Sunday, February 15, 2009

cinnamon ornaments

cinnamon mobile

sometimes people ask me how i come up with ideas. i suppose sometimes clever little thoughts just pop into my head out of nowhere, but generally it works more like this:

eva and i made valentine ornaments for her friends out of cinnamon dough. why? because i finally got around to cleaning out my spice cabinet last week, and came across three old containers of cinnamon (that doesn't count the three different kinds of good penzey's cinnamon i also had in there). i will fess up that one cinnamon was stop & shop brand, which only exists on the east coast (i think?), which means i bought it in college. and i've already been to my 10 year reunion. (how that was still in there, i'm not sure...) so, what to do with all that cinnamon? wait, i seem to remember the existence of some sort of cinnamon dough... off to research, and this is what i found: a dough made of cinnamon and applesauce. lucky, because i had a partial jar of applesauce in the fridge that was soon to be a bit questionably old (how long does applesauce keep, anyway? seems like forever...)

true to form, i of course had to modify things a bit. i found a recipe on kaboose (there are many, this is the one i randomly chose), but it called for elmer's glue. now, i'm sure school glue is technically edible, but i wanted to make these entirely out of food just in case (and a good thing -- the very first recipient took a very cute bite out of one of the hearts before i had a chance to advise otherwise -- oops!). but what is school glue anyway but a kind of paste? and paste is just flour and water... so i replaced the glue with a flour/water mixture that was approximately the same consistency. why not?

cinnamon ornaments

rather than let them dry for a few days, we put them in a 200 degree oven for a couple hours, turning every 30 minutes or so (or, once the edges began to curl). we found that the optimum thickness is in fact between 1/8" and 1/4" -- a bit thicker worked (just took longer to dry) but the thinner ones split a bit. that said, it's not so fussy that you can't just let your preschooler roll them out and cut them herself. (she did fine with the hearts and stars, but needed some help with the seahorses.)

we jointly came up with the idea to use our mini-sandwich cutters to make small shapes and connect some of them into mobiles. she also wanted to decorate them, and so we tried using luster dust from my cake decorating supplies. we mixed it with orange extract (which i never use, also discovered in my spice cabinet clean-out), and added food coloring to half of it to get silver and pink. she really had fun decorating, but unfortunately unlike when applied to a softer medium like fondant, in this case the luster dust just sort of flaked off when it dried. so, it's fine as long as you don't handle them too much, and worst case, you have silvery fingers.

these would make great christmas tree ornaments or gifts for another occasion beyond valentine's day. the cinnamon smell is really lovely, and i presume they keep indefinitely.

happy valentine's day! a bit late in posting, though the treats were delivered on time -- except for a few, which haven't made it into the mail yet. oops.

felt veggies

felt veggies

i made an assortment of felt vegetables for my niece for christmas. i'd never sewn any stuffed things from felt before, but that's how i craft (apparently) -- do something new, get the hang of it, then promptly become bored of it. :)

(i should say, i'm catching up on posts from before the holidays -- because i didn't want to spoil the surprise for the various gifts i made, and also because i've been swamped since then.)

i originally planned to design all the felt food myself, but i was short on time in december, and am finally starting to learn from past experience. so, i searched for and found some really cute patterns on etsy from seller umecrafts. and then i splurged and bought the set of every kind of vegetable she offers. i was really happy with the patterns -- for the most part, the instructions were clear (every so often, a step was less than obvious, probably because i'm new to this), and she used really interesting techniques to create the various shapes. so, by (for once) not trying to recreate the wheel, i ended up learning a lot, and as a bonus, got my project done in less time with less frustration. (though, i did have to get over the sense that i was somehow cheating...)

i wanted to use wool felt, and after some research, i ordered from because they had a really big selection. after ordering, i discovered from their FAQ that the felt isn't terribly colorfast, and i was concerned, since i was making this for a baby, and babies chew on everything. i contacted prairie point junction, and they were very helpful, putting me in touch with the manufacturer. in the end, the answer was that the dyes are the same as what is used for clothing -- so, probably not the best thing for a baby to eat, but not really dangerous either (note: i'm paraphrasing here; if you're concerned, don't take my word for it...). the colorfastness of the felt varied tremendously from color to color, and in surprising ways. (one purple shade bled like crazy, the other not at all. same with the greens. odd...) oh, i was also pleased that prairie point junction offered embroidery floss for purchase that was preselected to match each color of felt they offered. that saved me having to make a trip to the local craft store after my order arrived (key during a the busy month of december).

so, all that was about locating the patterns and supplies, but nothing so far about the process. i guess that's because after i had everything (including the freezer paper for transferring the patterns -- who knew, they don't just sell that in every grocery store anymore?), they really just fell into place. easy, pretty fun to make, and turned out really cute... the hardest part was choosing which veggies to make, knowing i wouldn't have time to make them all. i still plan to make more for my little one... but now that i've already figured it out, i'm in less of a hurry to do more. they're worth the time, though, so this will reach the top of my queue sometime soon...

do you have other sources for felt or patterns for felt crafts? i'd love to hear about it in the comments.