Great Gifts: Cute Head Gear!

Gift giving season is upon us, and I absolutely love to give (and get) handcrafted items! I’ve been busy busy busy lately working up lots of cute hats, headbands, and bows for my kids, friends, and customers. Along with making about a hundred pounds of soap, this is what I’ve been up to lately!

Here’s a stash of crochet hats that I worked up for a friend’s baby girl.

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Crochet hat stash

The two on the left are butterfly stitch beanies. I found a few good tutorials for that stitch on YouTube, modified for sizing, then added my own different brims for a cute twist on the styles. The green and white hats on the right are made with puff stitches, and they are so cozy. The middle darker purple hat is a shell stitch body with simple double crochet crown. It looks lacy when on, and I love the scalloped edges. 

Here’s another shell hat I made in hot pink.

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Shell Crochet Hat

I purposefully didn’t embellish these hats with attached crochet flowers because I want them to be interchangeable. I previously sent my friend several flowers in lots of colors, styles, and sizes to use as hair clips. Those same hair clips can do double duty now! Clip flowers or bows to hats to match every outfit. Then when you get where you’re going, the hat comes off and the clip goes into hair! It’s so much fun to have interchangeable flowers and hats, and they can all be used on headbands, too! The possibilities are endless.

Speaking of headbands… Here are a few custom orders that I recently made. They turned out so pretty that I wanted to share them with you! 🙂

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Custom Wedding Headbands

I made these headbands to match beautiful wedding rehearsal and flower girl dresses for a one-year-old cutie, but I think these could be worn by ladies of any age! They’re done with satin rolled roses, big and small, as well as satin puff flowers, some chiffon poofs and tulle flowers, and bling of course! All are attached to soft sparkle elastic.

This next custom headband set was made with a customer’s special fabric scraps, all the same print but in different colors.

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Custom Fabric Flower Headband Set

First, I made a different flower out of each fabric and then paired it with matching bling, solid flowers and elastic. Then I made one large flower (on the left) out of all three fabrics combined. I left it with raw edges so it’ll turn a bit “shabby” over time as well. It’s hard to see in the picture, but that big flower has fluffly, springy 3-D petals all around (it’s not flat like it appears).  So cute! These headbands will be awesome with everyday outfits, and won’t they be so cute in pictures?

And since there are so many cute photo opportunities this time of year, check out this festive prop hat! A friend asked me to make an elf hat for her new grandson, and it was so adorable that I made one for my youngest babe, too.

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Elf Hat

This one is a simple half double crochet stitch for the entire hat. I’m planning to make 4 more for my other kiddoes using the same colors but in various row formations and styles. I‘ll be sure to share a photo of my five messies wearing their hats IF I can get them all to keep the hats on long enough to get a photo!

If you happen to be interested in giving any gifts like these and would like more info, please feel free to contact me! I’d be happy to give you tips and info if you want to do it yourself, and I’m also happy to make custom orders for you. Let’s get creative!

November Soap Challenge Design: Go Illinois!

I-L-L-I-N-I!!! We’re big Illinois fans around here, so I decided to make a soap to match for this month’s Great Cakes Soapworks Soap Challenge Club. November’s challenge was to make a design on the bottom of the soap using squeeze bottles. High contrast colors work really well to show off the design. What better than orange and blue?

Illini Energy Soap

Illini Energy!

I used my usual soap recipe with the fragrance “Energy,” which smells just like oranges. Perfect in both name and color, right?! It’s a nice bright scent, great for both guys and gals who love the Fighting Illini.

According to Amy’s (awesome-as-usual) instructions, slab molds will show more of the squeeze bottle design. My problem: no slab mold. So, of course, I improvised. I have an old tupperware container that’s about 5 inches wide and 13 inches long, but it is slightly curved and has a funky texture on the bottom. To straighten and flatten it out, I bolstered the insides and bottom with a few layers of thick cardboard.

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I folded up my freezer paper to fit my mold, measured out where my soaps would be positioned, then drew a big “I” on the wrong side of the freezer paper where each bar of soap would be. I was able to get 5 bars of soap in my mold.

By the way, have you ever tried to figure out how much oil to use to fit your mold? I found a great formula for it a few years ago. (Sorry, I can’t remember where I found it; five kids + lots of missed sleep = mommy-brain memory loss). It’s really simple:

width of mold x length of mold x depth (or height of soap) x 40% = ounces of oils to use

For my make-shift slab mold, the formula was:

4″ x 13″ x 1″ x 40% = 21 ounces of oils

After making my soap, I divided it into 3 separate cups for my orange, white, and navy colors. I used white and orange soap in my squeeze bottles, putting the white border in my mold first, then filling in the “I” with orange soap. The most difficult task was creating straight lines of uniform thickness with the white soap. They are certainly not perfect lines, but they’re not too bad for my first try!

Making Illini Energy

Straight lines are difficult, especially with squeeze bottles! And square corners are hard, too!

After letting the design set for a few minutes, I carefully spooned on the navy soap.

Making Illini soap

The navy soap was pretty set up already as I tried to get it into the mold without disturbing the orange and white. I kind of made a mess!

With the remaining orange and white soaps, I did an in-the-pot swirl for a bit of added interest. The final result is orange and blue from every angle.

Illini swirl

Illini swirl

Unwrapping Illini soap

Unwrapping my Illini soap was exciting! I actually had dreams about this unmolding!

Illini Energy

I think I may have overheated the soap in the oven. It has a bubbly film (maybe glycerin) all over the navy and orange bottom. Interesting. It’ll be gone after one use of the soap, leaving a nice smooth and shiny surface.

Like I said, it’s not perfect, but it sure is fun! Great soap for all of those Illinois fans around here.

Illini Energy

Go Illinois!

I’m going to try another squeeze bottle design soap again soon. It was fun to do, and now I want a real slab mold. There’s always something else to build or buy, isn’t there?!

Rebatching My Big Batch

Rebatching soap is something I’ve read a lot about, but I’d never tried it until now. It was never necessary until now!

Remember that triple batch of milk soap that I made a few weeks ago? When I cut the soap, it seemed to be perfectly fine. No big air pockets, no zap, no drying or burning when used on my hands. But after a few weeks of curing, I picked up a bar and found some large crystals that had seeped out of the soap. Since I made the soap, I’ve had this nagging feeling. You know? That gut feeling that something was wrong. I examined every bar and picked out one bar that had a large amount of seeping crystals. I dug into the soap, and sure enough, I found a small pocket of lye. As I had feared from the beginning, there must have been some undissolved lye in the milk when I added it to the oils. Oh, the horror! Soap that can burn your skin! What to do, what to do?

Rebatch! Save the soap!

When I originally made that triple batch of soap, I measured and remeasured, and remeasured again. I am absolutely certain that I used the correct amounts of oils, lye, and milk. The lye simply didn’t get completely dissolved before going into the oils. Since I knew the exact problem, I knew I could save my soap, all TWELVE pounds of it!

I went back to the drawing boards, did some more research, and came across this post about rebatching from the Midlife Farm Wife, an awesome fellow central Illinois soaper. (By the way, Donna is infinitely funnier and cooler than me. You should definitely check out her blog! I’d love to meet her, but we live about 3 hours apart and both have farms to run. Her farm is real with pigs and cows; I’m raising five messy babies on mine.)

Since Donna’s method seemed pretty simple, I decided to try the crock pot to rebatch my soap. Like the good girl that I am, I followed her instructions for my first rebatching experience. I grated up 8 bars of soap, added 4 ounces of milk (about half a cup) and 1 ounce of sweet almond oil to the pot, set it on high, covered, and stirred it all about every 15 minutes.

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Check out that sliver of soap. It’s lighter in the middle where it hadn’t fully dried out yet, and it was much softer. Soap is awesome! Grating it all up is not so awesome…

After about half an hour, the pieces were beginning to melt. Then after about an hour and a half, it was all melted and gloppy. It never fully gelled again like in Donna’s picture, but it seemed to be getting dry and was beginning to burn around the bottom edges.

Rebatching soap

Here’s the gloopy, gloppy soap after about an hour and a half.

I added a tiny bit more milk, making the soap more fluid, and I also added a splash of green apple fragrance. After a good stir, it went into my medium sized mold. The scent is absolutely divine! The original oatmeal, milk & honey scent comes through with the finishing bright notes of apple. I’m calling it Honey Crisp Apple. YUM!

The first batch went extremely well, but it left quite a bit of room in my large crock pot once melted down. For the second batch, I grated up 12 bars and increased the milk and oil accordingly. It took a bit longer to get completely melted, but everything else went just as anticipated. At the end of the cook, I added some more oatmeal, milk & honey fragrance, molded it, and pressed in some bubble wrap to get a honeycomb look.

Since I’d been cooking soap for 4 hours already, I thought I might as well finish it all in one day! For the third and fourth batches, I used both a large and a small crock and cooked it at the same time. Into the small pot went 5 bars grated soap, and another 12 bars went into the large pot again. My arms and shoulders were actually sore the next day from grating all that soap! I added some lavender essential oil to the small pot to get Lavender Milk & Honey soap, very comforting and relaxing. To the last large batch, I added some vanilla fragrance, yielding Vanilla Milk & Honey.

These pictures show the differences in size and shape of some of my handmade wooden molds.

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Small, medium, and large wooden molds filled with rebatched soap. I’m not crazy about the tops, but that’s what happens with most hot process soaps as they’re smushed into the molds.

Bars of rebatched soap

Bars of rebatched soap. From left to right: Honey Crisp Apple, Lavender Milk & Honey, Oatmeal Milk & Honey, and Vanilla Milk & Honey.

Bars of rebatched soaps

See all the pretty speckles in the different soaps? Lots of oatmeal and honey goodness packed in every bar!

I’ve tried out several different widths of molds in an attempt to find my favorite size bar of soap. I think I’ve settled on 3 inches long by 2.5 inches wide by 1-1.25 inch thick. What’s your favorite size?

I’m quite happy with my final products. Even though I didn’t add any interesting bits of colored soap like Donna did, I’m pleased with the simple marbled look of my soaps. The darker bits of soap speckled throughout must be from the honey as it heated and caramelized during rebatching. Dear ol’ hubby likes the looks of these bars better than cold process. After a week of curing, they’re back to being very hard, creating a bubbly, yet very creamy lather.

Rebatched soaps

Not only are they different sizes, but different colors as well. You can already see how much adding vanilla browns the soap. The soap on the far right (Vanilla Milk & Honey) will eventually turn a rich, deep shade of brown.

I hope that I don’t need to rebatch again anytime soon, but I will definitely do this again. This hand milled soap has a look all its own, and the final bars really are very lovely to use. Now that I know that I can do it, I can have some fun trying new scents, colors, and additives that don’t hold up well during cold process soaping. Once again, I’ve found lots more to try! It’s never-ending.