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Monday, March 28, 2011

Fabulously Wed DIY Project: Homemade Vanilla Extract Wedding Favors

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Welcome!  I have been waiting a bit impatiently to post today's DIY project.  Every year on Valentine's Day I gift our past and current clients with something unique.  This year I decided to take it to the kitchen and create Vanilla Extract.  At first I was afraid of this project but once I got rolling, I felt excited and couldn't WAIT for the extract to mature.  I finished the look with fabric labels, baker's twine and felt heart buttons.  Then packaged them with wood excelsior and placed them in muslin bags decked out with THIS awesome download from Twig and Thistle.

It was quite simple and although it got a bit messy, my hands smelled really yummy.  I came across a few DIY vanilla extract tutorials on wedding blogs and found that they lacked instructions that explained WHY you are doing what you are doing and how much money you can expect to pay for this project.

  • Premium Vodka (One 750ml bottle makes eight 4-ounce bottles of vanilla extract) (Approx. $25 per bottle, depending on the brand and your market)
  • Grade B Whole Tahitian Vanilla Beans - 15 per each bottle of vodka  ($13 per pound, or about 100 beans)
  • Bottles of your choice for the vanilla  (about $.50 each)
  • Muslin bags (about $.50 cents each)
  • Wood Excelsior (1 pound for $16)  A pound is enough to fill about 100 small muslin bags.
  • Iron-on Transfer Paper (varies)
  • Piece of Canvas Fabric (about $5 per yard)
  • Medium-sized Thin Permanent Glue Dots  (I bought at Michael's, about $4 for 300 dots)
  • Felt Heart Buttons (I bought at Paper Source, $2.50 for 20 hearts)
  • Baker's Twine from The Twinery ($14)
  • Hot Glue Gun
It's important to use Grade B whole vanilla beans.  For details on why this is important and the difference betweet Grade A and Grade B, click HERE.  It will take a minimum of 8 weeks to mature, so be sure to give yourself enough time to prepare this before your wedding.  Want to prepare it 4-6 months earlier?  Even better!  The longer it steeps, the better it will be!

  1. Sterilize your small vanilla bottles in boiling water for at least 30 minutes prior to use.  
  2. Cut your vanilla beans in half.  This helps to keep the beans submerged as they steep in the vodka.
  3. Now cut the beans lengthwise, leaving the ends attached.
  4. Laying the beans flat exposed side up, you will want to scrape the beans with a butter knife. You are basically removing the "caviar" from the inside of the beans.  Set the caviar to the side in a pile.  You want to give the beans as much exposed surface area as possible which yields a stronger extract.
  5. Place about 5-8 pieces of vanilla bean and a generous smidgen of caviar in your sterilized bottles.
  6. Fill your bottles with vodka, cap and place in a dark location.  I used a cabinet above my refrigerator that I never use.
  7. Shake your bottles daily for the first week.  You will see the seeds and cottony fibrous bits swirling around the bottle.  Don't freak out!  This is normal.  You will notice the extract will be considerably darker by the second or third day.  It is NOT even close to being ready to use, despite how it looks.
  8. Weeks 2-8 shake the bottles just a few times each week.
  9. YIPPEE!  You have just created FABULOUS High Quality Vanilla Extract!  Take the top off of one and inhale the deliciousness of it!  Now contemplate wearing a bit as your signature scent.  
These photos show you my process.  Excuse the grainy quality and amateur look.  My 10 year old shot them:
I placed the beans directly in the vodka, but then had a hard time transferring the beans into the smaller bottles when it was ready.  Don't do as I do... do as I say.  Place the beans and caviar in the smaller bottles to eliminate a big mess and hassle later.
Day 2 it was a tad bit darker:
After one week, I pulled the bottles out of the cabinet and, as you can see, they already looked ready to go... but after a tiny taste test I realized it was still more vodka than vanilla. So...back in the cabinet they went for another 6 weeks!
Are you ready to learn how I packaged it?  Here goes...

  1. Using a cute little graphic of vanilla beans and a pretty little font, I created labels in Word and then printed them onto iron-on transfer paper. It is MUY IMPORTANTE that you select a mirror image under "Printer Setup" otherwise your graphic will come out backwards when you iron it onto your fabric.
  2. Cut out your graphic.  With your iron on a medium setting, place your graphic on the canvas, paper side up and iron over it applying a decent amount of pressure for about 1-2 minutes.  Allow to cool.
  3. Be sure the transfer has completely cooled off before peeling the paper backing off, otherwise you can ruin your design.
  4. Cut the fabric label out in the shape you desire.  I cut my graphic out in a circle using pinking shears because of the type of bottle I used.
  5. Clean the exterior of your vanilla bottles using rubbing alcohol.  This gives a clean surface and assures your fabric label will adhere.
  6. Place about 3-4 glue dots on the backside of your fabric and adhere to the face of your bottle.
  7. I wanted to add a little flair since it was Valentine's day so I bought cute little felt heart buttons.  I applied a small bead of hot glue to the backside of the buttons and to each end of a piece of twine approximately 24" long.
  8. I then wrapped the twine around the neck of the bottle and tied it in a knot.
  9. I used the same iron on process to create the labels for the muslin bags and ironed the graphic directly onto the front of the bags.
  10. Taking a small bit of wood excelsior, I then created a bed inside each bag to nestle the bottles of vanilla extract in.  I shipped these and wanted to be sure they didn't break in the journey.
Emily and I wanted to add a little personal touch to our gifts, so we chose our favorite easy recipes that use vanilla extract and printed them out on cute little cards. If you LOVE my fabric labels, you can download them HERE.  Here are a few photos of the finished product:
So there you have it!  This is an easy and cute idea for a wedding favor and they look to adorable lined up on the table!  Each client who received one of these LOVED them and we were happy to have put a smile on their faces and add a little deliciousness to their lives.

Photo credit {Tamia and Tami Brown}

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Aleah + Nick Valley said...

Tami, this is so impressive! Wow! I am bookmarking this as it's so clever. I love it!

Naomi said...

OK Martha....this is such an amazing idea! I love vanilla and it infused in anything is yummmy!

kbatty said...

Adorable!!! & looks delicious. Just makes you want to bake something with it.

Elaine said...

Ohh!! Great idea ....I like this is wonderful !!

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