All you need is washing powder, borax, and a good laundry soap like Fels-Naptha. I read about the process from the instructions and a few other blogs, and they said that grating the soap was the hardest part. But my mom, whom I believe to be psychic, brought me a little grater with a
container attached to it, and it is the kind with lots of little spiky graters for things like hard cheeses and nutmeg, etc. But I already had something like this in the kitchen, so I decided to try to use it to grate the soap and it worked like a charm. Instead of little strips of soap it turned it into a powder just as fine as the others, and I only managed to grate away one knuckle towards the end.
So I put everything in the pot (plus my own addition of 10 or so drops of tangerine essential oil), and let it cook until it was dissolved, but I think I stirred it a little too much because it got a bit foamy, which you do not really want, but oh well. I was pleasantly surprised at the smell, which reminded me of the inexpensive detergent we used to use all the time when I was a child (Nostalgic bonus!). Then I decanted the mixture into a nice big glass jar and filled the rest up with water. The recipe says that you should wait 24 hours and let it gel a little, but I really needed to do laundry so I tested it right away on the batch of manky towels from the kitchen. I decided to not use bleach or fabric softener just to see what it could do on its own and I must say I am impressed. The towels were soft and smelled very lightly of tangerines and clean laundry!
This is one of the best projects I have done for the house in a while, mostly because of the money it will save us and the fact that we are buying way less packaging. I did the math and we used to buy containers of fancy detergent for about 8 dollars every 2 months. So, 48 dollars a year, which is not that bad. But this recipe costs about 15 dollars for all the supplies, and it will make enough batches to last us a year and a half, plus it is only 2 cardboard boxes and 3 little paper wrappers going into the recycling bin instead of 9 big plastic bottles. Booya.
When I put the laundry in I got the urge to keep making soap, since the kitchen was already geared up for it. So I busted out a package of olive oil soap base that has been sitting in the linen cupboard for literally years. I melted it in a double boiler and added ground flax seeds as an exfoliant and some food-grade vanilla extract for scent. I used snail-shaped sand toys and a moustache-shaped candy mould to shape them. I am so ridiculously happy with the results.
They smell good enough to eat, like sugar cookie dough, probably because the flax seeds add a very buttery note. And the mustaches are super fun to smell as an excuse to hold it up to your nose. I scraped the leftover soap out of the bowl while it was still warm and rolled it into a big ball, a "soap stone" as I like to call it, and then I gave it a try and it is so wonderful! The flax is a very soft exfoliant, and between its oils and the olive oil bas it leaves my hands nice and soft and has a smooth lather. I am leaving the soap stone near the mudroom sink to use when I come in from the garden. I am going to give some of these soaps as gifts, but I will list 4 of each kind in my etsy shop when I finally restock it.
And oh no, I was not done there for the day. As I kept doing laundry, I suddenly got an urge to dye yarn. I had a bunch of food coloring and Kool-Aid in the cupboard for just such an urge, not to mention a whole pile of this:
I found these little 20g skeins of yarn in a thrift store with Dennis one day, and for 69 cents I had to buy all they had, because check it out:
Made in France from virgin wool, and mothproof? Not to mention the feel of it; one would think that cheap little skeins like that would not be very soft, but they have a supple fluffiness that is lovely to touch. So I mixed up the different fruity dyes and cut up a little sponge for each color. You do not need to add vinegar to these dyes because the citric acid accomplishes the same thing, which makes the process smell much better, though it is still some unusual mix of wet sheep and skittles.
So I soaked the yarn in some warm water and mild soap, and then I wiped the counter with a damp cloth and stuck a long piece of cling wrap to it. I painted two little skeins together as one so that they would match, since each one is enough for, say, a glove, so with two matching skeins you could make a lovely little pair of gloves. I did not take pictures of how I painted the yarn because I was basically using techniques I learned when I was working for ArtFibers and I am sworn to secrecy.
But basically you can do whatever you feel like doing, it will turn out pretty no matter what, just do not blend the colors to much and be very gentle when you wrap it up in the plastic wrap. After I was done painting all the skeins I put them in a microwave-safe baking dish and nuked them for 2 minutes, then let them rest for 2 minutes, then nuked them again for another 2 minutes. Then all you have to do is let them cool, unwrap them, and rinse them until the water runs clear, which does not take long.
I also busted out a ridiculously large skein of silk-wool yarn I have been holding on to forever, and I used all the leftover dye plus a couple more packets of lemon-lime. Here are my finished products:
I am going to re-skein them at a slightly different diameter to break up the blocks of color, and when that is done I will post more pictures. I am going to list all of them on etsy except for the big one, which is for me.
Alright, so now I am covered in soap, water, Kool-Aid, and yarn fuzz, and I ran off to the laundromat to dry the laundry, get some dinner, and run some other errands and I didn't end up getting home until about 9 o'clock and I suddenly had the urge to make jam. So of course, still riding the wave of creativity, I indulged the urge. I had marrion berries and bird cherries from the backyard in the freezer waiting to be made into jam, so I thawed them out and set to work sterilizing the jars, peeling and pitting the bird cherries, and cooking them up with sugar, lemon juice, and a pat of butter. In case you are wondering, marrion berries are very similar to blackberries, but they have a lower moisture content, and in turn a stronger flavor, and smaller, softer seeds. I love baking pies with them because they make for a less runny filling than blackberries. And bird cherries are in the plum family. They are usually grown as ornamental trees but the fruits are edible too. They look like tiny black plums, and the trees have deep reddish purple leaves. The peels are super sour but the flesh is always sweet and deep red. If you or a neighbor has one of these trees I highly suggest that you do not let the fruit go to waste. I have a recipe for an open face plum cake I used them in here.
Anywho, the jam came out perfect except for the fact that it is a little soft for my taste; I should have added more pectin. But no worries, because the flavor is a-maz-ing! Pure, intense, sweet, and tangy blackberry goodness. The bird cherries play a kind of backup role, but the flavors go together swimmingly. And the color is the deepest blood red, so pretty! I am going to give a few jars to friends and family (this was a big batch, 12 jars and a little extra), and I am
sure we will devour a few jars ourselves, so I hope to list 6 of them on etsy.
All in all, a wonderful day. I stayed up until about one in the morning making the jam, but it was totally worth it. Now I just need a crazy big urge to take a ton of photos and list all the stuff I made!