Sunday, August 28, 2011

Soy Candles in an Upcycled Jar

As promised, I have part two of my tutorial for making soy candles in upcycled jars to share with you.  If you missed my recent post on all of the benefits of soy vs. other candle waxes or part one of this tutorial please be sure to take a look before you begin. And the disclaimer:  I am a crafter who loves to play with trash, I am not a expert candle maker so please do your research before attempting to make your own candles :)

When I first started to experiment with different ways to incorporate upcycling in the candle making process, this is what my set up looked liked: 

This make shift double boiler set up worked and is fine if you're making a few candles for yourself or friends. Each of the tin cans is intended to hold a different scent wax.  I've since ditched the double boiler setup and opted for the microwave.  SO much easier!  We'll still use the individual cans when it comes time to add scent, but the wax will be melted in a larger quantities in the microwave first.

Now that you've gathered all of your supplies listed in Part 1 of this tutorial we are ready to begin:

1.  Grab all of your upcycled containers and start attaching the wick/tab assembly (be sure to read the wick instructions for choosing the right size) to the inside of your containers.  You can use hot glue to do this or glue dots work pretty great, too! If you have a tall jar that is too narrow to reach inside to secure the wick, I found a wooden skewer works well.

2.  Start melting your wax:  Simply fill your glass measuring cup (you could use a glass bowl, however, the cup comes ready to pour without making a mess) and pop it in the microwave.  "Cook" it at 50% power at two minute intervals, stirring each time.  It usually only takes me 4-5 minutes to melt a completely packed 4 cup measure.  NOTE:  Do not be tempted to melt it quicker by microwaving on full power.  Soy has a low melting point and therefore flash point (the point at which your wax could ignite).  My soy wax is about 150 degrees when it comes out of the microwave, different sources quote the flash point between 395 and 500.

3.  If you don't intend to add scent to your candles, skip down to #5.  If you do plan to add essential oils you'll want to start dividing up your melted wax into your tin cans.  Keep in mind that you'll need to add 1 oz. of scent to each 16 oz of wax so measuring out by the pound might be easiest.  Fill enough cans for all the scents that you intend to use and let them cool.

4. When the wax cools to about 100/110 degrees add the essential oils.  You don't want to add it when your wax is too hot or it will burn off some of the oils and weaken the scent of your candles.

5. When your wax starts to look grainy (at about 95 degrees) start pouring the wax into your containers.  If your wicks haven't been pre-dipped in wax you'll need to center them and keep them from falling back into the melted wax.  Toothpicks and skewers work well for me:

6.  Now just wait for your candles to cool, I like to leave them overnight for safe measure.  If there are any imperfections in the tops of the candles you can heat it up with hair dryer and let it cool again.

7.  Clean up is a cinch with soy wax.  Just use some hot soapy water to clean everything out.  Just be sure to dump any large amounts of wax in the trash, don't pour it down the drain.  Then you can snip your wicks down to 1/4" - 1/2" and you're ready to enjoy! 

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Plastic Ring Necklaces

So, I done did it now!  I went and broadcast myself on YouTube.  Check out my very first video tute, give it a thumbs up and a kind comment.  While you're there pull out some of those pesky plastic rings that are left behind on the neck of your soda bottles and some scrap fabric and join me in making a necklace.  This is great project for adults but can be easily simplified for a child as well.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Preparing for Soy Candle Making

If you remember a while back, I promised a soy candle making tutorial.  Well, I have taken my time to really find the most efficient and earth friendly way to present this overwhelming amount of information.  In fact, I find it so overwhelming that I will be presenting this tutorial in a 2-part blog.  In order to incorporate your upcycled elements you will have to do a bit of work to gather your supplies so I thought that I would start there.

Pure soy candles have a very low melting point.  That means that, unlike paraffin, the entire top of your candle becomes a pool of melted wax when the wick is burning.  For this reason, pure soy candles need to be housed in a container.  This is the fun part! 

Start collecting glass containers from anywhere you can find.  In the picture to the right you'll see that I have a B&M baked bean jar, sake cups, water goblets and some miscellaneous heart shaped containers.  Most of these were yard sale items and many mismatched pieces that wouldn't find much use elsewhere.  A word of caution when selecting your containers:  If you pick clear glass, I recommend selecting glass that is textured.  Why? Wet spots will happen, even in soy candles sold in retail stores.  Don't worry, there is nothing wrong with your candle and it isn't actually wet, it will just look like the wax didn't ever dry in one spot.  It isn't very pretty and it will bug you, the texture disguises it.

You'll also want to start collecting containers for mixing and melting your wax.  Soy wax is super easy to melt in the microwave....yes, the microwave!  So hit the thrift shops and yard sales in pursuit of large glass measuring cups.  You can not only melt your wax in these but they are easy to pour from as well.  Plastic will start to deform as it holds that hot liquid so definitely stick with the glass.

I found it easiest (after trying many different methods) to melt all of my wax in one container and then pour it and any essential oils in separate containers.  The containers that I chose were upcycled as well.  I saved coffee cans and other large tin food containers.  Be very careful that you take a minute to file down the sharp point that is formed at the location where you snapped the lid off.  It is really sharp and you'll feel it when you're cleaning up.  The cans are also really easy to tap with a hammer to form a pouring spout, kind of like the one on the coffee can to the left.

What else will you need?  Here's a list:
1.  Soy wax - here is my two cents.  If you're going to spend the money on soy, go 100% pure soy.  Soy blends will allow you to make pillars and such but it is not as natural as it could be and look what happened to my experimental batch (it's called frosting, but your candle tops should be smooth as a babies bottom!):

I would also encourage you to really think about the amount of wax you will need.  I bought a 2 pound bag at the craft store for $10 and that was for the blend.  I bought 50 pounds of 100% pure soy wax online and (including the $25 dollar shipping fee) only ended up paying $2 per pound. 
2.  A digital scale.  Yes you need it, I fought it and regretted it!
3.  A thermometer.  Save your money and just buy a regular kitchen thermometer no need for a specialized candle making one.  Your wax shouldn't get much above 150 degrees.
4.  Fragrance and color if you choose to use either of them.
5.  And don't forget your wicks!  Opt for the all cotton wicks for a clean burn.  Remember a lot of those metal cores have lead in them.

So there you have it, your shopping list.  Start gathering your supplies and meet me back here for part 2 this weekend and we'll get those candles burnin'.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Upcycle This!

Tell me the often do you skip to the end of the saying reduce, reuse, recycle and forget all about the first two calls to action?  We are all guilty of it from time to time but I urge you to stop now and consider the benefits of reducing and reusing.  The economy is rough, right?  So the reducing part is a no-brainer.  But what about reusing?

I like to think of reusing a product as a subset of UPcycling.  Being able to shop at consignment stores, yard sales and the like is the easy way to reuse.  But taking it a step further to upcycling, repurposing a product or a piece of a product that is headed to the landfill, is just as good if not better.  Many even think that the inherent charm of these often unique and one of a kind pieces adds even more value to the finished product.  In fact, large companies are even jumping on the bandwagon and creating NEW products that mimic upcycled ones.  I have to say, all the charm is lost in these products using virgin materials. 

I love the story of the fifth grade girl who started her own business making bottle cap jewelry.  Check out the video to see how she got started upcycling. 

Now take a look at what I found in the craft store:

One of the items that I have really enjoyed making, if for no other reason than the reaction that I get from shoppers, are my light bulb bud bases:

 And now the eyesore in the craft store:
And I adore all the wonderfully artistic creations that the "zipper lady" makes out of previously used zippers  

  I guess big business loves them too, it's just too bad they use virgin materials!

How about these bunches of jersey knit material that I found in the craft store?

And on Etsy, the upcycled product:

You tell me, upcycled or brand spanking new?  I think I'll stick with Upcycled Stuff! :)

Monday, August 15, 2011

Don't Throw Those Old Clothes Away

Boy was I in a purging kind of mood last week!  My closet had become so overstuffed with clothes that I was no longer wearing and I couldn't find anything.  Thankfully, when the purge was complete, I ended up with a bunch of clothes to put back in the closet, a pile for the local women's shelter and a pile that I new I just couldn't even donate.  With that pile, I set to work on a bunch of upcycled projects.  Today, I thought I'd share a really simple way to make some low sew bags that can be used for gift giving, storing jewelry, carrying snacks to school and you can even use them instead of those pesky plastic produce bags.  Here's how my favorite turned out:

This bag was made from the sleeve of a pajama top that I've had for several years and was down to it's last couple of buttons (I saved the animal print buttons for later use too).  It's hard to see in this picture but it has a really pretty sheer ruffle around the top of the bag.

Step one:  Clean your closet, your kids closet, your neighbors closet and donate whatever is still wearable.  What's not - gather up and remove any zippers, buttons or embellishments that you might find use for in other projects.  Then start imagining the cuts you can make.  The bottom of pant legs and the ends of sleeves are a great place to start and will require just a couple straight seams. I don't really like to sew so the fewer stitches, the better!

Lop off the end of your garment.  Yeah, I know it's not straight, I fixed that before I started sewing.
Then you're going to fold over the top seam to make a "pouch" for your drawstring.  Add a few pins and sew around the sleeve.

Just be careful not to also sew through any ruffles. You'll want to leave a small opening in the seam for the drawstring.

Now you can select a coordinating ribbon or yarn and thread it through your seam.  I find attaching a safety pin to one end is the easiest way to get the cord through the seam.  Before we finish off this bag, I want to jump to an alternate (and easier) method of making your top seam. 

This is the bottom of a pajama pant leg that already has a nice seam in it. All you need to do is snip a piece of the seam and thread your drawstring through - so much easier!

Okay, let's head back over to our animal print bag and finish off the bottom.

Be sure the right sides of your fabric are facing each other and add a few pins to keep everything straight.

Add a simple straight stitch across the bottom and viola!  Simply turn your finished bag right side out and it's ready to use.  I was able to get two identical bags, one from each sleeve, from this garment.  With a few extra and still simple stitches I was able to get another pouch from the breast panel using the button holes to thread my ribbon through.  I still have plenty of this fabric (and ideas) left. 

Let's go back and finish off that blue jersey bag that I started above:

I know I know....why would you slice it up?!  How functional would THAT be?!  Trust me, I have a rotary cutter and I know how to use it. 

After you've sewn up the bottom edge as you did in the above bag, use a straight edge and rotary cutter to make inch long cuts in your fabric that are about half an inch to three quarters of an inch apart. 

Now you have yourself a nice looking and reusable produce bag!

See I told you I knew what I was doing!  Post below and tell me what you're doing with your old clothes.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Check Out My Guest Blog

You know those times when life slaps you on the back so hard that you fall on your face and on the way down it kicks ya in the teeth too?  Well, it's been one of those months but thank God I seem to be getting back up on my feet again because I've really missed my blogging adventure.  While I start gathering some fun stuff to share with you over the next couple of days, please take a peek at my guest blog on the Yellow Finch Designs Blog.

Keep your eyes peeled for some great tutorials comin' up!
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