Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Coloring Soap Naturally

Top row: paprika, mace & turmeric
Bottom row: rosemary, cinnamon, black cocoa & annatto
Rosemary - measuring out
I want to keep my soaps as natural as possible.  This includes using natural colorants.  At the same time I don't want all of my soaps to be exfoliating.  So here's the rub, how do you use ground plant matter for color without adding exfoliating properties.  You infuse the oil using the ground plants and either time or heat.

Adding oil to rosemary
So I am starting my second round of oils and spices or herbs in the crock-pot.  In the first round I used annatto, paprika, mace & turmeric.  This round I am seeing what I get from cinnamon, rosemary and black cocoa.  I am not sure what I will get from this round, but it never hurts to try something.  This is one of the really fun parts of soap making, the experimenting.  ;)

The first round I heated in short bursts over 3 days.  I would turn the crock-pot to low for a half an hour at a time.  I don't have a keep warm setting unfortunately.  Since I don't want to ruin the oil by overheating it, it takes me a little longer to work the heat.
Don't forget to shake up to get all of the
spices mixed

 I love the fact that you can use everyday things to color your soaps.  And there are so many wonderful and generous soaping bloggers that are so very generous with all or their knowledge.  I am extremely grateful to all of you fine folks!  I don't know if I am going to like the results of the black cocoa, but I think that the mace is going to work really well for bakery style soaps.
Rosemary & cinnamon shaken up

In the crockpot

 I love the challenge and experimentation of making soap.  It is a ton of fun.   I look forward to seeing what the soap will turn out like using these oils.  I will post pictures as I cut the soaps.  Til later folks!

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Friday, July 26, 2013

Soap Wrapping

Punched for soap visibility
I  have looked at lots of different packaging for homemade soap, and I have finally settled on what I want to use for mine.

Wrapped around the bar
Since my shop name Cabin of Bows evokes a rustic and elegant impression, I wanted to do something that would continue that idea.

I tried to see if tissue paper could be used in a punch first.  Unfortunately, it just tore in about half of the area that was supposed to be cut.  So I turned to kraft paper.  It maintains that rustic feel that I am looking for.  Using a punch on the top edge does make it take longer to wrap, but I think that attention to detail is important.  After all it really does look cute.  It helps that I can punch multiple pieces at the same time.

The back and bottom of the bar
Next the bars need to get wrapped.  I do this taping the back and ends with tape.  I am leaving the top open so that you can see the decorative tops.  After the paper is taped I then cut my ribbon to size.  I am using a different ribbon for each variety of soap at this point.   After taping the ribbon on I then use a sticker for the ingredients to secure the ribbon on the back.  The front receives an oval ribbon with my trademark in the background.  In the foreground I put the name of the soap and my shop info.

So what do you think?  I am pleased so far.  It only takes me about 30 seconds to wrap a bar.  With everything being simple it makes things much easier.  I think that I will stay with this design for the time being.   Of course, as always, as a woman I reserve the right to change my mind.  ;)

Here are my three varieties with the differences being minor, but effective.
Peppermint Poppy Seed

Lavender Bliss

Chai Delight

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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Spiced Peach Preserves

Peaches all finely chopped ready to go in the pot
I picked up a half bushel of peaches the other day.   We canned most of them, but I wanted to make some spiced peach preserves for my family.  They really liked the ones that I made last time.

I started by blanching the peaches to peel them more easily.  After slipping the peels off I went around the peach cutting slices from the top to the bottom of  the peach.  After slicing long ways, I sliced around the peach making 4 -5 slices before turning the peach in my hand.  After the peach was sliced an diced, I removed all of the flesh off of the pit.  Most of the flesh will fall right off, so it is really easy if you have freestone peaches.  
Water with pectin and cinnamon
and ginger

For those who don't know there are two divisions in the peach types: freestone and clingstone.  Freestones freely release from the pit/stone.  Clingstones do not easily release from the pit/stone. Personally I prefer the freestone varieties.  

After removing from the pit, my chunks still looked like they were a little too large for my liking.  So I look my hand chopper to make the pieces smaller.  I don't like to have pieces in my jam or preserves that make it hard to spread.

After measuring the amount of peaches after being chopped (3 1/2 cups), I added 2 cups of water.  Without the extra water the preserves will go slimy not jell.  To one cup of the water I added 1 heaping 1/3 cup of powdered pectin, approximately 1/2 t cinnamon and 1/4 t  ginger.  This will give the preserves a hint of spiciness without being overwhelming.  I also added about 4 cups of sugar.  Don't forget to mix the sugar in well before adding heat.

Adding sugar to the peaches
Next I started cooking the mixture.  I kept the heat to medium.  This helps to prevent boil over and scorching, both of which are not desirable in your preserves.  There will be some foam.  This is totally normal.  I boiled this, checking it frequently.

I check the jelly viscosity by using a spoon full of jelly and letting it cool briefly on a plate next to the stove. When the mixture slides off the spoon in a sheet it is ready.

Getting all bubbly and delicious
I sterilize my jars right before I start my jelly.  So my jars are standing ready to be filled.  I have a pot boiling on the back of my stove for heating and sterilizing the jar lids also.  After filling my jars with the hot preserves, using a canning funnel, I wipe the rim with a wet paper towel.   After wiping the rim, I put my hot lid on the jar, and screw the rim on fairly tightly.  Then I turn them over and leave them for 5 minutes.  After about 5 minutes, I turn them right side up again.  You can certainly leave them longer.  I have even left jars upside down overnight before.  The only issue I have had with leaving them too long is the jelly setting up in the top of the jar instead of the bottom. 
All jarred and sitting for 5 minutes

Now they are all ready to either share or consume.

Light thru the preserves - well sort of

Friday, July 19, 2013

Laundry Day

I got my original recipe for this laundry detergent from http://www.onegoodthingbyjillee.com/.  

I have made laundry detergent with the bar soap.  My problem was that the fragrance was usually really strong for me.  Also this is how I store my laundry detergent and the soap made with bar soap is very gloopy and doesn't want to come out of these spouts.  My current recipe works just fine with the spouts.  
My Laundry Detergent jugs

My recipe is 4x concentrated from the one from Jillee.  I like her recipe, but this way I don't have to make laundry detergent as often or use as much.  
4 T - Dawn or other liquid soap (I use Dawn)
6 T - Washing Soda
6 T - Borax powder
4 C - boiling water
4 C - cold water
Adding the powder to my mixing jug
I start with a milk jug that is clean.  Using a funnel I add the washing soda and the borax to the jug before adding the liquid soap.

 I then add the 4 cups of boiling water to the Dawn and powders in the  jug.
At this point I swirl and shake the jug until all of the powder has dissolved.  Do be careful at this stage.  You will notice in the picture I am using a dish towel to protect the hand holding the jug.  Also don't put a lid on and shake vigorously until the water has cooled some, otherwise it will "volcano" on you.  Trust me hot soap is not fun to get on your skin!

Continue to agitate until all of the powder in the bottom is gone.  As you can see I still have a little powder in the bottom.  When all of the powder has dissolved, add the remaining water.

 This is my recipe above doubled.  Then all that needs to be done is to fill your desired storage container.  The original recipe call for 1 cup to be used per load.  Since this is super concentrated I use approximately a 1/4 cup per load.

This recipe is much easier than grating soap and boiling the whole thing.  Also I only have to make laundry detergent about once every 3 months.  This is a definite plus for this busy mom.  I really like this recipe.  It does a very good job of cleaning our clothes.  As usual you have to pre-treat specific stains.

Have fun and enjoy.

Update: I made a new batch of this soap and left it in a mason jar instead of putting it in the plastic jug that I usually use.  Unfortunately I found that it separated within hours.  I have been shaking it up before using, but this is the reason that I quit using the boiled bar soap recipe.  I really don't like having to mess with the soap, other than measuring out, every time I do a load of laundry.

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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Re-designed Skirt

The holey pants
This skirt started out as a pair of pants that my daughter loved until they were holey.  Those who have known me for a while, will know that I hate to throw things out.  So I decided to make a skirt out of it.  I had been looking through my stash of fabric for a while trying to find the right material.  While I was in Hancock's one day I found the perfect fabric and I just couldn't let it go.  I fell in love with the plaid.  I found this cute pattern to go with it.

My other fabrics

I started by laying the pants on a flat surface.  After getting them flat I cut them off right at the crotch.
Pants cut off

Ok, I had to trim a little more.  I started pinning the first layer on and found that one side was longer than the other.  I sewed the side seams first, then sewed 2 rows of basting stitches along the top edge of the material.  After sewing the 2 rows I gathered them by pulling on the threads on one side of the material.  I started pinning on one side and and gathered until the side seams matched first on one side then the other.

The top Layer, gathered and sewn

The last layer
The last row is plaid.  This means that the plaid needs to be matched.  After pinning all the way around the skirt, I sewed the row of ruffle to the skirt. After sewing the seam, I sewed the seam flat to the pants base.  The first layer is then complete.So I cut my material in two width wise pieces.  I them matched my plaid and pinned it all of the way down.  After pinning I trimmed the part that was over the edges on either side.  After sewing the side seams, I pinned and sewed the hem in.  This is easier because there is less material to handle.  After sewing the hem, I sewed the 2 rows of basting stitches to make it easier to gather.  The next step was to pull the stitches on one side of the fabric.  This makes it much easier to make a nice gather.  After that I just had to pin and sew the layer to the one before.  I got everything pinned, trying to get all of the gathers fairly evenly dispersed.  I got everything even and sewed the last layer on.  After I got everything finished I realize I may have made it too long, but it turned out just right.  B loves it!
Finishing up

                                                                              My happy girl!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

I Need Input

With this post I am requesting  comments.  I really need some outside input to help me weight out a decision.    My sister-in-law has convinced me to sell my soap at the local farmer's market.  Now my question is should I put my soaps in my Etsy shop or just sell them to friends and family and at the farmer's market.

I really love to make soap.  Part of it is the trill of the unknown.  You never know how a batch will turn out.  So each batch is a mini-adventure.  I also have plans for new scents/ types of soap.

So far I have made 8 batches of soap in the last several months.  However, my husband really doesn't want me to make more soap until I start selling some of what I have already made.  So far I have made lavender, chai, mint and poppy seed, unscented, dandelion w/ sweet orange oil, chocolate swirl, and peppermint oatmeal.  I have plans for a full line of tea based soaps.  I also want to make some decorative soaps as well, although that is not as clearly set in my mind.

If you have been following my blog you will have seen pictures of some of my soaps.  Although I do have to do some figuring to get a consistently sized bar.  I think that I have figured out packaging and pricing will also need to be figured out as well.  I am including pictures of the soaps that I currently have finished for those who have not been following my blog.
Chai Delight ( This one I need to make and 8 lb batch instead
of a 6 lb due to the size of my mold.)

Lavender Bliss (I will have to tweek this recipe.)

Peppermint & Poppy Seed ( This would be a great kitchen soap,
but needless to say these particular bars will be discounted due
to the color.  They smell and work great, but I really hate the way
the color turned out.)
I am kind of torn because I know there are a lot of really great soap makers out there, and I obviously have not been making soap for very long.  I really would like to be able to use things that I like to do to make enough money that I can stay home with my children.   But I also don't want my shop to be so piecemeal that it doesn't work well.  I am beginning to think that I might have a little bit of ADD.  My brain goes in way too many directions at the same time!

So any input would be greatly appreciated.  Please either leave me a comment or send me a message through my contact page.

Thank you in advance!

Monday, July 8, 2013

A Place for Everything

Now, before my family gets all upset, no I am NOT perfectly organized!  I am still working on getting to that oh, so wonderful place in my life.  Although, I have come to the conclusion that it may not ever happen while I have children living at home or for that matter sharing a home with anyone.  :(  But it is still something to strive for.  I am always looking for new ways to keep my "stuff" (my husband's term) organized.  I have had a few good ideas over the years.  Of course, as I figure out how to best store one type of craft supplies, I decide to take up a new craft.  Believe me this is one of my husband's pet peeves with me.  He is amazingly patient about it however, at least most days.  ;)
If you use acrylic stamps that come in a folder the little mini crates work great.

Hang lengths of cloth on hangers to conserve space and make it easy to find pieces easily.

For shaped buttons use a divided box.  You can even write on the lid to make it easier to find specific themed buttons.
I have one for my pastels and another one for dark buttons.
For acrilic stamps that don't come in folders, use a 5 x 8 three ring binder and sleeves.  This really works well
and I need to get another binder.  I am totally out of room in this one. 
Use collapsible boxes for small pieces of material or storing material where you need neat storage
i.e. won't fall off the shelf at the least bump.
Wire shelves are great storing these collapsible boxes.  BTW, you can get them at lots of stores,
I got these at the Dollar Tree.  Isn't it awesome, and they have several sizes.
The plastic boxes with mini cases inside are great for really little beads.  This one has
seed beads in it.
The little cases also work in the same boxes that I use for my buttons.  These are the large
seed beads.  As you can see I have also made use of the jewelry bags that you can get
at almost any craft store.
I store my ribbon in recycled taper boxes.  I snagged several boxes from Walmart after Christmas when the
candles were all gone.  I did, of course, ask before taking off with them.  ;)  
I used a dowel through the end of the box and through the middle of the ribbon and then pieces of  manila folders in between the ribbon.   I used a stiffer piece of cardboard at the other end, I can pull this out to change the order or to refill something that is out of stock.  I use double sided tape on the side of the box to keep the ends of the ribbon from getting tangled in the bottom of the box.
Latch boxes are awesome for things like glue sticks.  I buy mine in bulk as you can see.  This
box holds about 300.

linking with: http://www.bystephanielynn.com/

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Ironing Buddy

My layers
Alright how many of you have pulled out your humongous ironing board for use in your quilting project and then had no room to move around in the room you were planning to work. Me!!!!!!!  I was so frustrated and then I found a wonderful solution on pinterest.  Thank heavens for pinterest!  Someone had the brilliant idea of turning a TV tray table into an ironing buddy.  They actually stapled everything directly to the wood, but I need to be able to use it as a regular TV tray again after I am done.  So I thought to myself, why not make it elastic like they use for ironing boards.  So here goes.

Layers on the TV tray
To start with, I need to be able to pull it out and use it with a minimum of fuss and frustration.  As a stay-at-home mom of three I have plenty of frustration without causing myself more.  So I am making it like a sandwich.  The top piece is 100% cotton, the middle is cotton batting, and the base is another piece of 100% cotton.

Layers from the bottom

After I got my batting trimmed to the proper shape, I pinned the back piece over it with a little room to spare on the edge.  I also folded under any edges that might ravel.   I then stitched along the outside edge of the base piece.  This insures that I am not going to have fuzz or any issues with the batting at the edge.
Pinned neatly

After removing all of the pins I rolled the edge of the top piece so that it would form a pocket for the elastic.  I then sewed it close to the edge.  After threading my elastic through the pocket I sewed up the hole that I had left open for this purpose.

Sewing the edge
 Sorry about the chipped nail, but the mom's among my readers will totally understand.  After everything was done I got to looking at it.  I am afraid that I am going to need to do a little quilting just to keep everything properly distributed.  This should be fairly simple though.  One project down, who knows how many around the corner.  ;)

Elastic pocket pinned

Finished product on the tv tray