Monday, March 31, 2014

Lavender Bliss

Finished Soap
This is not my first batch of Lavender Bliss soap, but I didn't blog the others and I have made a few changes.  So I decided to blog about this batch.
Old design

I wanted to keep the basic recipe pretty close to the same only changing the design and the colors a bit as well as adding some silk to this batch.  The last batch I had only used purple and uncolored.  This time I wanted to add some white.  The last batch I did a hanger swirl design.  This batch I managed to pull off a drop swirl.  

I started by measuring out my water and lye.  I went with mostly water with about 4 ounces of ice.  I added the lye to the water but waited to add the ice.  I added the silk to the lye water and stirred it in.  

The swirl in the sample mold
After my lye water was mixed, I started to measure out my oils.  I reserved 3 ounces of my olive oil for the alkanet infused olive oil. I also reserved an ounce of olive oil to add zinc oxide to for my white.  After I got all of my oils into the bucket, I took my stick blender to blend out the palm kernel and coconut oil.  This ensures that the oil will all melt when I add the lye water to the oil mixture.  I added the lavender oil to my oils so that I wouldn't forget to add it to the batch.  

Swirl on the top of the full size mold
after pouring and before swirling
As soon as my oils were ready, I added the ice to the lye water and made sure that it melted before adding all of the lye mixture to the oils.  I blended the entire batch to just past light trace.  I split the batch into three parts.  I left one natural.  I added zinc oxide to the oil reserved for that purpose and added that mixture to one part of the batch.  To the last portion I added about 2 TBS of ground lavender buds and all of the alkanet infused oil.  

Top Swirl
I started molding by pouring the uncolored portion in the bottom of the molds, the full size and my sample mold.  Next alternating between the purple and the white I poured the remaining batter into the mold in three rounds.  I poured from about 4 inches above the top of the mold and went down one side before going up the other side.  The soap sank nicely down into the mold.  I could barely wait until it was ready to cut.  Since my last attempt at a drop swirl totally bombed I really wanted this one to turn out well.  
Close-up of the Swirl
My soap did gel, very quickly as a matter of fact.  I made the soap in the afternoon and when I checked on it that evening I could feel the heat from the gel through the wood.  I did get some soda ash but that will steam right off.  I decided not to add the buds to the top of the soap because they always just fall off.  After cutting I was thrilled with the results.  I think that you will agree that this time my drop swirl turned out beautifully.

I am linking with the following blogs:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

My New Display Shelf

New Display Shelf
I needed a display shelf for my soaps when I am at a craft show or a home party.  I had seen a shelf at Hobby Lobby that I thought would work, but even on clearance it was a bit more than my starting business could afford.  I am really glad I took pictures from several angles when I saw it because the next time I was in there it had sold.
Preparation for cutting the blackboard slot

I decided that I could build it for myself and make a few adjustments that would make it work better for my needs.   Since my soaps are not large I needed more shelves that are shallower.  I also have a good supply of free wood from pallets.  Using the free wood, I think that I ended up spending about $15 total on the supplies for this shelf.  I had to buy carriage bolts, screws and finish nails for this project.
Shelves together
I decided what want for my birthday ;) during the course of this project.  I would love to have my own battery powered drill so that I don't have to keep snagging my husbands'.   After all I have to schedule my work around when he is home and I really prefer to be able to not work on work projects while he is home.  Although to be honest, I have tapped him for help on several occasions.

I started by drawing a sketch and figuring how many pieces of wood I needed and what sizes they needed to be.  Once I knew what I needed, I started cutting wood to the appropriate sizes.  It took me about a day and a half to finish cutting everything.  It also took more than one trip to my parents' house to use my Dad's equipment.  Let me just say that it is a whole lot easier to cut 16" boards on a table saw than with a 10" reach moto saw.
Shelves Painted

Several of the shelves have rather uneven boards thanks to the moto saw.  I started my cutting my main support posts.  I needed 2 long posts and 2 shorter posts to make the frame.  I cut a arched shape to form the top.  I also cut boards to go across the front and back below the blackboard and behind the top of the blackboard.  I cut boards to span the frame front and back legs.

For the blackboard I took 2 pieces of 1/8th in plywood that were the same size and glued them together with wood glue to achieve the required strength.  After allowing the glue to dry overnight, I prepped it for paint.  I had done a fair amount of research and I knew that I could make my own chalkboard paint.  I used a recipe that calls for cornstarch.  I mixed cornstarch and water with black craft paint.  I gave both sides about 8 coats of paint.

For the shelves I cut end boards and slats for the front, back and bottom.  I made the boards for the front and back a little bit wider than the boards for the bottom.  This gives the shelves a more finished appearance.  I then spent a fair amount of time using a hand sander to sand all sides of the boards that I was using.

I used nails to attach the boards at the top and bottom of the blackboard to hold the blackboard in place.  I used a chisel to cut part of the boards out to accommodate the blackboard without leaving any major gaps.  After this was together I used screws to attach the supports to the front of my front legs.

The blackboard  framed at the top prepped and painted
My next step was to figure where to place my supports so that I could start drilling the holes for my shelves.  I drilled the holes for connecting my front and back legs.  Next I drilled the holes to connect the shelves to the front legs.  I assembled one shelf to be able to make sure that I was figuring the placement correctly.

After making sure that I had my placement right I drilled the holes in the shelf that was already assembled.  After I had the holes in the first shelf I used it as a template to drill the holes in the remaining shelf ends.

After I drilled the holes I started assembling the remaining shelves.  I used finish nails to attach the slats to the side pieces.  Since these slats were so thin (under 1/2") I pre-drilled all of the slats to ensure that the wood didn't split with the nails.  Unfortunately, there was one that I have to fix.  I accidentally put a nail through the pre-drilled hole for the carriage bolt.

After I had a of the parts assembled, I used the same recipe for chalk paint with the same paint that I used on my reclaimed bookshelf.  I have put 2 coats of paint on it so far.  Unfortunately, I have been so busy that I have not had time to put a third coat on it.  After I have had time to do this I will also add a coat of paste wax.  Having used it once I can tell you that this shelf will be a very helpful addition.

On top of everything else I was getting ready to get the last of my pictures for this post and what happens, it SNOWS!  And I'm not talking a little bit of sporadic flakes, but there was enough coming down to start collecting on the grass.  It is spring already and in Tennessee no less.  We very rarely get snow this late in the year!  I must admit though that it was all melted in less than an hour though.

As a side note, for those my area, I will be a the Smith County Ag Building in Carthage on March 29th from 9 AM to 4 PM.  I would love to see you there.

I am linking with the following blogs:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Simple Pleasures

Finished Soap
 I  wanted to make a spring soap and I have Violet Shea fragrance oil which will be perfect.  I started by making the violets.  These I posted on Tuesday.

I waited for for 2 days before pulling the violets off of the paper.  I had to give them time to harden up enough to take off the paper.  I put the violets on paper to dry a little more last night.
The Purple Violets on top

I started by gathering wild violet leaves today.  Violet leaves are supposed to be very good for the skin.  I washed them and then added about 4 ounces of boiling filtered water.  This will form an infusion which I will add after I mix the lye into the oils.  I removed this amount from the amount of goats milk that I will use for the soap.  This will keep the soap from taking too long to cure.

My goat milk is frozen in half gallon bags.  So I start by using a clean hammer on the outside of the bag to break up the frozen milk.  The only problem with this is that I sometimes get larger lumps.  This means that it takes a little longer for all of the milk to melt.  I try to add the lye just a little bit at a time so that the milk doesn't get too hot.  This helps to prevent DOS or the dreaded orange spot from milk sugars caramelizing.

While the milk was working I measured out my oils.  I started by reserving 6 1/2 ounces from my olive oil for my colorants.  After figuring how much I still needed for the initial measurement I poured it in the bucket along with rice bran oil, palm kernel oil, and shea butter.  I blended all of the solid oils up with the liquid oils to make it easier to blend after adding the lye solution.
With white violets on top as well

I added the lye solution to the oils and blended briefly.  It really didn't take long to get this batch to come together.  After the soap started to come together I added the violet leaf infusion and the fragrance oil.  I mixed by hand and then gave it a few quick spurts with the stick blender.

My next step was to separate the batch into 1 large and 2 smaller equal parts.  To the large part I added zinc oxide mixed with 2 ounces of my reserved olive oil which I also gave a quick whir to avoid having any lumps of zinc oxide.  To the smaller parts I added 2 1/2 ounces of alkanet infused oil with a little bit of indigo mixed in to one, and to the other I added 2 ounces of comfrey infused oil with a touch of green pigment mixed in.  I hand mixed the oil colors.  I was planning to do a drop swirl design, but that didn't happen because I managed to let my batter get too thick.  I am disappointed, because I think that this soap would have been awesome with a drop swirl design.

Since my soap was thicker I did a layer of white, topped by a layer of split green and purple, and then repeated.  After getting all of my colored soap in the mold I did a simple figure 8 swirl before topping it with the remainder of the white soap.

Now for the fun part.  I had purple and white violets and leaves to cover the top of the soap.  I tried to alternate the colors along with interspersing them with leaves.  After I had all of the flowers and leaves placed to my satisfaction, I gently pressed them down to get good connection with the soap underneath.  I am hopeful that this will help to alleviate any breakage of the flowers during cutting.  I am pleased with the way the top turned out.

As a side note, for those my area, I will be a the Smith County Ag Building in Carthage on March 29th from 9 AM to 4 PM.  I would love to see you there.

I am linking with the following blogs:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Piping Soap Violets

Soap Violets
In preparation for making my Simple Pleasures Soap I had to start with the embeds that will go on the top of the soap.  Since this soap will be scented with a Violet Shea fragrance oil I couldn't think of anything better for the top than piped violets.

Soap Colors
I started out with a very small batch.  I have had soap stiffen up on me before when piping and I would rather have to make another batch than have to worry about this particular issue.  I still had some problems with it unfortunately.

I made this soap with olive, rice bran, palm kernel oils and beeswax.  The beeswax gives the soap the body and hardness to be able to use it quickly.  This is especially important seeing as the flowers are quite thin.

All my flowers and leaves 
Making this soap got a little tricky.  I melted the beeswax and palm kernel flakes.  I knew that since it was such a small amount of lye water that it would not get hot enough to melt the beeswax.  Unfortunately we got snow today so my liquid oil, while still liquid, were cold enough to re-harden the beeswax.  So I went back into the house to remelt the beeswax.

I am pleased with the variety
The soap thickened up almost immediately.  Of course, then I had to add my colorants.  For my purple I used a combination of oils and powders.  I used alkanet oil with just a touch of madder to warm up the color and then added just a hint of indigo powder.  For the green I used comfrey infused oil with a hint of green pigment to intensify the color since it was a little more pale than I wanted.  For the white I added some zinc oxide to olive oil reserved from the recipe.  I did not add any fragrance to these so that I have the option of using them in multiple recipes.  I am still not thrilled with the green but it would be hard to get the shade I really wanted without the soap being dark enough to stain.

It seemed to take forever for me to get all of the soap piped even though it was such a small batch.  My hands end up really cramped before I was finished.  I used freezer paper, plastic side up, to pipe the flowers onto.  I did take videos of piping the soap but I still have to figure out how to process them so that I can post them here.  In the mean time, I am getting ready to make the soap in the next couple of days.  I am looking forward to putting these on the soap.  I can hardly wait to see the finished product.

I am linking with the following blogs:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

Friday, March 14, 2014

Life as We Know It

Not fighting - they got something in their shoes
so they were cleaning them out
Sometimes life gets ahead of us.  Sometimes it does so in a really big way.  It has been this way for me of late.

Having children is an enormous joy and responsibility.  Having three is like living on a roller coaster, and I hate roller coasters.  Now before you start fussing about my attitude, understand that it isn't the children that are the issue.  The real problem for me is the amount of confusion and upheaval that comes with those same children.  And yes, I knew roughly what having children entailed.  I ought to seeing as I am the oldest of eleven.

When I was preparing to leave the hospital after my first, the nurse asked me if I had any questions about how to care for my baby.  I told her that I was the oldest of eleven children to which she responded, well then, you know everything.  I told her that I had a pretty good handle on things and that if I had any questions that I have a really good person to go to with those questions.

And I was right about having a fairly good idea of what was coming.  What I didn't know was how different my mother and I really are.  A couple of years later my mother and I were talking and she says that I am much more like my grandmother than I am like her.  My grandmother had a hard time with the amount of confusion that comes with more than one child.  I have had quite a few people ask me if I would have as many children as my mother.  I have a stock answer for that question now.  My answer is this, "My mother is an amazing woman.  I am not my mother."  And this is not to say that I feel that she is better than me, but she has a different temperament than I do.

I am also not saying that I don't like being in a large family.  There is nothing that can compare with a large family.  Believe me it gets a bit crazy when there are 18 grand kids running around my parents' property, but I also wouldn't trade it for anything.  Mind you I have 4 unmarried siblings, so those numbers will rise in the future.

I am saying that I have a very hard time dealing with the fighting and bickering that children will do from time to time.  Granted at this point in time, it sometimes seems like that is all that they do when they are together.  I have tried to teach them why this behavior is unacceptable.  Unfortunately, they don't seem to have taken these lessons to heart recently.

As a result of the recent attitude issues I am trying very hard to find things that I can praise them for since I am doing so much correction.  I find that it makes a big difference in the way that they respond to correction if it is balanced with praise for right behavior.  I think part of the reason for this is that they know that I am paying attention even when they are not as irritating.

So earlier this week, I was having a very busy day.  ( I started doing parties this year for the soap and body products part of my business.)  I had a party scheduled for the next day and a huge list of things to get accomplished.  I had stopped by my dad's shop, I don't even remember why at this point, but I was discussing a few things with his secretary.  It was a beautiful day so all three of my children were outside playing.  We looked out of the window and all three children were sitting on a curb, in age order no less.  They were sitting there pulling off their shoes and were not fighting or being hateful to each other.  I quickly pulled out my phone to take a picture.  (I love having that capability.)

I know that there will always be days when I just want to crawl in a hole and pull all of the dirt in after me, but I am grateful that there are also those days to let you know that you haven't lost the battle.  The ones that tell you that your lessons are not being completely ignored.  And right now those are the days that I live for.

So if you are a new parent or just one in need of a word of encouragement, don't give up.  Remember that Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither will your children be trained in a day.  Don't give up when it seems like your children will never learn what you want them to learn.  (They will always however learn the things that you would rather that they didn't, like the attitudes and actions that we display when we are frustrated or angry.)  Hang in there and live for the good days.  Remember that if you can maintain your sanity and be consistent then your hard work will pay off.

I am linking with the following blogs:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

Monday, March 10, 2014

Light Box Backdrops

Backdrop finished
 Now that you have a light box, you may need to have different backdrops to go in it.  Or you may be like me and just want to have options.  I like having options a lot.

Dowel in the corner
To begin with you need to choose your desired material.  There are options here.  You can use fabric, wallpaper, or any other flexible material.  Once you choose your material you will need to select your dowel.  I used a 3/8 inch dowel and added a 1 inch wooden bead to the end.  This will insert into the top rear corners of your light box to hold your backdrop in place.

Sides all neat and tidy
Next you will need to cut you material.  I cut mine about an inch longer on the side and about five inches longer than I estimated I would need for length.  This is necessary so that you will have space for the pocket at the top.  After you have you material measured and cut you need to ensure that you sides are neat.  Since I used material, I needed a side seam to ensure that the material would not unravel.  I will admit that in this case I cheated a bit. My sewing machine is kind of buried right now so I used a thin strip of hot glue.  This actually works pretty well although it can be stiff.

Top pocket
Next you need a pocket for your dowel.  Since I wanted to be able to switch out my backdrops, I didn't want to actually apply the material to the dowel.  I used the selvage edge for the top pocket so that I would not need to do extra finishing to this edge.  I used hot glue for this as well.  I folded over the material and made sure that I had enough space for my dowel so slide easily through the pocket.  After getting the spacing set I started to glue.  I only worked a 4 inch section at a time to ensure that I got good adhesion.  After letting the glue cool, I put the backdrop up in the light box so that I could properly measure the length.
Overhang on the front
When I had my measurement for the bottom edge I pulled the dowel out of the pocket.  I folded the material over to the desired length and then started to glue the edge.  I wanted the backdrop to hang over the front edge of the light box so that I wouldn't have any difference if I managed to catch the front edge in a photo.  This also makes it look more finished.

So far I have only made one backdrop, but using this method you can have as many as you want. So have fun and make your space a little more individual.


I am linking with the following blogs:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

Thursday, March 6, 2014

DIY Wooden Light Box

Finished Light box
I was using a light box made from a cardboard box.  I had three panels that were covered in tissue paper.  Unfortunately, children and tissue paper are not a lasting solution.  I had access to some hardwood tongue and grove flooring.  This gave me an idea.

I needed a replacement for my cardboard box so that I can take pictures of my products.  I started by figuring out what dimensions I could get from the wood that I had available.  I started by evening up the wooden pieces.  Next I started to assemble the bottom and back of the box.  I glued 5 boards together for each panel.  I spread a thin layer of glue in the grooves.  I pulled two boards off of a pallet to screw these boards down onto.   This makes the base much more sturdy.

Box together

Next I Started assembling the top frame of the box.  This will not get closed at all with wood.  I started by attaching the corner boards together.  After  fitting the corner boards together I used screws to attach these boards to the board to go across the front of the box at the top.  Even with pre-drilling the holes, I had a hard time getting the screws to go all the way into the boards.

Rubber Feet
I ended up needing another pair of hand to get it completely put together.  My brother N very sweetly lent a hand.  We had some issues with the back panel.  The glue didn't keep the panel together as well as I had hoped.  We used a short board on either side to drill holes and screw into the boards of the back panel.  We also used screws to secure the back panel to the bottom panel as well for good measure.

Applying fabric to the sides
I used a glue gun to put a nickle sizes dot in three different places on each of the boards on the bottom of the box.  This should help to keep the box from scraping up any surface it is placed on.
In the process of pickling

After getting all of the box constructed I started by applying white muslin to each side.  I cut a fairly good sized piece for each side.  I glued each side with the glue gun, pulling the fabric taut on each side.  As I glue the fabric down I also folded the edge over to make each side nice and neat.  The fabric acts a filter for the light.  This keeps there from being glare on the object inside that you are photographing.
After getting the fabric adhered to the box, I painted the inside with wicker white craft paint.  After getting the entire inside painted I started using a rag to scrub off most of the paint.  This technique is called pickling.  It gives the wood an aged appearance.  I thought that I just wanted to  put a backdrop over this, but after I finished I realized that I really like the look of the soap especially in front of the wood.  As you can see from the picture the color of the item inside pulls that color out in the wood.
Pictures in the light box.

I am linking with the following blogs:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

Monday, March 3, 2014

Goat's Milk Baby Soap

Goat's Milk Baby Soap
This soap started with a local friend of my mother's who has milk goats.  She has lots of extra milk and I was looking for goats milk.  So we worked out a trade.  When she has time to learn how to make it I will teach her how to make soap, in exchange she is keeping me well supplied with goat milk.  
Frozen goat milk ready for lye
I started with measuring out the goat's milk and lye.  I wanted to keep the milk as cold as possible through adding the lye.  I added the lye in 15 minute intervals.  While I was waiting for the lye to work I measured out my oils.  For this recipe I used olive oil, coconut oil, grapeseed oil, castor oil, and palm kernel oil.  After getting all of the oils measured out I added to it 5 oz of pureed organic carrots.  Carrots are high in vitamin A which makes them good for the skin.  
Oils with Carrot puree
I used mostly melted oils.  My coconut oil was melted but the palm kernel oil was only softened.  After getting all of my oils mixed thoroughly, I added the lye solution to the oils.  I mixed with my stick blender to a medium trace.  Since I wasn't doing any layering I wanted a thicker trace.  I filled my sample mold then I filled my wooden mold.  
Close-up of the swirls on top
After my soap was in the mold, I mixed about a quarter of an ounce of vitamin E with a single .15 cc scoop of sienna mica.  I dripped the mica solution all over the top of the soap in the mold.  I used the sharp end of a skewer to swirl the mica in a circular pattern all over the top. 

I am really quite pleased with this soap.  The yellow coloring comes from the carrots, do be aware that you might find a tiny piece or two in the finished soap.  This soap is not scented but I wanted to be sure that it would be as mild as possible on a babies tender skin.  This soap will be ready to ship on March 16th.  

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