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cathyn: (Johnny!)
Having followed the method described in my previous post, I am pleased, very very pleased with the results.

Lots of text, and photos, too. Should be behind a cut, for politeness sake. )
cathyn: (Bacon)
Today I started (and, as of this writing, am currently working on) my second batch of Hot Process soap. I couldn't be happier so far.

Having made the observation last time that adding the lye solution while the oil temperature is above the boiling point of water was a recoverable yet painful mistake, I put the lesson into action with this batch. I Decided on an all-vegetable-oil recipe, and almost every ingredient was a liquid, so I figured I was safe. Olive oil, almond oil, castor oil, coconut oil (oops, solid at room temperature, but low melting point), and beeswax (double oops, solid at room temperature, and with a much higher melting point than coconut oil). Weighed each carefully, and melted both the coconut oil and beeswax in the microwave. Problematically, when I poured the liquid beeswax into the only slightly warm oils, it hardened on contact. Looked pretty, but a problem nonetheless. Turn on the flame, heat up a bit, beeswax melting, I mixed up the (once again, very carefully weighed) lye solution, remembering that you ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS NO NAY NEVER NO EXCEPTIONS ALWAYS add the dry lye to the water. I then checked the temperature of the oil, which was 190*F, so, looking at my blistered hand, I went and got my welding gloves, put them on and poured the very hot lye solution (almost boiling, certainly steaming, DO NOT BREATHE THE STEAM!!!) into the likewise almost boiling oil. Temperatures matched this time, and I had no caustic water flashing to boiling, and it was a beautiful thing.

If you've ever made Cold Process soap, you know it can take a good long time for the soap to "trace". Not so with the Hot Process. Mixing 190 degree lye solution with 190 degree oil guarantees almost instant "trace", which is super cool! Also, while the first batch looked at each point kinda like the pictures on the webpage from which I learned this method, this second time around, the pictures look EXACTLY like what's going on in my pot.

Also, if you're reading these, and you've never made soap before, but you're getting excited about checking it out, DO! Soap making is fun, rewarding, and kinda magical. Keep one thing in mind, though. No matter which Process you use, no matter what recipe you're making, prepare your molds first! Ensure that you have molds enough to hold the soap you're going to make, then get them ready to accept the product. There is little worse in this hobby than getting to the end of a batch, your soap is lovely, ropey, perfectly colored and scented, and then you have to put your molds together, grease them, and otherwise get them ready, meanwhile, your soap has set up in your mixing vessel or your pot, and instead of a bunch of lovely bars, you have one big one. (Insert huge frowny face here). It's not a disaster, it's even recoverable (just re-melt the soap, and pour it), but it's just so much better to be prepared.

Anyway, it's time to give this batch a stir and add heat again, so I'll let you know later how it turned out!
cathyn: (Johnny!)
So, Beloved Readers, I mentioned there still being plenty of room for Mr. Cockup in my latest soapmaking adventure, and more prophetic words are rarely spoken. I had a brief conversation via Messaging on Facebook with Max, another veteran soapmaker, who asked when I planned to remove my new soap from the molds, that being one of the big benefits of the Hot Process, the soap is essentially "done" right before you pour it into the molds. I mentioned I'd probably wait a week, which is what I have always done when using the Cold Process.

His comments however aroused my curiosity, and so I unmolded one of my two molds the same day, and he was right, it came out so nicely that I decided to immediately unmold the second one. I then grabbed my trusty burgundy bottle (it turns out that the 3" ID PVC pipes I use for my molds almost perfectly fit a burgundy bottle, so I always use one to force the soap out) Set it neck-first on the floor, put the mold over it so I could apply my body weight to the mold and extract the soap, and just before beginning to push, I lost my grip slightly, and the mold, which was very full of soap, came out of contact with the bottle, which fell over and broke most spectacularly, 750ml of red wine all over the kitchen floor, and, of course, me. Bugger.

The good news is that I have been snooping the hell out of Pinterest for craft ideas I can pick up with little additional initial investment (read "start doing with the tools I already own"), and maybe make a little money while saving my sanity by working with my hands making art. I saw a fantastically cool tool for cutting soap into uniform bars, so I built one, and tested it on the first pipe full of soap. It's a simple open top box, roughly the same size across as my soap mold, and just about as long, with a deep notch cut in the walls at 3/4" from the positive stop screwed onto the end of the tool (probably should properly be called a soap cutting jig), With a length of 28ga Stainless Steel wire screwed into it to make the cuts, and it works like gang-busters!

(Like this, only, as one would expect, mine is twice as long.)

The success of this tool gives rise to the next tool I will build, as soon as I find a local friend with a lathe. I will build a 3" dowel, screwed to a set of crossed boards which will act as feet, to make getting soap out of the molds easier, and far less likely to spill delicious wine all over my kitchen. Seems I might be getting into production levels of soap making! I even have secured my first vendor!
cathyn: (Johnny!)
I've been making soap since 1996 or thereabouts, when I bought a book on soapmaking at Pensic. Since that day, I have not purchased a bar of soap, and have been very very happy with the soap I make. Always wanting to expand my art, and the knowledge thereof, today I made soap using the "Hot Method". The cold method is simpler, by far. Get your oils melted, whatever, and get them to 90-100 degrees. Mix your lye into your water, and let this cool to somewhere under 120 degrees. Mix these, stir until they "trace", stir some more until it thickens, pour into molds. Let sit for a while (a week or so), remove from molds, cut (if necessary), and cure the bars by letting them sit loosely stacked for a couple of weeks. The longer it sits, the better. Use to your heart's content.

The hot method is similar. Make your lye-water solution. Melt your fats in a stainless steel pan over a low heat. Add the lye water to the warmed fats and stir until boiling. Set a timer for 20 minutes, and stir constantly. Remove from heat, let sit ten minutes, return to heat, and stir. Lather, rinse, repeat for several iterations, until the stuff in the pan goes from looking like a nice foamy beer, to something looking like a giant pan of oatmeal, until quite suddenly, the "oats" will seem to melt into each other and form a goop. Goop into molds, and prepare for the easiest clean-up of your soap-making equipment you've ever had. I followed the instructions found on this brilliantly illustrated page.

The author leaves out at least one serious point. MAKE SURE YOUR OIL IS NOT HEATED ABOVE 212 DEGREES FAHRENHEIT. Unless you greatly enjoy having your VERY CAUSTIC lye-water solution flash instantly to boiling, and in addition to making your pan almost overflow with proto-soap, and big volcano like glops of liquid roughly 250-300 degrees, which are both very hot, and very caustic, and when they burst forth from the surface of your very hot oil which is scaling the inside of the pot looking for the escape hatch, the boiling, chemically active, and somewhat sticky liquid might very well go BLOP, directly onto your hand, where it *will* stick, and *will* linger, until you've gotten your hand into the sink and under cold running water.

All turned out well, especially once I went to the garage and got my welding gloves, so I could pour the rest of the lye-water solution into the pan. Followed the rest of the directions, the stuff in my pan did what the stuff in his pictures did, and I feel I have won a major success. At least I have until I have removed the soap from the molds, anyway. There's still plenty of room for Mr. Cockup...
cathyn: (Default)
The amazing [livejournal.com profile] lifeofglamour has finished the Shirt of Glory, damn she does great work. She then took pity on me, having been in the sewing room since about 9:30, only taking breaks to go grocery shopping and to cook dinner, and she sewed my codpiece on to the pumpkin pants, and stitched on a hook-and-eye set so it will hang straight. She is made of awesome!


I got the false sleeves done. I know I said no preview pictures, but I have to flash a small sample.

What an epic ass-pile of work, compounded by having to work a small miracle, wherein I did not have enough material to make the sleeves properly, and so had to take a very time intensive long-cut to make them look like I had enough material. Something like the loaves and fishes in brocade and wool. I estimate the false sleeves alone took ten hours, total, and very little of that was dithering.

I fixed the massive headache with the overcoat and its lining, having stupidly tried to mix patterns, one for the shoulder hole, a different one for the sleeve. Yeah, all of you who have ever set sleeves are cringing right now, and rightly so. Miracle #2 for this outfit, as through patience, hard work, and cursing up a ultraviolet streak, I fixed the problems, and now the fit like they're supposed to.

Through yet another miracle, I discovered I was able to create trim from thin air to do the three stripes of trim around the circumference of the coat, and that trim is now awaiting attachment. Miracle #3, I am now qualified for Sainthood. I also dug out the fixins for the yoke, and in doing so, discovered a previously unrevealed roll of the exact trim I need to make the yoke match the false sleeves.

UPSHOT: A few hours of work ahead of me, and my faithful-ish copy of the 1547 coat of Maurice, Prince Elector of Saxony will be completed.

The jerkin has sat aloofly on its hangar all day, and still needs a few minutes of handwork to finish connecting the lining to the shell at the wrists, before it is also done. I will have it done tomorrow, thanks in great measure to my loving wife, without whom, I'd be wearing all this finery over an old store-bought shirt (store==Sebastian's Clothiers).

UPSHOT: Jerkin is >< close, and I can totally see DONE from here!


Mar. 11th, 2011 10:01 am
cathyn: (My arms)
So, last year, at Erinwood, Duke Steingrim brought a bunch of armor and stuff to display, among which pieces was a lovely blackened Norman peaked helm, and I fell in love. I've been fighting in the same 16th Century English Lobster Pot for so long I've caught it coming home from the bar, having gone without me. I don't remember its exact date of manufacture, but I remember having owned it for a few years already when I moved to Calontir in December of 1990. call it 23+ years old. Recently I had a discussion with a friend who mentioned that, while my helm looked fantastic, it had many projections, the tail, the brim, and such, that made it a shot collector, causing me to take shots that were certainly not good, but because my opponent's weapon caught on something away from my actual head, the helm moved like all hell, and I died when I shouldn't have. A lot. He suggested a new helm, so I was already in the mood when I saw this midnight black sexxxy thing Steingrim had made, and I would have bought it on the spot if it hadn't been made for someone about Bryndis' size. Not a Cathyn-sized helm at all. So H.G. and I have been working in his shop the last few months on the lovely thing you'll find behind the cut. It's almost finished, needs a face plate and I can get it all padded and strapped and start fighting.

No, it's not gonna have a coronet. I hardly wear the ones I have when I'm not in armor, why would I wear one *every* time I am in armor?

Eleven shots of the helm, in two stages of construction )


Dec. 14th, 2009 03:02 pm
cathyn: (Default)
Haven't posted in a bit, a fair bit to talk about.

Still looking for work, but things are looking up. It might be more accurate to say I'm still looking for interviews. I see lots of jobs I qualify for, send tons of resumes and cover letters, and rarely hear back from the companies. The "looking up" part is where I see my network expanding and more nice people sign up to look for jobs for me each week.

Fighting again. I took a few weeks off because I mangled my hand. Of course, my first time back in armor everything feels wrong again, sword's too heavy, shield's *way* too heavy (in its defense, it is brand-new never been fought with before), and I perceive I have no endurance. In reality I spent 9+ hours in armor, most of that fighting, drilling, or moving around, so the endurance is still there, but not how I want. To complicate things, I was back just in time for the Duke Brannos Seminar at DeGrendelus Martial Arts Academy, sponsored by HRH Uther. To say I learned a great deal would be an understatement. To say I got my ass handed to me multiple times would also be an understatement, but really, where is the shame in losing every fight to the host, Sir Gemini; the instructor, Duke Brannos; and almost every fight to HRM Titus. Right now I'm considering myself to be the Kansas City Chiefs, a former champion in the midst of a rebuilding year, losing a lot but still able to make some plays and win a couple against heavily favored opponents. I'm hoping this is my Brett-Favre-of-the-Jets season, to be followed hard upon by a Brett-Favre-on-the-Vikings season.

The new home is coming along really well. The painting is done, save for minor touch-ups. Today will see the kitchen finished, and likely the very minor leak in the master shower repaired, as well as the garage move-in phase 2 (electric boogaloo) executed. Not too many projects left on the trestleboard, and none of a large nature, until the middle-distance future where the kitchen gets remodeled, but I don't think I'll be executing that alone, professionals will likely be engaged.

On the state of The Colossus, I am still deeply in love, getting healthier, hand is stepping back into line, post-honeymoon weight loss is nearly complete (222# on Sunday, 2# over my target), and I am quite happy here in California. The home nearing completion makes me feel good, like even though I am unemployed I am Getting Things Done(tm). Later this week there will be a trip to SJSU with Official Transcripts in hand to check in on trading in my hard-earned box-tops credits for something in a delicate sheepskin. There will also be some poking of the PMI webiste to see if I am still eligible to to test for the PMP.

With work areas being organized, I will soon be able to step it up on more projects I have in planning. There will be some lapidary. There will be some jewelry making. There will be some bronze casting. There will be some sewing of properly researched and constructed Saxon-era clothing, as well as some Italian, and most certainly Swedish garments emerging from the shop.

Right, then.

HAPPY! HEALTHY! BOLDLY LEAPING INTO ACTION! (a super-hero might say "Heigh ho, Silver!", "Up, up, and away!" or "Stay ACTION AWESOME!" here. The run-of-the-mill Colossus is content to leap into action, once he gets his shoes on...)
cathyn: (Johnny!)
Fought tonight at Brion and [livejournal.com profile] ysabella_dolfin's unofficial practice, and things went well. I did not feel like getting geared up, but [livejournal.com profile] korwyn was having trouble analyzing a shot he landed poorly last time he fought, so we did a bunch of walk-throughs and that got me in the mood. I was kinda tired and kinda achy, like I was getting a cold, but I strapped it on anyway. I'm noticing something my body does that I am in love with. I was feeling ooogy as described above, right up until I fastened my chin-strap, then suddenly all those symptoms vanished, as did my achy shoulder which I got while sleeping last night.

So, looking through the bars, I did throw and land some shots, got hit a few times, and was having fun. After knowing him for over nine years, I finally got to fight HE Brion of Bellatrix, something I've looked forward to for years. It went one, maybe two fights, when it happened.

Cue n00B mistake in 3...2...1...

Me, sword and center-grip teardrop (teardrop from now on), him florentine. Us, warily circling each other. Him, swinging a lovely shot that should've just slid below the edge of the teardrop and hit my right thigh, just above the knee. Me, jumping out of the way, and raising my left leg, clearing the right leg out of the way so his well-aimed shot missed it, and SLAMMED into my left shin, about 5" above the ankle, along the posterior of the medial edge of the tibia. We finished the fight, me on my knees in penance for having target-substituted, him on his knees as he is a man of honor. When the fight was over, I limped off the field an dtook off my kit, as I could no longer carry enough of my weight on my left leg to continue fighting. The goose-egg on the side of my leg is impressive, angry red, and keeps sending threatening messages to my brain regarding my stupidity.

Pain. Pain is the lesson-teacher. Pain shows us things we should not do again. I should never lift my foot 10" off the ground in a fight again as long as I live. I hope I've learned this lesson well and truly. As Musashi-sama says, "You must think upon this deeply". I am sure every time I fail to be thinking upon this deeply for the next few ways, pain will remind me to continue studying.


Sep. 24th, 2009 07:38 pm
cathyn: (Default)
Not gonna write too much, but thanks Jenny! Jenny lives in Uppsala, and volunteered to be our tour guide today showing us all the sights and joys that lovely town has to offer. We took some nice shots, I am *totally* inspired to make a scepter inspired by the one removed from the grave of Catherine Jagellonica. Also, I got to see the Sture Murder Clothes. I've been dying to see them after having first read about them in Arnold, then digging and digging to find the story of the murder (yeah, I've been onto this story line since long before the webbernetz made research so damned easy.) I believe that when we get home, modifying the existing patterns to fit my measurements and then making one or more of the outfits is *very* high on my agenda! I am so excited!
cathyn: (Default)
Took the early (yet off-peak) train to Hastings today, and toured the battlefield. There's a big part of the tour dedicated to the Monastery and such, but I really could have cared less about anything but the field where the Bastard usurped the Throne from its Rightful King. I walked the field, stood in places the invaders must have stood, daunted at the climb ahead of them to reach the Saxon positions. I felt nothing, other than "You shouldn't have come" thought softly to the Normans. We walked around the bottom of the field, then climbed the slope towards the drawn-up Saxon lines, and I began to feel it. A longing, a pain. As we neared the top, the rain began to lightly fall. We reached the top, where the path was that must have wound right through our lines, where thousands of Huscarls met their deaths and I felt it. I tried to summon the song, written by my friend Andrixos, "Requiem for a Huscarl", but in it's own way it is too cheerful, telling the tale of a warrior who fought for his King, and died before the defeat, and among who's last words are "...for it seems the battle is won." This line brings me to tears each time I hear it or sing it, as I know the truth. As I walked the lines where Huscarls fell, I sang to myself the song "I Will Mourn My King". Then I visited the marker denoting the place where it is believed King Harald fell. There I sang to his spirit "Song of the Shieldwall". I took many pictures of Senlac Hill, both from the bottom and from the top, took pictures of Harald's marker. I knelt beside it and did something lame. I am the 91st Huscarl of Calontir. In the rain on the top of the stone I traced my 91 with my finger, knowing it would be every bit as permanent as Harald's reign. The entire visit touched me deeply, with sadness, and with the honor that was given to me by Eringlin King when he made me a Huscarl, and connected me to the men on the hill, my brothers. I didn't wear my medallion, I didn't wear my hockey jersey, but I wore my Axes on my heart.

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