A panoply of (sometimes) lovingly handmade crud.

Tag Archives: halloween

When, ten days ago, our mutual friend announced that his wedding would have a cat theme, Cayleigh and I knew we had a sacred duty to dress her baby as a cat. My part in this was, of course, the hat. I think we did pretty well!

That is one foxy baby. Arthur was preoccupied with chewing on my water bottle for much of the wedding. Way to use those new chompers, kid!

As you can see, the hat turned out a bit big. I used knitting maths to calculate the correct number of stitches to cast on, which was 90. However, since I like my hats to be knit in multiples of 12, I decided to round up. I would say this hat would be a good fit for someone with a head circumference of 20 inches. This is a downside of my motto ‘go big or go home’.

Changes I would make if I made this again:

  • Knit the brim in rib, so it is fully reversible
  • Knit a slightly longer brim

I didn’t use a pattern, but this is what I did.

Using 4.5mm needles, CO 96sts, join to work in the round

Knit in garter rib (or any rib) for about an inch

Switch to 5mm needles and knit… for a bit. I think I knit until the hat was 5.5″, which was probably a bit too long. The decrease portion adds around 1.75″ to the hat.

Decrease as I did in the baby bear hat

Add ears following Official Kittyville Hat, which is in Stitch ‘n’ Bitch. The only change I made was to knit the ears in the round

Okay, I’m sensing you’re sick of the knitting chat and dying to see more chubby baby cheeks.

Yarn: 1 skein Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino

Ravelry project page

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These pumpkin cupcakes turned out to be a great way to use up the pumpkin I had left over from my previous Halloween baking exploits. The pumpkin makes the cupcakes nice and moist with a hint of spice, and the cream cheese frosting adds a great tang (as well as a second hit of sugar). Again, I think they would be much improved  by a few nuts.
I don’t have any great pictures of these. Because the frosting was a bit loose, I decorated them at work, where there is no natural light.
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Ingredients

Makes 12 cupcakes

  • 1 1/2 cups plain flour
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 1/4tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4tsp ground ginger
  • 2/3cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup light olive oil or butter
  • 2 large egs
  • 3/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts such as pecans (optional)

For the frosting

  • 8oz cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 2 3/4 cups icing sugar (I used muscavado icing sugar)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

This will leave you with some leftover frosting. I made my frosting with about 3/4 of the ingredients stated but it came out a bit loose and I’m not sure why.

Method

1. Preheat oven to 180C/350F

2. In a large bowl, cream both types of sugar and your butter or oil, until well combined.

3. Add the eggs one at a time, beating in between

4. Add pumpkin and vanilla

5. Slowly sift in the dry ingredients (including spices), continuing to mix between additions.

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6. Check out the autumnal beauty.
7. Divide the batter into a lined 12 hole muffin tin

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8. Bake in your preheated oven for 16-24 minutes, until a cake passes the toothpick test.

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9. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Meanwhile, make your frosting. Cream together the butter and cream cheese until smooth. I used an electric hand mixer.
10. Mix in the vanilla and then the icing sugar until thick and smooth. If the frosting is a bit slack, chill in the fridge while your cupcakes cool.
11. Once the cupcakes are cool, pipe or spoon on your frosting. Combine them any way you like, I don’t judge.

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I’m getting quite into my autumnal baking, so I decided to try this bread flavoured with the increasingly popular spiced pumpkin. As I learnt, plain pumpkin doesn’t have much of a flavour but it does give this bread a lovely colour, and add moisture. As it’s an American recipe (upcoming stereotype warning), it’s incredibly sweet. I’ve dialled down the sweetness in the recipe below, but you can find the original here. The result is very similar to a cinnamon roll, with an added kick from the glaze if you use it. If I make this again, and I definitely will if I see pumpkin on sale, I would add some pecans because nuts make everything better. Everything.

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Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2tsp (1 sachet) instant yeast
  • 3/4 cup (half a tin) pumpkin puree*
  • 1/4 cup sugar (granulated is fine)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 1/2 cups strong white flour

For the spiced sugar

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 2 tbsp butter

For the glaze

  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1/8 cup brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tbsp milk
  • 3/4 cup icing sugar
  • 1 tbsp rum (replace with more milk if you want to make this  non-alcoholic)

*Yes, I used tinned pumpkin. There was no way I was going to mess around with a pumpkin myself, and I had some left over to make another autumnal recipe. It does look funny, though.

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Method
1. Brown 2tbsp butter in a small saucepan over a medium heat. Browned butter seems to be very fashionable in America at the moment. You allow the butter to melt and turn frothy…

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…then watch carefully as the milk solids become golden brown. Don’t take your eyes off the pan at this stage as the butter can very quickly blacken and burn. This is what you want it to look like

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2. Remove pan from heat and gently add milk. Return to the hob and heat through.

3. Allow to cool until just warm. Add the yeast and 1/4 cup of sugar, and leave to stand for 5 minutes.

4. Add the pumpkin, salt and 1 cup flour. Stir until combined.

5. Add the remaining flour 1/2 cup at a time until you have a slightly sticky dough.

6. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead for about 6 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic. It will still be a little sticky, try not to add too much flour.

7. Transfer the ball of dough to a lightly oiled bowl. I put mine back in the saucepan to save on washing up.

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8. Leave to rise for 60-90mins, until doubled in size.

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9. While the dough is rising, make the cinnamon sugar that will flavour the bread and create the tearability of the loaf.
Brown another 2tbsp butter. Add the sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg and mix well, making sure the sugar absorbs the butter evenly.

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10. Grease your 9×5 loaf tin and set aside.
11. Once the dough has risen, return to a lightly floured surface and roll out to a rectangle that is 20x12ins.

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12. Sprinkle evenly with the cinnamon sugar. Take some time over it, pressing the sugar into the surface of the dough evenly.
VvasXs

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13. Slice the dough vertically (as pictured) into six even strips. Try to make each strip just slightly narrower than the width of your loaf tin.
14. Stack the strips on top of each other.

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15. Cut into six even squares and stack into the loaf tin vertically. You may need to squish them down so they all fit.

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16. Cover and leave to rest for 30-45mins.
17. Preheat your oven to 180C/350F.
18. Bake your risen loaf for 30-40mins. The top will be a deep golden brown. Leave to cool in the tin for a few minutes, before removing to a wire rack.

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19. Prepare the glaze. Heat the butter, milk and brown sugar in a small saucepan. As soon as it comes to the boil, remove from the hob and stir in the rum and icing sugar. Pour over the loaf while it’s still warm.


Another of my Knitting and Stitching Show purchases was a kit to make a pair of pumpkin earrings for Halloween. I decided to dig out my old jewellery making stuff and turn them into jack-o-lantern earrings.

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Here’s a blurry pic of the kit. I like my dangly earrings to have plenty of movement and not be too stiff, so I knew I would have to make some changes to the suggested design.

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If you want to make your own incredibly snazzy halloween earrings, you will need:

  • 2 spherical orange beads
  • nail polish (black and orange and yellow, if you have them) or a permanent marker
  • 2 headpins
  • 6 green seed beads
  • 4 jump rings (optional)
  • 2 short lengths of chain
  • 4 small leaf-shaped beads
  • 2 ear wires (pierced or non-pierced)
  • You will also need small jewellery pliers
    This is a really cheap project. I bought my kit for £1 and you should be able to pick up the materials for this amount or less.
    ‘Carve’ your pumpkins
    You can simply draw faces on with black marker or nail varnish and a tiny brush.
    If you fancy more of a challenge, use yellow and orange varnish to give the design a shining light effect. Starting with the yellow, roughly fill in the areas you want to look cut out.

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    If you have orange too, blend it in with the yellow. I used a crisp packet as a palette to help me. I also looked at reference images on Google to help me get an idea of how the light shines through pumpkin carvings.

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    Next, outline with black to neaten the design. I used a striping brush, which was extremely fiddly. A marker would be much easier I think.
    Thread a seed bead, and then the pumpkin bead onto the headpin. Thread on two more seed beads, then make a loop above them.

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    Put your pumpkins together
    Attach the complete pumpkin to the end of one length of chain.
    Put each leaf bead onto a jump ring. I actually made my jump rings from cut-off lengths of the headpin as I couldn’t find any.

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    Attach the leaf jump rings to the chain, wherever looks good to you.

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    Finish up by attaching the ear wire to the other end of the chain.

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    My natural cynicism makes me unreasonably grumpy about most holidays, but I do quite like Halloween. In particular, I like to dress up and have a reason to eat and drink to excess.

    I also relish any excuse to try out a new craft, so I was very excited to try out a friend’s rather snazzy pumpkin carving tools. I started out by looking for inspiration on Google images and settled on Boo from Mario as my design. I started out by sketching it onto the pumpkin using dry wipe marker.

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    This gave me an outline to trace using a Stanley knife. Next was the fun part, using a tool I called ‘the gouger’ to dig out the sections where I wanted light to come through. You have to be careful if you have a complex design because it’s very easy to accidentally remove bits you’re not intending. Technical language: you have to be aware of the positive and negative space (this is also important in papercraft).

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    It helps to stick a tea light in periodically to check the design is showing up like you want. You need to scrape away a fair bit of pumpkin flesh to achieve a good effect.

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    If, like me, you don’t have a lot of nail art tools (or confidence) then you can still have fun spooky nails for Halloween. These are mine, the only special equipment I used was a black striping brush, but any small paintbrush would work.

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    As my base I used magnetic purple nail varnish as you get the cool stripes with very little effort.

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    I then used the striping brush to colour the tips black and draw the polish down to resemble flames.

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    I’m still feeling uncharacteristically inspired this Halloween so decided to try making these cupcakes with realistic coconut jelly eyeballs. The cake is moist coconut filled with white chocolate ganache (dyed red, of course) and topped with coconut cream cheese frosting.
    These were really delicious but maybe looked a bit too creepy…

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    Do you love my skull moulds?
    I used this coconut cake but I’ll post the recipe again as I changed the quantities to make 12 cupcakes.
    For the cupcakes

    • 175g butter, softened
    • 175g caster sugar
    • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
    • 3 eggs
    • 160g self-raising flour
    • 15g (1tbsp) cornflour
    • Scant 1/2 tsp baking powder
    • 40g desiccated coconut
    • 120ml milk

    For the ganache filling
    1/2 cup (150ml) double cream
    100g white chocolate
    Food dye paste (optional)

    For the frosting

    This frosting

    Make your cake

    1. Make sure your ingredients are at room temperature. Get everything out of the fridge at least half an hour before you start.
    2. Boil the milk and pour over the desiccated coconut. Leave to cool.
    3. Prepare your 12 paper cases
    4. Preheat oven to 180C (160 fan)
    5. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy
    6. Mix in the vanilla until well combined
    7. Add the eggs one at a time and mix until thoroughly incorporated, adding a heaped spoonful of flour between each addition.
    8. Add the remaining dry ingredients and mix well.
    9. Give the coconut/milk mix a good stir, then add and stir through.

    Here’s my coconut infused milk ready to add to the batter

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    Divide between your paper cases and bake for 12-18mins until the cakes pass the skewer test.

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    Leave to cool completely
    Make the eyeballs

    1. Heat the coconut milk and sugar until hot but not boiling. Leave to stand, covered, to keep warm.
    2. Meanwhile, soak the gelatine in 1/4 cup cold water until soft, about 5 mins. Add to the warm coconut milk and stir until the gelatine dissolves.
    3. Pour into half-spherical moulds. I used a silicon cake pop pan, but a paint palette would also work. Refrigerate for about 4 hours until set, then carefully remove the eye balls. I found that chilling mine in the freezer then removing with the help of a warm spoon helped to stop them from breaking.20131103-193948.jpg
    4. Paint on food colouring using a small clean paintbrush.

    Make the ganache
    Finely chop the white chocolate and place in a heatproof bowl.
    Scald the cream in a small pan, then pour over the chocolate. Leave to stand for a minute, then stir until smooth, adding your colour if desired.

    This ganache will set softly and makes a good filling.
    Make your frosting
    Colour if you like.
    Avengers Assemble
    Use a teaspoon to cut the centres out if your cupcakes. Fill with 1-2 tablespoons of ganache. It might soak into the cake slightly but don’t worry, it won’t go all the way through.
    Dollop a tablespoon or two of frosting on top, then carefully position your eyeballs.
    You’re ready to terrify and delight your guests.
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    This post was written my Halloween guest contributor,

    Vampire Nicki Minaj

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