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Three children (17, 15, 13)*** Two parents *** one dog *** Country loving *** Cottage dwelling in the South-West of the UK. That’s us!

We’ve been blogging since January 2010, about everyday happenings that bring us joy.

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wool activities

Felted Soap on the rope

Move over shower gel and hand soap in plastic bottles. You’re scrubbed off my shopping list. There’s a new kid in town. One that doesn’t need a pump mechanism, or leave a trail of packaging. We call it soap.  A bar of soap.

Ok. Maybe not so new. I mean, when I was growing up, a bar of soap, on the side of the sink, was a pretty common sight. That’s how you got your hands clean. Public loos might have a soap dispenser on the wall, but not private homes. The humble bar dealt with the dirt.

With the tide turning, soap bars are back in favour. Rising demand as people look to cut their plastic buying habits. People are using special formulated soap bars to shampoo their hair. Removing another plastic bottle from the bathroom

There is one problem with the bars. Arguably more, but I’m thinking about the way it sits in its own wet puddle and disintegrates, if you’re not careful. Imagine you’re in the shower. You lather up the soap and put it down in a soap dish, or just on the side, and use the soap on your hands to wash with. The soap bar is wet. It sits there, slowly dissolving in its puddle of water, reducing its useful life. Not a good idea and it can be avoided.

(When you are a family of five, sharing one bathroom, ugly, soggy soap ends up being pushed to one side. I’m saving you from a photo of it, at this point!)

Soap needs to dry out in between uses, in order to extend its life. Lots of ingenious ways of achieving this, including special dishes and bottle tops to sit on. I’m going to suggest another way. Felted soap on a rope.

There are lots of reasons that felted soap works well.

Acts as a flannel and gentle exfoliator
Colourful
Natural material
Include scrappy bits of soap, that would otherwise be thrown away.
Allows the soap to dry out
Brilliant crafting activity to do with children of all ages (including teens)
Cleans up your hands as you make it (great after gardening)

It is really easy to make. All you need is a bar of soap, wool roving, netting or pair of old tights, bit of rope and warm water. Wool roving is the fibre you get in felting kits. Felting wool, if you prefer. It is 100% wool, which felts when it’s plunged in hand hot water, soap added and rubbed. Bit like when you put a wool jumper in a hot wash. It shrinks. Making it a tight fit around the soap and sealing it in. Lots of craft shops now stock felting fibre and there are also plenty of online sources too. Alternatively, make friends with a sheep farmer.

Now for the fun part.

How to make a felted soap on the rope

1. Tie the rope around the soap and secure with a knot. Leave a long tail for hanging up the finished soap.

2. Take a length of the wool and tease it out into a long, wide, flat as a pancake strip. It should be wispy, like the teal strip above. The trick is to have lots of thin layers. If the layers are two thick, they will be harder to felt and you’ll end up with ridges and gaps. At this stage, wispy is your friend!

3. Wrap the wool around the soap, making sure the rope tail is not caught up. Keep adding more wool strips, in different directions each time, until the soap is covered and you can see no more soap. Add another two or more layers of wool to build up a thicker wool covering.

4. Wrap the wool covered soap with the netting. An easier option it to put it in the toe of a pair of old tights.

5. Briefly plunge the soap into a bowl of hand hot water and out again. Rub the wool covered soap gently in your hands. The wool will begin to felt, as the soap suds start to appear. Keep going. Allow 5 minutes. (previous child friendly soap felting activity) Test by removing part of the netting and pinching the surface. If the wool pulls away like a cobweb and doesn’t look smoothly matted together, wrap the netting around again and rub the surface again.

6. Once it’s felted, remove the netting completely and run under cold water to remove the suds on the surface.

Your felted soap on the rope is ready to be hung up in the bathroom and used. Hanging it up will allow it to dry between uses. I’ve not tried it, but I’m sure felted soaps can be made using shampoo bars too. Once dry they can be stored away in a cupboard.

I love using felted soap. Every member of the family can have one. It cuts down on the mountain of wet flannels that grows in our bathroom. Once the soap is finished, either slice the felted wool open and add another soap (or ends of soap), or use the wool case for something else. It can be put in the compost heap once it is beyond all conceivable usefulness.

Middle teen and I made these two soaps this afternoon. She’s happy to be cutting down on the plastic bottles in the bathroom , as much as I am. Can’t wait to put them to use.

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Joining in with Rosie’s Going Green linky. This month is Plastic Free July. I’d love to know if you are joining in and any tips you have.

Solar dyeing

I’ve wanted to try solar dyeing for a while. Using the heat of the sun to force the fibre to take up the dye. Yesterday was perfect. I had fleece and dye, plus it was warm. Even warmer in the greenhouse.  A good day to experiment.

I have a few packets of Kool Aid to use up. Opening up the packet, yesterday, took me straight back to hot summers of my childhood. A jug of Kool Aid was always a treat and refreshing. Having read about the ingredients, I am now much happier to use it for dye rather than as a drink. It makes a good dye, which kind of makes me wonder what it did to my insides, all those years ago.

Anyway, back to yesterday’s project. I started by soaking the fibre in cold water. I was using the white from a Jacobs sheep fleece. While it soaked for half an hour, I set up two large jars with warm water and a sachet of lime/lemon Kool Aid. I forgot to add vinegar at the stage, but did add it later.

I split the fleece in half and squeezed the excess water out carefully, before putting it into the jars.I put the jars in the greenhouse. I was surprised at how well this worked. The water rose in temperature during the afternoon. It was warm enough to bathe in. (Just not in a greenhouse. Obviously.)

The alternative to using solar power is to simmer it on the stove top.

The water should run clear once it’s ready. I washed the fleece gently in cool water and it is now drying. I am happy with the results. For a stronger colour, I should have used more than one packet and I wonder if the packet was too old. Best before date was three years earlier. Also, it might have helped if I’d put the vinegar in earlier.

Still, I now have green fleece ready for a felting project, I’m working up to. I also proved that solar dyeing works for me and it has inspired me to try something similar using the greenhouse and the sun’s power.

I see lots of summer projects and experiments ahead of me.

Rainbow soap

A break from castles today. We had friends around for the morning. It was so lovely and sunny today, that we headed out into the garden with our drinks …. and a bag of wool roving. Now, I’m not much of one to sit around idling. I get itchy fingers, so I usually have a crafty activity for visitors to do. (That way I can do it too!)

I cut up a slab of soap and we wet felted the wool roving around it. This is such a perfect felting project for children, of all ages, and we had four willing ones to join in. Once the roving is wrapped this way and that, and dunked in warm water, the whole caboodle is put into the toe of a pair of tights. The children wandered around chatting as they felted the soap. By the end, all hands were truly clean and the soap was felted. Everyone went home with a present.

Good job, as TF and BL joined in planting sweetcorn, this afternoon. Only half of my seeds germinated, which left me with 32 plants. While I dug the holes and filled it with water, the two children planted the sweetcorn. TF is such a hard worker. At the age of almost 4, I think he would have done it all by himself and not stopped till it was done. All were planted in record speed.

The badge of honour. Dirty hands after a job well done.

The felted soap did come in handy. All the children could not get upstairs fast enough to have a shower, this evening. They love the soap. No more dropping the slippery soap and trying to catch it as it pings around the wet floor of the shower. All children happily asleep in bed now. Phew! It all starts again tomorrow!

Photos

There have been cases when people lifted my photos and words, and used them without credit to me or asking permission first. Using them for their own commercial gain. I have now added a level of security to deter people from doing this. Apologies to people who do play nicely. If you would like to use any of my photos, please contact me.

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