Thursday, October 13, 2016

Little Hearts for Little Kids

Next month, as part of a local fiber arts group, I will be representing crocheting at one our county libraries along with spinners, knitters, weavers, felters, and bobbin lacers. In addition to demonstrating and displaying crocheted work, I will pass out some of these 50 little yarn hearts that I just finished to the children who attend the event. Our local library system has been a great supporter of handcrafts by offering display case space and setting up demonstrations at times when children come to the library for story time.

These little hearts work up super fast; that's why making 50 of them didn't take very long. I got the pattern from this YouTube video:, but similar patterns can be found on other sites. What I like about this version is that you start with a chain and put the first treble stitch into the first chain stitch (rather than starting by making a "magic circle") -- a method that, for me, gets me going much faster.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

2016 NC State Fair Project: Tatted Edging on Vintage Handkerchief

Here's the handkerchief with a tatted edging that I entered in this year's NC State Fair. The handkerchief is from my vintage hanky stash. It's embellished with a small applique and some pulled thread embroidery. 

The thread is size 70 vintage thread in green and lavender. My use of the green thread resulted in a "thread emergency" when I realized that I might not have enough to finish the final row. And since it was a discontinued vintage thread, good luck with finding more of it. Note to self: don't start a big project when you only have a small amount of vintage thread...and one ball is a very small amount to have for a hanky edging.

 I put out a call on the Tatting Facebook group to see if anyone had a ball of American Thread Co. Star Tatting Crochet thread (Art. 25) in size 70 and color 149 (a light green), A wonderful woman in Missouri helped me out, asking for something I tatted rather than any money. The thread was a perfect match, and I was able to finish the piece after all. 

I think the pattern is based on "Edging 13" by Barbara Foster in Embellishing with Edgings (Handy Hands, 2011, p. 23). I say that because, stupidly, I did not record the pattern when I finished and several months have passed. I went through all my tatting patterns and couldn't find anything that totally matched what I had tatted. The second row looks a lot like Barbara's pattern, but the first row does not. Maybe some day I'll discover exactly what pattern I used. Maybe some day I'll remember to record details about my projects before I forget them.

2016 NC State Fair Project: Tatted Edging on Pillowcase

I entered this tatted pillowcase edging in this year's NC State Fair. The pattern is "861" from Tatting, Book No. 141, published by The Spool Cotton Company (1939, p. 21) and is also "861" in Imported Designs of Tatting, Book 77 (p. 10) by the same publisher. The pattern is also available online at

The thread is Lizbeth size 20 in color #124 "Spring Garden" and color #680 "Spring Green."

2016 NC State Fair Projects: Cookie Fail, Cookie Succeed

As my cookie-eating friends know, I am big on baking biscotti of all kinds. So when I saw at last year's North Carolina State Fair that there was a biscotti category in the baked goods section, I decided to enter a batch in this year's fair.

Although using an original recipe is not a requirement, I thought I would make something that I came up with a few years ago -- Caramel Apple Biscotti (recipe is at the end of this blog post). Below is a photo of the end result: very tasty, but aesthetically lacking something. I call this a "cookie fail" only because of the appearance. They don't slice up neatly because of the apple pieces, and they are soft and moist so the slices don't all stay intact. Of course, for a fair entry the look is going to count for something. Once the cookies are in the display case, fair visitors will only have the appearance to judge by, and, honestly, these biscotti aren't beautiful.

Fortunately, I had plenty of time for a do-over before the entry deadline. I turned to one of my favorite cookie cookbooks, Sweet Maria's Italian Cookie Tray by Maria Bruscino Sanchez (St. Martin's Press, 1997). I've made her Coconut Biscotti recipe before, knew it made a good cookie, and I had all the ingredients on hand. So moving on that night, I made a batch, finished the first baking, and left the cookie logs to cool overnight. Next morning I sliced and completed the second baking. 

Below is a photo of the final results: uniform in size and brownness, crisp and holding their shape. Perhaps not as flavorful as the Caramel Apple, but still a good example of what people expect to see in traditional biscotti. And I'm not knocking their taste. They have a nice coconut flavor with a hint of butter that makes them excellent with tea or coffee. They're one of my favorites for my annual cookie party. I deem them "cookie success" because they not only taste good, but they look good too, which is a goal I wanted to meet for a fair entry. So we'll see how the judges like them. 

So what became of the rejected Caramel Apple Biscotti? When I worked in IT at UNC-Chapel Hill, I never had a problem getting rid of excess goodies. (There's a belief that IT guys are always hungry and will eat just about anything, especially if it's homemade and free.) Now that I'm retired I volunteer at the Ten Thousand Villages store here in Cary. So I boxed up all the "failed" biscotti and took them to the store for the staff and volunteers. I got a nice email from the director today saying they are enjoying them on this dreary day. (Although Cary is far from the NC coast, we are getting a lot of Hurricane Matthew rain and high winds today, and some road flooding is occurring.) So all the biscotti baking turned out to be successful in the end.

Here's the recipe for the "failed cookies":

Carolyn's Caramel Apple Biscotti

½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 ½ cups plain flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, divided
1 cup chopped dried apple pieces
1 cup caramel chips

Apple pieces preparation:
Soak pieces 1½ - 2 cups of boiling water mixed with 1 teaspoon cinnamon until the apple pieces are softened. Set aside.

Preheat oven at 325 degrees. Lightly grease a cookie sheet or line with parchment paper.

Beat butter and sugar until well blended.

Add eggs and vanilla. Beat till all blended.

Sift flour, baking powder, salt, and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon.

Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture until smooth. Dough will be stiff.

Drain the apple pieces, discarding the liquid. Stir in the apple pieces and  the caramel chips into the dough.

Divide the dough in half and shape into 2 logs about 8-10 inches long. Place on the cookie sheet and flatten slightly.

Bake 20-30 minutes or until the logs are done (toothpick inserted in the log center will come out clean).

Remove from oven and let cool cool completely on a wire rack.

Transfer to a cutting board. Using a serrated-edge knife, cut the logs diagonally into ½-inch slices. Slices will be sticky so use a sawing motion to minimize breaking the slices into pieces.

Place slices cut side down on an ungreased cookie sheet or lined with parchment paper. Return to oven and bake 5-6 minutes. Turn slices on other side and bake for an additional 5-8 minutes. Cookies should be lightly browned on each cut side.

WARNING: be careful when handling and turning hot cookies. Melted caramel pieces are very hot and sticky and can cause a painful burn.

Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool completely.

These biscotti are softer and moister than traditional biscotti so handle gently.

For fancier biscotti, you can melt some caramel pieces (¼ cup) with a small amount of shortening (1 tsp) to make a caramel drizzle. 

Friday, October 7, 2016

2016 NC State Fair Projects: Knitted Edging on Tea Towel

This is my second year of entering a piece in the knitted trim on household item category in the North Carolina State Fair. Last year I was truly surprised to get a blue ribbon for my entry. I wonder if it was just that perhaps more people do thread crochet rather than thread knitting and so there are fewer entries and less competition. 

I'm a volunteer at the Ten Thousand Villages store in Cary, NC, where I bought this tea towel last year. As soon as I saw it, I knew I would use it for a fair entry. The color and statement called for something "Christmasy" so I looked for a pattern that might evoke Christmas trees.

The pattern I chose sort of looks like upside-down trees with red beads at their peaks. The pattern is "Cinquefoil" from 150 Knitted Trims by Lesley Stanfield (St. Martin's Griffin, 2007; p. 86). I used green size 10 crochet cotton from my stash with a size 0 needle. I strung the red glass beads on the thread before knitting the trim. I think this little edging does add to the message "Make Merry."

2016 NC State Fair Project: Crocheted Edging on Tea Towel

This is the first time I've entered a piece in the NC State Fair category for crocheted trim on a household item. As you can see, the tea towel's design was my inspiration for the edging. I liked the idea of echoing the white dots on the towel with white and red disks in the edging.

The piece is a combination of elements from two patterns. The solid red heart shapes are from pattern "#15" from 111 Easy Edgings by Terry Kimbrough (Leisure Arts, 1997; p. 10). The disks are from pattern "#116" in Around the Corner Crochet Borders by Edie Eckman (Storey Publishing, 2010; p. 236).

I used size 10 red and white crochet cotton with a size 6 steel crochet hook. Each disk was crocheted separately and then sewed to the red edging which had already been sewn onto to the towel. 

2016 NC State Fair Project: Baby Christening Gown

This year I put an entry in the Crocheted Christening Gown category at the North Carolina State Fair. The pattern is "Offset Shell," one of two patterns in the Leisure Arts brochure Christening Sets to Crochet by Kay Meadors (2007, p. 7-9). 

I used Lily 18th Century white cotton thread, a thread that has been discontinued. (I seem to have a lot of discontinued threads and yarns in my stash.) This thread crocheted up very nicely using a size 6 steel crochet hook.

The final gown is about 18" long. I kept thinking I should go longer even though the pattern specified only 15" for the longer version. But with the fair entering deadline looming, and, frankly, me wanting to move on to other projects, I added the bottom edging last night and called it finished. 

The pattern calls for three buttons and I found an old card of three white glass heart-shaped buttons in my button stash that were perfect. The pattern photograph showed using a white ribbon trim, but I ended with a peach ribbon simply because that was what I had in the length I needed -- and I wanted to avoid a last minute trip to Jo-Ann's for white ribbon. So everything I used (thread, ribbon, buttons) came from my stash. Sometimes I have to agree with my daughter that I do, indeed, have a craft shop in my house.