Hooray for Halloween, one of our favorite holidays around here. Not that we need a holiday for costumes in this house, as I have a natural costume designer. My son will come to me with very detailed instructions on outfits that he wants to construct, items that he wants me to crochet, and very specific, down to the tiniest details. So it goes without saying that we go through a lot of fabric, a lot of paper, markers, and masking tape (his backup for when I’m not able to sit down and sew up what he’s dreaming of), and a huge variety of creative energy.
Halloween makeup isn’t in the stores year round, but even when it is, I try to avoid it. My son inherited my super-sensitive skin which breaks out in unpleasant rashes when it comes in contact with certain chemicals. Instead, we make our own Halloween makeup with just a few items: cold cream, corn starch, and food coloring. We haven’t had any reactions with regular food coloring, but if you’re looking to avoid all artificial coloring, India Tree makes an excellent alternative made from natural vegetable colorants. I can vouch that it works well, as this was the coloring used on my wedding cake. But we go through so much face paint here that it’s more cost efficient for us to use the cheap stuff.
So the process is relatively simple. Take 1 part cold cream to 2 parts cornstarch and mix together (so, 1 T cold cream to 2 T cornstarch, or 1/8 c cold cream to 1/4 c cornstarch, depending on how much you want to make). It will take a while for it to blend well, but just keep at it. You want the texture to be watered down enough to paint with, but thick enough so that it isn’t runny when applied. Aim for a toothpaste like consistency. If you find you added too much cornstarch, you can thin the mixture with water. Be sure to add only a few drops at a time, because it’s easy to thin it out. If you do make it too watery, add a little cornstarch back in. it’s not an exact science on precise amounts like when you bake, so no pressure if you mess it up. Just get it to the consistency you’re happy with. After that, add in a few drops of the color you want.
Once you stir it up, it’s ready to be applied. And if you’re making some in advance, store it covered in the refrigerator so it doesn’t dry out. To apply, take a paintbrush and you’re set. This isn’t the longest lasting makeup out there, but it does the job for a few hours, and comes off easily with water. As with all food colorants, I would keep it away from anything that could be stained, but it’s perfect for kids clothes, costumes, and Halloween fun!
Here are a bunch of projects that I’ve finished lately that are in no way tied to one another at all except for the fact that they were all made for children. I figured that was a good enough theme to fit them all together in something semi-coherent, but most of all, I just wanted to share these today because they were so much fun to make.
Above is a Daniel the Tiger hat, made for a friend’s son for Halloween. She asked for matching mitts, and so I made up a pair and added some little paw prints to them. The kids loved it so much that she asked me to make one for the other boy, too. I don’t have too many babies to crochet for at this moment, so making this up was a lot of fun.
Next up is Chiron, and this amigurumi was epic. It’s incredibly detailed and seems to have so much character. Even the expression on his face (which is more or less duplicated from the pattern) seems to be filled with personality.
And finally, there was a request for Sherlock Holmes. I was so clueless when I started crocheting this that I got confused and thought I was making someone else entirely (my brain was off in Dr. Who land). But as I crocheted this up, I thought that I might as well check out the Sherlock show on Netflix, and I ended up watching the entire series in a matter of days. It definitely gave me a deeper appreciation for what I was crocheting; had I watched the series prior, I would have made his coat more of a darker gray. But it went over very well and the intended recipient who received it as a birthday gift was nothing less than thrilled.
Never before crocheting have I watched so many shows, and thank goodness for Netflix, because I don’t have cable or even basic tv channels to watch them anyway. Fortunately, my computer screen does an excellent job of filling in for one, and it’s nice to be entertained while going through the process of putting something with yarn together. I would end up just sitting there anyway while crocheting, so I do my best to multitask as much as possible. I crochet when homeschooling my kids (when possible), when having a cup of coffee out on the patio, and even have a bunch of audiobooks on hand to listen to as well. But instead of being more productive, as soon as I finished the Sherlock series, I decided to give Walking Dead a try (since that seems to be all my friends talk about anyway)… and yes, now I’m hooked on that. There’s a few more seasons out, so I hope to get plenty of other projects completed this week as well, including this lovely leafy band below… more to come!
Finally, the pile of apples we gathered the other day when we went apple picking is starting to look more reasonable! After a busy week of apple crisp, apple bread, apple butter, and apple pancakes, we’ve made an excellent dent in the bushels we had. I had fun trying out new recipes and old, and even had enough leftover to experiment with my own baking. To answer the pleas of my children for an apple cake, I decided that would be the one that I would try out: an apple cake recipe.
Making recipes, for me, is always a hit or miss. I do love to experiment, and I’m not very good at following recipes without tweaking a few things here and there. Sometimes this has better results than other times. I can recall days where I’ve slaved away in the kitchen for a couple of hours, noting ingredients and cook times and carefully recording them, only to end up with a final result that is bland or sub-par. It can be disappointing, but it’s part of the process.
I have two of the keenest judges there are to help me decide how this recipe turned out. My children can be picky eaters, and have no problem telling me when something is pretty bad. So as they waited with anticipation as the stove wafted out the scent of cooking apples, I crossed my fingers that they would like it.
Not only was this a success, it was a smashing success. My youngest, who doesn’t like to eat much of anything besides junk, cried out to his brother “it’s SO good!” That’s the highest compliment of all, I must say.
The cake is based off a recipe that was in my grandmother’s collection, but I changed quite a few things on it, including adding the streusel topping. I love how it ends up layered: the apple layer on the bottom, followed by the cake, and topped with the streusel. Kind of like a mixture between apple cake and apple crisp. Whatever the case, it ended up a wonderful dish for us, and I hope you’ll like it too. It’s a perfect fall dish, and even better when topped with cream or a whipped topping. So here you are, my Hot Apple Cake recipe (below). Enjoy!
Hot Apple Cake Recipe with Pecan Streusel Topping
Whether you're working your way through a fall apple harvest or looking for a warm winter dessert, this Hot Apple Cake with Pecan Streusel Topping is the perfect touch of apple goodness.
To make the apple layer, combine the 1/2 cup brown sugar, the 2 T flour and the 1 t cinnamon. Pour over apples and stir to coat. Pour into a greased 8" or 9" square baking dish.
For the cake layer, combine flour, baking powder, sugars, and salt. Add evaporated milk and butter and stir until combined. Spread evenly over the apple layer in the baking dish and smooth out the top.
For the streusel topping, combine the flour, brown sugar, oats, pecans, salt, and cinnamon. Add softened butter and mix until the butter is evenly distributed (it helps to use your hands to knead it in). Spread over the top of the cake layer and press into the batter slightly.
Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly. Serve with cream or whipped topping.
Every once in a while when starting a project, I get completely stumped on colors. And other times I have a hundred projects going on and am inspired by new colors. This is one of the latter times – I’m always inspired in the fall. I love October, and we’re big on celebrating Halloween here. This year, we all went to the pumpkin patch a little earlier as usual and my boys went to town designing their Jack o’ Lanterns (they design and we do the cutting). As the finished Jack o’ Lanterns glowed in the basement with my boys simultaneously glowing with pride, I thought of how beautifully these Halloween colors went together.
Random color schemes jumping into my head is nothing new. I have a notebook full of color ideas which are there with the intention of me putting together to see if they really work out as well as I envision them to. However, I usually have so many other projects going on that I rarely get around to trying any of them out. Or, I try one out, love it, and then start a whole new afghan with them – another project on the table! So this time I thought to myself that I’d just make up a handful of squares and see how they go together with no commitment. No pressure to make our family a Halloween colors afghan like the Thanksgiving one (though that is an neat idea now that I think about it…)j This time, it was all about fun. And it was fun putting these together. in fact, I whipped up all these granny squares and the pumpkin square in one day. Crocheting while inspired makes a world of difference in how long it takes to make, it seems.
What I came up with was really fun. I used the Vanna’s Colors line to put together these Halloween colors. It’s one of my favorite yarns to use, especially for experimenting. Don’t get me wrong, I love the gorgeous woolen yarns out there, and I do have nice yarns in my stash. But they’re more like precious fibers to me, ones that are saved for special projects. It’s not really in my budget to use fancy yarns that often, especially with how much I crochet. Acrylics also won me over once I had babies. There’s nothing easier than throwing an afghan in the washer when it’s been slobbered over, markered on, or otherwise mussed up by little children. Plus, I just love the colors in the Vanna line. So when I want to try something out, that’s often where I turn.
I gathered the colors easily enough, but I wanted to find a lovely centerpiece square that the grannies I started could surround. So I started to look around in all my resources for different squares. I finally found one of an Irish rose that I settled on and was all set to do, when at the top of the page I saw a link to this pattern. A pumpkin. Perfect! It wasn’t until I opened the pattern that I realized that the pumpkin was actually made up of bullion rolls. I haven’t made bullion rolls since my Kale Square a couple of years ago. But I had just bought my kids a box of straws, and the square looked so lovely, I decided I’d give it a go. It was definitely not an easy pattern for me! I don’t know if it was just my lack of paying better attention or if the directions didn’t work themselves out in my head for some reason. I got the pumpkin made easily enough, but the black ivy background I had to remake three or four times until it clicked in my head and I got it all made. From there on, it was just adding a few borders around, showing off how the colors worked together. Such fun, once that tricky round was done.
And as you can see, it turned out wonderfully! I felt a little odd pickup up all the squares when I was finished and just sort of placing them in my craft room with no real plan or end destination for them. Maybe one day I’ll make it into a pillow or maybe even a trick-or-treat bag, but in the meantime, I reminded myself that I was crocheting without commitment. And so it’s lying back there quietly and patiently. And who knows, maybe some day it will be something more.
As always, these color cards are for sharing. Feel free to use them for whatever projects you like or take whatever inspiration you can from them, or ignore them just the same. I could sit and mix and match colors all day long (why isn’t there a job for this? I would rock at a job like this!) and it would take me decades to put them all together in different projects. You’ll likely see a lot more color cards like this as I practice my non-commitment crocheting!
As promised: my free pattern Crochet Apples! After all the apple picking, apple baking, and apple eating, I was inspired to make up a dishcloth to go along with it. That led to the idea that I also needed a hotpad as well. And then my kids noticed that I was crocheting up all these apples, and so they asked me to make one for each of them. The end result? Lots of crochet apples! And so it only made sense to write the pattern down and send a copy to my friend to see if she wanted to make some crochet apples too. And since the pattern was written down, why not share it with everyone? And so here you are, a free pattern crochet apple dishcloth, which can also be made into a hotpad. Or, if you like, just the apples, which can be used as an applique.
Now when it comes to patterns, I find myself sometimes on a blog that only lists the directions on the webpage when I desperately need it as a pdf, for whatever reason. And on the flip side, there are some times when I’m just browsing the internet and come upon a pattern that I just want to look over without downloading. So I decided that I would offer this here both as a pdf download and with directions listed below. You can use either or both. To download the PDF pattern, click right here below here in the grey box, or continue scrolling down for the pattern written out here on the blog.
Dishcloths and Hotpads are approximately 8” square
Size may vary slightly due to individual crochet tension styles.
Color A – White, or another color for the background of the dishcloth or hotpad
Color B – Red, lime, or another color for the apple
Color C – Brown, or another color for the stem
Color D – Green, or another color for the leaf
For the Background:
For dishcloth, make 1. For hotpad, make 2
With Color A, chain 28.
Row 1: Skip first 2 stitches from hook and hdc across (26 hdc and 1 turning chain)
Row 2: Ch 2 and turn. BLO hdc in first (turning) stitch and all across (26 hdc)
Repeat [Row 2] 12 more times for a total of 14 rows altogether, or until you have a 6 to 6 ½” square.
Inner Border: With same color, chain 1 and sc around the sides of the square. There should be 24 stitches along each sides to the corner and then 3 sc in each corner stitch. The side row ends will not align perfectly with stitches, just manage them in there as evenly as you can. For every two row endings, try alternating 3 and 4 stitches up the sides. Finish off (104 stitches)
Finish off yarn, weave in ends.
For the Apple:
With Color B, chain 3 (counts as first dc)
Round 1: In third stitch from hook, dc 9. Connect to top of beginning chain to make 10 stitches (10 stitches)
Round 2: chain 3 (counts as first stitch). Dc in the same stitch, and 2 dc in each st around (20 stitches)
Round 3: chain 3 (counts as first stitch). [2 dc in the next stitch, 1 dc in the next] around (30 stitches)
Round 4: * this row shapes the apple – follow carefully.
connect to first sc with a slip stich. (54 stitches)
Round 6: sl st around (54 stitches)
Finish off yarn, weave in ends.
For the Stem:
With Color C, chain 5.
Row 1: In second stitch, sc in each across. Finish off yarn, leaving a long tail. (4 stitches)
For the Leaf:
With Color D, chain 6
Round 1: in second chain, make an sc. In next chain, make a hdc. In next two chains, make 2 dc in each. In last chain, make 3 sc.
Now you will work up the opposite side of the chain without turning.
In next two chains, make 2 dc in each. In next chain, make a hdc. In next chain, make a sc. Chain 2, then sl st to beginning stich. Finish off yarn, leaving a long tail.
For the Hanging Loop
Optional, if you want a loop to hang the dishrag or hotpad with
With Color A, chain 18
Row 1: Skip first two stitches and hdc across (16 stitches)
Finish off yarn, leaving a long tail.
*Note: the loop will be attached after the final border is put on.
To assemble, attach stem and leaf to apple using the long tails to sew together. Leave remaining tails in the back of the apple to use to attach to dishcloth.
Place apple diagonally on dishcloth as shown. Sew around the edge of the apple onto the dishcloth (if making a hotpad, sew onto only one). Use the remaining tails to sew stem and apple onto dishcloth as well. Weave in any leftover ends.
If making a hotpad, at this point place both squares together with both front and back matching with the hdc rows. The border will go through all four stitches of both hotpads all the way around. If desired, you can use a basting stitch and sew the two pieces together using Color A before adding the border, but this is optional. Work the border through the stitches of both squares so that they are joined all the way around.
Round 1: With color B, sc in each stitch around with 3 sc in the corners. Finish off and weave in ends.
If using a hanging loop, use long tails to attach loop on back side of hotpad in the corner that is closest to the apple’s stem. Weave in leftover ends.
This is a free pattern is intended for personal use.
You may use this pattern for charity crochet.
You may use my patterns to sell online, at craft shows, or in the real world so long as attribution is credited. If selling online, provide a link back to www.mellieblossom.com with credit for the design. If you’re selling at a craft show or in a shop, include the link to www.mellieblossom.com on the tag with credit for the design.
Please do not reproduce or sell this pattern. Anyone wishing a copy can be directed to www.mellieblossom.com