October is the month that started with one last little harvest from our garden:
And ended with a blizzard.
We didn’t actually go trick-or-treating in that. We went the day after, when it was still -18 with winds 30 kph gusting 50, wind chill in the -30s. Ugh. Gotta work for your candy.
There’s been plenty of Halloweening going on around here, though.
The above all happened on Saturday. Back in the middle of the month I realized my vision of selling variety packs of Halloween-themed cupcakes and cake pops at a craft sale.
They were a hit. My table was sold out in 25 minutes.
The cake pops started as a way to use up the cake scraps that are an inevitable offshoot of this business. The pops were cute, and deadly delicious, but I’m not doing them again. They’re WAY too much work, and packaging them is a bear. Instead, I’m putting the cake scraps into ice cream cake. They’re still in testing – meaning we eat them before I get around to frosting and selling them – but I’m hoping to add them to my lineup soon.
Since I started talking about cake, I’ll keep going. This was a month of stepping back and trying new things. I set a hard limit of two orders per week, and stuck to it. That felt good – I need days off cake, and I wasn’t getting them often!
The month started with this cake, which I would call the straw that broke the camel’s back, if the straw was more like a tree trunk. Poor camel.
I worked really hard on this cake. The client was super specific about her vision, which I love, and I was able to carry it off. They cut into the upper layer, and… it wasn’t baked. I had been super careful that the bottom tier was baked, and I must have made some assumptions about the top tier cakes. So a little girl didn’t get to enjoy her cake at her party. This is the kind of thing that makes me tear out all my hair and want to quit, because I do this to bring people joy, and when instead it is a disappointment, it’s like why do I do this!!! But I still had bookings for the rest of the month, so I soldiered on, determined to slowly implement some changes.
Firstly, oven thermometers are on their way. My oven is going to get tested. It’s super old, and the door has some problems.
Secondly, I’m messing with different recipes. The oil-based recipes I’ve been using are the ones that keep failing on me. I’ve checked my baking powder; I’ve tried different tricks, and it doesn’t seem to matter. It’s either the ingredients, the recipes, or the oven. At this point I’m thinking it’s the oven, but that isn’t changing immediately, so I have to find some batter that still bakes under tougher conditions.
The oil-based red velvet cake seems to still be working, and for this Paw Patrol cake, I even got the cream cheese buttercream to work. Or, really close.
Chocolate is another cake that seems to be more traditionally oil-based. It, too, is hit-and-miss, but doesn’t miss as often as the vanilla.
The first cake to get a brand-new recipe was this birthday cake, a lemon-flavor cake that just turned out. It came with coordinating cupcakes.
Since then, I’ve been working with the recipe I used at the very beginning of this adventure – the butter cake recipe that came with the Craftsy class that started me on this journey. It’s much harder to do well, and the ingredients are more expensive, but… they bake.
This awesome Halloween birthday cake got the chocolate treatment, and this two-tier beauty was the more traditional vanilla.
I think I’ve mastered the batter, but it’s a lot more work. If I’m going to keep making butter cakes, I think I will have to start ordering cake flour, which will drive the costs even higher, and I haven’t raised my prices to reflect these new recipes yet. I’m going to wait for those oven thermometers and see if that’s my problem. If the oven is the problem, and I can go back to the oil-based recipes, I would vastly prefer that – I like the taste better, and the affordability of shelf-stable ingredients and streamlined baking process of oil cakes is what made this business viable in the first place…. yeah. This whole cake business has a lot of drama, doesn’t it? They make it look so easy on TV.
I don’t have a ton of knitting to show you at the moment. My sewing machine and loom are gathering dust. I finished another big knitting secret, and I’m working on some handspun socks, but that’s hardly enough to write home about. My spinning mojo, though, is in full swing. I’m getting tons of inspiration from my work with the Wool Circle. Of course, I’m working ahead, so a lot of that I can’t show you that either! Let’s see what I can share…
This is a bit of a spoiler, but I’ve continued on from some Wool Circle sampling with this qiviut blend sock spin. It’s taking a long time – this precious fiber is worth it – so I gave myself a break at this halfway point. It’s sort of a palette cleanser in the color department, I guess.
Some real inspiration has struck in the fiber prep department. I traded some qiviut with a lovely shepherdess in BC for an Icelandic lamb’s fleece and a sample of her BFL. I suspect I will never, ever tire of the transformation that happens when dirty fleece gets properly clean.
This is the BFL. The Icelandic lamb’s fleece is quite different.
Emily said it had a distinctive tog and thel (long outer hairy coat and soft inner coat), and she wasn’t kidding. I’ve been slowly separating the two coats and washing the thel.
I asked for this trade because I have a long-term vision of making a sampler blanket out of different wools and silks blended with differing amounts of qiviut. I expect this to take forever. But I might as well make a start. This is part of the process of sampling for the sampler, to see if the plan will work at all. I’m nearly done the first two squares’ worth of batts on Alide’s carder:
The top bag above contains 80 grams of approximately 15% qiviut, 85% cormo. The bottom bag contains 80 grams of approximately 15% qiviut, 85% BFL. The next step will be to spin these into 2-ply DK-weight yarn and try knitting the squares from them. Stay tuned.
Had enough natural colors? Good! Because the next thing that happened is TIE DYE!
Two summers ago now, Jared and I were on a date, and I unwisely suggested we stop by Michael’s for darning needles. We came out a couple hundred dollars poorer, and I forgot the darning needles. One of our goofy purchases was this tie dye kit, which we bought for a rainy day. And…. oh my word, did I take NO pictures of us wearing the finished shirts?!?! BAD blogger, BAD. They were all worn immediately and are in the wash at the moment; I’ll remedy that when I can.
There was lots of dye left, and we were out of white shirts, so I pulled some wool roving out of storage and we played. The kids each got a length of top that was already pretty beat up; they have been wearing them about as scarves. I dyed the Suffolk that Rachel sent me home with a few years ago. There were blues, blacks, purples, and pinks left, and they all melded together into a very pleasing complex purple. I just steamed them for 20 minutes and hoped that would do it; we’ll see if the colors stay.
So, that was fun. Like, really fun. Um, there might be some dyeing in my future. I might be planning it out. Like I might have priced out everything and started collecting used pots and things.
Rachel and I have been busily planning out what we’ll be doing next year for Wool n’ Spinning content. I’m super excited about it. It’s all about COLOR. Rachel’s going to start making shortened, public versions of my videos, so you’ll be able to see what I do, and you’ll get to see more of what she does. I’m looking forward to being able to share that with all y’all who have been faithfully reading this blog for umpteen years.
Man, there were a lot of teasers this month, weren’t there? It’s a good thing I have the cakes to show, or this post would be even more annoying. I hope you all enjoyed your Halloween, however you celebrated it or didn’t. Blessed All Souls Day to you.