Soap Making Magic

The temperature is rapidly rising and it’s beginning to feel like summer has officially arrived here in Southern California.

Warmer weather means more soap making at the Lavender and Olive household and I already have three batches of new creations curing in the wooden crates, waiting patiently until they’re ready to be loved and enjoyed, in about four weeks.

My latest batch is this all-natural Olive Oil soap with Eucalyptus, Lavender, Rosemary and Tea Tree scents.

And just for fun, I made this 30-second clip capturing how the oil and lye mixture turn into soap! I hope you enjoy watching the transformation! I’ll make a full, “how to” video tutorial soon!

Jelly Roll Quilt

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This quilt has been sitting in my craft queue for, like, forever. I don’t remember exactly when I started it but it must be almost a year ago because the receipt from Missouri Quilt Company where I got this Birch Farm Design Roll from shows that it was purchased in May 2015.  eek

One thing I really want to improve about myself is my craft follow thru skills. I get so excited to start something new but I quickly lose interest and I too often let the unfinished projects rot away in the corner of the closet. And the unfortunate thing is that these projects are usually about 85% complete. All I need to do is, say for knitting, just seam the pieces together, or, for sewing, bind the edges, etc.

For this particular Jelly Roll quilt, all I need to do is hand quilt the pieces together and just sew the bias tapes around the entire thing … and Bob’s your uncle! … or voila! … or ta da! … or insert whatever expression that tickles your fancy!  The hard part is already done and I just have, maybe, 4 hours of work left.

So yeah, my goal for this month is to complete this project once and for all! I hope to post the photos of the finished project here soon!

Handmade Soaps for a Good Cause

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My daughter’s pre-school is hosting a bazaar fundraiser this weekend and was looking for some handmade items to sell, so I donated a few handmade soaps that I already had on hand.  They are the lavender-scented Olive Oil Soaps and Honey Soaps.

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I always struggle with creative packaging ideas for soaps … but I decided to go simple this time and just wrap the soap in wax paper and decorate it with a lovely floral washi tape I purchased from this online shop in Japan called Cafe de Savon, which, by the way, is an amazing shop that sells the best acrylic soap molds E.V.E.R.

I hope people find them interesting and decide to take them home!

Most Luxurious Soap

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One of my favorite soaps on the market today is Rose Geranium with Rosehips and Shea Butter from The Soap Kitchen. It’s incredibly decadent and its feminine, rose-like scent is out of this world (Although rose and rose geranium are from a different plant family, they do share a very similar floral scent). I feel that this soap captures everything I love in handmade soaps – warm color, luxurious lather, with a subtle but a splendid presence of flower-y sweetness.

I pick one up every time I go into the lovely store in Old Town Pasadena and I must say that it’s a lot more frequent than I’d like to admit.

I tried recreating these sumptuous soaps at home and I’m in love with how they came out! It’s no secret that I totally tried to replicate my favorite The soap Kitchen soap as best as I could (imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right?). Although they’re not exactly the same, I think I was able to capture the essence of my favorite soap in this handmade version.

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Most Luxurious Soap
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1200 g batch

Olive oil (72%): 864 g
Palm oil (14%): 168 g
Coconut oil (14%): 168 g

Distilled water: 467 g
Lye (85% discount): 150 g

Scents:

Rosewood essential oil: 160 drops
Ylang Ylang essential oil: 100 drops
Organic Geranium Rose essential oil: 30 drops
Citronella Java essential oil: 50 drops
Lavender essential oil: 10 drops

Colorant:

Madder root powder: 1 teaspoon

Additive:

Crushed dried rose petals: 3 tablespoons

Note: The scent of citronella Java essential oil was pretty dominant during the curing stage but it slowly neutralized into a subtle lemon-y scent. The color also became a lot more subtle as the soap bars dried. At first, the soap loaves were deep burgundy and I panicked. I’m happy that it ended up becoming a lovely dark pink hue.

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Happy soaping!

The Perfect Soap Drying Rack

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My friend D recently introduced me to this lovely café in Pasadena called Lincoln. We had an early lunch there after running a lap briskly walking and conversing around Rose Bowl one morning.

I thought about taking photos of the chic industrial restaurant interior, the colorful array of candies and pastries that fill the cafe, as well as breakfast and lunch served beautifully on simple, white ceramic plates and bowls with edible flower or two on top, but I couldn’t because my two-and-a-half-year-old daughter took hostage of my iPhone to watch cartoon during the meal (Mom of the Year here, I know). Instead, please do read Jonathan Gold’s Los Angeles Times article detailing all the delicious dishes it serves up!

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So, why talk about the restaurant when I have no photos or stories to share, you may ask? Well, it’s because I found something perfect for my soap-making adventure there! How random, I know!

Next door to the café is an auxillary gift shop, where patrons can find hand-selected, Anthropologie-esque items such as books, candles, ceramics, etc. While browsing the shop, I came across a stack of wooden crates available for sale for $8 each. I picked one up and knew immediately that it would be perfect to complete my soap drying rack.

I’ve used shoe rack to dry the handmade soaps but I had to get rid of it once my daughter was able to crawl. I could not longer have anything on the floor where she can easily reach. I recently purchased three-tiered oven rack but couldn’t find anything that would fit. Then came these Loncoln-logo-branded creates!  Yipee!  I purchased two but went back two days later to pick up four more.  The search for the perfect drying rack is finally over and I couldn’t be happier!

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I’m currently drying Olive Oil soap with dried spearmint leaves on the top rack, and another Olive Oil soap scented with Eucalyptus and Lavender Essential Oils on the bottom.

RECIPE: Double Avocado Soap

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I named my business, as well as this blog, Lavender and Olive because they are two of my favorite ingredients in a soap recipe, as well as to eat. But it could have easily been called Olive and Avocado, or Avocado and Lavender, or any combination of the three because, holy guacamole, do I love my avocados. They are equally delicious in handmade soap, and in a sandwich.

I would have to say that this Double Avocado Soap is my favorite original recipe. It has a beautiful milky white color that I love in a soap, and a nice firmness that I strive to achieve in each bar of soap I create. But the most amazing part is the stiff and bubbly foam it creates when you lather it with a body sponge and your skin will feel baby soft all day long. It’s simply amazing.

I scented the soap with Yuzu fragrance oil.  The lovely sweet citrus scent is so refreshing that I kept smelling my skin all day long.

Confession:  I was a little hesitant to share this original recipe because I wanted to keep it all to myself 😛 but it’s so great that it needed to be shared.  If you’re going to make just one recipe from this blog, I hope this will be the one.

Happy lathering!

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Double Avocado Soap (Yuzu Scented)
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Ingredients:

Avocado Oil (40%): 480 g
Olive Oil (30%): 360 g
Avocado Butter (10%): 120 g
Palm Oil (10%): 120 g
Coconut Oil (10%): 120 g

Distilled water: 467 g
Lye (85% discount): 145 g

Scents:

Yuzu Fragrance Oil: 4 tablespoons
Lavender Essential Oil: 10 drop
Peppermint Essential Oil: 10 drops
Spearmint Essential Oil: 10 drops
Chamomile Essential Oil: 10 drops

Emotional Highs and Lows of Soap Making

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The incredible sense of euphoria I experience from looking at a freshly unmolded soap loaf with perfect edges and smooth surfaces, or soap bars sliced into individual squares and lined up perfectly onto a wooden crate to dry, convinces me that I’m officially a soap addict, and a slight obsessive compulsive.

But it’s easy for me to get really, really disappointed too when a loaf comes out with some sort of imperfection, like discoloration or uneven surfaces, and I even consider tossing it out and start over when that happens. The inner soap perfectionist in me (and this is not a compliment) can’t handle it!  I don’t, of course, throw away an otherwise perfect handmade soap loaf, but I definitely experience extreme emotional roller coaster when it comes to soap making.

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I experienced an unbelievable high when I unmolded two loaves of all-natural Olive Oil Soap the other day. They both came out so perfect, with beautiful cream color, perfect edges, and silky-smooth exterior, and I couldn’t be happier. Then I hit the lowest low shortly thereafter when I discovered that my two-and-a-half year old daughter got to them and made giant dents on, no only one, but both loaves, while they were drying on the dining table! Noooooo! 😥 😥 😥  I was in foul mood for the rest of the day.

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Luckily, I was able to slice the loaves into individual squares and salvage most of them, with an exception of two with the imprints. So all in all, everything worked out fine at the end, but man, this soap-making thing is not good for my mental health!

I will share more information about the Olive Oil soap on a separate post. In the meantime, I’m going to go lay down and recover now.

#FirstWorldProblem … I know …

Skylark Stole

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Introducing my latest finished project: Skylark Stole from the book, Custom Knits Accessaries, by Wendy Bernard. It was knit with four skeins of Frog Tree Meriboo MW yarn in purple (7511).

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My friend T visited me from Portland a few months ago, and brought with her four skeins of lovely, 70% merino wool / 30% bamboo blend from her neighborhood yarn shop called Dublin Bay Knitting Shop for my birthday. The awesomeness was two-fold: I’ve never worked with these soft blends before and I was dying to try; and this wonderful gift came from a non-knitter! How cool is this? Someone who’s never knit got me one of the softest and lovelies yarns I’ve ever owned!

She told me that staff at the shop who recommended this yarn was confident that I would love it. They were absolutely correct about that!

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Blocking an intricate lace is such a treat. I love watching the design come to life simply with a pull of the blocking wires. This is when you realize your time and energy spent knitting this garment was totally worth it. (It can also be a major heartbreak, however, when you discover a mistake or two you didn’t notice until now … eek!)  By the way, I folded the stole in half to block because I didn’t have enough room to stretch out the entire thing flat.

As for the knitting, I have to confess that I got confused by the pattern at first. Looking back, I’m a bit embarrassed to even admit this since Wendy’s patterns are always, always impeccable, and this one was no exception. I just didn’t read the direction carefully enough. Mea culpa.

My confusion was from the eyelet pattern repeats. I needed to add this 4-sitch eyelet repeat before each, 21-stitch chevron pattern plus one at the end  (for a total of four times) and not just at the beginning and the end of each RS row I incorrectly interpreted. Because of this, I had eight wandering stitches that I just could not find a home for!  Once I figured it out, knitting this stole was a breeeeeeeze.

The pattern is simple but interesting enough that kept me engaged throughout the entire project. I think placing markers after each pattern is key. I recommend that you utilize those little rings as much as possible. I even put one after two garter stitches at the beginning and end of rows for good measure!

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I had to think of an interesting way to photograph the finished stole. I thought about just laying it flat on the floor to showcase the design but I was afraid that my two year old will get to it and rip it out before my eyes (and she will)! So I decided to just hold it against the white wall.  I hope you can see the lovely lace pattern from these photos.

Here are other ways that I’ll be enjoying this stole.  It’s so versatile, I can wear it as a stole or a scarf.  I have a feeling that I’ll get a good use out of this garment all year long!

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Slouchy Problems

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I love these slouchy beanies – so much so that I knit three last week – but there are two things I just can’t seem to get right.

First, the slouch. I can’t seem to achieve the perfect droop, without them looking like a Rasta hat. I think my problem here is that I don’t know when to stop and begin the decrease! I’m so determined to knit up the entire skein of yarn that I just keep on going and going, even though I know deep inside that I’ve gone too far. I just hate to have a little bit of yarn left that it either become a waste, or sit in my yarn stash that I’m trying so hard to pare down. This is when my inner cheapo gets the best of me.

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Second issue is the decrease. I can’t seem to get the perfect tip, without looking, uum, messy. I’m doing the k2tog (knit 2 together, for the right slant) and ssk (slip, slip, stitch, for the left slant) really carefully and I don’t know what I can do differently to make it look cleaner.

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If I don’t improve, I’m going to have to start hiding them with a cutesy pom pom or something, and I don’t want that since I look at these slouchy beanies as something Samuel L. Jackson would sport. They need to look like a bad ass mother f-er.

Anyway, I’ve got more work to do on this one.

Knots of Love: Groovy Slouch

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No, no. It’s not a Rasta hat that’s on Ms. Penguin’s head. It’s a Groovy Slouch from Knots of Love!

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I found an organization called Knots of Love while looking for a charity to donate my money and time to this holiday season. This time of year always reminds me how blessed I am, and I feel the need to extend help to those in need. According to the Website, the donated caps are given, at no cost, to “men and women undergoing Chemotherapy, burn victims, brain surgery patients, head trauma patients, and individuals with Alopecia.” It also accepts blankets for babies in NICU.  In addition to the monetary contribution, I thought this will be a great opportunity to put my knitting skills to a good use.

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The Website has lots of lovely knit and crochet cap patterns we can use. I went ahead and knit up Groovy Slouch from the catalogue of patterns and I love it! It’s a real quick knit and I love its simplicity. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to donate this particular cap because I used a yarn that is not on the approved list, but once I obtain the right yarns, I’ll be knitting this up again.

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This is what the finished cap looks like. I had to get some help from the Penguin to get a good shot of the cap from the side. I used Cascade 220 yarn and it’s super warm and cozy, perfect for those chilly nights.