Late in the evening, Emily Shedlock stirs homemade soap in the large kitchen of her Peters Township home, filling the air with aromas of cranberry, peppermint and sandalwood.
The energetic entrepreneur and mother of two sons began making Buttercup and Thistle soap in 2009, three years after she married and left a local management job with Macy's.
She is among 150 vendors who will sell their products Saturday during the ninth annual Handmade Arcade at Downtown's David L. Lawrence Convention Center. Chosen from 300 applicants, the artists and artisans offer limited-edition art, jewelry, handmade journals, purses fashioned from recycled books, clothing, eclectic housewares, knitwear and more.
Mrs. Shedlock wanted to find work that allowed her to stay home with her two sons but still be creative and productive. While growing up in Squirrel Hill and Point Breeze, she often mixed shampoos and soaps. Now, she enjoys using vintage molds such as the fleur-de-lis and the bumblebee; the latter signifies friendship.
In 2009, she began work in earnest by researching and testing batches, some of which she burned. With the aid of some inspiring music and a bit of caffeine, Mrs. Shedlock assembles her stainless-steel mixing bowl, spatulas, pipettes, heavy plastic molds and baking sheets (for cooling).
"Lately, I've been working until 2:30 in the morning. Working in the kitchen has its perks but it also has its challenges," said Mrs. Shedlock, who also makes chocolate chip cookies for her sons Maxwell, 4, and Joshua, 19 months.
If she accidentally uses the wrong baking sheet, "you get a chance to taste what the soap tastes like," she added.
Her two-ounce bars are priced at $4 and six-ounce bars are $8.
"A lot of people use my soap for shower favors or bath gifts for guests when they come in from out of town for a wedding," she said.
Once you wash up, you will probably dress in some off-the- rack threads. But if you'd like some truly inspired clothing, check out Malagueta, a fashion line named for a hot Brazilian pepper.
"My mother is from Brazil," said Rachel Sherman, the clothing designer behind the label. "This is my little homage that I would like to pay to my roots, which have been very inspirational."
The 35-year-old woman, who learned to sew at age 14, works in a studio in Mount Airy, a community 20 minutes outside Philadelphia. This is her third appearance at Handmade Arcade.
"I'm here in a pile of fabric," she said during a telephone interview. "I have been designing clothes since 1999. The silhouettes are simple. It's the surfaces that are very detailed."
Ms. Sherman considers herself a "surface designer" and draws with stitches. She studied textile design at Moore College of Art and Design near Philadelphia and uses a variety of techniques to make colorful tops and skirts, including topstitching, applique, ruching, couching, pin tucking, French knots and smocking. Her work is inspired by architecture, insects, fruits and vegetables, she said.
She also takes bits of nylon jersey and pieces them together to make "fragment tops," working on a Swiss sewing machine called a Bernina Virtuosa 153. She first sold her work while attending William Tennent High School in Bucks County in the early 1990s.
"I have always wanted to be a fashion designer. I used to sew little envelope purses. I would embroider them in class and sell them after class for $8 and $12. One of my girlfriends still has hers and it still works," Ms. Sherman said.
Today, her garments range in price from $55 to $245. She says she spends half of her life in pajamas, always working.
"I've always got thread on me, threads that are stuck to my clothes. My phone battery is always dying."
Handmade Arcade runs from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday. Admission is free. Early bird shoppers can pay $15 for a 10 a.m. admission and receive a swag bag filled with coupons and craft goodies. For more information and a complete list of vendors, visit www.handmadearcade.com.
Marylynne Pitz: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1648.