Christmas Apron 2014

I recently visited my daughter and she was wanting a cute apron.  Bingo!  Mom can sew!  (IF ANY OF JOIE’S FRIENDS ARE READING THIS, DON’T TELL HER!  I don’t think she checks my blog!)  So, I made one for her for Christmas and it’s reversible to boot.  Hope she loves it.  I used a pattern from Sugar Pie Chic, the Simply Chic Apron pattern.  Very cute, and easy to make.  Also, the instructions are good.

My daughter loves mermaids and I had found a mermaid themed fabric last year with her in mind.  I figured I might as well make it reversible, since it doesn’t take much more work.   As you scroll through the pictures, keep in mind that I made a number of changes to this from the original instructions.

  • I made it reversible
  • I drafted a new pocket
  • The changes I made significantly changed the construction steps in the pattern directions.  Unless you’re an experienced seamstress, just follow the instructions.

Here is the bodice, one side has the mermaids, the other side is a coordinating water print.  It’s hard to tell from the picture, but the bodice is darted for better fit.  And of course, neck ties at the top.




Here is the reverse side of the bodice.


Here is the skirt.  The skirt is gathered, waistband is attached.



Skirt ties pinned on and ready to stitch in place.





Below, bodice and skirt has been stitched to waistband.  The waistband is pinned in place to be topstitched.





Taa Daa!   Finished apron, the mermaid side.  I drafted the cute heart pocket.


joies apron


Here’s the reverse side.   The bodice looks darker in the pic, but is the same fabric as the skirt.







Soap Challenge December 2014

A spoon swirl challenge this time around via Amy Warden’s Great Soapworks Challenge.  I love spoon swirls and have had something in mind, so here goes!  My vision is a soap that brings to mind the breathtaking Alaskan Northern Lights.

Northern_Lights_Over_Portage_River_Valley_Alaska[1]    20141208_112918    20141208_112933

The beautiful colors dance, ripple and undulate across the Northern sky.  One of our great winter pleasures is a soothing soak in the hot tub while watching the stars and the Northern Lights.  Maybe throw in a glass of wine, too!  Rather than a graphic reproduction of the landscape, mountains and night sky, I like the idea of a suggestion of the snow-covered Alaska Range mountains.   I attempted to suggest the mountains and the colors I associate with our winter night sky.  My unmolded, uncut soap above.

This soap is the third batch I’ve made with this idea in mind.  The first are lovely, but this is close to my idea!  Here are some of the finished bars.

north lights 2

I used my go to recipe that includes olive oil, palm kernel and palm oil, coconut, shea and cocoa butters, and castor oil.  It is an awesome recipe and makes a luscious moisturizing soap.  Colors are Nuture  Vibrance micas.  I soaped at about 105 degrees F.

Stick-blended to light trace then separated out about a cup of batter into three separate cups to color.  (Next time, I will use less batter for finer swirls)  I added titanium dioxide to the remaining batter.

My micas are premixed in a bit of olive oil, so added a bit of teal, purple and apple green to each of the cups of batter.  (not all colors in each cup; one color to each cup)

north lights 1

Looks a bit like a hanger swirl, but really is a spoon swirl!  To do this look, I poured about 2/3 of plain batter into a TS mold.  Then poured from a higher level the colors, one after the other.  Things were getting a bit thick, maybe honey thick.  I spoon swirled from one end of the mold to the other, then made a few more swirls randomly through to make sure all was swirled.  Next, spooned the rest of the plain batter into the mold.  Then I spoon swirled, only trying to go into the area between the plain and the previously spoon swirled part.  I did not come up to the top.  I wanted to keep the top white.  I finished with texturing the top to suggest mountains, and added snowflake glitter (appropriately, I’d say!)


When planning the fragrance, I wanted cool, outdoorsy, magical.  A tall order!  I blended a combo of EO’s including lavender, fir, patchouli, citrus and rosemary.  Love the way this smells!

north lights 3

And one more of the cut bars in my soap room.  These aren’t cleaned up yet, but you can see the lovely variation in the bars, just like the ever-changing Northern Lights!  (The lighting in there is not the best.)

north lights 5

Hmmm…this is a sticky wicket.



Geek alert!  Soapmaking technique stuff ahead.

(Update and unmolded at the bottom.)

I’m on a quest for an awesome individual mold swirl.  I have tried numerous batches and different methods.  Varying degrees of success, and some of them look beautiful, really great.  But still…I search for stunning.

moose and bear blu,purple, gr  paws soap 9.22.14          tie dye moose soap

The problem:  What pours out of the pot first determines the look of an individually molded soap. Whatever ends up on the bottom of the mold is what you see when it’s unmolded.

I tried a basic “in the pot” swirl”:  Pour color in a couple spots in plain batter and but I found the colors  muddled in the individual mold.

Next, tried pouring my colored batter in stripes on the plain batter.  Better, but not as good as I hoped.

Tried flicking colored batter across the molds, then pouring.  This actually worked really well, guarantees the colors will show in the finished soap.  (in the top two pics above, I did both flicking/ dribbling colored batter on the mold and also stripes of color batter on plain, then pouring)   But still…

As Winnie the Pooh says, “think, think, think.”  How about a mica-oil swirl, only instead of on top of a loaf,  dribble the mica-oil mixture on top of the plain batter as it is poured?  This is what I tried tonight.

I put about a half tablespoon of olive oil in a small stainless steel cup and added a heaping teaspoon of mica and mixed well.  Since I was experimenting, these are ballpark measurements; I mixed in enough mica for good rich color but still pourable/dribbly.

My soap batter was my regular go to recipe; excellent, but does tend to reach trace moderately quickly.  Knowing this, I soaped at lower temperatures.  Oils were about 95 F and lye mixture was about 100 F.  I wanted to work cooler, but…I got impatient.

I stick-blended to very light trace,  dribbled my mica-oil in lines on top of the batter and then poured into the molds.  I found that as I poured, it seems to work better if I started at the edge of a mold and moved the bowl slowly forward.  (Guess I’ll know when I unmold)

So, here are three just poured using this method.  I’m hopeful it works.  Possible problems I considered are oily stripes through the soap, too much oil for the lye amount.  I don’t think these things will happen, but who knows?  Sure pretty though.

Unmolding tomorrow evening.


And here they are, unmolded.  I like ’em!

Unmolding soaps

Fair warning.  If you are not  a soapmaker, this will likely be a bit boring and nerdy.

If you make soap and use individual plastic molds, this may help you.  I use silicone molds and also the Milky Way plastic molds.  The silicone are, hands down, superior for ease of removing soap. I make cold process soap and have struggled with the more intricate plastic molds, trying to unmold soap without damaging it.

I figured it out today!

1.  Make and pour your soap.

2.  I let it sit 24 hours and then into the freezer for a couple hours; it needs to be hard!

3.  Put the mold soap side down on your work surface and use a heat gun on it for a few seconds.  I have had my soap fall right out perfectly intact.  I did 6 or 8 today and all came out perfectly.  In my picture, they are still cold and have condensation on them.  But, perfect! moose and bear blu,purple, gr

Is that lye soap?

Ruth Esteves, a soapmaker, blogger and teacher, wrote a wonderful piece on her blog about lye in soap.  She graciously gave permission for me to share it here.

“Soapmakers often get asked about the use of lye in their soap. The fact is that lye is indeed used to make soap. While in many minds, “lye soap” brings up images of grandmas and washboards and red, red hands, anyone who has used handmade soap knows that it is quite mild and moisturizing. Sound like a contradiction? Well, the truth is that the lye was there, but now it’s gone. Is it magic? Sort of. It’s chemistry!”

To learn more, check out Ruth’s blog.


I am certified!

No, not what you’re thinking.  In April, I attended the 2014 Handcrafted Soap & Cosmetics Guild conference in Tuscon, AZ.  Four fabulous days of whirlwind learning, meeting soapmakers from around the world, and enjoying an incredible resort, Loews Ventana Canyon.  One of my goals was to pass the exams for my advanced cold process/hot process soapmaker certification.  I am thrilled to announce I did indeed get certified!  This involved not only a written exam, but creating and making a recipe, all the associated recordkeeping, and submitting the soap for judging.  I received a 100% on my soap.  So, when you use one of my soaps, you can be assured I know the how and why of making an awesome bar of soap.

Here are a few pics of  the area I stayed.  When this resort was built, they didn’t move any Saguaros.  They built around them.




cactus and flowers, tuscon 2014

New soaps!

Here are some of my latest soaps.  I haven’t posted in so long, figured I should update this blog.

If you’re a gardener or work and get your hands dirty, this is the ticket.  My new Coffee Kitchen & Garden Soap.  Made with luxurious soothing and moisturizing oils, fresh strong coffee, and the coffee grinds.  Lightly scented with essential oils.  You’ll love this soap.

coffee kitchen & garden soap II



I got a new mold and have been played with that.  Here are two new soaps that have you dreaming of summer in Talkeetna.  Goes without saying, full of the best skin loving oils, tie dye, and a scent that says groovin’ in Talkeetna.

rainbow squeeze swirl 1 & 2


And, another new round mold.  This is a fabulous rose geranium, jasmine, lavender and patchouli blend.  Incredible!  (Sort of cosmic looking, don’t you think?)


Talkeetna Rose Soap


My, where does the time go…

Gardening, making soap, lip balms, body creams, sewing. That’s where it goes!
A big deal for us is that we are getting two high tunnels this year. They are en route and should be here this coming week. Should vastly improve our gardening and extend our season. So excited.

If you haven’t seen them, my soaps are getting a new look. A craggy top reminiscent of our beautiful Alaska range.

lavender rosemary mint soap 6.22.14


Sewing is so satisfying.    Here’s a recent block I’ve been working on.  I just love the stars and the fabric.  The technique is called Disappearing Hourglass by Jenny Doan of the Missouri Star Quilt Co. She is a kick and makes some great tutorials.


Disappearing pinwheels blocks



Recent sewing projects

A few things I’ve been working on for me and for family.  With my wonderful Janome 7700 and her partner Babylock Jane, I can accomplish so much, easier and in far less time.

This is a quilt I’m working on.  It’s not sewn together yet; still working on the layout.  After a while, I get dizzy from so many options.  I adore this fabric.

in the park quilt

Here’s another one, blocks in progress.  I think I like the yellow centers; looks like blazing suns.  If my son and his wife like these, it will be for them.

New York Beauty blocks

More options with another project.  I love piecing these stars.


This is a little pincushion owl in progress.  She’s a bit saggy, need to add more stuffing.  This was a free Craftsy pattern download.  A plug for Craftsy here.  It is an amazing site with tons of online classes.  The classes are professionally done and videoed with excellent instructors.


So, out to sew.  Will post more pics later.

Update:  Here’s my owl finished.



Soaping glitch

I haven’t made soap for a couple weeks; been working at my “real” job a lot. Today was the day. It’s been windy and cold here. We have a woodstove in the shop where I soap and it wasn’t really warm yet, but I started. Got my lye mixed and cooling, then started to weigh the liquid oils. Hmm, frozen. As frozen as oils can be. I put the bottle on the wood stove, where the fire was sputtering along. And then, the power went out. Very dark in my windowless room. I mixed micas by flashlight till I dropped it and it wouldn’t work. As my oils were melting on the woodstove, my scale timed out. So, quick calculating to figure out how much more oil I needed. Finally, I got enough oil and figured I’d pour the lye over the oils to melt them. No, temp there 64 degrees. Finally realized even if I got the oils to the right temp, no power meant no stick blender :*( Finally, power back, made my soap and I think it may be … pretty. We’ll see. Too much drama.  Cutting tomorrow.