05 December 2007


The Clapotis is finished! I am pretty happy with how it turned out, actually. I'd like to make another one at some point, but way, way, way later. The pattern is really easy, though it gets a bit monotonous in the middle section.

I used a lot less yarn than I thought I would. I bought three skeins of 330 yard merino-alpaca yarn (bargain ebay laceweight yarn from yarn treehouse—I really am impressed with it), but only ended up using about 1.5 or 1.66 of them. The yarn is a really pretty color, and it's really soft & warm. It's a bit narrow because I used thinner yarn than the pattern calls for, but it's at least wider than a standard scarf. I'm hoping it won't matter too much because my mom is tiny. I suppose I could try to block it, but I am a bit hesitant to do so because I don't want it to lose any of the bumps and waves. That's kind of the whole point of the Clapotis.

...I just hope my mom likes it.

I'm on Project #2: The Drive-thru pullover for my nephew. I'm making really fast work out of this one. Mostly because it's almost all straight stockinette stitch in the round, and a sweater for a 5-year old isn't going to be an insanely large project. ;) I've already done up to the armholes on the body, and I've just stated the sleeves. I'm trying to knit them both at the same time on two circulars. It's a bit tricky—like trying to wrestle a spider. Hopefully it gets a bit easier after a few rows. If this one goes well, I'll do a second one in a slightly larger size in green for my other nephew. If not well, I guess he'll get a vest. Heh.

I'm making ok overall progress so far, but I have a lot of knitting ahead of me in the next few weeks.

I found a few ebay sellers that sell hand-dyed sock yarn for not-insanely-expensive, so I've also stocked up on sock yarn. My photos look a bit off in color, but it is hard to take accurate pictures in anything but natural daylight.

I am at this point planning on making a pair of socks for each of my three nieces. I don't know which yarn I'm using for which niece yet, nor do I know what pattern I'm using for any of them. I have about 30 sock patterns saved in my ravelry queue, all of which would be fine for any of them. I guess I'll just wing it (i.e. pick the ones rated easiest). I'm hoping that I get the hang of the knitting-two-at-a-time method, and that none of these are a particularly large investment of time.

In addition to the socks, I'm going to give them some screen-printed tote bags. I guess I should burn those screens soon. And buy fabric.

Still no idea about dad, or my eldest nephew (age 21). I'd really like to do an entrelac scarf for my dad, but that seems like it will be tricky & a huge time-suck. I guess I'll troll around ravelry or craftster to see if i can find some inspiration & ideas.

25 November 2007

Handmade gift pledge

This year, I'm determined to not buy anything for anyone this holiday season. I'm going to try to make everything. I'm sick of spending huge amounts of money on my family, for impersonal gifts they may not really even want or need. I'm giving them basic things that they are more than likely to need/wear. I hope they understand the time and effort involved (I've read horror stories), and how much more personal it is for me to do for each of them. I'm sort of at a loss for what to give some of them, but I guess I'll figure it out as I go along. Luckily, my siblings and I decided not to exchange gifts. There are 5 of us, plus 3 brothers-in-law. We usually do a secret santa type of gift exchange, but one less gift to worry about is alright by me.

I'm finally started on the Clapotis! I am using an inexpensive no-name brand yarn I found on ebay; it's an alpaca and merino blend. It's fairly soft and seems like it'll be nice & warm this winter, but light enough to wear as a wrap in the spring. It's a very pretty color (though I personally do not like blue so much) that I hope my mom will like. I have no idea what her favorite color is. I'm a horrible daughter.

I've been knitting the Clap for long stretches of time over this Thanksgiving weekend, (since my plans were ruined, I've been knitting whilst watching marathon reruns of America's Next Top Model--the shame--and feeling sorry for myself), and I find that it's fairly easy, and pretty quick too. I've just gotten to the second repeat in the straight section, where the drops start, in about 2 days (I'm not the fastest knitter--I've only been knitting for about a year). I thought those drops were going to be much scarier than they are, but it's really not bad at all.

Depending on how quickly the Clapotis knits up, I may even make one for one of my nieces, though I'd really like to give everyone something different, specifically made for them. I've got three of nieces, ranging in age from 18 to 13. I have no idea what I'm going to do. Handmade socks or maybe mittens in hand-painted sock yarn (I can finally try out koolaid dyeing)? Some sort of silver jewelery using all that damned art clay that I've had for MONTHS and still have not used? Or I can sew some sort of shirt with funky fabrics. Or I can sew tote bags out of hand-screenprinted fabric, with cute designs that all of them would possibly maybe like.

Teenage girls are weird. I should know--I used to be one a very long time ago. :P

On top of that, I owe one of them an extra present: I have a bunch of glitter vinyl to sew into a bag/purse of some sort, which I was supposed to do for her birthday (*cough*inAugust*cough*). I'm scared to cut it. And sew it. I got a special teflon foot for my sewing machine, but it's just so intimidating.

As for the nephews, one is 21. I have no idea what to do for him. Maybe handwarmers or a hat with skulls on it? The other two boys are 5 and 7. They are both tiny, at any rate, so anything I make for them will (gods willing) be relatively fast & easy. One of them allegedly likes hats. That is a good start. I've been looking at all the childrens' patterns on ravelry.com, and I have a few ideas (sweaters, toys, hats, mittens, etc), but I have no idea how long any of that will take to knit. The only frame of reference I had is the BSJ that I knit this fall, but I mostly did it over 2 weeks while riding the subway to & from work.

Oh yeah, here is a picture of the finished BSJ! I was pretty happy with the way it turned out, and I think the recipient (well, the mom) was pretty impressed that it was handmade especially for their new baby, and seemed to genuinely like it. I think she also appreciated that it wasn't boring baby blue or washed out yellow. I told her that I'd do one later for Max with skulls on it, and she seemed super excited about that. There's a cool pirate-y pull-over in an issue of knit.1 from February that would be perfect.

I suppose that Alexander McQueen sweater I wanted to make myself this winter will be on hold for a bit longer. I guess I have time between Christmas & New Years... Fingers crossed that I can finish it before it gets too warm to wear alpaca.

By the way, am I the only one who gets totally grossed out when people refer to yarn as "yummy?" Seriously, all I can think about is when I get cat hair stuck in my mouth or throat, and it just makes me want to gag and choke and puke, and how yarn fiber in the mouth is no picnic either. Yummy? No! Vomit-inducing! Do not eat! JUST SAY PRETTY. Geez.

24 August 2007

Surprise! It's a baby (jacket).

I've moved on to multiple projects at the same time. Which really amounts to me concentrating on the one that is easiest and more enjoyable to knit.

Right now, most of my attention is going to Elizabeth Zimmermann's baby surprise jacket. Her directions are not bad, but not really super drawn out, which is kind of important for me. I'm still really a novice knitter, so I need things to be as obvious as possible. It is fantastic because it's all knit, so it goes pretty fast. I can do about 3-4 rows on each leg of the subway ride to/from work, and then I invariably work on it a bit in the evening while watching tv or playing video games. I'm doing it in Knitpicks Merino Style yarn in Tide Pool, Asparagus, and Storm. The plan is to vary the colors throughout. Next time, I'd love to try it with a variegated yarn. The one on the helloyarn.com blog done like that is very cute.

I found a cheat sheet for the jacket, which is helping my progress a lot. I'm also trying to do it to be about 5-6st = 1" range, so the jacket is on the bigger size. He is only a month old now, and it's going to be at least another 2 months before the weather is conducive to wearing wool. I know nothing about baby sizing, but according to this, it will work out to about a 15-18" chest diameter. What that means in size of clothing, I can only guess, but I vaguely recall something around 6-8 months? Even if it's on the big size, it is still better than too small--they grow fast, them baby things. And 6-8 months should be right around the middle of winter.

Hopefully I'll have it finished before I see the recipients again. Well, that's probably not too hard, since they live 250 miles away, and I don't have any plans to go up there any time soon. The nice thing about small projects like that, is they are fairly fast to knit. And the way everyone I know is getting married and knocked up lately, I'm sure I'll have the opportunity to make a few of these before long.

And in the Way Overdue section, I finally got some glitter vinyl to make my neice's birthday (3 weeks ago) present. The pieces are HUGE, which is nice, and it's super shiny & pretty. The price was wonderful too (most people sell it upwards of $17-22/yd), and they shipped it (quickly) on a roll, instead of folded, so it's not got any creases or wrinkles. Yes, they call it Sparkel, which I was quick to correct, but evidently that's how the manufacturer wants it spelled. Go figure. I got a yard each of the hot pink & silver (which is more like white with silver glitter), and a sample of the purple & kiwi (which hopefully are enough to make some cute shapes).

I'm not exactly sure what I'm going to make--a tote or bowling-ball bag of some sort I suppose. I ordered some (a bit overpriced) tubular frames from Ghee's to give it a bit of structure, but I didn't think of that until yesterday, so it may be a while until I get started. There are sellers on Etsy called Hippofabulous and also Stitchpixie. They make very amazing stuff out of vinyl. I love the whimsical and cute designs they do, so hopefully some of that talent and inspiration gets to work on my brain, so that I can make some crazy original design for my neice.

I have kind of a low-end sewing machine, and no teflon foot for it, so I'm sure sewing two layers of thick vinyl will be quite the adventure. I hope it doesn't blow up. I guess if it does, it'll be a good excuse to get the same Brother sewing machine my siblings and I got for my mom on her last birthday. Which she hates because it's too newfangled, not understanding that ALL machines are like that now. *sigh* The reviews for it are pretty fantastic. A friend also recommended the Euro-Pro, which also looks like it has good reviews. Really, I'd love a Bernina, but I can't really justify dropping $1000+ on a sewing machine, since I don't sew a tremendous amount.

15 August 2007

The frogination

Almost done with the first sock. It seems to have gone slowly, but I was only knitting on the subway ride to and from work. I've turned the heel and everything—which wasn't scary at all, in fact it was pretty easy. Whew.

bellatrixHowever, the set of circular bamboo needles I'm working with are giving me huge problems. At size 0, they are a bit *too* flexible. I've broken the same needle on one of the pairs TWICE, so I'm left with a 2-inch stump. The other pair of size 0 circulars now has a split forming in one of the needles. I will say, though, that 2 circular needles are the way to go. 2 is more awesomer than 4.

I'm not very happy with the way it's turning out. It looks ok, but not as good as I'd like it. I think the Magic Stripes yarn is just a tad bit too bulky for this pattern, even on tiny needles. I'm going to redo this pattern later, but with a finer/softer wool. I've got a nice stash of some merino sock wool from Stick Chick, and a few small skeins of sale sock yarn from KnitPicks on their way to me which I think will work a lot more nicely.

...Frogged! (It didn't help that a bunch of stitches fell off the needle at some point as well. D'oh).

This yarn is being rewound into a ball. I think at some point I will use it to make socks, but with a very plain pattern. I just don't think the thickness and stiffness of this particular yarn holds up to delicate and/or lacy designs.

I went a little yarn crazy today. I have some (hopefully real) alpaca yarn coming from eBay to do the Alexander McQueen knock off sweater (which I keep calling STEVE McQueen. heh); some midnight blue fingerling alpaca yarn by Yarn Treehouse to make a Clapotis for my mom's xmas present; some purple, black, and clematis heathered knitpicks Palette yarn to make 2 pairs of Endpaper Mitts for various people; some knitpicks Merino Style yarn in 2 blues and a green to make the Baby Surprise jacket for my boyfriend's ex-landlords who just had a baby; and some new circular knitting needles (IN METAL) to replace the ones I just broke (and the others I will likely break soon).

I took an entrelac knitting class this past weekend—one of the local fabric stores offers knitting classes (yet doesn't sell yarn...). It makes a lot more sense now. It is still really complicated, but at least I understand the underlying construction technique. I'll finally be able to make that Danica scarf after all. After those 59392 things on my "to knit" list. Heh.

03 August 2007


I've made quite a bit of progress on my first sock (considering I've only really been knitting on the subway). However, I really think the Magic Stripes yarn is too thick for this particular pattern and/or the needles are too big. I don't want to have to frog it, but it's looking too big and lumpy. I don't know if going down to size 1 needles will make much difference, but I may give that a try. I just really like this pattern. On the upside, there is a bit of a mistake on the cuff, which is bothering me almost enough to frog it for that reason.

Of course I could just do the pattern that came with the sock. But that's so plain. Heh.

I have also just found some cheap sock yarn on etsy. It's undyed, so I can finally use some of the 2057 packets of koolaid that I have stocked up to make some obnoxious pink-orange socks.

01 August 2007

Of socks and soap

Whoa. Socks aren't too bad. Of course I've only done about an inch of ribbing, but the small circumference thing isn't as frustrating as I thought it would be. I'm sure when I get to the heel, it'll be a different story.

The twisted rib was a little awkward at first, but it's fast going now. I cannot wait to start the actual pattern. heh.

The pattern is called Bellatrix. I'm sure the socks will be full of subservient evil.

I tried the silk soap, only using the hot-process method instead of my normal cold-process. While the method itself was not as hard as I thought, it produced a sticky weird soap that is too goopy and sticky to come out of the molds. Maybe I'll try freezing it...

I have made a few bathbombs which came out pretty well. I think the trick is to use almost no water. Even then it's hard to form all the individual bombs before the ingredients dry out, which is difficult to re-wet, as it tends to mess up the texture. I guess I just make smaller batches or bigger bombs. Duh.

13 July 2007


I have neglected to update in months. For shame!

I am doing about 8398 projects right now for a swap, so I'll have some pictures soon. In the mix: a hand-painted wooden box, a clock! with brains!, soap/bath bombs, 2 pairs of earrings, a necklace, and if I get around to it, a small tote-bag, an etched mirror, embroidered pillow cases, candles, and/or wax tarts. And that's just for one person. I have someone else who is totally overdue for one of my care packages.

For my niece's birthday, I need to track down some hot pink glitter vinyl so I can make her another purse or some sort of wallet or tote. I made her this one (on the right) for Christmas, and she uses it constantly. I'm happy to see that it has held up to 7 months of constant use! I think the vinyl will be cute and hold up even better. I'm kind of afraid to see what it will do to my sewing machine—I don't have a Teflon foot to make my life easier, and it's not a really professional machine. Maybe I'll commandeer my mom's nice Brother machine. My brother & sisters and I got it for her birthday in January, and she's too intimidated by it to actually use it. Ho hum.

I haven't knit anything for myself in a long time. I am hoping to FINALLY start the pair of socks that have been on my to-do list for months. I guess it will be easier when I don't have these other things that have to be done in the next two weeks (there is a swap deadline to contend with). Plus, once Harry Potter 7 comes out, I will be out of commission for another day or two. ;)

On the soap front, I'm going to try a new recipe, using
raw Tussah Noil fibers. I am really anxious to try this out! I got a new 3-pound wooden soap mold, but wow. 3 pounds. I generally make 1-pound batches, and I have to give it away to everyone I see to get rid of the surplus. I guess once I get a scent I truly love, 3-pounds won't be too bad.

With bath bombs, i'm trying to get the dry-to-wet ratio perfected, which is a lot harder than I ever thought. Just a tiny bit too much water, and they tend to develop cracks or look like they have been deflated. Once I have that down, i am going to try my hand at foaming/bubble bombs.

i've kind of gone off the deep end with ordering scents. i need to make a lot of tarts, candles, soap, bath bombs, hair/body sprays to kind of justify owning that many tiny bottles of stink.

11 am and still no coffee. This must be rectified immediately.

02 April 2007

More soap

Batch 7 unmolded & cut into bars. The swirl effect was really not as good as I thought it would be. I really thought I was overdoing it, and that the colors would just blend together. Clearly, I need a bit more wrist action. I also embedded some rosemary into the top of the bars.

The rosemary mint scent is really nice. i wonder if it will be COLD in the shower.

Batch 8: underway. Blue & purple swirl lavender scent with lavender flowers.

Soap frenzy!

Batches 4-5-6!

I'm in a swap right now, so I use this as a chance to do lots of crafty stuff. Saturday night, I made 3 more batches of soap using lime-lilac, cantelope, & honey scents. Sunday night, I made an additional batch, using a dupe of Aveda's rosemary-mint scent. All the bars I made this weekend had more coconut oil than my previous batches, and the addition of palm oil, to make them a little harder than my last 3 soaps. I didn't really sacrifice much in the way of conditioning either, which was good.

The Lime-Lilac used (in rank of highest percentage to lowest) coconut, soybean, palm, rice bran, and castor; Cantelope was olive, coconut, palm, castor (this should be a super-moisturizing bar); Honey was coconut, palm, soybean, apricot kernal, and castor; and the rosemary-mint was palm, coconut, olive, grapeseed, and castor. They all smelled SO GOOD, it's going to be a long 3-4 week wait until they are dry enough to use.

I finally had one person get back to me about the soap (my first batch) after giving away bars to about 6 or 7 people. She said it was very moisturizing and smelled good. I hate soaps that make your skin feel tight & dried out, so I'm very happy that someone commented on the performance, and that it was positive! I eventually want to sell these, so I want to know that they don't suck. ;)

I invested in a lot of new scents and a few new oils, so I will probably pump out several batches until I've used up the 5lb. bags of palm & coconut oils. They are so fast to make, that I can probably finish everything off by the end of the week! Not that I'm necessarily going to make another 5-10 batches of soap this week, BUT I COULD. I am also sorely tempted to make soap out of Crisco, just for my own amusement. I eventually want to
tubey progress
get some hemp and other fancy oils, but they are fairly expensive, so they may have to wait until I make a few dollars from this soapy enterprise.

I also am planning on making some sugar-scrubs for the shower, making lip balms (tinted & flavored!), solid perfumes, and perfumed body lotion-spray. Yes, I am a fiend. But I and all of my recipients will be moisturized and smell very nice!

On the knitting front, I've made it through a lot of my Tubey sweater. I think I have another 6-8" or so, and I should be done! The pattern called for 10 skeins of yarn, but I don't think I've used more than 4 so far. I don't think my gauge is that off--I did swatch a bit before I started; I've also tried on the shrug part which fit perfectly. I did decide to knit a size down (the XS), just because it's so stretchy, and I want a close-fitting top. Progress is a little slow, but I hope to be done before it's too warm to wear a wool-blend sweater.

ETA: Wow, I am the dumb. The yarn used in the pattern was 100yd/skein. Mine is 197yds/skein. Hah. I'm obviously a math genius!

Man, I hope those stripes line up that well when I put it on.
rsvp screen printed cards

I also did a massive amount of screen printing about a two weeks ago. I volunteered to do my friends' wedding invitations (sucker!) ages ago, and the date is quickly approaching. I ended up having to do a combination of screen printing & gocco. Since I couldn't hold any of the text with traditional screen printing, even with the fine mesh count screens (so disappointing), I had to resort to using my precious gocco. I'm so paranoid about the dwindling supply of available gocco products since its discontinuation, that I'm almost afraid to use it. Heh. The end results did turn out pretty nicely though; everyone seemed to really like them.

The background stuff (mostly some Indian designs) was printed with a pale greenish-yellow on the RSVP cards, and a pale yellow, just a few shades lighter than the paper, on the actual invitations. The paper was Stardream "Opal"--a really pretty shimmery white gold color.

The only problem I really had was that I ran out of the water-soluable screen printing ink that I had ordered online a few weeks prior. My local art supply store
screen printing
only had acrylic screen printing ink, which tends to not dry as matte, and feels a little "sticky" in comparison. It wasn't that big a deal, but I really preferred the finish from the water-soluable ink.

Once all the background inks were printed & dried, I used my gocco to print the actual text onto the cards in a green ink, which of course I don't have a picture of right now (because I was so exhausted at the time, I only managed to take 2 or 3 in-progress pictures). I did well over 110 invites and rsvp cards, printed on both sides, plus almost 200 envelopes as well... in about 1.5 days. Holy crap, my back.

Other projects on the horizon: Finally sewing the shirt that has been on my progress list for months (I guess buying fabric for it would be a good start), finish a mermaid-themed necklace that I started about a year (!) ago, sew a mini-tote bag or two with matching zippered bags, and do some t-shirt screen printing (once I can think of a funny-nerdy-cool design!).

AND I just remembered that I have about 3 boxes of conversation hearts from Valentine's Day (leftovers that I stole from work) that I'm planning on casting in resin... if and when I can find a mold, and someplace with enough ventilation to do it. I'd really like to make a giant belt buckle with them. They may end up as charms for a bracelet, though. I'm the tackiest!

I guess I like to keep busy.

16 March 2007


I haven't had an opportunity to post in a while. I have been fairly busy with various projects, and I was abroad in the UK for a week or so to visit a friend.

I'm more than half way through the Tubey sweater from the knitty.com site. It wasn't very hard, but just a bit tedious. I'm knitting it in Lion Brand Wool Ease, which is cheap & warm. I didn't want to spend a lot on my first sweater if it was going to come out poorly, plus I'm all about the convenience of machine washing! Imagine my dismay, though, when I got off the airplane on my return from England and discovered 75˙F weather (it was in the 30-40˙ range when I left). I thought knitting a wooly sweater would be a futile pursuit, but now the weather is rapidly & violently changing back to wet, cold, mid-30˙ temperatures, so I can resume knitting my sweater. I will hopefully finish it and wear it before the weather finally decides it's really spring.

I found a set of bamboo double-pointed needles from US size 0 to 15, along with a set of circular needles in the same gauges on eBay. Considering they usually sell in craft stores for about $4-7 a pair, these were a really good deal. The big drawback is that they are coming from CHINA, and I've already been waiting almost a month. Admittedly I'm rather impatient, but I have 2 projects that I want to start that involve smaller gauge dpns and circulars. Socks and scarves!

The socks are going to be knit with Lion Brand "magic stripes" yarn. It's a 75% wool/25% nylon blend, but I don't think they will be wintery. I wear wool socks (♥ smartwool™) all year round, and I find them very comfortable. Again, cheap yarn—it's fairly cute, and this is my first foray into sockdom. At some point, I'll spring for nice yarn from Knitpicks.com or helloyarn.com and make fancier socks. I really love socks. It's almost a disease.

The scarf I have planned I guess isn't really a scarf. I guess it's a shawl by all accounts. Or a stole. I'm using Eunny Jang's "Print O' The Wave" pattern in a lace weight wool yarn that I got on eBay for a song. I'm going to take the opportunity to try out Koolaid dyeing at the same time, and try to acheive an obnoxious cherry-pinkish-red color. I think that sounds perfect for my style aesthetic. ;)

And speaking of Eunny—she is now editor of Interweave Knits. I've been reading her blog & drooling over her patterns ever since I figured out that I could knit. Granted, it's not been that long, but it always makes me terribly happy to see people get their amazing dream jobs.

Pictures soon.

24 February 2007

Violet soap

Hot on the heels of last Saturday's batch, I decided that I was going to do another batch of soap on Sunday.

I wanted to do a smaller batch this time, sticking to 1-pound. I also decided against the molds (some of the soap is STILL stuck a week later). Instead, I used the small plastic tray I used for my first batch. This is a rubbermaid drawer organizer, about 12-13" long, and about 4" deep. It holds one pound of soap perfectly. I lined it with freezer paper, and it produces nice square bars.

Anyway, for this soap, I came up with this recipe:
Rice bran : 35%
Soybean oil : 25%
Olive oil : 20%
Coconut oil (76 deg) : 13%
Castor oil : 7%

I'm running low on fixed oils, hence the odd proportions. It's not a particularly hard bar, but it should be really conditioning. I guess the low coconut oil percentage plays a lot into the low hardness. This one rates as 26% hardness, 9% cleansing, 69% conditioning.

Since I had about 3409809 new scents to try, I was super excited to try one of them out. I settled on violet-sassafras, which really, smelled like straight violet. I did something different this time, adding the fragrance and dye with the other oils at the beginning. I don't know if it was this method, or the chill in the room, or both, but it came to trace almost immediately! I threw in a bit of MAC purple & purple irredescent glitter (I almost NEVER use them, so this seemed like a good application) after I had the stick blender in there for a minute or so. The effect is pretty subtle, which is what I wanted.

The oddity of this batch was that I had added a generous amount of blue & red dye at the beginning. Violet soap, so a purple color seemed appropriate, no? Well, as the soap was stirred around for a while, all the dye that was in there seemed to be losing a war against green. I was not sure how that was happening, since I put a fairly generous amount of blue & red in there. So I added more blue. And more red, to no avail. Maybe some ingredient in the fragrance discolors the soap, like vanilla does. The color was a mossy-olivey-greenish-brown. Not unattractive, but not the purple I was hoping for.

Then I spilled. I think about half the batch fell out of the bowl. The stick blender was too heavy, and as soon as I turned my back, the bowl fell over. Screaming "AHHHHHHHH," I grabbed a spatula and dumped the batch back into the bowl. Barehanded. Now, this is not something I'd recommend to people because cold-process soap uses lye, but it did not burn me at all. I guess this goes with the theory that most of the lye is used up in the saponification/trace process. Either that, or I'm a superhero!

I went ahead at this point and poured my soap into the mold. It seemed a little runnier than the last batch, but that one was quite obviously past trace. I put it atop the radiator in the kitchen (under the kitchen counter), covered with a hand towel. This is a warm place, out of the reach of inquisitive kittens. I left it be for a good 24-36 hours to set up before I could cut it into bars. When I unwrapped it, lo and behold, it turned PINKISH PURPLE. What a pleasant surprise. I used my corregated blade to cut them; they seemed a bit stickier than the vanilla batch I made, but I think I just didn't recall that it was soft & sticky. I got about 12 small bars out of it, which are now curing. They smell so good.

And now I will wrestle with the last few bars of the green "Fresh Sugar" soap stuck in the molds. I did manage to get more than half of them out, which is some progress. Unfortunatly, since it was so overly-thick when we poured, the batch didn't settle into the molds properly (especially where there was fine detail) and there were quite a few air bubbles as well. So, most look quite ugly, but thankfully the space ship/rocket ones are a bit better. At least they smell fantastic. I have a few of the others in the freezer (in an egg-shaped knobby mold), hoping that will help them release. The last two? I'm not sure how I'm going to get them out. The mold is not flexible at all, and they're quite firmly smooshed in there. I think I might resort to an x-acto knife and a blow torch. Next time, LINE OR SPRAY THE MOLDS FIRST, DUH.

19 February 2007

Making soap

I had my first introduction to cold-process soap making last year, on a cold, snowy, blustery day. My friend Sara ordered a kit from thesage.com (I think), with pre-measured oils & lye. We mixed the ingredients together, and waited, and waited, and waited until it finally came to trace. We added the recommended amount of scent, poured it into the included cardboard mold, and let it sit out. A few weeks later, Sara gave me some of the cured soap. It was ok, but the bars didn't really retain any of the scent, and the whole process was very non-mystical and un-Mr. Wizard-like.

Last December, I decided I'd like to try this all over again, but without a kit. I wanted to choose the oils, the scent, the coloring, and I wanted to play with dangerous chemicals. I went to the local neighborhood hardware store to get goggles & gloves, and ordered some lye, dye, scents, and fixed oils from bittercreek.net. I used an online lye calculator to configure the ratios and percentages of oils and lye for a 1-pound batch of soap. I came up with:
Olive oil: 45%
Rice Bran oil: 25%
Coconut oil (76 degree, solid) : 15%
Soybean oil: 10%
Castor oil: 5%

I added these together, with the lye, and decided on adding some nice reddish-pink soap dye to the mix. I added the two scents: Vanilla Bean & Pomegranite. It might sound weird, but it's a great combination of a warm & cozy basenote with a bright, fruity top note. Unfortunately, what I did not know was that vanilla-scented fragrance oils will turn soap batches brown. So I was stuck with brown soap. Not that there's anything wrong with that. It's just not reddish-pink. ;) Overall I"m pretty satisfied with it; it lathers well, doesn't dry out my skin, and it has a pleasant scent in the shower.

Last Saturday, after Sara & her bf kidnapped me to help them use up a $50 gift certificate at a Cuban restaurant (btw, total yum), she and I made up a new batch of soap. We used the lye calculator to figure out a 1.5 pound recipe based on what oils I had lying around. We came up with:
coconut oil (76 degree): 33%
soybean oil: 25%
grapeseed oil: 23%
rice bran oil: 12%
castor oil: 7%

I had just gotten a bunch of oil samples from 3 or 4 different companies that day, so we used one of the new scents. It's a dupe of Sugar by Fresh. It is a very clean, bright, sugary citrus fragrance. We also had some powdered pigment that Sara brought over to dump into the soap.

The batch went pretty well, and when it got pretty close to trace, we threw in the green pigment, and about 1.5-2 oz of the fragrance. I think the scent accelerated the trace quite a bit, so when we were finally ready to pour it into the various molds, it was super thick. I think too thick for anything but a loaf-mold. But we smooshed some into various shaped molds, and put them away for the saponification process.

I unmolded two of the bars from the flexible molds today. The soap seems rather soft still; the other not-so-flexible molds won't release, so they are currently in the freezer in preparation for my cursing and wailing in an hour or so. A lot of the mold detail in these has been lost, and I can see pretty lumpy air bubbles in the others. I'm willing to forgive it because they just smell SO amazingly good. Like whoa.

Oddly enough, this batch has a higher hardness factor than the other batch I made. Hopefully the curing process will help firm them up. I think the vanilla soap was pretty mushy when I unmolded it, but that was 2 months ago, and my memory isn't what it used to be. I guess I'll find out in 2-4 weeks time.

I may make another .5 or 1-pound batch later today with another of the scents that I ordered. I tracked down a dupe of Gap's "Om," a scent I wore a lot in college, discontinued long ago. It's a nice woodsy-incensey fragrance, and I cannot wait to scent everything in the world with it. I also found some other great dupes, like Bath & Body Works "Warm Vanilla Sugar," Aveda "Rosemary Mint," and Gap "Grass." But first I have to wash all the dishes in my sink & all the equipment left over from Saturday. I guess it all depends on how lazy I am today, and how many zombies I can kill in this game.

Wish me luck unmolding the other bars!