Tutorial: Baby Salmon Sushi Costume

salmon sushiI’m about a month late, but I thought I’ll post some pictures from this year’s Halloween!

I dressed Pon Pon up as salmon sushi. Yes, sushi!  lol Does this depict Asian stereotype? Perhaps. But I’ve been wanting to dress her up in this costume ever since I came across a random picture of a sushi baby a few years ago (even before she was born)! This is Pon Pon with her dad, at the Mom Expo in Calabasas.

We were there with our friends Kerry and Carmela, fellow new parents, and their four months old, Baby E! Pon Pon and Baby E both dressed up as salmon sushi (because sushi always come in two pieces), and we called them the Wild (salmon) Pair! They were a hit at the Expo, and they received mini pumpkins for having the cutest costumes!

Making the costume was pretty easy, even though it took couple attempts to perfect it.I made a boxed, rectangle cushion and stitched on twill tapes evenly on the front to make it look like a delicious piece of fresh salmon.

Here’s a quick tutorial on how to make the salmon sushi costume, if anyone is interested in making this for next year’s Halloween. You can change the fabric color and turn it into any kind of sushi, like red for tuna and yellow for egg. You can even dress up your pet dog with this!

pink lineCut the Fabric
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Cut out the following panel pieces from your favorite orange cotton fabric:

Sushi panels

  • Panel A (make two): 9” (width) x 15” (length)
  • Panel B (make two): 9” x 3”
  • Panel C (make two): 3” x 15”

You can adjust boxed cushion size based on your baby’s body size. I recommend making it slightly bigger, for the gag effect.

pink lineSew the Panels Together
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Sew on all the panel pieces together, right sides together, except for the back panel (the second Panel A), leaving a three-inch opening on one side between Panel A and Panel C.  This allows you to turn the pillow inside out when you sew on the back panel.  I used a quarter inch sewing allowance.

Salmon figure

pink lineSew on the Twill Tapes
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I used twill tapes to create the white lines on the salmon sushi.  I picked it up at a local JoAnn’s but you can purchased it online too.  I used Wright’s Wide Twill Tape (4 yards, 0.25 in wide).

Mark the center of the sushi with a erasable fabric chalk or pen and sew on the tapes, on an angle, on one side.  I used a zig zag stitch and sewed on both top and bottom of the tape for security.

salmon figure 1

I found that gluing the tape first before sewing it on the fabric was extremely helpful.  I tried using pins but that was too much of a hassle and the tape never stayed on straight.  I used a regular glue stick because I don’t own the one made specially for fabrics and it worked well.

Sew on the other side of the pillow with twill tapes.

salmon figure

Here’s what mine looked like after I sewed on the tapes.


pink lineSew on the Back Panel
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When you’re done with sewing on the tapes, sew on the back panel all the way around Panels B and C, right sides together.  Snip off each corners (careful not to cut off the sewed on parts) and turn the pillow inside out.  Iron the pillow and get rid of any wrinkles.

Fill the pillow with your favorite cotton plush filling, and hand stitch the opening closed.  You’re done with sushi!  Yippeee!

pink lineMake the Nori Belt
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Now, it’s time for you to make the Nori (seaweed) belt.  Measure your baby’s girth using a measuring tape.  Make sure to place the finished sushi pillow gently on his / her back before you wrap the tape around so you can get the accurate measurement.  Pon Pon was 32 inches, and I made the width five inches.

nori figure 1

Fold each end of the fabric twice and sew on the fold, to eliminate any annoying loose threads coming out of the fabric.

pink lineSew on the Velcro
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Cut the long velcro strips into three, three-inch pieces.  velcro

Sew the “hook” pieces on the right side of the fabric, placing each strip evenly.  Sew on the “loop” pieces on the wrong side of the fabric, also placing each strip evenly.

That’s it!  Dress up your baby in a white outfit and you got yourself a little sushi baby!

sushi halloween

I regret not taking pictures along with way to provide better instruction but I hope you found this to be helpful.  I think there are other wonderful tutorials on the web so definitely check them out by searching, “baby salmon costume,” or something along the line.

Happy sewing!

How to Develope Your Own Soap Recipe


I think my love for soap making elevated to the next level when I learned how to concoct my own, original recipe. I was intimidated at first but once I learned the basics, coming up with a unique recipe made the process 10 times more fun!  You can whip up a soap in any color, scent, size, and effectiveness you want.  (You want to make a peppermint-scented moisturizing soap with oatmeal bits for exfoliation?  No problem!)  There’s nothing more gratifying and pampering than lathering up a soap that you created, just for your enjoyment.  razz

I summarized the basic steps in how to create your own, one-of-a-kind soap recipe here!  The post is a bit lengthy and some parts may appear a little technical, especially around the water and lye calculations, but everything is straightforward.  Please don’t be discouraged — you’ll be reaping your reward in no time!

Just a disclaimer before we proceed.  This post is intended to show new soap makers who are interested in concocting their own original formula the basics of creating their own suds.  It is not intended to provide expert advice on the usage of lye (sodium hydroxide), essential oils, and other complex properties.  I encourage you to browse through books and the Internet to learn the more technical aspects of soap making!  Afterall, soap making is not just an art but also science and it should be treated as such.  Also, the use of lye can make soap making potentially dangerous, so please proceed with caution.

With that said, let’s get started!

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The Formula Spreadsheet
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What you see here below is a sample Excel spreadsheet that I use when I’m developing a new recipe, to calculate the oil, water, and lye amounts.  Don’t worry if these numbers make absolutely no sense to you at the moment.  You’ll be an expert by the time you finish reading this post.

I’ll use this Avocado Soap spreadsheet throughout this post to explain each step.

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Figure 1:  Avocado soap recipe spreadsheet sample

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Step 1: Determine the Batch Size
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milk carton

The first step is to decide how big your batch is going to be. It’s an equivalent of knitters deciding on the project pattern.  I typically use a one quart milk carton, which holds about 600 grams of fats (which are oils and / or butters). I make two of those milk cartons at a time, and thus my recipe is for 1200 grams.

Note:  The carton you see here is for one, 600 g batch.  If you want to make just one carton worth of soap, and not two as the recipe indicates, simply divide the amount of all ingredients in half.

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Step 2: Select Your Ingredients
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This is my favorite part of the soap-making process. It’s very similar to crafters deciding on what fabric or yarn to use for the next project. It allows you to be creative!

The best part about making a soap at home is that you can customized it to however you want, depending on your current need. If you are suffering from dry skin, you can incorporate oils and butters that have the moisturizing properties.  If you want a soap that smells like refreshing fruits when lathered in the shower, add citrus essential or fragrance oil.

Note:  I usually purchase oils and other soap-making supplies from Bramble Berry, CibariaFrom Nature with Love, and Mountain Rose Herbs.  They are all wonderful.  I buy oils in bulk but you can find olive oil, coconut oil, and other lovely oils and fats in smaller portions at places like Whole Foods Market and Sprouts Farmers Market.

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Step 3: Determine the Amount of Fats Needed
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Steps 3 (Determining the Amount of Fat Needed), 4 (Determining the Amount of Water Needed), 5 (Determining the Amount of Lye Needed), and 6 (Determine the Lye Discount) require you to do a little math, but don’t worry if you haven’t done any number crunching beyond balancing a checkbook since high school.  lol  The calculations are pretty simple.

Let’s begin by deciding how you want to allocate your selected fats (column C).

soap percentage

Figure 2:  Fat allocation percentages

By the way, when I say “fats,” I’m referring to any oils and / or butters used in this recipe.  In the case of this Avocado Soap, I wanted to make a gentle soap with moisturizing power, so I allocated 40% of my fat to be avocado oil (column C, row 4), 30% olive oil (column C, row 3), 10% shea butter (column C, row 5), 10% palm oil (column C, row 6), and 10% coconut oi (column C, row 7). They should all add up to 100%.

Now, convert the fat percentage into an actual weight in gram (Column B).

soap oil

Figure 3:  Avocado oil amount needed

Let’s use the avocado oil for example. To calculate 40% of 1200 gram:

1200 g x 0.4 = 480 g

This means that I would need 480 g of avocado oil (column B, row 4) for this recipe. Do the calculation for the rest of the oil and dd them all up.  The total should add up to 1200 g.

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Step 4: Determine the Amount of Water Needed
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Now, it’s time to figure the amount of water needed.

soap water

Figure 4:  Amount of water needed, in gram

For this recipe, I used the ratio of 72 (fat) to 28 (water).  This means that 72% of the entire weight will be fat, and 28% water.  To calculate 28% of 1200 g:

1200 x 28 / 72 = 466.67

In this case, the amount of water needed is 466.76 g (column B, row 8).  You can certainly round the number off to 467 g.

Note:  You can substitute part of water with other liquid to create a more complex soap.  I like to use aloe vera juice and yogurt in my soaps.  However, some substitutes such as milk can produce a strange odor (it luckily disappears once the soap is cured) and others may change color.

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Step 5: Determine the Amount of Lye Needed
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Let’s calculate the amount of lye needed, shall we? This one’s a little tricky but stay with me.

You can figure this out two ways – manually or by using an online lye calculator. Many soap-making Websites, such as Bramble Berry, has an online calculator where you simply plug in the weight (gram or ounce) or the percentage of fats and it figures out the lye amount for you. This is probably the easiest and the best way to do this.

If you want to figure it out manually, need something called Saponification Chart that shows Saponification Numbers. It’s overly technical for me to explain this properly  eek but in layman’s term, these numbers allow us to figure out the amount of lye needed to convert one gram of fat into soap.

soap lye 3

Figure 5:  Saponification Value

The amount of lye needed differs by oil. For example, the amount of lye needed to convert avocado oil into soap (0.14) is not the same as, say, shea butter (0.13).

soap lye

Figure 6:  Amount of lye needed to convert avocado oil into soap

Let’s take a look at avocado oil for this example. The lye needed to turn one gram of avocado oil into soap is 0.14 g (column D, row 4). Since there’s 480 g of avocado oil (column B, row 4), you need to calculate this by multiplying the lye weight (column D, row 4) by the total fat weight (column B, row 4).

480 g x 0.14 g = 65.76 g

You need 65.76 g of lye to convert avocado oil in this recipe to soap (column F, row 4).

You need to calculate the lye weight for all the fats used. After you figure them out, add them together. The total is the amount you need for the entire batch.

soap lye 2

Figure 7:  Total amount of lye needed to convert all fats into soap

Take a look at column F. When you add rows 3 (olive oil), 4 (avocado oil), 5 (shea butter), 6 (palm oil), and 7 (coconut oil), you get 170.16 g (column F, row 7). That’s the amount you need to convert all the fats used in this recipe into soap.

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Step 6:  Determine the Lyle Discount (optional)
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Now, let me throw you a curve ball and talk about something called a “lye discount.”  In a nutshell, lye discount is the amount of lye you’re doing to reduce from the total amount to create a milder soap.  This step is completely optional but I usually discount in my soap creations.

soap lye 3

Figure 8:  Total amount of lye needed to convert all fats into soap, after discount

For this recipe, I wanted to reduce the lye amount by 15%, thus making lye discount at 85% (100% – 15% = 85%).  To determine the lye discount, take the total lye amount and multiple it by the percentage:

170.16 g x 0.85 = 144.64 g

I rounded up the total to 145 g (column B, row 9).  This is the final lye amount used for this recipe (reduced from original 170 g to 145 g).  YAY — you’re done with math now!  lol

pink lineStep 7: Determine the Additives (optional)
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You can enhance your soap with lovely aroma, color, and texture by adding special embellishments.


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Essential oils are great for adding both scents and healing properties.  My absolute favorite is lavender, and I use it in every soap I make.  The scent relaxes me and uplifts my mood and spirit!

Fragrance oils are another great way to add a special scent to your soap, but unlike the essential oils that are extracted from plants and are natural, they are synthetic (how else can you explain scents like Sugar Plum and Bubble Gum? lol).  I think it’s completely up to you to decide which route you want take.  My soaps are mostly all natural, but once in a blue moon, I enjoy making playful, Lush-like suds loaded with fun and crazy scents.

Dry Additives:


Dry herbs are great for many reasons.  It gives your soap a unique look, while working as a great exfoliate.  You can use grounded oatmeal, lavender, chamomile, peppermint leaves, etc.

soap additives

Take a look at how dry herbs can give a different feel to each soap.



Handmade soaps tend to lose its color pretty quickly so adding a colorant can help maintain the lovely hue for a longer period of time.  It’s great for creating colorful designs too.  Here’s my first attempt at creating tri-color layered soaps, using madder root power (for pink) and comfrey root powder (for green).  I’m dying to try carrot soap, with a nice orange shade soon!

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Thank you for reading this long post!  I hope this piqued your interest in creating your own, special soap!  Please also check out my handmade soap tutorial by clicking here!

I think we’ve all hear of this phrase:

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. 

I feel like that when it comes to soap making.  I can rely on other people’s recipes to make soaps and limit myself, or I can learn how to create my own and open up the endless possibilities.  It’s empowering, and I love to know that I’m creating something that’s truly one of a kind. 

I hope to continue to learn more about this fascinating world of soap making, and take the Lavender and OliVE soap business to the next level.  I’m still in the development stage but I’m hoping to start spreading my handmade soaps to the masses, via Etsy and local craft fairs very shortly!  Pleas stay tuned!   biggrin


Baby Receiving Blanket Tutorial

I’ve been nursing a sore left arm for the last several days. I’ve read that many pregnant women suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome typically during their second and third trimesters, and I’m afraid that I might have fallen victim to this dull aches in my hand and entire arm myself. I can tell you that this is definitely not a pleasant feeling.cry

Thanks to my husband massaging my shoulders, back, and arms yesterday, I feel much better today, but he is still watching me like a hawk to make sure that I don’t make my way to the sewing machine, pick up knitting needles, or partake in activities that can possibly re-aggravate the pain. So, the only thing I can do right now is to quietly talk about my latest craft project here!

I made three matching receiving blankets this week, using Aloha Flannel Floral Surf fabrics in blue, green, and yellow. I personally don’t like designs that are too baby-like (like those overly cutesy animal prints, etc.) so this subtle and quite design definitely  struck a chord with me.

These receiving blankets are very easy to make and it probably doesn’t require a tutorial, but I’m posting a very rough instruction here, just so that I have a record of it. I’m honored if any of you out there find this to be helpful.

Handmade Receiving Blanket


1 yard flannel with your favorite design (front panel)
1 yard solid flannel with matching color (back panel)
Sewing machine
Saucer or small plate to draw the round corners
Fabric pen or chalk
Rotary cutter or a pair of scissors
Fabric cutting board


Cut the Front and Back Panels to measure 36 inches by 36 inches (you can make it larger or smaller).  I used a rotary cutter to cut the fabrics.

Put Front Panel and Back Panel together, right sides together. Pin all sides to avoid any unwanted creases and to ensure that fabrics stay together. Use a saucer or a small plate to trace the rounded corners on all four corners.

Sew around all edges (1/4 inch seam allowance), but leave a small opening at the bottom. Make sure to back stitch the openings to ensure there are no loose threads. Trim all access fabrics. Iron the fabrics open and turn the panels inside out.  Hand-stitch the lining opening (you can skip this step if you like, since we’ll top stitch the entire blanket).

Iron the fabrics. Top stitch around the blanket (about 1/2 inches from the edges).  That is all!

Mrs. Penguin seems to like the blanket.  Thank you for coming out of your hibernation to pose for the photo. razz

Pillow Fight, Anyone? Cushion Cover Tutorial

What I thought would be a relaxing Sunday afternoon was briefly interrupted by Women’s World Cup soccer final against U.S. and Japan, which ended in a dramatic fashion that reminded us of the Miracle on Ice hockey game when the underdog U.S. beat the Russians in the 1980 Winter Olympics. Unfortunately for American fans, it was Japan that came from behind in regulation and beat the U.S. in Penalty Kick that earned them the title of the champions. It was particularly exciting for me because I was rooting for both teams but it was also a double-edge sword because one of my favorite teams was guaranteed to lose.

This time, I think the right team won the game. The U.S. team could probably beat the Japanese team if they played a game tomorrow, but this was Japan’s day. It really felt like the women carried the hopes of the entire nation on their shoulder, which suffered so many unspeakable tragedies already this year. There was nothing that was going to get in the way of their destiny. I was so proud of what I saw on the field, and made me even more proud to be Japanese. And of course, the grace of the American team, despite the bitter loss, made me happy to call myself an American as well.

I was glued to my computer to watch the streaming game on EPSN.com (I cancelled my cable last month so I watch everything online now) but before the game and during the intermission, I sewed up very easy but adorable cushion covers for four cushions I recently purchased, to jazz up our living room.

I should really change the blog name to “Ode to Liberty fabrics.” I’m just so in love with these fabrics that I can’t stop making things from them. For the project, I used the same Mirabelle E fabric that I used to make the “Tween-y” bag (with Kona Cotton in Bubblegum) and Lauren Blue / Green that I also used to make the Pencil Case (with Kona Cotton in Asparagus for the back).

This is really simple to make and I absolutely love it. Each case will only take you no more than 30 minutes so you can make it during an intermission of a sporting game!

Cushion Cover
(For a cushion that measures about 18 x 18 … I got mine at Overstock.com)

Select two fabrics to use. I recommend that you use your favorite print for the front, and a subtle solid for the back.

Cut the pieces into following dimensions:

  • Front Panel (make one): 18 inches by 18 inches
  • Back Panels (make two): 18 inches by 12 inches

Note: Although I purchased these cushioned that were labeled 18 x 18, I found that there were a little smaller than that (due to girth, I’m sure). So the 18 x 18 panel will fit the cushion perfectly.

Fold over  ¼ inch from the side that measures 18 inches from each of Back Panel and sew them together. This is so that the opening of the case will be free of loose threads.

Put the Back Panels on the Front Panel, with Right Sides facing together.

Sew all around the square (the sewing allowance is at ½ inch). Cut the tip of each corner (shown by the blue triangle). Open up seams on all sides and press with an iron. Flip the case. Iron the edges, front, and back panels. Insert the cushion in the case.

Happy pillow fighting! 🙂

“Tween-y Bag” Tutorial: Part 3: Making the Lining

Welcome to “Tween-y Bag” Tutorial Part 3: Making the Lining! biggrin Now that you’ve completed the Front Panel of the bag, you’re ready to move on to making the Lining. As always, please read the introductory post, “Getting Started,” to find out important information before proceeding.

Here is the material list for the Lining:

• Two 14 inches x 12 pieces
• One 6 inches x 5 inches piece (for pocket)
• One label, optional

For the Lining, let’s begin by cutting two identical pieces – 12 inches by 14 inches. I selected the same Kona Cotton Spruce, the dark green fabric that I used for the part of the Front Panel. This bag is really a reversal bag, so if you want to take the time to repeat the same process for the Front Panel, you certainly can. I personally love the darker liner, so I’m going to go with this lovely dark Starbucks-esque green fabric.

You will sew on a pocket on to the Lining 1, but first, let’s make the actual pocket by cutting out a fabric that measure 6 inches x 5 inches.  If you have a personalized tag or label, this is the time for you to sew it on the pocket.  I purchased a personalized woven clothing labels from a place called Namemaker that specializes in personalized tags, ribbons, etc.  They are great.  If you sew frequently or enjoy making handmade gifts, I recommend that you invest in your own label.  It just makes everything you make that much more special.

Simply place the tag on the pocket and sew around it.

Next, sew the top edge of the pocket.  What I did here is I folded a small piece, about ¼ inch and folded the piece again before I sew the crease together.  This way, you don’t have little loose threads sticking out from the top of the pocket.  It’s worth it to take the extra step to do this as the end result looks will look much more professional.

After that, simply pin all sides down to secure the pocket to Lining 1, and sew around it.

Now, put two Lining panels together, with right sides facing each other. At this point, the side with a pocket should be hidden.

Pin three sides (the top will remain open) and sew them together.  The seam allowance is ½ inch.

Make sure to leave a little opening at the very bottom.  You’ll need this opening when you “flip” the bag inside out. If that makes no sense, don’t worry. It’ll all come together a little later. lol

Also, clip the bottom corners. This will make the corners look sharp when you turn the Lining over.

Iron the seams open on all three sides. . Turn over the panel, and iron again, making sure to iron the open sides carefully. Guess what? You’re all done with the Lining! YAY!

Great job! You just completed the Lining! Now, you’re ready to proceed to Part 4 of the tutorial, Making Bag Strap and Drawstrings! Yipee! 🙂

If you want to jump to other tutorial posts, here are the links:

Part 1: Getting Started
Part 2: Making the Front Panel
Part 4: Making the Bag Strap and Drawstrings
Part 5: Putting it all Together

“Tween-y Bag” Tutorial: Part 1: Getting Started

I think I was most awkward during my “tween” years. Tween is an age between 9-12 when you’re not quite a teenager yet but you’re not a little kid anymore. I was too old for The Smurfs and Care Bears but a little too young for boys and those stone-washed Guess jeans that my older sister and her friends were fashionably sporting. I really hated that there was really nothing cute in the mall for girls in this in-between stage when I was growing up in the mid-80s.

When I was thinking about my next sewing project, I thought about those tween girls out there and started thinking about the kind of bag that they would enjoying carry around (or what I would have loved to have at that age) that allows them to celebrate their youth in style. Then, I came up with this pattern … and the “Tween-y Bag” was born.

I first posted about these versatile bags last week, and I loved the pattern that I came up with that I wanted to share it with you.  So, who wants to make a simple, drawstring bag that your tween daughter (or a granddaughter, or a cousin, or a friend’s daughter, etc.) would love to carry around as she plays outside in the summertime? Or wants to sew a simple project that you can finish in one weekend afternoon?

If you answered “yes” to any of the questions, this tutorial for the Tween-y Bag is for you!  And the great thing about this bag is that, depending on the fabric designs you select, you can make it appropriate for any age (in fact, I use one myself and I’m thirty-@#%%^$@#)!

How This Tutorial Works:

I’ve decided to divide the tutorial into five parts: 1. Getting Started (this post); 2. Making the Front Panel; 3, Making the Lining; 4. Making the Bag Strap and Drawstrings; and 5. Putting Everything Together.

Difficulty Level:

I would classify this project as “Intermediate Beginner” (which is how I would characterize my own sewing skills). If you have basic skills, like cutting fabric, operate a sewing machine, and understand the basic sewing terminologies, you’ll have no problem with it.

A Thing to Note:

Please note that I’m completely self-taught and am still pretty novice at sewing. You might see some instruction that may be incorrect. This is how I made the bag so please use other (and perhaps better) techniques to make your version of the bag work better (and please share the knowledge with me)! 🙂

Okay, let’s get started.

Materials: These are the materials that you will need for the bag.

Basic Tools:
• Two fabrics (more information to follow)
• Sewing machine (I only use one stitch so the cheaper machine works perfectly … my machine was about $50 at Target)
• Threads
• Iron and ironing board
• Rotary cutter and rotary mat
• Erasable fabric pen / marker
• Fabric scissors
• Pins and pin cushion
• Large ruler (mine is called Omnigrip)
I selected the Liberty of London fabric called Plum Mirabelle 6011C from the Tana Lawn Classics; and Kona Cotton Spruce. Both fabrics are wonderful and very easy to work with. And the Plum Mirabelle feels like pure silk!

For the Front Panel:
• Two 12 inches x 10 inches pieces (the Liberty of London fabric)
• One 12 inches x 9 inches piece (the Kona fabric)
• One 12 inches x 27 inches piece cotton batting

• Two 14 inches x 12 pieces
• One 6 inches x 5 inches piece (for pocket)
• One label, optional (I had mine made at Name Maker … they are great)

Adjustable Strap:
• One 50 inches x 5 inches piece
• One Slider and Rectangle Ring set (I purchased mine from Jennalou06 on Etsy.)

• Two 29 inches x 2 inches pieces
• Two 10 inches x 3 inches pieces (for Drawstring Slots)

Next up is Part 2 of the “Tweeny-y Bag” Tutorial: Making the Front Panel!

If you want to jump to other tutorial posts, here are the links:

Part 2: Making the Front Panel
Part 3: Making the Lining
Part 4: Making the Bag Strap and Drawstrings
Part 5: Putting it all Together

How to Make Handmade Soaps: Tutorial

I’ve wanted to make handmade soaps for many months before I actually attempted my first batch. The problem wasn’t that I was too lazy to start, but rather, because the process seemed so complicated and tiring. I just wished someone had told me how simple the process is before I procrastinated for so long!

I truly think that soap making is simple. Not easy, but simple.  It can be potentially dangerous, yes, because you use a chemical called Sodium Hydroxide, also known as “lye,” which can get extremely hot and can burn your skin when mishandled, but if you pay careful attention just as you would when deep frying food, the entire process can be very safe and hassle free.


There are lots of wonderful tutorials on the Web, as well as videos on Youtube if you search, “soap making,” to show how enjoyable the entire soap making process can be! The catalysts for my soap-making adventure were this Japanese blog by Ayumi (who is also the creator of one of my favorite craft blogs, Pink Penguin) and a Pasadena-based soap shop, Soap Kitchen.  I got inspires by so many of their adorable creations and thought I HAD to do this!  I hope this tutorial will help inspire you to become a soaper too someday … or at least get you to start thinking about it … (or just start buying the soaps I make if I ever open my own shop). 😆

Soap Making Basics:

Basic ingredients of soap are fat (oil) and lye, and you can decide on what kind of fats you need to use and how much, depending on what kind of soap you’re trying to make. For example, for a soap that’s gentle and truly wonderful for you skin, you can use olive oil. If you want a soap that lathers well, coconut oil will do the job. If you like a soap that can hold its shape well, palm oil is your answer. Just like cooking, you can be as creative as you wish when deciding your special “recipe.” I am still learning how to make my own personalized formula (it takes a little planning and a dash of mathematical calculations) so for now, I simply follow several recipes that I find in my favorite soapmaking books.

Where to Buy:

You can purchase anything and everything soap-related (fats and oils, essential and fragrance oils, molds, lye, etc) at Bramble Berry.  I also highly recommend Mountain Rose Herbs (for high quality essential oils and additives), Cibaria Soap Supply (for oils and fat at reasonable prices), and Soap Making Resources (for acrylic and other molds).  Basic tools you need to get started are:  fats/oils of your choice (based on your recipe), lye, two glass bowls, two candy thermometers,  spoon for mixing, electric scale, pot for double boiling, mold, parchment paper for mold lining, knife to slice the soap, and a whisk (I hope I didn’t miss anything!).  By the way, the process shown here is called, “Cold Process.”


So, let’s get started! 🙂

① First, measure the oil(s) based on your recipe. This particular soap I made called for olive, palm, and coconut oils, so I weighed them separately.

② Melt the oils together in a double boiler. As you can see, some oils are liquid (olive oil) and some are solid (coconut oil). Once the oils melt, bring the temperature down, per your instruction.

③ While the oil mixture is adjusting its temperature, measure the lye according to your instruction. Make sure to wear a pair of gloves when handling these little flakes, as it can irritate, at best, and burn, at worst, your skin upon contact.  Make sure to keep anything that contains lye out of reach of children and/or pets!

④ Add distilled water to the measured lye. A strange-smelling gas will fume the second you add the water. Make sure that nearby windows are open for proper ventilation (I do the mixing outside). Stir until all the flakes dissolve, and bring the temperature down to the recipe’s instruction. Drizzle the lye mixture into the oil mixture slowly, and mix with a whisk. The idea here is to combine the oil and lye mixtures when they are at the same temperature.  Mix for 30 minutes, or per your instruction.

⑤ After mixing for about 30 minutes, let the mixture rest for 12-24 hours, depending on your instruction. The mixture is pretty runny at this point but it will become creamy like custard with time as it starts to develop a “trace.”

⑥ When the mixture becomes firm enough that the whisk can “pick up” the custard-like mixture, pour it into a parchment paper-lined mold. Mix essential oils and other additives well, if any, right before pouring.  I use wooden molds but you can use anything (some people put two milk cartons together to make a mold and others use Pringle’s tubes). Put the mold in a warm place, like in a box, and put a blanket over it. Keep it stored in the box for about 1-2 days, or per your instruction. After 1-2 days, remove the block from the mold (the block is still relatively soft). Make sure to wear a pair of gloves when handing the soap block, as it can still irritate your skin on contact. Let the block rest for about a day in a dry place, until it’s ready to cut.

⑦ When ready, cut the block into smaller pieces and let them dry and cure for 4-6 weeks, depending on your recipe. I know it takes all the discipline not to use these cute little soaps but be patient. Until the lye completely cures, they can be very harmful. When the soaps completely cure, you’re ready to indulge in your handmade soap! Note that the longer you dry, the harder the soaps become (and they will last longer).

Here are the pictures of my latest two batches — Marseilles soaps with Sugar Plum fragrance oil (left), and with Yuzu fragrance oil (right) for the holidays!


Here are some online resources with lots of great information and inspiration!
Bramble Berry
Mountain Rose Herbs
Cibaria Soap Supply
Soap Making Resources
Smelly Chick’s Online Soapmaking Resources
Teach Soap
Birch Bark Handmade Soap

These are the soap shops that I adore!
Soap Kitchen
Dress Green
Countryrose Soap Company

Great Japanese sites:
Ayumi’s Soap (the reason why I’m making handmade soaps today!)
Kyoko Maeda (everything I know so far about soap making came from her books)

Happy soaping!  🙂