Soap Explorations and a Little about Pleats

Smocked Apron

First, I’m still working on my smocked apron. I put away my second mock-up and started on the real thing, mostly because Christmas Revel is NEXT week!  The gathering stitching is going slow, but I’m making tinier pleats and more rows – 12 rows of 3/8″ pleats as opposed to the 8 rows of 1/2″ pleats of the first mock-up.  Hand pleating is very tedious.

I used the yard stick on the cutting board method with dots instead of lines, hoping the blue water-soluble marker will wash out easier. Somehow though, maybe because I was talking with the family instead of fully concentrating on measuring, my dots are not lined up. After I did the pleating stitches on the first row, I realized the other rows of dots are not lined up.

Probably I should have pulled the one row out, water spritzed out all the dots and do it again possibly taping the edge of the fabric to the cutting board with architect’s tape. But no! I thought I would just eye-ball line it up by visually tracing the rows of weft threads from each row down to the next. Oh my!!! That took a while.

Late last night, after my husband and daughter got home from doing an SCA demo at ComicCon, I was just about done with all twelve rows of the pleat stitches, when they caught me with the cloth spread out on the bed, just staring at it. And they knew.

“No you are NOT going to pull all of those threads out and start all over again!!!”  I was still tempted.  The conversation then took a personal turn. I acquiesced to their suggestion just to go with it.

Of course my husband had to get in the last remark of “And don’t you blog about this either!”  Well, I have to win some part of the argument.

Yes, the pleating stitches are nice and nearly all even, which says a-lot considering that each row has about 80 pleats. Times that by 12.

BUT . . . it’s not perfect. I see it being off a warp thread or two here and there, and it just bugs me.  I did say I would go with it as is, so I’m going to do that. The smocking will start today.


Holiday Soap

I’ve been a soap-maker for about 12 years. Not the melt and pour kind, either. The fully gloved and goggled, playing with lye and fats, having a few battle scars and taking a few Silkwood showers (ala Meryl Streep)  kind of soap maker.  That last part was a long time ago.

There are two major methods of making soap from scratch. Cold process and hot process.

Cold process allows for more artistic play and makes a harder bar (hard bars lat longer), but it takes 6 weeks to cure before you can use it. By artistic, I mean this:

IMG_0121 and IMG_0122

I made these a couple of years ago. Pretty, huh?

Hot process soap is not as artistic and not as hard, but you can use it right away.

Which one is more medieval? Hot process – hands down.  I have soap recipes from the Middle Ages:  four 16th century, one 14th century and one 12th century.  To quote one, “Boil by itself until it is cooked down and reduced to thickness”  That’s hot-processed  (or HP) soap making.  One day, I’ll do a how-to on making soap using medieval recipes. Just not today.

I made some yesterday with my youngest daughter. We made 7 lbs: 2 lbs each of lavender and peppermint (all natural), 2 lbs of an artificial scent called “Christmas,” and 1 lb of unscented, for my middle daughter who hates smells.

Coming up in the next couple of weeks, I have a few soap gifting occasions. Although HP soap is ready to use right away, it’s best to let it sit so that the water can evaporate out and make it a harder bar. No one wants  mushy soap.

So I’m wondering if I can speed up that evaporation process by using the oven. Set the temperature to a low 170 degrees, put the soap in while still in the wooded molds, turn the oven off and let it sit overnight. I have not been able to find anyone in my soap making communities who has tried this evaporation method, which may mean that it’s a really bad idea. I’m willing to give it a go anyway.

Results will be posted tomorrow!