Saturday, January 30, 2016

Hanging Banner Tutorial

After putting the Valentine's stuffies out on the porch, I knew I needed to make something for the front door.  I was shopping at Target the other day and saw this cute banner, but it was pretty small.  We have a very tall front door and so I always feel like whatever I hang up needs to be substantial.  So I decided I would make my own banner. 

I also thought it might be fun to use the same technique that I had used on a pillow cover I made for Christmas this year.  I printed the word JOY on the burlap using my regular old Epson inkjet printer.

So I gathered up some supplies:
  • 1/2 yard of striped fabric
  • 1/4 yard of burlap
  • Various trims
  • A yard stick
  • A scrap of wood
  • Hot glue gun
  • Sewing machine
  • Wing nuts and bolts
  • Freezer paper

I started out by designing a graphic in Photoshop that I wanted to print on my banner.  I tried searching for existing graphic with the saying I wanted to use, but had no luck.  So I just designed one myself. I made it 8.5" wide (because that is as wide as my printer allows) and 24" long, because that is how long I was planning to make the banner.  I've made this a free download if you would like to use it for your banner.  Just click HERE :)
Next up was the burlap.  I cut it in half lengthwise right where it was folded on the bolt.  I kept the width just as I bought it at 9 inches.  This gave me two long strips of burlap the same size.

Now comes the fun part.  Did you know that using freezer paper allows you to send just about any kind of fabric you want through your regular ol' ink jet printer?  It's kind of amazing.  It comes in a giant roll that will last forever and costs about $7.  I cut the paper down to be the same size as the burlap.

You will see that there are two different sides to the paper, one that is flat and dull, and the other that is shiny.  You just put the shiny side face down on the back side of your fabric (I didn't have to be too careful since I was using burlap which doesn't have a right or wrong side) and then you iron it on.  It only takes a couple of seconds with a hot iron and it is fused to the paper.  This paper backing gives your fabric enough stability to go through the printer.  

 Make sure when you are sending your document to print that you have the paper sized at 8.5x24" (or whatever size you are using).  I'm sure all printers are a little different, but mine tends to feed through a little slower than it should and so I was left with a bigger margin at the bottom than at the top.  I just trimmed down my fabric to fit so that everything would be centered.

Give it a few minutes to make sure the ink is dry and then peel off the paper backing. 

Just after I took this photo I got all over confident and pulled the backing off too quickly.  It became an "oh crap" moment when several of the strings pulled loose from the side.

Sweet Lorna Doone!  I spent the next 20 minutes trying to weave the strings back in.  If your wondering if this tedious process sucked the answer is yes, yes it did.  I would strongly advise you to pull more carefully than I did if you are using burlap.  I gave up on the re-weaving after the first two strands and decided it would be good enough as is.  There's that homemade touch, right?

Now you can work on your background fabric.  My piece was 18" wide and I just left it folded in half straight off the bolt so that it would be thick and sturdy to hang straight.  I serged the edges (LOVE my serger!) and then pressed that edge under and straight stitched it down on the sewing machine.

Now lay your burlap piece down the middle of the fabric.  This pictures shows how it looks with only the one layer of burlap.  See how the stripes show through pretty clearly?  That is why I used the second piece of burlap right behind it.  You could also use a piece of plain brown fabric, like muslin, to achieve the same effect.

I lined up my double-thick burlap and measured it off so that it was centered.  Then I pinned it down every few inches or so.

I took it over to the sewing machine and using a matching brown thread, I set the machine at the widest satin stitch and sewed down the sides as well as across the top and bottom to make sure it was securely in place.  The satin stitch is the one that sews horizontally back and forth.

Once it was all sewn together, I tidied it up by trimming the fabric and strings flush. 

Now cut four strips of wood (or yard stick) down to size.  Make sure you leave enough overhang on each side to put your bolt through.

Use a screwdriver to drill holes through all four pieces

I bought my hardware at Lowe's and for the two packages of wingnuts and one package of bolts it cost me $4.  I used 3/4" bolts.

I cut a piece of twine to use as my hanger and tied knots at each end.  I wedged the twine in between my two pieces of wood and on the outside of each bolt so that it would catch.

Now tighten it all down with the wing nuts.  You could also just use the regular nuts that come with the bolts, but I like the look of wingnuts.

To finish off my banner I made a junk bow.  This can be made any way you like.  I started off by using one of the scraps left from my stuffies.  I folded it in half, right sides together.  the I stitched one of the short sides and the long side together.  Next I turned the fabric right side out and manipulated the fabric on the open end so that the raw edges were turned inwards, pressed it with the iron, and sewed it shut with the machine.  If you want a cleaner look you can hand tack it closed.  I'm much too impatient for that!  Then I tied it into a short, squatty bow to use as my base.

Next I used another strip of fabric to make a flower.  I just gathered it on one end by sewing two parallel lines down the long side in the longest stitch my machine does.  Then you separate the back strings from the front strings, pull on the back strings and push the fabric along the strings as you do so.  This is how you make a ruffle.

It turned out that my fabric strip was a little wider than I wanted and so I just kind of played with the fabric to form a rosette shape, pinched it between my fingers, and then sewed a line across the bottom to keep it in place.  I trimmed off all the excess fabric at the bottom.

A junk bow means you can add anything and everything to it.  I picked out a bunch of ribbons and trims that matched my color scheme.  I laid them across the center of my base bow and then I used one of the long thin ribbons as my tie down.  Just make sure it is strong ribbon because you have to pull kind of tight to secure everything and it can break. 

Trim things down to the length you like.  I hot glued my flower to the top and also added a decorative button to the center of it.  Tie it to your top wood strip and you're all finished!

It finished off my Valentine's porch decor quite nicely

The best part about it is that I can change it out with the seasons if I want.  The banner itself is just pinched into the frame so I can swap it out any time I like.  Now go forth my friends and craft!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Sherlock Holmes Cake

For quite a few years I was making fondant cakes. I made them for all of my girls' birthdays, nieces and nephews, and sold some as well. But about seven or eight months ago I had decided I had enough. Cakes really stress me out. They take me a very long time to do, and I actually end up losing money because I don't have time to do my transcription work. However, a couple weeks ago a neighbor asked if I'd be willing to make one for her son and it just so happened that he likes Sherlock Holmes (love!) so I was excited to make a cake again. Unfortunately, it was late in the evening when the hubster and I started on the cake, so this is not a full tutorial. But I will walk you through a few of the finishing touches, including my first attempt at plaid. So here's where I started out this morning, the bottom tier was covered in a brick red fondant. We then cut out little individual bricks and stuck them to the side. Fondant usually sticks to itself quite easily, but from time to time you do have to use a little bit of water with a small paintbrush. My hubby covered the cake board with gray fondant and carved in some stone pavers. Then he hit all the edges with black using an airbrush. He also did that to the bricks to give them more dimension. Meanwhile, I made the door and covered the top tier with fondant.

The top tier is going to be the Sherlock Holmes hat, so I baked the cake in a metal bowl and then carved it down to the shape I wanted.  The fondant color was supposed to be a dark khaki but when I pulled it out of the fridge this morning it looked a bit mauvish to me so I decided I would airbrush over the whole thing.

I rolled out more fondant and cut out brims for the front and back as well as the ear flaps ("Is it some kind of death frisbee?")

Next I got out the airbrush again.  I usually make my husband do this part because he is much more artistic than I, but he was at work so what's a girl to do?  I also wanted to do a dark red to coordinate with the brick layer but I didn't have any red airbrush color, so that was out.  I went with green instead.  I painted green checks on the hat and flaps.

I filled in all the gaps with brown

Then I went over all the intersections with thick black lines

And to finish, I went through the middles with smaller black lines.

I added some details to the door by rolling out little tiny snakes of fondant.  This is tricky because it is ridiculously small and the fondant wants to stick to your hands, so use toothpicks or fondant tools to manipulate and place your details.

Ever wonder how to get colors like gold or silver on your cake?  You can use this amazing powder called luster dust.  It comes in a tiny little canister, and when you mix it with alcohol (I use pure lemon extract), it turns into paint.  So awesome!  You can find luster dust at cake specialty stores or online.  It is kind of pricey at around $4-5 a piece, but you will love it.

Now my door details are a beautiful shiny gold!

Now it is time to stack the cake.  My trick?  Or actually it was my cousin's trick that she taught me ;) Straws!

I vividly remember the very first stacked cake I made.  It was my third daughter's first birthday.  I thought I could just make a three-tier topsy turby cake and stack them on top of each other.  I didn't use cake boards or support or anything.  Needless to say, it didn't turn out so great.  As you can see in this picture, I actually had to have my hand behind it to brace it for the photo or it would have fallen right over!

Super cute baby....not such a cute cake!  After almost seven years and over 100 cakes, I've learned a thing or two.  Support is vital!  So what you have to do is stick your straws in (you can also use wooden dowels) and then cut it.  Don't try to cut it level with the cake top because you won't have enough space to get your scissors close enough.  Instead, push the straw all the way to the bottom and then pull it up an inch or so.  Your frosting will leave a line on the straw and tell you where to cut.

Now you can push the straw back down so it is level with the top.

I slid the top tier (which is on a piece of cardboard) onto the bottom tier using an offset spatula.  I added the brims and ear flaps to the hat.

I added some black trim to the hat.  The rolled up stuff is wax paper and I just have it in there to help keep its shape while the fondant hardens.

What Sherlock Holmes cake is complete without Sherlock himself and his trusty Mr. Watson?  My oldest daughter is quite a talented sculptor and she and I worked on these guys earlier in the morning before school. I assembled Watson first.

I still haven't found the best way to do figures.  I've tried modeling chocolate, and really like it, but I didn't make any for this project.  For these guys I used the same fondant as I made for the cake and added Tylose powder to it.  I haven't perfected this technique, and these guys are still quite soft.  I think you have to plan ahead a little more than I do and give your figures a day or two to set up in order for them to be firm.  So I just helped them stick to the cake by putting a toothpick through each body.  I hid Watson's under his scarf.  Here you can see the toothpick sticking out of Sherlock's body:

And here he is with a head!  I covered his toothpick with a magnifying glass.

My final step was to hot glue some ribbon along the edge of the cake drum to give it a clean, finished look.
Voila!  A finished Sherlock Holmes cake.  Has it brought me out of cake retirement?  I'm not so sure.