Thursday, 23 October 2014

Create Your Dream Home on a Budget: I'm co-hosting a webinar and I want you to come


On Thursday, 30th of November at 8pm GMT, I will be joining the very lovely Sarah Akwisombe for a special FREE webinar to Create Your Dream Home on a Budget.

And I'm rather excited, let me tell you. Not least of all because Sarah is a very cool stylist and has damn good taste but also, because this is the first time I've really done anything like this.

Oh yes, not only is it a chance to get some top tips, but it's also a chance to see and hear my mouth move and make words with my face that come out of said mouth. Should be rather exciting, no?

What will you learn? Well, we'll be discussing:
  • How to find statement pieces that look expensive (but really aren't)
  • Where to hunt down bargains in places that your friends don't know about
  • Basic DIY tricks to make or fake pieces that are out of your budget
  • How to combine styles and finishes to create a luxe look
And here's a snazzy video that Sarah created telling you all about it. As you can see, she's a natural in front of the camera (and this fact does not make me nervous AT ALL.)

Want to join us? Of course you do. Sign up here for your place.

Don't miss a thing!

Monday, 20 October 2014

How to Make Soy Wax Candles with Essential Oils

It turns out it's Autumn, folks. Yes, it's time for clocks to go back, for the daylight to shorten, time to pull on our heavier coats and break out the thick socks and jumpers. As much as I'm much more a fan of summer and warm balmy weather, there is one thing I really love about the season. I can light candles. In the height of summer, it doesn't get dark here until nearly 10:30pm but once Autumn comes, the days shorten and soon, I'm lighting them as soon as I'm home from work. As you can imagine, we get through a lot of candles during Autumn and Winter.

Now, you may know that every once in a while I like to mess around a bit with making my own STUFF. I've made my own soap, beauty products and most recently, a fragrance diffuser. Well, I decided to try my hand at making my own soy wax candles, fragranced with essential oils.

Dudes. Let me tell you something.



There is something rather therapeutic about making your own products. And while there are few different ways to make candles (all following roughly the same idea), I like to take my time and engross myself in it, consider carefully the essential oil combinations I'm going to use, give myself a good few hours to mess around in the kitchen and really enjoy the fruits of my labour.

This one is Geranium and Lemongrass - the smell is divine, a lovely combination of floral and citrus.

The two gold ones are Rosemary and Peppermint. An earthy herbal scent with a little bit of zing in the top notes.

And finally, the last one is a truly Autumn scent - Cinnamon and Orange.

I love the glow when they are collected together but you want to make sure your fragrances mix well when you do this. They do emit a nice light scent but if you want a much stronger scent, then I would increase the volume of essential oils you use.

So the first thing I did was a little research and purchased a few things that I knew I would need for this project.

Here's what you're going to need:

Containers: You can really use anything vaguely candle holder shaped in glass or ceramic - I used 2 gold spray-painted glass tumblers (in fact, that's a DIY as well, found here), a small bowl from Anthropologie and a taller green glass candle holder I've had for a while. I've seen a lot of people use vintage teacups too which is also a rather nice look.

Soy wax flakes: You can use paraffin wax for this as well but soy wax supposedly burns cleaner and longer and I like pure white candles which soy wax will give you instead of the creamy colour of paraffin. The other benefit is clean up - soy wax cleans pretty easily. I've used beeswax for other things (lip balm) and it is a total bitch to clean so while I don't have experience of using paraffin, it may be similar in that sense. So soy wax works really well because candles can be pretty messy business.

Essential oils:  Now, there are fragrances you can buy specifically for candle making. Apparently, they will give a stronger fragrance in soy wax than essential oils will. However, I do like using essential oils as they are organic and I feel better about having natural oils burning rather than some synthetic chemical smell. But that's just me, again the choice is yours. (I prefer Tisserand as a brand if you are looking for a recommendation - the scents are really potent, organic and in certain cases, ethically harvested.)

Candle wicks:  I purchased a set of candle wicks that come with the small metal bit on the bottom to make them easier to attach to the bottom of your candle. Do you need to have these? Not necessarily, it just makes your candle a little more professional. If you don't want to spend the money on wicks with the attached metal bottom, you can just tie a knot on the bottom and set it like that. Again, up to you.

Glue dots: I had mixed success with gluing my wicks to the bottom. I do know that using a hot glue gun doesn't work because the hot wax will just heat up the glue rendering it useless. The glue dots seemed to work well in the more shallow containers but not so great in the taller ones. They aren't expensive so I suppose it's worth a try if you are using something like teacups but perhaps not if you want to make something much larger.

Ok, now that you have all your supplies, here's how it's done...

First attach your glue dot to the underside of the metal bit of your wick. I found it easiest to attach it here first and then just stick it down to the middle of the container, pressing it down with my finger (rather than attaching the glue to the bottom of the container first).  Once you have all your wicks attached, you just want to straighten the wicks so they stand straight and tall and upright. The location of your wick is important to ensure the candle burns evenly.

Now, you want to measure out your wax flakes. The formula is very simple. Fill your container with the wax flakes to about an inch or so from the top of the container, dump it into your glass bowl and then do it again. The solid wax reduces to approximately half the volume once it's melted. So to find out how much solid wax you'll need, simply fill the container and then double it.

I used a bain marie to melt my wax down. Now, there are tutorials online that tell you that you can melt it in a microwave. And yes, you can. But how your candle burns once it's solid again is related very much to the temperature it is when you pour it into the container. And I don't like the idea of not being able to control the temperature or 'boiling' the wax by accident in the microwave. Besides, making products like this is therapeutic to me... so watching the flakes slowly turn to liquid as you move it around in the bowl is rather nice. Maybe that's just me but it feels a bit more 'pure' (is that the right word?) to melt it like that. Again, your choice.

The wax doesn't take too long to reduce to fully reduce to liquid. Once all the wax is melted, remove the bowl from the bain marie (use oven gloves, the glass gets hot! Safety first, people.) and set it down to cool for a couple of minutes.

Once it's cooled a bit (but still in it's liquid state), you can add your essential oils.  The reason you don't want to add them to the melted wax immediately is that the high heat will reduce the scent of your oils so letting the temperature drop slightly will ensure your candles smell lovely when they burn. I used about 50 drops for the smaller bowl container and 100 drops for the larger ones. The combinations I chose were: geranium and lemongrass (50% each pink bowl), cinnamon orange (green container) and rosemary and peppermint (60% rosemary to 40% peppermint) in the 2 gold ones. Again, they give off a lovely light scent but if you really want something more powerful, simply increase the amount of essential oils you use.

Mix the essential oils well into the melted wax and then carefully pour into your container.

The wick stayed nice and upright in the shallow bowl but not as well in the taller containers so I used a couple of fragrance diffuser reeds to hold them in place because I had those to hand but you can use a pencil or a chopstick or whatever you need. It's just to balance the wick while the wax dries.

Give the candles 24 hours to fully set and then you can light and enjoy them. And THAT'S IT.

I am going to make a few this year for Christmas gifts! Is this a DIY you would try? I'd love to know if you've made your own as well and what fragrance combinations are your favourites so please do weigh in if this is something you've done yourself!

Don't miss a thing!

Friday, 17 October 2014

Shop in the Spotlight: Autumn Living Room at George at Asda

Well, I think I'm going to regain my little tiara for "pretty on the cheap" today because you can't get better bargain buys for the home than this. I have to say, I have been more and more impressed with George at Asda over the last couple of years. Their items have become more on trend, more stylish and always super affordable.

So when they asked if I would be happy to put together a little Autumn living room post, I knew it would be a breeze. In fact, I had a hard time narrowing my choices. In the end, I decided to stick to a fairly neutral base, perfectly warm and textural for Autumn, with some fun bold cushions and metallics in the mix to keep things interesting.

While you might not want to change out all of your decor every season (I mean, that get's pretty expensive), a change in a few accessories is always nice to warm things up after the brights and pastels of the summer. So incorporating some faux fur and heavier, darker pieces that aren't going to break the budget are a great way to do this.

Keeping it a bit eclectic, I quite love that Phrenology head (I've wanted one for ages) and pairing it with an unexpectedly glamorous gold metal tray could be fun - with both priced under £20, you really can't go far wrong. And I don't quite know what it is about the Horse ornament - it could go a little old fashioned in the wrong hands but if you mix it with the right environment, I reckon it'd be a very cool touch of masculinity in a space. Grounding everything with a dark graphite sofa with tufting (for under £500!), there's no reason why you can't have a cool space even if you are on a tight budget.

Any favourites of what I've chosen? Have you shopped George lately? Are you as surprised as I am at the cool mix of items available? Do you make any changes to your decor when the weather turns?

Don't miss a thing!

Disclaimer: This post is in association with George at Asda but of course, all opinions and words are absolutely always my own. Thanks so much for supporting the brands that support Swoon Worthy!
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