Sunday, December 28, 2014

Decorative Thread Boards

Thread Board - Title

While trying to figure out a good way to organize my own thread (instead of in a trick-or-treat bin, where it lives right now), I thought of a neat gift idea for my mother and mother-in-law. My MIL finally has her sewing room and is an avid quilter, and my mother is getting back into sewing with a brand new machine.

My own small-space sewing experience brought up an interesting dilemma -- how do you keep the small lower bobbins with their matching thread spools? I had a nice box that I kept some of my spools in,

which had vertical stems which kept the spools from falling over. This kept them upright and easy to see. However, when I tried to keep the lower bobbins on the same stem as the thread, they were too tall and the lid didn't fit on tightly. Want to guess the number of times I accidentally dumped the entire thing the floor?

Gif Friends milkmaster gotta be a better way

To the Pins!

Many lovely ideas on the Pinterest, of course.

Peg boards ...
novel use for a peg board. frame and store thread and bobbins!

Golf tees ...
Thread & Bobbin Storage ~ Kimations

Whatever this is ...
Thread and bobbin storage

This one looked the most promising:
DIY #chevron #sewing #thread board for ample storage & great display.

I liked how the bottom bobbins fit right there with the matching spools. The blog shows how she did the chevron pattern on the board. I, of course, took it a step farther.

If you spend enough time on Pinterest, you'll come across this DIY Mirror Frame in various forms.

I have to paint the one in our old house black to go with my black and pink bathroom  DIY Framed Mirror Tutorial on { }

Basically you take wood trim (for windows, doors, baseboards, etc.) and use it to frame a mirror for a very clean look.

There's also this technique, for making fancy picture frames with the same kind of trim.

Build your own custom GIANT picture frame using layered trim Pieces! {Sawdust & Embryos}

I decided I wanted these features in a thread older:
1) Hang it on the wall
2) Long enough nails for the bottom bobbin and the thread spool to sit together
3) Framed in a way that would look clean and decorative when hung on the wall
4) Painted by the kiddo (so it counts as a present from him as well)
5) Not ridiculously expensive

Step 1: Call Dad
I told him my plan, and he suggested I use sheets of plywood (which he had lying around), and said we could cut things in his workshop over Thanksgiving.

Step 2: Measure
I laid out some spools to see how far apart they should be. I found that a 19x19 piece of wood would fit about 36 spools (with enough room for fat spools too).

Thread Boards - Measuring Spools

I also measured the height of the bobbin and spool, and found I would need 3" or 3 1/4" nails.

Thread Boards - Measuring Spools

Step 3: Trim shopping
I did not have much luck with Home Depot. Some of the stuff was nice, but mad expensive. And the only one that had a really good pattern for a reasonable price was Crown Molding, and its shape would have been pretty tricky to work with.

Thread Boards - Trim Shopping Thread Boards - Trim Shopping Thread Boards - Trim Shopping

Lowes had a much better selection, including this one, which is PERFECT for a sewing room!

Thread Boards - Trim Shopping

Step 4: Measure and Cut Trim
Over Thanksgiving Dad helped cut each long piece of trim into 4 pieces that fit together in a square. It involved geometry and a circular saw, so I let dad take the lead on this one.

Thread Boards - Cutting Trim

Thread Boards - Cutting Trim

Step 5: Stain Trim
Dad also had some stain lying around.

Thread Boards - Staining Trim

Thread Boards - Staining Trim

Step 6: Prime and Paint Boards
I bought some basic Primer to make the boards white before we painted them -- I figured Ro's kid paints would show up better on a primed surface.

Thread Boards - Painting Boards

Thread Boards - Painting Boards
(I also had a few canvases that we had been playing with, and I primed over them so they're new and fresh!) The Primed surface looked great! They really looked like canvases -- in fact I kept forgetting they were plywood, and was surprised by their weight when I picked them up!

Thread Boards - Painting Boards

Thread Boards - Painting Boards

Step 7: Seal Trim and Boards
Dad gave me some Polyurethane for the trim to seal in the stain.

Thread Boards - Polyeurithane Trim

I also tested it on the kid paint, to see if it would seal it. However it was too wet, and sort of washed away the paint instead of sealing it in.

Thread Boards - testing poly on paint

Mod Podge actually worked a lot better, and gave it a little shine.

Thread Boards - Sealing Paint

Step 8: Glue Trim
Fancy people have special right-angle corner clamps to glue corners. I don't. Using wood glue, I just pressed the edges together and clamped them to the board to keep them sturdy.

Thread Boards - Gluing

Then I glued the trim to the boards, clamped two corners (because I only had two clamps), and used books for the other corners.

Thread Boards - Gluing

Step 9: Attach Wall Hangers
I used two D-Ring Picture Frame Hangers screwed into the back of the board.

Step 10: Nail
I nailed brads through the trim into the board to keep it secure.

Thread Boards - Nailing Brads

Then I measured and marked where the big nails would go. Mine ended up 2.25" inches apart.

Thread Boards - Measuring for Nails

I nailed the 3" nails at an angle so the spools wouldn't fall off when the board was hung on the wall (I couldn't find 3.25" nails that were thin enough for thread spools, but the 3" work ok).

Thread Boards - Nails

Thread Boards - Nails

Finally, add your thread spools and hang on the wall!

Thread Boards - Spools

Thread Boards - Spools

You can also hang frequently needed supplies, like your pin cushion or scissors.

Thread Boards - Spools

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Just make Christmas happen

In my husband's defense, he has actually thanked me daily for making Christmas happen.

And in deference to my mother and mother-in-law, I'm not in charge of making sure there is food.

But yeah, this is my job this week. Just make Christmas happen.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Up-Cycled Recycling Bin Handles

Or ... "They moved my dumpster into a new time-zone".

I shouldn't complain. My apartment complex is awesome. The grounds are super clean. The maintenance men are SO nice. And they have single-stream recycling, meaning I don't have to separate my paper from my plastic and glass. I'm super spoiled. I was also spoiled that my mail box and dumpster were about 100 feet from my door. I barely had to put shoes on to take out the trash.

Until now. They decided to consolidate the dumpsters and recycling down in one of the lower lots, right by the front entrance, since "everyone drives their trash to the dumpsters anyway". Grrr. What's the point in recycling if you have to DRIVE it to throw it away? And since we're uber hippies and hardly drive AT ALL anyway, it's not like we can just add "drop off recycling on our way out to work", since work is via bike. But we're the minority, so I'm not going to bitch about it. Much.

Fine. I'll walk the 1/4 mile there and the 1/4 mile back to bring my trash and recycling. In the middle of winter. God help us the first blizzard, though, cause I'm not doing it then. Or when it's raining. Or too hot. Yeah, this isn't going to work out very well.

But the real problem is that our bins are a pain to carry. They're just paper bins from staples.
Brighton Professional™ Wastebasket, Black, 7 gal.
Nothing to really hold on to. And when it was only 100 feet to the bin, it was fine for the dog food can or oatmeal canister to fall out. I'd just grab it, balance it back on top, and dash. But I'm not dropping shit all the way down to the lower lot. This thing needs handles.

For different reasons (see: Christmas gifts, later this month), I had my electric drill out and was putting holes in a rubbermaid tub. Eureka! I can put holes in the bin and put fabric handles through the holes!

Step 1: drill a hole in each side of the bin.
Recycling Bin Handles

Step 2. Cut a fabric strip long enough to thread through one hole, up over your shoulder, and into the hole on the other side. We have a bunch of these HUGE reusable bags from the bike shop, and they seemed to be the right size. Plus they were pretty clear in the instructions ...

Recycling Bin Handles

Recycling Bin Handles

I was able to cut just the center panel of this bag from one end to the other, and then cut it lengthwise to make two long straps, and they were perfect. I think they were about 45" long.

Recycling Bin Handles

Step 3: Thread the ends of the fabric through the holes.

Recycling Bin Handles

Step 4: Here's the tricky part ... pull the fabric end through the hole and fold it back against the rest of the strap. Sew the end of the fabric to the body of the strap so it won't come undone. I imagine if you are a knot wizard, you could knot it in a way where it wouldn't come loose. I couldn't. I pinned the end and sewed across it and back a few times, propping the bin up on some books to keep it even.

Recycling Bin Handles

Recycling Bin Handles

Recycling Bin Handles

I also sewed the strap in half length-wise to give it some strength. I did one AFTER I had secured the ends to the bins, and I did one BEFORE I secured the ends to the bins. Both were a pain, and involved a lot of bin maneuvering, but they look nicer and I think they're stronger.

Recycling Bin Handles

Recycling Bin Handles

And now look who can help!?
Recycling Bin Handles

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Boston Cream Muffins ...ok, ok ... cupcakes


Big Y supermarket has a great muffin section -- big ol' bran muffins, chocolate chocolate-chip muffins, and ... wait for it ... Boston Cream Muffins. Big, giant, Boston Cream Muffins. They're hard to resist. But my wallet and my wastline need me to resist them. So we're implementing the very useful "Make it Yourself" rule -- if you make the food yourself, you will naturally eat more "real" food and portion-control the "not food", because "not food" is super annoying to make yourself. E.g. Apples are real food, and are really easy to "make" -- just pick them up and eat them. Home-made oreos, on the other hand, are kind of a pain to make -- the cookie dough, you gotta cut or roll the cookies really small, bake them and don't burn them, mix the filling, spread the filling, etc. Not hard, it just takes a long time. And while home-made oreos are technically "real food", since they're made with real ingredients, they're not all that good for you. But they're such a pain to make, I'm not going to make them very often. Hence, built-in portion control.

Cue Boston Cream Muffins. Now a quick internet search informed me that there is no such thing as a boston cream muffin, that they are actually cupcakes. And I'll admit, my rule is usually No Frosting = muffin, Frosting = cupcake. So the chocolate topping makes these cupcakes -- fine.

After that, the internet was super disappointing. All the recipes (except Martha) called for Cake Mix from a box, and Instant Vanilla Pudding. If I wanted this to be easy ... I would just buy the muffin from Big Y. So we did some mixing-and-matching.

Cupcakes, from Sally's Baking Addiction

Vanilla Cream Filling, from Martha Stewart

Chocolate Ganache, from Food Network

Side-Note -- since Daylight Savings Time ended last week, any sort of afternoon cooking is now done in the dark. Please excuse the bad lighting.

Vanilla Cream
You may end up needing more than these original measurements (see Finishing below), probably doubled for a 24-cupcake batch.

2 large egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons plus 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
Pinch of salt
1 cup whole milk
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Boston Creme Cupcakes (1)

Separate eggs, and set aside whites (yummy breakfast for tomorrow!). Whisk yolks until smooth.

Boston Creme Cupcakes (2)

Mix sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add milk in a slow, steady stream. Cook, stirring, until mixture begins to bubble and thicken, about 5 minutes.

Boston Creme Cupcakes (3)

Pour 1/3 of milk mixture into yolks, whisking constantly. Return mixture to saucepan, and cook over medium heat, stirring often, until thick, 2 to 4 minutes. Stir in vanilla.

Boston Creme Cupcakes (4)

I love cooking that turns into chemistry totally amazes me. And if high school chemistry had been this yummy, I probably would have done better.

Pass vanilla cream through a fine sieve into a bowl.

Boston Creme Cupcakes (6)

Press plastic wrap directly on surface. Refrigerate until cold, at least 1 hour, or up to 2 days.

Boston Creme Cupcakes (7)

These were yummy, but they did not come out of the silicone muffin cups easily. Also I reduced the recipe to make only 12 cupcakes, and the batter ended up making 19. So ... not sure what to tell you. These are original measurements, which the original author says makes 16. Maybe they're 16 really BIG cupcakes. I'd say this would make 24 normal-sized cupcakes, which means you'd probably need more cream-filling than the recipe above.

2  1/3 cups (292g) all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 Tablespoons (180g) unsalted butter, softened too room temperature
1 3/4 cups (350g) granulated sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature and separated
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup (240ml) whole milk

Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Line a muffin pans with cupcake liners.

Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl. Set aside.

Boston Creme Cupcakes (8)

Beat the butter on high speed until smooth and creamy - about 1 minute. Add the sugar and beat on high speed for 3-4 minutes until creamed together fairly well.

Boston Creme Cupcakes (9)

Separate eggs. Add yolks and the vanilla to butter mixture. Beat on medium-high speed until combined.

With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture and milk (alternate adding flour and adding milk 3 times).

Boston Creme Cupcakes (10)

Whisk or beat the egg whites until thick and foamy, about 3 minutes. Fold into cupcake batter.

Boston Creme Cupcakes (11)

Spoon batter into cupcake liners filling 1/2 - 2/3 of the way full. Bake for 18-21 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool completely.

Boston Creme Cupcakes (12)

Chocolate Ganache
These are the original amounts, which made WAY too much ganache for 19 cupcakes. I'd cut this in half for a normal 24-cupcake batch.

1 cup heavy cream
1 (12-ounce) package semisweet chocolate morsels

Heat cream in a small heavy saucepan over medium heat until bubbles appear around the edges.

Boston Creme Cupcakes (18)

Remove from heat, add chocolate morsels to pan, and whisk until smooth.

Boston Creme Cupcakes (19)

Spoon or drizzle glaze over cupcakes, or dunk the tops into the glaze (do this AFTER you put the cream into the cupcakes, below).

Boston Creme Cupcakes (21)

Here's what I did, and here's how it didn't quite work.

Spoon vanilla cream into a frosting bag with a long tip.

Boston Creme Cupcakes (13)

Insert tip into cupcake and squeeze filling into cupcake.

Boston Creme Cupcakes (15)

Boston Creme Cupcakes (17)

**Here's what I did wrong. I didn't put ENOUGH filling into each cupcake. I ended up putting 5 or 6 small squeezes into each cupcake, and it either wasn't enough to taste it, or the cream was absorbed into the cake. It really didn't feel like a good mouthful of cream ... that's what she said.

Boston Creme Cupcakes (24)

Next time I think I will actually cut a hunk of cake out of the center of the cupcake and fill it will cream -- that way I can see how much is getting in there.

That being said, they were still pretty good. I mean, it's cake and frosting, and when you pretend it's a muffin, you can have it at 10am with a cup of coffee. That's heaven in my book.

Boston Creme Cupcakes (27)