Making Crafty Magic, Tutorials

Tutorial: Handmade Heat Packs & Sachets

herbal heat pack tutorialWell, if you’ve been following this blog at all recently, you’ll know that I’ve been a hurtin unit. My belly aching has been sounding like a broken record. Ouch this, ouch that! One of the few things making it possible for me to even stand in the morning has been the religious, nightly use of my homemade heat pack. Originally, I made one for myself and one for a friend with migraine relief in mind. Luckily, I haven’t had even the slightest headache in a while so I haven’t been able to test it out (knock on wood). However, my friend has been finding her’s to be helpful. Instead, mine has been employed in the sore muscle relief capacity. Let me tell you, I need to make an entire outfit out of this blend!

If you don’t know how to sew, have no fear. You can use iron on hem tape at best or a sock at worst (just fill it and knot the open end). Here’s what I used:

♥ Scrap fabric

♥ 2 pounds of jasmine rice (not the microwaveable kind…yuck)

♥ 0.02 pounds of calendula from the bulk herb section of the health food store

♥ o.04 pounds of chamomile from the bulk herb section of the health food store

♥ o.o5 pounds of lavender from the bulk herb section of the health food store

♥ 2-3 drops of rosemary essential oil added to the mix

♥ Velcro to seal up one end so you can empty and refill it.

I basically eye-balled the herb amounts so don’t sweat it if you have more or less. All of the herbs are completely optional. They’re great for migraine relief but not essential for muscle pain relief. I was able to make two hot packs plus two sachets (for those stinky drawers) out of the mix. The packs can be either put in the refrigerator or microwaved depending on your ailment(s). The total cost of the rice and herbs came out to be around $5.00. Not too shabby considering that a vendor at the farmers market sells them for $12 each.

Here’s to a pain-free existence!

Health, Wellness & Enjoyment, Tutorials

Tis the Season for Tincture Time

DSCF3022Okay, I’ve been sitting on these puppies since April and they’re now more than ready. In that span–while the herbs jovially intermingled with the alcohol–they’ve lived in three different homes and seen their fair share of vigorous shakes. They’ve paid their dues and now they’re ready to fulfill their medicinal destiny. Back in April, I procured organic herbs from the bulk section of my local health food store, recycled some food jars, and purchased two bottles of 100-proof alcohol from the liquor store. (For the love of everything holy, do not use rubbing alcohol or anything remotely toxic if ingested! You can use rum, distilled water, vinegar or vegetable glycerin if you don’t want to go the vodka route.) Easily enough, I put the herbs into their own jars and covered them completely with the alcohol. I labeled the jars with the name & date, stored them in a dark, cool location, and shook them as often as I could (like the non-suggestive version of the Shake Weight). The tinctures were ready to be strained and used, ideally, after six months but it took me a little longer to get my act together. (No worries though because we’re talking about 100-proof vodka here–it’s not going to go bad!) The herbs I chose were valerian, horsetail, witch hazel, dandelion leaf, lemon balm, comfrey leaf, raspberry leaf, lavender, St. John’s wort, chamomile, yarrow and rosemary. I chose each herb for very specific reasons HOWEVER, due to the fact that the FDA would be on my ass quicker than I can even blink, I’ll just have to recommend doing your own herbal homework. There’s a plethora of fantastic resources out there but this is my favorite. Now, whenever I get even the slightest notion that I may be coming down with some yucky illness, I can crack open a jar and take a teaspoon 1 to 3 times/day. More than likely, I’ll probably hide it in my smoothie because I’m a total wimp! The tinctures will last for at least two years so I’ll easily get my money’s worth.


How to disarm a Snuggie


I’m not sure how I ended up with a Snuggie, all I know is that I tried to use it for it’s intended purpose and all that extra fabric tripped me and sent me flying. Without a doubt, Snuggies are like deadly weapons to us short folk. Instead of burning that evil thing, I decided to make it into a simple, harmless blanket. Snuggies are a dime-a-dozen now. Right this very second, you can easily find one or two at your local thrift store. That’s a lot of good fleece just waiting to be repurposed. Here’s how I exacted my revenge:

I cut the entire top half off just above the useless pouch pocket. Of course I saved the top half with the sleeves so that I could eventually make it into a mega stylish fleece half-shirt.
I made a blanket stitch with embroidery floss across where I cut it. This is fleece so it won’t fray, thus making this step totally optional, but it looks mighty nice.
I picked up some eco-felt from the craft store and made this owl, which anyone can do. Just use this picture as a template if you like. It’s basically a bunch of simple shapes laid on top of one another. Easy peasy.
First, you may want to glue all of your pieces down to the main part of the body to help keep everything in place. Fabric or craft glue will work just fine. Using embroidery floss, hand-stitch the eyes, nose, wings and buttons to the body. Then place it where you want it and hand-sew the entire outside of the bird to the Snuggie. Then add the feet.
Voila! You have an adorable–and harmless–fleece throw. Mine has two owls in the bottom corners and I kept the pouch at the top because I can stash my remote in it. This would be a fantastic baby blanket (minus the buttons for safety purposes).

Here’s a great tutorial on how to do a blanket stitch.

Here’s a tutorial on hand-sewing basic stitches and knotting.

Here’s my Snuggie blanket covering Petunia’s chair. We both use it all the time since it’s now the perfect size. Click on the photo to enlarge.


How to make herbal salves

As a follow-up to yesterdays post on making your own herbal infusions (here), today, I’m showing you how I use those oils to make beeswax (or candelilla wax for the lovely vegans out there) salves and lip balms. So without further ado…balms away!


Gather all your goodies into one central location because this requires some hustling.
Portion out some of your infused oil into a measuring cup. I like a 4 to 1 ratio of oil to wax. Some people on the internet suggest 2.5 cups of oil to 1 ounce of beeswax. However, the amount of beeswax depends on how hard you want your salve to be. The more wax, the harder it will be. It’s all a matter of personal preference.
Create a double boiler by filling your pot with water so it reaches the same level as the oil in your measuring cup. Put the pot on the stove and begin heating your water and your measuring cup.
Melt your wax or if you’re using wax shavings/pastilles you can skip this step and just throw them straight into your measuring cup with the oil.
Add the desired amount of wax to your oil and stir like crazy until they begin to melt together. Then turn off your stove.
Add a couple drops of vitamin E oil.
Add a couple of drops of grapefruit seed extract. This and the vitamin E oil will help preserve your oils. These are optional steps though.
Are there any essential oils you’d like to add? Or if you’re making lip balm, now’s the time to add a flavoring oil (you can usually find them in the cake decorating/baking aisle in the grocery store) and perhaps some stevia so it tastes yummy. This is all optional of course. Personally, I prefer mine without all the bells and whistles.
Add a few drops of essential oil at the very end just before you begin to pour the mixture into the container(s). You don’t want to get your mixture too hot at any point in this process. You just want the oil and the wax to combine. If it gets too hot your essential oil(s) will evaporate.
This is where the cold spoon comes in handy. Take your chilly spoon and dip it into your mixture. This will give you an idea of the consistency of the salve when it solidifies. Now is the time to tweak your oil to wax ratio if need be.
Pour your salve into clean, dry containers. Let them sit until they solidify (like the two on the left). Now enjoy! You’ve just made something totally awesome!


How to make herbal oil infusions & tinctures

Unfortunately for me, I lost almost half of my blog posts when I split my two blogs last year. I have no idea where the heck they went but they’re long gone. Most of these missing posts were tutorial in nature and it would be a shame to not repost them. Luckily, I was smart enough to save all of the photos so I can do just that. My first re-do is how to make herbal infusions. Most of the olive oils I use for salves, lotions, butters and sometimes conditioners are made from these herbal infusions. Olive oil is merely one oil option, however, it’s usually the most affordable. Coconut oil would be a fabulous substitute or sweet almond oil or rice bran or avocado oil…the list goes on. You can also follow the same steps below (just substitute the oil with 100-proof vodka or vegetable glycerin for the kiddies) to make medicinal tinctures that can be taken orally to help heal certain ailments. If you want to go a step further and gather your own herbs from mo’ nature, let me direct you to my post on harvesting and drying your own herbs here.

There’s a lot of confusing and sometimes dangerous information on the internet regarding the medicinal uses of plants. I suggest not looking to the internet and instead investing in a few good books. My personal favorite is The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants: A Practical Reference Guide to over 55o Key Herbs and Their Medicinal Uses by Andrew Chevallier. This is, without a doubt, worth the investment. It’s the best book I’ve seen on the subject and I’m pissed at myself for returning it to my former housemate Thom. Sometimes honesty does nothing for you. With that said, let’s get started!


Gather your CLEAN jars. You can use spaghetti sauce jars if you want, it’s all good. Just make sure they’re clean and dry. I either boil mine in hot water or bleach them beforehand. Label them now so you don’t get confused later.
Procure some herbs. I used a combination of herbs found in the bulk section of a local health food store and some I had gathered and dried from the wild. You can also go out into the garden and pick some fresh stuff. Dry or fresh, it doesn’t really matter just make sure your freshies are clean.
(Skip this step if you’re making a tincture with vodka.) Start heating your oil. Do not boil, scorch, or super heat your oil to the point of smoking. If you do so, your herbs will be pissed and you can kiss their medicinal properties goodbye. What you want is to feel a gentle warmth when you hover your hand above the oil in the pot. Yup, it’s not rocket science.
While your oil is warming, place your herbs in the correspondingly labeled jars and get your funnel ready to earn its keep. You don’t need to overstuff your jars with herbs either. Halfway is fine, even less is okay–use what you have. If you’re using fresh herbs, you’ll want to use more.
(Skip this step if you’re making a tincture.) Add a couple drops of vitamin E oil to your jars. This is totally optional but it helps to slow down the oxidation process. In other words, it’ll help to prevent your oil from turning rancid. If you plan to use your oils quickly, you probably don’t have to sweat this step.
Pour your warm oil (or room temp vodka) into the jars via the handy funnel.
Take a break for a second because your arms are probably on fire at this point. Okay, break’s over. Now pour until you can’t pour no mo’!
Give it a few minutes for your concoction(s) to cool down a bit, especially if you’re using fresh herbs because the water in them needs to evaporate, and then seal em’ up. Now shake!
Shake your jars as often as possible. Leave them in a cool, dark place (like my heart) for at least a week or two before using. If you’re making a medicinal tincture, I suggest leaving them for three months, ideally six months if you can manage it. Remember to put the date on the label so you know how much time has passed. Enjoy!


How to make toothpaste

So what do you get when your aloe plant tries to stuff all five pounds of itself into a one pound container? You get something like this…

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Except this photo was taken after I pruned it. So imagine it being twice this size. I’m an awful plant owner, I know. I’ve been meaning to do something about its shabby appearance for quite some time now but have chosen to ignore it (the same thing I do with my own shabby appearance most days). However, I walked by it this morning and what once was a little whimper for help now turned into a loud cry. And since I’m a sucker for a damsel in distress, I stopped what I was doing and gave it my full attention. Now my friend is still full-figured, but it’s a healthy, full-figured.

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I’m sure this goes without saying but throughly wash your plants before you use them.

So what does one do with a lot of aloe besides eat it (which is supposed to be excellent for you) or smash yourself up so you can apply it to your cuts? The former sounds too icky and the latter sounds too masochistic. So since I’m a saver of all things, I decided to chop it up and attempt to preserve it. My initial plan was to blend it with some glycerin and vitamin e, throw it in the fridge, and bust it out when I made lotions next.2013-11-06 10.47.46As I chippity-chopped, I began flashing back to all the times I’ve tried and failed at making toothpaste. That is the one bath & body item I’ve never been able to master. I’ve wasted a lot of high-quality ingredients trying to make it and it’s always ended up being a gross disaster. Needless to say, I eventually admitted defeat and vowed to never try again.

And this is where I get a little sidetracked so bear with me… Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the strange direction in which we’re headed. Some may be more comfortable not thinking about it, some may be more comfortable denying it, and some (like me) are desperately seeking solutions, whether it be small or large. I believe deep down inside, we all know change needs to happen on some level; however, I also acknowledge that change may be too overwhelming for those focusing on the big picture. I mean, where does one even start? I firmly believe that even the most seemingly insignificant decision cascades out to touch the lives of others. It’s how we choose to treat one another, the products we use, the foods we eat, the places we shop, the beings we choose to ignore or idealize, the issues we choose to remain ignorant of, how we spend our limited time on this earth, how we spend our money, what we do for a living, etc… Most of us probably feel powerless when it comes to politics or world issues but in our day-to-day lives we are actually the most powerful forces of nature. We may not realize it but we vote every day and these are the votes that matter most. So what the heck does all of this have to do with aloe vera, you ask? Well, I’ve been thinking of ways to become a more active, conscious participant in the decision-making process of life. Basically, I want to become a more informed, everyday voter.

Since I make most of the products I use, I’m off to a good start but I can do better. One of my biggest issues is with palm oil (check this out). It’s used in about 50% of everything we use–from food, to cosmetics, to cleansers and oftentimes it’s listed as “vegetable oil” in the ingredients. Sadly, it’s unsustainably produced from the palm fruit in Indonesia and Malaysia. This means that beautiful rainforests are slashed and burned to grow oil palms. This also means that orangutans and other wildlife are being killed in the process. Even the sustainably grown version is questionable because the organizations providing this oil are lacking in quality standards and regulations. The bottom line is that palm oil is not necessary for anything we make, in fact, it’s usually found in the absolute worst products, such as processed foods. It’s ironic that the stuff we love the most is the stuff that kills us the quickest and is the quickest at killing other species too. So one of my many daily votes is to just say no to palm oil. I stopped using it in my soaps so I’m off to a decent start there and I don’t often eat processed foods and I make my own cleaning products but I still know I could do better. Ugh, it’s all about my nemesis, the toothpaste. Most toothpastes just so happen to have palm oil in them so I recently tried a palm oil-free version BUT the main ingredient is glycerin which I’m convinced is bad for your teeth. So it was up to me to make friends with toothpaste once and for all. And I did! My recipe is semi-based on my friend Carrie’s but I added more goodies. Next time I will omit the baking soda because I forgot how sensitive my mouth is to it but most people aren’t so have at it!

I’m sharing my recipe in the hopes that you will try this at home. Hopefully, I’m not the only one realizing that there’s always room for compassionate improvements in our everyday voting process.

2013-11-06 11.15.16
Some stevia leaves from my other plant that was desperate for some much-needed attention.


  • aloe vera plant or juice from the health food store
  • stevia leaves/stevia powder from the grocery store
  • organic peppermint flavoring from the grocery store (or any other flavoring you wish)
  • baking soda from the grocery store
  • food grade organic, extra virgin coconut oil from the health food store (I can’t recommend this 7-pound, $33 bottle enough. It’s worth it. I use it for everything. It’s in most of my lotions and body butters. I use it as a facial moisturizer. I put it in my daily smoothies and use it as a cooking oil–you should never use olive oil as a cooking oil!)

Optional items I put in my recipe:

  • tea tree oil
  • grapefruit seed extract
  • vitamin e oil
  • green tea tincture/extract/tea (If you want the best oral hygiene possible, I strongly recommend using green tea in some form. Extract is probably better compared to the tincture because it isn’t alcohol based. But you could even use actual green tea. Just steep a few tea bags during the stovetop process and let it sit for a while. This is going to bring your toothpaste to a whole nother level.)

2013-11-06 11.19.36I ended up with about two cups of chopped aloe vera, 1.5 – 2 cups of coconut oil, about 15  stevia leaves (what you saw in the photo above is the amount I used), 2 drops of vitamin e oil, 2 drops of grapefruit seed extract, 2 teaspoons of peppermint flavoring, 2 teaspoons of green tea tincture, 3 drops of tea tree essential oil (this is very powerful stuff so use sparingly or you will burn yourself), and 4- 5 tablespoons of baking soda. I basically eyeballed the amounts and then blended it all together. To test, I took a little bit to brush with until I was happy with the way it tasted. 2013-11-06 11.15.30The ingredients were heated on the stove for just a minute or two. I don’t advise overcooking this because you might be boiling away all the chemical benefits.2013-11-06 11.22.50Then the heated mixture was poured into jars. If you want to make a lot, just pour the mixture into several containers and freeze/refrigerate them for later use. 2013-11-06 11.23.15Make  sure your container is clean and dry, please. In fact, make sure your blender, utensils, and cooking pot are all super clean. You don’t want to be brushing your teeth with a nasty, contaminated product. Not even your dog will want to kiss that mouth!2013-11-06 11.24.30Then quickly pop the jar(s) into the freezer for about a half hour (or longer). This is my trick for keeping things in suspension. I do this when making lip tints. If you just let them sit at room temperature the contents (such as pigments or in this case aloe vera and baking soda) will settle to the bottom of your jar. However, if you pop them into the freezer while they’re still warm and in suspension, your product will remain consistent throughout. 2013-11-06 12.38.39After a half hour you can take your new toothpaste out of the freezer and start using it. Since it’s coconut oil based, it’s going to stay fairly solid at room temperature so you’re going to have to loosen it up to get it on your toothbrush. However, I was delighted to find that it has more of a whipped butter consistency than that of a solid oil so it’s not that difficult to get into.  But I’ll leave those logistics up to you.

If making your own toothpaste sounds too overwhelming, you can always buy some from me. I only have four jars but I’m going to sell them at my upcoming tabling events. (Okay, now it’s down to three jars b/c my bro will want one). After that, the world will have to wait until my aloe plant starts beefing itself up again. More than anything though, the moral of this story is to keep thinking about your daily voting process. Consider that by just making your own toothpaste you have:

  • not participated in the harming of orangutans or any other species that reside in a glorious rainforest far, far away
  • not given money to companies that profit from our own physical destruction and that of our environment
  • saved money in the long run because it’s far more cost-effective to make your own products once you make a few initial investments
  • taken full control of the type, amount, source, and quality of ingredients that’s allowed to enter your body

It starts with toothpaste but it certainly doesn’t need to end there. Keep the magic happening!


Disclaimer: Statements contained herein have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat and cure or prevent disease or substitute care by a medical practitioner. All recommendations are believed to be effective, but since actual use of this product is beyond our control and can vary from individual to individual, no guarantee as to the effects of their use can be given nor liability taken.


The T-shirt Rug

I thoroughly enjoy making quilts out of t-shirts. I would like to submit Exhibit A, B, and C into evidence:

Exhibit A: my own t-shirt quilt in the making.
Exhibit B: a Christmas present for my supervisor’s hubby
Exhibit C: a baby quilt for sweet little Sophia.

And although t-shirt quilt making is totally awesome, it generates a lot of waste. If you’re like me, you feel bad throwing out all that good fabric so you hoard it. You hoard it to the point that you actually have a contractor bag full of this crap and you’re perfectly willing to haul all 50 pounds of it from your home, to the storage unit, and then into your tiny new apartment. No biggie, it’s all in a days work for the avid sewist! I knew eventually this collecting would pay off at some point. And did it! A few months ago I found a t-shirt rug tutorial on one of the gazillion diy blogs I stalk. Bingo! Instant affirmation that hoarding does indeed pay off. So here’s how it turned out:

Voila! My diy rug-making masterpiece!
Yup, I wear socks with thongs (yes, I call flip-flops thongs). I’m not ashamed. I go out of the house like this. I even have special big-toe socks just for thong wearing. Yes, I’m fully aware that someone’s going to call What Not to Wear on me one of these days.

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To make your very own t-shirt rug, here is a helpful tutorial. The base for their rug is a towel which is totally ingenious! I wish I’d thought of that before I started. I used a heavyweight (and butt-ugly piece) of upholstery fabric that I would never use otherwise. The person in the tutorial used a triple stitch, which I cannot advise enough. You’re going to be walking on this thing so it’s gotta be durable. Not to mention that it has to withstand frequent Risky Business Tom Cruise dancing. I suggest the triple stitch but also a zig-zig to account for any stretching the fabric may do. If you don’t have the triple feature on your machine than do what I did and use a straight stitch and then go back over it with a zig-zag. Then, to make it a non-slip rug, I added hot glue to the back. Yup, another little tip I picked up from the diy ether. I ran the hot glue all down my stitches on the back just for a little added insurance. I would advise starting out with something small, like a bath mat. It takes a lot of fabric to make the size rug I did. A lot! Like I said, it took easily a garbage bag full of t-shirts to make this rug. It’s super awesome though!

Straight stitch and then zig-zag the heck out of it. Go over it as many times as you can even…or utilize the triple stitch option if you have it. Then run over your stitches with some hot glue for some added slip protection.
Making Crafty Magic, Tutorials

The secret life of a bubble mailer.





In classic Jaime fashion, this is my second attempt at this post due to the fact that my first attempt randomly included a pic of my bright-white, bare legs– tattoos and all– for reasons unbeknownst to moi. Sorry if I burned anyones eyes…it’s all good. So here we go again… I wanted to do a post on a recent family collaboration. In February, I gifted my brother my old Kindle and he loathed the case it came with, saying it looked like a pair of my underbritches. So he drew out a design and sent me the materials and this is the end result. Pretty cool! It’s made with a plastic bubble mailer which will protect it from falls and rain. It’s lined with a reused terrycloth towel to help keep the screen clean. The awesome skull buttons are extras from a pair of jeans he loves. And here comes the irony: wait for it…wait for it…The fabric comes from three pairs of his swimming underbritches. Hah! Plus there are two pockets: one for the cord and one for his wallet and such. And a clip for his keys. Not too shabby of a collab if I may say so. If you plan to try this, let me know if you have any questions. It’s a breeze if done in the proper order.


Huntin’, Gatherin’ and Dryin’ Herbs

There she is! Cassie, the woodland sprite. She’s the plant whisperer. We are on our way to find a patch of jewelweed that she spied a few days earlier. Along the way we found a plethora/gaggle of other plants and animals of interest.

Continue reading “Huntin’, Gatherin’ and Dryin’ Herbs”