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A few of my favorite (crafty) things: knitting.

11 Mar

I definitely haven’t been crafting for long, but in the years I’ve spent, I have found some products I love and look for every time I enter a craft store. My tried and true favorites that will never go out of style – at least not to me.

As far as knitting products go, you have to have needles. There are so many different choices now that it is enough to make someone’s head spin – plastic, wood, bamboo, aluminum – it all comes down to personal preference. I have used all of them, and wood and bamboo pulled at the yarn too much for my liking, and plastic is a little too hokey. My favorite needles are 14 inch Boye aluminum single poits. They’re affordable (at $2-4 per set) come in all different sizes (and packs of 3 sets at Wal-Mart), yarn doesn’t pull or separate, and that click (though annoying to some) helps me remember that I am actually getting something done. Along with single points, Boye puts out something wonderful for both knitting and crochet – and that is the Needlemaster kit. Inside one of these kits are all of the needle ends, middle cables, and accessories needed to knit just about anything in the round. The accessories are great on their own – the stops can be used to create extra-long single points (useful for scarves knit lengthwise), and the cables can be connected to help with huge projects (at current, I have three cables connected in order to finish a blanket). Priced at around $70, the kit is worth every penny. And as I said, they haven’t forgotten about those who crochet – there is a Crochetmaster kit as well.

You may want to slaughter me for this, but I have a confession to make: on a typical basis when knitting, I use almost exclusively acrylic and cotton yarns. Why? Well, for one, I’m broke (most of the time) and it’s accessible, and for two, I think that natural fibers are better when knitting clothing, larger pieces, and things you want to be one of a kind. To be honest, I’m just not there yet. Much of what I do is the same patterns in different colors, or simple projects that I don’t want to invest a lot of money into. Financially, it’s looking like a while before I’ll be able to afford much when it comes to expanding my craft. For yarns, my go-to for most projects is first Caron’s Simply Soft line. The colors are great, the yarn is amazingly soft (so it is not false advertising by any means), the price is right, and the pieces I’ve knit with it stay together beautifully. Most of the colors offered are solids, but they have put out several variegated shades that are absolutely wonderful, even just to look at. The only complaint that I have with the new variegated line is that the skeins aren’t as big as those of the solid colors, so it takes twice as much yarn to complete a project. Most critics say that blocking isn’t really necessary with acrylics, but I ignored the blogs and water blocked each square of a baby blanket I knit with Simply Soft last year, and it made a definite difference in how the piece both finished and looked. There’s my two cents on my acrylic yarn preference.

Over the past year, I have absolutely fallen in love with knitting dishcloths. That is achieved with 100% cotton yarn, the most prevalent brand being Lily’s Sugar ‘n Cream. There is nothing better (though Bernat’s Handicrafter comes a close second). With various choices when it comes to variegated, striped, solid, even scented shades (there are a lot of s’, no?), there is not another yarn brand that will give you more for your money. A ball of Lion Cotton in the same size as Sugar ‘n Cream’s Super Size ball will cost you about double the price. Wal-Mart has begun stocking S’nC, and one ball of solid yarn is $1.47, regular price. Even Jo-Anns stores don’t charge that little. Beyond that, if your local Wal-Mart doesn’t stock Sugar ‘n Cream, there is a second brand called Peaches & Creme (exclusive to Wal-Mart from what I’ve seen) that is comparable and at about the same price point. There is no easier yarn to use and find than cotton, and these brands are available all over the place. Simple dishcloths are available everywhere, but watch this space for a surprise tutorial shortly.

Knitting is not all I do (if you’ve ever checked out my projects on either this blog or Facebook), and the other crafts I work on deserve just as much credit – so watch for a post on that coming soon!


“Bake Cake, Bitch!”

3 Dec

the trial run.

One of my best friends in the world is the lovely, fantastic Tiffany Whitten. She can bake a cake out of damn near anything, and the best part about her is that she taught herself the craft, and gets better with every cake she makes! Something I always say to her (usually via text), is “Bake cake, bitch!” as it relates to her new projects. When I needed a cheap idea for a birthday gift for my mother, I knew just who to ask.

Moms love anything their kids make, I think. I could have put together a cake that looked like Fudgie the Whale mixed with a steam roller and my mother likely would have been happy.. but I wanted it to be obvious that I worked hard on it, and wanted to make something awesome. So, I asked Tiffany. She told me that I could probably put something together for around three to five bucks, which was right in my price range! So I set off to get ingredients, and checked out her Zebra Cake Tutorial to figure out exactly how to do what I needed to. I had enough for two cakes, because I wanted to make a trial run first.

What I wanted to do was make a two-layer cake with filling between the layers. I had no idea how to do this, and baked a trial cake first, just to double-check. All I needed for this entire cake was 1 white box cake mix, 1 can of dessert filling (I chose raspberry), and 1 tub of frosting. That’s it!


I followed the directions in the tutorial to a T both times, but the first cake I made didn’t ‘Zebra’ too well and wound up marbled, and the second cake had a case of the gangsta lean. By time I got to the second cake, though, everything went smoothly.

After baking, I pulled the cakes out (I used two 8″ round cake pans for the batter, for the two layers), and did the best I could to level them with a knife out of the free butcher’s block I received as a gift from (who else) my mother. Sure, the handles break off all the time, but this should be easy, right? Not. I made a huge mess leveling, but wound up with cakes that looked halfway edible. Following this, I did a cheap crumb coat with frosting and slapped a bunch of filling on top of the first cake, before plopping the first cake down on top of it. The first cake? Perfect. The second cake? Had the lean! Can’t do everything right.

the lean!

Once my kitchen was clean from the frosting and filling fiasco, I threw the cake in the fridge for an hour or so, and then proceeded to frost the outside. For as much hell as I went through to get the inside done, the outside was a breeze! After frosting, I put the cake back in the fridge while I built a cake board out of cardboard, packing tape, wrapping paper, and Saran wrap, and packed it up to bring to my mother’s house.

Long story short – I gained an incredible amount of admiration for someone I didn’t think could be any more awesome, and my mother got a birthday cake she loved. Though I had fun, I think I’ll stick to knitting and leave the cake-baking to Tiffany – she’s so damn good at it! And you can check her cake exploits out here.