic platter cracking under the weight).

Roll out a piece of fondant and cut it into strips. My Wilton fondant mat was really helpful here for easily cutting at 1-inch intervals. Cut enough strips so that you’re not stopping too often but not so many that they stiffen or harden too much to be usable by the time you get to them.

You will need a ball tool and shaping foam mat in order to make the ruffles. Note: I’ve deliberately darkened the contrast & shadows in this image to show you the ruffle texture. Using the ball tool, roll over one edge of your fondant strip to thin and flare it out. Don’t go so thin that it tears through. As I was making my dress have an ombre effect, I used more pearl dust gold “paint” to add sheen to the ruffled edge. Don’t bother painting the flat edge as it won’t be seen.

Use water and a food-only paintbrush to moisten the back of the ruffle’s flat edge and add it to the cake. You can use a smoothing tool or your fingers to help secure.

For the ombre effect, vary the tone of your colors as you go. In my case I lowered the ratio of gold pearl dust to vodka as I went, so the lower tiers have a darker gold shine and it fades to white as it goes upwards.

Repeat the process until you’ve covered the whole cake. Just like when icing or other decorating, a turntable is REALLY helpful during this process.

On your final layer, smooth out the ruffle’s flat edge to blend into the bodice.

Make sure to smooth it on all sides. You can stop there or add decorative finishing details.

I added a gold paint trim and a fondant “belt”, and then sewed some gold tulle fabric into place as a veil using thread that matched the doll’s hair color. I also added the doll’s original gold bracelet.

Add your lettering (if using) and you’re done!

Here you can see how I’d accidentally offset the doll’s placement. I would prefer to have her centered, or at least have the extra pouf in the back, but I didn’t realize until too late. A good reminder to always view your cake from all angles, not just the front!

Make sure to leave yourself enough time to decorate! I wound up finishing the cake at around 5:00am and had to be at the bridal shower by 11:30 to help set up.

I slid the cake into the box and then taped the front back up into place using packing tape. This made it really easy to carry the box around and the dab of icing under the cakes guaranteed it didn’t slide around on the platter.

The cake slices do wind up very tall, but it did give the option of splitting a piece so one person could have the vanilla half and the other the chocolate.

As a bonus for those who made it this far down, here’s a pic of my sister at her wedding. 🙂

I hope this post helps someone create their own wedding dress cake! The customization options are endless, and you can really have fund with the details.

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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How to Enlarge Pattern Charts Physically and Digitally

It’s been almost 2 years since my Order of the Phoenix blanket was published in the Knitting Magic book. 

There it is on the cover!

The Black family’s ancestral home played a huge role in the source book (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoneix) so in honor of today being Sirius Black’s birthday I’m going to answer the number one question I get asked about my pattern: how to enlarge the charts.

In case you missed my previous post about it, The Order of the Phoenix blanket is a circular throw that features motifs representing Harry’s scar as well as phoenix feathers and flames to represent the phoenix’ rebirth. A primary feature of the blanket is the text “The Order of the Phoenix” that goes around the center.

As the book is under copyright I’m not allowed to share a digital version of the charts when people request it, nor use that as my example here in this post. Instead I’m going to use my Lullaby baby blanket pattern for reference as they are both similar in having a charted band of words going around the center.

Lullaby was originally published in the Spring/Summer 2010 issue of the now-defunct St-Denis magazine, that supported Veronik Avery’s yarn line of the same name. It has a deep border of garter feather-and-fan lace and features the words HUSH * BABY * SLEEP * BABY * around the center.

Using my hand for scale you can see that the charts are of relatively similar size between the two pattern books:

Obviously I had to blur out the charts themselves but you can still see the suggestion of where the words are and so the instructions I give for Lullaby will work just as well on Phoenix or any other chart by any designer.

There are a few different ways you can enlarge your patterns, depending on if you start with a physical or digital pattern, and on the result you want (physical or digital enlargement).

How to enlarge a PHYSICAL pattern (book, magazine or printout)

There are 2 options for enlarging a physical pattern.

Option 1: home scanner/copier/printer

Most home printers these days have a built-in copy/scan feature. If you scroll through the copy settings you can find an “enlarge” option that will allow you to increase the size of the chart in the printout.

You can also use the printer’s scan function to get a digital copy of your pattern that you can enlarge with any of the following digital methods.

Option 2: public photocopy center/machine

You can find both self-service and with-service public photocopiers at commercial copy centers like Staples. You can also often find public photocopiers at your local pharmacy or library.

This is a direct photocopy from my pattern. My hand is provided for scale.

This is an enlargement of the same page, made using the photocopier’s built-in enlargement option. Most photocopiers can handle legal and oversized papers. In this case, I used the 129% option to print on the largest size paper available (11″x17″).

You can see the difference between the two sizes.

The HUSH chart, for example, is 1.75″ high by 6″ wide in the original (and copy), and 2.25″ high by 8″ wide in the enlargement. These differences might make printing as-is enough of an enlargement for you, or you can take the enlargement and use it as your starting image to photocopy again even larger…repeating the process as-needed until the resulting chart is of a size for you to work with comfortably.

How to enlarge a DIGITAL pattern

There are many options for enlarging a physical pattern. I will be demoing these methods using my computer and/or an iPad. It is possible to do them all on a smart phone as well but since the point is to enlarge a chart to make it more convenient to work from, I’m going to assume you’re going to be working from your tablet or computer/laptop and not the smaller screen of a phone.

Option 1: from a physical file

Take a picture of your chart with a smart device and then email it to yourself so you have a digital file to work with.

Alternately you can upload it directly to an accessible storage media like Dropbox or Google Drive, or upload the image directly into a data-processing app like Microsoft Word, Excel or OneNote, Google Docs or Sheets, or your favorite annotation app/software. From there you can proceed to the enlargement instructions below.

Option 1b: from a digital file

You would use this option if you already have your pattern in a digital format. In this case I’ll be using the sale pattern version of Lullabye.

Use your favorite screenshot app to take a picture of the chart on your screen. I like Microsoft’s built-in “Snipping Tool” but you can use Snagit or any others including the “print screen” button yon your keyboard. As the “print screen” key method has a few extra steps, both ways are shown below. TIP: enlarge the chart on-screen before taking the screenshot so you are already starting with a larger version.

A) Using Snipping Tool (or other screen-grab software)

Open your pattern document (ie: Word doc, Excel file or PDF) on screen. Make sure the chart (or section of the chart you wish to capture) is in full view, then open your screen-grab software.

Click “new” to start a new screenshot. The software will freeze the entire screen as it currently looks.

As it says on the prompt – drag the cursor around the area you want to capture. Use your mouse to drag a square or rectangle from one corner to the opposite diagonal, making sure your desired image is fully inside your boundaries.

You can see the red boundaries on the image above. I started my capture at the upper left corner and dragged down to the lower right (where the cross is). Everything inside the red rectangle will be part of my screen-grab. I made sure to include my chart’s legend as well as the instructions on the bottom.

After you release the mouse after dragging, your cropped result will appear within the software’s window. If you don’t like the results, or are missing part of your chart, simply click “new” to start over and drag again.

Once you have the results you want, click “file” then “save as” and save the image to your computer. I keep a folder for every project I work on so I would save it in there for easy reference but you can save it to your downloads or anywhere that you would like.

B) Using your keyboard’s “print screen” key

Open your pattern document (ie: Word doc, Excel file or PDF) on screen. Make sure the chart (or section of the chart you wish to capture) is in full view, then tap the “print screen” button on your keyboard. This will take a screenshot of your full screen – everything showing on your monitor.

Open any software that will allow you to paste and then crop an image. I’ve used Word, Excel and Paint regularly with great results, and many other programs will work as well. My example is using Word.

Place your cursor anywhere on the page and use ctrl-v or click file→paste to paste your screenshot into the document.

You can see the image of my screen is now pasted into the Word document – background, taskbar, clock and all.

Click on the image within the document itself.

This will bring up a “Picture Format” tab at the top of your Word window. Click on it.

If you look over to the far right of the ribbon bar at the top, you will see a “crop” option. Click on it and you will see black crop bars appear on the border of your image. We will use those to remove all the excess parts of the image, leaving only the chart you want to work with.

Drag the dark black crop marks to surround only the part of the image that has your chart. As you drag you will see the edges of your image get shaded. Those are the parts that will be cropped out of the final image.

Keep moving the borders from the top, sides or corners until your chart is isolated. Then click anywhere outside of the image.

The shaded areas will disappear and you will be left with your desired chart.

Right-click anywhere within the image and choose “Save as Picture”. Now you can save your cropped chart image anywhere on your computer for use in the following enlargement step. In this example I kept all 3 words and the legend as one image, but if you want to enlarge each word even bigger you can repeat this process 3 times to crop out each individual word and save it as its own chart image.

Enlargement Instructions:

Once you have your chart in digital format enlarging it is really easy!

Option 1: Paint, Befunky or other photo-editing software

Insert or open your saved chart image into your favorite photo editing software and resize it to enlarge. You can save the image in its larger size and print it at home or email it to your local copy center for printing. You might also find that having it large on-screen is enough for your purposes.

Option 2: Word, Excel, Docs or Sheets-type data processing software

Open your favorite processing software and use the “insert” feature to add your digital chart image. Once inserted you can drag on the corners to resize the chart. You can also right-click for more editing options. Once you have the image large enough for your purposes you can use it on-screen or print it for a large paper copy.

Option 3: PDF Annotation Software

There are a number of computer and iPad/Android programs that will allow you to annotate a PDF. To use your favorite one, insert your chart image into Word or Sheets as per Option 2 and then save your file as a PDF. Open the PDF in your annotation software and you can zoom in as well as make notes or highlight directly onto the chart.

My favorite annotation software is OneNote, and I use it daily for making notes, highlights and annotations on PDFs as well as images for all my crafting needs. It is free but since it might not be widely-used I’m putting it as a standalone option below:

Option 4: OneNote

I use OneNote extensively and find it an invaluable tool for any crafter/hobbyist. I love that I can import an image of a chart, blow it up as big as I’d like, and then in draw mode can use my Apple Pencil or finger and the highlight pen to highlight chart rows as I go just as I would on paper. The ability to undo mistakes is a big improvement over paper charts and I can also annotate as I go.

I like to insert my digital chart image into a new page created for my current project.

Tapping on the image will allow you to move it on the page as well as to drag the corners for an initial resize. You also have the option to rotate the image if desired, though as the chart in this case is rectangular I prefer to use the width of my iPad.

You can resize the image even larger if needed. Use two fingers to pinch and zoom out to enlarge the chart to its maximum size.

My favorite thing about OneNote is how I can work on my charts completely digitally. Here I’ve left part of the chart un-blurred so you can see how I use it. It’s possible to make notes about dropped sts, missing yarn-overs or any other reminders for yourself, as well as to switch to a highlighter pen in your favorite color and nib width and mark off your rows as you go. Better than on real paper- if you make a mistake you can easily erase the highlighting so you’ll always be able to keep track of exactly where you are.

I do use the Apple pencil as pictured above but you can do the same with your finger tip or a stylus, including change the pen nib size so everything is clear and legible.

I’ve used this method for everything from complicated cable knits to incredibly detailed 18ct cross stitch and it works perfectly every time. It also syncs to my OneNote account so I can access my chart on the computer or on my phone or even log in from any internet device so I can bring my work with me where ever I go.

I regret that I cannot share the charts for my Order of the Phoenix blanket pattern, but no matter what project you’re working on hopefully the above tips and techniques will help you enlarge your charts into something you can work with comfortably. If there are any other tips or techniques you’d like to learn about, feel free to message me or leave a comment below!


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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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Halloween Costume Tutorials

Another year means another roundup of costume-related projects and tutorials! With almost 3 weeks left until Halloween you’ll still have plenty of time to make any of the projects below.

Easily my most popular post (with almost 140,000 impressions on Pinterest in the last 60 days alone!), here’s a step-by-step tutorial on how to make Minecraft Steve & Creeper heads.

Next up (with almost 50,000 impressions) is a similar tutorial, this time for making a Minecraft Enderman head along with a diamond block trick-or-treat box.

Both projects include full charts for game-accurate colors and the exact hex codes for perfect color matching!

If your idea of fantasy is less block-based and more magical, here’s a free knitting pattern for an easy scarf in the Gryffindor house colors.

If training a dragon is more your thing, here’s how to make a viking vest.

If you prefer Pokemon to Night Furies, here’s an easy, last-minute Pikachu costume idea.

If your friends-group themed costume runs more Grease than Greninja, here’s how you can make a super simple Poodle skirt.

Finally, if you’ve got enough knitting time on your hands, you can knit my Baby’s First Superhero Costume pattern as-is with cute designs for boys and girls, or convert the chart and the colors to create your superhero of choice.

Find more tips and tutorials on my How-To page!


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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.

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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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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Cartoon Girls Trio – UPDATE (19WIPtoFO2019)

Back in January 2019 (!) I posted 19 projects I was determined to complete in 2019.  Spoiler alert – I failed – but I have made significant progress on about half of the projects on the list. Inspired by the recent Masters of the Universe and Suicide Squad remakes, here’s the current progress on my trio of 80s cartoon girls.

What I said: I’ve never shown these before, except for the odd glimpse in the background of Instagram pics.  I started this trio of plastic canvas portraits when I moved in August 2017.  While I love how they look in black and white (and blue), I designed them to be in full color and I’d love to see them complete.

What I did: Quite a bit of progress! 

I’d never shown them on the blog prior to that post, so here’s a look back at how they got to where they are now.

I’d moved in 2017 and was really excited to be able to fill my space with all the crafty, nerdy little things that make me who I am. 

Every shelf and table has some item that references my varied interests, and I’ve even used some previous projects as home décor – see the Minecraft heads from my tutorials peeping from above the kids’ desk, along with an as-yet-unshown secret project hidden among the books – so I was really excited to fill a blank wall space in my dining room with a handmade project.

First I purchased three of the largest plastic canvas sheets I could find. When looking for inspiration for what to stitch on them I really didn’t need to look very far. There are Archie comics in nearly every room in my house, thanks to my kids enjoying them as much as I do. In addition to the coloring book from my last post, I’ve drawn Betty on the blog here before, and Henri had drawn Archie a few years back. (He was even an Archie comics character for Hallowe’en last year, and I’ll be sharing that project here in October.) So clearly, Betty Cooper would be one of my cartoon trio.

Initially I drafted up Betty, Archie and Veronica, and planned out a triptych of the three of them, but the more I thought about it the more I realized it was Betty specifically that I like, and that I didn’t care if I saw Archie and Veronica daily, so I scrapped them and looked around for more inspo. As soon as I had the freedom to look beyond Riverdale I knew Harley Quinn HAD to be one of them. I’ve adored her for decades, and she’s featured in assorted places around my house, including in two different spots on this one shelving unit:

Finally, it wasn’t hard to decide on Teela as my third girl. I grew up watching He-Man and playing with the toy sets along with my younger brothers. I don’t know if it’s that she’s a strong, independant woman or if it was because she often wore a cobra headpiece and had a snake staff, and I’ve always adored snakes… but either way she had to be the one to complete my cartoon trio. I’ve shared Teela and a portion of my 80s toy collection on the blog before, and they’ve now found a home in a cabinet along with other childhood relics:

The hard part done, the next step was to create charts for each character. Instead of doing it the easy way and importing reference images into a stitch software, I decided to go the hard route and chart them myself in Excel. I found reference images for each character, adjusted the Excel cells to be square and marked off an area with the same stitch count as my total canvas size. From there it was just a matter of redrawing each girl, pixel-art style, and tweaking the design until they looked right. I’d originally planned to use continental stitch to save time, but quickly realized the angles would be skewed and that cross-stitch would be best, using one stitch for every pixel/cell in my chart.

I ordered a bunch of yarn from Knit Pics, then got started.

Here you can see the initial stages. I didn’t want to have to refer to the charts throughout the entire stitching process so decided to start with the black outlines first, so I could then later fill them in, coloring-book-style. Plus I didn’t know how long they would take to complete into full color and wanted to be able to hang them on the wall in the meantime. Considering I started these in 2017 and I’m typing this post in 2021, I’m glad I had that foresight!!

After finishing most of Betty I moved on to chart HQ next. I bet you’re wondering why I left Betty mostly done instead of finishing the rest of her border? Took me a moment to remember too lol but it’s because I left myself things to work on that didn’t require concentration, so when I had more time I would work on HQ and follow my charts, and when I had the kids with me or was watching something that required more focus I could work on Betty’s border that didn’t require much thought or any chart reference. Basically it was the cross-stitch equivalent of having knitting or crochet projects of varying difficulty levels.

Once the outlining was all done I worked on each of their eyes, as I thought it would look better on the wall, and truthfully HQ was a bit creepy without them. Then, while I still had the blue out, I added Betty’s shirt. Her top was red in my reference image but blue is my favorite color so I swapped it out, plus I liked having a color that was in each of the 3 images, to help tie them together. The middle pic above is the one posted on the blog back in 2019, and where they sat for basically most of the last 3 years. At some point I filled in their mouths and got started on Betty’s skin, and that’s where I’d stopped and moved on to other projects.

Eventually I started working on them again. I’d always had it in mind to work on equal parts of each, so as they hung on the wall they’d look similar in completion. First Betty had the slow progress on her face and neck…

…and then this past summer Teela got the same treatment, using stash yarn so she wouldn’t have the exact same skin tone as Betty’s.

Technically I should have done Harley’s face next, for them to all match, but these sheets are large and get folded up against my body or resting under my arm as I work. Since Harley’s face is white, and clearly a focal point of the image, I decided to hold it off for last so it wouldn’t get dirty or faded, and work on her costume instead.

At that point I was on a roll! The new Netflix Masters of the Universe had just come out, and it was kinda cool to start working on Teela’s tiara while watching the premiere. In fact, I got so into it that I kept watching until I found I’d binged the whole first season!

Spoiler-free take: ignore the men complaining about the show. It’s awesome to see the old gang again, even Stinkor! (Man I can still remember the smell of that toy!) I love the focus on Teela and magic vs tech. Made me think about Skylanders and my girl Sprocket – guess I’m always drawn to my tech girls! Also, as a big Buffy fan, with Sarah Michelle Gellar as the voice of Teela, it’s fantastic to hear Buffy kicking butt again. ♥

This is where the girls are now. I’ll be working on HQ’s white bib and pompom next, to complete her outfit, and that will put me into the home stretch with only 2 sections left on each girl. At the end I’ll have to do one run of border around each one, as the edges are currently unfinished, and then finally attach rings for hanging them properly, as I’m currently holding them to the wall with thumbtacks.

I know it’s not conventional wall art for an adult woman, but I love them.