Over the last few years I’ve tried to get into the habit of making at least some, if not all, of the Christmas presents. Obviously this is easier for some friends and relatives than others, and it can be pretty time consuming if you choose the wrong thing to make.
A few years ago, I decided to make hats and scarves for everyone – never again! It took absolutely ages, and those people who had one of the last-made items had to contend with missed stitches and mismatched wool as I fought against that pesky 25th December deadline and dwindling yarn supplies. I’ve realised that if you’re going to make a lot of gifts, anything you can make in batches has gotta be a time-saver.
Last year, I made chutneys and painted plates, and then bought some cheese to make a little cheeseboard. Making chutney was lots of fun, the only problem I really came up against was how to get a load of jam jars cheaply. I didn’t have time to save up enough jars from the kitchen, and buying new preserving jars was super expensive. I ended up buying 15 jars of jam from the supermarket and tipping all the contents out into tupperware to be used later, as strangely it was the cheapest way – for at least 3 months afterwards, I was having jam with everything…”ooh, roast beef dinner, would you like some cherry jam with that?”, “why don’t we make ice cream sundaes with peach conserve topping!”, “you think this pasta sauce could handle a few spoons of marmalade?” etc. It was a trying time. This book came in handy.
So, I wasn’t going to fall for that trick again. Ever since, I’ve compulsively hoarded glass jars, ready for the next crafting spree.
This year, I decided to make lip balms. Can they be made in advance? Check. Can they be made in batches? Check. Do I have the right supplies? No, but I know where I can get them! Most importantly, do I have the right jars? Check!! I travel quite a bit for work, so I’m often eating a hotel breakfast. I had to revert to my excessive jam-consuming days of the previous year, to collect sufficient mini jam jars. Ok, so all the hotel staff thought I was a nut, but hey! I even manage to rope in a few colleagues to join me in the jamjar heist. I have since discovered that Morrisons sell individual mini preseves in their jams and baking products aisle, if anyone else is thinking of getting some. But this definitely isn’t as much fun.
I checked out lots of tutorials online about making lip balms, but all the recipes differ and really you’re only going to find a mix that you like if you have a bit of a tinker with it. The key ingredients you need are:
Butter – This is the moisturising bit of the lip balm. There are lots of different butters, the main ones being shea butter and cocoa butter. You can get both of these as ‘refined’ or ‘unrefined’. Apparently unrefined has more of the goodness in it, but you should buy refined if you are making lip balms of a certain fragrance and don’t want it overpowered by the aroma of the butter. I’ve got both refined and unrefined cocoa butter, as sometimes you want something that smells super-chocolatey!
Oil – This is also a moisturising bit of the lip balm, and again there is a huge selection of oils that you can use. I bought some Sweet Almond oil, some Apricot oil and some coconut oil (which is a solid), but you can also use stuff from the kitchen – if you look on the side of any bought lip balm, you’ll see they contain everything from sunflower to canola to soybean oil. I had some walnut oil and sesame oil in the kitchen which could also be thrown into the mix, if desired. Obviously, this is mainly the liquid element of the lip balm, so if your finished product is too hard, melt it down again and add some more; if it’s too soft, add more of the butter and beeswax elements.
Beeswax – This locks all the moisture into your balm and gives it shine. A lot of the recipes I have seen use as much as one part beeswax to one part butter, whereas some don’t seem to use it at all. Personally, I’ve not put a lot of beeswax into the ones I’ve made, as in my opinion it makes them too hard (I might be wrong here).
Essential oils – As you can see from the picture, I got a little click-happy on Ebay and ended up buying a stack of them. These create your flavour. I’m no aromatherapist, so I’m not really knowledgeable about what they all do, which flavours go together and how much to use of each etc. Most recipes suggest using one or two drops (depending on the batch size, of course) of two or three oils, and everyone out there will have their personal favourites. If you want to test flavours out beforehand, you will need to get yourself a little bowl or cup and put a bit of cold-pressed oil in it (e.g. olive oil) before dropping the oils in to test the combination. Oils smell differently once they’re in their carrier oil, so this is a more accurate way of testing than simply sniffing the top of the bottle or putting a drop on a sheet of kitchen roll. It’s also worth checking out the properties of the oil that you are buying before using it – for example, some are not recommended for pregnant women. These are powerful products and should be used carefully!
Colour – if you want, you can buy cosmetic grade powder to colour your lip balm, or you can do what I did and drop a centimetre or two of lipstick into the melting mix, which also does the trick and can be much cheaper.
This was a mother and daughter craft day!
This is a really simple craft. All you have to do is measure out the ingredients and melt them down in a bain marie. Pour them into what ever container you are planning to use, and let them set. That’s it!
The two I ended up making as Christmas presents were Spiced Oranges for the girls and Man Balm for the boys (boys get chapped lips too!).
Spiced Oranges lip balm
30g refined cocoa butter
30g shea butter
2 tsp coconut oil
1 tsp apricot oil
1 tsp beeswax
4 drops of sweet orange essential oil
4 drops of vanilla essence
2 drops of ginger esssential oil
2 drops of juniperberry essential oil
* this one is really lovely if you use unrefined cocoa butter too – the flavour is more like a Terry’s White Chocolate Orange (yum!)
50g refined cocoa butter
20g shea butter
3 tsp sweet almond oil
1/2 tsp beeswax
4 drops of ginger essential oil
4 drops of cypress essential oil
This was such a quick and easy craft that I don’t think I will ever go back to shop-bought lip balms. Since making these, I’ve been experimenting with tinted ones too.
If anyone out there has had success with their own concoctions, I’d be interested to know about it!