Homemade relief for your dry hands? Yes, please!

Lotion bars made by EPL staff member JoAnna

Hands getting dry after all the hand washing?  My horribly dry, painful hands got me thinking about what I could do to heal them, since regular old lotion isn’t cutting it. Then I remembered my coworker JoAnna had made a lot of lotion bars, which are very moisturizing, and it turns out she’s tested the following tutorial.

You’ve probably heard by now about our newest arts and crafts resource, Creativebug. I have looked at it quite happily for quick and easy art projects, but hadn’t thought to look for tutorials on making soaps, lotions, and other skincare and natural home products. But they do indeed have such classes. If you are looking for some relief for your hands, check out this quick and simple DIY Lotion Bar tutorial.

Tips from JoAnna:

* You can substitute coconut oil for one of the butters.
* If you do not have a double boiler, you can make it in a small crockpot or in the microwave. Be sure to use a glass bowl in the microwave as the beeswax takes a long time to melt and the bowl will get very hot.
* Melt the beeswax first, once melted you can add the other butters to mix.
* You can add vitamin E to help with skin repair; break 1-2 capsules into the mix.
* If you do not have any molds on hand, you can use silicone cupcake holders.
* Put completed bars in a tin or plastic bag to store so they don’t get messy.
* Beware, in warm temperature they can melt.
* To use, hold in your cupped hands. The warmth of your hands will soften the wax.
* The ingredients can be ordered and delivered from hobby and craft stores, or soap making supply companies.


Besides Creativebug (which really has tons of great classes) we have eBooks about making your own bath, skin care, and cleaning products.

The Organic Country Home Handbook by Natalie Wise, includes recipes for cleaning all areas of the home, from kitchen to bath, and everywhere in between. If you are so inclined you can find everything you need here to do some spring cleaning! There is also a chapter, “The Medicine Cabinet” that features homemade skin care products.

DIY Beauty: Easy, All-Natural Recipes Based on Your Favorites from Lush, Kiehl’s, Burt’s Bees, Bumble and bumble, Laura Mercier, and More!
by Ina De Clercq
From lip balm to bath bombs, these recipes attempt to recreate best-loved products from popular beauty product companies.

Homemade Bath Bombs & More: Soothing Spa Treatments for Luxurious Self-Care and Bath-Time Bliss by Heidi Kundin
This book focuses on bath bombs and other fun and luxurious bath products such as sugar scrubs, body butter, and bath jellies. Bath jellies? I will have to look that one up!

Natural Beauty: 35 Step-by-Step Projects for Homemade Beauty by Karen Gilbert
These ‘lotion and potion’ recipes for face, body, and hair, use readily available, natural ingredients and easy-to-follow methods.


I hope Creativebug classes and our crafty eBooks inspire you to try your hand at making healthy, simple home and beauty products! And may your hands be in much better shape than mine.

The Art of Making Soap

Anne-Marie Faiola is the owner of Bramble Berry, a soap supplies store in Bellingham, Washington. This is the third soap book that Faiola has written. Her first, Soap Crafting, is a useful resource. It is for all skill levels, and has 31 recipes covering all different special effects, colors, additives and molds. Her second book, Pure Soapmaking, focuses on making natural soaps. She includes 32 recipes that have all natural ingredients, colorants, and scents.

Faiola’s latest book, Milk Soaps, is all about adding milk to your soaps. There are 35 recipes in this book, and they range from beginner to advanced levels; the levels are determined by their techniques. The recipes include the type of molds and special tools that were used, and list the oils, amount of lye water, fragrance oil, colorants, and additives used.

Why do you want to add milk to your soaps? Most soaps are made with water, and Anne-Marie equates adding milk to soap to making hot chocolate. Do you notice a difference when you add milk versus water to your chocolate? Milk soap creates a rich lather and is creamier than soap made with water. The natural oils and acids in the milk add more moisturizing qualities to your soap.You’ll learn the different milks that can be used and the soap making process.

If you are just beginning to make soap the cold process way, using lye, you should watch a video on soap making and how to use lye, such as this one on Creativebug. Bramble Berry has some good videos too.

Faiola suggests that if you have never made soap before, to start off with a basic recipe so you can get an understanding of the process. Adding milk does complicate the process a little. What I did when I first got into soap making last year was buy a beginner’s kit from Bramble Berry. They have 2 kits, one that includes a scale, goggles and a mold, and another kit that just has the ingredients in it. I have made the basic cold-process recipe in the Milk Soaps book but I put bubble wrap inside my mold.

Bubble wrap basic soap

With each recipe you can change the mold, the essential oils, colorants and additives. You can use any kind of milk with each recipe. This way you can be making your own soap. I would not change the lye mixture and oil amount. If you change the oil this is where the SAP value of the oils comes into play. SAP value is a quick way of saying the ‘saponification’ value – when lye and oil are mixed the process of the mixture becoming soap is called saponification. Faiola discusses properties of different oils, along with their SAP value, which you will need to know if you are designing your own recipes, and adding color and scent and exfoliants to your soap.

I have made a few recipes in the book so far and they have all turned out great, and as you will see, I changed the mold, essential oils and colorants in my soaps compared to what is in the book.

I made the In-the-Pot Swirl Buttermilk Castile soap. Instead of lavender and peppermint essential oil blend I used Raspberry Jam. And the olive oil I used was the extra virgin oil which I had in my cupboard. This caused the soaps to be darker. I did find that making a soap of pure oil takes a long time to come to trace. I had to put my blender down a few times because it felt like it was burning in my hand. This was the first recipe I made out of the book and it is a beginner recipe.

In-the-Pot Swirl Buttermilk Castile soap

Another recipe I made was the Dead Sea-Salt Brine Bar. As you will see I changed out my mold to a citrus mold, changed my oils to a grapefruit fragrance oil, and my colorant was changed to an orange color to represent the grapefruit. The directions said the recipe would move fast and it did. You have to be quick to get it in the mold. These bars don’t take long to set up at all. This was an intermediate recipe.

Dead Sea-Salt Brine Bar

Another recipe I tried making was the Hangered Drop Swirls recipe which is another intermediate recipe. In this recipe I changed my milk to coconut milk, changed my fragrance to Lemongrass and tea tree oil, and changed my colorant to green and activated charcoal. I made this one for my nephews and felt the lemongrass would be a little more masculine. This is a very nice soap but takes a while to get the swirling down.

Hangered Drop Swirls soap

If you are a soap maker and have your own favorite recipe, you could certainly use that and change out some of the water for a milk product. You can use this book for ideas on techniques.

As Faiola says, “Handmade is bestmade”.

Give cold-process soap making a try, you will find it rewarding and addicting. Making your own soap allows you to control the ingredients, and it makes washing up more fun I think.

How to Make a Face Mask

Masks made by EPL staff for mailing to family and sharing locally.
The City of Everett is accepting mask/face covering donations. Instructions can be found here.

The CDC is now recommending that everyone wear a face covering when going out in public places to help control the spread of the coronavirus that caused COVID-19.  

“CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies), especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.”

From “Use of Cloth Face Coverings to Help Slow the Spread of COVID-19” This article contains three designs; two are no-sew.


As you’ve probably heard, masks for medical professionals are in very short supply. In response, many people were sewing hundreds of thousands of masks for hospitals through Providence’s “100 Million Mask Challenge.” According to that website, no more are needed because local manufacturing companies have now jumped in to help and are mass producing masks and shields – great news indeed!

We can keep from spreading the disease to others by wearing a mask, and possibly make ourselves safer at the same time, but finding one can be very difficult. Since medical masks should be reserved for medical professionals, we are being encouraged to make our own – hence, the mask making craze that’s sweeping the nation.

Before jumping in to the video tutorials, here a some suggestions I have read multiple times:

  1. Use tightly woven cotton fabric, such as quilting cotton. Tip: Hold two layers up to the light to see how dense it is.
  2. Make sure the fit on your mask is good – gaps are to be avoided.
  3. Make sure to follow good hygiene with your mask. This article “How NOT to Wear a Mask” from the New York Times is full of good information.

There are many, many tutorials out there on making masks, and there are several styles as well. Some incorporate a pocket for a filter, some do not. Some patterns are form fitting, some pleated, some gathered. Many require a sewing machine, but there are plenty of no-sew versions as well.

Speaking of sewing, check out the Creativebug Sewing Machine Basics class. There are many other sewing classes to discover in that fun, new-to-EPL resource, so check it out.

I spent some time looking at different tutorials and found these to be easy to follow. They range from very easy with no sewing involved, to requiring a bit of machine sewing familiarity.

A simple pleated mask from Providence St. Joseph

This pattern, suitable for beginners, uses straight lines and ties. The most difficult part is probably sewing through the thick pleated sections.

A fitted mask that has space for a filter

This pattern, similar to the style I made, conforms to the face nicely with little gapping. The presenter, who happens to be a doctor, explains the process clearly. It is intended to be safe enough for medical professionals.This pattern requires a bit of sewing experience, but isn’t really difficult.


A simple but effective drawstring pattern that uses cord instead of elastic

This is a well thought out design and provides great coverage. It has no pleats to deal with and only uses straight lines. It features a filter pocket and a wire to conform around the nose.
I made one of these and it is comfortable and very easy to make. You have to be careful how you put it on so that there is no gapping – check out the Q&A video she made here. If you follow the directions for putting it on, it fits very nicely.



Besides sewn fabric masks, there are face coverings you can made from socks, bandanas or t-shirts, shop towels, and NWPP reusable shopping bags.

A quick and easy mask made from shop towels

If you have a roll of paper shop towels around, you may want to try this out. All you need is one towel, a stapler, and two rubber bands.


My mask

I wanted to make a mask to wear when visiting my 95 year old mother, so started with a free pattern from Peanut Patterns. After making one, I decided I wanted more coverage below the chin, so added about 1.5″ to the length. Here is the process I used in images. If you like the looks of this one, follow the link to get the free pattern and directions. I will admit I messed up and had to fix my first one, so consider making a test one first with a fabric you don’t love. I find this mask fits well and is sturdy, easy to wash, and quick to dry, and it fits in a small pocket in my purse for when I head over to help my mom.

1. Copy pattern onto card stock if you want to make several – it’s quick to trace. Then double fabric and cut out two of these shapes, resulting in four pieces. 2. Stack two pieces right sides together and sew the long, most curved edge at the top of the photo. Use 3/8″ seam allowance. Do this to both sets. 3. Press the seam apart (I found it easier to press them back as shown. 4. Open the two sets and place right sides together, making sure you have the curves matching (It would be easy to turn them opposite ways) 5. Sew along the top edge. 6. Turn right side out and press. 7. Open out and press 3/8″ seam along sides, fold over and press again. 8. Attach elastic at the same time that you sew down the seam pressed in step 7. (I used looped hair ties) 9. Close up photo of attached elastic. 10. Fold mask closed and top stitch top edge 1/8″ from edge. 11. Turn inside out and sew bottom edge. 12. Turn right side out through open ends. 13. Sew ends closed and top stitch bottom edge. Done!

If you make a mask or two, remember to wear them wisely, as described in this article, wash after use, and definitely keep washing your hands! Use what you have at home for mask making instead of leaving home to find materials. If you enjoy it and want to make more to donate, visit this City web page and follow the specific instructions on how to properly and safely donate masks. Stay home, and stay safe.


Keep your hands active and your mind engaged with Creativebug

Following the state’s Stay Healthy, Stay Home order is causing many of us to be a little stir-crazy right now. The library is here to help! You now have free unlimited access to over 1,000 online video arts and craft classes with the Creativebug database in our E-Resources page. Create an account with your email and a password and you’re ready to go.

Improve your skills in your favorite craft or discover something new. Ceramics, painting, sewing, quilting, paper crafting, knitting, crochet, baking, cake decorating, and jewelry making are only some of the categories offered.

Learn how to make sparkly slime with your kids, knit a custom-fit dog sweater, get your doodle on, bake peanut butter and jelly cups, or make your own bath bombs. You can spend hours just looking at all that’s available.

For knitters and crocheters there is a pattern library of free downloadable knit and crochet patterns. Crochet a sloth or knit zig-zag knee socks.

Be sure to explore the Creativebug Inspiration Feed. Browse photos of finished projects posted by crafters like you. Follow the Creativebug Instagram feed and their Facebook page for even more ideas. Watch CBTV (Creativebug Television) to meet the instructors, view documentaries and an archive of their Live Facebook videos.

New classes are added daily, so be sure to check back often!

The Manly Arts

So what actions make a man a man? As a member of that gender, well into my 40s, I can tell you one thing: I haven’t got a clue. Of course, I am probably not the guy you want to ask. In my youth I can remember imploring my father to let me wear my Darth Vader helmet to the Brewers game to avoid damage from foul balls. John Wayne I am not.

Others, however, are more confident in their definitions. So much so that they have not only compiled lists of manly actions, but they even tell you the correct way to perform them.

If you want your masculinity defined in a mist of generational nostalgia, then How to Build a Fire and Other Handy Things Your Grandfather Knew by Erin Bried is the book for you. The traditional activities are all here (How to Mow a Lawn, How to Hang Drywall) but the book also veers off into Oprah territory. How to Kindle Romance, “Set the mood according to your sweetie’s taste,” and How to Find Self-Confidence, “Be your own best friend,” sound decidedly ungrandfatherly to my ear.

More straightforward and practical, appropriate for a book put out by Popular Mechanics, is How to Carve a Turkey and 99 Other Skills Every Man Should Know by Chris Peterson. Each task has clear instructions and handy illustrations to guide you through it. Examples include: Splint a Broken Bone, Escape a Burning Building, Kick Start a Motorcycle, and Navigate with a Map and Compass. In a nod to the changing nature of masculine tasks, there is a section on electronics and computers including How to Destroy Your Old Hard Drive.

The best of the bunch though is How to Land an A330 Airbus and Other Vital Skills for the Modern Man by James May.  Mr. May realizes that the whole concept is rather absurd and to prove his point, trots out nine skills that you must master in order to be a man. In addition to being able to fly a commercial airliner in an emergency these skills include:  How to Fight a Duel, How to Invade and Occupy the Isle of Wright and How to Play the First Movement of Beethoven’s Piano Sonata in C-Sharp Minor, Opus 27, No. 2 with No Previous Experience. The warning sticker on the cover tells you exactly what to expect from the advice in this book: Clear, Concise, Untested, Optimistic.

So after all three books I’m still a bit fuzzy on what actions define a man. I have learned, however, that cheap plastic does little to impede the force of a baseball hit by a professional athlete.

Richard