Posted on Leave a comment

The Week in Soap: 2nd April ’17

Excuse me… where did that week go? March flew by in the blink of an eye, and this last week seems to have done so too. Thursday evening saw the first of this season’s weekly soaping presentations at Craflwyn Hall. I’ll be there every Thursday evening from now until the start of November, describing the process of soapmaking and enthusing about my obsession. It’s always a pleasure to get out and spread the word about handmade soap.

That was really the only remarkable thing about this week in soap.  I managed two soaping sessions – firstly making a double batch of Welsh Rose and a double batch of Castile:

Welsh Rose & Castile
Welsh Rose & Castile

and secondly making double batches of Blodau (Flowers) and Delicious:

Blodau & Delicious
Blodau & Delicious

And a closer look at the Castile in its mould, just because…

Castile in the Mould
Castile in the Mould

Tutti Frutti has been out of stock for a couple of weeks thanks to a couple of large wholesale orders a last month, but this week it came off the curing rack and I made a start on wrapping and labelling. Not before taking this photograph though –

Tutti Frutti, fully cured
Tutti Frutti, fully cured

which proved to be the most popular of all the photos I posted to Instagram this week.

You may have noticed a few recipe / review posts sneaking onto the blog occasionally, and you’ll definitely see more in the future. It’s just my way of expanding the focus of the blog a little, to include more of my day-to-day life, but don’t worry, it will remain predominantly a soapy blog 😉

And that’s it for today.  I’ve got quite a few posts lined up (in my head) so I hope to be back very soon. Thanks for reading!

Posted on Leave a comment

The Week in Soap: 5th March ’17

I got back into the swing of making soap this week. Having realised that I need to be making far more to keep up with demand, a new process was required.    Previously I would usually make three different batches during an evening’s soaping, once a week, but the new routine is four batches a night, twice a week. By doubling up the batches – ie making two lots of two fragrances, rather than three lots of one, I find I can make the four batches as quickly as three, if not faster.

Wednesday was the first day of the new regime – two lots of Welsh Rose and two lots of Bewitched on the cards.  But, wouldn’t you know it, I ran out of lye. Arghhhh – I felt sure I had a second tub but nope…  Nevermind, I had enough for three batches: two Bewitched and one Welsh Rose:

2 Bewitched, 1 Welsh Rose
Two Bewitched, One Welsh Rose

More lye was ordered and arrived within 48 hours, so I was able to make more today – two lots of Oatmeal, Milk & Honey and two of Blodau (Flowers):

2 OMH & 2 Blodau
Two OMH & Two Blodau (Flowers)

I clearly need to have a better handle on inventory.  I do have have the Soapmaker 3 program, which comes highly recommended, but haven’t got round to using it yet. :-/ Maybe that should be one of April’s goals.

This week I also delivered another couple of batches of ‘Ar Lan y Mor’ (By the Sea) and Potters’ Soap – exclusive fragrances/designs for Glosters in Porthmadog:

Ar Lan y Mor / Potters' Soap
Ar Lan y Mor / Potters’ Soap

I also finished off wrapping and packaging the mini guest bars for Plas Colwyn Guest House right here in the village – these are just a small selection of them:

Mini Guest Bars
Mini Guest Bars

We celebrated St David’s Day on Wednesday, and as is traditional, I made up a big batch of Teisen Gri (Welsh Cakes) for the village school show.

Welsh Cakes
Welsh Cakes

I’ve been asked again to share the recipe, so I’m planning on getting that written up this week and posted here on the blog.

This is my little three year old in her traditional ‘welsh lady’ costume, singing her heart out at the front of the stage. She’s normally pretty shy, so it was wonderful to see her enjoying her moment in the limelight…

Little Welsh Lady
Little Welsh Lady

 

I also managed to get out for ONE run this week – 5km on Friday morning. If you saw the post about my goals for March, you’ll know that I want to run at least 30km this month. Easily doable, IF I can get my running mojo back where it was in January. Throw some motivation my way?

 

Posted on Leave a comment

The Week in Soap: 12th Feb ’17

I’m tired tonight.  It feels like it’s been a long and busy week, and now, not even 9pm on Sunday night, I feel ready for bed.  So I’m going to make this brief, and then tackle the ironing pile before bed.  Oh, the glamour!!

I made four batches of soap this week, all restocks again.  I’m struggling to get my stock back up to a level where I’m not anxious about whether I have enough, but I wasn’t able to make any for most of the week as my Shea Butter didn’t arrive until Thursday – arrgghhh!  So Friday night saw me soaping all evening, and I made, from top to bottom, Blodau (Flowers), Luscious Lavender, Botanica & Clarity:

Soap in the Mould
Soap in the Mould

Ordinarily I would have cut them this evening, but it’ll have to wait until tomorrow, so I’ll share some photos in next Sunday’s update.  But here’s some close-ups to mitigate your disappointment 😀

Blodau in the Mould
Blodau in the Mould
Luscious Lavender in the Mould
Luscious Lavender in the Mould
Botanica in the Mould
Botanica in the Mould

I also made some more bathbombs  – these are blue (although they don’t look so blue here) and fragranced with the same essential oil blend as I use for Serenity soap.  A few people now have said that the Serenity blend smells like being at a spa, so the name is apt I think.  (The scale here isn’t quite right, the bombs aren’t as big as they appear to be compared to the bars of soap – I need to keep that in mind the next time I take photos!)

Serenity Bathbombs & Soap
Serenity Bathbombs & Soap

I also spent a bit of time working on the packaging and labels for the bombs.  I think I have a solution, though I’m not quite ready to share photos yet. Maybe next week.

I’m very happy to announce that as of March I’ll be supplying a brand new retailer, Sunnah Skincare who have a store at 88 School Lane, Didsbury, Manchester.  This Skincare Co-operative was set up, and is run, by women in the local community, and their aim is  to trade as fairly, responsibly and ethically as possible. Check out their Facebook and Instagram accounts.

Oh, more exciting news – I entered a competition on LJ Naturals’ Facebook page to win some of her gorgeous skincare products, and won!  The prize was four items – a full sized bottle of OMG Facial Serum, and three mini products – Organic Scratchy Balm, Balancing Organic Moisturiser & Organic Deep Cleansing Balm. They’ve arrived already and they feel wonderful on the skin and smell truly amazing.  I’ll be writing a review soon, once I’ve been using them for a little while, but here’s a quick peek at what they look like:

LJ Naturals Skincare Products
LJ Naturals Skincare Products

The weather’s not been the best for most of the week, but Tuesday dawned clear and sunny, so a little local walk was in order and I managed to snap this photo. This is Hebog. I suppose you’d call it the village mountain 😀  The path up to the top starts in the village, and I’ve been up to the summit many times, but not this week. Not, in fact, since before we had the children.  Soon, soon…

Hebog
Hebog

Wednesday found me making Teisen Gri (or Welsh Cakes). They’re a bit like a flattened scone, cooked on a griddle on the hob.  They’re utterly delicious, and there’ll be a blog post with the recipe coming soon:

Teisen Gri
Teisen Gri

Well, that was longer than I’d planned for it to be.  If you got this far, thanks for reading. Back soon!

 

Posted on 1 Comment

The Week in Soap: I made marmalade!

Ok, so I made soap too, but I’m more excited about the marmalade.

I was given 2lbs of Seville oranges last week – the perfect opportunity to indulge in a bit of preserving.  I used a Delia recipe (can’t beat a bit of Delia!) and it proved to be extraordinarily easy: 2lbs of Seville oranges, 1 lemon, 4 pints of water and 4lbs of granulated sugar.  It’s identical to this recipe here, except I took it out of my rather ancient copy of Delia Smith’s Illustrated Cookery Course, which has been my go-to recipe book for years…

Slicing the peel
Slicing the peel
Boiling
Boiling
A motley collection of jars
A motley collection of jars

I’m ridiculously pleased with it – it’s really tasty.

Last week’s adventures in soapmaking was a couple of custom batches – I first made these last year for a local retailer, and they requested more of the same:

Ar Lan Y Mor / Potter's Soap
Ar Lan Y Mor / Potter’s Soap

I’ll have some cut photos to show you next week, but in the meantime, here’s a photo of the Potter’s Soap just before cutting – it’s been one of my all time most popular photos on Instagram:

Potter's Soap
Potter’s Soap

Other than the day job I didn’t get much more done this week – I spent a few days under the weather – a bug which turned into a cold – and then I was away over the weekend (hence the late post). Oh, but more wholesale enquiries have come in this week – hopefully I’ll have some good news to share soon.

I’ll be back very soon with a roundup of January’s goals, and a plan for February – thanks for reading!

Posted on 1 Comment

The Week in Soap: 22nd Jan ’17

The holiday period is well and truly over, and things are starting to pick up again business-wise.  I’ve started receiving orders for Valentine’s themed bars, and the first one was delivered to a local retailer yesterday. Here in Wales we also celebrate Dydd Santes Dwynwen (St Dwynwen’s Day, considered to be the Welsh St Valentine’s Day) on the 25th January, so there’s a double whammy of love related promotions at this time of year 😀

On the making front I’ve only made two batches this week – a restock of Welsh Rose and an as yet unnamed project for a swap I’m participating in soon. Can’t say too much about that one yet, but all will be revealed eventually 🙂

Welsh Rose & 'No Name' in the mould
Welsh Rose & ‘No Name’ in the mould

So basically I’ve only made one batch for general sale this week – I think I’m going to have to increase the production rate PDQ!

I also cut last week’s Castile soap. Having read so much about how long it can be before it’s hard enough to be unmoulded, I left it a full eight days before unmoulding and cutting, and I was really surprised at how hard it already was.  I had to be very careful and cut slowly, I was so concerned that the wire on my Bud Cutter would snap, but all was well. This was the finished bar:

Castile Soap, first attempt
Castile Soap, first attempt

It’s a lot whiter than I expected it to be when it was first poured, though I’m not too happy about the streaks in it – we’ll see how it looks as it cures.

One of my goals for January was to research facial bar recipes with a view to hopefully making some in February.  During my research I came across a blog/website, Lather Lass, which collects and collates soap recipes from all over the web – it’s worth having a browse if you’re looking for something in particular.

On a personal note, did I mention that I’ve started going to a kickboxing class? Every Wednesday evening, 6-7pm, and it’s amazing. Seriously hard work but I’m hoping it will do wonders for my fitness levels and be a good complement to the running (another of those goals!)

Anyway, talking of goals, it’s time to start thinking about what I want to get done in February, it’ll soon come round!  Thanks for reading – back soon!

Posted on 7 Comments

Making Castile Soap

Traditional castile soap is made of nothing more than olive oils and a sodium hydroxide solution, and its origins lie in the soap that has been made for many centuries in Aleppo (Syria), from local olive & laurel berry oils. When the recipe was brought to Europe (specifically the Castile area of Spain, with its abundance of olive trees) it would appear that laurel berry oil was hard to come by, leading to it being dropped completely, becoming the 100% olive oil soap that we know today. It’s considered to be the gentlest of soaps – kind to sensitive skin often used as a baby soap (though personally I don’t think very small babies need any soap at all!)

At the beginning of the year I decided to make it one of my goals for January, and hey presto, last week I made my first ever batch of castile.  I don’t always bother with test batches, and I didn’t think an awful lot could go wrong with this one, so dove right in with a full sized batch. The recipe was simply:

  • 1500g Olive Oil
  • 570g Water
  • 193g Sodium Hydroxide (NaOH)

I used my usual method – made up the lye solution and left it to cool down to room temperature.  For my regular bars I melt together the hard oils/butters, then add the liquid oils and let it cool down to room temperature, but there was none of that faffing about with this one – I just measured my olive oil out of the bottle and into my mixing bowl.

Olive Oil
Olive Oil

Then added the NaOH and whisked until it was emulsified:

Oil / NaOH Emulsified
Oil / NaOH Emulsified

Gave it a bit of a mix with the handblender until it traced:

Soap Batter at Trace
Soap Batter at Trace

And poured it into the mould:

Castile in the mould
Castile in the mould

I knew from my reading that I probably wouldn’t be able to unmould / cut after my usual 48 day wait, so I left it a little longer, then kind of forgot about it for a couple of days (oops) and eventually unmoulded it 8 days after it was poured. I was happy to note that it was a lot whiter than it originally appeared to be:

Castile 8 days later
Castile 8 days later

Perhaps I’ll only leave it three or four days next time as it was the hardest batch I’ve ever cut, and I feared for the wire on my poor Bud soap cutter.  I took it slowly, and the end result was this:

Castile freshly cut
Castile freshly cut

The usual recommendation is to allow castile soap to cure for a good six months, if not more, as it’s notoriously slow to harden. I’m not convinced though, and will be testing it often in the next few months to see how it’s developing.

By the way, I’ve never actually used castile soap myself. The things I’ve heard haven’t always been particularly positive – the lather has even been described as ‘slimy’, so I’m going to (try to) put the opinions of others out of my head and be as objective as possible.  Stay tuned and I’ll keep you updated 🙂

Posted on 5 Comments

The Week in Soap: 15th Jan ’17

It’s been another fairly quiet week in the soapmaking cave this week.  I cut the bars that I made last Sunday, and I made another three batches, one of which was the Castile that I’ve been promising myself that I’ll make for many months. (It would seem that this monthly goals malarkey is working!) I also did a full stock check and tidied up the soap store. I haven’t yet found a fool-proof stock control method, and I don’t always keep proper track of what’s been sold (*red face*) but I’m back on track now and have a good handle on what needs making next.

Of last Sunday’s three batches I only photographed two immediately after cutting. I didn’t bother with the Clarity that got a little too thick to make pretty drops – still great soap but not worth sharing lol.  First up is the soap made with a new-to-me fragrance oil called ‘Flora’.  It still doesn’t have a name, though I’m leaning towards Daisy or something…  Despite the fast acceleration it’s not as ‘ploppy’ (apologies, but it’s as descriptive a word as I can come up with for this effect :-D) as I expected it to be – this is a good thing!

Spring soap
Spring soap – ‘Daisy’ perhaps?

And the First Kiss:

First Kiss
First Kiss

Due to the high levels of vanillin in the fragrance oil the white drops will discolour to tan, and the brown drops will discolour to dark brown, but the pink should stay pink as I didn’t add any fragrance to that portion.  I’ll post it again in a few weeks time to show you the full effect.

On Thursday evening I made another three batches, Boho Baby, the aforementioned Castile, and Delicious:

Boho Baby, Castile & Boho Baby
Boho Baby, Castile & Boho Baby

And  a close up of Delicious, because I love it so much – this FO always behaves itself so well…

Delicious in the mould
Delicious in the mould

Oh and guess what?! Halfway through the month and I’ve already run 50km – I’m rocking those goals!!

Thanks for reading – back soon!

 

Posted on 2 Comments

The Week in Soap: 8th Jan ’17

Where did the week go?  The first week of January has come and gone, and it’s time for me to get back into the habit of weekly updates – it’s been a whole month since I last did one of these!

It’s been a fairly quiet week, but I have managed to make a start on restocking the shelves – last Monday saw me making the first two batches of the year, Oatmeal Milk & Honey (OMH) and Serenity:

Oatmeal Milk & Honey / Serenity
Oatmeal Milk & Honey / Serenity

I had this crazy idea that I’d try the Thermal Transfer method for the OMH, and as I could have predicted had I thought about it for longer than a couple of seconds, it didn’t go so well (keep an eye out for another post on that little adventure very soon).  These have now been cut but I’ve not got round to taking any photographs yet (and to be honest, I’m not sure I want to take photographs of the OMH – seriously, it’s a bit of a hot mess…) but there’ll be some up on my Instagram (@thesoapmine) account soon enough.

Tonight I made another three batches. The left hand one is a brand new (to me) Fragrance Oil called Flora, which I’ve done in white, yellow and green (thoughts of spring already…), then we have restocks of First Kiss and Clarity.

Soap in the mould
Soap in the mould

The soaping gremlins were well and truly out to play tonight. The only one to behave properly was First Kiss. Clarity really surprised me by thickening up super-quick. Not sure why – same recipe, same colours and same ratio of eo’s, although the lye water was possibly cooler than usual so it’s likely that was the cause. Anyway, I can usually get wispy drops in this one, but tonight it was a bit, hmmmm, ‘ploppy’.  And Flora…well, it’s a floral fragrance, notoriously bad for acceleration, so I wasn’t entirely unprepared. I used extra water with the lye, and tried not to over mix but it was still thicker than I would have liked, so my dropswirl was a bit, well, ploppy again.  Ho hum, these two won’t be perfect but they WILL smell flippin’ gorgeous!!! 😀

In other news I’ve confirmed a new customer with a sizeable order for my mini guest bars, and I’ve taken a booking to do one of my soap talks in a few months time, so all in all it’s been a productive week.

Hope you’ve all had a great week. Thanks for reading – back soon!

 

Posted on 1 Comment

Luscious Lavender Restocked – with a Twist

I found that photograph that I thought I’d deleted yesterday. Actually, I had deleted it, but discovered that my phone keeps a copy of recently deleted photos – who knew? (Many people, clearly, but not me 😉

So, just popping in and out quickly to finally share the third of last weeks batches:

Here it is in the mould:

Luscious Lavender in the Mould
Luscious Lavender in the Mould

And here it is freshly cut (and a little rough and ready). The twist (such as it is) is a slightly different shade of the darker purple – I’d run out of the regular mica so had to improvise:

Lavender freshly cut
Lavender freshly cut

That’s all for today folks!

Posted on 5 Comments

Banishing Soda Ash – the easy way…

I see a lot of discussion on line about how to deal with soda ash on soap tops. Freshly poured soap is so glossily glorious – it can be a disappointment when you come back to it a day later to find it dulled and marred by an ashy deposit:

Ashy Soap Top
Ashy Soap Top

The ash is formed when the lye (Sodium Hydroxide, NaOH) in the soap reacts with Carbon Dioxide CO² in the air, and is totally harmless; the soap is no less effective. Nevertheless many find it to be aesthetically displeasing, and I’ve seen many methods used, some fairly elaborate, to eradicate it.  In my early soapmaking days I was advised dip each individual bar into a pan of boiling water.  Yes, this removed the ash and resulted in wonderfully glossy bars, but wow, it was tedious.  I then read that could simply hold each bar in the steam that came from a boiling kettle. Only kettles these days don’t boil continuously – and flicking that switch 20 times a minute was….tedious.  Then I had a lightbulb moment – I could hold the soap in the steam that came from a pan of water at a rollling boil.  Yes, I am FULLY aware that I could have easily missed one of those steps out… That worked too but was still pretty longwinded and let’s be honest, tedious.  There was also the ever present risk of scalding myself trying to use these methods. I came perilously close, believe me.

These days my ash removing regime is simple, fast and effective. I use an ordinary steam iron, on steam setting, to remove the ash from the soap tops before I’ve even unmoulded them. Half of this loaf has already been steamed:

Half Steamed
Half Steamed

My old, but trusty, Morphy Richards…

Steam Iron
Steam Iron

Holding the iron just a couple of inches above the top of the soap, I press the steam button continuously to cover the soap in steam, moving the iron back and forth. This is the result

Steamed top
Steamed top

Easy peasy!  And absolutely zero chance of scalding myself.  It looks freshly poured but is actually fully set up and ready to be unmoulded.  I usually leave it for about 10 minutes to dry off, and then unmould:

Unmoulded batch
Unmoulded batch

And cut – notice how glossy it still is:

On the cutter
On the cutter

After the cut, before the tidy up – perfectly dry and glossy:

Cut Soap, Still Glossy
Cut Soap, Still Glossy

I’ve made a video of the steaming process, but I’m struggling to upload it :-S Once I figure it all out I’ll add it to this post 😀