Wednesday, December 7, 2011

My new assistant

Now that the semester is coming to an end and I have been working from home, I'm finding that some of my furry companions (our 2 cats and 2 dogs) have been more lovable than usual. Mikki, our mini Schnauzer, is normally the one that has to be forcibly removed from the side of my hip.  She goes everywhere with me.  However, our cat Elliott has her beat lately.  Now that I'm home, Elliott follows me from room to room, attempting to sit on my lap, my books, pretty much anyplace near me. 
Today I was taking some new pictures for my Etsy shop, and because it has been so dreary and gray outside, I was forced to take pictures in a new location. I set up shop in our office, underneath our Ott-light with a big piece of white paper for the background...when guess who shows up?
Isn't he just the sweetest? It is hard to believe this once feral cat has become such a moosh! 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Getting an education at craft shows

This weekend I completed my third ever craft show. This first one I did was a huge festival, the next was a tiny little show, and the third was right in the middle of both - a medium sized show! While every show has been different, one thing has remained the same - the other vendors at the show are some of the nicest people I've ever met.

Being the newbie that I am, I've been taking in a lot of advice and wisdom from the more experienced vendors. It is amazing how you can start the day sitting next to a complete stranger, and by the end of the day, feel like you've known that person a long time.  The vendors I've met so far have gone above and beyond to help me - they've given me tips on looking for good shows, they've given me actual show dates and times and told me which to avoid and which are great.  Heck, they've even given me plenty of pats on the back when things aren't going so well!

Doing these shows is more work than I've ever imagined.  In fact, I'm still not sure if they are for me. But one thing is for sure - I've met some great people out there!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Mom and I have been busy creating these adorable little soap gift stacks over the past few weeks.  We are slowly cranking them out on Etsy, and hope they will be good sellers this holiday season.  Here is one of our latest creations: one of our yummy lime soaps, coupled with one of our handmade knit washcloths and a maple draining soap dish.  Love it!

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Holiday Gift Boutique at Spector Furniture

Good morning - Nutmeg Naturals will be at the Holiday Gift Boutique on 11/27/11 at Spector Furniture in Ansonia, CT. The event runs 11/26 and 11/27. If you are in town, stop by for some great local crafts!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

First craft show

Wow, it has been a while since I've blogged.  Things got busy! The new school semester started in September and my courses have been keeping me pretty well chained to a textbook, calculator and computer.  Throw a craft show and a freak October snowstorm into the mix and that pretty much brings us to today.

We did our first craft show mid-October. Could I have chosen a larger show to do? It was a 2 day, outdoor event with 30,000 people coming.  Sales were so-so but we broke even, not bad considering that most of the vendors around us said they did terrible.  Other items of interest: the mud and deep fried pickles!

Several days before the show, it just rained continuously, resulting in a huge mud pit at the show.  Cars were getting stuck during set up, and the highlight came when the truck carrying hay (to help soak up the mud) got stuck in the mud! I had pictures of this, but unfortunately the computer containing the photos has crashed.

Our location at the show was a good one - facing all the food.  We were directly facing the deep fried pickle stand all day...we eventually caved. While our vendor-neighbors refused the try them, they actually weren't that bad.  Let's just say we all did a lot of eating that weekend!

More to come soon...

Friday, September 2, 2011

What I've been up to this week

It has been a busy week. First, hurricane Irene hit the state Sunday. We were without power for only a day, and we were able to clean up our flooded basement fairly easily.  All in all, we were lucky.  I know people who still do not have power! Fortunately, everyone is safe and no one was hurt.

Next, I started the fall semester this week. I am taking two difficult courses which I expect will be eating up a great deal of time until December. It will be interesting to juggle school, work, and soapmaking!

Last night, I made a rose water and French pink clay soap. It is still in the mold, and quite hot at the moment, but I have high hopes for the soap.  Not sure how much of the rose water scent will remain after interacting with the lye, but I have been wanting to make more natural soaps lately and this will fit the bill nicely.

Finally, I have ventured into making bath salts. Talk about instant gratification! Not like knitting, where completing a project could take months, or even like soap making, where you must wait for saponification and curing to occur.  Nope, bath salts are pretty much done in 5 minutes! :) I purchased some absolutely gorgeous pink Himalayan salt and mixed it with a blend of lavender and peppermint essential oils. Packaged them up in these adorable quilted 4 ounces jelly jars.  Love these!  And so easy!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

New stuff, continued

Well, so much for waiting until tomorrow to post pictures! I apologize for the messy looking soap molds, but what's inside them looks great, I think!

Some new stuff

Took yesterday (Friday) off from soap making, but back at it today. Today I made an all natural activated charcoal soap, swirling it with my favorite soap recipe which is a rather pale  creamy white. No titanium dioxide used, so we'll see how it turned out. Also left it unscented.  Apparently, that wasn't enough for me! I have had this mold my father-in-law made for me that I had yet to use. It is solid wood, but kind of an unusual shape, so I wasn't sure what to do with it. I have been jealously looking at the great stuff everyone has been making using molds like these from Brambleberry, so I decided to use the mold from my father-in-law to make a pretty design on top, which will be the front side of my soap...if that makes sense :) I made one of my old standby recipes - just 2 pounds - mixed the lye and fat mixture together with no scent, and poured that mixture into cups with some pretty fall colors. The colors I used were black (activated charcoal), rust (I hand blended colors to create this), red bourdeaux, and gold sparkle mica. To the main soap mixture, I added pumpkin spice fragrance which smelled out of this world! Poured in the scented mixture into the mold and made some pretty designs on the top with the aforementioned colors.  I am sooo excited to see the result, but don't want to let myself get too excited yet! Pictures will be posted tomorrow :)

Happy Saturday!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Back to soapmaking!

So my summer course is finally over and I now have time again to make some soap.  Mom has been very busy making tons of batches, but unfortunately, she only has a camera on her phone so I don't have many pictures of her soaps to share. We are gearing up for fall.  We've got one confirmed craft show in October that last year had attendance of 30,000! We're just about confirmed for another craft show that will be in a very busy local mall in September. Finally, I was contacted by someone asking if I'd like to participate in their craft show in December so I may be doing that as well.  In addition, Etsy sales are coming along nicely.  However, I'm feeling extremely uncertain as to how much product we need. I've read to either expect to make 7 to 10 times your entrance fee, or 1% of the attendance of the show. If anyone has feedback on their own experiences, I would love to hear!

 Last week I made a great Chai Tea recipe, similar to the Chai Latte I am currently selling.  The new recipe, however, is my own creation and is completely vegan. Sprinkled a little bit on cinnamon on top.

I love the way the way soap mixture fell way down through the scented tan colored mixture.
This past Friday, I gave a shot at making some milk soaps.  I haven't been making any milk soaps since my class, but was ready to dive in!  I made one loaf of soap made with local yogurt and local honey, and another with coconut milk scented with almond. Results of the yogurt/honey soap are below:

The cut soaps are below

The soaps have an interesting, kind of nutty smell to them. I washed my hands with a small piece after cutting, just to try it out and pH test the soap.  Even though it is a fresh soap and needs a lot of time to cure, it felt creamy and nice. The soap turned out a bit more rustic and not as smooth as what I am used to, but overall still seems like it will be a nice one.  My husband loves the way it smells, and I like that it is made with local ingredients.

I'm still on the fence about the almond coconut milk soap.  The smell is improving as time goes by (it was almost too almond at first), but this soap was really a huge challenge to make.  It came to trace incredibly fast, and I was about 5 seconds away from having soap in a bowl. Because of the fast trace, I had a lot of difficulty getting it into the mold. The result of the cut bars is some air pockets on the sides that I am not wild about.  I think the soap is ugly, but I've used it on my hands and it is fabulous.  Maybe folks can overlook its ugliness? :-)

Made some Nag Champa today, with another recipe I created with soap calc. Wish me luck!  Have a great week everyone!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

A fun Saturday

So yesterday was a really nice day.  We got a call from my dad to ask if we wanted to come over and see my step-sister's new baby.  Of course we wanted to! He is only 2 months old, and honestly, I have zero experience with babies so I was quite excited to meet him. Steve and  I got to hold him, feed him and play with him.  I'm in love! He was such a good boy and it was a great visit.

After we left, we headed down the street from dad's house to a little farm stand on the corner of the road. That area of the state has particularly great produce so we bought corn, tomatoes, cucumbers and box of blueberries for just $8.  Then we headed over to Trinity Dairy in Enfield, where we picked up some farm fresh 1/2 and 1/2, honey and some plain yogurt (the yogurt is reserved for soapmaking!). It felt great to be back in my hometown on such a nice summer day.

The next pitstop came at Creative Fibers in Windsor, CT.  Creative Fibers is a great local yarn store, and I don't think I've ever left there without leaving a good chunk of my paycheck! I bought 2 skeins of gorgeous Malabrigo yarn and 3 skeins of mint green Dreambaby yarn (thanks to the earlier visit, I've been inspired to make a baby blanket). Below is the Malabrigo:

I'm definitely thinking this color would make a beautiful popcorn stitch scarf.  Below is the Dreambaby:

The Dreambaby is that soft, cushion-y kind of yarn that is perfect for a new baby.  The color works for either a boy or girl.  Again, I'm thinking maybe popcorn stitch, though it might take me a long time to complete a small blanket in that stitch.  Or, if I'm more in a rush, I think a basketweave stitch would be beautiful as well.

Guess that's it for now.  Off to do homework and to try and tear myself off of Etsy!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Etsy & Artfire

I've got a pretty good selection of soaps now online in my Etsy store: . Please stop by and see what Nutmeg Naturals has to offer. We are proud to be made in the USA and a natural alternative to commercial soaps!

I also check started up an Artfire store yesterday, but there seems to be a bigger learning curve with that one....and not nearly the same amount of traffic one would find on Etsy.   I have been getting about 20 hits in 5 minutes on Etsy, while the soap I listed on Artfire last night is still sitting there with just one view :(

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy 4th of July!

Wow! This weekend has been a whirlwind.  So much has happened over the last 4 days:
  1. Our website, went live
  2. I set up a PayPal account
  3. I set up an Etsy account
  4. I listed items on Etsy
  5. After I listed our Cranberry Bog soap, it was picked up in someone's treasury in about 5 minutes.  So excited! This literally made my day.
  6. Made a really cool looking soap (see below)

I was going to do a spoon swirl, but got lazy and just took turns layering and pouring the 3 colors I made. I'm really happy with how they came out.  It reminds me of an underwater scene.  See that little curve under each bar of soap?  Well, my soap mold liner must have curled up a bit in that spot...but you know what?  I really like the way it looks.  Kind of an ergonomic soap with a place to hold it in your hand!

Mom was busy making soap too.  She made another batch of her mouth-watering coconut lemongrass.  I really must refrain from wanting to take a big bit out of this soap.  Isn't it gorgeous?

Mom also made another batch of spring garden, but adjusted the color to a beautiful, soft purple.  She mixed her own fragrances for this soap, mixing lilac and sweet cut grass together.

Tomorrow will be a very busy day.  Back to work after the nice, long weekend, and back to school.  I'm taking a summer class towards my Accounting degree.  It should be interesting packing 5 months of school work into 4 weeks.  Wish me luck!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Too much of a good thing?

Some say you can never have too much of a good thing.  But do they say that when a large bottle of fragrance oil has arrived at your home broken, the box and its contents are completely soaked, and the scent of Sugar Plum Fairy is wafting throughout the neighborhood?  I was so excited yesterday when I arrived home from work to see my box from Brambleberry sitting there.  But as I pulled in closer, I could see half of the cardboard box was actually soaked through.  My excitement quickly changed to nervousness.  Fearing the entire shipment (containing several bottles of oils) was destroyed, I carefully opened the box outside to find out what happened.  Thank goodness it was only the one bottle that was broken and not the others.  However, the resulting spill resulted in quite a sticky, stinky mess!  I must imagine the package handler was happy to get that box out of his truck.  After washing all the bottles and containers, and hosing down the back porch, everything was clean but the bees were flying around looking for this big sweet smell that was EVERYWHERE! On the bright side, I'm sure the fragrance our yard was emitting was much more pleasant than the time we put down corn gluten meal throughout our yard, which after a few days didn't smell much better than a manure farm during summer.

I must also note how great the staff of Brambleberry is.  I called to let them know what happened and they are sending out a replacement right away. I'm glad to do business with such a wonderful company!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Retail products

A delivery of Nutmeg Naturals' handcrafted soaps have been delivered to Bayberry Quilt and Gift Shoppe in Chicopee, Massachusetts. Please stop by and check them out!

Mom did all the packaging herself...isn't she amazing?  Not only does she cut the burlap by hand, she also hand frays each piece of burlap to create the fringe on each side.  Those tags you see on each bar...the majority of those she has also cut by hand.  We don't have a die cutter, so she has been creating those pretty scalloped edges with a pair of scissors from the dollar store!  You're awesome mom!

Below are the packaged soaps before we packaged them up to bring them to Bayberry Quilt and Gift Shoppe.

We were thrilled with how they came out!

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Guild!

Today was a very special day for Nutmeg Naturals.  We joined the Handcrafted Soapmakers Guild! We are beyond thrilled and excited. Everything is starting to come together and we are on our way to world domination....well, maybe not world domination, but we sure do hope our little Connecticut start up company will be very successful!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Soap-making weekend

So Friday I packed up my car and went over to mom's house to make some soap.  The plan was to make a batch together for her 4 lb. mold and then make a batch for my 4 lb. mold.  I think we cranked out 8 lbs of soap in a shorter amount of time than it took me to pack up my car.  The batches we made came out great.  The first batch we made consisted of 4 different colors - definitely a two person job in my opinion. We did a mix of red sparkle, yellow, green and purple and planned on doing an in the pot swirl.  But when it came down to crunch time we forgot what we were doing (despite laying out detailed plans first) and we ended up pouring the base mixture into the mold. After panicking a little, we then began pouring the colors in as fast as possible, using a skewer to mix the colors.
 After these shots were taken, we had a little time left so I pulled out another skewer and made a nice looking top on the molds.

The following day, we cut some pretty cool bars! Every single bar was slightly different, but we were happy for our first attempt at using 4 different colors.

Finished product is below.  We're calling it "Groovy."

After Groovy was complete our next attempt was a blue and white swirl soap using Soapy Clean fragrance. This fragrance accelerates trace so it was a race against time to get this into the mold. I think we barely made it! One problem, however.  Although I packed 6 boxes of soap making stuff, I forgot to include the wood divider for my mold, so we ended up making the blue and white Soapy Clean soap in slab form.  The final cut bars are not my favorite shape, but still turned out pretty nice.

Other soap babies from last week:
Our Tiramisu soap.  OMG, this smells so good, I have to remind myself this is not food!  Has a scent of cocoa, coffee and a little bit of spice. We added a little bit of gold sparkle mica about 1/3 of the mixture to create a faint gold vein running through the dark brown soap.  Love, love, love this one!

Coconut Lemongrass:
This just smells fresh and clean.  It smelled more like Lemon to me at first, but now that it is drying a bit, I'm picking up more of the coconut.  Smells like summer in a bar of soap!

In the mold today: a double batch of Old Lime!