Crunching Numbers

Listen. I know everybody who reads this isn’t all excited about candlemaking. I know this isn’t a candle blog. However: this is where I write everything I’d normally write in a journal β€” well, almost everything. I do have a private file for potentially embarrassing dreams and rants about people who might read my blog and things like that.

But I digress. My point is that I know you’re not all keen on my candling exploits. So, if you’d care to read my stream-of-consciousness number-crunching, continue reading beyond the cut. If not, simply enjoy a picture of my 3.75oz hexagonal votives:

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More Candle Crap

Well. I’m finally getting some income to balance out the $100+ expenditure on candle supplies in the past couple of months. It’s slow going, but I have faith that Gena will singlehandedly pimp my candles to the entire building where I work.

Sight unseen β€” or, rather, scent unsmelled β€” Gena decided that she wanted four, count ’em, four eggnog candles in the quilted cups like I made a few years back. She also told me that she’s a total nut about Christmastime, and has something like seven trees up in her house during the holidays. She sets up an annual gingerbread-themed display, she said, which got me thinking about making gingerbread candles, too.

So, I ordered eggnog and gingerbread scents, among other fragrance oils, from my new favorite scent supplier. I also hit the local Goodwill for more cups, as I only had two. Good thing that the quilted cups are among the glassware you will *always* find at Goodwill; I ended up buying four matching cups out of the 20 or so they had. All matching.

Made two eggnog candles Monday evening, and brought one to work on Tuesday for Gena’s approval. When she drooled her OK (and it *did* smell pretty damned good), I made two more, plus a votive jar for me. Or for selling later, whatever. Brought those to work today, all wrapped up in tissue paper and packed into a gift bag. Got paid in cash. Good deal. Fun times were had by all.

Later in the day, someone else in our department happened to be hobnobbing in Gena’s cube, and saw the candle she had sitting on her desk. Gena gladly volunteered that I made the candle, and that I sell candles, and sent Julie over to my cube to smell my wares. Now, my tealights’ scents have faded from being in such close proximity to other scents, so most of my tealights had just kind of mushed together into a generic soy candle smell… but the cranberry tealight was apparently strong enough and fresh enough to spark Julie’s interest. She requested a cranberry candle, once I told her how much I charge for various sizes. (Four bucks for a four-ounce large votive, BTW.)

In making Julie’s candle (and one for me) this evening, I have officially used up all of my cranberry scent. If this is a hit, I’ll be needing to make another candle supply order, even though I had told myself that I wouldn’t buy more supplies until I absolutely had to. But, shit, if cranberry sells for the holidays, I’m gonna buy more cranberry.

Maybe tomorrow night, I can finally get around to testing that gingerbread… God, I’ve turned into a craft geek.

In Over My Head?

I just got an e-mail from a friend of a co-worker, asking if I do parties.

?!?!

I had to reply that I don’t have enough candles made at one time to do a party, and that’s the truth. I’d be making candles every night for two weeks to have enough to give a candle party. I remember how those Partylite parties were, back in 1995. They had so many awesome fragrances, and neat candle holders, and overpriced doodads, and you *had* to order something! You just *had* to! I don’t know if I have that kind of draw yet.

For that matter, I don’t have a large enough bank of OMG-this-is-so-good fragrances yet, either. So far, it looks like this:

Favorites
* Amaretto
* Amaretto & Coke (my own special fragrance combination)
* Spiced Apple
* Drakkar
* Chocolate Java Beans (another special recipe)
* Cranberry (I’ll have to make a bigger candle to be sure, though)

Untested So Far:
* Balsam Sandalwood
* Chocolate Brownie
* Lilac
* Very Vanilla
* Patchouli (Essential Oil)
* Lavender (Essential Oil)
* Cinnamon (Essential Oil)

WTF Not Even Close:
* Basil
* Evergreen (smells like fake evergreen, according to one person)

Everything Else That’s Nothing Special:
* Banana (intended to use in making a Banana Cream Pie combo, along with the…)
* Coconut (which could also be good with pineapple for a pina colada candle)
* Chamomile
* Eggnog
* Coffee (excellent combined with the Hershey’s Chocolate scent, which I may or may not reorder)
* Hazelnut (not bad with the Eggnog, although I need to try some different eggnog scents)
* Pumpkin Spice
* Spearmint
* Toasted Marshmallow
* White Shoulders

As I said recently, I have more stuff on order from various places, so there are more possibilities in store in the coming days and weeks.

I guess I’m feeling kind of like I’m spinning my wheels; but even if I managed to get a bite (like, say, someone wanting a party, or someone wanting me to be their wholesale soy candle supplier β€” both things have happened), I’m not prepared for “success”. But I don’t want to stock up for something that’s never going to happen… and I don’t want this to be the next big idea I have that never comes to fruition… and I don’t want to overthink it, either. πŸ™‚

I guess the thing is that I feel like I’m on the verge of a fun and creative supplemental income, and I don’t want to blow it by trying too hard and not being able to deliver, or not trying hard enough and missing the boat.

Jesus Christ, Diana, it’s just candles. Don’t sweat it. *rolls eyes*

Candle Speedbumps

I know it’s to be expected and all, but I can’t help but be frustrated when things don’t turn out right.

Tonight, I tested out my new Cranberry scent, and made five tealights and one teeny votive for myself. The scent seems to be OK, but the color is off. I made the “cranberry” color as vivid as I could, and it ended up coming out more pinkish than cranberry. Maybe next time I’ll try my “red berry” dye and see how that turns out.

Last night, I made up a super-quickie batch of Eggnog tealights. They smelled OK, if a bit weaker than I’d wanted. I totally screwed up the color, though. I’m not used to working with *that* small of a batch, and I’d thought that a little touch of caramel color would look good mixed with the “sunshine” dye in the eggnog candles. Nope β€” they all turned out looking like somebody left the eggnog on the stove to burn or something.

On top of that, I put five different fragrances of tealights in one container, and the scents overpowered one another overnight. The Coffee totally made the Eggnog smell like nothing, and the Coconut was just barely there. Maybe I should look into a little bitty shrink-wrap machine for the individual tealights in my tealight multi-packs? I dunno.

On Friday night, I tested my Evergreen fragrance. One votive for me, and nine tealights. Doesn’t smell like evergreen at all, and the hunter/moss green dye I used came out more on the mossy side than the hunter side.

At least Mark’s Amaretto and Coke candles came out pretty good. The color wasn’t exact, since I ran out of the french vanilla dye and had to make do with caramel instead, but the scent was just as I remembered it. I also made myself a votive of it, and burned that tonight, and the scent throw is awesome on that one. I lit it in the basement, and the smell came all the way up into the living room. Nice.

Note to self: Don’t advertise a fragrance on your candle site until you’ve thoroughly tested it, approve of the fragrance, and have the dye ratio figured out. I now have some people interested in Evergreen and Eggnog candles, and I’ll have to just hope they forget about them until I’ve come up with something better than what I’ve got right now.

Pine essential oil, anyone?

Business May Soon Be Booming

Remember when Rob asked me to make him a manly candle? Well, that jump-started me back into candlemaking, and I made a batch of Amaretto and Coke candles last night. I ended up taking one of them to work with me, and quizzing my co-workers about what alcoholic beverage they thought it smelled like. Now I suddenly have major interest in my little enterprise β€” well, four potential buyers, anyway, and at least one person who might just buy a crapload of candles from me as Christmas gifts. Considering I’ve only ever sold one pack of tealights and one candle, that’s major interest.

Now I have to decide: do I gear up for a big run, and potentially have a bunch of candles and containers and scents and packaging material that might just end up taking up space; or do I keep my operation on the down-low, and only make custom candles as requested, keeping my inventory of premade candles at a minimum?

I’ve already decided that I want to SQL-ify my candle website, making it more easily updateable as I sell candles and as I get new fragrance and container inventory. Not redoing the design, just managing the content.

I guess the big question is, do I ramp up my production, at least of sample tealights? I’m saying that’s a yes. On the samples, I mean. Samples are good. Also, do I wait and see which of my current scents sell, and just focus on those, or do I branch out and get even more scents for diversity’s sake?

I don’t really expect answers from the peanut gallery β€” I’m just asking them to give myself something to think about, I guess. If you have any pearls of wisdom, though, I’ll gladly take them.

I do have a request, though. Name me off some mixed drinks that would smell good as a candle. Ones that I’ve already thought of:

  • Amaretto Sour
  • Amaretto and Coke
  • Cosmopolitan (Cranberry, Orange & Lime)
  • Sex on the Beach (Cranberry, Orange, Pineapple & Peach)
  • B-52 (Kahlua & Bailey’s Irish Cream)

Any other ideas?

Update, 10/22/06: Additional ideas from my friends/readers:

I have on order Lime, Kahlua, Bailey’s Irish Creme, and Bay Rum fragrances. I already have Amaretto and Cranberry and Coffee and Spearmint on hand. If I can come up with a way to make a White Russian (Mary) or a Jäger Monster (Fries), I’d definitely be up for those. For now, I think I’m going to focus on drinks that are a.) fruity or b.) include Kahlua.

Damn β€” now I’m going to have to do some “field research” to discover new candle scents… πŸ˜‰

Return of the Soy Candles

I have a kitty on my lap and the smell of Drakkar candles in the air. Sometimes, life is good.

I hadn’t made candles for several months. Then, last week, one of my co-workers approached me and asked, “You make candles, right?” I answered in the affirmative, and he went on to say that he had been disappointed by his most recent Yankee Candle purchase, and was seeking a new supplier of smelly-good and long-lasting candles.

He explained that he required a big, manly-smelling candle. So, I had him sniff the Drakkar tealight I keep at my desk, and he was sold. (I had referred him to the somewhat outdated list of fragrances on my website, and he’d decided it was either that or evergreen.) We agreed that I would make him an appropriately large and smelly candle, and he would give me ten bucks for said candle.

Of course, I was almost out of wax, so I had to make a run to Michael’s tonight; and, of course, the pint-sized mason jars I bought at Big Lots for the purpose of candle-making didn’t look quite as big when I unpacked them. But that’s OK. The price listing on my site says that 16 fl. oz. candles are $10.99 plus shipping, so I’m actually cutting him a deal. πŸ˜‰

I always have a problem actually *selling* my candles, being that the only people who buy are people to whom I feel I should just *give* candles. Then there’s the random e-mail I got a year or two ago, asking if I do wholesale.   o.O   Um, I melt wax in a glass three-cup measure in my oven, dude. Sorry, but I can’t be your primary candle supplier.

I’d forgotten how much I enjoy making candles, though. It’s really a cold-weather pastime for me, since I have to have the oven on for a good part of the evening, so I haven’t done any candle-making for a while. Tonight was probably the first time in… *thinking* …maybe close to a year.

Making candles also helps me be more productive in other realms, too, since I have to keep myself occupied while the wax melts, then again while it cools to a good pouring temperature. I ended up going to Kroger while I was out at Michael’s, and getting stuff for Friday’s potluck (OMG ice cream cone cuppie-cakes with white chocolate chips). When I got home, I made my dinner (also purchased at Kroger β€” I haven’t had imitation crab in ages), did a load of laundry, put the dishes away, cleaned up my desk, and did some maintenance to the LSM website, all while either waiting for the wax to melt or to cool.

I’ll have to order up another 10lb bag of soy wax and maybe some essential oils to experiment with. I have a crapload of votive-sized containers in a cupboard in the kitchen, just begging to be made into random gifts…

Return Of T-Shirt Surgery

It had been almost a year since my last t-shirt surgery, so I was getting that hankering for some sewing action. I’ve managed to collect a decent number of XL t-shirts that fit, but are kind of boring. I’d like to turn these into cute Diana-sized girly tees. (Unlike Threadless XL girly tees, which are about two inches’ circumference shy of being comfortable for me to wear out of the house. That does not stop me from ordering them anyway and hoping to shrink into them.)

My first reshaping attempt was using my Otaku Generation t-shirt. Aaron and I got matching Otaku G shirts free from the Otaku G crew at Ohayocon in January, and I’ve been meaning to surgerize it for a while now. It fits just fine, but I wanted to do something to make it a little more distinctive, and easier to tell my shirt from Aaron’s in the wash. πŸ™‚

I followed this tutorial on resizing a t-shirt, for the most part, although I didn’t really have any resizing to do. Mainly, I just wanted to shrink up the armpits and make the sleeves smaller and more girlish. First, I lopped off about an inch and a half from the length of the shirt. Then I put the shirt on and figured out how much smaller I wanted the armholes to be, and pinned the armpit of one sleeve. I then marked the spot with white fabric pencil and removed the sleeves.

Enter the Singer Tiny Serger. While I watched my Logan’s Run DVD, I sat on the living room floor and serged up the armpits of my t-shirt torso a couple of inches. Then I adjusted the length and width of each of the sleeves, serging them up the armpit seam. Finally, I serged the sleeves back onto the t-shirt torso β€” inside-out, of course, so the seams were on the inside.


Three hours later (including movie-related distractions), this is how it turned out. I haven’t hemmed up the bottom yet (the “real” sewing machine was having bobbin tension issues), and I’m considering altering the collar and adding white bias tape. Until then, though, at least it’s all girly on my figure. I know it doesn’t look all that different, but it definitely *feels* more fitted.

As usual, I did have one or two screw-ups. I accidentally sewed the left sleeve on wrong-side out, so the red-and-blue serged armpit seam on the sleeve shows when I lift up my arm. I decided it adds to the character, though, so I’m not redoing it. I also serged some of the sleeve-to-torso seams a little loose (although I’m unsure how to do it any differently with my Tiny Serger). Once I get the Giant Singer (aka the “real” sewing machine) going right, I’ll probably straight-stitch next to my serges while I’m hemming the bottom of the shirt. And maybe fixing the collar.

For my next attempt at restyling a t-shirt, I’ll probably make the sleeves a little shorter and cuter, and maybe make the shirt itself a little shorter. I’ll also adjust the shoulders, so the sleeve attaches a little farther up my arm. I’m thinking my next victim will probably be either my Relay For Life 2005 shirt (once I find it) or maybe my Youmacon 2005 shirt. Should be fun!

Mission Accomplished

My Kujibiki Unbalance cosplay costume is complete.

Well, almost. I still have to cut my armbands to size and iron my skirt one last time. But everything else is ready to go.

I put my costume on as soon as I had the last circle of felt glued to the helmet. My shadow had a weird silhouette as I walked up the stairs to the bathroom, to look in the full-length mirror.

I only felt a little ridiculous in my big blue skirt and giant poofy helmet of flannel and felt. Even so, I think my cosplay kicks ass. It has its small flaws β€” but overall, I’m pleased with my very first cosplay attempt.

Unfortunately, the batteries in the digital camera are dead, so I can’t post a picture of my cosplay yet. But we’re going to get fresh batteries on the way to the con, and we’ll take plenty of pics while we’re there. My co-workers are demanding to see a large photo of me in costume, so I’ll have to oblige both them and my general blog readership. πŸ™‚

Cosplay Update

Since Aaron’s Fullmetal Alchemist costume arrived today, custom-made in the mystical land of China, I decided I’d better start work on my skirt again.

I’m not sure how, I but I somehow miscalculated the number of pleats my skirt is going to have. I’d planned on 12 pleats in my six-paneled skirt, but… wait… *thinks real hard* No, that’s right. It’ll be twelve pleats. I’m thinking I might have sewn the pleats in a little too far, though, because the skirt is supposed to poof outward from the hips, and I have the pleats sewn in for about ten inches down from the waist. I didn’t think about the poofy factor at the time; I was thinking about the fact that the heavy material I chose isn’t going to hold a crease very well.

Well, if it comes down to it, I do have a seam ripper. I’ll burn that bridge when I come to it, though.

I have an idea of how I’m going to make my helmet, but I haven’t started it yet. The hardest part is going to be attaching the frame for the helmet to the ball cap I bought at Goodwill. First, though, I want to get the skirt finished. One project at a time.

Did I just say “One project at a time”?

*shakes head*

Tell that to my multiple webpages, soy candle backlog, neglected plants, and my upcoming podcast.

Cosplayus Interruptus

I was doing so well. I fabricated a pattern for my skirt. I cut out six flared panels from my blue skirt fabric. I set up the Singer Tiny Serger, serged the six panels together, and serged the waist and hem edges. After that, of course, I needed to sew a straight stitch next to my serging, especially since my cutting wasn’t the straightest, and some of the serging didn’t go through both pieces of fabric. o.O

Seam #1: no problem. Seam #2: no problem.

Seam #3: Houston, we have a problem. The damn machine kept jamming up. Tried a different seam β€” jammed up again. Opened up the little cubbyhole where the bobbin lives, untangled all the thread therein, and tried again. Still no dice. Finally, I ended up taking apart the little bobbin cubbie… and couldn’t get it back together.

OMG, all momentum had come to a grinding halt. And I had been doing so well.

So, I put the Sheryl Special on the floor and fired up the Schnuth Singer. I hadn’t used it before, so had no idea how to thread, how to wind a bobbin, nada. Jury-rigged some sort of threading that looked reasonable, got some test fabricβ€”

And the same goddamn thing happened.

So, all my momentum’s shot for tonight. I have a skirt that’s pretty much put together, almost, and I have the hard part of sewing pleats still ahead of me. Once I can get one of the sewing machines to work.

This is annoying as fuck. I just need to chill out and clean up my mess and wait for another day.

At least I’ve gotten this far.

Update, Next Day, 7:20pm: I just located a diagram of how to thread the next model up, and I had indeed threaded it incorrectly. Now the tension spring is doing its job, and all is right with the world. Party on.