Category Archives: Baby Crafts

2017 Soapy Updates, plus a note on Naked Soap

Happy April! I wanted to share what’s been going on over at Flora & Pomona. So far 2017 has been a productive year, albeit with a slow pace (I am a stay at home mom to a toddler after all). Most of my energy I put into production, because that’s my passion, but also because I am trying to build enough of an inventory to officially launch an Etsy shop. Having an online outlet is going to be a big step for me and I decided on Etsy after visiting an Etsy MTL event two summers ago. I expect that I will have five listings to open with within the month! On May 20th I will be participating in the artisan market Marché créatif de la Paroisse in the St-Édouard church on 425 Beaubien.

This soaping season I decided to cut my bars a bit thicker so that they use up more evenly. I also started beveling the edges on my bars: this makes the soap more comfortable to use, at least until the edges wear down from use.

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Rose Water & Coconut Milk Soap – with beveled edges and a thicker cut

I have had lots of fun using ingredients from local producers this year too – like making Oat Stout Beer Soap using beer from a local Quebec brewery, and Mocha Latte Soap using fairtrade coffee beans from a Quebec roaster.

I have also decided to make larger bar versions of the puck shaped Wool Wash soap that come on a hemp rope.

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Flora & Pomona’s Wool Wash Soap with Lanolin : larger bar version

This year I renewed my determination to make high quality natural soap, but with an added focus on what I call naked soap. By naked I mean soap that is not “dressed up” with colorants and fragrances but that smells and looks like what it is made of. A soap made with shea butter will smell very different from a soap made with cocoa butter, and a soap made with goats milk will smell and look differently from a soap made with distilled water. Instead of using synthetic colorants, which I rarely did anyway, I use herbs, clays, resins and infused oils.

Despite of common wisdom that the best and most economical thing for a small batch soap maker can do is to find a recipe and stick to it, varying only your fragrances and colorants, I have never had a standard formula. I have developed a preference for certain ratios, but this is not the same. Each soap I make is made for a specific purpose and I formulate my soaps according to the qualities I’m looking for. But back to the naked soap.

My initial motivation for making unscented and colorant free soaps was because I found a retail outlet in a children’s clothing store in my neighborhood. Once I started making these soaps it all just made sense. Of course I have a baby myself, but I also suffer from psoriasis and generally sensitive skin. For babies, children and people with skin issues, less is always more. I also discovered that my soaps actually smelled good – all by themselves.

Last year during a market a man walked up to my stall and asked me: “do you have any soaps that will leave a good smell on my skin”. I thought about it for a while, then said “no.” I have never used fragrance oils but I did have soaps scented with essential oils. But none of them would have scented your skin. I guess I could have given him some kind of sales pitch, but I just knew that I didn’t have what he was looking for. There are lots of soap makers who make soaps that will perfume you, but I’m not one of them. And when I use essential oils, I use them because I think they have purpose to serve, and never in such a quantity that they’ll double as perfume. So hopefully even after you use one of my soaps, even those scented with an essential oil blend, when you step out of the shower, you too will smell like what you are – yourself, naked and clean.

Some examples of Naked Soap 😀

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Filed under Artisanal soap, Baby Crafts, Flora and Pomona, Ingredients, Market, Naked Soap, Recipes, webstore, Wool Wash Soap

Baby Crafts, part 2: Felt Cat Rattle

One of the greatest things about the Waldorf store Grande Ourse, jouets pour la vie is that they sell the supplies to make textile toys similar to the ones they carry in store: things like real wool felt sheets, felting wool, thread, needles, and these beautiful embroidery scissors that I still haven’t bought but that I want. Badly. And the prices are affordable. I had bought a bunch of felt sheets with the idea to make a nursery mobile in the Waldorf style but had yet to start this project. While still in the googling stage – looking for ideas on how to theme my mobile – I had come across a bunch of pictures of felt plushies. felt-plushies-googlesearch-marsbalms

They looked really easy to make. Some of them anyway. And being Scandinavian (and born in the 70s) I decided to wanted to make my version of a Scandi Cat, a ridiculously retro looking and cute plush toy made by a British lady (!). I would have to make my own pattern of course, but this wouldn’t be difficult because the Scandi Cat is basically just an oval topped with two triangles. I sketched him out on some paper then folded it in half to make sure that both sides were the same shape and that the ears were aligned. You can see the lines I drew with a liner – doing this is a good idea to make sure you line up the features.

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Made my own pattern by sketching out the cat on regular paper, after tracing the body, I cut the face out, after tracing the face, I cut the features out.

I would have to sew on the features. Again, no biggie, because the Scandi cat, and almost all plush toys are cartoony with simplified features. After using the pattern to get the front and back part of the cat (you can see this in the pic above) I cut the features out of the pattern: the face, the nose and eyes and used these smaller parts as mini patterns. Here below you can see the cut out features.

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First you sew on the smaller parts onto the face using the blanket stitch. This is the same stitch I used to sew the cat together because it prevents the stuffing from coming out. It’s really simple and there are a ton of videos on how to blanket stitch.

The only parts that are not blanket stitched are the pupils and the smile – those were back stitched – basically a straight stitch that starts where the last one ends. I didn’t even know it was called back stitch, it’s so simple you can figure it out just by trying to sew an uninterrupted line. Incidentally, I also pulled each subsequent stitch up through the last and found that this made a neater line without spaces, especially since I was sewing curbed lines. Here’s a bigger pic.SAM_4219

Imagine that when you come back up with your needle instead of pulling it up next to your last stitch you pull it up into the very last millimeter of your previous stitch, essentially piercing through the thread and splitting the fibers of the thread a bit.But that’s nitpicking. It’ll probably be chewed to bits anyways, right?

Ok, then when you have sewed the features on you sew the whole face on, as you see above, with the blanket stitch. Then you have your front completed and unless you want to put a tail on the back part, sew the front and back together with the blanket stitch: SAM_4221 and leave a hole at the bottom and begin stuffing. Don’t cut your thread yet though! Just leave it hanging. I chose to stuff with wool. SAM_4222

Using a wooden dowel, I stuffed the face first, getting the ears good and puffy and then continuing my way down. In the middle I inserted a brass bell. You see them tied around the necks of the golden easter bunnies in stores now actually. You can get them at craft stores too. I was told that to make it chime I would have to encase the bell in a hollow ball first because the wool would damped the bell. But no, it does not and a year later still sounds clear! So, I just wrapped wool around the bell loosely, then put it in the middle and stuffed wool all around it. I made sure not to stuff it too much though, because in order for baby to be able to grab it the toy needs to be soft and have some give. The same goes for when you get to the end: it’s easier to sew it up if you don’t stuff the bottom too much, so after stuffing the cat I sewed up the hole a bit more, then stuffed the bottom with the dowel and then stitched it shut. SAM_4224

Ok, so I forgot (e.i. was too lazy) to give this cat whiskers and a tail. But, he’s a unique fellow. Kinda looks like the Cheshire cat, don’t you think? Like all the baby crafts I made while pregnant, I was worried that my baby wouldn’t like it. But she loves “katten” (cat in Swedish), especially the ears which she have chewed and sucked into little dark points. Here he is one year later, a bit mussed up, but loved. Felt cat rattle, plush toy Thanks for stopping by 🙂 Next time: how I made a felt and wood Sun, Moon and Stars Mobile!

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Filed under Baby Crafts, DIY, Handicrafts, Sewing, TOYS

Baby Crafts: How I made my own Baby Toys. A series in parts…

This time last year I was pregnant with my first baby. I wasn’t working and since it was winter – and it was a brutal winter – I spent most of my time indoors, watching youtube videos on how to cloth diaper, and reading babycenter.com threads on morning sickness. I watched the blowing snow bend the two pines in the backyard. A peregrine falcon visited us a couple of times – eating his fresh caught prey on the pine branches. It was too soon to set up the crib. I wanted to paint, but had to wait until we could open the windows. There wasn’t really much I could do. I had started to visit a Waldorf store on Duluth street called “Grande Ourse: jouets pour la vie” meaning, toys for life. I love the toys in that store but I couldn’t really afford most of them. One day I picked up a piece of wood I had found on the mountain (In Montreal we are blessed to have a forested mountain in the middle of our city) and I started to whittle. This was the first baby item I made myself. It became a teething spoon. The two days it took to make it went really fast and as soon as it was done I thought: what else can I make? Here is a series on how I spent last winter, crafting baby items for my growing bump. Hope you like it!

PART 1: The Wooden Teething Spoon

So,  I found a piece of wood on the mountain. I think it’s probably maple, because the mountain (well, all of Montreal, and Quebec) is covered in maple. I’m a gatherer by nature so I have a lot of odds and ends around, and this time it proved really useful. As a small baby myself, I bit up a whole wooden dining room table so I knew teething toys might come handy. I watched a couple of videos on whittling and got busy. The first thing I did was saw off a manageable piece, about the length I wanted the spoon to be. I was lucky enough that the stick was already split in half. If it hadn’t been I would have had to split it by hammering in a knife point down the middle, if that makes sense. Next I roughly sketched the spoon out with a pen and “sketched” the outlines with a Swiss army knife.

Sketching out the wooden teething spoon

After that, I whittled away, making sure to whittle the handle away from the bowl of the spoon so that I wouldn’t slip and take away part of the bowl. I didn’t have proper spoon carving tools, but I did have a small whittle knife with a v-shaped blade and I used that to dig out the bowl. Sometimes I would stick the blade of the Swiss Army knife down the sides, but other than that a knife is pretty useless when you’re carving a bowl. SAM_2874

The spoon took the shape that felt comfortable in my hands, and I had to do it one small slice at a time. Glad I have a vacuum cleaner…

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Starting to look like something!

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After this I started sanding the spoon with coarse grit sandpaper, slimming it down and getting more elegant lines.

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Then, a finer grit sandpaper…and voila! A teething spoon! I finished it all off with a baby safe wood-finish I made myself, using beeswax, linseed oil (boiled flax seed oil) and olive oil. This kind of coating is often used on wooden Waldorf toys btw.

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Wooden teething spoon, done!

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Side view, showing the grain of the wood.

Whittling proved pretty fun, if tiring on the fingers. And messy! Especially if you don’t have the proper tools. But I was happy to find out that you can make cool things with so little: a Swiss army knife, some Dollarstore sandpaper and a couple small wood working tools I got in Chinatown for under 5$. It kept me busy for a few days, then I had to find something else to do! Next part: how I made a felt cat rattle!

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Filed under Baby Crafts, Blog, DIY, Handicrafts, Woodworking