Sunday, 15 February 2015

First steps in soap making - here be Dragons Blood....

I know - another post so  soon! You can tell I'm feeling better!

I've been looking for some dragons blood soap but it's really hard to find and I've drawn a blank. So - how hard can it be to make some?

I've always been put off by the thought of having to mess around with lye but having discovered there is such a thing as "melt and pour" soap where the first stage is done for you I really had no excuse. Especially when I found an organic base that was SLS ( Sodium Laural Sulphate) free.

Next stage was to watch several youtube videos on soap making and pick up some tips - including "superfatting" and the use of surgical spirit to pop the bubbles and also how to use resins in soap making. No excuses left now so I ordered the base and set to work.

First was to  prepare the dragons blood resin. This was crushed to a fine powder and infused overnight in coconut oil using a water bath in the mini slow cooker. I'm liking coconut oil now more and more for this sort of thing. I used about a tablespoon of solid coconut oil to a generous teaspoon of dragons blood resin.

As there will be no unused lye in the base, the coconut oil was intended to "superfat" the soap, making it nice and softening for the skin. Avoiding the harshness of SLS is an additional bonus.

The next day whilst still liquid I strained it through butter muslin to get rid of the resin powder. Once set it looked like this - colour of dried blood I guess!

Next was to melt the soap base over a water bath. It can be done in a microwave but I wanted to keep it as cool as possible. I also melted the dragons blood mixture with it at the same time and stirred well.

I'd chosen a clear glycerine base as I like the idea of being able to add flower petals and jewel like colours to other batches .

 Once it was all melted it was simply a case of pouring the mixture into the silicone ice cube moulds. I did pre-grease them just in case but I'm not sure that was strictly necessary. After a spritz over the top with some surgical spirit it was just a case of leaving them to set.

Now wrapped in cling film they're ready to be inflicted on my unsuspecting guinea pigs! 

I'm actually really pleased the way these turned out. After handling the soap to wrap it my fingers are soft and smooth from the coconut oil. Although they are not completely translucent this could be acheived by using a different oil base for the resin extraction.

I think I've got the bug - might do some rose ones next!

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Bramble "smudge" Sticks

Having picked up this idea from Sarah Lawless and having no shortage of the raw material in the garden I thought I'd have a go.

It may be only early February but there are plenty of semi dry brambles in the hedge so we won't miss a few. Heavy gloves and some secateurs needed. Still managed to impale myself on a few thorns though.

 I left them to dry for a few days before de-thorning.  It was suggested I use a florists tool.  OK on roses but Somerset brambles are made of tougher stuff! I tried the secateurs but the blades were too thick.

What worked best in the end was my craft knife and a self healing mat.

I tried cutting the brambles to length before de-thorning but found it easier in the end to work with the longer stems. It wasn't a particularly pleasant process though and I was glad to be done with it

Once done I cut then into approximately 6" lengths and left them to soak over night to soften.

Next day I dried them on some absorbent paper and then it was a matter of tying them into bundles with some black wool  and wrapping one end to make a sort of handle.

I sealed the points were the wool crossed over itself with some melted beeswax to stop them coming undone as the stick smoulders..

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