Category Archives: Crafting

What to do when it is too wet to play outdoors?

During the night, the temperature at the surface rose above freezing, the upper atmosphere was already there and the freezing rain and sleet turned to rain.  The 11″ of crusty snow from yesterday was reduced to about half a foot of slush with a river running down our driveway.  Because it was nearly 40ºf when I went out to feed and water the chickens, the water in their coop was not frozen, the straw in the bed of the coop was not frozen, the run several inches deep in the slush.  A few quick scoops with the snow shovel opened enough ground in front of the coop to put their food, water, and the kitchen scraps, so I ran them outside.  While they were eating and trying to avoid the remaining snow, I cleaned out the coop from 2 weeks of them being, well cooped up.  The garden got a good pile of damp, prefertilized straw and they got a new foot of clean dry straw inside.

After morning chores and breakfast, I wandered up the slippery driveway to see what the roads looked like.  Our unpaved road had been plowed to bare dirt and gravel with a few slushy patches, the paved road about half a mile up from the house was wet, but clear.  A few of our neighboring counties, especially east of us got freezing rain with lots of iced trees, broken limbs and power outages, we were lucky this time.  Until lunch time, we had sunshine.  It is now overcast, but still near 40ºf, so very mild and lots of melting is going on.  Schools were closed again today, so Mountaingdad, daughter, the 2 grands and I ventured into town and had a burger, then came back to clear a place for son in law to park when he gets off work today.  He went in during the early hours of the storm on Sunday night, 12 hours before he needed to, but knowing that his car wouldn’t make it Monday, nor would any of the cars on Monday.  He spent the night in his office at the hospital, being bothered and awakened by staff all night.  Last night he left the hospital, but stayed at a hotel in the city and returned to work on icy streets this morning.  The roads are clear out here and if he can get to the interstate, he will not have any trouble getting home and I have shoveled the top of the driveway to the bare spot where one of the cars was parked during the storm.

It is wet, slushy, not fun to be in this afternoon, so I pulled out the sewing machine, the iron and board and set about to make our 4 year old granddaughter a little drawstring backpack for her dance clothes.  On Friday after preschool, she and several of her friends are getting dance lessons at one of the girl’s homes.  For the first couple of weeks, she was wearing clothes provided by the instructor, but she wanted her own and her parents bought her a tiny leotard, dance shorts, and a little dance skirt for Valentine’s Day.  Before the storm, I sought some fabric that had ballet slippers or ballerinas on it to no avail.  She adores “Frozen” and the fabric store had plenty of Elsa and Anya fabric.

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A quick search on the internet had provided instructions on how to make the draw string backpack for a toddler.

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On dance days, she has to also pack a lunch to eat at her friend’s house as she gets picked up by her friend’s mother on Friday, so that I don’t have to drive in at nine a.m., noon, and again at 2:30 to pick her up.  Her big brother on a couple of occasions has left his lunchbox at school and he ends up using the spare, leaving her without one, so using the extra fabric and cord, I whipped up a little draw string bag that matches for her to carry her lunch.

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She is excited.  After her nap, we packed her dance clothes in her backpack and she showed it off.  I’m sure that it will have to be modeled for her Dad when he gets home.

I did succeed in picking up the sleeve stitches on my handspun sweater for one sleeve yesterday evening.  I have only knit about an inch so far and will have to figure out the decrease ratio soon.  I don’t want the sleeves to be too large at the bottom edge, I am notorious for not tapering my sleeves enough.

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My friend and I are hoping that this was the last storm for the month and that we will have no difficulty making the trek west to our spinning retreat in a little more than a week.  If it is only flurries, I won’t worry with my CRV, but I won’t drive in half a foot of snow.

Snowed in again

A beautiful snow this time, no wind.  Daughter and I took a walk in about 10″ of new snow, no drifting.  By the time we started back, we were getting a little sleet.  The roads near us are impassible, but no need to go anywhere.  Groceries were purchased yesterday, dog food as well.  We did get out for our Anniversary dinner, though the snow started hours earlier than predicted.  Last evening we followed our son in law down the mountain, us in our 4 wheel drive truck, him in his little low 2 wheel drive sedan and he went to work 12 hours early to nap there as he wouldn’t be able to get to the hospital today.

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Ooops, got my glove in that one.
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Our old pole barn
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An old snow covered wheel on a rock pile.
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Snow covered hay rake
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Old fly wheel driven saw in front of our barn.
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Barn and house from the top of the driveway. Not going anywhere for a while, though the 2 4-wheel drive vehicles are behind me.
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Rock wall in our sink hole, several hundred feet away.  We have Witch hazel planted above it and went on a search for it, it should be blooming now, but could not find it.
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Our house in the hollow from the hill above us on the neighbor’s farm.

It isn’t snowing as hard now, still thick and gray outside, some sleet due to crust this over this afternoon.

On our walk, we spotted another very young calf, a little black one tucked between two black cows at the hay feeder on the neighbor’s farm.  Some of her girls look like they are about to burst.  Daughter was calling them Moocicles, with their coats dripping icicles.

We came back from our walk to warm leftover soup and leftovers from our Anniversary dinner out for lunch.  The woodstove is keeping the basement toasty and the downstairs floors warm.  We haven’t bothered to light the upstairs fire, saving the wood in case the power fails as the ice accumulates.  I guess I should fill some containers with water, just in case.

The week is supposed to warm, so perhaps the asparagus bed can be weeded before the shoots begin to appear, the chicken coop cleared of the spoiled straw that has housed them during the two snow storms, and their food and water returned to the outdoors.  For the past couple of weeks, they have mostly been getting warm water inside the coop twice a day, their feeder inside the coop staying filled and with single digit temps or snow, they have been locked in.

I have finished the body of my handspun sweater.  I need to pick up the stitches to add the sleeves, perhaps that will be a good afternoon task, plus I bought fabric to make granddaughter a little backpack to carry her dance clothes in.  She got a leotard, dance pants, and a skirt for Valentine’s day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Return to Normal

Slowly, we are returning to a normal routine around here.  For the past 7 days, life has not even approached normal, starting with the clipper storm that slicked the roads over a week ago yesterday and closed schools, followed by the 16 inches of snow over 2 days that kept them closed and us snowed in.  Sunday, with much digging, pushing, some kitty litter and lots of work, we got the Xterra out and up to the top of the driveway, allowing our SIL to get to work on Monday.  Monday, we used the shovels and little tractor to dig out daughter’s car, allowing us to be able to leave the property while SIL was at work.  Tuesday, the temperature began to climb a bit, we had some rain and while daughter had the kids at Martial Arts, I managed to get my CRV to the top of the driveway with a bit of slipping and sliding, so I left it there, putting 3 of the 4 cars a 2/10 mile walk uphill away.

Yesterday, our local school system and the one that daughter works in were both scheduled for two hour delays, but at least a return to school.  She left, but grandson ended up with a change and another day of school closed, for a total of 5 days out.  I took him with me when I took granddaughter to preschool and later with Mountaingdad joining us, back to pick her up.  Between the time, we walked to the top of the driveway to take her to school and the time we went back to pick her up, the day warmed up with bright sun shining and the remaining snow on the driveway became slush and muddy run off but we could drive back down to the house.  By the time daughter got home from work, we were able to drive SIL’s little low 2 wheel drive sedan to the top of the driveway and leave it and the rest of the cars can go up and down as needed.  Last night it got very cold again and all of yesterday’s melt became a frozen mess.  The front of the house, north facing is an ice slick.  There are big patches of browned grass showing through where there were no drifts.  The yard was heavily frosted this morning and the early sun produced an eerie haze above the snow.

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Today’s two hour delay, stuck and so school is finally back in session for our county and the one where daughter is working.  SIL was able to drive his own car to work today, instead of borrowing one of ours.  Today, we finally were able to get the Xterra to the shop for an overdue oil change, state inspection and to identify an annoying rattle from beneath it.

The time at home, either stranded or providing care for the grands, I worked on products for my Etsy Shop, adding Organic Arnica Salve, Organic Calendula Salve, Lavender Lip Balm, and an packaging unscented Face and Body cold process soap bar.  Two batches of soap were made as well, Goat Milk and Honey an unscented soap, and a Goat Milk Lavender soap  scented with essential oil.  Those two soaps won’t be ready for the shop until near the end of February as they must cure first.

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Though this should have been a great time to spin, I have started and stopped and taken way too long to spin a single bobbin of about 4 ounces of Shetland.  I have bought fiber from this vendor before, but this batch had so much vegetable matter in it, that I spent more time picking stuff out of it than I did spinning and did not enjoy using it at all.

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In spite of my efforts, it still isn’t really clean and I can’t decide what to do with it.  I hate to waste 4 ounces of clean Shetland or some other fiber to ply with it.  If I Navajo ply it, it won’t really be enough to do anything with it.  It just isn’t worth the time and effort to work with fiber that isn’t well cleaned.  Any ideas on how to use it?  Navajo ply it, divide it into mini skeins and practice dyeing on it?

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My knitting has been slowly working on a pair of socks for me.  This time, they actually seem like they are going to fit.  I have tried them on after turning the heel and again as the foot has gotten longer.  This was another skein of Unplanned Peacock Rainbow, ordered after I gave the pair I made with the first skein to my sister.  Her pair was much darker, more vivid colors.  This skein, though colorful is paler with a lot of pink in it.  This time, I decided to follow The Yarn Harlot’s vanilla sock pattern from her book Knitting Rules! instead of a fancy patterned sock.  Since they fit, maybe, I’ll just keep using the basic sock pattern for my socks.

The chickens still won’t leave the hay in front of the coop, but I did get two eggs yesterday, so maybe production is picking up again.  One of the young roosters is beginning to try out his voice, so soon we will have his morning greeting, a sound that all farms should have.

Still loving life on our mountain farm.

 

Kitchen Play

Saturday’s are Farmers’ Market day.  There are very few vendors this time of year, but Cavalier Farm, where I get beef and pork and eggs when my girls are being slackers, is there year round if the weather allows them to get there.  We needed meat and eggs today.

This week, Glade Farm was there with a large selection of produce.  I came home with two huge Daikon radish, about 4 pounds worth, a bunch of salad radishes, bags of Tatsoy, Bok choy, and salad mix.  They also had some winter squash, as well as some other leafy greens.  I still have a bit of kale and chard in the garden if it doesn’t freeze solid in the next few days and the root cellar has many winter squash stored.

The Daikon radish were too great a temptation to not come home and make a big batch of radish kimchee.  I was introduced to kimchee when we moved here.  There is a Korean restaurant in the next town and though I don’t like all of them, I do love the spicy radish one.  Last year I found a recipe on the internet that was so similar a product that I bookmarked it.  Four pounds of radish, makes a bit more than a half gallon of spicy kimchee.  It is tasty as soon as you make it, but it is so much better after fermenting on the counter for a few days.

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Once that was cleaned up, the kitchen became the soap making location.  The Holiday Market put a huge dent in my inventory of soap and since I left just a few days after because of my Dad’s hospitalization and then his memorial service, followed by Christmas with a houseful of family, I had not begun the resupply.  Today I made a batch of Mountain Man soap and a batch of a very moisturizing unscented facial and body soap, using my new wooden molds made by son T.  Tomorrow, I need to get another gallon of olive oil and another essential oil and a couple more batches of soap will be made.

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I love my new molds.  Tomorrow, I will unmold those two soaps, cut them into bars for curing and make the new batches.  Probably the newest scent, Lumberjack and either Lavender or Jasmine.

Maybe tomorrow will also be bread baking day.  The last two loaves are gone and we are going to regain grandson and his air escort, his other grandmother who will stay for a few days.

Gifts of Love

And appreciation. T’s family were the first recipients of my handmade products. I had been buying them handcrafted soap at the Farmers’ market after their move to Northern Virginia. When I started making soap myself, they received a batch. Then on a visit home, one of my Lotion bars was offered and that too became a product they used and the Beard oil for wild and wooly facial hair . Baby clothes, knit headbands, scarves and hats, a vest or two and a sweater to two left my needles for their home. They appreciate the handcrafted goods and I enjoy making them.

They have skills beyond my level in so many areas. Last Mother’s Day, knowing that I was reaching a point where I was going to have to start paying to keep my blog up, T developed my format on his server and presented me a link. I now know that my blog is secure and that I can post pictures without wondering if the next one was going to be the one that required me to pay for the service or seek sponsorship, not a route I desired.

W is an artist and my home displays many of her paintings, prints, and sculptures. A couple of decades ago, Mountaingdad presented me a beautiful hand thrown pottery platter.

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This huge 16.5″ diameter beauty has never had a display place in our home as there is no rack to hold it safely on the wall. It did live in the middle of the dining room table in one home, when we had a separate table in the kitchen used for most family meals, but our log home has but one table, used daily, so the platter sits on the pine and cedar shelves above the refrigerator nesting a large wooden bowl and often hidden by the bags of chips and tins of cookies blocking the view of the shelves and their display of little used pottery and the wok that is too big to go anywhere else in the kitchen.

W is in the process of carving a platter rack to mount on a log wall just above my jelly cupboard in the dining room. Tucson, as the platter was named by it’s creator, will finally have a home where it can be seen and admired more than the two or three times a year it is put into service. You see, wood working skills are another of her talents.

Because of my desire to have a couple of wooden soap molds of dimensions that will hold my favorite recipe for soap,  T put his carpentry skills to work and with a couple of red oak boards, he built me two lidded molds for Christmas.

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And to encourage me to keep making my products, the first installment of several large jars of organic Coconut oil for use in soap and lotion making and for cooking.

Each day we live in and admire their talents, as they were the builders and finishers of all of the finish carpentry, cabinets, and interior doors in our beautiful log home, and their craftsmanship makes this a wonderful place to live, as well as being decorated with much of their talent.

I love my home, my family and their talents and skills. Tomorrow I will use my new molds for the first time to start replenishing my soap supply after the holiday markets. I am indeed a fortunate woman.

Sunday Musings

Yesterday was the Winter Holiday Market and it seemed like spring time outdoors.  We had a beautiful day that rose to 70 f (21 c), certainly not mid December weather in the Virginia mountains, but it was delightful.  I didn’t even put up my canopy tent.  There were many more vendors than in November and lots of shoppers looking for gifts for family, office staff, and friends.  The day was so much fun and the sales for everyone were good.

Once packed up and home, K and I did a quick update to remove some one of a kind items from my Etsy shop that sold at the Market and then Mountaingdad and I tossed small suitcases in the car and drove the hour to Roanoke to attend the Holiday Party of his HOG Club.  We are both fairly introverted and he is new to the club, so we wondered if we would end up at a table talking to each other for the evening.  Instead, we put on our big kid pants and approached a table with two couples and asked to sit with them.  Another couple they knew joined us at the 8 person table and we really had a good time.  There was a buffet dinner, a DJ (the music wasn’t really our style most of the night, but there were some songs we could dance to), door prizes, a very playful goodbye to the old director and an equally playful passing of the torch to the new director.  We had reserved a room in the hotel where it was held, so we didn’t have to drive home after 11 p.m., so we had a nice night, a slow start this morning followed by a big free breakfast and the drive home.

Today, I inventoried what came home with me from the Holiday Market and I updated the shop with some holiday price cuts.

Also today, I found out that my 92 year old Dad is back in the hospital for the second time this week and really not doing very well.  I will travel across the state on Tuesday with one of my cousins and Mountaingdad to see him and my stepmom and be there when they do a procedure to determine where he stands and to try to provide him some relief.  It is difficult for me to accept that though his mind is still sharp, that this vibrant man who was still delivering Meals on Wheels a few short months ago is now frail and unwell.  I am thankful the 68 years I have had with this special man and hope that he recovers from this.  This is a difficult time for us all.

Tomorrow is the Big Day

The wind is howling, wind advisories are in effect.  The temperature has dropped from the balmy upper 60’s we’ve had most all week to the upper 40’s and low 50’s.  Because of requirements to weight the canopy, I purchased a set of leg weights for the tent, but they won’t be enough if this wind continues.  It is supposed to calm by early morning tomorrow.  I sure hope so.  We have some exercise weights that I think I will also take and lash to two of the canopy legs and put double weights on the other two.  The weights will be half again the weight of the tent, but if the wind continues, I will be hard pressed to keep it on the ground.  We can’t stake them down as we will be set up on a parking lot made of pavers.

Early this week, K and I set it up in the garage to figure out arrangement and made a few minor adjustments, like removing the small price signs and putting an A-style chalkboard with all of the prices on it in the corner of the tables.  I’m hopeful and anxious as the huge annual Y Craft Show begins today in town and continues through Sunday and the local toy shop is having their holiday unveiling event tomorrow as well, so lots of events going on the same day.

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More than two weeks ago, I ordered more of the screw lid tins that I use for the solid lotion bars, the Biker Bum Balm, Comfrey Salve, and Brigand’s Oil Salve.  Having ordered from this company before and receiving my order in a week or less, I figured, I was going to have them in plenty of time to finish packing some of my products.  I have tracked this package that was shipped from California on November 3rd.  It only took a day and a half to get to New Jersey.  From there, FedEx sent it to West Virginia, only a couple of hours west of us, then to North Caroline, a few hours south.  Then, it hopped over Virginia and went north again to Maryland where it sat for 5 days.  Two days ago, it was an hour west of us in Virginia and with any luck, it is out for delivery today by USPS as they turned it over to them.  Ten days it has been in transit, a smallish box that would easily have fit in the medium flat rate USPS box and would have been here in 3 days at most.  I have contacted them, but received no reply.  I guess I will be up tonight finishing what I had hoped to have all packed and ready to go early tomorrow morning, I have to be at the market for final instructions by 8 a.m.

Mid week, I received an email from a reporter at the local newspaper.  She wants to include the local crafters that are on Etsy in the Holiday Craft market section of the newspaper.  K took a photo of a representation of my products, I wrote up the brief blurb that she wanted and a listing of my products and sent them on.  The next day she asked for a profile photo so K took that as well and that too was sent on.  This should be a nice little boost of publicity.

Products

If you are one of my local readers, come on to Blacksburg tomorrow and visit all of the events going on, buy some local produce and meat while you are at it.  I am not the only craft vendor tomorrow, so you can browse for holiday gifts for your friends and family.

I hope the tins arrive and the wind dies down, then maybe my anxiety will lessen.

Olio – November 7, 2015

Six batches of soap made for the December Holiday Market.

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Four cut and curing.  Two are cocooned until tomorrow.  After much discussion with others and self arguing, I decided to have my 4 signature unscented soaps; Coffee Scrub, Jasmine Green Tea, Lavender Bud Oatmeal, and Rosemary Oat.  With 5 scented soaps settled on are Lavender, Winter Mint, Bergamot Ylang Ylang, Mountain Man, and Tree Hugger.

To simplify the lotion bars and to try to make pairings easier, there will be Lavender, Rosemary, unscented, Mountain Man, Bergamot Ylang Ylang, and Tree Hugger.

As the beard oils are also Mountain Man and Tree Hugger, gift sets can be assembled for the Market.  K and I took a trip to Michael’s and found some small boxes to facilitate making sample gift sets.

I recently went out for breakfast with a friend and she introduced me to an antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal essential oil blend in a carrier oil that she had been given by her SIL.  Later when I was talking to my daughter, she knew the oil by the name I gave her and another name from a Therapeutic essential oil company.  Figuring out the component oils was fairly easy and coming up with my own blend was not too difficult.  This oil blend carries with it a tale called the Legend of the Four Thieves.  After reading many versions of this tale, I decided to come up with my own summary variation and have printed little scrolls of the legend with the uses of the topical oil to attach to each little 1 ounce bottle that I have prepared.  Thinking that a one ounce bottle with a dropper wasn’t a very good way to carry it with you, some of the oil mixture was blended with a carrier oil and a bit of beeswax to create salve in one of the little screw lid tins as well.

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I await my shipment of more tins to be able to make a supply to add to the wares going to the market next weekend.  Our Farmers’ Market is mostly vendors of Organic produce or pasture raised meat, so I am hoping that adding these two products to the Comfrey Salve and Biker Bum Balm will be items that are successful with the crunchy crowd that frequents it.

My little natural first aid kit that I carry in my shoulder bag now has one more item in it.

Two nights ago, K and I moved two beat up hens and two young roosters to the cull pen with the meat birds that are destined for freezer camp next weekend.  Last night, Mountaingdad and I went out on a date night and K locked the birds up after dark when their family came in from getting pizza.  At least she thought everyone was locked up.  This morning, I found the remains of both hens and one young rooster outside the cull coop but inside the run.  There is a 4 foot fence around the run, a secured gate at the end and no evidence that anything dug in, so I’m not sure what got them, but it had to be able to go over the fence and get back out after eating.  Tomorrow after today’s rain ends, I will attempt to make the electric fence hot again, strung along the top of the runs and around the back of the cull coop near the ground.  Whatever it was did not get into the coop, so the birds must have been hunkered down somewhere in the run.

For the past couple of weeks, I have been knitting a shawl for a cousin.  It was finished last weekend.  Earlier this week, I got the ends woven in, washed and blocked.  It took forever to dry as it is a cotton yarn that she picked.  The package was mailed off and she received it today.  She is delighted with it.

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I hope I get a photo of it being worn.

Confidence or Folly

As the Holiday Market Autumn edition is only 9 days away and the Winter edition a mere 5 weeks from now, more preparations are underway.

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So far 5 Soap Saks have been made, one more currently in progress.

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The soap making station set up and Mountain Man is cocooned in a towel until it can be cut tomorrow.

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A batch of Winter Mint (Christmas Mint or Holiday Mint) is being prepped. What would you name it?Tomorrow when those two molds are freed up, or maybe later today if I choose to use the other molds that I don’t like as much, I will make another batch of Tree Hugger as Mountain Man and Tree Hugger coordinate with my Beard Oils and would make a nice holiday gift for a bearded fellow.

I can’t decide what other scent(s) to make for another scented soap for the Winter Market. My goal is to carry my 4 unscented signature soaps and 4 soaps scented with pure essential oils. What would you buy if you wanted a scented soap?  

A resupply of a few essential oils is necessary. I can purchase tiny bottles from the natural foods store, but I need to order larger bottles of my staple oils.

Perhaps I should get some small boxes and pair a soap and Beard oil or Lotion bar for the display.

 

Hooking Away

Ok, get your minds away from there, not that kind of hooking.  Normally, I knit and spin, but occasionally I pull out a crochet hook to do finishing work on a project.  I actually crocheted before I learned to knit, though I only made afghans and lace edgings then.

Before I did my first craft show a few months ago, I was weaving on a mini loom to see if that was another craft that grabbed my attention.  I’m into crafts that don’t have a huge investment in the cost of the equipment, and don’t take up a lot of space once purchased (ok, so the spinning wheel was a major investment and takes up a few square feet of space in the loft, but that was an indulgence that has soothed my soul a many of stressed out evenings).  I thought about adding Soapy Bags to my items that I was to vend.  A little woven bag made of natural fibers such as cotton, linen or hemp that hold a full bar of soap, with a drawstring top and can be used as a washcloth then hung to dry until the next bath or shower.  I made exactly one before the show and then did not even bother to take it with me.

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It is a cute little bag, but it took too long to weave, sew together, braid the drawstring and thread it through that I just didn’t think that I could make enough of them or sell them for enough to make it a worthwhile addition to my shop and supplies.

As I pulled out my wares to repack them in the little crates, boxes, and trays that I am using for the Holiday Market, I found the little Soapy Bag and thought again that this might be a good venue to sell a few of them.  The focus of this market is buying local for your gifts that you purchase for the holidays.  I really didn’t like the mini loom, but I still had a few balls of fiber and a set of several sizes of crochet hooks.  I knew that I could whip out one in a hour or less if I use larger cotton yarn so I set to work yesterday to add to the supply.

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They are very portable and I have two nearly complete, two different size yarns, two different fibers, two different colors.  If I work on them in the car and while sitting with Mountaingdad as he watches TV, I may get 10 made before the first market day.  Arranged in a basket with a seasonal bow, they might actually sell.  What do you think?

It puts my sweater on further hold, granddaughter might get her socks for Christmas, but maybe they will make a nice stocking stuffer for some Holiday Shopper’s loved ones.  If they do sell, perhaps I will get some in my Etsy Shop to go along with the soaps, lotions, salves, balms, beard oils, and yarns currently available.

For now, I need to go start a couple of batches of holiday soap and get back to hooking.