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The Purity Range

Blogtober 2021 – Day 15

I LOVE good smells. I’ve always been the one who has to sniff every variety of whatever’s on offer, and of course as a soapmaker, fragrance plays a huge part in my daily life. Not everybody feels the same though, and over the years I was often asked whether I offered a fragrance-free soap. It surprised me, actually, how regularly the subject came up. For a long time the only unscented soap I could offer those customers was Castile. Castile – pure olive oil soap – is a wonderfully gentle and mild bar but it doesn’t have the fluffy, abundant lather of my regular bars. Finally, last year, I decided to create a fragrance-free bar with that same fabulous lather.

That was was when Purity (Purdeb in Welsh) was born. I chose to make it uncoloured as well as fragrance free, and while I love my fragrances and colours, there is definitely something beautiful about a plain white bar in all it’s glory

Purity Handmade Soap

Purity proved to be a popular choice as soon as it was launched. It seemed to make sense to create a new category on the website for all the uncoloured/fragrance free options, and so the Purity range was created. If you’re not a fan of fragrance for whatever reason, you can now find fragrance-free soaps, solid shampoo, solid conditioner and a facial bar all in one place on the website.

Thanks for reading, back tomorrow when I’ll be halfway through Blogtober! Hooray 😀

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The Cut of Serenity

Blogtober 2021 – Day 7

A quick and easy post today in the shape of the cut of Serenity made on Monday – 120 bars cut on my ancient single string soap cutter! It’s quite a so process and I’m getting very close to ordering a fancy-pants multi-string cutter – yey! (Maybe it’ll be here before the end of the month so I’ve got another easy blog post 😉 )

So anyway here they are, some quick snaps of Serenity taken today, literally seconds after they were cut from the loaf:

I love how there’s never, ever, two identical bars. These particular ones have now been put down for their 6 week nap, but there’s plenty available on the website – get yours here.

Thanks for reading, almost a quarter of the way there now! Back tomorrow with Day 8

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The Summer Specials, 2021

There was I time, way back, when I wrote blog posts almost every week. I’ve no idea whether many people read them, but I generally enjoyed the process of putting things down in black and white. Writing them served as a good record of what I’d done, and was planning to do. Sadly, in my world, writing is the first thing to be dropped when life gets busy. And life DID get busy. Crazily busy. Or busily crazy. Or, let’s be honest, just crazy.

2020 was the year that the world stopped, they say. Well, nope, not here it didn’t. Having launched the website just before the first lockdown kicked in, I was busier than ever last year, and when homeschooling two primary school children was thrown into the mix, the result was pretty exhausting. “Learn a new skill” they said. “Catch up on your reading” they said. “Get fit” they said. Ha! Between 9-3pm my days were spent homeschooling while Dean worked. My evenings and weekend were spent, without fail, working. But I was one of the lucky ones. I didn’t have a boss breathing down my neck, asking me to justify my output, or expecting me to work evenings and weekends because I wasn’t productive enough during the traditional working hours. I was at least able to set my own working hours, even though it meant I missed out on a lot of quality time with the family.

Still, we managed. The business thrived, the children eventually skipped gleefully back to school (we’ll gloss over whether that was down to them missing their friends or a comment on my teaching skills lol) and the new normal kicked in. But still I couldn’t find the time to write. Until now.

Two and a half weeks ago I received a phone call, asking whether I still needed and/or wanted the surgery that I’ve been waiting for for years. In fact, I first saw my GP about my sore, buniony feet about 15 years ago, and many non-invasive treatments were tried – shoe insert, physiotherapy etc. I took a break from the process while the children were small, but about 3.5 years ago I saw a Consultant and it was decided that surgery was the way forward. Of course, the pandemic put paid to all possibility of elective procedures and I just accepted that it wouldn’t happen for a while yet. And then, two and a half weeks ago, my phone rang.

“Hello! Do you still want your surgery?”

“Um, yes please”

“Oh good. Two weeks today then?”

“What?!!”

So. Here I am, four days after bilateral foot surgery, with time to write a blog post about summer soaps – hooray!!

This year’s summer specials were due to drop yesterday, on the 26th June, but once surgery was scheduled there was no way that was going to happen. I’ve closed the website temporarily, and am tentatively hoping to reopen on 1st July. Fingers crossed!

There are four limited edition bars in this summer’s collection:

Coconut and Pineapple need no explanation really. I had initially baulked at the thought of making two fruity specials, but the Pineapple smells so delicious, while the Coconut has been requested by so many people. I couldn’t really NOT make either.

The Traeth Tawel (Calm Beach in Welsh) is so called because it’s the same fragrance as the popular Traeth bar, but without the scrubby bits. Again, this had been requested often, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to make one.

The Frangipani? Well, let’s just say that this one was a b**ch to work with lol. You can probably tell from it’s appearance that this wasn’t the most amenable of fragrance oils, but MY OH MY does it smell good!! Fragipani is the fragrance of Plumeria blossom – those exotic flowers that are used to make Hawaiian leis. It’s floral, sweet and just wonderful – if you’re partial to a floral.

That’s it for now folks. I’d love to promise more regular posts in the future, but I’m not going to. I’m just going to quietly try to write a ’round up’ every now and then, just for posterity. I know Future Me will be glad if do.

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In case you were wondering…

… where I’ve been.

I posted in mid Jan with great intentions to get back on the writing horse, and then found myself paralysed with indecision about WHAT I should write.  I felt that I should recap everything that I’ve been up to since the end of October, but that felt like too big a job.  It would never be complete (and would probably not be 100% accurate either – I don’t have the best memory these days!) and I wouldn’t be satisfied with half hearted attempt.  Anyway, THAT is only reason I haven’t written anything for the last month.  Crazy really.

I’m jumping back onto it tonight, and from now on I’ll be doing my weekly roundups and any other stuff in between, just like before. I’m not going to try to backtrack, but if you have any specific questions about what’s been going on over the last few months, please just ask  (my memory’s not that bad ;-D) but I may well naturally fill in the blanks as I go along anyway.

The run up to the Christmas period was amazing, business-wise. I was busier than I had anticipated, and for that reason I’m still playing catch-up as far as stock levels go.  My current goal is to get to 1000 bars in stock over the whole range, and I every time I think I’m getting close, another big order comes in. Mind you, I’m DEFINITELY not complaining.

I’m making a minimum of 120 bars a week now, and if you follow me on Instagram (www.instagram.com/thesoapmine) you’ll know that Monday is my big ‘making’ day.  I’ll make four double batches every Monday (that’s my 120 bar minimum) and occasionally try to fit in another session later on in the week.

I’ve retired a couple of fragrances that weren’t selling so well – Delicious (a dupe of DKNY Be Delicious) and Boho Baby (Patchouli & Orange essential oils) have both gone. I don’t have any plans to replace them with anything permanent just yet, but if I come across a fragrance that I just ‘have to have’, I have the capacity.

This was the result of last week’s Monday session:

Four Double Batches of Soap
Four Double Batches of Soap

From left to right are Serenity, Welsh Rose, Tutti Frutti and Blodau (Flowers), and here are a couple of them cut:

Serenity Handmade Soap
Serenity Handmade Soap

and

Welsh Rose Handmade Soap
Welsh Rose Handmade Soap

I used slightly different colours for the Welsh Rose this time, and there’s a more subtle different between the pinks that I usually have (I’ve also just realised that this is such a fresh photo that I’ve not bevelled this one yet!) Anyway, I can’t decide whether I really like it, or I really don’t… Hmm… what do you think?

I’m going to leave things there for now, and not try to get too ahead of myself. I’ve already had some thoughts ping into my head for the next post, so I THINK I’m back on a roll. I’ll be doing my best anyway.  I’ll be back next Sunday for a full weekly round up, if not before…

Thanks for reading!

Vickx

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24 Tips for Giving a Soapmaking Demonstration (Blogtober 12)

24-tips-for-giving-a-soapmaking-demo

Last December, I wrote a post giving some hints and tips for giving a soapmaking talk / presentation, something I’ve been doing on a weekly basis for the last three years.  I also get regular bookings to do soapmaking demonstrations, which, unsurprisingly, take a little more preparation. It’s safe to say that it’s been an interesting learning curve, and I thought it might be helpful to someone out there if I were to note down some of the things that I’ve learnt the hard way.  Many may be no-brainers, but some of them might prove to be helpful. So no more waffle, here they are:

  1. Consider your fee before you’re asked so that you’re not coming up with a figure out of thin air (yep, that was me, and it was ridiculously low!)  It might be worth offering two options – one fee if there’s to be no selling involved and a slightly lower one if they’ll allow you to offer your products for sale after the demo.  In my experience they’ll always go for the slightly lower fee and you can take full advantage of the sales opportunity.
  2. If they’re happy for you to sell, make sure you take plenty of product, and some samples as well. If at all possible, make sure that you have plenty of the variety that you making on that occasion available for sale (ie if you’re making lavender soap in the demo, make sure you have plenty of fully cured lavender soap available to buy).
  3. Consider offering a discount to the audience on the regular price of the bars – I usually take 50p off the price of each bar for demo audiences. It’s not a huge discount by any means, and it’s doesn’t make too much of a difference to me, but it is appreciated by the audience.
  4. Take plenty of business cards.  You have a captive audience and a great opportunity to sell not only your soap (or other products) but your demo packages too.
  5. Be prepared.  Create a list (beforehand!) of all the things you need to take, and tick them off as you pack them.  There’s nothing worse than getting in front of an audience and realising that you’re missing a key piece of kit.
  6. Make sure that you know exactly where you’re going.  Google Street view has been my friend a few times when I wasn’t familiar with the venue.
  7. Decide how much preparation you want to do beforehand.  There are plenty of things you can do before even setting off for the venue.  I like to soap at room temperature, and so I prepare the lye water at home and transport it in a well sealed container.  I also prepare the oil/butter mix before I go, and depending on what facilities are available at the venue I may melt it down before leaving, or do it as soon as I arrive at the venue to give it time to cool (if you choose this option make sure that there is a microwave available to use)
  8. Wrap/secure oils WELL to avoid spillage.  Ask me how I know :-O  The passenger foot-well of my car has never been quite the same since the Great Oil Spill of 2016 😀
  9. Make sure you know how much space you’ll have. It’s also nice to have an idea of how many people are likely to be in the audience – is it likely to be 5, or 35?  (That will also give you an idea of how much product you need to take to sell)
  10. If you use a hand blender (or any kind of electrical equipment) remember to tell the organiser that you’ll need to be positioned near an electrical socket. If in doubt, take an extension lead.
  11. Be aware of your timings.  If it’s your first time you might unconsciously race through the process in record time, leaving the audience wondering just what happened there. Take your time and explain what you’re doing every step of the way.
  12. Let the audience know that you welcome questions at any time (providing you do, of course).  If you’re new to demos you might feel that having questions being fired at you could be offputting, but I’ve found that it’s a nice way to break the ice.
  13. Take samples of the ingredients to hand around the audience during the demo, eg fragrances (essential oils or fragrance oils), colourants, oils / butters in their natural state.
  14. Make sure you take plenty of towels and/or tablecloths to protect whatever surface you’ll be working on. I also have a roll of thin linoleum that I use to cover tables as I’d be mortified if spilt lye / raw soap and damaged somebody else’s property!
  15. Also ensure that you have plenty of cloths and/or paper towels to mop up any spillages.
  16. Don’t forget your safety gear.  It might be obvious, but it’s easy to forget the gloves or the goggles.  Make sure they’re added to your list (see point #4)
  17. Don’t ever use a new recipe or fragrance for a demo – make something you’ve made many times before, and that you know works. Don’t rush –  It’s easy to forget to add a fragrance or add the colourant at the wrong time if you’re feeling even a little pressured or anxious.
  18. Take a big plastic tub specifically to take home all the washing up.  I use big tubs to take everything to the venue and usually find that I can use just one of them to transport soapy pots and utensils home – you don’t want to be carrying them home in the same containers as all your non-soapy stuff.
  19. If you can, take some previously made soap in the mould to show the audience the unmolding / cutting process.  (And don’t forget your cutter!) It means that the audience can see full process from start to finish. I usually try to make a batch 2 days before I’m due to give a demo or talk, for this very reason.
  20. Consider talking about the wrapping process and/or  labelling rules & regulations.
  21. It can help to have some ‘interesting facts’ at your fingertips (eg history of soapmaking) should something take longer than planned. If, for whatever reason, your soap doesn’t trace as quickly as usual, you don’t want to be standing there in silence with an audience staring at you!
  22. Consider preparing a handout with a basic recipe and a list of resources should anyone want to try making soap themselves.  Not everyone is comfortable doing this, but in my mind it shows a generous spirit to be willing to help others get started.
  23. Know your audience language.  Now this is a  bit of a niche tip, I’ll admit, but I live in a bilingual area (English/Welsh) and while I’m comfortable giving a demo / talk in either language, I always make sure I know beforehand which language I’ll be using for that particular occasion.
  24. Try to enjoy it!  The audience will enjoy it much more if you’re having fun yourself. Smile a lot, crack a few jokes if appropriate, make it clear that you welcome questions and engage in conversation.

Hope they’re helpful to someone – if you can think of any more please comment below!

Thanks for sticking with me so far, nearly halfway there! Back tomorrow #blogtobersoapers

Vickx

 

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When Fragrance Oils Go Rogue

My hands-down-most-popular summer special last year was my Lemon Verbena Confetti, so obviously I had to make it again this year.  It has a white base colour, is crammed with multi-coloured soap shavings and is fragranced with an amazing smelling Lemon Verbena fragrance oil.  I LOVE lemon verbena – it’s fresh, crisp and citrussy with herbaceous notes, but sadly, this particular lemon verbena fragrance does NOT behave itself in cold process soap.

I knew from my experience using last year that it was a fast mover, so I thought I was well prepared this time. The soap shavings were ready to go, the oils and lye were at room temperature, I didn’t discount the water, and was prepared to work quickly. It wasn’t enough…

Soap shaving ready to be added...
Soap shaving ready to be added…
I added my titanium dioxide AND the Lemon Verbena FO to to my oils, added the lye water and KAPOW!  it solidified immediately. I refused to be beaten.  I splodged the stick blender in and loosened it up a bit before adding all the soap shavings. How much soap shavings you use is entirely up to you – I don’t measure it out, I just mix in more and more until it looks like enough <not helpful sorry>:

Soap shavings added
Soap shavings added
I mixed as far as I could with a spoon but in the end I had to plunge in my (gloved!!) hands to give it a thorough mix. It was the only way to get everything properly combined without breaking up all the soap shreds with the blender.  I also used my hands to get the whole lot into the the moulds (one benefit of making confetti soap – two batches with added confetti makes enough soap to fill three moulds – yey!)

Moulds filled with confetti soap
Moulds filled with confetti soap
It was only then that I realised that one of my gloves had split and I had the beginnings of a lye burn on the end of one of my fingers – ouch 🙁

Two days later I unmoulded and cut, and the result wasn’t too shabby:

Confetti soap, the cut
Confetti soap, the cut
It has a few small air holes here and there, trapped during the mould filling, but it’s pretty good, considering!

Incidentally, the company from whom I bought this FO claim on their website that it causes no acceleration in CP soap, but when I asked in a FB group whether anyone else had had an issue with this particular FO, it seems to be fairly common. Ah well, forewarned is forearmed eh?!

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Castile, a quick update

I made the first batch of Castile soap back in mid January and, while convention dictates that it should cure for at least 6 months before use, the devil on my shoulder insisted that I try it out this week, a mere 10 weeks later.

I helped myself to the thickest of the end pieces, and snapped a quick photo:

Castile 10 weeks in...
Castile 10 weeks in…

It’s already a very hard bar, easily as hard as my regular bars after their full 6 week cure. This surprised me somewhat as I’d read that one of the reasons for curing for so long is because it needs longer to harden up.

Detractors of Castile soap often use the word ‘slimy’ to describe it, so I wasn’t expecting too much when I lathered up.  I ran a little warm water and started turning the bar over and over in my hands.  After a few initial biggish bubbles, the lather soon settled into a creamy lather with very small bubbles, an almost lotion type texture. I would definitely describe the feel of the bar as ‘silky’ rather than the ‘slimy’! I would have got a photo or a quick video but there were no spare hands around 😀 After rinsing and drying my hands felt soft and smooth, and I can see why Castile soap is recommended for dry or sensitive skin.

I’ve spoken to other soapmakers who say that they’re more than happy to use their Castile soap before the traditional 6 month cure is up. Others tell me that there’s a distinct difference in the texture of the lather if the soap is left for the full 6 months (or longer). I’m going to enroll an extra pair of hands to help and get a couple of photos or a video of the lather as it is now, and again in two and four months time. I should then have a better idea of the beneficial effect (or otherwise!) of the extended cure time.

If you have any thoughts about Castile soap, be they be for or against, please post below – I’d love to hear from you.

 

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Wet Soap Wednesday……on a Friday

Today was the first chance I’ve had to make soap in a while, so this week’s Wet Soap Wednesday is a little late! I made three batches:

Clarity, Welsh Rose, OMH
Clarity, Welsh Rose, OMH

Clarity is fragranced with lemongrass and clary sage essential oils, and coloured with activated charcoal, green mica and titanium dioxide:

Clarity
Clarity

Welsh Rose is made with a rose fragrance oil, coloured with titanium dioxide and two pink micas:

Welsh Rose
Welsh Rose

And finally Oatmeal, Milk & Honey, made with an OMH fragrance oil and coloured with titanium dioxide and mica:

Oatmeal, Milk & Honey
Oatmeal, Milk & Honey

Three more days left of Blogtober 2016 – relief from this incessant posting is imminent 😀

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10 Tips for Organising a Craft Fair

10 Tips for Organising a Craft Fair
10 Tips for Organising a Craft Fair

Last Saturday I had a stall at a local craft fair. Not any old craft fair mind you, this was important to me for two reasons. First off, it was right here, in my village – the first one we’ve ever had. Secondly, it was the first craft fair that I’ve organised myself.  It was the culmination of a couple off months of planning, and, if I’m honest, a fair bit of anxiety.  I needn’t have worried – it was a great success, so I thought I’d share with you here a few things to consider if you’d like to organise something similar yourself.

  1. Do your research regarding other markets and craft fairs in the area and make sure your event doesn’t clash with another on the same day. As well as competing for visitors, you’ll also be competing for stallholders.
  2. As soon as you’ve decided on a date, secure your venue.  You don’t want to be inviting stallholders until you’ve confirmed your accommodation for the day.
  3. Invite / organise crafters as far in advance as possible. Many crafters book themselves into markets and craft fairs many months ahead.  It’s also worth considering asking for a deposit on the cost of the table – this decreases the risk of stallholders not turning up on the day.
  4. Ensure that all your stallholders have public liability insurance.
  5. Ensure you know how many tables you can fit into the available space. You don’t want to ask 20 crafters to attend and then find when you’re setting up that you can only fit 19 tables into the room!  It’s definitely worth having a trial ‘set up’ before deciding how many crafters to invite.
  6. Don’t double up on crafts unless it’s a BIG event.  There’s nothing worse for a stallholder than setting up at a fair of, say, 12 stalls to find that there are two or three other stallholders there selling something very similar. It’s not fair on any of them.
  7. Don’t try to charge too much per stall / table, especially if it’s the first time this event has taken place. You won’t have any idea what the footfall is going to be and won’t be able to make any claims as to likely number of visitors.
  8. Advertising, advertising, advertising. You want as many people walking through the door of your venue as possible, so this is an instance where too much advertising is never enough.  Get your event all over Facebook – on your personal feed (ask friends to share), on local selling pages, and on local community sites. Put a small ad in the local newspaper, a paragraph in the parish magazine, get it listed on’What’s Happening in Your Area’ type websites. Make sure there are posters put up in the area. Don’t forget your local tourist bureau and local hotels / guest houses if you live in a popular area for visitors – local crafts are just the thing that they’ll be interested in.
  9. Have a spare cash float or two.  It’s not unheard of for stallholders to arrive at a craft fair without their cash box.  Not me of course, oh no… well, only that once a few months ago 😀 and I was both grateful and impressed that the organisers had thought to bring along a couple of ‘spare’ floats for just that eventuality.
  10. Rope in as much help as possible.  Setting up, decorating the venue and getting plenty of directional signage outside and in the immediate area can take longer than you anticipate.  If you’re also planning on holding  raffle / tombola / lucky dip / cake stall you’ll need yet more hands on deck.
  11. A bonus tip – if you’re holding the craft fair or market to raise money for a local cause, consider also having a raffle / tombola / lucky dip / tea, coffee & cakes stall. Just make sure that you put out the call for donations well in advance
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Name that Soap! (Competition Time)

I have a brand new essential oil bar, and it needs a name… This bar is scented with lavender, lemon and lime EOs.  Heavier on the lavender and lemon, lighter on the lime, but it’s definitely discernible.

Give me a name!
Please give me a name 🙂

I’m offering a free bar to the person who comes up with the name that I eventually select, and you can either enter below in the comments field, or on the competition post on my FB page. It’s open to anyone, wherever you are in the world – I’ll cover postage costs too (last time I did this it the bar went over the pond to the US).  So don’t be shy – I know you’re a creative lot!!

FYI The other essential oil bars in my range are called Serenity, Clarity, Peace, Boho Baby, Flowers and Luscious Lavender.

PS – the winning name will be chosen on Saturday 29th October, 9pm UK time.

Go go go!!