Did you start any new projects this year? I did! At my last vendor event in December I purchased a triangle loom and I was finally able to try it out and learn how to do continuous strand weaving. The looms range from 1 foot to 8 feet wide so you can make a full size shawl in 1 go. I opted for the 2 foot size as it was affordable and I can sew or crochet triangles together to make a larger shawl. The project on the loom pictured ended up being a scarf for my daughter. Here are a few projects I've made so far. The scarf on the right is 4 triangles sewn together.
Another project has been making my own laundry detergent. I use scraps from cutting soap and ugly or old bars and run them through the grater attachment on my mixer. Then I mix Borax and washing soda and add the grated soap. I only need 1/3 cup per load in my washer!
Here is the recipe if you want to make some:
1 box Borax powder 1 box Arm & Hammer washing s0da 3 bars handmade or Fels Naptha soap, grated Mix well. Keep in an airtight container and use 1/3 cup per average size laundry load.
I will be sharing a lot more projects and pictures with you this year, so I hope you keep coming back! Remember, you can also find me on Instagram and Facebook.
Everyone has noticed how prices on everything have risen; and it has affected myself and my small business as well. Costs keep rising; but I haven't changed my prices in several years. I've added other products too, but soap continues to be my best seller. I've decided I need to make a few changes.
The first change is that I am discontinuing beard products. The cost of the specialty oils I use has sky rocketed and sales this past year have been poor. Not sure why that is; but I just can't afford to make and sell them any more.
I added lotion bars this year and I do plan to continue selling them. Currently I make oatmeal & honey, lavender, unscented, and Bug Off in summer. I'll be getting them on the website.
Will I be raising prices? Unfortunately, yes. Regular hand soap will stay at $6 a bar and shampoo soaps will be $7 a bar. I may be able to run specials when I find discounts on my supplies; but I can't promise it.
I plan to focus on primarily making good, quality, old fashioned lye soaps in as many fragrances and scents as I can. I hope to see you all soon and thank you for your support!
What is Pennsic? It's a 2 week long medieval re-enactment event held in Slippery Rock, PA every year. I'll be going for the full 2 weeks to help out some merchant friends and run the soup kitchen for our local SCA kingdom. Unfortunately, that means no orders will be filled while I am gone.
I had a great time Sunday at the Maxwell Farmer's Market and then over in Bondurant at the Chamber of Commerce Expo. The Market was quite windy, but otherwise cool and dry and there were so many great customers! It was good to see familiar faces again. I was glad when I heard that the Expo in Bondurant had been moved inside the Brickhouse Fitness Gym; by then I was pretty tired of the wind. Again we had great customers. The highlight for me was seeing all the little kids riding around on motorized zoo animals; wish I had some pictures. What a hoot! Next up is Bondurant Farmers market from 6-8 pm in the city park on Wednesdays. I am excited about all the new customers I'm going to meet. Then, on May 13 and 14 I will be at the Geneva Market in Geneva, IA for the 3rd year. It's such a fantastic show and this year I will be in the gym, so no worries about rain. I've been playing around on Canva and came up with some future ads to post, what do you think? Learning to create social media posts and take pictures has certainly been a challenge for me. Watch for these on instagram and facebook!
It seems like spring is coming so sloooow this year. April 25 and it's been so cold and windy I have hardly got any yard work done. The garden is still too wet to till. I hope this isn't a trend! And the wind.... I wonder if we will have any branches left on our trees. It's pretty sad. Last summer we focused on planting fruit trees and we have a nice little orchard going. One old pear tree and 2 young ones, 3 apples and a cherry. We just got a couple of paw paw trees that we are starting in pots. I've never had a paw paw, but Greg is intrigued by them. It will be a few years before we have any. This year we are focusing on starting hardwood trees as so many of our trees are old and were really damaged in the derecho a few years ago.
Along with spring storms comes preparation for spring sales and farmers markets! I've been busy making soap since I got back from Mississippi and I am excited to have a new product; lotion bars! A lotion bar is lotion in solid form. Less messy and greasy and easy to carry in a purse or pocket because it comes in a 2 oz tin with a screw top lid. These have been selling like crazy to everyone who tries them! They are so moisturizing. I like to use them on the heels of my feet as they get so dry and it's amazing how well they work. The lotion bars come in 4 scents: lavender, oatmeal honey, Bug off (citronella) and unscented. Try one, I think you'll really like them.
This summer I will be very busy with markets. Here's a list of where to find me:
Maxwell Market in the park, Maxwell, IA: Sundays from 12-2:30 pm Bondurant Farmers Market, Bondurant, IA Wednesdays from 6-8 pm Geneva Market, Geneva, IA May 13-14 10am-4 pm Lilies War, Smithville Lake, MO June 17-26
Greg and I had a great time in southern Mississippi at a medieval re-enactment event called Gulf Wars. It was a busy time - we had the shop open 7 hours each day and 12 on Wednesday for Moonlight Madness.
Greg watched the shop and I helped when I could as I was in charge of the Calontir soup kitchen. Calontir is the name of our "kingdom", which covers most of Iowa, Nebraska, Missouri and Arkansas. The soup kitchen provides soup and sandwiches after battles to our fighters and friends. It takes about 4 hours each day from start to finish.
We brought over 600 bars of soap with us; as well as beard products, nalbound hats, woven scarves and shawls and other items. We came home with less than 200 bars! It was a great event for shopping!
The trip was fun too. We enjoyed Lambert's Cafe twice and Greg got to try his first Chicken on a Stick!
We have a new logo! I've always envisioned Thistle Wood Manor as a cozy house in the woods and finally we have a logo that reflects that. I ordered new business cards and they look fantastic!
I am excited that this year we will be able to travel to Gulf Wars; a medieval re-enactment event held in Lumberton, Mississippi. It has been canceled the last 2 years due to Covid, but is on for this year.
Here we are in our little soap shop at war. It's great to go south and enjoy warmer temperatures in March! We love meeting all the people and getting to see old friends. This is a 10 event, so also a great vacation. We usually take a day to go sight seeing and even venture into New Orleans for beignets and coffee.
This summer we will be attending the Maxwell Farmers market again. Last year we were there every other weekend; but this year we hope to make every weekend. We start the first Sunday in May. We love our soap customers! We have a few new products in the works that I am very excited about. Among them are laundry soap and lotion bars. Come and see us to try them out!
Tis' the season and this fall I have attended several craft fairs. I love doing them and meeting people and telling about my soap; but it's also a challenge! After each show I take inventory and rush to get it updated on my website, but sometimes orders come in during the day and I'm out of stock; so that's a little frustrating! Unlike a big box business, I make all my products myself and don't have unlimited stock. However, I do my best and those customers who have had to wait a little or get a substitution have been very understanding and wonderful!
Here's my most recent set up at the Hampton Craft fair. Another challange is setting up in a different space every time! I was lucky at this one and got a corner space so I could set up 2 tables, giving me 14' of space instead of trying to squeeze it all onto an 8' table. This show also let me know my location ahead of time; sometimes I get to a show and have no idea what type of space I have and just wing it on the design!
Another challenge for my small business is doing all the jobs! I make my products, then display them, do all the marketing and website work and then I am the shipping department too! So, if sometimes my pictures, posts or ads look a little wonky; I'm learning on the job!
If you have know someone with a small business and want to help them succeed, there are several ways you can do that. Of course, buying the product always helps, but you can only spend so much. Even more important is to let other people know. Repost their ads, mention their products and provide a link on social media. Tell your friends how much you like the product. Some of my customers have done this and really increased my sales and I appreciate them for doing that
I have 2 more events coming up, please attend if you can! Dec. 4th I will be in Maxwell, IA in the high school gym from 2-5 pm. Then on December 11 I will be in Independence, MO at an SCA event called Kris Kinder. Please contact me if you need more information on either of those events; both have flyers on Facebook.
Now that the holidays are over, I won't be having regular hours at the shop. I will be finding a part time job and having knee surgery this winter, so it's hard to be here on a regular basis. However, the shop will be open by appointment or by chance, so send me an email or text to set up a time or stop on your way by. You can also order off the website to be picked up and I'm also willing to meet in Ames or Ankeny as I go both places frequently. In other news; this summer I bought a rigid heddle loom and have been learning to weave. I will be taking pictures and posting the scarves I have made on the website; but here are some sneak peeks.
I've been working on the shop all week and it's coming together. Recently it had gotten a bit messy as I hauled soap back and forth to farmer's market and everything was in totes and containers. Since my only Christmas show was cancelled I've decided to make it pretty and invite people to come to me and shop. The shop is on my front porch. It's small......about 8 x 10 ft, so I'm only allowing 2-3 people who come together inside at once. I'd appreciate it if customers wear masks. I've got a lot of really neat new things this year and I am so excited to show everyone!
The men's section has really expanded! There are 7 different fragrances of beard oil and balms. There are matching soaps for them as well. I have old fashioned shaving kits with a handmade pottery bowl, boar bristle brush, shaving soap and a wood comb for $40. I also have beard care kits with a bag, wooden comb, and beard oil, balm and soap in your choice of fragrance. Those are also $40. I only have 6 of them, so get yours right away! Another new addition is beard beads for that Viking look! There is a kit with a plastic tool for getting the bead on your beard, 2 rune beads and elastics to hold them for $10. You can also get just a set of beads and elastic for $5.
Wool hats! These are made from 100% wool in a Viking knitting technique called nalbinding. They are very warm and long lasting. Must be hand washed so they don't shrink.
These are wood inkle looms, used to weave narrow bands. I include 2 lessons with each loom so you can get started. This is a great way to learn basic weaving and lots of fun too! Bands you make can be used for a belt, guitar strap, bag straps, suspenders, shoe laces and more.
Of course, we have lots of soap! Over 30 different fragrances and types! I added this new shelf today and as you can see I still have empty space......but I have 8 more batches ready to be labeled so I need to get to work. I hope you all have a good Thanksgiving and come to visit soon!