Crafty!

Shampoo Bars Madness

shampoobars.jpg

Getting Eco-Friendly with Shampoo Bars!

A few weeks ago, George Take posted a video on Facebook about shampoo bars.** Within hours, the video was shared across soap-making groups, cosmetics fabricants, and non-industry folks. Why? Because shampoo bars are an awesome, zero waste solution that is longer-lasting than bottled shampoo. Plus, it is more gentle on your hair and travels better, to boot!

Being already in the handcrafted bath and beauty circles, I went on a mission to find a shampoo bar recipe that worked. When it comes to soap making, recipes and YouTube videos abound. Great services such as Soap Queen/Brambleberry freely offer up tested recipe options for soaps and related products such as lotions, balms, and so on. But shampoo bars were different. First, it was a struggle to find recipes that had ingredients available in the U.S.! Second, a lot of the key ingredients were out of stock given the shampoo bar craze happening across the country (world?).

Eventually, I purchased a recipe (!!!) that sourced specialty ingredients I could get through online retailers. The recipe is proprietary and can't be shared here, but it incorporates similar ingredients I had found elsewhere: a combination of oils, a conditioning emulsifier, sodium coco sulfate (the "noodles"), a distillate of some sort, and a silk or wheat protein. Other additives, such as fragrance or colorants, are a matter of personal preference.

Recipe in hand, I started testing the bars and asking others to provide feedback. With some variation, it's been mostly positive. As with all things human, there is no one product that is going to work for every single person. But to get the best results out of your shampoo bars, it's important to note a few things:

  1. Commercial shampoos tend to strip hair of their natural oils, thereby convincing the body it needs to (over)produce more oils. This is also why we "need" conditioners; essentially, the shampoo strips the oils so that we can replace them with a conditioning product. Such a strange system! Lots of folks from the "No Poo" movement can attest to the need to regulate oil production so that the body stops overproducing oils. The same phenomenon occurs when switching to natural (or no) deodorant from commercial anti-perspirants. While shampoo bars are NOT the same as going shampoo-free, they do require a bit of time for adjustment so the body can regulate. From the feedback received so far, it seems those who are not frequent shampoo-ers in the first place get the best initial results. For those who frequently use commercial shampoo, it may take 1-2 weeks for your head to adjust. Also, because most of the body's natural oils remain on the head after using the shampoo bar, it's best to try your first few rounds without follow-up conditioner. Otherwise, it will certainly feel too oily, overall.
  2. The first round of production seems to have been a little more crumbly than follow-up batches, but either way, the initial wash with any shampoo bar is going to see a few noodles bite the dust. Several tester bars in, and it seems that this problem goes away after 1-2 uses. We may start making these bars in tablet shapes, or discs (like Lush and other retailers do) to avoid the problem, but even then, there will still be a few loose noodles!  That said, after the second wash, I have never had this be a problem.
  3. To use: gently rub the shampoo bar in your hands, first. You should get a creamy bubbly lather that you can than build on in your hair. It more than triples for me using this method. I initially thought I would need conditioner to be able to brush my hair afterward, but was able to comb through without trouble the first time and have been doing so ever since. However, very thick hair or very long hair may struggle more with this.
  4. Use this on your kids! It's much more gentle than commercial shampoo, it's fun to see it foam up, and it only requires one rinse.
  5. Most bars of the size we are currently working with last for over 30 shampoos.
  6. We're hoping to host a workshop where we can help people learn to make their own! To do so, we'd need to find a non-proprietary recipe, or incorporate a way for attendees to purchase the recipe at a discounted rate. This would make shampoo bar classes come out to about $30/person. If that's something that interests you, please reach out to hello@friggsmercantile or comment below!

There are a few ways to modify this recipe so that it can address specific issues. For example, the core oil in this recipe is coconut oil, but it can be combined with shea butter or argan oil for a more conditioning effect. Those with sensitive scalps may benefit from the addition of activated charcoal or colloidal oatmeal to the bars.

So next up: we're going to work on some more experimenting! To do so, we'd also love to sell some of the bars we already have. We're starting out with an initial price of $6/bar, knowing we are still refining (our initial price for product testers was $3/bar - at cost to us. Bars are ~1.5oz and a 1.9oz bar at Lush is $12). From there, we'd love to continue to expand the options to include specific scents or modifications. We're also happy to custom-make a specific scent/color for a minimum of four bars purchased, discounted to $22.

**This post discusses the shampoo bars as seen in the video, "noodle"-based bars. There are alternative bars that are closer to bar soap, which is a discussion for another day!

Announcing Kid Makers: Crafty Business Camp!

2000x2000-2.png

Crafty Business Camp

We are delighted to announce that Frigg's Mercantile will host our first-ever Crafty Business Camp the week of August 6-10! This camp will give crafty kiddos the opportunity to choose and master a selected handmade product (soap, lotion, candles, etc), design a brand and website, create labels and displays, and ultimately bring their product to the public at the Kid Makers' Market on August 11, 9-10am! Families, friends, and neighbors of campers are encouraged to come shop the handmade market; coffee and hot chocolate will be provided.

Camp sessions will be held Monday-Friday, 10am - 1pm, with a different focus each day.

Kid Makers: Crafty Business Camp Overview

Day 1 - Monday - Learn (or review) how to make lotions, soaps, candles, and lip balms (will extend into Tuesday). Other project opportunities may be available per camper request. Day 2 - Tuesday - Campers select target product from those learned,  determine their personal touch, and begin preparation for production day. Day 3 - Wednesday - Mass production! Campers will make a variety of their selected product and establish a product line. Day 4 - Campers determine a product name, create a logo, print business cards, and make a mini-website (please bring laptop if available!). Day 5 - Labels, pricing, and set up! Campers will complete any tasks still needing their attention, set up their displays, and get ready for market!

Participation is $265 for the week and includes the Saturday market vendor fee (haha!). This event will be open to the public and will give campers a real-life experience of selling their products. Kids keep all profits!

The Crafty Business Camp is limited to eight participants and is best for kids aged 9 and up. Register here or reach out with any questions you may have by emailing hello@friggsmercantile.com or calling 503.974.7414.

The Buzz About Wraps

IMG_1816.jpg

Homemade Beeswax Wraps

Someone asked recently in a local small business owners group if anyone knew where one could find beeswax wraps. A few people piped in with some Portland-area shops, but one person commented, "I just make them! Super easy!" Intrigued, I used the Google and it turns out, indeed! Just make them! Super easy.

Beeswax Wraps Materials
Beeswax Wraps Materials

If you're like me, you likely have a lot of random bits of fabric lying around from various sewing projects, and beeswax wraps are a delightful way to use them up. The wraps are an eco-friendly, re-usable alternative to tin foil or saran wrap. Use them in the same way you would use either of those options, by covering a plate/bowl or by placing the food directly in the wrap and closing it up. The beeswax forms a protective seal so that moisture doesn't pass through to the fabric, and the wraps adhere to the shape you mold them into when you use them. It's pretty much magic!

Some available recipes are more complicated than others, and now that I am hooked on the wraps, I plan on trying every single one. When I made the first batch of wraps, I happened to have all the ingredients and tools needed in the recipe featured on Apartment Therapy, so I went with that. Start to finish, I made four wraps in under an hour, prep and clean up included. Not too shabby!

For there recipe, all that was needed was a cookie sheet, parchment paper, a paintbrush, fabric, shearing scissors, and beeswax shavings/pellets. After cutting the fabric to the desired size, the next step was to place the parchment paper on the cookie sheet, and then the fabric on the parchment paper. Spread some beeswax evenly on the fabric (see photo), and place the whole things in your oven on the lowest setting.

IMG_0994.jpg
IMG_0997.jpg
IMG_0999.jpg

I started getting impatient so I eventually upped the temp to 200 degrees (Fahrenheit), and I kept opening the door to check on melting status, spreading around the beeswax as it turned liquid. Making two at a time, I staggered their placement in the oven by a few minutes, as the whole process was likely somewhere between 5-7mins per wrap.

Once I pulled out a wrap that was evenly coated with the wet wax, I waited just a moment or two before pulling it up by a corner (being careful not to burn myself) to let the excess wax drip off. For some of my wraps, I had almost none. Finally, I let the wrap cool completely by draping it over the back of a chair. It was ready to use almost immediately.

IMG_1816.jpg

My husband and I have a fair amount of food preservation paranoia, but we are both happy to report the wraps work great! Once used, they can simply be raised with soap and water and put away until used again. Beeswax wraps fans do caution against using the wraps to hold uncooked meats, as you can't exactly sanitize them, but we use them for everything else: veggies, fruits, leftovers, cheese! They store easily and last a good long stretch (8-9 months looks ike it is the upper limit, depending on use).

Such a simple way to get rid of the disposable options and move toward a more natural and re-usable option!

Feeling Balm-y

DIY Lip Balms for Winter Weather

Lip Balms
Lip Balms

It's wintertime and windy, and this means chapped lips for a lot of us. Lips are somewhere one would think you wouldn't want to be putting products with unrecognizable names or odd ingredients, but we often do just that with our standard Blistex, Chapstick, or whatever moisturizer of choice you have in mind. It doesn't have to be that way, however. Lip balm is really easy to make using simple ingredients, and it is lots of fun, too. In fact, we already had all of the basic ingredients already on-hand, what was crucial was the tubes. Once we got that straightened out, and then we picked up a filler tray a few weeks ago, it became obvious that a massive batch of lip balm was needed. Best be prepared for the colder temps!

We used the standard recipe from Soap Queen TV, mostly because um... yum BUTTERCREAM, but there are other great recipes out there, including Imitation Burt's Bees from Wellness Mama and the really fun alternatives proposed in 20 Deliciously Simple DIY Recipes from B+C.

Whatever recipe you choose, essentially you'll want to have coconut oil, beeswax, and then some other variety of oils to work with for your balm. If you're going for a completely natural option, you can stop there, but we went the whole nine yards with adding color and fragrance.

Too much mica
Too much mica

The first batch was our sample batch and the colorant was way more potent than expected. Not to worry! What was going to be a lip balm turned quickly into a lip tint, and honestly, it turned out even better as a result. However, 50 tubes of lip tint was more than we needed, so we were far more conservative with our color once we got to the larger batch. In fact, this is why one makes a test batch first; we patted ourselves on the back for learning our lesson on the small-scale attempt.

We also learned the power of the disposable dropper during this experiment, as the lip balm hardens quickly and got completely stuck in the dropper after a point. In other words, it is reasonable to assume that after doing this project, you won't be getting your dropper back, and it's best to be ok with parting ways from the outset.

Lip Balm Tray
Lip Balm Tray

The tube tray was a new adventure and honestly delightful! In the same amount of time it took to make one tube, we made 50, so that felt pretty good. We lost a few tubes to a hasty dismount once the lip balm was dry and ready, mucking up the top layer of the balm within the tube. This was essentially just an esthetic problem, so it  just meant more freebies for us. Again, winning. It was also important to have a cookie sheet beneath the tray, as part of the task of getting the balm into the tubes required jiggling the tray a bit, and spilling was inevitable.

All total, the project took less than an hour. We had a little bit of lip balm left over from the tray (and onto the cookie sheet), so we mixed it with some milk melt & pour soap base to create a soft creamy soap. It smells delightful, too! Part of the beauty of working with ingredients you can name is that you know when you can use them elsewhere, as well! Win-win.

Homesteading for the Holidays

The holidays can wreak some havoc on your bank account, but there are tons of awesome, beginner-level DIY options out there that make for affordable, handmade gifts. We gathered up some thoughts for the hands-on homesteader looking to start up some projects without bursting their wallet!

1. Homemade ginger ale or root beer

It's easy enough to get into this level of "brewing" and is a non-alcoholic opportunity to give it a go. To make it a truly great gift, invest in some real flip-top bottles and repurpose the carrying case from a beer of your choice to be able to properly package the present. Add in some homemade gift tags and it's truly an adorable gift! We love this recipe from Mountain Feed for your first crack at making your own Ginger "Bug"!

2. Natural homemade soaps

Lots of soap
Lots of soap

I always think of soap-making as being a bit of a pricey project (only because I am addicted to it and could spend all the monies on all the things!) but I was talking to a professional soap-maker the other day who felt differently. She reminded me that simple, straightforward cold-process soap can be made for minimal investment using items found at the hardware and grocery stores. Base oils are pretty easy to come by, lye can be purchased at most hardware stores, and you can use a milk container or Pringles can for a mold. No need for fancy equipment to test the waters and see if you like soap-making (though you will need to have safety goggles and disposable gloves on-hand). SoapQueen has a great introductory tutorial that covers the basics. Without added pigmentation or fragrance, basic soap comes out a nice color anyway, and it can be wrapped up in a pretty ribbon for minimal fee. Presto! Handmade gift! Done. The beautiful part is that a batch makes several bars, so it scales up nicely to be able to give to several recipients.

Candles and soap
Candles and soap

3. Candles

It's a wonder to me why everyone doesn't make their own candles. It's a super simple, fun, and easy project that everyone can do with minimal investment! Although it's best to have pouring tins and laser temperature gauges, these are not by any means necessities! Grab some Mason or Bell jars (smaller are better) and fill up a collection, or get fancy and get holiday-themed molds! Either way, candles provide an excellent opportunity to make beautiful labels or stickers for you to include a note to the recipient. Make it festive by including winter-y scents like vanilla or cinnamon. The beautiful thing about candle-making is that you can make plenty of candles in large quantities, which you can then personalize later with ribbons, tin labels, or tags. If you're interested in holding a candle-making workshop to crank out a bunch of candles with your friends, shoot us an email!

4. Balms and lotions

Pink lip balm
Pink lip balm

Much like homemade soap, you don't need many ingredients to get this going. Coconut oil, arrowroot powder, baking soda, and beeswax are often core ingredients to cosmetic items, and they can generally be purchased at health food stores if not larger chains such as Fred Meyer. We love using Wellness Mama's lotion recipe, as well as her imitation Burt's Bees Lip Balm. The hardest part about making these items is finding the containers to put them in -- contact us if you are looking to purchase some tins or lip balm sticks! Put the two together in a nice bag and you've got yourself a happy, handmade gift!

5. Canned deliciousness

If you have a particularly fantastic salsa recipe, or if you know your pickles are off the hook, consider giving them away as special treats. Naturally, if you need to can the items, do so safely. As with the other gifts listed here, you can always add some spice to the project by including personal labels on your jars, or by writing particularly thoughtful things on decorative tags. Lots of people don't think to give their cooking skills away as gifts, but it's a truly personal and often well-received present that stands out amongst store-bought goods. It may take a little extra planning but the price point is great!

Of course, for those who are particularly ambitious, you can always think to pair up a few of these recommendations and give out baskets of thoughtful, homemade goods. Who wouldn't love that?!?

Happy Halloween!

haloweencandles.jpg

Every good holiday deserves a good craft project, and Halloween is no exception! One of my personal favorites for Halloween is this super simple candle holder. It's less messy than pumpkin carving and lasts longer, too! Materials needed: - Glass jars - Crepe paper of various colors - Mod Podge and brush - Construction paper - Glue - Scissors

This project is so easy that you have probably figured it out by just looking at the photo! Cut strips of crepe paper and apply them to the jars vertically with the Mod Podge. Allow to dry. Cut out faces as desired using the construction paper, apply however you see fit for whatever face you are making. DONE! You can really get creative with it, and this is easy enough for kids to make their own versions.

We put tea light candles in the jars on Halloween night itself, but stick the faux-lectric ones in the days leading up to the big night for fire hazard reasons. They make great window decorations, or use them to line the way to your front door for trick-or-treaters!