Category Archives: Art and Crafts

Ridgeside Soap Company

IMG_7299Time to share our exciting soap news: we have launched Ridgeside Soap Company! Our handmade soaps are all natural, plant-based, and feature earthy, woodsy, and herbaceous scents. They are cleansing and moisture rich and are always free of palm oil, fragrance oils, and artificial colorants. Soaps are now available for purchase via our new Etsy shop.

We are currently listing the following soaps for sale, but these offerings will change throughout the year with the seasons and availability.

  • the blue ridge bar – scented with pine and Virginia cedar essential oils
  • the lavender sage bar – with French green clay
  • the beer bar – with local porter
  • the smoked salt bar – with smoked sea salt and activated charcoal
  • the adventurer’s bar – with poppy seeds and scented with eucalyptus and Virginia cedar essential oils

IMG_7327I’ve tweaked and perfected our base recipe and am thrilled with the final result. This base recipe includes olive oil, coconut oil, castor oil, and either shea butter or cocoa butter, depending on the particular soap. Our soaps produce a great lather while providing moisture to the skin.

If you aren’t familiar with natural soap, you are in for a treat. At Ridgeside Soap Company, we make small-batch cold process soap, a method in which a chemical reaction occurs between water, lye, and fats and oils. Through this process called saponification, nourishing soap with glycerin is created. Commercially made bars contain irritants and can dry out your skin, and the glycerin is extracted and used in other products, like lotions. Our soaps have pure ingredients and are good for your skin!

IMG_7282Another nice note about natural soaps – they are biodegradable and environmentally friendly, so they are great to bring on outdoor adventures and camping trips. Plus they are gentle enough for kids and pets.

IMG_7226Ridgeside Soap Company will be the sister company to the future Ridgeside Bed and Breakfast. Guest bars will be included with each stay, and full size bars of various scents will be available for purchase to take home with you.

We are so grateful for everyone’s support, and we are enjoying this Ridgeside journey so much.

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Sewing New Curtains

Slowly but surely I have been sewing new curtains for all the bedroom windows, and they are finally complete. Each curtain is lined with blackout fabric so that if you want to sleep until noon or take an afternoon catnap, you may!

IMG_6970The Tulip Poplar Room inspiration comes from the colorful and whimsical flowers of the Tulip Poplar tree, so for these curtains I chose a green and white geometric printed fabric. It’s a fun and cheerful fabric.

IMG_6977The structure of these curtains couldn’t be more simple: just large rectangles. I used curtain rod clips so that I didn’t need to sew top- or back-tabs. So easy.

IMG_6320Next up, the Walnut Room curtains are a crisp white fabric. Nothing fancy here – just neat and clean, but they are still lined so they keep out the light really well. This room will have bold patterned fabrics elsewhere, in items like rugs and pillows, so the neutral curtain fabric will balance out the room. I love these curtain rods! The ends look just like black walnuts. For the curtain structure, I used a traditional back-tab pattern.

Lastly, and my personal favorite, are the Sycamore Room curtains. The color is so rich and warm, I want to wrap myself up in the fabric. I tried to find a color that matched the Sycamore tree’s seed bombs – the ones that are so fun to throw and watch explode in a puff of gold.

IMG_7084These, like the Walnut Room curtains, are also back-tab curtains.

IMG_7087Lucky for me, I had some leftover fabric from the Sycamore Room curtains and plan to sew myself a pretty infinity scarf for fall!

Natural Beer Soap with Cocoa Butter

IMG_6757Beer soap has been on my “to do” list for a while, but I wanted to wait until I had perfected my standard soap recipe since beer soap is a more advanced project. For beer soap, you need to make sure it is flat – any carbonation in the beer could create a volcano effect when you add the lye. Additionally, adding lye to room temperature beer heats up the beer, creating an unpleasant smell. To retain the wonderful properties in the beer and to keep it’s nice aroma, I made beer ice cubes once all the carbonation was removed.

beer soap 3Both Josh and I are beer drinkers, and we are lucky to have a lot of great local breweries nearby. I selected a dark stout for this soap and chose not to add any essential oils. Instead, I complimented the stout by adding cocoa butter. Cocoa butter has a wonderful chocolaty smell, plus it creates a hard bar of soap with moisturizing lather.

beer soap 2I didn’t add any natural colors to the soap, either, since the beer already has a warm brown color after saponification. The only additive I used was a dusting of cocoa powder on the bottom of the mold. When I poured the batter over this, it created neat splotches of darker brown on the surface of the soap. I think it turned out really great! Keep in mind that beer will cause your batch to reach trace quickly, so if you do want to add essential oils or color, you’ll need to work fast.

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I can’t wait to make more batches of beer soap with different beers – maybe a citra hopped pale ale or a sour beer? Here’s a crazy idea: wine soap! That could be a fun experiment with some local Afton wine.

Adventures in Making Cold Process Soap

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Cold process soap making uses fats, butters, a lye and water solution, and essential oils to create natural soap via saponification. I have to admit that I LOVE soap, and I’m a soap snob. Once you use natural soap you won’t want to use the commercially produced bars that are dry and full of unnatural ingredients. Cold process soap is moisturizing, smells great, and lathers beautifully. It’s such a nice way to treat yourself. Ok, I’ll get off my soapbox. Soap joke! Couldn’t help myself.

Soap making is a fun and creative activity but can also be dangerous. Whenever working with lye, make sure to always protect yourself by wearing rubber gloves, eye goggles, and a mask.

IMG_5792I read a couple soap making books, lots of articles, and watched a few online tutorials. It took a while to accumulate all the necessary tools, but most of the gadgets are easily found at the grocery store. Some of the ingredients I ordered online – these included the lye, essential oils, and some of the oils. I had way too much fun researching and thinking about the essential oil combinations I’d use.

For specific directions and steps, please refer to The Soapmaker’s Companion or Natural Soap Making. I’m just going to provide a quick summary here. When making cold process soap, you combine a lye and water solution to melted fats and butters. Then you blend (I used an electric immersion blender) until you reach trace (the mixture begins to thicken, and the oils and lye water have emulsified). Lastly you can add essential oils and exfoliating ingredients like dried herbs, seeds, etc.

IMG_5794The soap mixture is poured into a mold (Josh built me mine) and covered for 24 hours.

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After 24 hours, you can remove your soap, but you may have to wait a little bit longer to slice. I’ve waited about 48 hours to cut my bars. The soap can be used at this point but will melt away quickly. It’s best to let the bars harden for about 4 weeks. This way they will last longer.

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So far, I’ve made one batch of lavender soap with dried sage and one batch of rosemary mint soap with dried mint. For the lavender soap, I used olive oil, coconut oil, and safflower oil, and for the rosemary mint soap, I used olive oil, coconut oil, and castor oil. Both lather up great, so I’m not sure which combination I like best. The dried sage pieces were a little large and next time I’d put in less.

In the future, I plan to make a batch of cedar and pine soap with maybe some juniper and a batch of orange and petigrain (has a woody citrus scent) soap. These additions would complete my seasonal collection: lavender sage for spring, rosemary mint for summer, cedar and pine for fall, and citrus for winter.

Have any favorite scent combinations for soap? Let me know!

Homemade Hand Salve

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This fall was awfully cold and this winter’s chilly temperatures won’t be letting up anytime soon. With the cold weather comes dry skin, but this year I’ve made some homemade hand salve. In the past I’ve tried all kinds of lotions and creams for my hands but nothing worked as well as Badger’s Badger Balm for Hardworking Hands. It contains simple ingredients, so I thought I’d try making some salve myself to save money, and I also thought it would be super fun.

I bought some bulk 2 oz. tins, a large container of olive oil, and some pastille beeswax (it melts easier than shaving or chopping it from a block yourself). I already had a few essential oils to experiment with, but I picked up a couple extra, bringing my complete collection to tea tree, lavender, rose, cedarwood, rosemary, and peppermint.

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To make the hand salve, simply melt the beeswax along with the olive oil and shea butter in a double boiler, stirring to combine. I bought a spoon and bowl for the sole purpose of making items like this – don’t use these tools for food preparation after you’ve used them for cosmetic use.

Once the beeswax, olive oil, and shea butter are combined, add your essential oils and pour into your tins (or other containers). Let cool and you’re done! You can fancy them up with fun and custom labels, or just label them with a marker so you don’t forget when and what you’ve made. These should last for about 6 months.

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I used 1/4 cup of beeswax, 1 cup of olive oil, and 1 heaping tablespoon of shea butter. This filled four 2 oz. tins and one 1 oz. tin.

For my first batches, I made pairings of rose and lavender, cedarwood and peppermint, and lavender and rosemary. You can try all sorts of combinations and also add Vitamin E oil or other things like honey, cocoa butter, etc. There are lots of tutorials online, so search around for other recipes and try using more or less beeswax if you’d like a thicker or thinner consistency.

Did I mention these make great gifts? Many friends and family members got a tin for the holidays, so I had to wait on publishing this blog post – didn’t want to give away any secrets!

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The hand salve is great for your hands, of course, but it’s also nice for dry elbows and feet. Enjoy and stay warm.

Chevron Quilt: Finished!

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The chevron quilt is finally complete. It took me a little while to wrap up these last steps, but I’m so happy with the finished product!

After the quilt top was assembled, I layered the back, cotton batting, and quilt top together on the floor. It’s easiest to use a little clear tape to keep the bottom layer from sliding around. You’re supposed to leave several inches of the back fabric and batting around all sides of the top, but I didn’t have enough and cut it a little close. No worries! It still worked fine.

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Once the fabrics were layered, I used pins to keep them together – pinning about a hand’s distance between each pin.

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Next, it was time to quilt! I followed the chevron’s zig-zag lines on either side of the seams, and this helped to accentuate the chevron pattern. With a larger quilt, it’s tricky to maneuver all the fabric through the machine but rolling up the excess fabric helps.

Before beginning the binding, I trimmed the excess material. Then I applied fabric to the back of the quilt so that it’s easy to hang on the wall using a rod and brackets. I couldn’t decide which I liked best as the “top” versus the “bottom” of the quilt, so I attached a hanging loop to the back on both ends. This way, I can rotate the quilt every 6 months or so. Rotating is good for the wear of the quilt, and it works well for my indecisiveness, too.

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Lastly, I cleaned up the edges with a single binding. This step takes a long time, since the stitching is done by hand for the back, but it’s worth it. It creates a really nice frame for your quilt, and it looks great on display. I didn’t use a French binding since this quilt won’t get too much wear. If your quilt will be used as a comforter or a blanket, a French binding is sturdier and protects the edges better because it uses a double fold instead of a single.

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Here’s a look at how we used a rod and brackets to attach the quilt to the wall:

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This quilt adds a lot of wonderful color and pattern to our space. I had some extra fabric leftover from this quilt and know that I will be making another one soon enough. The next one will be used as a lap blanket, though – no more wall quilts!

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Chevron Quilt: Top Assembly

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I really love the look of chevron quilts and have started making one to hang above the stairs in the entryway of the b&b. The hardest part of making this quilt (so far) has been the composition of fabrics. That step must have taken me hours – there are just so many different possibilities! Should each row be a separate fabric or mixed fabrics? Should some rows repeat? Should the light blue be paired with the green or the red? Here is a look at some of the fabric colors and patterns, cut into seven inch squares, that I used:

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I chose bright, bold blues and greens, some softer blues, and orangey red. For this quilt construction, I didn’t follow a particular pattern, per say, but I looked at a few tutorials to learn how to make half-square triangles. It’s such a simple process and the progress was fast.

To make half-triangle squares, place two squares together (right sides facing). In pencil, draw a line from one corner diagonally across to the other corner. Then, sew 1/4″ to the left of the pencil line and 1/4″ to the right of the pencil line.

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Lastly, cut along the pencil line. Walla! Now there are two half-square triangle pieces. Note: Each time you cut along the pencil line, you’ll end up with two of the same combination – so in the photo below, there is are examples from two different half-square triangle cuts.

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After I made enough of the half-triangle squares (and all were ironed), I sewed the squares into columns and then sewed all the columns together. This went surprisingly quickly, and now the quilt top construction is finished! Next steps will be quilting the top, batting, and back together and creating the proper hanging sleeve or tabs. Lastly, I’ll attach binding around the edges.

This photographed a little strange, but I swear, it looks great in person!

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