Archive for October, 2011


Project 40: The spider loom

October 26, 2011

Spider loom at Craft
I was inspired to learn more about Teneriffe lace by a post on the Craft blog called How to Make a Spider Loom for Lace. Their example didn’t look like any kind of lace I’d seen. I had considered tatting as a craft for this blog (and may yet to get to try it) and I knew that there was a kind of lace one could make using pins, but the idea of a loom for lace was new to me. A bit of Googling turned up Teneriffe lace, also called Polka Spider Web lace.

A bit more Googling about lace blew my mind. I had thought that tatting was the word for making lace. I was very wrong. There are a zillion different kinds of lace. Check this out: The Structures of Antique Lace. Teneriffe and tatting both come under the Other Handmade Lace category, if that helps show how wrong I was.

One other great resource I found for Teneriffe is this awesome book from 1904 called Teneriffe Lace Designs and Instructions. I hope to try some of those designs but right now they all look too daunting!

Wish me luck.

Photo by Emilee Gettle for Craft


Project 40: Lace

October 24, 2011

teneriffe lace

This week I’m going to try my hand at a form of lace making known as Teneriffe, a knotted lace. I’ll show you how to make a loom, where to find designs, and how ignorant I’ve always been about types of lace. I hope you’ll check back for my progress!

Photo by he-be-gb on Flickr




Project 39: The video!

October 21, 2011

Many thanks to Jenni for including my little chocolate project in her PMAT Live video series!


Project 39: Chocolate truffles

October 21, 2011

So our tasty chocolate would not temper. What would we do with all of that shiny lusciousness? Jenni came up with the brilliant idea to make truffles. We added cream and let the whole thing firm up in the fridge.

Soon to be truffles

Then we rolled marble sized portions and coated them in one of three toppings: powdered sugar, cocoa powder, or chopped nuts.

Truffles in progress

Finally we had yummy little nuggets of our own handmade chocolate. They were delicious! I hope that you will try this yourself one day so you can experience the amazing range of flavor that chocolate can have. We had thought that we would add flavorings to it but it was so complex that we didn’t need to.


Lessons learned:
– Making chocolate by hand is messy and has a lot of steps, but it isn’t that complicated and the end result is amazing.
– Raleigh folks can buy your beans at Escazu. If I had known this before I bought online I probably would have done that instead.
– That said, the Chocolate Alchemy site has lots of great information for people making chocolate at home.
– I will probably do this again!

Next: The video


Project 39: Second batch

October 20, 2011

As I said yesterday, we had enough cocoa beans leftover to try a second batch after we over roasted our first set of beans. This time we were armed with better information and that made us confident enough to try a larger batch. So we measured out 200 grams of beans and roasted them until the skins just started to pop.

Batch 2 roasting

Then we peeled them all by hand. The original instructions had said that you could crush the beans and use a hairdryer to remove the papery skins, but peeling them by hand isn’t too difficult so we did it that way again. We were left with a bowl of much better smelling peeled cocoa beans.

Batch 2 peeled

Then we put our sugar in the blender and processed it alone so it would be a finer powder and would incorporate better into the beans. That was fun. We chose to make a 65% cocoa batch of chocolate, so we measured enough sugar to make up 35% of the whole batch. A kitchen scale is a valuable tool for this step.

Batch 2 sugar

We started in the Blendtec but ended up switching to a food processor for the grinding step. For some reason the chocolate kept getting hard underneath the blender blades and made the machine stop working. If you do this at home we highly recommend a food processor for the grinding step.

Batch 2 grinding

It is amazing to me that the dry roasted bean can produce so much moisture during the grinding process. We did add a little bit of extra cocoa butter to help it along, but not more than 10%.

As fun as the mortar and pestle were for conching the smallest batch, we decided to use a good stand mixer for this step in batch #2. Jenni tells me that commercial chocolatiers will conche their chocolate for as many as 72 hours! We gave ours a good 30 minutes while we went out to see the neighborhood chickens.


 When we returned we realized that we had made some pretty good chocolate! The next step was to figure out what we wanted to do with it. Jenni was hopeful that it would temper so she tried to do that for a while. We were encouraged by the fact that our foul smelling test batch had tempered, but this one just didn’t want to behave. Curious about tempering? Jenni has a great video on her site that will tell you all about it. Check it out: An Even Temper

So if it wouldn’t temper, what would we do with our yummy chocolate? Check back tomorrow to find out.

Next: Chocolate Truffles


Project 39: The first attempt

October 19, 2011

One peeled bean

There are really very few steps involved in making chocolate.









And enjoying.

Unfortunately, if you screw up one step it may negatively impact your ability to get to the last one. We seriously overroasted our first batch of beans. I blame inexperience coupled with bad advice. You would not believe the horrible smell that was involved in every single one of the steps shown above. In the end we had to throw our first batch away.

Fortunately we had plenty of beans left and the resolve to try it again. Our next try was a larger batch requiring different equipment. Check back tomorrow to see what we recommend for those of you who want to try this at home.

And on Friday, maybe you’ll get to see the results of this:


Next: Second batch


Project 39: Materials

October 18, 2011

Chocolate supplies

A few months ago I found a post on the Instructables web site that mentioned how easy it is to make chocolate from scratch. It had never occurred to me that this was something people might do at home. I immediately contacted an online acquaintance who is a local food blogger to see if she would be interested.

Jenni is the brains behind The Balanced Pastry Chef. She is hosting me this week so we can figure out if this chocolate making thing is something that people really can (or should) do in their kitchens.

Above you can see our materials. I bought a pound of cocoa beans from Chocolate Alchemy. John has a great selection of beans on his site and tons of information on chocolate making. I chose his La Red beans from the Dominican Republic because he said that they were very forgiving for beginning roasters. We also need sugar and some cocoa butter (optional, for texture), which I bought in the health and beauty section of the grocery store.

I’ll show you how we used the rest of the equipment tomorrow when I share our chocolate making steps. Check back and see our failures and (hopefully) successes!

Next: The first attempt


Project 39: Making chocolate

October 17, 2011

Dried cocoa beans in farmers hand

This week I’m teaming up with a local food blogger to make chocolate from scratch. I’ll teach you where to find cocoa beans both in Raleigh and elsewhere, show you the steps and the equipment needed, and introduce you to a new blog for your culinary delight. Stay tuned!

Next: Materials

Photo by Nestlé on Flickr


Fab Lab: Student work

October 13, 2011

I had a great time volunteering at the Mobile Fab Lab on Tuesday. The equipment available to the public there is the sort of stuff that used to be reserved for manufacturers, but is now available for anyone to use. The purpose of the Mobile Fab Lab is to offer access to this equipment and inspire everyone to dream and create in a new way.

To that end, the two main projects that were happening in the Fab Lab on Tuesday were etched glasses using the laser cutter and t-shirts using stencils cut on the vinyl cutter.

Here is the laser in action:

Laser cut glass

The glass is sitting in a rotary attachment that allows the laser to work the entire way around. Designing the etched graphic is as easy as finding an image online and hitting the Go button.

Examples of the students’ work:

NC State glassware

Christmas gift glassware

The t-shirt project was more involved. First the students found graphics online or designed images that they wanted to use as a stencil. Then they cut it on the vinyl cutter and applied it to their shirts. Next they used fabric paint to fill in the stencil and peeled off the vinyl.

Painting shirts

Some finished shirts:

Moustache shirt

Dancing bear shirt

The Mobile Fab Lab will be on NC State campus until next Friday, October 22nd. Access to the Fab Lab is free. Go check it out!


Project 38: 3d printing at the Fab Lab

October 12, 2011

I went to NC State yesterday to find the mobile Fab Lab, shoot a few photos, make a couple of things, and leave. Well, that wasn’t quite how the day went. When I got there, the Fab Lab looked like this:

Fab Lab

So I stuck around and helped out for the day. I’ll show you some of the fun things the students were making tomorrow. Today I’ll show you the 3d printer.

For this project I found a small object that someone else had designed and put on on I wanted it to print up quickly so I could show you how a 3d printer works. The lab was so busy for so much of the day that a quick object was really the only way I’d get to show you anything today. You can see the design here.

This is a 3d printer called a Makerbot:


It’s pretty small and fits on a countertop. It takes a spool of plastic, feeds it through an extrusion head, and prints 3d objects. Cool, eh?

Makerbot top

In the above photo you can see the spool of plastic, the thread going into the head, and some of the belt that moves the platform around to make the designs. The head melts the plastic and the bed takes the information from the computer to build your objects. Here it is in action:

Chalk woman in action

Or you can watch this video of a different object being printed:

In the end I have an awesome little plastic lady that I can use as a keychain. What would you make with a 3d printer?

Chalk woman