Sunday, July 31, 2011

Hand Crafted Soap - Basic Types of Homemade Soap

Homemade soap is a hand crafted product that can be as wonderful to make as it is to use. Soap making has become a popular craft thanks to the wealth of information on the internet. While 2o years ago, it was hard to find methods and recipes for soap making, the ability to locate materials and methods is so readily available that the old, once outdated skill has become wide spread.

If you have toyed with the idea of making soap at home, you must first learn to distinguish the various kinds of soap that you can make. It may be a good idea to attempt the easiest method first to see if you enjoy the craft.

Melt and Pour Soap is the simplest way to make soap. Kits and materials are available at most craft shops. Kits offer blocks of glycerine, instructions on how to make it, coloring agents, dyes, and molds. Blocks of glycerine are also available to those who do not wish to purchase a kit. Blocks of glycerine come in clear or already colored forms.

Remilled Soap can be made of soap you have made by the process described below, or by using purchased bars of soap. To remill soap, finely shred soap and melt at a low temperature along with liquid. When melted, add essential oil and pour into a mold. This is a step in a process and not really soap making. French milled soap employs the use of heavy steel rollers that press the soap, creating a dense, long lasting bar of fine soap and usually a factory product.

Cold Process Soap is the real soap making process from scratch and was the method used to produce the soap that is pictured above. A combination of the correct proportions of lye (caustic soda), water, fats, and oils by following a step-by-step procedure creates a chemical reaction known as soponification. One simple recipe can be altered with various coloring agents, essential oils, and the addition of herbs to produce many different types of soaps with healing, skin soothing, or deep cleaning properties.

Cold process soap must be cured for one month before using. This product may produce soft bars that may not last long in the shower, though hardens after a longer period of storage.

Hot Process Soap uses the method outlined above, but is heated again, after trace (the point at which the combination of lye, water, and fats begin to thicken). The liquid is reheated at a low temperature in an oven or crock pot. The reheating cuts down on the curing time. Hot process soap is ready to use in 3 - 5 days and results in a harder more long lasting bar than cold process soap. Care must be taken in the addition of essential oils as the heat may adversely affect the scent of the final product.

Thought making soap at home can be a mess, and engender a search for the correct materials, it is a creative process that is quite enjoyable and makes a wonderful gift.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Repurpose Vintage Silver for a Polished Look

Vintage silver plate utensils, trays, sugar bowls, creamers, and serving dishes can make a stylish impact for your table or anywhere around the house. Antique silver offers a genteel ambiance and adds panache to any home decor.

You can find lots of old silver plate dishware at thrift stores. I always see attractive items at my local Good Will Store at at other thrift stores in my area. Recognize silver plate by its tarnish which can turn a beautiful piece totally black.

Silver plate does wear off and some pieces will never regain their original shine even after a good rubbing with silver polish. In general, tarnish does not appear as circular spots. Those dark spots may be there for good. But even a damaged piece can look good. Just turn the bad spot toward the wall. Or think of those "age spots" as character.


Things to do With Vintage Silver

Fill a serving dish with pine cones, antique handkerchiefs, or sachets. In the bathroom, you can fill a silver dish with handmade soap. Silver plate can be very inexpensive. Use it to hold handmade soap, tea bags, candy or other items to give an elegant look to a gift.

Use a silver creamer or sugar bowl to hold flowers. Silver looks lovely paired with blue, white, or pink flowers and brings out the silver in artemisia and other gray or silvery foliage.

Use a silver cup or creamer to hold and display eating utensils at a party. A tall cup will add a new level to the table and make the forks or spoons easy to reach. (This cup could use a polish. But slightly tarnished silver can create a funky or rustic look)

Use a silver cup, creamer, or sugar bowl to hold tapered candles. Just soak a piece of Oasis floral foam, then place in the bottom of the container. Shove the candle into the foam. You can fill in the edges with leaves or flowers. Cut short pieces of evergreens at Christmas and insert into the foam. Add a bit of water to keep the green material fresh.

Once you start using old silver plate for decorating, you will think of many more uses. Why hide your grandmother's favorite silver plate in the cupboard when you can put it on display?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Set the Tone With Vintage Flatware on the Cheap

Vintage Flatware
Who can resist the genteel allure of vintage flatware? Older designs provide an interesting look to a table setting and the antique knives and forks have a comfortable weight not always found in cheap modern stainless steel.

Not long ago, Anthropologie offered a collection of mismatched sets of old flatware, randomly selected so that no two sets are alike. Mismatched flatware adds a unique touch that I prefer to a full new set. And while Anthro offered their Rediscovered Flatware for $36.00 a place setting, it can be done for less.

With a bit of work - if you call shopping work - you can create your own original flatware collection. Comb flea markets, garage sales, and thrift shops like Good Will - a hit or miss proposition that can be a lot of fun and ultimately rewarding. It's like a treasure hunt. Silver plate also shows up a lot on ebay and etsy. It's not quite as cheap as if it's in the bin at the thrift shop, but you can find very attractive older pieces for about $3.00 each.

I found one piece of silver plate flatware that I researched and dated to the late 1800's. It cost me one dollar. I also found defunct restaurant silver plate flatware and some cute pieces from a country club that depicted crossed golf clubs.

While hunting through bins or plastic bags, look for blackened flatware. Stainless steel will look its natural color but silver tarnishes, turning black. It may look awful, but under all that tarnish, you can find beautiful silver plate. Chances are, you won't find sterling silver at the Good Will. But you never know!

Just bring out the shine with a little silver polish.

My flatware finds have cost as little as 10 cents each, on up to $1.00 - a real bargain for something that is sorta fabulous.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Create Cheap Crate and Barrel Style Wood Furniture

(All photos by Dolores Monet)

Getting tired of a piece of furniture is no reason to get rid of it or incur the expense of buying something new (or even used). There are easy, inexpensive ways to update wood hutches, tables, and chairs that can totally change the personality of the piece. My fussy old hutch (as pictured on the right) needed a new look and I really love the look of black painted furniture at Crate and Barrel, particularly the Cornerstone series.

My old (1960's) hutch belonged to my mother. In the faux finishing days, my sister had painted it in a tortoise shell design. It was quite attractive as my sister w
as a professional and knew what she was doing.

But the faux finish was too much and detracted from the dishes that I like to display on the shelves. Stripping the furniture seemed like too much work and mess; and I was not too sure about the maple wood. A paint job seemed the best way to go.

For the cost of a quart of paint, a few pieces of sandpaper, paint brushes, and a can of spray paint, I now have a whole new look and am very pleased with the results.

How to Create the Crate and Barrel Look

1) Remove all hardware, doors, and drawers before you begin

2) Sand furniture with fine grain 180 grit sandpaper. Heavy grit sand paper can spoil the look of the wood by leaving lines.

Remove doors and hardware
3) Lay a base coat of flat or eggshell dark paint. I had some flat brown paint, so I just used that.

4) Paint furniture black. I used Martha Stewart's Francesca black eggshell. I used cheap boar's bristle paint brushes, the ones with the plain wooden handles at Home dePot. I also used a comb occasionally on the brush to remove loose bristles. A painting sponge would work well too.

You want the paint to go on smoothly in thin coats, as any material embedded in the paint will detract from the finish. Make sure you paint in a well lit area so you can see properly.

Thin coats prevent drip marks and create a nice, even coat.

5) Lightly sand between coats.

6) 2 - 3 coats work best

Trim the Edges

Sand the edges to create interest and break up the flat look of plain black.

With a piece of folded sandpaper, sand along the edges of the furniture until you remove all the black paint. Your lines don't have to be perfectly even.

Decide where you want to remove the paint then occasionally stand back to see how it is going. Sometimes less is more.


The handles, and hinges were a bit too funky, so I took the rust off. To remove rust, immerse hardware in 1 Cup of white vinegar, 1 teaspoon salt, one tablespoon of lemon juice, and 1 tablespoon of hot sauce. Soak overnight.

I spray painted the hardware with Rustoleum Metallic Antique Brass

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Reuse Old Ceiling Tin - Make a Wall Hanging

As much as I love the beautiful things that I see in magazines, I realize the cost of living makes it nearly impossible. But using a bit of creativity, and learning where to look to find the right bones, we can create a unique home environment that enriches our lives.

Shopping has long been a popular activity for many but the ridiculous prices in the shops of my dreams has sent me scrambling for more realistic opportunities. But amazing things can be found at thrift stores, architectural salvage yards, and in the garbage.

I spotted antique ceiling tile and bought a piece of it with the thought of hanging it behind my stove for a vintage look. But the tile did not fit. So I cleaned it, cut it down, and wrapped it around a simple wooden frame. Old ceiling tile is remarkably easy to cut with tin snips and can be folded around the edges of the frame, then screwed on.

I removed the paint - outdoors on a tarp as old ceiling tile was most likely painted with a lead based paint. Then, I created several layers of paint in the colors I wanted - brown, blue, and an overlay of metalic copper. Of course, one color would be just as attractive, but I like to overdo things.

Finish with a clear coat of spray paint to enrich and protect the color.

The use of old objects for home decor adds a distinctive look and is a sustainable practice that cuts down on waste. Architectural salvage can introduce a feeling of antiquity, of warmth, charm, and whimsy to perk up any room.