Monthly Archives: August 2015

Gift Knitting

As I mentioned yesterday, giving soap as a gift is nice but, really, there should be something to go along with the soap. Wouldn’t you agree?


To that end, I found a ball of fingering weight cotton that I’d purchased at the thrift store a few years ago and decided to cast on for a face cloth. Now, this isn’t going to be your regular Cream ‘n Sugar cotton dish/face cloth. Oh no, this is, after all, fingering weight. And I’m working this face cloth on 2.25 mm circular needles. This is a work of love!

The stitch pattern is one I came up with years ago. As a matter of fact, I posted about it on my earlier blog, in 2007. You can see that post here.

How long will it take to knit this one face cloth? I have no idea but over the course of Saturday afternoon, I managed to knit approximately two inches (I figure it will need 8″ for sure), and that was with numerous breaks because of wrist pain. Let’s just put it this way – the person lucky enough to receive this face cloth had better appreciate it! ūüėČ

If you’re interested,¬†you can download the pattern by clicking the link:¬†Waffle Face Cloth. I’ll also post a link to it on my new page…. Patterns. You’ll see it at the top right hand corner of this page.

Yesterday, I decided to do a little bit of experimenting seeing as I still had half a tub of tallow. I found a small batch recipe for experimenting with. There were three options on the page – 100% tallow soap, 100% lard soap, or 50/50 tallow and lard. I chose the latter option. Then, I started playing.

Instead of a water/lye mix, I chose to use some of the goat’s milk that I still have in the freezer. I also decided to colour one half of the soap with some FD & C yellow that I still have on hand from lotion making years ago and scented the yellow with lemon essential oil. To help with exfoliation, I also threw in a teaspoon or so of poppy seeds.

In the other half, I added about half a tablespoon of bentonite clay, which is supposed to help with creating later and helps to detoxify the skin (if you believe in all that).

LemonPoppyseed Soap

This was how it looked after pouring it all into the mold (it only filled half the mold, which is just what I wanted). Looks almost good enough to eat, doesn’t it? (Except for the fact that I can’t stand custard.)

I unmolded it this morning and cut it into slices a little later. The colour is darker than I had anticipated and will, I know, lighten up a bit but it still isn’t a pretty shade of yellow. The scent, however, is very nice, fresh and lemony.


It will, I think, be a good wake up soap. Even though I’m tempted to try more soaps right now, it’s time to stop… at least for this week. I’ve been doing a lot of reading, a lot of researching and for someone who failed chemistry in high school, I’m finding it all very fascinating and there’s so much more I want to try.

Incidentally, I do intend to repost a bunch of my patterns in time. I’ve removed all of them from Ravelry because I simply don’t have the time or energy to make sure they’re 100% correct and/or answer all of the questions I get about them. However, I know that most of the patterns were fine but need reformatting… just to make them prettier. Eventually.¬†

Categories: Blogging, Cooking, Finished, Knitting, Making Soap | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Just A Little Bit Addicted

Ok, you could make the case that I’m just a little bit addicted to this whole soap making thing. In the past three weeks, I’ve made seven (yes, seven… what of it?) batches of handcrafted soap.

Let’s see… there’s Coconut Milk Soap, Castile Soap, Honey and Oat Soap, Lavender Goat’s Milk Soap, Shaving Soap, Java Jump Start, and, as of last night, Borax Soap. Just what is Borax Soap, you might ask?

Well, for one, it’s a pure white soap that contains borax (no surprise there) and beef tallow. Yes, you read that correctly… beef tallow. For those of you who might be scratching your heads wondering what beef tallow is, it’s just like lard (rendered… or melted… pork fat) except that it’s rendered beef fat. Just do a Google search for “beef tallow” and you’ll come up with all sorts of reasons it should be part of your life, whether ingesting it or putting it on your skin. It really is a healthy fat, especially if you’re getting grass fed beef fat.

Tallow soap is one of the hardest soaps you can make, not difficult… hard. It’s a beautiful snowy white and, apparently, lasts and lasts. I know it sure set up quickly. Trinity and I put the soap together after dinner last night and at about 1:30 a.m. (why, yes, I WAS still awake!), I took it out of the mold. When I got up this morning (at 6:30 a.m… that was a good night’s sleep…. not!), I cut it into bars and put it away to cure.

Tallow soap

My first impression when I unmolded it was that it looked like a giant block of lard. At this point, I could have already cut it and it had only been in the mold for about 5 hours.

Tallow soap3

Borax Soap, in the cabinet for curing

I can’t tell you how good it feels when I peek into my spare room and, now, into this cabinet and see all this lovely soap just waiting to be used and shared.


I’ve already started using (and sharing) some of the Coconut Milk Soap and I can report that I love it. It has a smooth creamy lather and feels really nice on the skin. Obviously, after only a couple of weeks, it’s still a bit soft and will benefit from sitting longer but I’m thrilled with it.

Part of the fun of making these soaps, too, is the learning process. In doing some reading, I’ve discovered that my Honey Oatmeal soap “gelled” too fast, almost “volcano-ing” (that’s when the saponification process goes too quickly, basically cooking the soap… from what I understand). That’s not a bad thing as it helps deplete the lye more quickly. I’ve already sampled a bit of this soap and can report that it’s very nice, too.

Of these, two are my soaps: the white one (see how white it is??) and the brown one (Honey and Oatmeal) to the left of it. The rest are soaps I've purchased.

Of these, two are my soaps: the white one (see how white it is??) and the brown one (Honey and Oatmeal) to the left of it. The rest are soaps I’ve purchased.

This morning John commented, “You’re making Christmas presents, right?” Um…. yes, I suppose so. I can’t just hand out bars of soap, though (can I?). So…. I decided that I should knit some face cloths. That would accomplish two things: one, I’ll have something to give with the bars of soap and two, I’ll be working down some of my cotton stash.

Stay tuned… I should have enough knitting done by tomorrow to have something to blog about.


Categories: Blogging, Finished, Just stuff, Making Soap | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Soap Making, Part 3

Ah, Monday, Monday. Back to work. Why does the work week seem so long and the weekend far too short?

I must admit, with all the smoke in the air yesterday, and the resultant gloom, neither of us felt much like doing anything yesterday. John, however, did get out into the flower garden to do some much needed weeding and cleaning up. The poppies are long done, the grasses (ornamental) were looking rather dried out and some of the weeds were taller than the plants. It looks much better now (no, I don’t have a picture; I’d go take one but I’m in my pyjamas and the neighbours have no need to see that).

As I posted in yesterday’s edit, I did make the Java Jolt soap. It smells wonderful – spicy, yet fresh and clean. I think this may end up being one of my favourites.


It doesn’t look anything like the picture on the web page but that’s alright with me. It was fun working with two shades in the same bar.


Right now, it’s a gorgeous shade of brown; it will probably lighten up somewhat by the time it’s fully cured.

With this soap, my soap making adventures are over for a while. There’s enough soap in my spare bedroom to last us a long time. That said, more than one bar of my soap is destined to find its way into the hands of family and friends. I may be making more sooner than expected.

Right now, here in the Okanagan, the sun is just started to make its way above the trees. Once again, it’s a glowing red orb in the sky. There’s still quite a bit of smoke hanging over the landscape but, thankfully, not as thick as it was yesterday. According to today’s weather forecast, we’ll be seeing the pall of the smoke for at least another couple of days. I swear that the glass of water on my bedside table even tastes smoky!

Categories: Cooking, Just stuff, Making Soap, No Knitting | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Soap Making, Part 2

We woke up to a very smoky sky here in Kelowna. From my reading online, a lot of people were under the, thankfully, mistaken impression that Kelowna was on fire. As I say, thankfully there are no fires within our immediate¬†vicinity. Unfortunately, the smoke is coming from the Stickpin fire, burning across the border in Washington state. That fire is now threatening to move into BC and it’s being watched carefully by both British Columbia and Washington State fire officials.


This picture doesn’t quite capture the redness of the sun. It was quite the surprise to step outside and see a red sun up in the sky. We were even able to look at it with binoculars and could very clearly see solar flares on the sun’s surface. It was a truly unique experience. How often do you get to look directly at the sun and not hurt your eye? The smoke, however, is extremely unpleasant. The radio has been warning that outdoor activities should be limited while the air is as smoky as it is. To be honest, it’s affecting me a little; my nasal passages are stinging and… it stinks!

My soap making adventures are continuing and, I have to tell you, it’s almost addicting. Once you’ve made one batch, you start looking at recipes and wonder what this recipe would be like, or that one…. That’s exactly what’s been happening. After last week’s three batches, I’ve made another two batches this week.

The first batch I made yesterday is a bit of a riff on a recipe I found online. It’s a shaving soap for the men (and possibly the women) in my life (not that there are a lot of them.. men, that is). It’s based on this recipe. I didn’t have all of the oils in the recipe and I certainly didn’t want to make 5 lbs of shaving soap. That’s a lot of soap! Using a lye calculator I found online, I altered the recipe to make a smaller (approximately 2 lbs) batch using ingredients I had on hand. I only had to buy a pound of shortening (which includes palm oil and can be substituted 1:1 for said oil).

In the photo, it’s the loaf of soap in the foreground. It’s a little on the dark side right now but as it cures, it will become lighter, like the bits stuck on the paper in the extreme foreground.

Shave and Goat Milk

The second loaf of soap is one that I’ve been wanting to make since I first came across the recipe on Pinterest. The recipe is Nana’s Lavender Goatmilk Soap and it smells amazing! Even though I made this loaf about eight hours after the shave soap, it’s already much harder. I have a feeling this will be a hard, long lasting soap. It, too, should lighten up quite a bit with drying. If you read the recipe at all, you’ll see that it contains powdered lavender flowers in addition to lavender oil. I just happened to have some of that, left over from my cream and lotion making days. It’s nice to be able to use up some of the stuff I still have on hand.

This morning, I cut both loaves into bars… 9 of each; each loaf measures 8.75″ and I cut them into 1″ bars, leaving one slightly smaller bar. I’m even thinking of cutting some of the Lavender Goatmilk bars in half as they’re fairly large bars. It might help make the soap last a little longer, too, although that could just be perception.

Shave and Goat Milk2

Now, there’s just one more soap I’d like to try. This one, which is also the featured image for this post.¬†Can you imagine the scent? Coffee, along with ginger, cinnamon, clove, patchouli, and sweet orange?? It would be like chai meets breakfast (coffee and orange juice?)! The coffee grounds in the soap help to provide exfoliation and/or scent removal (garlic? fish?) in the kitchen. And it looks like a fun technique. Maybe next week.

Edited to add: I did make the Java Jumpstart Soap this afternoon. Tomorrow, I’ll have an idea of how it turned out. It’s my very first attempt at mixing colours. For now, my soaping has come to a halt (we’ll see how long THAT lasts!); I probably have enough soap to last me the rest of my life even though a few bars have already been earmarked as gifts for family members and friends.

In the comments on last week’s post, I asked if anyone knew where I might be able to find lye (not that I’ll need any more for a long time); after phoning my local Home Hardware store, I found out that they carry it (in Aisle 5, thank you very much). Question asked and answered. Coincidentally, had I really looked at the container my mother gave me so many years ago, I would have seen that it, too, had come from Home Hardware.

Categories: Blogging, Finished, Making Soap, No Knitting, The Weather | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Cleanliness Is Next to….

As a result of two completely disparate events, I decided to try my hand, once more, at soap making. When Peter and Ashley were here last week (with the boys), Ashley and I talked about soap making. She’d made some and we talked a bit about that. I still have some books here, including one given to me by my mother, bought when she used to make her own soap with reclaimed animal fats (it was good stuff!), and since it had been years since I’d made soap, I gave her a couple of the books. I still have other books here on the subject and the ones I gave her won’t be missed.

The second event was the fact that I had a couple of days off this week. Our conversation about soap making led me to go hunting online, where I found a couple of simple soap recipes for which I had most of the ingredients.

Making soap always sounds incredibly intimidating to people. When I posted on Facebook that I’d made a couple of batches of soap, the comments were interesting: “Are you going to share the recipes on your blog? You make it sound easy – but – then you make knitting look easy too!” and “It’s only easy for someone with your talent”.¬†

When you stop to think about it, though, the process of making soap is all about the chemical reaction between oil and lye.¬†The process involves, at its very basic, using a water and lye mixture to turn the oil to soap. Yes, you have to be careful because lye is caustic. Simply, all you do is add the lye to the liquid (never the other way around), stir it until the lye has melted, then adding the liquid mixture to the oils and stirring it all together until a custard like mixture has formed. At this point, colourings and scents may be added and the entire mixture poured into molds until firm. Really, that’s all there is to a basic soap. Those creative souls who make artisan soaps take it further and add all sorts of lovely things to their creations (my favourite is made with vanilla and oats). I decided to start with basic soaps as they can be used for anything,¬†from washing your hands and hair (yes, the Cococnut Milk Soap is suitable for using as a shampoo bar) to washing your windows and mirrors (and they won’t fog up when you shower).

I did need to pick up a few supplies because any utensils used for making soap shouldn’t be used for anything food related. I have bowls and pots galore but use them regularly so I decided to make a trip to my local second hand store, Bibles for Missions, to search for the perfect vessel for mixing the lye and liquid, as well as an immersion blender. I managed to find both, and both were on sale!

The immersion blender is an Oster stick blender; the blender attachment separates from the body for easier cleaning and only cost about $5.00. It was marked at $8.00 but, as I said, was on sale. The popcorn pot is like a large flower pot and heavy enough to withstand the temperatures of the lye/liquid mixture (and it does get hot!).

003 The first recipe I tried sounded very rich and almost decadent. For this one, I did have all the ingredients at hand. Coconut Milk Soap uses one can of full fat coconut milk and refined coconut oil along with olive oil. The recipe directions are very easy to follow and the soap came together very quickly. In the picture below, the bottom pan, with the foil, is the Coconut Milk Soap; the two loaf pans and the muffin cups are the Castile Soap, which I write about below.


The second recipe I made is from the same website — Castile Soap. Castile soap is said to be the mildest soap available, made with only olive oil. It is suitable for all skin types, including baby’s delicate skin, and is great for cleaning as well. Again, the recipe was easy to follow and came together quickly. Within one hour, I had both batches prepped and made.

The batches were made on Thursday and left to sit for 24-36 hours, when they would be ready for cutting. Yesterday, I spent almost the entire day in bed with a migraine but I did manage to check on the batches. By then, they had cooled and hardened sufficiently that I could cut them into bars. Then, I went back to bed.

Now, my soaps need to cure. The Coconut Milk soap should be ready to use in about two weeks while the Castile soap should cure for about six weeks. As with all soap, the longer they can dry, the harder they become. As a note, with handmade soaps, you should always keep them somewhere that gives them the opportunity to completely dry between uses (not in your shower soap dish, for instance). The dryer they are, the longer they last.


In the foreground, 16 bars of Coconut Milk Soap; in the background 20 bars and 5 cupcakes of Castile Soap – enough for a few years, I’d say.

I will need to turn these daily to give them the opportunity to dry evenly and, once completely dry, and white, they’ll be stored in a dry place, each wrapped in tissue paper. Perhaps, they’ll even be given as small gifts to appreciative recipients.

Categories: Just stuff, Making Soap, No Knitting | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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