Sunday, December 19, 2010

More Christmas sewing

I have still been busy this week with my Christmas projects. I had a present to make for an almost 3 year old friend. She has an older brother and an older sister who both go to school. I have been watching this gorgeous little girl coming to school for most of the last term with a gigantic backpack on her back, just like her siblings. It was only a normal sized one of course but it was almost bigger than the child!! This sparked a light bulb to go off in my head and I then searched the net for a fantastic and easy childs backpack. I found this pattern for a very cute little backpack that doesn't have zips for little hands to get caught on. It probably only took a couple of hours all up as I was trying to understand the steps so was taking it slow. It will be quicker next time though. Here is how it turned out.
Front view of childs' backpack

I used a Fairy Flowers fabric I found in the furnishing fabric section of Spotlight. I also chose to sew on some velcro as a closure to keep her special things secure.
Back view of the backpack showing the straps.

I have now wrapped this up and included 2 matchbox cars with the present as this little girls is constantly playing with Harleys' cars when she comes over. I wanted her to have a couple of cars that were just hers.

I have also been sewing for Harley this week. I decided this year to get him used to getting clothes as part of his Christmas present. I have started small with just 1 new outfit but will slowly build it up to include things like socks, jocks and new pj's. I have made him a new shirt at the moment and will make some pants to go with it. He loves bright and colourful clothing, especially Hawaiian style shirts. Here is part of his Christmas present.
Hawaiian shirt for Harley    

I was looking for a good shirt pattern for ages. I ended up finding this one online through this site which offers both free patterns as well as those that can be purchased. I bought this pattern in combination with a pants pattern and hooded t-shirt pattern for just over $20. They also came with patterns designed to be doll sized so that the children can match their toys if they want. Well worth the money and I just printed the pattern out and stuck the pieces together.

I will work on the pants this week so I can wrap this present up. I also want to see if I can make a new shirt for myself to wear on Christmas day too.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Christmas preparation

I have been very busy working lately so have let the blog slip. This month, I have also been stocking up on my soap as I was getting low due to lots of birthdays. I have made sweet orange, tangerine and spearmint soaps in the last 2 weeks. I also want to make some more mango soap as I have used all of my first batch. I was also knitting lots of slippers in July and August.

This month, I have been making tote bags and purses. It was originally to donate to my sons' school for their fete. I have also made them for Christmas presents. Here are some pictures of them.

Reversible tote bags with matching purses. The inside fabric of the purses match the inside fabric of the bags.

Reversible tote bags which are a present for 2 little girls I know.
This reversible tote bag is just for me as I loved this butterfly material!!

This reversible tote bag with a matching pencil case was made for Harleys' teacher. The apple lining fabric is just gorgeous and perfect for a teacher present.

Reversible tote bag and pencil case for Harleys' second main teacher.

Reversible apron for another little friend or mine.
 Most of my Christmas presents are going to be home made for Christmas this year. It has mostly revolved around bags, purses, aprons and soap. I have also been knitting dishcloths to go with the soap, just haven't taken a picture yet.

These are the blogs where I have gotten information from. The first is for the purse and I got the tote bag tutorial here. I love the Skip to my Lou blog as the tutorials are always so easy to follow.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Soap Crayons Anyone?

Hello everyone. Harley has been using my soap for a while now. It was about a month ago though that he first learnt about soap crayons. He was fascinated with the concept of a soap that he could draw with to wash himself. Since my soap recipe makes a nice hard soap, I thought I might experiment with the concept.

Harley had a nice time going through my soap box about a week ago. He smelt all of the fragrances at least twice until he found the one he wanted. He then chose the colour and has been waiting ever so patiently for me to get time to make it for him. I thought I would share my first attempt and let you all know whether it works out or not.

I started off with my basic soap mixture. It was listed in my Mango Scented Soap blog which was the second blog I wrote for anyone who doesn't have the recipe. Harley wanted a Mad Melon scent that smelt a little like a honeydew melon. He also wanted it to be coloured green to match the scent. I decided to use an ice block tray as my mould for the soap crayons as I had plenty of them hanging around here.
This ice cube tray is designed to make ice cubes that fit in water bottles. It is the perfect length for little hands to be able to get a good grip.
This is how it looks with the mad melon soap in it. It is much greener than the picture shows and I hope it will darken as it dries out. I didn't worry about cleaning it up too much. When I un-mould it, the soap is still pliable so I should be able to roll them on a board to smooth the soap crayons out.
The mixture made more than one lot of soap crayons though so I put the remainder in my wooden soap mould. I didn't want to do too many crayons initially as I don't know if they will work or not yet.
Since this is a normal water based mixture, it needs to be insulated. This is my first chance to use the lid of my soap box to see if it works properly.
This is an updated picture of the goats milk soap I made a couple of weeks ago. It had a vanilla scent and oatbran added for it's soothing properties. As it has dried though, the areas where the vanilla is strongest are gradually going darker. This is a natural property of vanilla and I expected the soap to darken. I didn't expect the pretty patterns though so each bar is now totally unique.

Hope you enjoyed reading about my adventures and I will keep you all updated on the soap crayon experiment.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Goats milk soap un-moulded!!

I have had the goats milk soap on my dining table for 2 days now. It started firming up in my new mould within the first couple of hours but I have had a very busy weekend. I finally got around to looking at it last night. Here is how it looked after I undid the side hinges and the sides and ends fell away.
It was so easy to get the soap out of the mould this time. After the sides came down, it was a simple matter of peeling the baking paper away from the edges.
Here is an image of the soap on my cutting board. The baking paper has been totally peeled away from the sides and ends. I just need to peel it away from the base now.
The soap is now ready to cut. The baking paper peeled away from the base really easily and only took a few seconds. Much easier than trying to wrestle the soap out of a plastic mould.
I always love the first cut in a block of soap. It is very satisfying.
I got some new stacking racks on the weekend. I have put them to good use for soap drying. I have decided though, after cutting this batch of soap, that I need to make a cutting box. This will ensure that all of the cuts are even. It will make the soap bars more uniform in size and ensure that I get consistent results from my soap making.
Here is the image of the 2 levels of soap. It will take up so much less room on my table. This block of soap made 17 bars and they are all a good size. I then filled up the rack with some lime soap I made about 3 weeks ago as it hasn't finished drying properly. I was going to use these racks for biscuits and cakes but they are actually more valuable for soap. I have soap sitting on my dining table constantly so, being able to stack the racks up, leaves more room on the table for eating and cooling my cooking.

Harley has expressed an interest in soap crayons this weekend. The next update will be of a batch of soap made into the crayons. He is planning on making a batch of soap today and putting some into ice-cube moulds to make a crayon shape. Will let you all know how they turn out.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Goats milk soap

As promised (to some of my readers!!) here is my recipe for Goats Milk Soap. It is a relatively easy process but very different to the Mango Soap I posted about in my second blog. The initial recipe is similar though.

170g Rice Bran Oil
580g Vegetable Oil
250g Copha
500g Solidified Oil
218g caustic soda
570g Goats milk (I used 500g goats milk and 70g water so I could get 2 batches from a litre)
1 cup oatbran
7.5ml vanilla scented fragrance

This recipe is slightly different from my previous recipe as I had almost finished my tin of vegetable oil. As such, I reduced the amount of rice bran oil so I didn't need to store the remaining 80g of vegetable oil. You could, of course, still use the original 250g of rice bran oil and 500g of vegetable oil in the original recipe. The first step in this process is to measure out your goats milk and place it in the freezer overnight.
The next step is to measure out your liquid oils and cut up the solid oils.
Melt the oils together slowly on the stove top. This can be done in advance as they need to cool down to room temperature before adding the milk mixture. The pot should be cool to touch before combining.
This is the first time I am using my brand new wooden soap mould. Once the oils have melted together, I commenced lining my mould. I used baking paper to line the mould and folded the paper so that I had a general guide. I then made a 'box' with the baking paper and folded the excess from the long sides behind the short sides. This was then folded over the top of the mould and stuck down with sticky tape.
It was then time to work with the goats milk. As you can see, the goats milk is still frozen. I got it directly from the freezer and placed it into the bowl I use for mixing the caustic soda. The bowl is sitting in my kitchen sink, which I have partly filled with cold water.
I then measured out the caustic soda. The bowl has a spoon in it this time as you need to add the caustic soda to the goats milk at the rate of a spoonful at a time.
This is showing the first spoonful of caustic soda being added to the goats milk.
I have now added about a quarter of the caustic soda. As you can see, the goats milk has started to melt.
The caustic soda has now been completely added to the goats milk. As you can see, the goats milk is almost completely melted. The sugars in the goats milk react with the caustic soda and cause a chemical reaction that is much hotter than the normal chemical reaction between water and caustic soda. This reaction can cause the goats milk to discolour and turn an orange colour if the milk isn't cold enough to start with. It is also the reason that we add the caustic soda slowly.
Once the goats milk has completely melted and the caustic soda has dissolved, it is time to mix it with the oil.
The goats milk has been poured into the oil. As with a normal soap, the caustic soda mix settled to the bottom and the oil floated to the top.
This is a photo of the initial mixing to combine the goats milk mixture with the oil. It is blended with a stick mixer until trace is reached. I don't have any photos in this blog of the trace stage as it is the same process as the Mango Soap in one of my previous blogs. Once the soap has reached light trace and ripples stay in the surface, I added 1 cup of oatbran and the vanilla scented oil. The mixture was then ready to be put into the wooden mould.
I have spread the soap into the mould. I left it on the newspaper as I wasn't sure whether the mould would leak. I am pleased to report though that the mould was liquid tight and performed perfectly.
Here is an overhead shot of the soap mould. Please note, due to the increase in temperatures when working with goats milk, this soap is not to be covered and insulated. If you cover goats milk soap while it is curing, the temperature will get too hot and it won't gel together. As such, the lid I made for this soap box was not needed at this time.

The soap has now been in the mould for about 7 hours and it is forming a firm top. It is setting nicely and I will provide another update on Sunday when I take it out of the mould. A goats milk soap needs between 24 to 48 hours in the mould before removing.

Wooden soap mould

I have been thinking of how I make my soap recently. I was getting frustrated with the plastic moulds. They make a really nice soap but they can be really hard to get the soap out. I had a search around on the internet and decided that what I really wanted was a mould where I could remove the sides and just slide my soap out easily. This is what I came up with.
These are the materials I started with. I went to my local timber supply shop and got 2 pieces of pine that were 140mm wide, 19mm thick and 450mm long. These pieces will form the base and top of my wooden soap mould. I then got 2 pieces that were 90mm wide, 19mm thick and 412mm long. These formed the long sides of my box. The last 2 pieces were 90mm wide, 19mm thick and 140mm long. These short sides formed the ends of my box. I had all the pieces cut separately as I wanted all of the sides to fold down.
This is a view of the box spread out but upside down. You can see the hinges have been attached to let the sides fold down. I got decorative hinges but would not do so again as they hang down past the edge of the wood. Next time, I would just use standard rectangle hinges.
This is the same view as above but the box is the right way up. My next challenge was trying to find something to attach to each side so the box would stay up when filled with soap. I trawled every hardware shop I could find for inspiration. I ended up getting 2 hasp and staples from a hardware shop but they only had 2. I attached these at opposite corners of the box and opposite sides. I then had to get a bolt for the other 2 corners which worked well. I also decided that the long sides were a bit too wobbly. I think that the longer sides really need 2 hinges each for stability. I got another 2 hinges for each side and also just left the middle ones in. Might be a bit of overkill but the box is now very study.
This is the finished product. I drilled a hole into the top piece of wood to attach the handle. The lid just sits on top and is designed to insulate the soap so I don't have to use towels anymore. It is a bit of this and that but has its own character.
Here is an internal shot. I will need to line the inside with baking paper when using it.I'm very pleased with how it turned out though. It is very functional and I have learnt a lot during this process. I am planning on making another one down the track and will know exactly how to do it next time.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Soap sacks and other stuff

I have been heavily into the procrastination bug lately. I have Uni assignments that have been fully researched but I am putting off writing them for some reason. The upside of this procrastination bug is that my house is much cleaner and my craft is going great guns. I have been making a lot of soap sacks in the last month. I originally started out with a knitted pattern that I linked to in my last blog. Here is a picture of some of the finished products.

These soap sacks have either a lavender soap with lavender flowers mixed through it or a lemongrass soap that is coloured green. They both smell divine. The soap sacks are so easy to knit and only take about an hour for me. I found that I could knit them relatively quickly but I always put off sewing them up. It wasn't hard but that is my least favourite part of knitting. I had a think about it and decided that I would rather try and develop a crochet pattern that could be done in rounds so that I could eliminate the majority of the sewing up.

Here is a photo of my crocheted soap sack. They take the same amount of time to make up but I have now eliminated the drudgery of sewing the seams together. Here is how I made them for anyone interested in giving them a go.

Crocheted Soap Sack
Using a 5 mm crochet hook and 8ply cotton, Ch (chain) 12.
Round 1 - SC (Single crochet) in second chain from the crochet hook and every chain until end. Ch 1. SC in the bottom loops of original chain. Ch 1. Slip stitch to first SC.
Round 2 - Ch 1. SC in each SC and Ch until you return to the beginning. Slip stitch to first SC. (24 SC in total)
Round 3 - Ch 3. DC (Double crochet) in each stitch until end. Slip stitch to first SC.
Round 4 and 5 - Ch 1. SC in each stitch until end. Slip stitch to first SC.
Repeat rounds 3 to 5 another 3 times or until soap sack is long enough.
Loop round - Ch 1. 1 SC, *1 Ch, 1 SC in second stitch*, repeat from * until end.
Next 2 rows - Ch 1. SC in each stitch. Slip stitch to first SC in round.
Finish by tying off the thread and sewing it into the soap sack to hide it. Thread some ribbon through the loops to allow the soap sack to be closed off.

I have also been knitting some new slippers for me. I use 3 balls of 8ply wool and 1 ball of feathers for strength. Harley and I both live in these sorts of slippers for about 9 months of the year as we live in a cold part of the world. Here is a photo of my new slippers.
My next project was a blanket for a friend who has just had a baby. I thought that this blanket would be so thick and warm and would be perfect for the cot or the pusher when out. I was disappointed that I couldn't get a pastel blue colour in a thicker wool so I made it a darker blue. It is just a simple rectangular granny square. Rather than individual squares though, I decided to just keep doing it in rounds until it was big enough. I wouldn't have wanted to do it much bigger though as it was getting very awkward to work with.
Lastly, I have also made 2 new batches of soap. I have a picture of my raspberry soap that is a gorgeous red colour. I made this soap with my new soap moulds which were so easy to use. I bought proper soap moulds so they were more even in their appearance. I have also done another batch since this one that is a sandalwood soap and is a greeny/yellow colour. It hasn't had enough time to dry properly yet. Here is the raspberry soap though.
I got 16 of the rectangle bars and the 4 character soaps. All the children who come here when I am making soap think the frogs and ducks are so cute so these will probably end up being presents for children. I used the same recipe as my previous entry and it, again, made heaps of soap.

My plan from now on is to concentrate on finishing all of the granny squares for my blanket. Harley likes the idea so much that, when my blanket is finished, he has put in an order for his own too. I also will need to make a couple of aprons as my sister in law and my sister are both having birthdays in the next month so I will need to make gifts. Happy crafting and soap making everyone.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Craft update

I just thought I would give a brief update tonight. I have been very busy lately. University has started again for me so I am spending a lot of time reading. I have also started writing assignments so there is not a lot of time for craft.

I have been using my dehydrator a lot lately. I have been drying apples that Harley and I picked from trees by the side of the road. Tonight I am experimenting with drying pears from my sisters' trees too. I have more of these left so, if they turn out okay, I will dry a lot more. I love the convenience of dried food. After the fruit has been dried, I plan to start drying vegetables too.

I have also been making more soap (of course!!) and will post pictures of my latest projects in the next couple of days. To go with the soap, I have also been knitting soap holders from a pattern called Dropped Stitch Soap Sack.

They are so quick and easy. I am using one myself at the moment and they work really well in the shower. Even Harley loves them.

My latest major project is a blanket to keep me warm in winter. I am crocheting large granny squares which will be sewn together and edged to make a knee rug. I have done 4 squares so far and will post pictures in a couple of days when I have sewn some of them together. Will update later.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Mango scented soap - Part 2

Here is the second installment of my mango scented soap. I made the soap 2 days ago and it has been sitting, encased in towels, on my dining table for 2 days now. I am having my parents over for a birthday dinner tonight though so I need my table. This was a great incentive as I also really needed to complete the next process in my soap making adventure.
This is how the soap looks in the mould after it has cooled. It needs to sit in the mould for between 24 to 48 hours. Once it is dry, it will start to pull away from the side of the mould. It is important that the mould you use is flexible as, at this stage, you need to loosen it from the sides of the mould before inverting it to remove the soap.
This photo shows the soap once it has come out of the mould. The greased proof paper is still sticking to the soap but will peel away easily. It is a similar process to peeling the greased proof paper from the bottom of a cake or slice.
These are the materials I will use now. I dry my soap on a metal cake rack. It allows air to flow around the soap and leads to even drying.
This shows how I prepare my drying rack. I buy the chux wipes on a roll and take 2 sheets and fold them over. I then cover the rack with the chux towels. I did not do this initially and, as the soap dried, marks appeared on the soap in lines. I think that these were places where the soap didn't dry as quickly. Once I started lining my cake racks, I stopped getting lines in my soap which affected the look of the soap.
My soap has now had the greased proof paper removed, my drying tray is ready and it is now time to cut my soap. I love this part. My kitchen now smells like mango and the soap is so soft, smooth and silky to touch.
This is showing the second cut in my soap. I am using a ruler this time so that I can ensure that my soap bars are all an inch wide. It is very easy to cut at this stage, just make sure that your knife is big enough to span the width of your soap. It makes for a much smoother cut. I also prefer to use a smooth bladed knife as I think a serrated edged knife would leave marks on the cut sides of the soap.
My soap is now all cut. It will stay on this drying rack for the next 4-6 weeks before I put it into a container. I tend to turn my soap every day for the first week and then only once or twice a week after that.

Final close up of a finished bar. I love having some waves and ripples on the top as I think it adds character. The colour is a light apricot but, every now and then, there are swirls and ripples in the colour. Every piece is different and unique. Hope these 2 posts have helped any potential soap makers. My next project with be a red soap with raspberry scent. The raspberry oil smells just like a redskin lolly so I can't wait.