Monday, April 15, 2013

Finished Object: Baby Nightie from Natural Nursery Knits

I gotta say, I’m not all that thrilled with this project - or with designer/author Erika Knight and her publisher.

In the few projects I have worked with, I have stumbled across several mistakes in her pattern description and instructions, and I have seen where people have encountered mistakes with other projects in this book—yet no errata exists. Pu-Leaze.

So, other than the hat pattern that goes with the nightie (I have a spare skein and buttons), I won’t knit anymore Erika Knight patterns. That being said, here are my thoughts on the project:

I knit this out of Mandarin Petit by Sandness Garn, on #2 needles. For the hem and neck ribbing, I ended up using size 0, only because I couldn’t find 1s. 0 worked. But, this is a lot of knitting, even for a baby (I made 3-6 months), so should be started well in advance of the projected due date.
Even on size 2 needles, the fabric (at gauge) was much more open than I like. I’ve seen other people use this fiber on size 4s and are delighted with the results. I, unfortunately, can’t say the same.

The nightie features an envelope neck, scratch mittens,  and snap closure at the hem. Large buttons are sewn over the face of the snaps. Small buttons (or could have been a cotton ribbon bow) are attached at the neck.

I found a glaring mistake on the sleeve instructions. My Ravelry notes are as follows: “As written, you cast on 16 stitches, knit a number of rows, then switch to smaller needles and cast on either 9, 10 or 11 stitches to end with 34, 36, or 38 stitches. The math clearly doesn’t add up.
Will try casting on 25, 26 or 27 stitches with larger needles, then continuing pattern as written.”

That seemed to do the trick.

Another thing I attempted with this project was learning/practicing to knit combination style, which I have heard is a good way to eliminate rowing out. That turned out to not be entirely successful, and it slowed me down quite a bit, and I noticed my gauge was changing as a knit. So, only the back was knit in combination. The rest was knit (the baby was born a month early) in the faster-for-me continental way.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Finish Friday

Late night spent at a fast food restaurant waiting for a flight to arrive turns out to be time well spent, sewing the last of the snaps and buttons on a baby nightie.
I recommend the free parking and constant access to coffee, though the lighting is more mood and less task.

Details on this project to come.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Developing a Fondness for Fondant

Every now and then, a project really captures my imagination. It's usually something outside my normal routine—often outside but complementary to my skillset—and I go to ridiculous lengths to achieve the end goal. As was the case when my local library announced they would be holding an Edible Book Contest.

What is an “Edible Book,” you ask? To quote the contest announcement, “We invite you to play with your food and create an edible work of art based on the form, title, or content of a book.” Edible book contests are held worldwide around April 1, in honor of the birthday of  are inspired by Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, author of Physiologie du goût, which the website for the International Edible Book Festival (yes there is such a thing) describes as “a witty meditation on food.”

I immediately imagined a scene from Game of Thrones re-created out of food, perhaps the scene where Daenerys strolls out of the fire with her baby dragons, but I wasn’t sure how I could create the embers, or the baby dragons, or her, in a reasonable way. But I couldn’t shake the idea of creating an “edible book.”

Instead, I started exploring Plan B’s. Plan B’s would be achievable representations of other books. My Plan B was to create a representation of “How to Eat a Cupcake,” using a purchased cupcake and plain sheetcake with the instructions on how to eat said cupcake written in icing or sprinkles.

With Plan B in my hip pocket, I went about developing my knowledge and testing my skills for Plan A: the scene from Game of Thrones where Jaime Lannister shoves little Bran Stark off the tower after Bran accidentally sees Jaime and Jaime’s sister in a lover’s embrace.

A critical part of my plan involved being able to make and work with fondant, which would be used to create the characters, as well as the stonework on the tower. Pre-made fondant is available through cake and candy suppliers, but I opted to make my own using this recipe.

I divided the fondant, adding gel paste (AmeriColor purchased at Hobby Lobby) to create hair, clothing, eyes, skin and stone, etc. Next I turned to creating the ground and tower.

Imagining through the process, I realized that the smaller the diameter of the tower, the more unstable it would be. And if I made the tower larger, I would absolutely need a larger sheet cake pan to create the ground it rested on. This was solved with a 11 x 15 sheet pan (WalMart). And for the tower, I used a 6 x 2 round pan.

For the cake itself, I opted for Duncan Hines classic Devil‘s Food cake mix.

I thought I was off to a good start by buying two boxes of mix, but that wasn’t enough to make even one layer of the sheet cake. You see, an 11 x 15 pan needs 11 1/2 cups of batter, and a box of cake mix produces only about 4 cups.

I made two sheet cakes, and sliced the top layer into two sections, creating a terrace effect behind the tower to help provide support to the structure.

 With all the baking and cooling that needed to happen (many layers of round cake), I went through 9 boxes of cake mix over a twelve hour period, and three times that many eggs.

I kept working late into the night, slept about 3 hours, chugged down some coffee and resumed work, because entries were due between 9 and 10 that morning.

 I drove carefully to the library, but I still managed to lose the tower en route. Thankfully, I had enough synapses firing that morning to add a small repair kit to the trunk, and I was able to upright the tower, reattach a few eyeballs, and stabilize the structure.

 I modified a traditional Holly Wreath Cookie recipe to create the ivy.

Awards were given for Best of Show - which I won - as well as Most Edible, and Best Play on Words.

I am not a cake baker, nor a cake decorator. Nor do I want to be. I don’t have a need to supply cakes for events or family gatherings, and I rarely eat cake myself. But strolling down the supply aisles and gazing at all the tools, I completely understand the attraction/obsession. Especially in the end, when you see the results and the impact it has on others.