Archive for the ‘Ecofriendly’ Category

New(ish)! Lavender Tea Tree Charcoal Handmade Soap

Newish because I added it to my shop last summer. I haven’t shared all the yummy goodness of it here, though.

I’ve wanted to make a soap with activated charcoal for a while. Traditionally, activated charcoal is used to draw out impurities. I’m not sure if that quality carries over to the soap due to the fact that the lather is rinsed away fairly quickly. It definitely adds a kind of soft, creamy feel to the lather and a gorgeous, deep marbled grey color to the soap. This is most impressive after one or two uses when the water has polished the soap. So pretty!

https://www.etsy.com/listing/243788831/lavender-tea-tree-charcoal-artisan-soap?ref=shop_home_feat_1

While it can be used as a hand or body soap, the activated charcoal made me take it in a facial soap direction. I love my Tea Tree Oil facial soap, but wanted to change it up a bit, so I added lavender essential oil as the main note with the tea tree oil as a mellower, supporting note. I think the reduction of tto in this soap makes it a bit milder than my Tea Tree Oil soap as well. Both essential oils are thought to have beneficial properties for your skin, and they smell lovely together.

My Lavender Tea Tree Charcoal Soap is in stock in my Etsy shop. My Tea Tree Oil Soap is currently sold out. Look for more soon. 🙂

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Reusable produce bags and cloth napkins

I’m getting better at remembering my reusable bags when we go shopping, especially now that I have an Aldi nearby. It’s made me start rethinking the plastic produce bags. I haven’t found as many alternatives to them on the market, so I decided to make my own.

https://www.etsy.com/listing/280522062/net-reusable-produce-bag?ref=shop_home_active_3

I used a lightweight netting material so you can see what’s inside.It’s so light and see-through in fact that it doesn’t want to show up well in photos. Hmm.

https://www.etsy.com/listing/280522062/net-reusable-produce-bag?ref=shop_home_active_3

Marginally better? I don’t know. Anyway, you can find my nifty reusable produce bags here in my Etsy shop.

On a similar note, I also added a set of cloth napkins in a cute sunflower print.

https://www.etsy.com/listing/294031713/sunflower-cotton-cloth-18-inch-napkins?ref=related-6

https://www.etsy.com/listing/294031713/sunflower-cotton-cloth-18-inch-napkins?ref=related-6

Find them here in my Etsy shop. I plan to make and add more prints soon.

Quick Drawstring Bag Tutorial or How to Reuse Your SubEarthan Cottage Soap Wrapping

I wrap my soaps in fabric because it looks nice, it allows the soap to breathe (read here for why), and because it feels better than plastic. I often wonder what happens to the wrapping. I’m sure there are some that toss it. I know of one person who collects the fabric for quilts. For those of you who, like me, don’t want to throw away something that could be useful but don’t know what to do with it, I have a tutorial for a drawstring pouch, just for you.

This is done with the wrapping from one of my soaps, but you could make it in any size you like.

Materials
Cloth wrapper from soap (roughly 8×11 inches)
Jute string from soap (about 29 inches)
Thread

Tools
Needle or Sewing machine
Safety pin or Bodkin
Scissors
Iron

First, iron your fabric flat. Then, fold down a long edge about 3/4 of an inch to one inch and press. This is for the casing. It doesn’t have to be super precise.

Sew a straight seam along the bottom of the flap to form the casing. All the sewing can be done by hand or machine. I have no time or patience, so I choose machine. Fold your material in half with right sides together like a book.

The fold is at the bottom of this photo.

Next, starting just below the casing seam, sew down the side and across the bottom. I use anywhere from a 1/4 to 1/2 inch seam allowance for this. Again, it doesn’t have to be precise.

 With scissors, clip the bottom corners, being careful not to cut your stitching. You could probably skip this step, but it helps the corners look square and crisp. Turn your bag right side out.

Now it’s time to thread the string. Tie one end of the string to a safety pin, large paper clip, or attach a small bodkin. This makes it easier to work it through the casing. Thread it through the casing, safety pin first. 

Once you get the string to the other side, remove your safety pin or other tool and adjust the string so that the ends are even.

 Knot the ends together once or twice to keep it from coming out.

Ta-da! It’s done! Perfect for organizing your purse, storing jewelry or other small items, or as a small gift bag.

Or holding your favorite bar of soap.

Tutorials are always a little complicated to write because it’s easy to overlook small steps in things you do frequently. If something is unclear, please ask. 🙂

If you have any other creative uses for a SubEarthan Cottage soap wrapper, I would love to hear it!

Bar vs. Liquid Soap

Over the past few decades liquid hand soap and body wash have gained popularity over bar soaps. Bar soaps have gotten a bad reputation for being dirty and drying. While we’re pretty solidly team bar soap now, fifteen years ago we may have had one or two lonely bars sitting dry and cracked in soap dishes while bottles of the liquid variety cluttered the tub and counters. As with any personal care product, needs vary and it’s important to find what works for you.

Before I start the comparison, I should mention that not all soaps, bar or liquid, are created equally. Many things sold as soap are actually synthetic detergents, sometimes called syndets. To be a true soap, the product needs to be a fat or oil added to an alkali (lye) to form soap salts, glycerine and sometimes excess fats or alkalis. Some find syndets harsher on their skin while others actually find them to be gentler. True soap is what I know, so that’s what I’m referring to unless I say otherwise.

Cleanliness

Since soap’s primary function is to clean, let’s start there. My searching has found many references to a 1988 study where e.coli and another contaminant were put on a bar of soap then subjects washed their hands with the e.coli soap. When their hands were tested afterward, the e.coli hadn’t transferred to their hands. One such article can be found here http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/10/science/10qna.html?ref=science&_r=0.

My personal, non-scientific thoughts: Liquid soap requires a dispenser of some sort. Unwashed hands have to touch said dispenser (unless it’s an automatic dispenser). The dispenser itself doesn’t get washed after each use, so some bacteria may be transferred to your hands when you use the dispenser. They will most likely be washed away when you wash your hands.

Likewise, bar soaps are touched with unwashed hands. The process of rubbing your hands over the bar with it under running water for a few seconds to create lather probably removes some of the bacteria. Properly washing your hands removes the bacteria from your hands as shown in the above study.

My verdict: They will both get you clean, so use what you like.

Drying

Before delving into natural, handmade soaps, when I thought of bar soap I either imagined “manly” deodorant soaps or the “lye soap” my granny talked about burning her scalp when she was little. Ouch! While the soap my granny knew would have been natural and possibly handmade, if it burned, it was not formulated properly for cleaning people. Back to my brief lesson on soaps vs. syndets, a soap with excess alkalis would burn. This might be okay for heavy house cleaning purposes, but not for personal use.

Most all soapmakers, myself included, formulate their soaps to both fully bond the lye and leave a “buffer” of unsaponified oils to protect your skin. This is known as superfatting. When done properly, you won’t feel the oil, but your skin will feel clean and hydrated, not dry.

Another factor with natural soaps, whether liquid or bar, is that they should contain glycerine as it is a natural by-product of saponification. Glycerine is a humectant, meaning that it attracts water. This helps your skin feel hydrated. Unfortunately, the glycerine is sometimes removed to be used in other products. This can leave your skin feeling dry.

Syndet bars and liquids often contain added moisturizers to hydrate the skin. Some people are sensitive to the detergents and other ingredients, which can cause dryness and other irritation.

My verdict: It depends. Everyone’s body chemistry is a little different, so what works for me may not work for you. Personally, I am one who reacts badly to syndets. If you are looking to avoid syndets, either because you react poorly to them or because you want a more natural product, it seems easier to find natural soaps in bar form. Natural liquids are becoming more available, though.

Waste

Waste is a subject more take into consideration, either from a frugal or a “green” standpoint. Liquid soaps generally come in plastic containers. Some are recyclable depending on what recycling programs are available in your area. Bar soap can be unwrapped or wrapped in a variety of materials. Even if the wrapping is plastic, the amount of plastic is much smaller than the plastic bottles used for liquid soap.

As far as the product itself, with a bar of soap, you tend to use just as much product as necessary. With liquids, I find it harder to get just enough. This is especially true with pump dispensers. I usually find they give enough soap for at least two people to use.

My verdict: Bar soap is the clear winner if you are looking to reduce waste.

All in all, the deciding factor should be what works for you. If you’ve decided to give bar soap a second chance and would like to learn more about the soaps I make, please visit my shop. I’m also more than happy to answer any questions you may have via this contact form or at csloan@subearthancottage.com

Junkin’ with a Stroller

This morning on the way to school I saw the coolest wood sorter with six bins sitting near a curb on our street for the trash men. I spent the whole rest of the way to school trying to figure out if I could somehow get it home with just the stroller. It was in such good shape I figured it would be gone by the time I made it back, but it wasn’t! I had the bins sort of in/balanced on the stroller basket and the frame over the stroller handles when the lady who was getting rid of it came out and offered to help me carry it home. Smile

Here it is:

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I’m so glad I picked it up. I knew it was nice, but I didn’t realize just how solid and heavy. I still haven’t decided if it will be for toys or the craft room. For now, it’s sitting in the living room and Beckett is busying himself rearranging the bins.

Taking in a Blouse the Lazy Way

I prefer my tops to be a little loose, because it makes chasing a toddler much easier. Breezy tops also make hot, humid weather a little more bearable. I tend to avoid actual blouses because they either fit too snuggly for my liking or look like a giant tent.

To fix that, I take a too big blouse and add a little elastic across the back to make it look trimmer without sacrificing comfort. I can’t take credit for this idea. I found it years ago online, but have since lost the link to that tutorial. If that was you, I would love to link to your original, much better tutorial. Smile

IMG_4540 Giant, but so comfy tent. *A note on the door. That is my craft room door. Yes, it’s supposed to look like that. We call it the “Ya-Ya Sisterhood” door. The door frame however… Let’s just say my house is one big diy project that is slooooooowly progressing.

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Cut a piece of elastic to the size you want your shirt to come in. I played around by stretching the elastic and pinning it to my shirt. I ended up with about 4 inches. Since this shirt has the two vertical seams on the back, I made the elastic attach at each seam.

For the most flattering location vertically, find where your natural waist is and attach the elastic along that line. I found that spot by putting the shirt on, eyeballing it and marking it with a pin. I also ended up with my elastic a tad too high, so you might want to go with a more accurate method, such as actually using a tape measure.

IMG_4545IMG_4546

Sew a straight line at each end to tack the elastic where you want it, then zig-zag along the elastic while keeping it evenly stretched. I like using a three step zig-zag on elastic, but a regular zig-zag will work, too.

IMG_4550IMG_4554

Finished result on Athena, my almost-twin dress form. Why yes, I do own an iron, why do you ask?

Clear as mud? If you have any questions, feel free to ask them in the comments and I’ll try to clear things up for you. Smile

Five minute jogging stroller rain shield

I’m really hoping Friday marked the beginning of a nice, rainy fall. I love rain, but hate driving to pick Finn up from school. The car line is almost impossible to deal with, so I always park nearby and walk up. With the time it takes to get Beckett in and out of the car at home and at the school, finding a place to park and then fighting the traffic to get in and out, I’m almost positive walking is quicker. It’s certainly more pleasant. So, I decided to make a rain cover for the stroller. I don’t mind a little rain, but Beckett hates it. Weirdo.

I went the incredibly quick, made with stuff on hand route. I may upgrade it in the future, but for now I’m sure it will do. First, I took some clear vinyl material that has been sitting in my stash for years now and draped it over the stroller where I wanted it and trimmed of the excess length. Then I measured the sides from the edge of the vinyl to the frame of the stroller (14 inches for each side in my case). That part I planned to do in some sort of breathable fabric.

IMG_4530

To attach it to the frame, I planned to use elastic around the edge. That idea came one day last week when I thought I might have to walk in the rain and discovered that a fitted crib sheet almost fit perfectly in place over the stroller. I have some thrifted sheets, so I found a fitted twin and cut the 14 inches off ends with the elastic. I used the serger to attach the cut sides of the sheet to the long sides of the vinyl. (Note to self: vinyl goes on TOP near the foot, not on bottom.) Once I figured out proper material placement, constructing it took maybe three minutes.

It’s still not snuggly fitted, but with a couple of binder clips to tighten the top edge it would have worked for Friday if I hadn’t chickened out due to the possibility of thunderstorms. Rain I can handle, but dodging lightening is a bit much. I will probably add a few darts or snaps to snug it up some if I think it will be used a lot.

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