October 9, 2015

DIY Earl Grey Tea Soy Candle - Cute Gift for Tea Lovers!

How to make a soy candle in a tea cup

I have been wanting to try my hand at candle making for years, which totally cracks my Mom up.  Have you seen Our Idiot Brother?

There's no such thing as an ugly homemade candle.

I recently contributed a whole bushel of fun, holiday-themed crafts for a fabulous holiday gift guide that I can't wait to spill the beans about.  For one project, I used some lovely vintage vessels to make some really festive poured soy candles and they turned out so beautifully.

I had scooped a solid blue tea cup from the Good Neighbour Shed awhile back, but didn't want to use it for the holiday guide because tea cup candles have been done to death.  But darn it - tea cup candles are so cute and I wanted one for myself.  My Mom had some bergamot essential oil and it dawned on me that I could make a candle that smells like Earl Grey - my absolute favorite tea!  At the last minute I sprinkled in some real, loose leaf Earl Grey, just for show (it doesn't contribute to the scent), and it turned out so adorably.

Candle making is quite the science and everything - from the temperature of the wax to the temperature of the room - can impact the success of a poured candle.  I'd love to keep practicing to perfect my technique, but even my first few tries resulted in successful candles.  Although they lack the smooth as glass surface of commercial candles, they burn really nicely!

Candle making supplies
Soy wax flakes



The first step is to measure out the wax.  According to Candle Science, you can divide the volume of your container in ounces by 16 to figure out how many ounces of wax flakes you need to use for one container.  For this candle I used about 200g of wax flakes.  It shrinks quite a bit once melted down and while I was making a whole bunch of them, I would just melt as much as I could in my Pyrex cup.  Then, once it melts a bit and there's more room, I would add more flakes and keep melting.

Measuring soy flakes

With the wax measured, I started heating it up in my "double boiler".  I filled the pot with a few inches of water, which I brought to a boil and kept simmering the whole time.  The wax needs to reach 185F and that took about 30 minutes in my experience.  I stirred it occasionally and although some lingering chunks took awhile to melt, eventually it all melted and resembled olive oil. 

Melting soy wax

While I waited, I used a hot glue gun to affix the wick.  You can also buy "wick stickers" but I wanted to keep costs low and I had a glue gun on hand already!

Affixing a wick to a candle vessel

Once the wax heated to 185F I let it cool to about 135F before adding the essential oil.  Add it too early and it will just evaporate!  You can also purchase specialty candle fragrances.  Generally folks tend to use approximately half an ounce of oil per pound of wax.  If you're buying a fragrance designed for candle making, there will be a usage guide on the label.  I've read a little bit online about essential oils and candles and there is a lot of disagreement about the amount required for a good scent throw.  Some essential oils are stronger than others, so you might need to experiment a little (and let me know how it goes!). 

Once it cooled to about 125F, I poured the wax into my cup, added a pinch of tea to the top (it sunk in a little bit) and then let the candle sit overnight.  I poured mine somewhere where it could be left, undisturbed, until it hardened.  The wax starts to harden really quickly, turning from a yellow oil to a solid white substance, before your eyes (if you're patient).  To keep the wick upright I created a grid with tape across the top, which trapped the wick upright but didn't keep it as taught as I would have liked.  A better solution is to use a clothespin to clamp the wick end, and then place that across the top - but I didn't have long enough clothespins (mine aren't the wood kind).  Some candle making guides say to warm up the vessel beforehand, but I skipped that step.  Once the soy hardened completely, I trimmed the wick to 1/4".  

I didn't add any dyes so it looks like a really milky cup of tea, but you could easily tint it tea-coloured with dyes made for candles.  Add any dyes while the wax is at 185F so it can melt and mix completely.

Adorable, right?

Handmade gift idea for tea drinker

I can now check "candle making" off the bucket list, although I was telling Hubby that it would be fun to really get into candle making: take some time to perfect the craft and make them for sale.  He seemed horrified, because I occupied the kitchen for two whole afternoons, swearing over my steaming makeshift double boiler, and we ate sad leftovers both nights because the kitchen was covered in wax and there was no way I was cooking!  So, yeah, "candle maker" probably won't be added to my resume, but I respect the people who make these for a living!  It's pretty straightforward to make a basic poured soy, but to make a perfect one (mine are lovably imperfect) and to customize with scents and colours definitely takes skill!

October 5, 2015

I Need Your Thoughts: Can We Make Pine Paneling Work?

Better Homes & Gardens
Because we've been showering out there, I end my nights thinking about how to decorate the guesthouse.  I've logged a lot of hours out there, pondering.

Last time I showed you the building , my Mom and I were moving the Etsy shop out there, but it turned out to be kind of inconvenient (and cold in the winter).  I ended up stashing everything on shelves in my otherwise useless, 5 foot tall basement and now the guesthouse is purposeless again.  It's filled with some random furniture and some odds and sods.  What would be more practical would be to turn it into a proper guest room, because it even boasts its own three piece bathroom! 

The only downside is the pine bonanza happening in there.  The floors are a faux wood laminate, but the walls, trim and ceiling are solid pine.  I was originally going to paint it all a bright white, but I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed by how much work - and paint! - that would be.  We have a laundry list of projects and renovations still to tackle all over the house so I don't really want to commit the resources or time.  Plus, the bathroom out there is what really needs our attention: a new shower, floor, and vanity will take a chunk out of whatever budget we can allot to this space (which will be tiny).  We also need to build new sauna benches (and reinforce the sauna floor), because I insisted we rip out the existing benches for reasons that I won't mention here.  (Rhymes with "cold ban walls"). 

So...in an effort to save some time and cash, could I leave the pine and go for a rustic, Scandi feel?  Here's some inspiration, before I flesh out my exact plans for the space:

DSC Interiors
Life as a Moodboard
EST Magazine
Front and Main
via Paper Blog
Chapter Friday
I can't believe I'm arguing for keeping the wood...

Although it would be fun to go kind of dark and moody with a rustic feel, I'll be adding the white bed and white bedding from the guest room in the townhouse.  A faux fur throw would be a cozy touch at the end of the bed - maybe my spare faux lynx one?

White guest bed with bright artwork

Then I'd add some throw pillows with this black and white Marimekko Kanteleen Kutsu print, which has a woodland theme but a mod, Scandi feel:
I'd do white curtains and white curtains rods - not that using towels as curtains isn't a genius idea (I'm serious).  I'm thinking of painting the laminate flooring a dark charcoal grey (or maybe a pale grey or white?) and adding some cozy faux sheepskin rugs my Mom is trying to fob off on me.

A pine Ikea Tarva dresser, painted or stained white, could be placed across from the bed for some storage.  It would be brighter and lighter, but the same grain as the walls would peek through the finish.

I haven't measured, but it would be awesome if my black wool organic chair could fit out there too - although it's doubtful (it's such a small space!).

White desk with black chair // Black + white accessories

Then I'd update the lighting with something modern and simple.  Finally, I'd put my black/white abstract out there, because it's been displaced from the bathroom, and maybe add some smaller textural pieces in creamy whites and soft greys.  My black tree painting is still homeless, too, and it might look great out there.

Black and white abstract

It would be a quick and relatively easy makeover and my thinking is that by covering up the fake wood floor - and adding LOTS of white - I could make the natural wood walls and ceiling work.  It would be a fun way to experiment with a somewhat different style than the lakehouse - no aqua (ACK! Okay, maybe I'll paint the exterior door aqua) and maybe even some rustic accessories with a Scandinavian feel?  Ultimately this is a sauna building, so that could feel right.  

Am I totally crazy (and lazy) with my plan to keep the pine?  Be honest! 

October 1, 2015

DIY Tweed Back Tab Curtains for the Bedroom

After listening to me ramble on about tweed, let me just show you the new bedroom curtains!
(Spoiler alert: they're tweed!):
Green tweed curtains
Dapp Peacock Tweed Fabric

With my new wide angle lens, you can see our glass sliding closet doors and the new green curtains!  Learning to handle my DSLR and wide angle lens is still a slow process, but I love that I can show you so much more of a room in one photo!  (Ignore the blank canvases - a DIY art project I'm currently working on).  

White bedroom with green accents
White glass sliding closet doors
Bold black welded headboard

I was quite smitten with the last set of DIY back tab curtains my Mom and I made but, after I switched around the vintage Hungarian posters, the teal pattern no longer worked in the room. 

Teal patterned curtains, DIY

This green tweed is utterly perfect - the exact shade of green I wanted, shot with aqua.  When we moved to the lakehouse, I was on a mission to add more colour but I've realized that colour + pattern aren't necessarily what I want.  I think that colour + texture or a low contrast pattern (and smaller doses of pattern), look best in the space.  Then our beautiful artwork can take centre stage.

Vintage posters as art
Green tweed back tab curtains
Chocolate brown dressers
Bedroom with midcentury modern look

The fabric I chose is called Dapp Peacock and I purchased it from U-Fab, before they dropped their e-commerce site (you can still order by phone/email).

I'm so impressed by the sheen and weight of this fabric; it has a luxurious feel.  The tweed relaxed a bit after we hung them up so they break a bit more than planned.  We might re-hem them, but I'm waiting to see if the fabric relaxes more. 

Green silk pillows
Orange paisley print pillow
Green and aqua tweed fabric
West German Pottery
Green bedroom curtains

Head over to Hello Yellow for the how-to, including some tips for working with this tweed - which was a bit trickier than the outdoor fabric we used for the last set of drapes.

I still have a bolt of the same tweed in aqua, calling my name from where it's propped up in the corner of my office.  I hope my Mom and I can carve out some time soon(ishly) to whip up some turquoise tweed curtains for the office, which will create a really nice cohesiveness and flow between the two bedrooms.
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