Saturday, November 28, 2009

Something edible!

Ok, today I'm going to post something OTHER than fabric or fibre crafts. Mmm, rocky road! I just gave my very basic recipe to my friend and thought, well since I've just written it up I should blog it. So, here is the *recipe* I use but keep in mind, I change it every time I make it. This is perfect to make then pop in a nice tin or container as a Christmas present. Or, you know, you could just eat it yourself. Whatever, I'm not the boss of you.

- approx. 400g of chocolate
- approx 200-250g of marshmallows
- half bag of red licorice
- selection of nuts & peanuts (cashews are our favourite)
- some sultanas or craisins (dried cranberries) or other dried fruits
- desiccated coconut

Line a small baking tin or tray (like a loaf pan?) with greaseproof paper. Melt just less than half of the chocolate (I use the double-boiler method on the stove, a big bowl sitting over a pan of steaming hot water, but if you're confident in not burning the choc you can do it in the microwave) then dribble some on the baking paper in the tray. Start to lay down a foundation of marshmallows, licorice, nuts and dried fruit in the melted choc and when that's done, pour over some more melted chocolate. Sprinkle some coconut and some more of the smaller ingredients like the nuts and fruit, and dribble the rest of the chocolate over the top. Then make another layer of the bigger stuff like the marshmallows and licorice, and melt the rest of the choc. Just continue to make layers of the choc and the other ingredients until you've used up all the choc. Stick it in the fridge for a few hours, then you can use a big-arse knife to cut it into the size pieces you like.

Obviously, you can use half the amount of ingredients to make a smaller batch, but in my experience with Greg and myself (and a little help from Dylan too!) it's so good that even using the big block of choc, the batch doesn't last very long. Gone in just over a week?? I usually cut the licorice pieces in half before I put them in because Greg likes to have a little bit of everything in each piece, and I have to say it looks really pretty when you cut it in half. I've also used choc orange chocolate before, which was really good! You could really put anything in there that can be choc dipped, maybe even some crushed biscuit chunks? I used up a few leftover pieces of smashed choc honeycomb in the last batch I made. The key is, quality ingredients will give you a quality result. I made the mistake of using cheap marshmallows on the first batch I made and it was rubbish! I haven't done that again.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

I can tell that we are gonna be friends!

Well, here it is in all it's finished glory - the red white and black blanket! I thought the dramas I had with this one would end my love affair with crochet, but now that it's done and sent off to it's intended recipient (and if this is YOU then please act shocked when you open it!) I have to say, I'm really happy with it.

So now that we're all friends again, let me explain from the beginning why this blanket nearly drove me up the wall.

The original concept was simple: a blanket made up of 9 squares (50cm each) so it would be 150cm square. It was to be in different tones of red, black, white, grey and burgundy. Each square would be made using a different crochet technique, so that it had a patchwork feel to it.

The first square to be completed was the skull square. I'd seen a pattern on Flickr (thanks to underthevalley ) and wanted to give it a go, and so I did. I loved the result but decided I didn't care for making picture designs in crochet as there are far, far too many ends to weave in. And we all know how I feel about end-weaving! So I went back to my list and changed the few squares that would require much end-weaving. The only one I left was the square with the wording, I figured I was writing block letters and the end-weaving was minimal, so I wrote myself a pattern for the words and got stuck in. I learned that it doesn't matter if you're working in straight lines or doing small patches of colour, there's still a hell of a lot of little fluffy end bits that need seeing too. Hmm, let's re-assess the patterns, I say.

Next was a black and white checkerboard patterned square (which sadly, didn't make the final cut). I decided I'd make it like 5 little scarves, alternating between black and white after so many rows, then stitching them together side-by-side at the end. I thought it would would quicker than making granny squares and stitching them together, and there would be less ends. True, there were less ends. But it wasn't quicker and the end result was a square that wasn't actually square but rectangular. Bum.

So, feeling peeved I started on the mitred square and was pleased with how it looked. It's a great pattern and nicely geometric, but when I laid it out with the squares and rectangle I'd already done, I decided that geometric shapes need balance and symmetry, so I had to complete 3 more to make the corner squares. However, I ran out of the yarn I was using and had to use different yarn on the 4th square. No big drama, *recipient* won't notice, right? Just keep going...

Next was a gorgeous square made from 9 granny squares out of the Jan Eaton "200 crochet blocks" book, in the red, white, grey, black and burgundy colour combo I had originally intended. It's pretty, I think. However, you may notice it's not part of the final blanket.

So now I'm up to 8 of 9 of the squares. Good, I'm on the home stretch now and I just need one more square to finish it off and hooray! we're done. I decide to make a nice striped square with the same colours of the Jan Eaton squares so that they all tie in to one another. It worked up quickly and again, I think it looks lovely.

I clear the loungeroom floor of everything and lay out the squares, but I don't think it looks right. After about 15 minutes of "what if I swap that one with this, and rotate that one like this...." I look to my husband and say, "It sucks and I hate it". To which he tactfully answers, "It doesn't suck baby, just...have you tried...?" and suggested the layouts I'd previously tried. Nothing. I sighed, picked up the checkerboard square and say "It's all your fault, you just don't fit in!!" and toss it in the spare room. Again, it's the symmetry that bothers me. It just isn't balanced and I need to find something similar to the skull because then it'll be even and it'll be perfect.

I need something gothy, something punk and symbolic...hours of fruitless internet searching yields nothing but a migraine that leaves me blind in the right eye. There's nothing for it but to write my own pattern. Gasp! Hence the ankh pattern was born, and I stitched it up and was well impressed with the result. (See previous post for patterns).

Then, looking at the squares laid out again, I turn to my husband and say "The squares with the grey have to go - but what will take their place?" Unfortunately, he's an xbox man and doesn't know much about crochet (other than, it's what I do!), so I jump back on the internet and search for free patterns. After a day of seaching, I decide I'm willing to pay for something. Another day, no results. Bugger it. So, I create the crow pattern. I stitch him up and I'm happy with that one too. Although, I did realise about 3/4 of the way through I'd used 12 ply yarn while I'd been using 8 ply previously. Probably had something to do with the yarn band being in German or Dutch or something. Hmm. Oh well I'm almost done now!
The last square. This is it, the final showdown. I was going to try a dragon pattern I had, but pulled it undone 3 times and decided it just wasn't going to work. The problem is, I like to work in double crochet (trebles for UK terminology) so this messes with the patterns. I do 2 doubles per one stitch on the chart when working across, but only one for the height since it's a double and is already twice the height. This means that the design ends up being a little fatter than the chart represents, or a little shorter than it's supposed to be. This was the reason I dismissed the awesome pentagram design from Sooticas Dream on Flickr ( because it'd mess with it too much. Then I had a brilliant idea. I'd work the pattern from the side, so that it stretched it up instead of out. Success!
Then yesterday, I laid it out and thought "Yes, this is it!" and whip stitched those suckers together, then finished off with a border of white single crochet. It's done, as of 12.35am last night. I posted it off this morning, and now I am happy again. Next project please!!

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Blanket That May Just Push Me Over The Edge

Yes...this may the one that causes a mental breakdown. It's certainly been responsible for many a foul swear word in the last few weeks. The "red black and white blanket" will be mentioned in this post today, and maybe one photo of it once it's completed...then we will never speak of said item EVER again.

I'm making the blanket for someone I love dearly, which may be why I am stressing so much over it. Searching the internet for free patterns that fall under the catergory of "goth" or "punk" yields very little, even the ones you need to pay for are very light-on. So I've had to write my own patterns, which sounds easy enough in theory but ughhhhh, it's not.

Anyway, since I've written these ones and there aren't many freebies on the net, I thought I'd share them here. Use them for your own personal work, but don't try and resell it or claim it as your own work. I believe in "credit where credit is due" so please do the right thing. Oh, and if you use it, I'd LOVE to see a picture of it!

Like the Joy Division songCrow on a branch

Ankh (Egyptian cross)

I have crocheted extra squares for this blanket, and either abandoned them in the spare room or just pulled them undone (doesn't that just make you want to cry?). Really, this blanket is getting my goat and I'll be really happy when it's done and I can wrap it up and send it away. Does anyone else have a project like that, that they'll be happy to see the end of? Let me know!