Thursday, January 31, 2013

Mortem's Tricks or Treats: Recycling Lip Balm Tubes with Homemade Lip Balm

There are millions of ways to recycle lip balm tubes and repurpose them for something equally useful or handy.
But one such example, that one would assume is at the forefront is very rarely discussed-- reusing old tubes for new batches of lip balm.

I'll grant you that Chapstick brand tubes and of the like are usually the easiest to refill with a homemade batch of lip balm... but what about neat tubes like Nivea or Hard Candy?
They have this hole at the bottom of their well that prevents an easy refill...

Example of Hard Candy's tube.
I've always preferred larger tubes of lip balm, especially tinted, because I would likely go through four a month if I went with something smaller... and that's a whole lot more waste than is currently amuck in my cosmetic bag. One of the biggest attractions of the larger tubes is the larger twist bottom and larger lids-- like a lipstick! I'm jinxed to fumbling and losing small lids in gross places. So, after gathering and thoroughly cleaning and sanitizing my old tubes I set out to figure a way to reuse them for their main purpose.

After one failed attempt, the solution hit me with a slap! So now I give you the super easy and quick tutorial on filling your old tubes with new lip balm.

Tools you will need:

  • Double boiler set up: ideally a heat resistant glass measuring cup but a clean glass jar that is easily poured does the trick, placed in a sauce pan of water on the stove for medium to low heat.
  • Small lotion spatula (they usually come in hair removal kits) or something similar in size like a baby spoon.
  • Your lip balm concoction needs (you can find your favorite base formula to work upon with a simple internet search)
  • Clean and sanitized old lip balm tube
  • Optional: fancy tape

Instead of attempting to fill the tube and ruin the twist mechanism with liquid balm, I waited till it thickened and then slathered some of the solid mixture into the well (duh!)

Pack some in tightly so that the well is sealed nicely. You can't do this for the entire tube, or you'll have a really wonky looking stick of lip balm! So after you've filled the well with the thickened balm solution, reheat your mixture back into a liquid, lower your well to the very bottom of the tube, and then pour the liquid mix into the tube; it won't (at least shouldn't) run through the hole into the twister.

Ta da!
Once you let cool and solidify... eureka! You'll need to twist up and down a few times and wipe the edges since it will thicken and have some resistance to the twisting because of the slight excess.

The formula for making lip balm can be found on numerous blogs and on youtube; simply search "make homemade lip balm"
I experimented with the batch I made in this previous post, adding 1/4 of a tsp of organic beeswax, and an 1/8 of a tsp of equal parts grapeseed and Vitamin E oil. It's not as creamy as I would like, but the rule of thumb is the thicker you want it the more wax you put it in; more oil means a softer stick. Castor oil is said to add shine and glossiness to a lip balm, you can also use food/cosmetic grade glitters for an extra sparkle or shimmer. Other alternatives to beeswax is soy or lanolin. You may also choose to use almond oil, avocado oil, or extra virgin olive oil-- you may also choose to flavor your balm with flavoring oils available around the net and crafting supply stores.
To make the necessary changes, you would simply chop above the well and reheat-- keeping the well plugged for the improved formula.

For the extra mile, I decided to cover the lid with tape-- so I know that it isn't that brand's formula, but mine. You could potentially make it pretty if you used those patterned duct tapes.

Hope you enjoyed this brief tutorial!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Spooky Basket: Timeless Tomes

I have many vintage books; you could say I am a collector of vintage texts.
It comes with the territory, I suppose-- being voraciously attracted to the aesthetics of the days of yore.

I don't just collect any type of book, however. I collect vintage sewing and craft books, with a splish splash of reference and factoid. Through the guidance and nurturing of these books, I have been taught everything I know, or have been introduced to new hobbies.
If I took the time to name and describe every single book in my library, this review post might end up taking hours to read and process... and sadly, I still don't have them with me in my new home away from home.

But if I did, then the ones I am about to show you would still be the treasures of my collection (minus 2 or 3 not present). These were all gifted to me by my wonderful younger brother and loving husband...

This rather small but fruitful collection of books deal with sewing; drafting patterns through draping and flat-pattern design, and professional finishing techniques. I recommend each one highly for the intermediate seamster.

5.) The Art of Dressmaking by Butterick Publishing Co. 1927

Probably the oldest and the smallest in size of the five, this book is rife with a myriad of brief but informative construction techniques. The thing that makes this book worthwhile, though, is the quaintness of the diagrams and imagery; it lends a peek at the procedures of clothing construction and silhouettes of the 1920's. 

4.) Practical Dress Design by Mabel D. Erwin 1954

This, along with two other of the books, was once used as a textbook in a college of design. Not as widely known as the other two, but this concise text does not disappoint. It offers and extensive variety of ideas for finishing and drafting techniques that are invariably timeless.

3.) Clothing Construction by Evelyn A. Mansfield 1953

As we near the end of the list, the quality is always surmounting. Another of the three textbooks, this one is quite the gem of vintage sewing photography. Rich with beautifully depicted black and white photos, and wonderfully complete instructions, page after page, you'll quickly see why Clothing Construction is one of my go-to drafting book picks!

2.) Modern Pattern Design by Harriet Pepin 1942

By far the rarest of this collection, this book was once (and probably still is) the paradigm of expert sewing knowledge-- old techniques that have become so hard to find, make this one of the most coveted vintage sewing books to date. I could easily spend hours absorbing the information on each page.

1.) Dress Design by Marion S. Hillhouse and Evelyn A. Mansfield 1948

Last and probably not least, the proverbial diamond of my collection. Let not the cover and the title fool you, for this book will give beginners a run for their money, and experts the final here-say of vintage clothing construction. This is the final and best textbook of the others, in regards to construction and drafting techniques. I pair this often with Modern Pattern Design, and together I feel I have all the knowledge I could ever use on the subject. Designs in this book range from simplistic, to the intricate. Worth every penny!

There you have it, my top vintage pattern drafting book picks. Five is likely to be the first to change in favoritism, as there are still so many other good vintage sewing books to be had! But 1,2, and 3 are likely to remain on the very top of my list.

Do any of you, dear readers, have a favorite vintage book you'd like to own or go back to all the time?

Monday, January 28, 2013

Mortem's Tricks or Treats:Sincerest Form of Flattery

My my, I have been a busy bee this past week or so-- which will explain my absence.
I couldn't decide whether to bombard you all with the updates into one fat post... or to torture you all slowly in the upcoming days. I think I'll do the latter.

I'll start with the most recent update, which will begin with a giant disclaimer:

This is a homage piece; I do not own the rights to the following, nor will I distribute the pattern in any way shape or form, so please do not ask. It is all property of Archaical-- so if you want one, then please go to her site here.

Now that I have that off my chest...

I'm not one to "copy" another artist's work on a whim; it takes a special set of circumstances for the notion to  create enough momentum to even remotely cross my mind, and conversely weigh the pro's and con's of doing so. If I had limitless funds and limited knowledge on the particular craft, I would buy one in a heartbeat; just as I have with Louise Black's corset at the time of its purchase, and many more like that. Unfortunately funds fluctuate terribly, identical to that of my moods. So my conclusion seemed inevitable... they do say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery...

Through mere observation, I was able to recreate one of the infamous hoods. I was armed with nothing but my finite knowledge of knitting, tools, and ambition to succeed.
I exaggerated the ears just slightly so that they resembled bat ears more than cat ears. I also made the scarf bits of the hood wider, so it would curl less and cover more. The colors were my choice, of course; I adore many things purple and black! You could just as easily say they are my favorite colors. I didn't use the large yarn which is evident in her original hoods, but it really didn't take much of the regular stuff to complete it. It took me approximately one day and one night to complete-- I imagine with the larger yarn it would take half the time; I don't consider myself to be a quick and prolific knitter by any means, FYI.

I recommend purchasing one of these hoods-- it's quite comfy, and very handy not to mention cute! It's also quite fun to tease a scaredy cat into thinking you're a large animal with-- Poe will attest to just that!

Off topic:

I was nominated by not one, but three lovely ladies (Bones & Lilies, Breakfast on Mars, and Drinking! Not Studying) for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award

The honor of receiving this comes with the duty of listing 5 of my most aberrant habits. So, in order of peculiarity:

  1. I concentrate best when I have a tape dispenser near me, so I can snap a piece and place it at random on my body. Although most anything sticky does suffice-- just not jam sticky... I'm very particular about that.
  2. I willingly clean just about any mess, and some were really quite grotesque-- but I vehemently refuse to do dishes.
  3. I don't speak as I write. I am very closed mouthed in person; though I may have much to say, it very rarely comes out, and when it does it's haphazard and awkward at best. I tend, very much, to mumble. I have done very well during phone conversation, though-- it's a long process.
  4. I tend to be quite absent minded-- I wander without consciously knowing it, I'll randomly stare blankly, and at one point or another I have misplaced every item I have ever owned... and they are usually in equally peculiar areas: my phone has been found in the fridge, in the shower, in the microwave, on high selves where I couldn't possibly have reached without a stool... and that is an example of one item!
  5. When items are in front of me, I subconsciously move them around until they "feel right"... but this habit never happens inside my craft room where I need it most. Even I find that odd, and contradicting to 4 as well...

So now I list some of the bloggers which inspire me and haven't been tagged, in no particular order:

Totally voluntary; you won't hurt my feelings if you refuse, I'll still keep reading your blogs!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Tales of Trial and Terror: DIY Basic Beauty Products

There comes a point in your life when you look down at an expensive beauty product that has run out and wonder if you might still be able to rescue the leftovers before inevitably tossing it. Or, if a favorite product has been discontinued and the curiosity leads you to wonder if you could manage to make a good enough product to replace what you can no longer purchase.

I'm a DIY hard, I cannot purchase something without seeing through its face value. I often wonder what I might create with the supposed waste people expect it to have at the end of its "convenient usage". For me, the moments above came at the same time when I realized that I had been accumulating too many of those "what if"s in boxes and bags tucked underneath my bathroom sink; be it containers, lip sticks with leftover product in the base, lotions, etc. Armed with a vague basic know-how and a truck load of imagination, I set off my newest adventures in making my own beauty products...

Lip gloss/balm - take 1

The ingredients I used in my first lip product, as shown in the picture, are: extra virgin cold pressed coconut oil, petroleum jelly, one lipstick, one tinted chapstick.

Lip pot tutorials are easily found all over the internet and books: here is my pictorial low down
Brief summary of the photo instructions (no measurements given-- it was all eye-balled):
1. Scrape lip tubes empty into your bowl
2. Mix a portion smaller than your lip product, of petroleum jelly into the bowl
3. Microwave mixture for a short amount of time; just so it melts, but does not boil; I did mine for 15 secs
4. While the product is warm, mix a small portion of coconut oil
5. Have a clean pot ready
6. Spoon mixture into pot until full
7. Place in freezer and let sit to become solid but not frozen.
8. Showing off results!

One thing I'd like to note about my procedure, is that coconut oil solidifies at around room temp.-- it doesn't take much to melt it either, in that regard; your temp alone will melt it. So use very sparingly! I didn't (the pictures show far too much), and my product is more of a tinted gloss than a tinted balm... not very lip pot friendly. I'd also like to say that I do not recommend petroleum jelly; it's preference really, many chap stick brands use it. The only reason I did was because it was the only thickening/base agent I had at hand; I would recommend using solid beeswax or lanolin. Cosmetic suppliers also sell pre-made bases as well to create richer and creamier, but stable and solid lip products.

I was an avid sampler of LUSH cosmetics, so over time I collected many of their little pots that their samples came in. After washing them out of whatever product they had and removing their label, they make great lip pots, or travel pots (to carry some of your lotions or cleansers as you travel instead of carrying the entire bottle).

Face Cleanser - take 3

This seems to be the motif for my facial routine... never settling on one.
Admittedly I am quite obsessed with my skin's condition, and so to that effect I have spent literally hundreds of dollars vying for the right cleanser to suit my skins onerous needs.

One day, during one of my daily researches, someone mentioned cleansing their face with oil with profound and almost immediate results-- I was then led to this blogger, Crunchy Betty, who offers a wealth of knowledge on the subject. So I began my OCM routine using a roughly 3:1 ration of extra virgin olive oil to tea tree oil. My immediate results were not as impressive as most, but in the long term it seemed as though light was shining through the tunnel my skin put me in. A little more than a few months in and I am not satisfied, but not because it didn't work... it did in fact work! But I needed something a little more; I have no new breakouts at all, but my old ones are still slightly present and I still found I needed to use moisturizer; back to the drawing board again:

My latest OCM concoction uses: 2 tbsp organic extra virgin cold pressed coconut oil, 4 tbsp cold pressed castor oil,  1 tsp lavender oil, 1/2 tsp tea tree oil.

No other special prep, just put in the container you intend on keeping it in and mix till the consistency of cupcake batter, but the viscosity of icing.

According to my knowledge on the essential oils used, this combination should be good for combination temperamental skin-- not for severe acne or other harsh skin conditions, but for blemish and redness prone. My first usage yielded slightly better results than the first trial from the previous combination; I didn't feel the need to apply moisturizer at all, it left my skin super soft but not weighed down. The smell is quite delicious! I have deemed this the "cupcake" cleanser, because the texture is much like batter but melts into smooth oil, and the smell is like lavender icing.
A couple days in now, and I can visibly tell my redness is significantly less.

Have you ever made or thought of making your own beauty products? 
If so how do they compare to old favorites?

Monday, January 14, 2013

Skeleton Closet: Roaring 20's Glam

One of my favorite eras of glitz, glamor and fashion-- ah the 20's.
I would be remiss to say it wasn't the paradigm of forward thinking. Oh yes, women wore knee length skirts, smoked in public, wore copious amounts of make up... but most importantly, were able to vote in the U.S.

As many know, it was the era when fashion became free of the strict moral concepts it once had; so as previously mentioned, the length of skirts went higher and higher, and sleeveless dresses entered the scene in a profound way. A distinct characteristic of high fashion during the 20's were the dropped waistlines; you'll notice that many of the fashions of the 20's are blocky and boyish-- this was exactly the point, to free the form and unite comfort and freedom of movement, while still embracing femininity.

So if you haven't guessed, today's outfit is a rip-roaring 20's inspired outfit!

Modern Day Vintage! xoxo
Source - Clara Bow
When starting this outfit, it began with my make up; I loaded my brush with too much black... this wasn't exactly the look I intended, but I went with it. Instead of angling my brows as I normally do, I tried a softer curved brow; droopier, in the likes of Clara Bow.
Source - Coco Chanel
 I couldn't really grasp it very well, and my brow turned out thicker than intended. They ended up looking more like Coco Chanel's brows.

Well, happenstance made all the make up work out in the end... but then, what will I do with my hair? The style of hair in the 20's is very short and bobbed. I didn't feel like chopping off my locks just yet... so I experimented. My hair is naturally very curly, so I just started rolling and pinning. I grabbed a piece of lace, and a vintage brooch my mother gave me, and pinned all that to my head, too.

I had several strings of glass pearls that I never had the chance to wear for the longest time. I remember making them with the intention of one day incorporating more 1920's flair into my wardrobe. Well, every pearl has its day!

What I am wearing:

  • Top - thrifted
  • Skirt - thrifted
  • Necklaces & Headband - Selfmade
  • Shoes - Thrifted
  • Bangle - Gifted

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Freakshow Films: Deliciously Short

It takes a distinguished person to create a movie, but it takes a truly unique individual to make a story come to life. Sometimes, the movie doesn't even have to be hours long to become something special...

The movies I am about to mention are what I consider works of art; pieces that need no verbal explanation of how great they are. Instead I will simply ask that you sit and watch for a few moments...

The Scree by Paul McDermott

Zero by Christopher Kezelos

The Legend of the Scarecrow

If you liked the work of Paul McDermott and Christopher Kezelos, I urge you to watch The Girl Who Swallowed Bees and The Maker.

Please feel free to comment with your opinion, and perhaps some suggestions for other films!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Fashioning My Cyber Microcosm: Waxing Nostalgic-- Good People and Good Ideas

As we move forward into the new year, many of us have written our hopes and dreams in the way of resolutions; dreaming that this new year will bring us the due diligence that we all aspire to accomplish.

While the list of aspirations grow and grow all around me, one author stood out with something so simple yet so profound that many of us forget to do in the excitement of starting anew again.

Salieria, author of the blog Dreams of an Escapist, reminisces about the past year; things she still ponders over; things that went well for her, and most importantly, things she was most proud that she has done.
To learn from our past is something we must all pause to do, so that we can transcend mistakes or regrets, and build upon our achievements so that we may grow.

Very recently, The Professor  linked another blog which features an idea taken from Pinterest: a "Memory Keeper" Jar.

Source: Scathingly Brilliant blog

The author of Scathingly Brilliant states:  
"write down good things that happen throughout the year and keep them in a jar. On New Years Eve, open the jar and read all of the lovely things that happened to you during the year."

This is such a grand idea, and it couldn't come at a more perfect time when I was thinking about the idea Salieria had planted in my head. The only thing I would add to such a novel idea is to create 'special notes'; notes written on colored paper to signify a larger triumph or an extra special event.

I was thinking about using a halloween bucket my neighbor gave me... and as you can see, Poe is already breaking it in.

Because last year has passed without said jar, I will simply write here and share with you all, in no particular order, my proud moments of 2012:

  • I didn't craft as much as I have in the past, but what I have created I am far more proud of than I am with my older work-- years of practice is paying off big time!
  • I learned to knit, all by myself! (a lot of thanks goes to youtube and some books, however)
  • I started my fashion/craft blog
  • I got married and moved out-- to another country no less!
  • I adopted Poe
  • I am so proud of my individual style sense
  • I learned to say 'enough' and stopped excessively apologizing; especially when it came to my short comings
  • Sing and dance out loud without feeling embarrassed about how silly it might be
  • I made a transition into bloomers and pants; seems small, but I have worn skirts for so long I hardly remembered what it was like to wear something other than one!
Well my new years eve went so well. I solved the greatest mystery to plague my own 2012, and that felt great to do! Other than that, I spent the night finishing up my Netflix playlist with my wonderful husband and kitty.

Hope your new years week is most auspicious!

This post is in part written for:

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Tales of Trial and Terror: A "Brooke's Column of Leaves" Success Story

I did it! I did it! I solved the mystery of the missing stitches! Rejoice!

The Brooke's Column of Leaves pattern gave me such a run for my money; I didn't think I'd ever get past the 1st row. I frogged and restarted more times than I kept count... because I am so brand new to knitting, I didn't even know that I could insert a "life line" which essentially keeps all the good stitching when you need to "frog" (pull apart your stitches).

So without further ado...
My column of leaves swatch
When completed it must be blocked so that the lace will open up and the pattern lie flat

I feel like a dolt for not connecting the simple concept in my head sooner... on both the life line and the unique stitch I wasn't properly executing; the YO (yarn over).
In my defense, the tutorial video was of rather poor quality add to the fact that it was using a continental style of knitting; I am English style knitter, also known as a "thrower"... and yet to add more to the fact, I am completely and utterly youtube and vintage book taught; I have absolutely no individual guidance.

However, in case any of my readers choose to do this as well, fret not, knitting isn't actually as difficult as it may seem-- frustrating, but once you get the hang of the hand maneuvers, placement of the working yarn, and abbreviations, you will breeze through nearly any project. And really, it isn't a ton to remember; you can buy a vintage book for cents and it'll likely contain a list of abbreviations in case you're like me and hate remembering them. I highly recommend the Reader's Digest Complete Guide to Needlework.
It's one book that I find invaluable and nearly abundant, I see them all the time at thrift stores for $1; unfortunately for myself, my copy is back in Canada so I can't really offer an excerpt from it.

The next book I'd recommend is a book my awesome neighbors purchased for me in trade for one of my bleach art shirts. It is the Better Homes & Gardens Complete Book of Knitting, Crochet  & Embroidery. It was also a dollar from the thrift store.

Truth be told, I had given up on creating the Brooke's pattern; it was only during work on one of the patterns inside this book that lead me to my epiphany.

See, I was wondering if it was maybe the pattern that wasn't working and no one responding to any similar inquiries that made this so frustrating. So I tried something from the book, just in case; after trying one pattern over and over with no success, I knew then it was me doing something wrong; I was coming several stitches short again!

While working my way through yet another pattern from the book, it hit me; since the YO created a new stitch, why not bring one back over? Low and behold, it worked! I was so dumbfounded having realized I did it.

So here's the pictorial low down:

Creating a YO (yarn over). Just a note, I don't really hold my working yarn on my left-- I was just holding the camera  for this
The missing link : this ensures you have enough stitches in many lace patterns, unless otherwise noted.

There are great videos demonstrating a yarn over for your viewing movement needs; my favorite by far is this one; they refer to it as a Yarn Forward but it is essentially the same as a yarn over:

Here is a small tip that I used for keeping track of my rows and the stitches I was working on:

My memory is just as bad as my eyesight, so I needed extra help to keep me on track, and it was as simple as using sticky notes and a highlighter pen.

don't mind the incorrect notes; they're from previous tinkering fails ;)

Using the sticky notes to frame 3-4 stitches and block the other rows helped a ton! Highlighting every right side row also ensured that I was moving along the proper row, too! I found it really really helpful to make a mark on the row I chose to insert a life line into; for me I chose the 4th and 8th rows; so that if you put it down for a long time and need to frog when you pick back up, you'll know which row you placed your lifeline into so you can begin again. I used yarn for my lifeline, but I think it would be exponentially easier to use plastic cording; like the kind used in braid keychains; that's just preference. If you're working with lace weight yarn, it'd probably be best to use crochet cotton.

Here is my favorite video demonstrating how to insert your life line:

I can't wait to finish this scarf and send it off to its forever home!

I hope my info helped in some small way; please let me know if you're going to try as well!

P.S. I am using Lion Brand's Tweed Stripes in 215 Athena bulky weight 5. You can hardly see it, but it has subtle hints of green and blues within the purple and lilac tones. The needles are 6mm.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Skeleton Closet: Winter Tropic Bird.


Not much of colorful bird am I? But today's dress up included some cold but colorful peacock/macaw tones!
It doesn't suit my outfit, but it doesn't have to; it's dress-up-randomly fun time! It's nice to start off a new year with something like this.

Oh! And if you're reading this, congratulations! You made it through 2012! Happy new year!

It's a chilly new years day in Northern Arizona; definitely coat weather! Hooray! Too bad it never lasts in a place like Arizona; in a few months the heat will rise and I say goodbye again to long skirts and dandy cardigans ... ah well.

Speaking of cardigans, my lovely husband made a bet with me during Christmas morning that I could not eat 3 large waffles peaked with whipped cream and mixed berries. I wanted a cardigan, so that was what we bet on; if I won he had to buy me one, and if I lost he wouldn't. Well his step-father doubled the bet that I could eat all those waffles...
so as a result, today I am showing off one of two cardigans that I happily received.

Never make a clothing bet with an ambitious fashionista.
I am also sporting one of the lovely jewelry pieces that was gifted to me; this one by my brother-in-law.

What I am wearing:

  • Beaded cardigan - second hand
  • Top - second hand
  • Skirt - second hand
  • Shoes - Windsor Store
  • Tights - second hand
  • Bird skull necklace - second hand
  • Jacket - revamp DIY (collar added)

How is/was your new years day?
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