Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Solo Soaping

Solo cold process soapmaking attempt #1.  All in all, not bad.  Not bad at all.

Here's how it went down.

Almost immediately after I got home from Atlanta and fun soap class, I started gathering materials. I was in good shape on the ingredients but needed a few basic supplies and safety equipment.

A trip to the grocery store and I was all set.

The next day, deep breath.  Let's do this.

Measured and melted my oils. Easy peasy.

I took the water and lye outside to mix it since the combination can produce serious fumes.  After an even bigger deep breath (behind face mask),  I poured the lye into the water and stirred.  I think I held my breath which I suppose made the face mask rather redundant, but safety first.

The water is a brownish green color because I had steeped chopped rosemary prior to lye addition. Except for my pounding heart, adding lye was extremely uneventful.  No volcano of chemicals spewed and while it was rather impressive that my room temperature water shot up to 160 degrees, that was the extent of the change.  As it should be.  Phew!

Then I had to wait for the oils and lye water to cool down.  So I paced around the kitchen and obsessively checked the thermometer fourteen thousand times.

When everything finally had cooled enough, lye was poured into the oils and the immersion blender took over.

A little surprisingly, everything mixed up as it should.  Trace was achieved.  Rosemary and grapefruit essential oils were added, and the whole thing was poured into a little cardboard mold lined with freezer paper.

I wrapped the box in a towel and let it sit for 24 hours for the soap to "gel" (still don't know what that really means) and harden.

The next day, I popped a block of soap out of the mold.  It appeared okay.

So I sliced.

Consistency seemed good.  So what next?  Run to the shower and use my new soap?  Sadly, no. Cold process soaping is not an instant gratification kind of craft, and the soap needs to cure 4-6 weeks to fully harden.  My lovely rosemary soap joined the lavender soap from class on a dresser.  And there it remains.

I trimmed these bars to have straight edges, hence the pile of scraps to the left.  The nice thing about scraps is that after a week, I tried to use a few of the bigger pieces.  Scraps held together perfectly, and lathered, and did all the stuff soap is supposed to do.  Good sign!

Not bad for my first batch and for really not know what the hell I'm doing.

Soap victory!

That first batch has already been joined by a second, a lavender mint batch that smells lovely and was a total color fail since I tried to make it lilac and ended up with a pale green.  I have a lot to learn! Loving my new hobby, and I can't wait to experiment with more colors and swirls and different fragrances, and seriously, I'm going to have SO MUCH SOAP.

Friends and family, just know, you will all be getting soap for the holidays!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

I'm going to be so clean

I have way too many hobbies.  Knitting, spinning, weaving, running events, triathlon events, yoga, dog training. I cook, I bake, I tried to make leather wrapped beaded bracelets last year.  All of that and you'd think I'd be too busy to pick up new interests.  You'd be wrong.  My latest one I blame on Whole Foods. Yep, I can trace this all back to a trip to Whole Foods last year when I saw the display essential oil diffuser. The neat little gizmo that turns water and a couple drops of essential oil into a cool vapor that disperses the oil fragrance.

I fell in love. I had no idea the dark hole of essential oils I had just fallen down.

A couple months later, and well my house started smelling a lot less like dog and a lot more like lavender.

Like just about every interest of mine, one thing leads to another so why stop with basic aromatherapy?  Massage oil, bath salts, body butter, lotion bars, and lip balm were soon to follow, which turned into many hours browsing natural beauty product recipes on  Pinterest.  And once you start pinning sugar scrubs, well Pinterest will start showing you all the beautiful natural soap pictures. So there you have it. My yarn is being neglected due to Whole Foods and Pinterest.

As much as I wanted to make my own soap, lye scared the hell out of me.  Hazardous!  Toxic!  Must use safety equipment!  Um, thanks, I'll pass.  I tried making melt-and-pour soap, where you buy a block of soap base, melt it, add color, fragrance, texture, whatever, and voila..soap.  Only the soap sort of sucked, and I went back to dreaming about making real soap from scratch. I read a dozen tutorials and pinned a ton of pretty soap pictures.  But I'm a wimp when it comes to hazardous chemicals that could burn the crap out of me and was never brave enough to attempt the scary lye process on my own.

A trip to Atlanta to visit family and a natural soap shop that offers classes finally solved my problem. My sister wanted to take the class too and we convinced my mom to go to meet the 3-person class minimum, and boom, awesome family outing + someone to hold my hand while I mix lye. Win, win!

Measuring oils:

Listening to the lye instructions.  Safety equipment?  Check.

Final mixing!

End result? Lovely lavender oatmeal soap.

Also, I'm not afraid of lye anymore.  Oh, this is happening.

To be continued...

Friday, August 28, 2015


Look!  I'm posting!  It's only been, what, 6 months?  Clearly the 2015 "return to the blog" resolution didn't take hold, but I think there is a very good reason for that. It just took me 6 months to realize it.  

Once upon a time when I started this little blog, it was mainly about knitting.  Sure the odd vacation or race experience might pop in but mostly, knitting.  At that time in my life I spent a great deal of time occupied with or thinking about knitting.  I was never without a project and always planning the next one.  Or three.  I was a capital “K” Knitter.  You know, where knitting is not so much a hobby but a lifestyle.  The Knitters know what I mean. Then I started knitting less and spinning more.  All good, it’s a related craft.  Posting about spinning and then maybe some weaving made sense.  Fiber crafts still ruled my life, and it was fun to share about them. 

Fast-forward to today.  The spinning wheel sits in a corner, and it’s been a few months since fiber streamed through my fingers.  The loom is in a drawer with a half-woven scarf I started over a year ago.  And knitting?  There is still knitting, but now days go by without picking up needles.  I’m still on Ravelry daily, but rarely am I planning and dreaming about projects the way I used to, and thus, I have a lot less to say about it.  Surprise, surprise, I stopped posting (a fact of which my eldest sister has repeatedly reminded me). 

Am I still a capital “K” Knitter?  Yes, I think so.  But I happen to be many other things too, some of which I wouldn’t mind writing about and sharing with my family and anyone else that wanders over.  Basically this is a long way of saying: 

I haven’t been blogging because I don’t knit as much as I used to, but screw that, I do lots of other stuff that’s pretty cool, at least to me, and I’m going to see what happens when I expand my blogging horizons. 

The editor in me is cringing at that long run-on sentence, but I can’t bring myself to change it. Sometimes grammatically-incorrect just sort of works.  Besides, it’s a blog, not an English test. 

The weird thing about this whole little exercise and proclaiming I’m going to write about non-knitting is that suddenly I’m thinking about my knitting.  And since posts without pictures are sort of boring, at least I can share that one project is almost done.

If I keep dragging my feet on knitting the border, I might finish it right around the time it's cool enough to want to wear it.  See, planning....

Friday, February 27, 2015


I've had major knitting burnout lately (and obviously blogger burnout, but more on that another time). I recently re-organized all my in-progress knitting projects, made a list, went and got a stiff drink when I needed to start a second page of paper for that list, and then did....nothing.  For weeks.  So after this little hiatus, what did I do to get my crafting juices going again?  Buckle down and finish a project, you say?  Knit away and taste the sweet joy of accomplishment?  Well, no.  Not. Even. Close.

Instead I wound yarn and started a new scarf.

Okay, so it's not finishing a project, but that's fine, right? I've wanted to start this pattern (Chadwick) forever. Years, in fact.  No joke.  Literally years.  I queued the pattern on Raverly in 2010.  I think the yarn was purchased in 2011 (at least the gray yarn).  Two years ago, I even blogged that I thought I would be starting Chadwick soon.  So if I wasn't going to finish a current project, what better way to get knitting mojo going?  New project!  Whee!! With my favorite merino cashmere yarn! This can't go wrong.  I'm going to happily knit my new scarf, and it's going to be awesome, and Knitter I will be again!

Three days later I put it aside and instead started to knit....

Wait for it...a facecloth.

Who am I?  And you know what?  I freaking love this facecloth.  I've already started a second one. Drawers of luxury yarn and precious handspun? No thanks, dishcloth cotton is calling my name.

Seriously guys, WTF?

PS.  Of course, facecloth knitting is fine and dandy if it's your thing.  If you love knitting dishcloths, go forth and knit and enjoy.  It's just never been my thing.

PPS.  Yes, I've been away from blogging forever.  Lots to catch up on, of course, but I needed to start back slowly.  Despite my recent knitter apathy, I was fairly productive this fall, so lots of socks soon!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

From A to Z

Ironman Mont Tremblant is a mere 11 days away, which would be much more exciting if I wasn't still hobbling around on an injured foot.  Doc thought my injury would be a 2-3 week recovery, but I'm at 3 weeks now and still can't walk.  I'm still holding out hope it will improve dramatically in the next week and I'll be able to tough it out, but the realist (pessimist?) in me is convinced it's not looking good.  Knitting might be the only thing keeping me sane during this wait-and-see game.

I'm seriously in love with my new sock project.

Pattern: Zigzagular Socks
Yarn:  Gothsocks Asphodel, "Goblin King"

I love the pattern.  I love the yarn.  I love the colors. I love the subtle cables.

So far, I love just about everything about this sock.  I even didn't mind the gusset decrease rounds and I always hate that part of socks.  Mainly I love that I have something to keep me occupied during boring PT appointments.

I'm sort of continuing with my alphabet game of sock patterns, I just skipped from A all the way to Z. Maybe next I'll go back to B and jump back and forth.  Or jump around completely.  Or abandon the whole idea.  Right now I'm just going to go back to this sock.  And the ice packs.

Visit Tami's for more WIP Wednesday!

Friday, August 1, 2014

A is for...

Two finished projects posted in two weeks?  I'm not sure I recognize myself.

Pattern:  Alternate Steps socks
Yarn:  Black Bunny Fibers Superwash Merino, "Audacity"
Needles:  2.25mm
Started:  May 2014
Finished: July 2014

For years I've been trying to knit down my sock yarn stash.  Despite using up several skeins in the last year and adding almost none (maybe 1 skein in 2013 and it's already been knit up), the drawer always seems to stay full. Well, enough is enough. I've been drooling over sock yarn recently but refuse to add to the stash without seriously knocking it down first.  Last fall reminded me that I'm pretty capable of busting out socks, and since I don't have a ton of projects that I'm really jazzed about, I'm hitting the sock patterns hard.

But I'm also indecisive and I need something to guide me when it comes to picking out patterns.  Usually I rely on KALs on Ravelry, but I got it stuck in my head a few months ago that I should start knitting patterns for each letter of the alphabet (I think a group did this a few years ago).  I did a pattern search, sorted alphabetically, and picked my first pattern:  Alternate Steps.

I didn't exactly whip these out in 2 weeks, but 1 skein down nonetheless.  And not just any skein.  I believe this was my oldest skein of sock yarn in the stash, purchased in 2008.  I started 2 different patterns with this yarn over the years and always ripped pretty quickly.  It was time for this yarn to go.

Now to attack the rest.

I did an honest assessment of the sock yarn stash this week.  About 30 skeins.  It's go time.  Convenient timing since I happen to have a little more knitting time these days.

For 6 months Ironman training went amazingly better than expected.  After finishing a 20 mile run, the longest of the training cycle, with no significant problems, I really felt like I was going to make it to that start line all systems go--a huge relief after spending most of 2013 on the injury bench.  Exactly one week later and 30 days before race day, I limped home the last mile of an 8 mile run and have been sidelined since, unable to put weight on my left foot.  Doc has confirmed it's a soft tissue injury, so I'm lucky in that it's not a stress fracture, which would have ended all hope of racing on August 17.  Now I play the wait-and-see game and hope it heals up enough to for me to start the race and then holds up for 7+ hours of pedaling and a marathon. In the meantime, I'm spending a lot of time in the water, and part of me thinks this is karma's way of getting me back for skipping so many swim workouts....if so, eff you, karma.

The bright side?  With 6 hour bike rides and 3 hour runs off the schedule, I have considerably more time to sit on my ass and knit.  I think I'll go wind some more sock yarn.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Baby Tea Leaves

Whoa, it's been awhile since I've finished a knitting project.  I believe this is my first "finished object Friday" of 2014.  Of course, this is only my 4th post of 2014.  Knitting and blogging have sadly been a little further down on the priority list than usual, but at least I managed to churn out a cute baby sweater! And even managed to finish it up before the baby was born.

Pattern:  Baby Tea Leaves by Melissa LaBarre
Yarn:  Madelinetosh Pashmina, "Robin Red Breast"

It's an adorable little sweater.  I've always admired the adult version but something about doubling the number of stitches to knit the runched sections always deterred me (not to mention my lack of sweater knitting lately, but that's another story).  Baby runched sections went quickly enough that I finished them before I had time to start getting annoyed.

The good stuff:  It's cute, I finished something, and Madtosh Pashmina is really lovely to knit with and makes a beautiful finished object.  Soft with a little sheen and nice drape.  No clue how it will hold up for a baby, but the little one will probably outgrow it before it makes it out of the wash.

And of course, awesome buttons from Jennie the Potter:

In retrospect, I think white buttons on a red sweater is a little too much contrast, and if I could do it over, I might have done a white sweater with some red trim.  Something to think about if I decide to use the 3 leftover buttons for a new project.