Saturday, August 27, 2016

Star Wars TIE fighter cake

Husband's birthday was this week. In the practice of adults the world over we postponed the celebrations till the weekend. One of the things I like to do is bake. Since I've had kids I have been stepping up my game with cakes (Thomas the Tank Engine, A xylophone, Paddington's Suitcase, Paw Patrol's Lookout Tower). After a bit of prodding Husband said he would like a TIE fighter cake. A TIE fighter is a little fighter spacecraft used by the Empire in Star Wars. It looks like this...
...So he wasn't asking much.

It took a few days to figure out, but it all came together when I saw these bowls at the supermarket.They're 18cm in diameter and metal, so I could bake them. I could have bought proper cake tins, but hemispherical cake tins cost $20-30 apiece. These cost $5 apiece. Also the flat base worked in my favour for the front and the back of the TIE fighter where the windows are.

For this cake a used a tried and true chocolate cake recipe which has been the basis for previous birthday cakes. It's not too rich and holds together well. I think I got it off the back of the cocoa packet before Sprogs 3rd birthday (Paddingtons's Suitcase).

Cakes were baked and left to cool, and the next night I made the wings out of gingerbread. Gingerbread is one of my two "I'm gonna bake biccies, what recipe shall I make" standby's but it is also great for structural work. That's one of the reasons it's so good for edible houses (Midwinter Christmas 2016). To size the wings I folded a piece of baking paper into 6ths (halved, then thirds) and cut 9cm down from the point (half the diamter of my "tins". A real TIE fighter has wings way way bigger than the central ball, but that would be a structural nightmare, and a bad cake:gingerbread ratio.


That second night I also made a half batch of butter icing, dumped a bit of black in, to make it greyish, a bit much, then sliced the tops off and matched the two cakes together to make a vaguely spherical shape, remembering that the flat bottoms of the cake would be the front and back of the TIE fighter, then I crumb coated the cakes and the insides of the wings.  I used Chocolate fondant and gel colouring to make black fondant and cut out a large circle for the front, a small hexagon for the back, and 12 triangles to go on the outside of the wings.

Today was the rest of the challenge. Assembly and decorating. I made up another batch of butter icing, and added some black colouring. Interestingly a little black took the very slight yellow tinge from the butter away and made it look whiter. I added a little more to make it a light grey, then coated the ball of cake and the outside of the wings. Before the icing dried I stuck the black fondant triangles on. 

It was Widget's nap time, so we both had a nap, and when I came back the icing had stiffened a bit. I added some more icing and smoothed it out with a palette knife. I used a very very short jam jar to hold the cake ball off the platter. I put it at a slight tilt, then added the fondant windows, and piped the framing on using the leftover icing darkened ever so slightly. I held the wings up and approximated where, then stuck skewers through the cake to hold up the wings. The weight of the wings is on the platter, but they are held vertical by the skewers. Two skewers per wing. Then it was just a matter of piping on detail. My detail piping is not very good, but I started with the most important details and worked down till I ran out of icing. 

Front                                                                 Back

I really like the hexagonal lines on the inside of the wings, with the darker grey base icing. From a distance it makes the whole TIE fighter look come together. Also from a distance you can't see my messy piping :-) 

Husband had the biggest grin when he first saw it.  I'm just hoping it all stays together until his party tonight!

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Academic Hood

I graduated in 2003, in 2009 I gained my teaching diploma. Every year since I have worn my own gown at school prizegiving, which was originally my grandfathers, and whichever hood that I was given. I think I have had the wrong hood as often as I had the right one. I never liked having the wrong hood. I'm pretty sure there's some rule or law about wearing regalia that you are not entitled to, though that may only apply to military uniforms and the like.  Anyway I had been thinking about making my own for a while.

Last year I e-mailed the New Zealand Federation of Graduate Women, Otago branch, since Otago is where I graduated from. The lovely Sue sent me a paper pattern cut from butchers paper, a scrap of the correct colour blue fabric, and a letter with instructions. The envelope was misplaced once or twice in the great piles of kid stuff, but I dug it out and put it somewhere safe. This past school holiday I bought the satin and trim and set it aside until I had a gap between other projects. There was no rush. Prizegiving isn't until early December.

Once I had the fabric I found I didn't want to put it off anymore, so a few evenings sewing later I had a hood.

Sprog modelled it for me, as getting a decent picture of your back in the mirror is quite hard.  I can hardly wait for prizegiving this year. I will be the one wearing the correct hood and gown.  I have to be careful now though, Some folks at school have been making noises about having their own!

Saturday, August 6, 2016


Following on from the Mock up version of my Leralynn I made a version in the fabric I bought specially.

I'm not sure what the fabric is,  it was a mid-weight with at least some polyester, but the pocket and hood lining fabric was satin. Neither of them were easy to work with as neither held a crease easily when pressing. The welt pockets were a bit tricky but many many pins solved the issue.

I put a decorative stitch down the middle on either side of the seam, and around the hood. I used bias trim around the hem and the sleeves.

I'm mostly pleased about this, and I love a dress with a hood and pockets. I have a bit of learning to go when it comes to sewing darts well, but luckily with this fabric it's dark enough and heavy enough to mostly pull the fabric down and flatten the wobbly darts.

I wore it to work and I had some lovely comments from my students about it. We've had a bit of a cold snap lately, so it has gone back into the cupboard until Spring comes back for good.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Preschool Olympics T-shirts

Today at Sprog and Widgets preschool was a celebration of the Olympic's opening. Kids were encouraged to dress up in national costume. My boys have worn their All Blacks outfits from their uncle so many times I decided  not to go the easy route, but do something new.

Sprog has been fascinated by maps lately, and we have put a world map on the wall for him. So far he loves New Zealand, Australia (though he often calls it Melbourne), Daddy's country (Daddy is from Britain) and Russia. Russia is big. Russia covers half the map, and on a NZ central map, Russia is one complete county smack bang in the middle.

When it came to choosing what country he wanted to represent he chose Russia. Given the the other idea I was going for was Wales which has a dragon on it's flag I was happy with Russia, with it's standard tricolour flag.

Widget got Israel. because his name is Hebraic, and it's an easy flag to sew.

I woke a little early and dashed to my sewing space. I had some white knit in my stash that I had picked up from the op-shop, and some coloured felt left over from the Paw Patrol vests to use for the flags.

I hadn't made T-shirts for the boys before so I used a T-shirt from each of them for a pattern, folding it down the middle and cutting on the fold. I kept Widgets a little away from the fold to allow for a seam allowance, a bit too much really, Sprog's I just cut about 1cm away.

I cut a base flag for each boy from white felt, then layered the blue or blue and red on top, pinned and stitched. Sprogs was easy two strips on top of the white. Widgets I cut 6 little thin strips and pinned three in a triangle, sewed, then put the other three on inversely, and sewed again. The flags were sewn onto the fronts of the t-shirts, then the front and back sewn together.
Sprogs was quite narrow, and Widgets quite roomy, probably as a result of the T-shirts I used as patterns.

Sprog was very pleased with his. Widget still just wears whatever we throw at him.

Both shirts were worn again two weeks later for the closing ceremony, still unhemmed, but as the're knit it doesn't really matter!