Thursday, 27 November 2014

Recycled Mini-Album Pages–Professional Life

Having just heard that my sister and my niece are coming down in December, I thought I would really press ahead and try and get the mini-album finished in time for that, so I can give it to my niece. I am making very good progress so far, and have now completed some more sets of pages. Today I am showing you the Professional Life pages.

This is the completed title page of the section. This section is largely monochrome, with heavy use of the white pen (I am now on my third white pen for this project!) and trying to keep the pages as thin as possible as I am getting rather concerned at how thick the book is becoming, and there may be further thick pages to come. The text was printed on the computer, cut out and applied, along with the pictures, with regular matt gel medium.

89 Professional Life Title Page Complete Blurred

The second page, before I did the border. This page deals with my dad’s work at the hospital, taking the initiative at his own expense and in his own time, to give his junior staff extra tuition, better to equip them for their professional lives ahead. I have also added a piece about the professional conferences he attended. The two photos on this page are of artefacts now in my possession. To create the background, I used a larger version of the picture of the hospital, stuck down with regular matt gel medium, and painted over with a grey acrylic glaze. The text was hand-written with the white pen.

90 2nd Professional Life Page WIP Blurred

Here is the page with the border.

91 2nd Professional Life Page Complete Blurred

I created the background for the third page using a mixture of titanium white and black acrylic paint, dabbing it on randomly.

92 3rd Professional Life Page Acrylic Background

It was a little bit too strong so I went over it with white pan pastel with a little black for good measure. I prefer the softer effect. The next photo shows the page after sealing the surface and adhering the photos with regular matt gel medium as before, and again, the artefact is now in my possession.

93 3rd Professional Life Page Complete Blurred

The border was done with white acrylic paint and black and white pens, and the journaling in white pen, outlined in black where it was against the light background. The picture shows my dad wearing his badge of office when he was president of his local medical society.

There was a special event in his professional life that was so unusual that I have devoted a separate section to it, which I will cover in the next post.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014


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First of all, I am sorry I haven’t been visiting many desks. I have been working flat out in my ARTHaven, when time and energy permitted, desperately trying to complete the recycled mini-album. My sister has contacted us and said she and her daughter are coming over in December, and it occurred to me that I could give our niece the album then, if I can only complete it in time! I’ve been making good progress.

Here is my desk this week.


You can see the current page I am working on, which is about tigers. Keep an eye on my blog over the next few days and you will see these, and some other pages I’ve completed. Laid on the book are a white pastel pencil (very useful for marking out elements on a black page, and easily rubbed off afterwards) and a pan pastel applicator. The book itself is resting on a new scratch paper I’ve started making, cleaning off my brushes from all the orange painting I’ve been doing over the past day or two! I shall probably turn this scratch paper into a masterboard if it looks useable. Even at this stage, it does show just how much paint can be wasted in the water pot and down the sink.

On the left you can see my entire stock of pan pastels (not many, but I should be able to achieve a good range of colours by mixing). At the back, lots of gel mediums and acrylic paints, my usual trademark dirty water jar (no, it’s not the same water as last week – it’s actually been changed quite a few times this week!), my brushes, distress inks, two bubble wrap printing blocks, the corner of my iMac and my heat gun. Perched on top of the distress inks is a pink circle punch. All the usual stuff on the shelf above.

Despite the pressure to get this project completed, I am really enjoying doing it. I am hoping to have time before it goes to do a video of it and also a blog post of all the completed pages, but we shall see!!

As for the rest of the week, I’ve been reasonably well. Although I was told that my latest blood test was “normal,” I spoke to the surgery subsequently and was told that it was at the bottom end of normal, and my GP wants me to continue with the iron, but reducing the dose from three times to twice a day, which I am happy to do. Over the past couple of days my balance has been a bit more off than usual and I’ve felt more wobbly on my feet but these things come and go with the M.E. and it’s probably because I’ve been pushing myself a bit too much!

Various bits and pieces have been arriving all week from Ebay, for soap making. The teacher supplies everything we need for each class, which is great, but it means we can’t do anything at home. I need to get some soaps made for Christmas presents.

I’ve been working on the final stages of my knitting, which I’d hoped to have completed by this week. The second sleeve is now finished and I’m picking up stitches around the neck, and then I’ve only got to sew up the side seams and it will be completed! I hope to be able to show you next week.

Have a great week, everybody, and happy WOYWW.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Recycled Mini-Album Pages–Cars

I have now completed the Cars pages. I began by printing out some “Cars” text in various sizes, and at the same time, to fill the page, I printed some material for the Professional Life pages.

78 Printing and Cutting for Cars and Professional Life Pages

Fussy cutting the cars text.

79 Cutting Out Words for Cars Page

I applied the text to the page using soft matt gel medium. The pieces were rather delicate and I thought they might tear if I used regular medium.

80 Words on the Cars Page

Once they were dry, I made a wash with titanium white acrylic paint and acrylic polymer and roughly painted over the cars text.

81 White Glaze on Cars Page

I had a rummage in my card strips box and made a selection, for some “go faster” stripes for this page. I was rather pleased to find the offcuts from the recycled Christmas cards that I used for the pages of this album! Seemed fitting somehow. Recycling the recycled.

82 Cars Page and Card Strips

I thought the page looked a bit dull so I added a small suggestion of colour with white and brown pan pastels, which also had the effect of muting the brush strokes on the page. I fixed it with my Rustoleum spray sealant (great stuff, but it really stinks!!).

83 Pan Pastels on Cars Page

Now for the fun part. I had printed and cut out several car badges and stuck these down with regular matt gel medium, and then cut the card strips to form the “go faster” stripes which were laid down with a suggestion of randomness. You can still see the “cars” text echoing the title and forming a subtle background.

84 Cars Page with Badges and Go Faster Stripes

I completed the first Cars page with the addition of a border – I was pleased with how this turned out because it looks almost suggestive of car tyres!

85 1st Cars Page Complete

The second “Cars” page shows the cars my dad owned during his life (with the exception of the first one, a Riley, which I do not remember, and have no photo). I wanted to keep the look of the page consistent, and also to introduce a somewhat vintage appearance, so I edited the photos in Serif PhotoPlus, creating a duplicate layer which I desaturated, and then erased away the actual car, so that the colour from the bottom layer popped. Unfortunately when I printed them out the colour balance wasn’t quite right and I had a bit of touching up to do. I fixed the photos first, with Rustoleum clear sealant, and then used various distress inks as watercolours to alter the colours somewhat. The MG Magnette (second down on the left) had no colour added because it was dark grey anyway. After this came the first MG sports car – an MGA in red. This car was, in my opinion, the most attractive of all his cars – it had such beautiful lines. The MGB sports cars (top right) had to be printed from a downloaded image because for some reason I have no photos – he had two (if not 3) of these, all in British Racing Green. He loved his sports cars!

85 2nd Cars Page with Photos

A good number of years before he retired he bought his first Porsche. He drove this for many years, well into his retirement. The second Porsche, a Boxter, was the last car he ever owned, which he was still driving aged 89!!

I am quite pleased that the border on this page, which was determined by the page of the same size further back in the book, looks like a chequered flag! Although he wasn’t into motor racing, it seems appropriate with his love of sports cars.

The final step was to add the journaling and final embellishments to tie the page together.

88 2nd Cars Page Complete

This takes us up to the end of the second signature of the book.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Second Soap Making Class–Natural Soaps

Last night I had the most fun ever, at our second soap class. After starting last week with basic mould-and-pour using fancy moulds, tonight the shapes were more basic, but the soaps themselves were just wonderful, coloured and fragranced with natural materials.

We used the basic mould-and-pour soap bases we used last week – white and clear. For colour, instead of using synthetic colours, the teacher brought natural powders such as turmeric and cosmetic-grade clays in various colours. The fragrances were all natural too – essential oils and the natural scent of the various additives. She also brought along bags of different botanicals to add for colour and texture, such as tiny flowers, petals, wheatgerm, cinnamon sticks, and dried sliced orange. Everything looked so wonderfully natural and subtly coloured, and as for the smells! My hands continued to smell lovely for several hours afterwards! If none of the subsequent classes are as fun and fulfilling as last night’s, I shan’t mind – I think most of my own soap making from now on is going to be along natural lines.

Having M.E. I can be a bit sensitive to chemical smells, and last night I spent some time going through the two boxes of liquid fragrances the teacher brings – firstly the essential oils, and secondly the fragrance oils, which are synthetic. The latter did not appeal to me at all! They all smelt very artificial and unpleasant to me. However, the essential oils had no detrimental effect at all and with a few exceptions I loved them all. This gave me an idea of what to get for my own supplies.

At the end of the class we spent some time wrapping our soaps from our teacher’s big bag of goodies. I completed this process when I got home.

One of the soaps we made was orange soap. This was made from the transparent base, coloured with natural orange colouring (turmeric) and fragranced with orange essential oil – this smells totally gorgeous… When we turned them out of the moulds, we took a little melted soap base and dipped half a dried slice of orange in it and stuck it to the top of the soap.

Orange Soap

Another soap we made was cinnamon and wheatgerm. This was made from the white base, coloured with natural powder colour, with the wheatgerm adding colour as well, and fragranced with cinnamon essential oil. The powder colours cannot just be added to the soap or they go lumpy. You have to put them in a small container and pour in a small amount of melted soap and make a paste, a bit like a roux in cooking, which is then returned to the soap. After pouring the soap into the mould we added a cinnamon stick to the top. The mould we used for this soap was round, with straight sides, so there was no “up” or “down,” which meant we could add any embellishment to the top after pouring. Normally the top of the finished soap is at the bottom of the mould, and if you put something in the bottom of the mould it tends to float to the surface, so the embellishments have to be added afterwards with a shaped mould.

Cinnamon and Wheatgerm Soap

As you can see, I finished the wrapping of this soap with some raffia. I love the choice of natural packaging for natural soaps!

Finally, my favourite soap of the evening. This was a seasonal one, and quite stunning – gold, frankincense and myrrh soap!

This was made from the white base and some people coloured theirs with natural powder colour; however, I followed the teacher’s lead and didn’t add any extra colour, but depended on the botanicals to give a subtle colour. We added frankincense essential oil for fragrance, and ground up myrrh gum, which still had a somewhat grainy appearance. I was intrigued to hear that the gum is supplied in small lumps called “tears” – considering that myrrh is symbolic of death, embalming and the tomb, this seemed appropriate. Finally, the gold… After the soaps had come out of the moulds, our teacher produced some 24 carat pure gold leaf, and we added flakes of this to the top of the soap using a soft brush. This is soooo beautiful… The soap also smells out of this world, and as it is not a specifically feminine fragrance, but more spicy and exotic, it would be suitable for a man, too.

Before I show you the photo of this soap, I will show you the process of making a decorative band which would do justice to this precious soap. At the class, I merely wrapped it in cellophane (necessary to protect the soap from the air and from fingerprints).

I looked in my “card strips” box to see if there were any offcuts that were suitable. I found a strip of Core’dinations “gemstones” in a soft gold colour, and put this through the Cuttlebug, using the Tim Holtz Alterations Texture Fades “Damask” embossing folder. First of all I tried highlighting the embossed parts with gold gilding wax but this didn’t show up as much as I’d hoped, so I painted it with burnt umber acrylic paint.

01 Painting the Embossed Strip with Raw Umber

Adding a layer of iridescent medium just made it look too silvery, so I mixed some with some more burnt umber and painted this on, working it well into all the recesses in the embossing.

02 Iridescent Gel Medium and Burnt Umber

When it was dry, I squeezed a little metallic gold acrylic paint onto my craft sheet and picked it up on my brayer.

03 Gold on Brayer

Rolling it carefully onto the embossed strip, I was able to apply gold to the highlights.

04 Completed Embossed Strip

I decided it was a bit too wide, so I trimmed down the sides (keeping the narrow strips in my card strips box – never throw anything away lol!) and then matted and layered it onto a scrap of gold mirror card, which really finished it off.

05 Embossed Strip Matted onto Gold Mirror Card

After making a bow with my bow maker, I wrapped the band around the soap, added some of the same ribbon as the bow, and attached it with glue dots. This is the result.

03 Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh Soap

I really think this packaging does justice to this beautiful soap. In the picture you can see the gold leaf reflecting the light. This has to be my absolute favourite soap ever! It is really special.

Here are the three soaps I made, wrapped and embellished ready to give away. I still need to make labels to stick on the back of the soaps.

04 Three Natural Soaps

I am definitely going to make more natural soaps. All of these are gorgeous, and there are so many more combinations to discover and experiment with. I have seen natural soap made in a large mould and then sliced once it was set – this gives a beautiful hand-made effect, and it looks gorgeous with lots of botanicals on the top! I have also seen this with different layers, which show across the slices. Clear soaps can have botanicals suspended inside so you can see them. The possibilities are endless!

Before we leave the subject of gold, frankincense and myrrh, when I told my hubby about the soap, he found something to show me – a little box which a friend had given him several years ago. I had never seen this before, and I was entranced.

The box itself is beautiful – made of thin wood, very plain.

01 Box Closed

It hides a secret within!

02 Lid Removed

Some detail shots.

03 Inside Box

04 Inside Lid

I think the design on the inside of the lid could be adapted to create a beautiful label for the soap. Pulling the little tabs inside the box removes the semi-circular covers, revealing this.

05 Box Fully Opened

Between the purple tissue are sheets of gold leaf, and in the compartments, real frankincense and myrrh. Isn’t that just perfect?

Finally, yesterday I strained and bottled the lavender oil I have made. A couple of months or so ago, our neighbour from opposite was cutting back her lavender and gave us a huuuuge bunch, asking if I could do anything with it! I said that yes, I certainly could, and decided to make some infused oil with it. Making essential oils is a difficult process involving distillation and I didn’t feel up to that, but you can make wonderful fragrance oils by distilling things in oil and leaving them to steep for several weeks. I filled a jar with the flowers that I pulled off the stems, and then poured enough grapeseed oil into the jar so that it came up to the top. Grapeseed oil is very good for this because it has no smell of its own. It is a pleasant, pale green colour, and easily obtainable from the supermarket. Over the first week or so I stirred the mixture daily, and kept it for the whole time in the airing cupboard, covered with kitchen paper to let it breathe but to keep the dust out, and stirring occasionally, when I remembered. I strained it into bottles. The small bottles are blue glass (not particularly visible because the finished lavender oil is quite a dark green colour). I bought three with dropper tops to give away, and one with a pipette dropper for my own use. The bulk of the oil has gone into a larger brown bottle which had had some medicine in it. I made some labels, using a permanent black pen and colouring with distress inks (Milled Lavender – appropriately! – and Mowed Lawn).

Lavender Oil

This oil smells out of this world! I shall be using it to fragrance my soaps, and also the lotions and creams that I intend making.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014


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WOYWW 285a Main Work Area

Not too much activity on my desk this week. I got some new stash – a gorgeous art stamp from Stampotique called Kitty Squad which is waiting to be unmounted from its wood block and mounted on some EZ-Mount foam. Also some sticky embossing powder. I’ve made a start on the next section in my recycled mini-album. On the right you can see the new iPod case I got from Ebay – I have an identical black one which is pretty well worn out, and managed to find a replacement – it’s fine except it’s pink, which I didn’t want! They are very rare, but my favourite because you can attach a neck strap to the ring.

Oh dear, I’ve just noticed I’ve got another dirty paint jar on my desk… Hopefully this one won’t hang around for as many weeks as the last one!

I’ve also been doing a bit of sewing, altering some more bedding to fit my new bed. Even when cleared, the work surface isn’t very deep for folding and cutting! I think I may need to pull out all the pull-out units to make a cutting surface…

WOYWW 285b Sewing Area

I’ve not been too well this week – one day in particular I had a tummy upset and felt pretty lousy all day but slept a lot which helped. We had a busy day out one day, and we dropped my defunct NAS drive in to my fav computer shop in Plymouth in the hope he can get it up and running again for me, and my hubby encouraged me to do some retail therapy in the market where I bought 3 simply gorgeous gorgeous tops… I love markets and charity shops. You can pick up some real bargains.

Had my first soap making class last Wednesday and I made a couple of really simple melt-and-pour soaps, including one for my hubby which he loves as it doesn’t upset his skin! I have ordered a special teddy mould just for him and am going to make all his soap from now on!! Since the teacher provides all we need for the class, if I’m going to go on with this, which I want to, I need to get a few supplies in, so I’ve been shopping on Ebay and am looking forward to some nice parcels arriving over the next few days. Some of the things will have multiple uses in the studio which is great.

Yesterday I started to strain my lavender oil that has been infusing for a couple of months. Our neighbour gave us a huge quantity of lavender that she’d cut back in her garden, and I filled a jar with it and topped it up with grapeseed oil and left it to infuse in the airing cupboard. It has darkened in colour and smells simply marvellous. I am hoping to be able to add some of this to my soaps.

This week I got some A4 Tyvek envelopes from Ebay. I can get a whole A4 sheet and two smaller pieces from each envelope, and it works out at 17p a sheet, which is considerably cheaper than the price a lot of the art suppliers charge. Wonderful stuff for melting and painting, and it apparently cuts very well indeed on electronic cutting machines, and once I get mine up and running again I am keen to try this – for cutting really detailed pieces which won’t rip when you take them off the carrier mat, and also for cutting stencils.

The result of my latest blood test shows that at last I am no longer anaemic! I shall be carrying on with just one iron tablet a day to keep me topped up, and hopefully I won’t slip back again. I don’t feel any different.

Great news – after hitting another plateau with my weight loss, I can now report that I have lost a total of two stone since mid-June when I started the 5:2 diet. I’ve got a way to go yet, and I am determined to reach a weight suitable for my height. Considering we have hosted 3 cream teas in 10 days, I don’t consider this bad going!!

My hubby took the kitties to the vet the other evening to get their boosters done, and they had their usual annual MOT. Uncle Luke (vet, who has a huge soft spot for Beatrice!) told Beatrice to stop purring because he couldn’t hear her heart! How many kitties in your acquaintance purr at the vet’s?!! Phoebe purred too. Uncle Luke gave them both a cuddle, and gave Beatrice a treat for being a good girl. Phoebe’s a little tub and didn’t get one.

Happy WOYWW everybody!

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Kitty Squad, Tyvek, a Page About Cars and a Health Update

Kitty Quartet Stamp and Sticky Embossing Powder

Yesterday my long-awaited new stamp arrived – it has been out of stock for weeks and I asked for an email alert when they were back in. It’s one of the wonderful Stampotique Originals art stamps, and it’s called Kitty Squad. I just love those cute kitties. They are cute without being cutesy if you follow me – I am not into cutesy lol!! Like all their stamps, it is wood mounted – I don’t like this, and can’t understand why they don’t do cling mount as an alternative as most people are using these nowadays, but at least I shall get another useable wood block for other purposes once I get round to unmounting it!

I shall cut the stamp to separate the kitties, to make them more versatile.

I also got some sticky embossing powder. I thought this was a brilliant idea. You stamp with Versamark and sprinkle on the powder as usual, but when you heat it, it becomes glue! This means you can add whatever you like to your stamped image – foils, glitter, flock, etc. etc. – making them much more versatile. I am looking forward to trying this.

I love how the stuff was packaged. It was wrapped up in red tissue paper with the lovely rough string tying it up, and attached was the little double-heart charm! All these things will be useful in projects.

Also this week, my Tyvek envelopes arrived from Ebay. I was thinking again about getting stuff much more cheaply from different sources from the usual art/craft suppliers who really bump up the price of things. I know that in the USA a lot of mailings are done using Tyvek envelopes because this stuff is so tough and won’t tear, but it is still light, and superficially looks and feels like paper. I had never seen them used here in the UK but decided to have a look on Ebay, and there were masses of them listed, and they are really cheap. Several years ago I bought a couple of A4 sheets of Tyvek at a craft show and spent quite a bit on them, but I have worked it out that I can get a whole A4 sheet and two smaller pieces from each of the A4 envelopes and it works out at approximately 17p per sheet! Not bad, eh? On the cutting machines forum several people have reported that this stuff cuts fantastically well – a very clean and detailed cut is possible, and being so strong, there’s no danger of it ripping as you take it off the mat. Don’t attempt to cut it with a punch, though – I tried this and it jammed in the punch, and I had to prise it apart with a screwdriver!!

I also have some soap making supplies on order from Ebay. Our teacher supplies all we need at the class but since I want to continue at home, there are various bits and pieces I need.

In my Recycled Mini-Album I have now started the page about cars. My dad was very keen on all the cars he had in his lifetime, and only gave up driving when he was 89! So some pages about his cars will be a real celebration. They meant more to him than just a means of getting from A to B.

I began by selecting some images and typing some text, printing them and then cutting them out.

78 Printing and Cutting for Cars and Professional Life Pages

Some of these will be used for the “professional life” pages, but in the meantime I cut out the “cars” text and stuck it down onto the page with soft matt gel medium.

80 Words on the Cars Page

I then added a rough wash of titanium white acrylic paint mixed with Golden GAC-100 polymer.

81 White Glaze on Cars Page

There may be further layers added to this page – it is still very much in the embryonic stage and I need to think a bit more about what I am going to do! The photos will be laid down over the text and more paint added, and I may add some further embellishment. And, of course, the borders! Watch this space.

I had the result of my latest blood test a couple of days ago and I am no longer anaemic! I need to check with the doctor, but she said to me last time I saw her that once I am back to normal, I may need to carry on with one iron tablet per day instead of three, in order to keep me topped up. I can’t say I feel any different, but my haemoglobin levels were only slightly below normal.

Yesterday my hubby took me back to the mobility centre because the new and improved seats on the small folding buggies had come in. The new and improved buggies themselves are still on order, but at least I could try the new seat. It was very comfortable, and a huge improvement on the original awful bicycle-saddle-like seat! We have decided to get a small foldable buggy that will go in the back of the car so that I can go further afield on outings than with the wheelchair. The big buggy will only go in the car with a huge amount of effort and is so heavy that my hubby says he can feel it affecting the steering. I shall continue to use it for outings from the house, and for church, as it is nice and comfortable when I have to sit for a long time. They think the new ones will be in after Christmas. Again, watch this space!

Thursday, 13 November 2014

First Soap Making Class–Learning the Ropes

Tonight I began my second 5-week course of evening classes this autumn. Since my hubby was doing a 10-week water-colour painting course, and the felt class was only 5 weeks, I decided to enrol for the soap making class. This is being taught by the same excellent teacher who did the felt-making course I finished three weeks ago. This time we have moved from the woodworking room at the school, upstairs to the kitchen, which is a gorgeous big, light and airy space with great facilities. It really is a beautiful school – very modern and very well equipped.

I got so carried away in the class tonight, that again, I completely forgot to take any photos during the class!

What we did tonight was to learn the basics of the melt and pour method of soap making, and we each made two basic soaps. This is an extremely simple technique. We were provided with two bags of lumps of the soap base, one white and the other clear, and all we had to do was weigh out a certain amount, and melt it in an ordinary microwave for 30 seconds or less, add some colour (only a few drops necessary) and some fragrance if desired – this came in two forms, either fragrance oil, which our teacher explained was synthetic, and the more costly essential oils, distilled from natural ingredients.

I decided not to add any perfume to mine, as I can be a bit susceptible to strong smells, particularly artificial chemical-type smells, with my M.E., and also I wanted to try the soap first of all in its purest form. Also, my hubby suffers from allergies and his skin is very sensitive to such things, and always has to use Simple soap to avoid coming out in a rash. I wanted to see if I could make soap which would be suitable for him.

The final step was to pour the liquid into a silicone mould and leave it to set. Any bubbles were dispersed with a quick spray of rubbing alcohol. Because our time was limited at the class, the teacher put the moulds in the freezer to speed up the process, but she said it was better left overnight, especially with the clear variety, which tends to go a bit cloudy if it is set too quickly.

There was a choice of moulds for us to use, including one of a gingerbread man. My hubby is very keen on teddy bears, but there was no mould for one, so I chose the gingerbread man as the closest thing! For his soap, I added some brown, and a few drops of orange colouring.

My second soap was made from the clear base, to which I added some glitter. This is cosmetic glitter, not normal craft glitter. When the soap came out of the mould, all the glitter had sunk to the bottom (a common occurrence, it seems) so it was all at the top of the piece of soap once it had been turned out. I have found some special soap base on Ebay which apparently enables any additives to remain in suspension throughout the soap and I may get some of this. Perhaps if I left it to cool a bit more before adding the glitter, it would hold its position in suspension a bit better, too.

We got on quite speedily at the beginning of the class, to enable the soaps to set enough to come out of the moulds so we could take them home. The second part of the class was devoted to the packaging of the soaps, and the teacher had brought along a big bag of sheets of cellophane, ribbons, labels, etc. etc. for us to play with, including some card, and a basic box template to make packaging for our soaps. My box didn’t turn out well; it wasn’t actually quite wide enough for the gingerbread man, whose arms stuck out too much! Also, there were no rulers, and I only had my nail scissors to cut it out. I can make much more satisfactory boxes here at home with all my equipment and supplies.

The teacher had come up with an ingenious way of matching the soaps to their owners – once they are all in the mould it’s hard to tell them apart. She issued us with small circular coloured stickers which we put on the two bags of soap base. Each one of us had their own colour. When we poured the soap into the mould, we had to add a sticker of our chosen colour to the mould beside the soap that was ours. That way each one was reconciled with its owner once they were removed from the moulds.

Here are the two pieces of soap I made. I’m afraid something went wrong with the camera for the first photos – I’ve been having some problems with this on and off, with it not focusing properly, so I’m afraid they are a bit out of focus. The first photo shows the soaps in their cellophane wrappers.

01 Basic Soaps, Wrapped

Unwrapped, so you can see them better:

02 Basic Soaps, Unwrapped

Finally, one of the clear snowflake soap. This one is in focus! I love the ice-blue of this one. It’s really pretty.

03 Clear Glitter Soap

This soap is gorgeous to use. It gives a good lather, and is incredibly soft to the skin – my hands still feel really soft several hours after trying it.

In the next two classes we will be continuing with soap making, and in the final two, will be making bath bombs and bath melts.

This first class was really very basic, and apart from choosing colour, fragrance and shape, there wasn’t anything desperately creative about it, as all we were doing was taking some shapeless lumps of soap base and melting them and making them into a different shape!! However, in subsequent classes we will be taking the technique further and learning how to layer differently-coloured bases to create some interesting effects.

One soap the teacher showed us was in the shape of a snow globe. The base of the globe was opaque white, and the top was in the shape of a dome, made from the clear base, and standing up in the middle of this was a tiny soap gingerbread man. There was glitter suspended in the clear soap.

Next week we will be making natural soaps, with different additives such as wheatgerm and loofah. The teacher showed us an excellent book:

which has lots of recipes in it, as well as the history of soap making, and some great information about different additives for different purposes. For instance, she explained to us that certain essential oils and other additives are good for different skin conditions, or for different purposes. A soap for the kitchen, for instance, with orange and/or lemon essential oil, will not only smell gorgeous, but will help eliminate the smell of onions from one’s hands.

Our teacher told us how she’d made some dog soap for sale once (called “Dirty Dog” lol!) which contained essential oils for the prevention of fleas, and for a good glossy coat. She also described some gardener’s soap she’d made, which would be lovely to give as gifts in the summer. I recently saw some interesting stuff online about felting around a piece of soap, and a lovely idea of suspending one of these felted soaps over the outside tap so that the gardener of the family (in our case my hubby) can wash their hands before coming in – my hubby always makes an awful mess, with mud all over the taps, and worse, all over my hand towel lol! Men…

Next week we will be making Christmas soaps. One of the examples she showed us was the “Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh” soap, with real natural ingredients, including little flakes of pure gold leaf! It was a small bar, cellophane wrapped, with a beautiful band made from gold embossed paper, with a really oriental and exotic feel. What a great Christmas gift that would make! I couldn’t smell it much because of the wrapper, but I am sure it smelt gorgeous.

Soap making is something that has interested me for quite some time. I have been drawn increasingly to the idea of making our own skin products and cosmetics, and household products, not just because they are a lot cheaper, but because you know exactly what’s in them. I am sure that a lot of the health problems people suffer these days are due in part to the bombardment of our systems by harsh synthetic chemicals. Also, anything to help my hubby’s allergies, not to mention the absolute pleasure it will give me to make things for him with my own hands, that he will use and enjoy, is a tremendous incentive! He called downstairs just after he went up to bed, saying that he’d tried the soap and loved it! Let’s hope he has no reaction to it, but I am sure he will not.

I don’t suppose I shall go all out on soap making because I haven’t got the time, with the other creative activities I am involved with, but I shall make enough for our own use, and for presents. Very satisfying!

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Recycled Mini-Album Pages–The Road to the Isles

WOYWW visitors – please scroll down for this week’s post.

After thinking I’d finished the Scottish pages, I thought I’d add one more, devoted to the Scottish song, “The Road to the Isles.” This was my dad’s favourite Scottish song, and mine too – it is so evocative of the pull that the Western Isles has on those with Scotland in their blood, and those who have chosen to be adopted by that wonderful country.

Many years ago when I was a child, and we used to have musical evenings in our home, a couple who were old family friends used to be regular visitors. The wife was a brilliant accompanist, and her husband had a fine baritone voice. While they used to perform classical music, they were also very fond of popular songs, and they regularly performed the song “The Road to the Isles,” which we always used to request because he sang it with such gusto!

In the course of my search for the full lyrics of the song, I came across a Youtube video of Kenneth McKellar singing it. He was a wonderful singer and sings this with great flair. The music is full of “Scotch snaps” and based on the pentatonic scale which is so common in Scottish music. I love the dialect words, and the evocative names of the locations in the Western Isles that so drew the writer of the song.

Anyway, to my page. I created a very subtle (too subtle probably!) background on which to write the lyrics of the song. Here are the materials I used.

74 Materials for Road to the Isles Page

I swiped across the pages with the distress stains (Salty Ocean, Evergreen Bough and Dried Marigold) to suggest a tartan design. On top of this, I added some perfect pearls with a soft brush – Forever Violet, Green Patina and Cappuccino. Once dried, it was very dark, but it catches the light, and it doesn’t dominate the text, which was written with the white marker pen.

75 Road to the Isles Page

You can see a bit of the colour on the left-hand page. I added another border, and a few more thistles around the text. Here are a couple of detail shots. The colour shows up much better in real life.

76 Road to the Isles RH Page

77 Road to the Isles LH Page

“May the best ye’ve ever seen

Be the worst ye’ll ever see

May a moose ne’er leave yer girnal

We’ a tear drap in his e’e

May ye aye keep hale an’ herty

Till ye’re auld eneugh tae dee

May ye aye be jist as happy

As we wish ye aye tae be.”

…and lang may your lum reek (long may your chimney smoke)!


To join in the world’s most famous nosey fest, please click on the WOYWW logo in my sidebar, which will take you to our hostess Julia’s blog, where you will find details and instructions.

This week I’ve been alternately busy and poorly (as usual!) and we’ve had friends over for tea on a couple of days, so I was busy preparing that, and then suffering payback on the following day in each case. We’ve got more friends for tea on Thursday. Now we’re really settled after my hubby’s retirement, we are starting to invite old friends over so they can see where we are. I’m making scones and doing a cream tea on Thursday. I think afternoon tea is a dying art which should be revived, and I love getting my doilies and nice china out, and doing a bit of baking, although I don’t do as much as I used to!

Here is my desk for this week.


I am working on new sections in the recycled mini-album now – one on cars, and the other on professional life. I printed out a few bits and pieces on the computer and am fussy-cutting these out for pasting onto the album pages.

I have also finished the Scottish pages. I have soooo enjoyed doing these as Scotland is part of my heritage, and the pages brought back many happy memories. This is the title page for the section. I have printed out an image of the Fraser Clan tartan and also a map showing where the family came from, and created borders suggestive of tartan, and thistles.

63 Tartan and Map Page

The Scottish ancestors page. Swirls and leaves printed with Versamark and Perfect Pearls. You can also see the second tag in the album – its puller has a thistle on it.

66 Scottish Ancestors Page

Scottish holidays page, embellished with more tartan, and some Zentangles.

69 Scottish Holidays Page

I have done a blog post about these pages. Finally, the “Road to the Isles” page. I shall be uploading a post about this in due course.

75 Road to the Isles Page

If you look carefully you can see some colour on the background. I swept across the page with some distress stains and then painted on some Perfect Pearls in a pattern suggestive of tartan. It’s very dark, but the Perfect Pearls are beautifully shimmery, which of course doesn’t show up too well on the photo.

“The Road to the Isles” has long been a favourite Scottish song in my family. We had a great family friend who had a fine baritone voice, and his wife used to accompany him on the piano. This was one song that we always requested. While doing this page, I discovered a wonderful Youtube video of the great Kenneth McKellar singing it – it is full of “Scotch snaps” and the characteristic pentatonic scale so favoured in Scottish music.

I’ve had the sewing machine going this week too, altering some bedding for my new bed. I still have to get the book out to remind me how to thread it… but I can do straight stitching and zig-zag now – considering how much more this machine will do, that’s pretty pathetic really, but I’ll gradually get the hang of it in time.

My knitting is almost finished now, and I’ll upload some photos soon. It’s been two years in the making, but we did move house in the middle so I’ve probably got an excuse! I’m just completing the second sleeve and have yet to pick up the neck and sew the side seams, and then it will be done, in time for the winter.

Happy WOYWW everybody, and have a good creative week.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Remembrance 2014

Today we remember the fallen of the two World Wars and all the other conflicts over the past century. This year is particularly special because it marks the centenary of the beginning of the First World War, which was hoped to be “the war to end all wars.” Those of us who enjoy a life of freedom and democracy should always be grateful for the sacrifice of our servicemen who gave their all to that end.

Here is the remembrance page I made in my art journal.

20 Completed Page

Let us also remember those who will live the rest of their lives suffering from the wounds they received, serving their country, and their families, and the families of those who did not return.

12 Finished Hair Clip

My grandfather, who served with the Royal Engineers in World War I. He had two very close friends and they all volunteered together. Their plan was to start their own engineering works after the war, but my grandfather was the only one to survive.

Grandpa in Royal Engineers, Dover, Circa 1014 1

We will remember them

19 The Completed Poppies