Monday, December 22, 2014

Homemade Soap Season

I guess I could have said homemade soap season is nigh upon us but who says that anymore except those of us who watch period dramas and read old books? For me it's harder to make soap in the summer because the temperatures get too high unless you start early in the morning. It takes too long for the sodium hydroxide to cool to the proper temperature unless I use up all the ice the ice maker produces then there is none for iced tea. Fall weather is so spectacular I really just like being out and about and in the garden. Early in the spring is the traditional time to make soap, post holidays and pre-spring cleaning, before there is weeding and gardening to do. (Having just wrote that, I don't think we have winter in California anymore. I am still harvesting squash from the garden, some roses are blooming, not all the leaves are off the trees and the weeds are starting to take off!)

These soaps turned out very nice (except for the spots). I used sodium lactate (which is a sugar) to make the soap harder since my recipe is not that hard but apparently, I didn't mix it in enough or something. Still even with the spots I am very pleased. I have a couple of these types of tray molds and I never seem to get anything aesthetically pleasing from what I have tried until now. I don't want to "paint" the details in as some have done (I have seen beautiful painted soaps on the websites that are usually selling the molds). My basic recipe is not that opaque but I refuse to whiten it up with titanium dioxide which is toxic.

So here is what I did. I made a batch of soap. I kept out about an ounce of distilled water when I made the sodium hydroxide (I put red devil lye into the distilled water). Then I made a small amount of green (sage) and brown (java) coloring (making up with the 1 ounce of water I withheld from the main batch of sodium hydroxide). I use dedicated pyrex measuring cups for soap making so that I can control the pour easier. So after putting soap in the individual pyrex cups and mixing in the colors, I poured the brown colored soap into the pine cone and branch areas and green colored soap into the pine needle areas. Then I poured the uncolored soap into the tray mold. As I had more green colored soap, I finished off pouring that into the tray. I have done this technique before on other detailed tray molds but they didn't turn out to my satisfaction probably because the color combinations didn't blend together as naturally as these do.

After letting the mold sit and unmolding  (plus 4 weeks curing time for the lye and fats/oils to completely saponify) and voilá! I have always thought of these soaps as very Christmasy but I guess they could also be considered rustic or woodsy and be used year round especially at a cabin. It's so nice I don't want to use it just yet.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Works in Progress

I've been attempting to get back into the swing of normal life…  I thought I would try part 2 of a small project I've been wanting to do since last Christmas. Some small Christmas tree skirts for 2 barbed wire Christmas trees that I have had for a couple of years and just adore. Here is one in a Dresden plate still unfinished. I have been trying it out with different backgrounds to see how I will back it. The plan now is to sew 2 circles together, slightly larger than the Dresden plate, turn it inside out, press it and sew the Dresden plate onto it. When I laid it out on one of my quilts, I thought, I am going to have to make another quilt like this with random Dresden plates on it. I'll add it to my list of quilt projects...

I cut out 20 blades for the Dresden plate but it became obvious that I was going to have to stop at 17. Thus, my pattern is not symmetrical. It was a trial run made from scraps but I love it anyway regardless of its imperfection.
Here it is ready for assembly with the first tree skirt I made out of felted wool in a rustic penny rug style I started earlier this year. (Yes, my creative output has been very minimal this year.)

I still have to stitch a piece of wool felt to the bottom of it with a blanket stitch. Here is a shot of the wool pieces I made my selection from. I hope to get them finished in time to decorate for Christmas.