Dyed in the Wool (With Kool-Aid!)

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I have a problem.

For some reason, hand-dyed, varigated spinning fiber – especially in a soft, fluffy merino or blend – just gets me. Every single time.

The problem, of course, is that that stuff is expensive. And I spin pretty fast.

Luckily, my problem has an easy solution – buy natural roving and dye it. (Or yarn! Any kind of wool works). My favorite method of dyeing is using kool-aid. It’s cheap, smells good, and makes gorgeously deep and subtle colors. You also don’t need any special pots or equipment for it, unlike most chemical dyes, because it’s food safe – a blessing for my small kitchen.

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Today I’m going to talk about dyeing on the stovetop, which is great for making fairly uniform colors, or different shades of the same color. You can also dye with kool-aid in the microwave, which is best if you want very different colors on the same wool.

The process is pretty simple.  Continue reading Dyed in the Wool (With Kool-Aid!)

Tambour Embroidery: Part 1

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Tambour embroidery is a fairly obscure craft that I picked up last year. It’s a hybrid of crochet and embroidery that makes chain stitches worked with a combination hook/needle. It’s perfectly suited for beading, because of the way that it creates a looped chain that slots around the beads. Most couture embroidery and beading – the kind you see on those gorgeously elaborate red carpet gowns – are done using tambour. When it’s worked on tulle or gauze, it makes stunning lace. And (my favorite use) it’s a fantastic way to work detailed line-embroidery in plain thread really really fast. I’m impatient, so I appreciate that.

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Tambour embroidery is well worth learning, whether you’ve embroidered before or not. I use it more than needle embroidery these days, unless I want to work a variety of different stitches. Today I’m just going to talk about how to get set up, and give you some resources in case you want to get started right away. In future posts, I’ll share more about how to actually work the embroidery. Continue reading Tambour Embroidery: Part 1

The Best (The Only) Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

My grandma couldn’t stand to be idle. We were all used to her popping up from her chair every five minutes during Thanksgiving (just to check on one thing!), or baking cookies in the middle of the night because she had woken up early and couldn’t go back to sleep.

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So today, when I found myself baking cookies at 5:30 AM, I thought of her. This recipe is hers and my grandpa’s, and it’s the cookie they made the most. For good reason, too – these cookies are perfection. The earthiness of the oats exactly evens out the chocolate, and their crunchy edges melt away into a chewy, gooey middle. Seriously – perfection.

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To me, these aren’t just the best chocolate chip oatmeal cookies – they’re the only ones even worth mentioning. If you need to make new best friends, get a promotion, or bribe an elected official (kidding), these cookies are it. I’ve had people tell me that they’ve had dreams about these cookies.

These cookies aren’t as decadent as a triple chocolate cookie, or as fancy as a Linzer. But if you want a classic, every day sort of cookie that will blow your mind every time, you’ve just found the only recipe that matters.


Recipe: Continue reading The Best (The Only) Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

The Rainbow Cactus Birthday Cake

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This is one of those projects that always gets a, “Wait, what?” when I bring it up in conversation. (Pro tip – bringing up a rainbow cactus cake is a great way to liven up a dull topic). Luckily for me, the back story on this one does actually kind of make sense.

I’ve been making rainbow birthday cakes for my sister for several years now, using  this excellent post from the Whisk Kid blog. So, of course, for her birthday last year this cake was a given. But she had an additional request – could I make it into a cactus? (She’s very into cacti. And also flamingos, but that’s not currently relevant.) I was pretty sure she was joking, although it’s a bit hard to tell, but who cared? I never turn down a challenge, so a cactus cake it would be – with a rainbow surprise inside.

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I played around with the idea of making a cake in the shape of the iconic Saguaro cactus, but decided against it. (I’m going to claim that that was just to retain some sanity, but it was really because I desperately wanted to make chocolate frosting). Instead, I settled on a round cactus in a pot. I planned to make a rectangular cake and a round cake, and then carve the round cake into a hemisphere once it was all assembled.

Fair warning: This cake is insane. Even a regular rainbow cake, with its six individual layers, is a full afternoon and evening project – this cake took me several days. I added to the already complex task by using several different fillings and frostings. You could simplify it by sticking with one kind of frosting and no filling, or just one filling. You could also make a non-rainbow cactus cake, and simplify the baking process. But, if you’re crazy like me (or just want to steal part of this), here’s the step-by-step process.

Continue reading The Rainbow Cactus Birthday Cake