Sunday, September 21, 2014

DIY organic, allergen-safe lip balm

My daughter wanted to make lip balm! After reading scads of recipes and lots of ingredient labels, here is the recipe I came up with. It is most heavily influenced by these three because of the ingredients I chose to use; you'll probably want to adjust the ratios based on your preferences and ingredients. 

the ingredients we used
My daughter is allergic to peanuts, so I looked for organic ingredients with super-clear allergen labelling. This brand of cocoa butter and coconut oil says it may contain tree nuts, but is free of peanuts, gluten, dairy, and a bunch of other things. Different people have different sensitivities and allergies; for tree nut allergies, you'd need to switch to other soft waxes and carrier oils to make the lip balm base.

Allergen-Safe Lip Balm Recipe
1-2 tsp organic beeswax (or soy wax to make it vegan) < hard wax is added to make tubes of lip balm that won't melt in your pocket or during summer heat, you can use less if you like it softer and creamier or glossier
2-3 tsp pure organic cocoa butter 
2-3 tsp organic coconut oil 
optional: a few drops (say, 6-12) of peppermint oil, or lemon oil, or almond oil, or cocoa powder, or matcha powder, or whatever other flavouring agent you desire (alcohol extracts may not mix in properly)
optional: 1 tsp organic creamed honey (liquid honey may not mix in properly)
optional: a few drops of vitamin E oil (cut open capsules) - to act as an antioxidant so it takes longer to spoil, and to promote lip healing; some people use tea tree oil instead
optional: pigment: powder from beets or cranberries, or mineral pigments (like, say, a good-quality mineral blush) (we used a locally-made organic lip gloss as our source of pigment)

If you prefer a shiny gloss instead of a waxy cream, you can reduce or skip the beeswax and use more aqueous ingredients (liquid honey or maple syrup, aloe vera, flavour extracts instead of oils, fruit juices instead of powdered pigments for colour), and change the container accordingly.

Clean and sterilize all your tools and containers:
small saucepan / stainless steel measuring cup / mason jar to melt your wax mixture in (you may want to use something only for this if you're doing it more than once), double boiler style - we used an actual double boiler
containers: food- and cosmetic-safe - we got ours at a local craft store, and ran them through the dishwasher.
a stainless-steel chopstick or whisk for stirring
a dropper/pipette (or a glass liquid measuring cup with pour spout) for transferring the balm or gloss into your containers without spillage

our base mixture melting in a double boiler
Slowly melt ingredients in a double boiler - most people melt the hard wax (beeswax) first, then add the rest of the base ingredients. Since I wanted to try more than one flavour, I melted and mixed the base (50g (one box) of the cocoa butter, then the same amounts of beeswax and coconut oil using the cocoa butter as my guide), then divided in half by pouring the melted base into a glass measuring cup before adding my optional ingredients (honey, vanilla extract and the pale pink lip gloss for a slightly shiny hint-of-tint lip gloss, and lemon flavour (lemon oil + sunflower oil) for the other half). 

Cool slightly, give it one last good stir to make sure ingredients aren't separating, and fill your chosen containers. If you need to test it, you can dip a teaspoon that you've left in the freezer into your balm at this point; if the consistency is wrong, you may want to set some aside to use as a moisturizing lotion or cuticle cream before you start adjusting proportions.

Cool the filled containers in the fridge or freezer (although ours started to solidify at room temperature). Label, if desired, and enjoy.

Our finished product after cooling at room temp for only 10 minutes

On DD's lips, the base that we added tinted lip gloss to - just a hint of tint and shimmer. Perfect!
Note: This post is part of my nonconsecutive #30DaysOfMaking Challenge.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Arleen Brown's beautiful hooked rugs

While I was home visiting family this summer, I had the pleasure of spending an afternoon with my maternal grandmother's sister, Arleen Brown, who is still hooking gorgeous mats in her nineties despite blindness in one eye. Aunt Arleen learned to hook from my great-grandmother while growing up near Lunenburg, and still closely adheres to the traditional South Shore Nova Scotian techniques (also described in the print edition of Rug Hooking magazine, in the Canadian Connections article about Leslie Langille's rugs)(Vol. XXV, No. 5, March/April/May 2014). Her designs are drawn onto burlap backing, the edges are turned under and crocheted to finish and hide them, and then the mat is stretched on a frame and the design is hooked right to the edge, perfectly even, with no backing showing, and straight lines used for the background. They are a technical tour-de-force.

Arleen showing us photos of her other rugs.
An antique pattern from the Eaton's catalogue that her mum had given her to hook as a young woman. She had me trace this onto red dot fabric so she can rehook it, now that the original backing has become brittle and started to shred.

Chickens are one of her favourite subjects.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Three More Weeks In Nova Scotia

We managed to squeeze in another long visit in Nova Scotia this summer. As I've written previously, our goal is to help our kids connect with their family and their roots. We spent almost all our time hangout out with our extended family this time, and the visit included a family wedding on one side and an anniversary party on the other. Now that they are older, we also wanted to give them a sense of the history of the region, so we made a side trip to Cape Breton to visit the Alexander Graham Bell museum in Baddeck and the Fortress of Louisbourg.

Solomon Gundy at Magnolia's Grill in Lunenburg - their scallops were the best I have ever tasted.
A beautiful day at Martinique Beach
Sunset reflected on a distant thunderhead at Lawrencetown Beach
The view of a glassy Bay of Fundy from my grandparents' house in Port Greville
Cape Split at low tide from the beach at Port Greville, with the help of a zoom lens
Five Islands Lighthouse Park
Five Islands at low tide and sunset. Glooscap threw these clumps of mud at Beaver.
A Cheticamp table mat in our cottage in Baddeck.
Twist, cross, twist, cross. Learning bobbin lacemaking at the Fortress of Louisbourg.

One of several period kitchen gardens at the Fortress.
Learning to trout fish at a local lake
Ferry ride across Halifax Harbour to have coffee with a friend
Supper at the Old Orchard Inn after a long day of visiting family
One last walk at Lawrencetown Beach

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Still hooked on rug hooking: a yarn mat and 'Just Marbelous'

I have many hooked rug projects, at various stages of completion, and the #30DaysOfMaking Challenge seemed like the perfect time to pull them out and really rekindle my passion for rug hooking.

(No, not latch hooking, you children of the 80s. I'm talking about the much older technique that uses a crochet-like hook to make a running loop stitch using fabric scraps cut into strips. It began as a thrift craft, and is carried on now as a textile art with multiple styles, from folk-art 'primitive' designs using wide cuts and reclaimed fabrics to meticulously-shaded 'traditional' designs using narrow cuts and specially-dyed new material.)

I. Hooking with wool yarn

Feb 14th, reverse side of a Cheticamp-style rug hooking kit using two-ply wool yarn on burlap. I bought this a couple of years back at Jennifers Of Nova Scotia as a gift for my daughter, to help her learn to hook, but it became mine when she became too frustrated with the slow pace of hooking in nearly every hole and the yarn loops pulling back out on her. We'll try again when she's a bit older. This piece was meant by the original (unnamed) designers to be a round mat to protect a table.
Feb 19th, showing all the kit pieces (except the hook, which was made by my father for me,
the hoop, and the stork scissors). As you can see, I modified the design quite a bit, in order to commemorate a whale watching trip to Brier Island, Nova Scotia - I took out the enormous seagulls and added a whale watching boat, a whale tail-lobbing, and a couple of brier rose bushes. It's a bit folkier and busier than I would like, and I'm not happy with the lighthouse (which was hooked exactly as drawn on the burlap). Hooking with such fine yarn can be tedious, because it takes longer to fill a motif than if you're using fabric strips, and the loops have a mind of their own, so the direction of your hooking is lost. The trick is to lose yourself in the moving meditation instead of overthinking it.
Finished and framed, on March 11th. Destined for a bathroom wall, I think.
II. "Just Marbelous"

Detail of "Just Marbelous", primarily wool fabric on cotton monkscloth, March 7th. This rug is my own design, inspired by my collection of antique handmade marbles, many of which we believe were childhood gifts from my dad's maternal grandfather to him, but the bulk of which were won during dad's childhood marbles bouts in New Glasgow. They're like miniature works of art glass, and made the perfect subject to challenge my skills in hooking circles, working with many widths of woolen fabric strips (mostly #3, #4, and #5 cuts), and working with multiple materials (the marbles also include spot-dyed and dip-dyed fabrics, a couple of types of yarn, and a metallic-laminated wool). The biggest challenge in it was the temptation to overpack, but the result of that was that a few of the marbles took on a domed appearance - a tripping hazard on the floor, but a pleasing effect in a wallhanging. It would also make a brilliant stash-busting project, although in my case the materials were leftovers given to me by friends from the Dartmouth branch of the Rug Hooking Guild of Nova Scotia, back when I began hooking.

The date on the rug is 1997, when I began it, and the reason it has taken me so long to finish is that the matte black wool that I chose for the background, to show off the bright colours of the marbles, is an absolute bitch to hook. Never again! It requires bright daylight for me to be able to see what I am doing properly, and a drum-tight stretch on the hooking frame (because I chose monkscloth as the backing). I have, however, found that the little purse-size OttLites can be clipped to the neckline of your shirt, at the point of a V-neck, if you need to shed a little light on the situation.

Here's a work-in-progress photo and a detail photo from July 30th. You can see by this time I'd added this year's date, which commits me to finishing this by the end of December. I'm determined to get this background finished before the short days of winter hit. So I brought it on vacation with me.

My work-in-progress cellphone shot from August 17th, while on vacation in Nova Scotia. In this photo you can really see the domes where I overpacked the loops early on in the process. Every bit of black background that I add makes the marbles pop more, which is so satisfying. Before I can complete the rug, I need to cut more #3 and #4 cut of my flat black to fill the remaining spaces. I also need to hook in a few more rows of the teal border. 

Hopefully the next time you see a photo of it here, I'll be celebrating its completion!
Note: This post is part of my #30DaysOfMaking Challenge. 30 nonconsecutive days, as it turns out.