Thursday, August 19, 2010

Etsy Corner: Soap That Makes Scents

Today on Etsy Corner, I not only have a review of a store, Soap That Makes Scents, but an interview with the owner, Karina!

When you become a regular on Etsy, whether browsing every day or tending your own shop, you do tend to accumulate a lot of 'favourites'. I myself will generally click "add item/seller to favourites" whenever I want to keep tabs on a store that caught my eye, either through random browsing or from a featured item in the daily Etsy Finds newsletter. I will come back to a lot of these faves, but only a few will truly stick, as I suspect is the norm for most shoppers. Karina's store was the ninth that I favourited, and unlike a lot of other favourites whose stores have languished, hers has continued to grow. That growth invites me back consistently to see what's new and keeps her a top favourite!

Karina originally hails from Toronto, Canada, but now lives in New York with her family. Her store first came to my attention around October 2009, when I was searching for solid perfume. I tried a perfume and a lipbalm, and when I came back for more perfume I decided to try out a soap as well. That soap was the holiday-limited-edition Mulled Apple Cider, a thoroughly lovely concoction that smelled as delicious as it sounds! I was hooked on her soaps and unique scent blends from that day on.

At the time I started following her store, she was selling bar soap, whipped body souffle, lip balm, and solid perfume. Since then the solid perfume has been discontinued (a lovely product that is sadly misunderstood in these modern times!), but the rest of the line has continued to blossom, and in March of this year she was featured in the Etsy "Quit Your Day Job" series.

In the last few months, I have acquired seven bars of her soap and am saving a couple for later - but it's hard to keep them aside when the scent quality and lather is this good! (They are also vegan, which makes them ideal for gift-giving to everyone on your holiday lists - and priced very reasonably - what's not to love?)

Japanese Peppermint SoapTo that end, I can personally attest that the Japanese Peppermint, Coconut Cream, Orange Dreamsicle, Teatree & Lemongrass, and Tomboy soaps are of wonderful quality (I am yet to actually use the regular Lemongrass and East Meets West, but they sit on my desk and I'll admit to taking occasional sniff-breaks just to enjoy the fresh scents!). They make excellent hand-wash soaps in the bathroom and lather up to a gorgeous, shaving-cream consistency on a bath-pouf in the shower. The scents are fresh and invigorating; the Japanese Peppermint, for example, is sweet and brisk, not overpowering as some peppermint blends can be. The Coconut Cream smells so much like a freshly-cracked coconut - and takes me back to summer holidays where just such a thing was an occasional treat - that it's mind-blowing! Tomboy is a blend of "bergamot, hawthorne, honeysuckle, nutmeg, sandalwood, violet, cedar, tonka bean and patchouli that's brightened with "feminine" notes of tangerine, mandarin and grapefruit" - you might think that all of these things can't possibly go together, and yet, it's a perfect match. I like it so much I can't keep it for once-a-day use, it's in my downstairs bathroom for hand-washing so I can enjoy it as much as I can!

Though I've only tried one flavour of lipbalm - grapefruit, yum! - I must mention that they are of a soft, smooth consistency and feel wonderful on the lips, not waxy or hard to get to the melting-point like some mass-produced Tomboy soapbalms.

And now without further ado, the interview! My thanks to Karina for giving insight into her creative process and how she runs her business :)


1) Describe the first soap you ever made. (Did you have a steep learning curve? What kind of soap did you want to make when you tried your hand at it?)

The first soap I ever made was Sandalwood Rose. It had come out well, but I didn't know that when I blended the colors used (purple and red) that I'd used bleeding colorants as opposed to what happened in about a day was my soap bars going from lovely red/purple swirls to a murky brown. There can be so much to remember about soapmaking...the properties of essential oils, the "right" measurements of oils and butters and additives to add, recipes, how to properly layer colors, etc. Soapmaking is definitely a science.

2) What inspires your scent blends?

Life does. Scents invoke memories and feelings. Fresh lemon makes us feel invigorated and refreshed...the smell of spice or cinnamon reminds us of the warm comforts of home or how we used to bake with our grandmother. Inhale the scent of my Orange Dreamsicle soap and it can take you back to your childhood. Fragrances mean so much---and can symbolize a specific time or emotion. That's what we try to do---we want to bring a slice of life into every single bar.

3) When you have a spare moment to relax, between business and family, what do you like to do? (I personally find myself mixing knitting with every other waking moment!)

I love to bake. Honestly, I think it's a crossover from soapmaking to cooking. The same principles apply--following a recipe, blending different ingredients and tastes together, creating something with my own two hands, and then handing it over to someone else who'll hopefully enjoy it as much as I do.

4) What's a typical business day for you?

•I wake up around 6:30 a.m. with my 4-year-old patting me on the cheek saying "It's morning time." My husband's already left for work, so while Isabella's eating breakfast I quickly boot up the computer to check for emails, answer any Convos, and relist items sold the night prior.

•Most mornings involve a trip to the post office and when we come back it's full business mode. I must admit I do utilize a bit of child labor once in a while — Isabella enjoys unpacking supplies and gets quite excited every time she sees a UPS truck pull up outside our home.

•While she has lunch or plays with her toys, most of the "behind the scenes" work gets done — labels are printed and then hand-stamped or hand-colored, invoices are written up (to this day I still hand write invoices, I think it adds a nice touch to the handmade shopping experience), thank you cards written out, and I'm constantly checking the computer for any new Convos or sales to keep on top of things.

•The bulk of soapmaking gets done either during her naptime (at least on the days I'm lucky enough for her to settle down for one) or when she's gone to bed, which is around 8:30 p.m.

•I normally go to bed around midnight after soapmaking — wrapping and labeling the bars/body souffle jars/lip balms are easily done in front of the television so I can still catch my favorite shows.

It's a busy day---and can get even more hectic if we're planning on doing a show that weekend, or making soap to donate to a charity. Our daughter is starting Pre-Kindergarten this year, so that's a good thing for her and for me.

5) You're on a desert island. You can take one movie, one CD, one book, one kind of beverage, and a supply of one of your soaps. What do you choose?

Oooh--I like this question! Let's see...

Movie: I'm not much into movies--I'm the type who waits until everything comes out on DVD before seeing it...and even then it's still several months (sometimes more than a year!) before I'll get around to actually watching it. I have become hooked to buying DVD series of past telelvision I'd have to say that I'd take my entire series of Stargae Sg-1...I love Richard Dean Anderson!

CD: Slippery When Wet by Bon Jovi.

Beverage: As long as I have at least one bottle of Coke, I'm good.

Soap: Now this is a tough one because I love them all and have many favorites. If I had to choose, I'd go with my Sangria bar, which I think would fit in with the whole Tropical-Island-Castaway theme. :)


Once again, folks, that's Karina of Soap That Makes Scents (and her Facebook fan page!). Do check out her wonderful store (did I also mention quite reasonable shipping?) and treat yourself to some luxury soaps today! [The soaps pictured are: Japanese Peppermint and Tomboy.]

Monday, July 12, 2010

Hats, Hats, and More Hats

When I was a kid, I remember reading "Caps for Sale" in school. I think what I liked most about it was how the man in the story wore all of those hats on his head and they didn't fall off. It must have made an impression because last winter I was wearing three hats at once on any given day! (A wool beanie cap underneath, then an acrylic earflap hat, and finally, a bulky-weight acrylic beanie which has since found its way into my husband's hat collection - apparently, totally by accident, I knit a hat that fits his noggin perfectly and happened to be in a colour he really liked. I can't make these things happen on purpose, it seems.)

In getting ready for Fall/Winter 10/11, I am knitting hats like a fiend right now, hoping to have my Etsy store stocked with a little something for everyone. I'm trying some new stuff - stranded colourwork, which so far has been incredibly intimidating, but seems to be working out - and trying to perfect my beret ratios (increasing the stitches by half for the shaping seems to yield a nice result, but still kind of big; doubling the stitches makes for a gigantic hat that might be useful for holding a LOT of hair). After the one I'm knitting right now I'm going to try a cabled beanie, and I also have some ideas for a stylish cloche. I am so into hats! I just can't wait until it's cold enough to merit wearing them - waiting out the summer is going to be tough.

I'll be trying to round up some models soon, but for the time being I'll show the hats off on my styrofoam head. Note that the head is a bit smaller than the average human head - what looks gigantic on the model seems to actually fit real people just fine :)

Peacock coloured hearts on black background; beanie shape.

"Stained glass" (variegated yarn) hearts on black background, beanie shape.

Black kitty faces on "stained glass"/variegated yarn background, beanie shape.

My friend Carolyn modeling the kitty beanie :)

And I finished this one last night - I'm still settling on a name for the colours, probably something with "berry" in it, but it's a slouchy beret. The photo is quite blurry but my camera batteries just quit, so I'm waiting for them to recharge before I can take a new picture, I'll try to have it up by tonight!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Adventures in Lace

So, it's been a while! This seems to be my blog pattern: I am very gung-ho at the beginning of the year, and I write a lot, happily posting pictures and committing to my documentation, and then around April or May my resolve crumbles (or I simply become distracted by actual knitting) and it slows down or stops entirely. Doesn't make for a very interesting blog to follow! So I'm going to try and remedy that and shoot for at least once a week. I've got a couple of Etsy Corners coming up, too - but for now, let's talk about lace.

For the past week or so I've been endeavouring to make my own lace kerchief pattern. I found one that I love - a very simple mesh that requires no chart, just a simple memorisation; and when it's blocked it looks amazing in its simplicity - but, I want something I can call my own. Something original I wouldn't feel bad about selling in my store. (I tweaked the aforementioned pattern to fit my preferences but am still coming up against an ethical wall.) So I got out the graph paper and looked through all of my stitchionaries and settled upon a leaf lace motif. Converting it to a tip-up triangular shape was a little tricky at first, but once I could see the pattern taking shape on the paper (and could see where my increases matched my decreases) - and I had begun knitting it at least six or seven times - I found my rhythm. I used a DK weight wool, and when I blocked it I used my brand new blocking wires. What a godsend these things are - it was a bit of a challenge to figure out how to thread them through the edge of the knitting, but once I had a wire in all three edges, it took minimal pinning to keep everything in place. So much simpler than trying to get everything straight on the blocking mat with about a zillion and one pins!
Here are a couple of pictures of the finished product (minus ribbon ties). I still have a couple of things to tweak within the chart itself but I'm still sort of patting myself on the back for converting a stitch pattern I thought was nice into an actual item (now - to try and do the same with a stitch pattern for a hat... eek).

Monday, April 19, 2010

Secret Projects & Cardigans

I've definitely been more into my knitting lately - kind of hit a bump in the road there. It wasn't that I didn't want to knit; I was overwhelmed by the scope and number of projects I had to finish up. Some of them, though past their due date, are now back into the realm of winter knitting. I hope to work on them during the summer and have them finished and ready to go for the start of autumn, but I have allowed myself to let go of the pressure. Once you begin forgiving yourself for all the UFOs in your knitting basket, the stress associated with them dissolves, and it's easier to jumpstart the creative spark. It also helps to switch to incredibly low-pressure projects! I am working on one such project now - it's a secret, but I promise that all will be revealed in due time... but a small taste can be seen to your left!

As for cardigans, I've decided it's high time that I learn the art of top-down construction. I've read that it's incredibly easy, relatively speaking, and that the best part is that there's no seams, and you can try on garments as you go. SOLD! I mean, I do an ok mattress stitch now, but for me piecing an item together and sewing seams is a definite mental hurdle that can make the difference between having a cardigan a month or two from now, or five months. (I am, of course, basing this on the ONE [1] cardigan I've made, haha.) Right now I'd like to make a cropped cardigan - a little shrug-like something I can pop on over a sleeveless top while I'm knitting at night, or over a dress to ward off a chill, and the beauty of top-down construction is that you can stop it wherever you'd like: cropped, short, mid-length, hip-length, longer than that... I suppose you could even make a full-on duster if you're so inclined!

As far as patterns go, I am seriously considering Margot by Linden Heflin as a fall knit. Though I do prefer cardigans to pullovers, this one is just so pretty! For right now, I am going to trust in the brilliant Laura Chau and start out with her Easy Top-Down Raglan. I have a couple of big ol' skeins of yarn leftover from Rachel's cardigan, so I've got a place to start. Updates will, of course, be forthcoming when I begin the project! Stay tuned!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Happy 100th Blog Post To Me!

And with that milestone, a bit of knitterly fluff courtesy of Bust magazine (the best mag on the "women's interest" rack, ever): This Just In, Truckers Take Up Knitting/Quilting. What a cool trend :)

Another recent fluffy fave is this clip, titled "Knitting's a Privilege", featuring comedian/journalist Mo Rocca being schooled in how cool knitting really is. I actually set my DVR for that one - thanks to a heads-up from Bust. Again!

I'll be back to post about my own knitting soon - I'm going through a knitting funk right now. It's kind of got me down. I'm still enjoying yarn and even knit a few swatches on my birthday last Saturday (we went to Tulsa mostly just to go to JoAnn's Fabric and buy some Debbie Stoller Stitch Nation yarn - and it's really good, review coming soon!), but there's this disconnect between me and my craft. I don't like it. I'm trying to conquer it... I'll let y'all know how it goes.

Goodnight internets!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

FO: "Kimono Classic" by Vicki Square

...aka, Rachel's Cardigan!

The pattern can be found in Ann Budd's "Simple Style". The recommended fibre is Berocco Softwist (a blend of rayon and wool), but working with a limited budget, we decided on "I Love This Yarn" acrylic (the Hobby Lobby house brand). I worked gauge swatches in both the recommended needle size for both the yarn and the pattern (size 8), but went up to 10s to get the drape required.

Skills learned: how to pick up stitches along the vertical (for doing the sleeves), seaming (mattress stitch - which I knew how to do, I just got a smidge more practice ;) ), adjusting a pattern for the wearer's personal preference, and... though this part took me a little longer... working through my skill-blocks to actually finish the project! (See previous entry and the bit about the Procrastination Wall.)

Enough bibbling - now for pics! Excuse the shonkiness of my carpet, my overuse of flash, and overall inability to take a good candid pic!

From top to bottom: the cardigan laid out flat to see its shape; a close-up of the neckband at the top of the collar (I was especially pleased with this; sewing the neckband to the body of the cardigan didn't get tricky until the bound-off edge at the top of the back piece); and Rachel enjoying her cardi! She said that it was very snuggly and loves the feel of the finished product :)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A Much More Detailed Post...

...will be forthcoming, with pictures, even! But I had to put this out into the ether...


The cardigan. Eet ees feeeneeshed. Finally. Five months and five days after I began. Note that it didn't take me that long to knit the thing - I'd say at least three months were moments of self-doubt and lack of faith in my abilities causing the Procrastination Wall, every time I came to a place where I needed to acquire a new skill. But last night I finally managed to start sewing the neckband in place, and lo and behold, the darn thing worked. I'm not sure it's 100% how I'd like it to be (it's acrylic... the little things can't be blocked out. Sob), but... we'll see how the recipient feels. Hopefully she'll lurve it!

Pictures coming soon, as well as Tips for Newbs: The Beginner's Knitting Toolkit, Part II (Electric Boogaloo)!