Saturday, March 5, 2016

Leather Phone Case

Phone case, leather pieces
My beloved purple phone case started dying last month and I was forced to resurrect it. Luckily I had some brown kangaroo leather on hand (a benefit of having a craft-crazy family). I used the old phone case as a template to cut out two pieces of leather, making sure to remember to add a hole for the camera.

I had originally planned to use the inside pieces of the old phone case, however it turned out that the inside was just cheap cardboard :( So I decided to cut out the pieces from an old plastic folder instead.
Cardboard inside phone

Left: Testing the placement of the magnets. Right: Double sided tape

I used a square ruler to check that the plastic pieces were evenly spaced, and then used double sided tape to keep the pieces fixed to the leather prior to stitching the phone case together. The image above shows the section of the phone case which will have a pocket (no double sided tape for the pocket).

I then used a four-pronged picking fork with a mallet to punch the holes in the leather (both sides at once) and stitched it with the saddle stitch technique.

Saddle Stitch
Saddle Stitch:
Thread two needles (one at each end of the same thread). Choose your starting point and push the thread through the pre-formed hole until it is halfway through. Using one of the needles, push the thread through the next hole and pull until tight. Then take the other needle and do the same, approaching from the other side. Repeat. 

Because the leather is essentially being 'double-stitched' the resulting product is more durable than if it was sewn with a running stitch.

I used a contrasting waxed thread for my phone case, which turned out quite nicely.

Polyurethane glue
I trimmed the leather using scissors and glued the plastic frame (from the old phone case) to the leather. I initially used an expanding polyurethane glue, however the 'foam' expanded more than I had anticipated. I trimmed off the excess with a craft knife and repaired it with superglue which did not show at all. :D I also used the knife to cut a 'pocket' into the inside of the phone case (the plastic inside stops the knife from going all the way through the case).

The middle side of the frame is left without glue.

The finished product

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Stitch Cake

A friend of mine had her birthday a while ago, and as she loves the Lilo and Stitch movie I thought I would attempt an appropriately themed birthday cake. I started off by doing a bit of research and quickly realised that the images brought up by "stitch cake" were not quite what I had in mind - mainly, that they looked way too difficult.

I decided to do a simple round chocolate cake, with chocolate butter cream icing for the base, and make it into a Stitch face by using ready made fondant. I could have used the fondant to cover the cake as well, instead of the butter cream icing, but I am not particularly fond of fondant for eating and was keen to have my cake and eat it too ;)

I designed the cake decorations on baking paper, as shown below (unfortunately this did not photograph very well). I also colour-coded each piece on the cake pattern, to determine the amount of fondant needed for each colour.

 I used food dyes to colour the white fondant, by kneading in the dye. Needless to say my hands were blue and purple for a few days afterwards :D (I would recommend wearing gloves for this stage).

I ended up with the following coloured fondants:
  • Red (mouth)
  • Pink (tongue)
  • Black (eyes, nose, inner ears)
  • Dark Blue (main body, ears)
  • Light Blue (eyes, lower jaw)
  • White (eyes, teeth)
I then shaped the fondant to the baking paper pattern pieces, using a rolling pin and knife. This worked quite well until I realised that the fondant was not easily removed from the baking paper - some tears of frustration ensued. I did manage to arrange the pieces on the cake to my eventual satisfaction, however if I used the fondant again I would put it in the fridge to harden before removing it from the baking paper.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Handmilled Soaps

I've been having a bit of fun with soap recently - mainly by hand milling some old Castile Soap I had lying around. Hand milling is a good way to add scents and colouring without interfering with the lye/oil/water reaction. 

The method I use involves taking premade soap (handmade or shop bought) and remelting it. The following recipe only makes about 3 normal sized soaps or about 8 small ones, but it can be doubled/quadrupled etc. to make larger batches. I suggest doing a smaller quantity first to find the right balance of ingredients before doing a larger amount.

  • Heat proof container (e.g. pyrex)
  • Saucepan
  • Grater
  • Lavender Soap
  • Measuring equipment: scales, cup measure, Tbsp/tsp measures

  • 4oz grated soap (by weight)
  • 3oz tap water (by weight) 
  • Added ingredient

  1. Half fill a saucepan with water and heat until boiling. 
  2. Put the measured quantities of soap and water in the glass container, and place the container in the saucepan (double boiling). 
  3. Stir the mixture occasionally (not too often or it will form suds) until melted and well combined.
  4. Add the extra ingredient (scent or colouring) and stir through. 
  5. Pour into moulds to set. The soaps can be used once they have cooled down and are firm. 

Extra ingredients that I have tried:
  • 1/3 cup oven-toasted rolled oats, ground in a food processor (nice texture)
  • Milk powder + honey
  • 1/4 tsp ginger
  • 3 finely chopped dried apricots, soaked in water until soft
Scents: 1/3 to 1 Tbsp of finely chopped solid + few drops essential oil 
  • e.g. Leaves + essential oil (lavender, rosemary)
  • e.g. shredded coconut + essential oil

Oatmeal Soap
I quite liked the oat soap, it had a very nice scratchy, exfoliating-type texture and the oats stayed nice and crisp, unlike when I added them into the pre-soap liquid.  

Milk powder and honey was also a bit of a favourite, as was the lavender. Lavender and honey have nice soothing smells, and I felt that the milk soap felt just a bit smoother - but it could be my imagination :). 

Milk and Honey Soap


Honestly the ginger was disappointing, the colour was quite nice - a subtle golden-brown fleck - but it smelt exactly the same as normal soap :(.
Ginger Soap

I quite liked the coconut - beautiful smell, nice texture (scratchy like the oats) but I received complaints from my family that they were left with clumps of shredded coconut in their hair.... I think I will try this one again, but with the coconut processed more finely. 

Rosemary was very successful, a nice garden/kitchen soap with a nice clean smell that always makes me hungry (roast anyone?). 

Rosemary Soap

Apricots also turned out quite well. I tried this on a whim because I had a bit of grated soap left over (and I'd put a lot of effort into grating it) and didn't have much hope for success. I was pleasantly surprised - it made a nice pink/orange tinged rustic soap. Because the apricots are finely diced, they don't detract from the normal texture and cleaning properties of the soap to a great extent. I did add a small amount of boric acid to this batch of the soap to preserve the apricots (even though they are dried I didn't want to take any risks). 

Apricot Soap
These little soaps make great gifts, especially when teamed with a knitted face cloth. 

Leaf face cloth (Sirdar Crofter DK) with Soaps (Bottom Right: Coconut Soap)

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Castile Soap

I've been making my own soap for a while now, as unfortunately most store-bought soaps don't agree with my skin :(. I recently did another batch of Castile soap, which is a very mild soap (my quantities are adapted from The Complete Soapmaker by Norma Coney).  I generally find that the amount of water required by the original recipe is slightly excessive, and by using a bit less (but not too much - unreacted lye is caustic and can burn you) the reaction occurs more quickly, which means less time waiting for the soap to finish.

Cured Castile Soap
  • 1 large (and not very valuable) container (e.g. paint bucket, old cooking pot)
  • Measuring scales
  • Measuring jug
  • Battery powered drill + paint stirrer (or alternatively a stick - but this does get a bit tiring)
  • Metal ladle (or similar instrument to assist in transferring the soap liquid to moulds)
  • Moulds (I use metal and silicone muffin trays - both regular shapes and fun ones, as well as any containers I think will work well)
My Preferred Quantities: (these can be scaled up or down, doubled/halved etc.)
  • 6L extra virgin olive oil
  • 26 oz lye (sodium hydroxide) (available in supermarkets/hardware stores - look under drain cleaners, and make sure that it doesn't have any additives)
  • 1.7L tap water 

Makes approximately 70 soaps.

REMEMBER - lye is caustic, and as such it is best to wear safety glasses and gloves. If you do get any lye on your skin or in your eyes, immediately wash it off with cold running water. 
  1.  Measure out the required quantity of lye and place into the bucket.  Then add the measured quantities of water and oil. 
  2. Stir until well combined using the paint stirrer in an electric drill. As the lye reacts with the water it will become very hot (up to ~90oC).
  3. Stir the mixture occasionally (e.g. every 2 hours) until well combined (the mixture will separate, with an oil layer on top). Once the mixture no longer separates it is ready to pour. The time it takes to reach this stage depends on a number of factors (e.g.temperature), but I find it generally takes 4-5 days before I'm satisfied with the mix.
  4. Pour the mixture into the moulds.
    Soaps setting in moulds
  5. Wait for the soap to set. Depending on the mixture's readiness at the time of pouring, a thin film of oil may appear on the surface of the soap in the moulds. Don't worry about this, as it will be absorbed back into the soap as it sets. Again the time taken for this stage depends on a lot of different factors - but it will take at least a week to set. Gently feel the soap, if it feels hard try removing it gently from the mould. If this is successful and the soap feels hard on all surfaces - it's done. Otherwise, just wait a bit longer before trying again.
  6. Leave the soap out of the moulds and spaced apart on a flat surface for 1-2 weeks to cure and become very hard (or if you don't have room, just carefully stack them in an open container and place them out of the way to cure).
Cured Castile Soap
If you're feeling adventurous, scents and colours can also be added at step 4. Just remember that the colouring agent may also dye your skin - so avoid blue food dye and similar substances. :) In the past I've tried essential oils, leaves, fruit, cocoa powder and oats. Unfortunately, because the chemical reaction is still happening at this stage, the scents from essential oils and plant matter (e.g. lavender leaves and lemon zest) don't have a strong effect, but they do give a slight smell which is quite nice and not at all overpowering (a few drops of essential oil in each soap mould).

I've also added oats to some of my soap to try and get a scrub-like effect, however the oats turned slimy and mushy ... not the effect I was looking for.

A few tablespoons of cocoa powder in about 500mL of soap liquid results in a medium brown colour, which can then be swirled through the regular soap liquid to get a nice visual effect. I've tried this method in my most recent batch - and it seems to have worked quite well :D And of course, hand-milling plain soap once it has set also allows the addition of scents and colour, with a better overall result.
Cocoa Powder Swirl

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Denim Pencil Case and Covered Book

A friend of mine from overseas had her farewell party a few weeks ago. I decided to make her a pencil case and on advice from my mother, also covered a notebook to give to her. The pencil case is made from denim, with a cotton print lining. I copied a pencil case that I already owned and I think it turned out quite well.

As you may have noticed, the lining features Australian gum tree leaves, and the pencil case is personalised.

I bought a plain notebook and covered it in denim, overlocking the edges and gluing it on with wood glue. To make it sit better I cut out triangles at the spine, and cut the corners off on a diagonal. The front of the cover features a rainbow lorikeet perched on a J in cross stitch, the design of which is from Allura's Australia in Cross Stitch.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Painted Silk Bag

I've been cleaning out my cupboard today - long needed. I started doing it because I managed to lose one of my slippers and one of my special ultra-thermal wool socks. As it's very cold at the moment I need them desperately. Although I haven't found them yet I did manage to get side tracked...

This is a project I did last year. I made it from a silk handkerchief and some delicious gold silk dupioni, as well as some silk painting materials.

The silk handkerchief was originally white, but by using silk paints I was able to create a fan design on it, in red, black and gold, which looks (if I do say so myself) stunning but simple.

To make the bag stronger I lined the bag with interfacing, than covered the interfacing with the silk dupioni. The handle and clasp are made from different coloured DMC threads, tied in the Chinese Staircase pattern. The button is one that I got from Stitch Bliss a while ago, because I just couldn't resist it...

Unfortunately I haven't really had an opportunity to use the bag yet as it is more for show than actual use - I'd only be able to put in a few small things - and obviously you always need more room. :)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


It was a cold and rainy Christmas. The wind was howling outside and the roof was rattling in the rain... Yes, I know it's 6 months since Christmas, but I've been lazy and just haven't got round to it.

Because Christmas was so miserable, I was stuck inside all day, every day for about three weeks on end. Bored and cold, I resorted to cleaning out my bedroom - finally :)

Of course, whilst cleaning the room I found some very interesting things - old lolly wrappers, clothes I thought I'd lost etc. Then I came across some old origami kits that someone had given me, however many years ago.

Gladly turning my back on the half-cleaned (and probably messier) room, I started to revise my (pitiful) origami skills. Amazing how much you can forget in less than 2 years...

A while later and I had gone through the childish instruction books and was ready for something more.

Searching for some interesting things to make I came across Modulo Origami, a style where you make one small piece many times and join the small pieces up to make a big shape.

Unfortunately after only a few tries I ran out of paper, and patience. I'll probably try again in a few years.