Posts Tagged ‘DIY’

DIY: Sew Your Own Cloth Pantiliners

Cloth pantiliners from scrap fabric

Cloth pantiliners from scrap fabric

If you were to look at my academic record, you might suspect that I went after the least practical degrees on purpose. I didn’t: I just have impractical interests. Along with having a degree or two in English, I have a minor in theater arts — costume design. I used to make fairly elaborate Renaissance costumes. Now I hem, mend, and sew cloth pads. How far the mighty have fallen!

I mostly now use menstrual cups, which are less messy and lower maintenance than cloth pads, but I still like my mini cloth pantiliners from Mimi’s Dreams and don’t regret jumping off the disposable pantiliner bandwagon. I wanted a few more and have lots of fabric scraps kicking around, so I decided to make some for myself. I tried out a few different patterns, and came up with my favorite.

So, here’s a little tutorial on making your own cloth pantiliners.  They’re fairly quick and easy to make. These are tiny, thin, unobtrusive daily liners or light cup backup. You can make wider, thicker versions for cloth menstrual pads.

You will need:

  • Smallish amounts of fabric (OK to use old towels, the ugly flannel shirt you were going to get rid of, other things you have lying around the home). More detail later.
  • Thread. I like matching it to the fabric, but to be green, I should say: use whatever you already have.
  • Pins. Not the safety pin type.
  • Some type of closure. I like sew on snaps. There are also ones you can hammer in, buttons, and (if you really must) Velcro dots.
  • A sewing machine. The thicker the pad, the stronger your sewing machine should be. Lightweight is fine for these pantiliners.
  • An iron, preferably with good steam power. Ironing is not optional when it comes to sewing. Sorry.
  • Bandaids if you’re new to sewing and prone to klutziness. Pins are sharp and irons are hot. But I hope you won’t need those.

Step 1. Find or make your pattern.

cloth pantiliner pattern

There are lots of free patterns out there. You can also trace a disposable pad or make your own pattern. I knew I wanted something a little narrower and thinner than my Mimi’s Dreams minis, so I used graph paper to draw a pad that was 7″ long and 2″ wide, with 1.5″ wings (they need to be long enough to overlap by 1/2″ – 1″). This is tiny, by the way — most pads are 2.5″ across and often much longer. Then I added seam allowance to all sides, folded it in quarters so it would be symmetrical, and cut it out. If you make a pattern like this, be sure to have a 2″ straight edge that you can leave open to turn the pad inside out later. I’m using the side of one wing.

The insert pattern is just the pad without the wings or seam allowance (2″ x 7″, in my case). Depending on what fabric you use and how much absorbency you want, you may want more than one layer of the insert.

Step 2: Get your fabrics together.

cactus fabric

Cactus print cloth pantiliners!

Cloth pads usually have three layers:

  • a top layer of something soft and absorbent, like a cotton flannel or quilter’s cotton
  • an absorbent core  (cotton flannel, terry, natural fleece)
  • a moisture resistant or moisture proof backing, like polar fleece.

You don’t need very much fabric. About 1/4 yard of each will yield 5+ liners. I’m using a quilter’s cotton on top that was scrap from a friend’s project. (I realized only after cutting that a cactus print might not be entirely appropriate for its intended purpose.) The core is from a 1/4 yard cut of cotton flannel sheeting. The back is a black synthetic suede that is thinner than fleece yet offers some moisture resistance.

Wash, dry, and iron all your fabrics on the highest / hottest settings you are likely to ever use on your cloth pads. Even though I line dry 90% of the time, there are days on which I want (or need) clean liners now and send them through the dryer. Do not skip this step! Your cloth pads will warp.

Step 3. Cut out your fabrics.

If you’re testing out a new pattern, I would just make one, but it saves time to cut multiples out. Make sure your pattern is parallel with the selvage (the finished edges of the fabric), pin, and cut carefully around your pattern. You can also trace it and cut on your tracing lines instead.

For a thin, everyday pantiliner, I use two layers of flannel for the core, so cut two of the inserts for every one of the top and bottom layers.

Step 4. Sew the insert to the top layer.

Cloth pantiliner insert

Be lazy: sew straight lines!

Pin and sew the insert to the wrong side of the top layer. Some people sew ovals or squigglies. Sewing tight curves is a pain, so I just stitch two lines on the edges of the insert. Tip: if you sew in the same direction for both lines, you’re less likely to get wrinkles in your insert.

Iron.

Step 5. Sew the top and bottom layers together.

cloth pad project 006

More pins.

Pin the top and bottom layers together, wrong sides facing. (Lots of pins. Fabric likes to shift on you when you’re sewing.) Now sew the sides together, leaving at least a 2″ gap on a straight edge somewhere for turning.

Iron and then clip the curves (both concave and convex). Otherwise they won’t look nice or lie flat when you turn everything inside out.

cloth pad project 007

Clip those curves. The right wing has been left open for turning.

Step 6. Turn everything inside out.

This is the most miserable part of the process, because you’ll end up with something limp and misshapen and begin to think that paying $4 for a cloth pantiliner is a good deal. Plus it’s easy to not leave quite enough space to turn and have to wrestle with it. (2″ is the absolute minimum — the thicker the pad, the more you’ll need.)

Use your fingers or a tool to press the seams open, and then iron with lots of steam until it looks presentable.

Step 7. Topstitch around the whole thing.

cloth pad project 009

If you want the finished product to look nice, go slowly on this step. I manually adjust the foot around the curves because my current sewing machine has only two speeds: 0 and a whole lot faster than I want to be going. Be sure to tuck in and sew over the seam that you left open to turn the thing inside out.

Lines a little crooked? Oh well. It’s only underwear.

Step 8. Attach some sort of fastening.

I like sew on snaps, but you could also do buttons or some kind of tab closure. All done!

You can read about my earlier adventures in cloth pads here. I think having some basic sewing skills is quite green if you want to be able to mend old clothes or make new things out of scrap fabrics.

Do you use cloth pads or liners? Have you tried making your own?

DIY: Make kitty litter bags from newspaper

Plastic bags are a precious commodity in my house. In the past few years, we’ve settled into the reusable bag groove and hardly ever miss a beat these days. Nothing changed when San Jose banned the bag at the beginning of this year. Our remaining plastic bags come from the odd produce bag (we don’t always remember to bring our reusables, and some things like green beans and cherries can’t really go in the bag loose), my mom (who likes to give me food and thinks I am too skinny — yes, she’s Asian), and bags that food came in (bread, potato chips, frozen vegetables).

We definitely don’t have enough for me to use one every day to clean Brie’s litter, so I came up with another solution a while ago: origami kitty litter bags. Oh yeah. Green, meet the ancient art of paperfolding.

A few years ago, I was really into origami. I think my crowning achievement may have been the two headed crane (two heads plus a tail and wings, made from a single square piece of paper). It’s still hanging from the mirror on Kevin’s car. The fold that I use for cat litter bags is traditionally known as a cup fold. It will actually hold water if you use sturdy paper and chug. But even better, it’s quick and easy, reuses materials, and biodegrades (or would, if you use non-clay cat litters and our landfills let things biodegrade). I find it especially satisfying to fold up an annoying politician’s photo and use it for cat excrement.

This is just about the simplest origami fold I know, and one of the most useful. Observe.

Step 1: Take a full sheet of newspaper. The San Francisco Chronicle is very close to square, which makes things easier. Notice the original vertical fold. We’ll need it later.

Step 2: Fold in half along the diagonal. You’ll notice that the top and side corners are slightly offset because the paper isn’t perfectly square.

Step 3: Bring the right corner up. This step requires a little eye-balling, but you’re basically looking for the bottom of the right corner to be parallel with the original vertical fold of the newspaper.

Step 4: Turn it over and bring the left corner up. You can adjust if things aren’t lining up well at this point.

Step 5: Fold down just the top layer. Turn it over and fold down the other side.

Done! You should now have a pocket in which to deposit all the lovely leavings of your favorite feline. Attention: this fold stays together best if you pull it wide apart (the mouth should look square or diamond shaped) while putting things in it. That locks everything into place.

Once you know what you’re doing (and this is by no means rocket science), it takes 5-10 seconds to make one, as long as the cat doesn’t come over and sit on your newspaper. (I sometimes leave out a sheet of extra newspaper just so the cat can sit on it and leave me alone.) On Sunday, the only day on which we get a newspaper, I sit down, pull out my least favorite sections, and make a stack of kitty litter bags for the week to come. Even if you don’t get a newspaper regularly, you probably have a neighbor who does and would be happy to share.

You won’t save the planet doing this, but if your plastic bag drawer is empty, it’s a reasonably green solution. Dog owners, I apologize, but I’ve got nothing for you.

8 Delicious Uses for Ugly Fruit

Mutant bell pepper. Image credit: Moria

It’s no secret in the farming community that a lot of what they produce never sees the inside of a human digestive tract. Why? Because it’s ugly (or undersized, scarred, has a bruise, or is just on the wrong side of ripe).  As consumers, we want our produce to be both beautiful and tasty. And as organic peach farmer Nori Naylor points out, this attitude results in a lot of waste before we even leave the market. Even worse when consumers demand heirloom varieties and then refuse to buy them because they’re not as pretty!

I’d love to say that I slap on a blindfold and choose my peaches democratically, but the truth is that I’m that annoying person standing in front of the peaches who spends ten minutes looking for the perfect peach: round, beautifully blushed, fragrant, and practically glowing with its own inner light.

Food waste is a tremendous misuse of resources and how we choose our food — as well as whether we eat it once it comes home with us — makes a difference. Some of it is out of our hands (e.g. bird or insect-damaged fruit doesn’t meet safety standards), but some of it isn’t. Now that I think about it, most of what I love to do with fruit doesn’t require it to be beautiful. Here are some of my favorite ways to use ugly fruit. What about you?

(And the inevitable caveat: not all of these ideas are low energy, but they’re still more energy and water efficient than throwing it away. Probably.)

1. Salsa

This heirloom tomato kinda looks like an embryo. Image credit: ellenm1

Heirloom tomatoes are pretty gnarly looking compared to the perfectly uniform beefsteaks at the supermarket. Even if the shape doesn’t put you off, the splits might. Here’s a recipe from Jan at Slow Money Farm for salsa that’s awesome when you make it with ripe heirloom tomatoes (no matter how ugly).

about 1 lb of ripe tomatoes, chopped and seeded
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
4 oz green chilies, chopped (or another hot pepper)
1/3 c chopped red bell pepper
1/3 c chopped yellow bell pepper
1/2 c chopped green bell pepper
2 T red wine vinegar
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper (or to taste)
1/4 c chopped fresh cilantro
tortilla chips

Combine all, stirring thoroughly to mix. Can be done in a food processor and adjusted to be thinner / thicker as desired. Thanks, Jan!

2. Fruit leather

Paying .75 cents each for these highly plastic-wrapped bits of dried fruit is ridiculous.  When I was growing up (waaaay back when), we made fruit leather in big cookie-sheet-sized rectangles. We might not have saved any resources if we individually wrapped them for later — but that issue never came up. We ate it all right then and there. Here’s a basic fruit leather recipe. I remember that the stuff with raspberries and apples was especially good.

3. Applesauce (or other fruit sauces). 

Mottled organic apples. Image credit: Gudlyf

Here’s how I make applesauce. (I’m an imprecise cook. Sorry.)

  • Peel apples, cut roughly into fourths around the core.
  • Put as many as I have (at least 6) or will fit in my big 4 quart pot.
  • Add a little water to the bottom of the pot (dunno, 1/2 cup?)
  • Add a TB or two of sugar and a hefty dash of cinnamon
  • Simmer for about 30 minutes on medium with the lid on
  • Mash, and adjust sugar if necessary.

Need more precise directions? Here’s a basic applesauce recipe. I have it on the authority of a local heirloom apple grower that mixing apple varieties produces a richer, more complex apple flavor. (Read: whatever’s left in the produce drawer.) Applesauce can substitute for oil in some baked goods if you’re watching your weight; just store in the freezer.

4. Fruit crisp

Can’t use up those peaches in time? Image credit: orchidgalore

I make a kicky, zippy plum crisp every year when we’re inundated with plums from my mother’s tree. However, most stone fruits (and berries) make great crisps. Peach and strawberry, blackberry and apple…there are lots of possibilities here. You almost don’t need a recipe to make crisp, but I particularly like this one (I omit the bottom crust, which makes it both easier and healthier.)

5. Jams / conserves / jellies

I haven’t gotten into home canning yet. That’s why this section is blank. I’ve been told it’s fun.

6. Smoothies

Another obvious one. I tend to put in whatever fruit that needs using up with a splash of orange juice, sometimes some frozen fruit to round things out. It always ends up tasting fine. Then again, I avoid putting in vegetables. I can’t bring myself to drink anything dark green. (My lukewarm attitude towards kale and wheatgrass: yet another way in which I fail as a greenie.)

7. Fruity ice cream / sorbet

Imperfect plums. Image credit: bangli 1

My mother recently gave me a secondhand Donvier ice cream maker that had sat in her cupboard, unloved, for many years. Iffy as I was about yet another single-function kitchen gadget, I tried it and fell in love. Regular ice cream is too heavy and too sweet for me, but I’ve been mixing up tangy fruit ice creams using perfectly ripe summer fruit.  Slightly overripe or blemished would be fine as well. This recipe, for plum ice cream, is delightful (and easy!) and is a great base recipe to try other fruit ice creams.  (Go easy on the sugar if you’re using a really sweet fruit, like peaches — 1/2 cup is plenty.) Next up: coconut milk based ice creams.

8. Avert eyes. Proceed as usual.

I think my point is that very little of what we do with food requires it to be beautiful. I mean, it’s just going to end up being macerated, mixed with stomach acids and pancreatic juices, and dripped down as a whitish homogenized substance to our small intestines. (Just took a test on the digestive system and am full of details you don’t want to hear.)

Here’s my challenge to self: if I pick up a piece of fruit with a mild bruise or scar this week, I’m still going to get it as long as it passes the sniff test. If I don’t die, I’ll keep doing it.

What would you add to this list? Do you eat ugly fruit?

Finally, check out this ringspot virus infected watermelon. It’s perfectly safe to eat, but it takes the cake for bizarre looks.

Is DIY Really Greener?

Home canning: a high energy proposition?

I was whipping up a batch of homemade mayo last week (and by whipping, I mean letting the blender do its thing while listening for the choonk-choonk-choonk sound of successful emulsion) when I started to wonder: is my homemade mayo a better use of resources if I end up throwing half of it away because it goes bad (due to the unpasteurized raw egg)? Is it a better use of resources if I get salmonella poisoning and have to go to the doctor? Is DIY always the greener way to go?

And the answer, as it is for so many things, seems to be that it depends.

Here’s one case that deals with the energy efficiency of canned vs. dry beans. Up until you get them home, the dry beans are a clear winner. They’re lighter, so they take less fuel to transport; they don’t involve nearly as much packaging (especially if you get them in bulk); you save the considerable energy that goes into the canning process. They’re certainly cheaper, which might make a difference in the type of job you have to support your lifestyle. But once you start the long simmer that it takes to cook beans from dry — at least if you have an electric stovetop — things take an unexpected turn. From the Slate article: “cooking those beans on the stovetop would take up to 11 times as much energy as at a commercial facility.” Yow!

These types of calculations get really dicey because of all the different factors that come into play: where you get your energy (renewable / fossil fuel), whether you have an electric or gas stovetop, whether you use a pressure cooker, whether beans are replacing a significant portion of your meat consumption, how locally your beans are grown…

Regardless, sharing resources does tend to reduce our individual impact, whether we’re talking about public transportation or electricity. David Owen of The Conundrum points out that New York City dwellers have a lower per capita impact than Portland residents due to dense urban living that makes individual yards, large living spaces, and personal cars difficult. Living alone is significantly more resource intensive than living with a partner. (Sorry, fellow misanthropes.) I expect that a commercial bakery producing many loaves of bread each day has a lower per-loaf energy impact than my small scale bread baking.

So although DIY is often equated with being greener, is it? That’s a hard question to answer. I like the mentality, and I like knowing how things are made and how to make them. I’d also argue that DIY has a number of real but difficult to measure benefits like:

  • Greater sense of connection with planet / community / food. Don’t know about you, but I find bread baking downright therapeutic.
  • Reducing the amount of time we spend on more ecologically destructive pursuits
  • Shift towards a less consumerist society

Even if we could do the math, it’s probably an insignificant difference in impact, given the context of the rest of our lives as developed world citizens. Other decisions make a much bigger difference. So why bother sweating the small stuff at all?

For me, this stuff is worth thinking about because it gets me to question something that I’ve come to think of as the environmental litany. This is a collection of simple, absolute, often-repeated, binary rules ‘to be green’ that more or less excuse us from having to think critically about our decisions and consider them on a case-by-case level.

I really, really don’t like the environmental litany. For one thing, I hate being told what to think. I resent it when complex problems are made to appear simple or hard things are made to appear easy, even if it makes sense from a marketing perspective. (I’m terrible at marketing.) I have a huge problem with binary thinking and ideology. And I suspect that this kind of litany can actually cause us to make choices that are at cross purposes with what we want to be working for. If some organic-OK’d pesticides are less effective (resulting in lower yields for the same amount of land and water) and have greater negative effects on natural enemy species, are they still more sustainable than conventional ones? As a vegetarian and an animal person, it has been a long, hard slog through EPA reports and scientific studies full of animals that were ‘sacrificed at the end of the study’ (or worse, one lab macaque that sticks out in my head was ‘euthanized’ due to repetitive self-destructive behavior) to realize that calling for better chemical safety testing [still] usually means more animal testing. I still don’t know where I stand on that one. Learn enough about any issue, and it will no longer seem simple or straightforward.

If something is worth knowing about, it’s probably worth knowing enough about to say, “It depends.” Worth it, but definitely not easy.

What kinds of environmental litany have you started to question? How green are your DIY hobbies?

Incidentally, I may be quiet on the blog through July. I enrolled in a college biology class with the idea of maybe going back to school for a BS, and my head is stuffed so full of new and half-remembered vocabulary and ideas that there may not be much room left for blogging until it’s over. This might also be the summer that I finally set up an Etsy shop for my pottery. We’ll see.

Photo credit: thebittenword.com

All Natural Homemade Facial Cleanser

A few weeks ago, I came across an intriguingly simple recipe from Lily Organics for a homemade facial cleanser. The main components: baking soda, almond oil, and honey.

It all seemed waaaaay too easy (and cheap) to be true. I’ve tried a dizzying array of natural (and unnatural) facial cleansers. My oily, hypersensitive, acne-prone skin does relatively well with Blissoma, but is still far from perfect. Everything else — from the castille soap based cleansers to oil-based cleansing lotions — has been disastrous.

Still, I like experimenting on myself, so after reading up on other people’s experiments (see Crunchy Betty’s post) and making inquiries on Twitter (contradictory answers from various people), I gave it a go. Of course I couldn’t resist the urge to fiddle with the recipe. It’s come down to two basic ingredients, baking soda ($1 a box) and jojoba oil ($6 for 4 oz at Trader Joe’s). Instead of straight jojoba, I use my homemade facial moisturizer, which is just jojoba oil and a few essential oils (lavender, rosewood, lemon) so I can incorporate lower concentrations of essential oil. My skin is oily, so I don’t always use the honey, but if you have normal or dry skin, it’s probably a good addition. You can also try different oils, since jojoba is one of the lightest.

It’s been over a week, and my skin seems quite happy with the concoction. (This is surprising, since my skin always reacts to new anything, generally badly.) After I wash it, it’s clean and neither dry nor oily. I’ve heard that baking soda is slightly basic and human skin is slightly acidic, so I have no idea why this is working. Maybe the jojoba oil balances things out, or the baking soda is pretty mild to begin with.

Here’s what you need to mix up your own homemade facial cleanser:Spice Jar

  • An empty, clean spice jar with a sifter lid.
  • A box of pure baking soda
  • Jojoba oil
  • A glass bottle with a dropper lid
  • Skin safe pure essential oils
  • Local, unadulterated honey (optional)
  1. Fill the spice jar with baking soda. (Prevents caking in a moist environment like the bathroom, and keeps you from accidentally dumping out half the box into your hand.)
  2. Mix the jojoba oil with a few drops of essential oil  (see the post on homemade facial moisturizer for more detail) in the glass bottle.
  3. When ready to use, shake the spice jar once into your hand, mix the baking soda with 3-5 drops of the jojoba oil mixture, and a small dollop of honey (optional). Spread on to damp skin and massage gently. It will probably tingle a little. Rinse off with warm water, pat dry, and proceed with your regular routine. You may or may not need more moisturizer, depending on your skin.
And that’s how you can clean your face for under $15 a year. Crazy. I especially like using it at night to remove makeup and grime; in the morning, I continue to use my super gentle Blissoma cleanser.
What do you think about mixing up your own beauty treatments? Would you try baking soda on your face?

Easy DIY: homemade lip balm & giveaway

I’m a self-confessed lip balm junkie, so what business I have making the stuff when I have more than I can use already, I don’t know. Excess isn’t green. But I figure that my predilection for lotions and potions is a fairly minor eco-sin in the greater scheme of things, and it’s good to know how to make the things I use.

If you look through a bunch of lip balm recipes, you might be a little intimidated by the apparent precision necessary. Don’t be. It’s not an exact science, and it’s hard to go seriously wrong. Lisa at Style Essentials was kind enough to send her [ridiculously simple] lavender lip balm recipe my way. It called for just three ingredients: olive oil, beeswax, and essential oil. (No preservatives are necessary, though you can add a drop or two of vitamin E if you’re concerned.)

Of course I improvised, keeping the basic ratio (2 parts solid to 4 parts oil) the same. I ended up using approximately 1 part plant butter to 1 part beeswax to 2 parts oil, and I’m quite happy with the consistency (smooth, not too soft, but reasonably melty). You can probably use any good quality, skin safe oil (safflower, jojoba, avocado, almond, etc.) and plant butter (shea, cocoa, mango) combination and achieve decent results. The honey seller at the farmers’ market sells beeswax for $1 for a one ounce stick, making this a pretty inexpensive DIY project. A food scale would probably be helpful, but I managed without one.

For containers, I cleaned and reused small plastic sample jars and metal tins I had lying around. Do not boil (even briefly!) the clear ones that mineral makeup samples come in  — the lids will warp. Yes, I found this out the hard way.

These are the exact formulas I tried this time. Endless variations with different butters, oils, and scents are possible. Have fun!

Beeswax takes the longest to melt. Be patient!

Lip Balm Recipe #1: Creamsicle
2 TB meadowfoam oil
1/8 oz beeswax (not having a food scale, I cut up a 1 oz bar into eighths)
1/8 oz mango butter (crumbly, so it came to about 1 loosely packed teaspoon)
5 drops organic orange (or tangerine or mandarin) essential oil
3 drops vanilla absolute

Place oil, beeswax, and butter in a double boiler over simmering water. Stir until completely melted. Turn off heat, allow mixture to cool slightly (5 minutes or so? just to decrease evaporation of the essential oils), and stir in essential oils. The vanilla absolute will have to be whisked in fairly briskly because it is not oil soluble. Use a plastic dropper or spoon to put the melted solution into desired containers. Let cool before capping. Yields about 4 small 1″ diameter jars.

Notes: the meadowfoam oil feels quite slippery. Consistency is slightly softer than recipe #2.

Lip Balm Recipe #2: Lavender Vanilla
1 TB sweet almond oil
1 TB kukui nut oil
1/8 oz beeswax
1/8 oz mango butter
6 drops organic lavender essential oil
2 drops vanilla absolute

Same instructions as above. I’m not as happy with the lavender/vanilla scent combo and am not sure I would try it again (lavender mint might be more interesting). The kukui nut oil has a slight but noticeable scent.

Giveaway time!

You know how lip balm takes a long time to use up? Even though these were pretty small batches, it would take me a long time to use this much lip balm on my own, so I’d like to offer creamsicle lip balms to two of my subscribers. (If you really want a lavender one, you can choose that one instead.) Sorry, but due to the beeswax, they are not vegan.

How to enter: be an RSS or email subscriber and leave me a comment telling me how you subscribe. That’s it. Dead easy.

The giveaway ends next Friday, June 3rd, or thereabouts. Winners will be chosen randomly.

DIY Thursday: Homemade Facial Moisturizer

It’s been a while since I did a purely practical post, so I thought I would introduce you to my latest DIY project: homemade facial (or body, if you like) moisturizer. It has no synthetic chemicals or preservatives, can be customized to your preferences, works out to be very inexpensive, absorbs nicely, and seems to work with most skin types — even mine, which breaks out if you so much as look at it the wrong way.

I was originally leery about putting oil on my already oily skin, but having tried several facial oils, including My Skin and Bones and By Nieves, I’ve found that they work a lot better than all the anti-oil products I tried for years. This is the poor man’s version. (If you do have the money, I totally recommend the two I already mentioned.) 

Here’s what you need:

  • Jojoba oil. Trader Joe’s $7 for 4 oz, slightly more for organic at Whole Foods. Jojoba is a shelf-stable liquid wax that resembles human sebum (the oil produced by our skin). It absorbs quickly and does not clog pores.
  • A dark glass bottle (any size between 15ml and 50ml) with a dropper lid or pump.
  • Skin-safe essential oils such as lavender  (anti-bacterial, mild astringent), chamomile (calming, de-puffing), geranium (balancing), rose (moisturizing). Different essential oils are supposed to be good for different things. If you don’t want to bother looking into it, just pick one or two of your favorites.  Be cautious with the citrus oils, which are mildly phototoxic, and don’t go near the ‘fragrance’ oils, which may not be skin safe and can contain all sorts of synthetic chemicals.

If you’re re-using the glass bottle, sterilize it, the lid, and the dropper in boiling water for several minutes. After everything has dried and cooled, add about 1 drop essential oil for every 3-4 ml that your bottle holds, e.g. no more than 5 drops of essential oil for a 15ml bottle.  If you have very sensitive skin or are trying a new essential oil, add less. You can customize it to your favorite essential oil or create your own special blend. Fill up the rest of the bottle with jojoba and shake. Allow it to sit for a few hours.

When you’re ready to use your new moisturizer, massage 2-3 drops on damp, clean skin. It will absorb quickly with little or no greasiness. I prefer to make small batches to keep any chance of contamination down, but since there is no water in this moisturizer, it’s unlikely to spoil and doesn’t need a preservative. Microbes love water, not oil.

Total investment for about a year’s supply: about $15-$20, depending on the essential oils you use. Sounds good to me. My next DIY project is going to be a thick body butter for my dried out potter’s hands. What are your favorite DIY skin and body products?

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