Thursday, December 6, 2012

Unicorn Poop Cookies!

I'd spotted these cookies on the Instructables website and loved the idea, but it took me forever to get around to making them. One of my favorite haunts at lunchtime is the Broadway Panhandler store which has everything from overpriced pans and knives to sparkle gel for cookies. I bought the latter, along with flower sprinkles and gel food coloring. I wasn't so sure about using the recipe from the original instructions after reading the posts, so I went with a recipe which other people recommended because it doesn't spread during baking: No Fail Sugar Cookies

It took me a while to get a method of rolling the dough and mixing the colors. I tried to follow the instructions, but in the end, I took globs of different colors, rolled them together like playdoh and hoped it would create cool stripes of colors, which it usually did. Just make sure not to overmix the colors or you'll lose the striping. Baking was 8-10 min per batch. I cooled them, painted them with white sparkle gel and sprinkled them with flowers, just like a unicorn would.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Brooklyn Night Bazaar

Last night was the Brooklyn Night Bazaar, where I had a booth selling my crocheted food ornaments. They did a great job advertising the bazaar and there were crowds of people coming in and out of the 6 hour event. The best part was that it wasn't just a craft fair, which tends to attract a limited crowd, there were food and beer vendors and live music, which kept people hanging around longer. It'll be continuing through Dec 22nd, Fri-Sat 6pm-midnight, so if you get a chance to visit, it's definitely worthwhile. There's a nice variety of indie vendors, ranging from screenprinted T-shirts, prints, jewelry, soaps, clocks, home-brewed beers, candies etc.

I shared a booth with my friends the Smithereenes and we lucked out and got assigned prime real estate in the center of everything. My mini burgers proved the most popular and sold out. I actually had someone run across the room after catching her eye to immediately buy one. The sushi and donuts were the next most-purchased items. Apparently fuzzy foods make people smile.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Gluten Free Products

There are a lot of gluten-free products out there now. After trying quite a few, I thought it might be helpful to those just starting out on a gluten-free diet to list brands which I think are worth eating or avoiding.

Schar and Archer Farms
Consistency and texture are usually my biggest issues with gluten-free pastas. I honestly think that if you swapped these out with real pasta, most people couldn't tell the difference. Tastes great and has the same bite as pasta does. Made with rice and corn flour.

DeBoles: This is also made with rice and corn flour, but the texture is very gritty/grainy, similar to whole wheat pasta. It's not intolerable but doesn't feel like pasta.

Least Favorite:  
Tofu Shirataki: The smell alone is enough to turn you off. It's made from the "root of the Konnyaku - a member of the yam family and tofu." This is usually found in the fridge section of the supermarket, because much like tofu, it has water packaged with it. It smells horrible and has a really rubbery texture. I could only handle a few bites before throwing it out.

Quinoa Pasta: Very chewy, rubbery texture. I threw most of this out as well.

Obviously,  you can stick with potato/corn based chips. But if you love pita chips and saltines as much as I do, you need alternatives.

FoodShouldTasteGood. I loved this brand even before I started gluten free, so it's a nice perk that I can still eat it. Their chips have great flavors, my favorite of which are Multigrain and Olive.

Riceworks: These are dense chips made from whole grain rice. Great taste, great cruchiness

Veggie Chips: There are a lot of brands of these so it's hard to narrow it down. They're easily identifiable by their tri-colored chips (off-white, orange and green). The flavors are fairly subtle, mostly just salty, which is what I tend to look for in a chip.

Least Favorites:
Glutino crackers: Texture reminds me of a stale cracker

Natural Nectar Cracklebread: It's like eating salty, flaky, airy crust.


BAKING PRODUCTS: It's tricky rating gluten-free flours because it really depends on what you use it for. For example, coconut or almond flour may be great in a cookie recipe, but not so good in a crumble or cake recipe. I've heard that Cup 4 Cup flour, created by Thomas Keller, is the best one out there right now, but haven't had a chance to try it because it's quite pricey ($20 for 3lbs) and is only available at a few places, like Williams-Sonoma.

Gluten Free Bisquick: I made drop biscuits with these, not pancakes, so my rating is only based on that test. The results were more cake-like than biscuit, both in texture and taste. Perfectly edible as long as you're not expecting a traditional biscuit.

Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Pizza Crust: (I made pizza and foccacia with this) This comes with its own yeast packet. Rise time is very short. I wasn't a huge fan of the consistency or the flavor, but it's definitely edible.

I'd love to hear opinions of other products which I may not have had a chance to try yet, so feel free to post other brands you'd recommend!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Craft Fair Prep!

Hurricane Sandy happened this week. Work has been cancelled since Monday due to the inability to commute plus our office is downtown and without power. We were extremely lucky enough to have electricity throughout this whole mess. Now, although we have a car, the shortage of gas is keeping us at home, so what better time to be productive?

My friend asked me last night if I'd want to share a booth at the Brooklyn Night Bazaar on Nov 24th (the entire bazaar runs from Nov 23rd - Dec 22nd on Fri and Saturdays, 6pm -  midnight). I haven't done a craft fair in a couple of years, so I jumped at the chance. The only problem is I've been procrastinating all year as to what to sell, so I finally settled on what I know best: Crocheted food. Out of all 6 of my Etsy stores that I've had over the years, YarnYums was my favorite and did fairly well. I'll be going under the name Tinkerbot, since that's my current online store and I've already printed business cards for it.

I'll be selling mini crocheted food as ornaments. So far the menu consists of mini donuts (chocolate and strawberry icing), mini sliders with lettuce and cheese and toast with butter. I may also sell regular sized crocheted pie slices and bacon and eggs. Also debating making xmas light and/or bell garlands. Only 24 days to do this all!!! Back to crafting!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

October Baking

Now that the weather's cooled off I've been doing a LOT of baking. All month I've tried to bring something sweet to work once a week. There are around 50 of us to feed, so I usually have to scale down the size of my cookies or double the batch. So far I've made:

Heath Bar Chocolate Chip Cookies
ButterFinger cookies (The recipe tasted good, but the cookies spread way too much and were as flat as can be)
Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Balls (never fails to please)
Caramel Apple Bars (It got a bit soggy after taking it out of the fridge and leaving it out for an hour. There's a good chance it was my fault because I didn't follow the instructions exactly, so I'd be willing to give this recipe another shot)
Sugar Cookies (Good ol' America's Test Kitchen. Works perfectly every time)

And last night I made butter cookies because I wanted to try out my new GingerDeadman cutter. Maybe it was the fact that my dough wasn't chilled enough, or I didn't make thick enough cookies, but I couldn't get the skeleton part to show up well at all without completely mashing my cookie. It was faint and barely visible, which made me believe that during the baking process it would vanish altogether. So I used a good old fashioned metal leaf cutter instead.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

SpoonFlower: Print Custom Fabric

In this month's issue of Mollie Makes magazine they mention a website called Spoonflower which allows you to upload your own designs to print on fabric, wallpaper and wall decals. I haven't tried it yet, but I'm pretty excited about the option to sew something with fabric I designed. I'm particularly interested in making prints for fabric dolls, like this one, where you create a template directly in the print:
Prices look fairly affordable, (although my general self-imposed limit when buying fabric is usually $10 or less a yard). They start at $15.75/yd and $5 for swatches, eco-friendly textile printing and a range of 10 fabrics. Their help section explains pattern repeats, color guides for beginner designers. You also have the option to sell your fabric through them once you've uploaded it. 

Hopefully I'll be trying this sometime in the near future, but if anyone reading this has already used it and has any tips to offer, I'd love to hear them.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Lined Drawstring bag

Bags are my favorite thing to sew. I've tried totes and zippered pouches in the past, so I went with a drawstring bag this time. I found this excellent pattern by Jeni on her blog In Color Order. There is both a free version and a paid version (which contains various sizes and options to help you create a custom bag). I chose the paid version, partly because I'm lazy when it comes to readjusting measurements and also to support my fellow crafters. She also allows the sale of the bag as long as credit is given in online sales and it's not used for commercial purposes. The version shown here is the "snack" size. 

Since I have a tendency to mess up frequently, especially on my first attempts, I chose my least appealing fabrics, which is why it's a bizarre mishmash of patterns and color. The instructions had lots of photos and was very easy to follow. Adding a lining is usually the trickiest part for me, but the technique used in this pattern made it easy. I also love that she shows you how to create the ties, instead of assuming you will use ribbon. So now that my confidence has been boosted by this first attempt, I hope to make plenty more, with better fabrics. 

UPDATE: (3 hours later) Here's my 2nd bag! This one is the next size up, slightly more practical. I'd been saving the exterior apple fabric forever and finally found a good use for it. 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Knit Armwarmers

Inspired by the circus, Tim Burton and Halloween, I decided to knit some glitzy arm warmers.  The general pattern came from here: It's very easy and great for beginners, you just have to know how to knit in the round, purl and bind-off.

For the silvery arm warmers I used Ice yarn Lame Black, Silver (I'm not sure if this product is available any longer. I had bought it a few years ago).

The striped armwarmers use Vanna's Glamour yarn in Ruby Red and Onyx. If you click on the photo you can see they both have a subtle shimmer to them. 44 stitches was too big, so I reduced them to 34 which was a bit too small, so I'm thinking 38 should be perfect. 

Monday, September 10, 2012

3D character print!

Measures 5"x2". White sandstone. Cost was $50 to print.

3D printing has become more and more affordable over the past few years. It used to be strictly for product designers and technical folk who needed to generate prototypes. Now anyone with a bit of 3D modeling  knowledge can submit a model online and have it turned into a tangible object.

I'd been reluctant to spend the money for a 3D print until I found something worthy of printing. I finally decided to team up with one of my friends, who came up with the character design you see below. I modeled it in Autodesk Maya and submitted it to Shapeways for printing. I had visited Shapeway's booth at SIGGRAPH this year and was impressed by the quality of prints, range of materials and prices.

For those of you planning on trying 3D printing, make sure you read up on how to prepare your model for printing. Even if you have lots of 3D software experience, you still need to think of things like wall thickness, and hollowing out your model to save costs. I did NOT hollow out my model and I definitely ended up paying more than I probably needed to because of the extra material needed to create it. That being said, Shapeways is great at emailing you back with suggestions on how to correct your model.

For those of you who don't own Maya, 3D Studio Max, Zbrush or any of the other big name 3D software, not to worry. You can use freeware, like Blender or Google Sketchup to create your 3D model. If you haven't had any experience in 3D software it takes a while to learn but keep practicing and watch lots of online tutorials.

I'm really happy with the level of detail that was captured. Even the tiny bag buckle showed up! It's heavy, but also very very delicate. I feel like if picked up wrong, or even bumped it could break, so I'll be keeping it somewhere safe. I would have chosen the more durable plastic but it was a bit pricier at $75 and I wanted to test out the result first.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Silhouette Cameo: Paper cutting machine

I can't believe I had never heard of this machine before. Ever since I started papercrafting, I had been looking for a printer-like machine that could cut out intricate shapes. I was only ever able to find machines that could cut out pre-designed stencils....until now! A friend of mine told me about the Silhouette Cameo, so I looked it up and it sounded exactly like what I'd been looking for. It's currently cheaper on Amazon ($269 vs $299) if you happen to be interested:

"It can create intricate projects of all sizes from small (1/4" wide) to large (12" wide) and has an unlimited cutting length. It can cut paper, cardstock, vinyl, fabric, and other materials. It operates with or without a cutting mat. When the blade is replaced by a pen, the CAMEO will sketch instead of cut. It can be controlled from a computer or an SD card. With the print and cut feature, the CAMEO also has the ability to cut out designs that have been printed on your home printer."

It comes with very clear instructions for those of you afraid of new technology. The software is user-friendly and quick to learn. Basically, you can create your design in the software, (or import artwork from elsewhere and draw over it), choose what type of material you are cutting and the program will tell you what blade setting to use and how to register your paper on the cutting mat. The mat is adhesive, since you don't want your paper sliding around while it's being cut. 

For my first test, I only used the tools in the Silhouette software. I drew some basic shapes and used the text tool (which is able to use any font already on your computer). It's a noisy little machine, but it's really fun to watch and you can tell right away if it's working. You then peel off your cut-outs and voila!

The second and more important test was being able to print a design I already had. I imported a jpg file of one of my papercraft designs. You have the ability to print from the Silhouette program, which is extremely important because it sets registration marks for itself, so that after you're done printing, you can feed your image back in and tell it to look for the registration marks so it can precisely cut over your artwork. Of course, you still have to draw the lines over your artwork as to where to make the cuts. But I was really impressed because it worked perfectly on the first try.

The "Must Eat Brain" design up top was my third design meant specifically for the Silhouette. I sketched it out in Photoshop then imported the jpg. Drawing the vector paths for the brain took a while. Adjusting the paths in the Silhouette software isn't quite as easy as in Photoshop or Illustrator, so I'd recommend using one of those programs to draw out your design first.

Tip: You can export vector paths from Illustrator (.dxf file format) as long as nothing is grouped. 

Tip: Don't make holes that are too tiny, or the blade will most likely rip the paper. I had a few tiny tears around the letters.

The machine cut it out without a hitch and only took around 3 min. I think it cuts the paths in the order you create them, so don't be worried if it doesn't start with the outermost path. Peeling it off the adhesive mat is the tricky part. I can't imaging using anything thinner than construction paper if you're doing something intricate because  there'd be a high risk of tearing it. The Silhouette store sells spatulas for helping lift off your designs, but I think I'll stick with my hands for now.

For those of you who prefer pre-made designs, the Sihouette store has tons of templates you can download for 0.99.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Knit Cowl

It's 95 degrees outside, but I needed to keep my hands busy while I watched the Olympics. I started and unraveled at least a dozen projects before settling on a simple cowl from Lion Brand's website (stockinette cowl, Easy +). It's probably the fastest, largest project I'd done, (a couple of hours here and there over 5 days) and my hands hurt. You just need to know knit/purl/bind off to do this and it's made on circular needles. I used an acrylic yarn versus wool, which might account for the stiffness, particularly at the bottom, but it's nice and warm. I figured it would be a nice change from a scarf, which I have too many of anyway. Next project is a simple hat for my upcoming plane ride.

Mushroom Baby Rattle

I made this for a friend who's baby is due sometime in November. I got the idea from the Purl Bee's Toadstool Baby Rattle. Crocheting comes much more naturally to me for 3D objects so I didn't follow their pattern. But I did follow their use of a caged bell cat-toy for the rattle, so there's one of those hidden inside.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Recycled Zippered Pouch

Over the years I've seen lots of great recycled bags made from gum wrappers and chip bags. Some require folding modular units, which is more time than I'm willing to put in.  But now that I've learned to sew, I'm able to attempt ones that don't require much more than a zipper, thread and maybe some edging.

I've been practicing making easy center-zip pouches for the past month using this tutorial (minus the quilting). I have lots of pretty fabrics to play around with, but there's something very satisfying about making something out of well....trash. I was about to throw this rice bag out this morning, but realized it was a nice thick sturdy plastic, not too dirty and had no holes. I cut it into 2 sheets, making sure to include as much of the graphics as possible, washed them and started sewing it like any other pouch. Make sure you're using a strong enough needle. I used a 1/2" seam allowance all the way around.  Final dimensions are 7.5" x 6.75."

It's only slightly trickier to sew than regular fabric because it's very slick and might slip while you're sewing. I didn't want to use lots of pins or I'd make too many permanent holes. The other problem is your plastic becomes quite crinkled from having to turn it inside out. I may attempt to use a very cool iron with a piece of cloth on top to smooth it out, unless someone has any other suggestions. One benefit over fabric versions of this pouch is that it's rigid enough to have some dimension, even with nothing in it, instead of lying completely flat.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Inkodye test

Inkodye is a light sensitive dye which can be used on cotton, wood, suede, silk and other natural fibers. As of right now,  I think it only comes in blue, orange and red, but you can mix the colors. I first read about it on the blog How About Orange. The easiest method seems to be making stencils or using pre-existing objects to block the light (photograms). You can add water to adjust the concentration of the dye. For this first experiment I used about 2 fl oz of dye, approximately a 1/4 cup of water, light-weight white cotton fabric and card stock paper for the stencil. 

I laid out the fabric on a piece of board, brushed on the dye solution till the fabric was fairly saturated, placed the stencil on top, then left it out in direct sunlight for 10+ minutes. (Were I to do this again, I would cut the stencil out of a waterproof, opaque material, lay it on the fabric and then brush on the solution).

 Then I rinsed the fabric and hung it up to dry. 

Some things I learned during this process, which may help you if you try it:

1. Being a photosensitive dye, I was worried that working under fluorescent lights would cause the solution to develop before I could use it, so I kept covering up the unused solution and only taking it out as needed. But as I kept working, I realized that the solution seemed unchanged and I was able to leave it exposed to the artificial light without any problems. The instructions on the bottle say "sunlight" but I've seen videos where it developed under artificial light, so maybe it depends on the concentration of the dye, or the type of artificial light you are using. 

2. Wash your fabric thoroughly with soap after the developing process. I only rinsed mine with water and while it was hanging up to dry, the white areas kept slowly developing and turned a light blue (they were hanging in the sun to dry, like the above photo). And even after a week, I left the pieces near a window and they continued to change color. So lesson learned, wash thoroughly, or make sure the area under your stencil doesn't get any dye. 

3. I wanted to see if I could get negatives to develop (see below), so I laid them on a transparent sheet of plastic (to protect the negatives from the dye) and then covered that with saran wrap. I also taped the corners down so it would lie flat. As you can see, even though it was clear plastic, it didn't fully develop. So you might need an undiluted dye concentration  if you plan to do something like this. 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Hamster Plush

Another plush toy based on a pattern from the book "Palm Sized Softies"

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


Meet Fido, the bizarre dog-mouse looking creature. He's what happens when I try following instructions for a three dimensional plush toy. The original instructions were for a pug, but I found myself having to unpick, cut and add bits and pieces because of mistakes along the way. I'd say it all went towards building Fido some character, because I find the result pretty entertaining.  He's made of felt and measures about 4.5" high. The instructions I didn't-quite-follow are from the book Palm-Size Softies which has lots of great illustrated instructions and templates. 

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy 4th of July!

Hoping the clouds blow over so we can watch the fireworks tonight. 

It's been in the 90's all week, but the plants are loving it. Both the blackberries and cherry tomatoes were already starting to fruit when I bought them, so I can't take credit for those. I may need to help pollinate all my seed-grown plants with a Q-tip since we don't have any bees up on this netted balcony.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Pork Pillow

I think I watched almost 4 hours of Law and Order SVU while making this. I messed up a lot, for example embroidering "shoulder" where "loin" should have been and then carefully unpicking the whole mess.

This fella is hand-sewn and embroidered from acrylic felt. Measures 7.5" long x 4" (at tallest point). I'd like to make a slightly bigger version out of fleece and probably alter the ear so it's a flap on the side of the face instead of part of the silhouette.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Beginner Book Binding

Every time I've started a new craft I've spent a lot of money buying new supplies. So it was a nice change to use recycled items and on-hand components  for this project.

The covers are cardboard from a tissue box, covered with some decorative handmade paper I had bought a long time ago. I used thick brown wrapping paper for the pages.

I used this video tutorial by TimewithTasha as a base,

I altered my measurements from the video for both projects. On the dark blue book I split the pages into groups so I could create the 4 separate bindings visible on the spine. I also cut a slit in the covers and added the ribbon. Dimensions are 3.25" wide x 3.75" tall

I recommend the book Rebound for ideas on using recycled items to make your books, or for ideas on book structure.

This light blue book was my first attempt. Dimensions are 5" wide x 4.5" tall. The cardboard for the covers are cut from cracker boxes and the inner lining is from a book I was about to throw out.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Maple-Roasted Banana Ice Cream (Dairy Free!)

I didn't realize how long it had been since I'd stopped eating dairy till I checked some of my older blog posts, and apparently it's been since the summer of 2010. Ice cream was one of my biggest losses. I love sorbets and I've tried soy and coconut milk ice creams, but they all have an icy quality instead of that nice thick creamy consistency. It wasn't till last month, on my trip to Vienna, that I had a vegan gelato that could have fooled anyone into thinking it had cream in it. 

Apparently the trick to getting "creamy" ice cream is the fat content. I know that sounds obvious, but take away the cream and what can you add? The secret is olive oil. The recipe I used asks for 2 Tbsp of light olive oil, so if you're worried about it flavoring your ice cream, don't be.

I found this excellent recipe on the blog Gluten Free Goddess. She adapted it from David Lebovitz's recipe from The Perfect Scoop.


6 ripe bananas
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
2 tablespoons light olive oil (this adds fat lacking in most non-dairy milks)
2 tablespoons organic golden brown sugar
1 cup coconut milk, soy or nut milk
1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons bourbon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon rum


Preheat the oven to 400ºF.

Peel and slice the bananas, toss them into a baking pan. Pour the maple syrup and olive oil all over the bananas. Sprinkle on the brown sugar. Stir to coat.
Bake in the center of the oven till soft, stirring once during roasting. They should be ready in roughly 35 to 40 minutes.
Scoop the roasted bananas and syrup into a Vita-Mix, food processor, or blender. Add the non-dairy milk, xanthan gum, sea salt, vanilla, and rum.
Blend till smooth. Chill the mixture. This is important.

When the banana mixture is good and cold dump it into an ice cream maker and follow the manufacturer's instructions for churning ice cream. This is the ice cream maker I use.

Makes roughly 6 servings.

I added heath bar bits for a bit of crunch. My photo up top isn't the greatest example since I defrosted my ice cream a bit too much, so it was a bit melted. But trust me, it's delicious.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Sugar Flower Workshop

Bought a Groupon for Sugar Flower Cake Shop's flower making class. It's located on 37th between 8th and 9th ave on the 9th floor in a nice brightly lit space. They have a variety of classes ranging from Parrot tulips, poppies and basket cakes, but I picked the Sugar Rose class. The classes sell out pretty quick and judging from my class size today can get pretty big, so sign up early if you're interested.

The flowers are made from gum paste. Apparently the actual process takes about a week, because after each layer of petals is added it needs to dry for at least a day. The goal was to make 3 full blooms and 3 buds, so after Step 1 and 3 they swapped our version out with pre-dried centers we could work with.

You start with a teardrop bud shape in the center, stuck onto a piece of hooked wire. Step1, you flatten the petal cut-outs by pinching so they are almost 3x their original size. You add the two petals horizontally onto the bud, in an interlocking C shape. Step 3 you add three, overlapping petals, making sure each new layer is slightly higher than the rest. Here's what they look like at this point:

The last 2 layers, you use a 5-petal shape, snip between the petals and press to widen the petals so they can overlap. Poke through the center and slide up to bottom of bud. Hanging it upside down while you work might be easier at this point.

And lastly we were given the option to paint them with luster dust, blue or pink. 

Not sure I'd have the patience to wait a week to make one on my own, but I definitely want to try the same technique with polymer clay.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Coin Purse

I haven't used a coin purse since I was a little kid. But I couldn't resist trying to make one, especially because I found this gumball-like purse clasp from SugarCarousel on Etsy. I originally tried a more complicated, pleated purse, that was puffier, but it was a bit too complicated for my beginner skills and I sadly failed all 3 attempts. Lining's are always the trickiest part for me, because I always end up sewing it wrong or getting confused as to which side should be facing out at certain points in the process. In the end, I pretty much followed these instructions from U-Handbag, with the only difference being my clasp was of the "sew-on" type, not just glue but it still worked. Fabric is from from Joann's. 

I also discovered this awesome website for DIY bags during my search.