Monday, 29 October 2012

A revelation: homemade body care products

Some of the basic ingredients needed for most homemade bodycare products
This summer I became vegetarian, or I should more precisely say, pescatarian, mainly for environmental and health reasons. This may have had some bearing on the story I'm telling you today, however I've always been in favour of natural when it comes to body care (I don't mean armpit and leg hair let grow wild...not that much natural!). However a month or so ago, I started considering going "no-poo" (tree-hugger's jargon for No Chemical Shampoo) when a friend revealed that she was ditching chemically packed haircare products after a lice spell - apparently lice really like squeaky clean hair washed with shampoo. I researched a little, and I have to repeat myself here, but I have to praise once again Pinterest for being such an inspirational and bottomless source of inspiration. I found a very basic hair washing routine, that has been working like a treat, of one tablespoon of soda bicarbonate diluted in water to wash and one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar diluted in water to condition. That's it. If you can get over the absence of lather and perfume, this is for you...but you can add a little shine and scent by applying a tiny amount of coconut oil on the ends of your hair. My curls are back and I feel 16 again.

Next, I decided to give a go at making my own whipped body butter. This is the one homemade product I have been meaning to make for a long long time, especially since Little Monkey suffers from an annoying eczema patch that no commercial product managed to get rid of for any longer than a few days. This one has totally eliminated it in three applications. The three basic ingredients are coconut oil (which I also use a demaquillant and body cream), shea butter and sweet almond oil. All organic and relatively cheap to buy in bulk over the internet. For the recipe, I've used the one you can find on One Good Thing by Jillee, a resourceful blog full of incredible recipes for homemade beauty and house cleaning products. My only adaptation has been to put the oily mixture in the freezer for a couple of hours before whipping it, and adding Lavender essential oil to give it my favourite scent. This butter is my favourite little luxury I indulge in every day - and it doesn't make you any bigger for indulging!

The other discovery is a face cream that feels just as lovely, made with a basic oil mixture (coconut oil, Shea butter and beeswax), and some Vitamin E, chamomile infusion and jasmin essential oil. The recipe can be found on the Handmade in PA blog. Again, super simple to make, and it feels really nice on the skin. Also, you can change the infused herbs depending on your skin's needs (I used dried chamomile flowers for their calming properties and also because easily available at my local market).

But the real discovery for me has been a natural deodorant made with (guess what?) coconut oil, bicarbonate of soda (my other favourite thing in the whole world), cornflour (yes! You read well...this is to absorbe moisture), beeswax and essential oils (again, another lavender kick for me). This incredible, creamy deodorant is MORE effective than the equivalent commercial brands. I tried to do some maths to understand how much this deodorant costs, when compared to equivalent commercial brands, and I think this costed me around £1.50 per stick (I've used two empty roll-on deodorant containers). So, it is cheaper, it is more natural (even organic) and it works wonderfully, no "skunk effect" even after a whole working (and stressful) day. Buying the ingredients in bulk also helps saving. Again, the recipe can be found on One Good Thing by Jillee.

Add to this that I now clean my house with vinegar in which orange peals and cloves have been immersed for 15 days...lovely wintery smell and great results. At a fraction of the price and without nasties.

The basic ingredients for my homemade deodorant
I'm so passionate about all of this that I feel like I'm embarking in a war on corporations, chemicals and attempts to sell hot air at dear prices...and it's only started!!!

Feb13 Update:
I'm experimenting more and more on bodycare products and recently made lip balm (have a look at this, only a few ingredients for a wonderful, vaseline and other nasties-free lip balm) and solid lotion bars (check my post on them, with link to recipe - here).
I've been making lots of them to give to my friends as small presents, nicely wrapped up in brown packing paper with a ribbon, or I have sewn a sweet little pouch with oilcloth and cotton in which to put them...

March 2013 UPDATE! if you can't be bothered to make lotion bars or creams and you'd rather buy my handmade products, you can visit my Etsy shop: - if you can't find what you are looking for, please contact me and I'll try and help :)

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Remembering summer: Super Hero Cape

Autumn! Where did summer go???

Well, I want to be positive today and appreciate how the summer sun has infused slowly slowly orange and red tones into trees and vegetables...isn't that one of the most magical things about autumn?

I feel as I'm starting to hibernate, with the days becoming shorter and the thermometer starting plummeting. So, to cheer myself and you guys up (hopefully), I'd like to tell you about a sweet little project that I thoroughly enjoyed doing about a month and a half ago. Also, you may want to make one of these as a quick fix for Halloween...
It feels quite nice to show you pictures of one of the last lovely, sunny days of summer, when we gave this super-hero cape to Stan the Little Man.
Good job his name is Stanley, really, as the S on the cape is just for him!


If you want to do something similar, you'll need to take your child's measurements from the base of  the neck to the back of their knees, as this is the perfect length for a cape without becoming a  nuisance to the little ones - remember The Incredibles? Capes can get stuck in action! :)
In my case, this measurement was 55cm (for a child of two).
Also, you'll need to measure your child's shoulder width and make the width of the cape a little wider than that (a couple of inches overall). And finally (and VERY important), the neck diameter. I suggest you take your child's neck circumference and add a good two inches to that too, so that it is not uncomfortable when the cape is tied at the neck. Or you can add an inch to the diameter. In the pattern I designed, the neck is open and fastened by Velcro, so think about what is the final neck opening size when the cape is fastened.
The base of the cape is wider than the shoulder width as that makes the cape fall nicely. Remember to add about half a centimetre all around as seam allowance (My apologies, I realise this is all a bit lose and if you don't have an idea of how to play it by ear, it will be difficult for you to do it. I suggest you do a quick Google search for patterns, or look on the always-resourceful Pinterest. I too loosely followed some ideas for this cape I found on it).
As for the materials, I used very lightweight cotton, in blue and yellow, as the last thing a child wants is to feel constrained by a heavy thing hanging from his neck. Also I used some orange scraps for the letter at the back.
I drew half the cape lengthwise on tracing paper, then transferred the pattern on the blue and the yellow fabrics as shown on the pic below.

I sewed a yellow circle (made by reusing the leftover circle of the neck bit) on the blue side. Then pinned and sewed a big orange S on top.

 Then, I joined the two parts of the cape, right sides facing, by sewing all around the cape, taking care of leaving a small area (about 10cm) open at the base of the cape for turning it inside out.

I turned it inside out, added some Velcro to fasten the cape at the neck, and top stitched all around to finish off.

 And that's the cape being worn by the super-hero himself, while on a mission to save the world!