Thursday, December 22, 2011

Peppermint Soap and a Knitted Scarf

Hi all!  It's Lindsay checking in again with a couple of finished gifts!  Last year I made peppermint soap for my co-workers and a few of them have mentioned to me over the past year that they loved it and were sad when their bars ran out.  So I knew I had to make the soap again!

I like to give a little something to all of my co-workers and since I have about 40 of them, making soap is an easy and cost-efficient option.  The process went a little more smoothly and quickly than it did last year, even if it still is a little scary to be dealing with such a toxic ingredient (lye).  Once again, Mr. Pinds and I suited up with our protective gear to make the soap, which I’m sure caused our neighbors to wonder what we were up to. 

I used the Good Morning Soap recipe that I used last year from Raleigh Briggs' How to Make Soap Without Burning Your Face Off.  This year I measured everything out before we started the process, which worked out really well.  When the time came to add the next ingredient, all I had to do was reach for the bowl and dump it in.  Of course I waited to measure and pour the lye until we were outside.

The fats in the soap are coconut oil, olive oil, sunflower oil, canola oil, shortening, and castor oil.  I added sea salt and sand for exfoliation and flavored it with basil and peppermint essential oils.  Our house has smelled like peppermint since I first made this on December 4th!  It’s great walking in after work to the delightful smell of peppermint—I’m sad to have it go away.

The first step to making this soap is to add the lye to water, or in this case, to peppermint tea.  You then melt the fats. Once the lye mixture has cooled to the same temperature as the fats, you add it to the fats and then mix until you reach trace.

Trace means that if you run a spoon through the soap it will leave a trail behind.  If you’re just stirring by hand, reaching trace can often take hours, but I read somewhere that if you use an immersion blender it happens within minutes.  And I’m all about efficiency, so I picked up a cheap immersion blender to use for concoctions.  If you’re going to do the same, I highly recommend that you label the non-food blender.  I’m not sure if it makes a difference, but I would feel funny preparing food with the same blender that has had contact with lye.  Once you reach trace, you add essential oils.

Homemade Soap

Then add the sea salt and sand and mix thoroughly.  It’s really simple!

Homemade Soap

I use two shallow but long plastic containers as soap molds.  You just have to grease them beforehand (I used Pam) and once the soap has molded it pops out really easily.  You let the soap stay in the mold (or as my book says, "put them to bed") for a day or two and then they are ready to be cut.

Homemade Soap

Mr. Pinds came up with the great idea of marking guides into the top of the soap with a pizza cutter before we started cutting.  Brilliant! I enlisted Mr. Pinds to cut the soap for me.  He used a serrated bread knife to cut the blocks of soap into bars, which he said worked perfectly.

Once the bars were cut, I placed them on drying racks and they cured for a couple of weeks.  I had to hide them in our laundry room where our rascal cat wouldn’t have access to lick them all day while we were at work.

Homemade Soap

To package them, I wrapped each bar in plastic wrap (I know, not the most environmentally friendly, but it was the easiest and fastest option) and then wrapped the bars in postal paper. 

Homemade Soap

Each bar got tied off with some raffia and was topped with a mini candy cane and a printed feather (I found these on How About Orange and there are more here) as a gift tag.  I think they look pretty festive!  I waited until I got to work to put the feathers on because I was afraid they’d get creased during my commute.

Homemade Soap

I’m glad to tell you that the soaps were a hit once again.  A few of my co-workers told me that they were secretly hoping that I’d refill their soap bins!

We also did a Secret Santa gift exchange and my Secret Santee requested a scarf.  With a $20 limit, I knew I wouldn’t be able to get an amazing handmade scarf from Etsy, so I did the next best thing: I decided to knit one myself.  Even though I am a very beginner knitter, I think it turned out beautifully.  I made a simple 50 stitch wide scarf in a knit stitch.  This yarn is so soft!  I wasn’t able to make it to a specialty yarn shop (why do they all have such strange hours?) so I spent a good 20 minutes in Joann rubbing all of the yarns against my face to find the softest.  I ended up with Caron Simply Soft in Autumn Maize.  I wanted a gold yarn, but that was the closest I could get.

Knitted Scarf

When I was about halfway through the scarf I realized that I made it a little wide, resulting in a wide but short scarf.  Oops!  It turned out OK in the end though and my co-worker loved it.  And because I made the scarf instead of buying it, and thanks to a Joann coupon, I was able to pick her up a bottle of wine without going over our $20 limit!  I do enjoy when things work out.

Knitted Scarf

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