Crafting For Christmas

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Thanksgiving isn't here yet but Christmas is everywhere.

We have to start now to get ready for Santa's reindeer ride.

With the economy still in a slump, there might be more crafted items this year.

How about homemade candles?

A couple in Batesville set up a candlemaking shop in their garage and began peddling their wares.

They bought paraffin wax and jars and whatever else one needs for making candles. Wicks, maybe?

Together they would label the jars, then box the candles to sell to local country stores or at Hardy, Ar., sometimes.

I still have one of their 16 ounce designer scented candles. It is called Mango Papaya and it is a deep rose color.

The reason I thought about the candles this week is because I've been reading a fictional Revolutionary War book called The Winter of Red Snow by Christiana Gregory.

The setting is Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, 1777.

There are about 12,000 soldiers from the Continental Army who are camped out, ready to fight the Redcoats. Their Commander in Chief is George Washington.

But the soldiers are cold and freezing. As many as 4,000 have no shoes and socks. They need clothes and food and shelter..They are poorly prepared to fight the British. They are starving because all they have to eat is firecake, a soggy mess of flour and water. Fortunately, for Christmas dinner the patriots are served roast fowl, turnips and cabbage, plus a swig of rum each.

Despite their struggles, the troops spend the long, cold months being drilled and trained in military tactics. Mostly they live in tents; later some cut trees and build rustic cabins.

The story is told through the eyes of young school girl Abigail Jane Stewart as she writes in her diary.

The Stewart family suffers through the hard winter as they, too, struggle with bare necessities.

In one scenario they make soap, not candles. The women and young children make the soap, which they consider a luxury.

The basic ingredient is boiled lard.

Some make soap with beet juice so the soap will turn pink, then scent with lavender. Sometimes they gather flowers along creekbeds, then crush the petals into sweet-smelling oil,

Sometimes they use carrot juice to make soap yellowish, and crush rosemary leaves for perfume.

Green soap is made using spinach, then rose petals for scent.

After mixing the varying ingredients, they pour it into wooden molds lined with damp cloths.

It has to set for 24 hours.

After drying, cakes of soap are cut with a wire.

What a contrast to the homemaker of today who goes to Walmart or a gift shop to buy soap, four and six to a package, or decorative sculptured soaps just to display in our bathrooms. Some scented soaps contain moisturizers, too.

To us, soap isn't a luxury; it is a common household item.

Imagine being thankful for a bar of soap.

We are a spoiled lot, we are.

We have so much.