Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Soap Making Links / Resources

A friend of mine (who is beautiful and amazing) asked me recently to send her some information on how to make soap.

I started making soap for entirely skin-selfish purposes several years ago. I adore how real soap feels and how it actually helps moisturize  (note, I use the word "moisturize" even though it is abhorrent sounding) instead of sucking skin dry like the detergent "soap" you buy from the store (ala Dial, Dove, et. al.) and even most boutiques.

So, I'm not going to re-create the wheel; I'm just going to gather everything that's been useful to me in one place (which will hopefully be useful to you).

Resources I Use Frequently... so as to NOT recreate the wheel
1. Tutorials - I like for tutorials (for soap especially) because they'll answer you if you have questions; however, chances are most questions you'll want to ask have already been asked and answered; therefore you should do a thorough search of the board first.
     A) Start here; this is the best tutorial I've found for basic soap making
     B) Then, go here; this is for after you've made a few batches successfully.
2. Soap calculator: This is ESSENTIAL for soap making and is a godsend. Fiddle around with it to make your own recipes.
3. 99% of what you need can be bought here: Wholesale Supplies Plus but, they don't sell lye...
4. The other 1%: Buy lye here or you can find it at some Ace Hardware stores. I recommend you call Ace ahead of time (before driving there) to ask if they have it.

Other Notes of Note From My Brain
  1. Equipment: 
    1. I recommend a hand stick blender. My friend J started using it in her soap making and it helps (a lot) bringing the soap to "trace." I have this one and use it only for soap making
    2. A digital scale is essential (see #6 below)
  2. Speaking of essential- Essential Oils: So... once you start making soap you're going to realize that essential oils are the coolest and yet the most costly part of soap making. They have a lot to do with how your soap makes you feel and have therapeutic properties. There is this place called Essential Oil University that is pretty amazing. I buy my EO's there. However, I heard a rumor that they stopped selling EOs in less than $10K bulk orders. I don't know if this is true as I haven't purchased anything in over a year... Regardless, the research available there on EOs is really impressive.
  3. Soap Molds: I use old milk and egg beater containers/cartons to make my soap. I used to struggle with lining molds with parchment paper and cursing like a motherless sailor trying to get the soap in and out. Now, I pour the mixture directly into a cleaned out container then, 24 hours later, peel back the paper/ cardboard and toss it (the carton). This has made my soap making 100% stress free and I love it.
  4. Not included in the above tutorials (I think... or maybe touched on, but it bears repeating): after the mixture is poured into the mold I cover it with parchment paper and wrap it in a warm blanket and LEAVE IT ALONE for no less than 24 hours. Do not look, do not touch it. It is important to wrap it in a warm blanket so the soap doesn't cool too rapidly. This has always worked for me.
  5. Don't be too ambitious with your first batch: keep it simple so you don't get put off. Try an olive oil, coconut oil, grapeseed oil soap first (all of which you can buy at your local store). I recommend 20% coconut (for hardness and lather), 40% olive oil, and 40% grapeseed oil. Also, use lavender as your first EO. Everyone loves lavender and it is fairly benign in terms of affecting the texture of your soap (some EOs can drastically effect the soapafication process). Also, don't use beer or milk in your first few batches. You will just become enraged and start smashing things.
  6. Be precise: You have to be as precise as is possible (to the gram) with your water, lye, and oils. If your soap fails it's likely because you were imprecise.
 Ok, so, that's it. Happy soaping!!
(PS sorry for re-using old pictures. This post reminds me I need to make some new soap!)

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Gift for Him Knitting Pattern: The Surly Man Cowl

Link to Pattern
I was browsing around ravelry late at night (my first mistake) and thought I found a cowl pattern which I loved and which I felt would be perfect for my husband. I didn't favorite it or queue it (second mistake). Rather, I made a mental note (if you are anything like me then your mental notes are written in Latin and in disappearing ink on the back of an old, greasy pizza box) regarding what the cowl looked like (I thought swirly?) and the search term I used (I thought "man cowl"?).

Well three or four days later, when I was ready to start knitting the cowl, I couldn't find the pattern. Therefore, I just knit it based on my murky midnight memory. Link to my project page
Here it is on Mr. Surly Man himself. I was lucky to get the shot. Maybe I'll post a better picture when I can get him to hold still longer... Regardless, back to my story:

After an extensive search on ravelry several days later I still couldn't find it or a similar pattern (this one is the closest and uses yarn-overs and decreases I think whereas I wanted to use only knits and purls). Therefore, I've quickly typed one up.

It doesn't have to be for a Surly Man, it will work for a Surly Woman just as well.

It's simple (really, really simple) and brainless (hence, a good pattern for me). I hope you make it for the surly (wo)man in your life.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Christmas Cards and Santa Robots

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving but, in my brain, Thanksgiving is over and it's time to prepare for Christmas. I think this might be because last year didn't feel like Christmas at all; it was: whhoooooosh! Happy New Year. What? Christmas? Yeah, that happened; I think you were asleep. We didn't want to wake you up.

Last year's Christmas wasn't stressful; in fact, I don't even remember it. Work was stressful and I was staying late at the office quite a bit, working weekends, and spending no time doing Christmassy stuff with my family. I feel like this year I am making up for last year; this year we're having Christmas squared.

First up: Christmas Cards

I really like robots. I've decided that Robo-Santa will be the theme of our Christmas cards this year.

Four, count them, four Robo-Santas
 The stamp set I carved is modular so I can switch out the hat and center- just in case I need a Valentines robot or an Easter robot.
Two sets of legs, two options for arms
 I carved two sets of legs and arms so I could make Robo-Santa tall or short depending on the card size.
Stamping is the fun part. I like how he turned out looking a little nervous. It's the cutting out part that gets tiresome.
Pretty soon I'll be rich in Santbots, or Robo-Santas, or RoSanBotas.

I was thinking of stamping him in various poses and printing some Robo-Santas over at Spoonflower, maybe make a Robo-Santa pocket advent calendar. As usual, I think my ideas are beyond the limitations set by time. But, it's fun to think about.

What about you? What are you doing for cards this year?

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Chicago -OR- What I love about middle children

Warning: this is going to be one of those not-necessarily-crafty, essay type posts. 

There is something really special about Chicago. 

Chicago is the proverbial middle child of large US cities. Some might consider this analogy only in reference to Chicago's geographic location (it's in the middle of the country). However, the analogy is multifaceted; like most middle children and like books between elaborate bookends, Chicago can sometimes be easy to overlook.

It is smart and genuine but always compared- for better or for worse- to its older and younger siblings: it's the less notorious but smarter sister to New York; it's the less ostentatious but considerably more genuine sister to Los Angeles. It is breathtaking and beautiful and yet somehow caught in the blindspot of popular consciousness.

But, I wonder- like most middle children- if Chicago prefers to shy from the onerous and usually dysfunctional limelight of notoriety; I hypothesize that it is more than to content to be smart and genuine and breathtaking without attracting the attention that plagues those that are notorious and ostentatious.