I’m not sure which planet I was visiting when I decided that committing to weekly blog posts was a good thing. It’s just not happening is it?! Sanity has returned and I’m back on planet Earth, realising that weekly posts may not be possible, but I CAN still find a middle ground and keep the blog relatively current without busting a gut every Sunday to find something to write about.
Today however I DO have something to share – brand new Pineapple soap.
I first made this bar as one of the 2021 Summer specials, and loved it so much that I brought it back again for Summer 2022:
Fast forward to January 2023 and Sugar Drops and Cucumber were both being discontinued. I was looking to add a new fragrance to the core range to replace them and Pineapple seemed like the perfect choice, and not just because I personally absolutely LOVE it. It’s a straight-up ripe pineapple fragrance, sweet and juicy, fresh and zingy – it LITERALLY makes my mouth water just thinking about it. Put that delicious fragrance together with my regular luxury soap recipe and you’ve got a year round winner that’s good for your skin, your pocket AND the environment.
Why not add one to your next order (find it here) and give it a whirl – I promise you won’t be disappointed.
My number one bestselling soap is Eryri, the landscape soap:
I’m pretty rubbish with technology, but I’ve been asked so many times to record some videos of my soapmaking I thought I ought to give it a go, and this video shows me pouring and sculpting Eryri. Some people use scrapers to ensure that all the bars are uniform in design, but I sculpt my layers freehand, so no two bars are ever the same. I like them that way 😉
I always make this in batches of six loaves (90 bars), but you only see five in the video – the sixth was just out of shot.
I don’t think there’s much else to say about this one, but if you have any questions just pop them in the comments below and I’ll respond asap.
Thanks for reading (and watching). I’ll be back tomorrow with Day 11.
Last week I set myself a challenge to make a minimum of 600 bars of soap in seven days with today (Sunday) being the last day. As well as trying to restock after a busy summer season and getting ahead for the festive season, I have a new wholesale customer who has placed a very large (for me) order that I’m steadily, but surely, fulfilling (I’ll share more about them once the first shipment has been delivered in a couple of weeks) and all that means I need to increase my rate of production. This week was a bit of an experiment in masterbatching larger amounts of oils & butters and working out how to work smarter and be more productive. That 600 bars was a fairly arbitrary goal – more than I’d ever made in one week before, but hopefully doable given my proposed new processes.
In the past, each soaping session has begun with the mixing of the lye solutions – usually enough for 8 loaves in four separate containers, which were put to one side to cool. I’d then weigh out four separate lots of hard oils & butters and melt them while also weighing out four lots of the liquid oils, ending up with four 5kg capacity buckets each containing enough prepared fats for two loaves (30 bars total) of soap. I would then go ahead and make soap, ending up with two loaves of four different varieties, giving me a total of 120 bars each full soaping session.
This week I decided to get all the oils / butters / lye prepared the night before production, and also to make more, and bigger (four loaf) batches. This gave me far more time the following day to make soap and I was able to get this lovely lot, a total of 632 bars (woop!!) made over three separate days:
So what about temperatures? I read a lot in online soaping groups that temperatures are important in the soapmaking process, but I haven’t used a thermometer since my very early days of soapy experimentation. I generally soap cool anyway, so using lye solution that was mixed the day before isn’t an issue, and I found that I needed to sit the buckets of oils & butters in some hot water in the sink for a little while to remove any granularity from the cooled hard oils. I dream of having a large insulated tank with a heating band in the future, but until then, this works really well – hooray!
Next week I aim to make as much, if not more, again. Keep rooting for me 😀
Thanks for reading, back soon!
PS Thought I’d share this little vase of nasturtiums, freshly picked from the garden today. I have a mass of them at the bottom of the garden where they’ve self seeded and they just keep on coming, in beautiful autumnal colours. Just lovely!
This is going to be a quick post – I haven’t made any soap this week, but it’s been a busy week for wholesale and guest bar orders, so most of my time has been spent putting them together.
Wedesday was the exception to the regular routine, and I spent the morning at my monthly networking group, telling them all about my business. I’ve done so many soapmaking demonstrations and talks, but I’ve never had to speak to a room of business people people about MY business. About my struggles and successes, and future development and growth. I was a little nervous to begin with, but soon warmed up, and I even made some sales, which is always a bonus! I joined the group back in January, and although time constraints have meant that I haven’t been able to attend every meet-up, I’m really beginning to really appreciate the benefits of being a member. There was a time, not so long ago, when I would have been rather dismissive of this kind of group. And all the more so because it’s called ‘Women Working Together’. But to be honest the idea of networking was a little daunting, and I’d heard some horror stories of pushy men practicing their sales patter on unsuspecting newbies at networking events. So, I decided to give this group a whirl, and I’m so glad I did. I was welcomed from the beginning, and the advice and support I get from other members, who have far more experience of growing businesses, is invaluable.
I’m really short of soapy pics to share with you this week, but here are a couple of the guest bars that I put together for one of my holiday home orders. These particular ones were for a gorgeous cottage on the Lleyn Peninsula (well worth checking out if you ever fancy a break in this neck of the woods!)
I’ve got some new ceramic soap dishes on the way, made by my talented friend Helen of the Snowdonia Blue Slate Pottery. These are so beautiful, and sell well as part of sets.
And here, just for you, is the very first look at how I’m proposing to package my new facial bars when I launch next month:
There’ll be a tag on the ties (as I have now) and a stamp on the bag with my logo – that’s the plan anyway.
Oh, and I’ve finally taken the plunge and signed up for a card reader, so that I can take card payments at fairs and markets. I don’t think that not having one has caused me to Iose an awful lot of sales in the past, but I know I have lost some. People who say they’ll come back later when they’ve been to the cash-point, but they never do. Perhaps they never meant to do so, but who knows?
Over on Instagram, this was my best performing post of the week – a #throwbackthursday collection of discontinued bars. I still love the all-blues one, and I’m thinking of using that colour scheme to make a nice ‘ice blue’ themed bar for next Christmas:
And this one was my favourite IG post of the week, purely because it combines my two passions of soapmaking and books – a selection of my favourite soaping books. How many of these do you have? I’m open to recommendations too 😉
On a personal note, this week saw the first harvest from the garden – a cucumber and two (TWO lol) beans. This was taken at the beginning of the week, and there have been a further two cucumbers since. Fortunate, as my son absolutely loves them!
This weekend has been pretty active, with an early morning walk with my friend yesterday (Saturday) morning. The sun shone, the birds sang, and I got home in time for breakfast feeling, dare I say it, awesome!!
And then today (Sunday) my husband and I took the children on a walk up into the mountains, to a hidden lake called Llyn (Lake) Idwal:
Kind of an incongruous place to find a beach, but a beach it certainly is – there were even a couple of swimmers. We had a bit of a paddle, and the kids did a load of rock climbing, before we headed back down and home just in time for dinner. My kind of day 😉
Last night I had the niggling feeling that I should be doing something. I wouldn’t come to me though, so we spent the evening binge watching Better Call Saul (have you seen it yet? I LOVED Breaking Bad, but didn’t think much to the idea of a spin off so avoided it despite Netflix’s best attempts at drawing me in. Given that it has the same writers, producers and directors I really should have known better, but there we go – Netflix 1, Me 0 Mind you, it has tried to foist some real doozies on me recently – the new Lost in Space remake for one – arrghhh! Anyhow, within three seconds of waking up this morning I remembered just what it was I should have been doing last night – writing this… Guess I’m not quite as firmly back in the saddle as I thought I might be ;-D Now, clearly I realise that nobody is out there desperately refreshing their screen in the hope that a new post from me will pop up, I’d like to maintain some form of regularity, so I apologise!
Well then, what’s been happening in my soapy world over the last week? On Monday I sent out orders that had come in over the weekend, and Tuesday was spent wrapping and labelling. Again. I don’t think I realised when I decided to turn my hobby into a business that, while I would get to make a lot of soap, I would also have to wrap and label a lot more soap too. Ah well, at least I’m not sweeping chimneys!
On Wednesday I had my first big soaping session in about three weeks. I stocked up on Serenity (patchouli, ylang ylang, lemon & sweet orange essential oils) and Bewitched (a dupe of the ‘Love Spell’ designer perfume), 120 bars in total:
Thursday was another day of non-stop wrapping and labelling, oh, and a little bit of photography. I’m still trying to get good shots for my website, and I quite like this one of Traeth Craig Du (Black Rock Sands):
On Friday I cut the batches that I’d made on Wednesday. I took a very quick snap of them just cut, so forgive their rather tatty appearance. I also got a touch of partial gel in the Serenity, which hasn’t happened before – I’m trusting they’ll look fine once they’ve been tidied up and bevelled:
In the afternoon I donned my science coat (not really) and made a few more batches of emulsified sugar scrub. It’s one of the things I’ve been working on whenever I have a spare half day, and I have to say I absolutely love this stuff. I’ve whittled my recipe down to three options, and I’m hoping I can finalise the recipe soon. I have so many things I want to launch this year, but at the very least there’ll be cold process shampoo bars and these sugar scrubs (fragranced with mandarin essential oil in this case) :
So that was it – my work week in soap. This coming week is going to see more soap being made, including shampoo bars, and more work on the sugar scrubs. I’m hoping to be able to send off for my scrub assessments sooner rather than later (as they can take a good few weeks to get done) and in the meantime I’ll have to think about labelling.
Have a great week everyone, and if you’re in the UK, what about this weather eh? Absolutely glorious, although it does mean watering my hanging baskets a lot more often than I’m used to!
I normally try to get this weekly round up out on Sunday evening but yesterday was Mothering Sunday here in the UK and there was no way this was going to get written last night. I had a lovely day actually – woken by very excited children at 7am and brought a card, flowers AND chocolate in bed.
A quick 5k run at 8.30 was followed by an extremely good breakfast at a local cafe Caffi Gwynant, a long walk in the hills:
and the day was rounded off with a roast dinner at home with my mum and her partner. A glass of wine turned into a couple more, and while we managed to get the washing up done, writing wasn’t really an option lol…
Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself. The week started, as it so often does these days, with a soapmaking session… Four loaves of Bewitched:
And I also made two loaves of Castile.
Castile isn’t one of my best sellers, but I have a small (and growing) group of return customers, so I always make sure it’s in stock.
Unfortunately I don’t have any photos worth sharing of the cut of these two yet, but here’s a new photo of Bewitched from a batch that’s just finished curing…
I sent out a couple of wholesale orders last week – one to the shop at Storiel in Bangor, and one to Siop Ogwen in Bethesda (which reminds me I really need to update my stockist list), and I also spent the best part of one whole day wrapping and labelling bathbombs…
On Thursday we woke up to an unexpected dump of snow, and soon after we got notification that the school was closed. The kids were thrilled, me not so much – another day’s work missed, but we baked a couple of Lemon Drizzle Cakes so it wasn’t all bad 😀
Did you see my Happy Mail on Instagram or Twitter? The super generous Terry of Oldways Soap agreed to trade soap with me, and this is what our postie delivered last week:
Aren’t they gorgeous? Five varieties of soap (one of which has already joined me in the shower) PLUS a bunny each for the children (who were utterly thrilled – far more than they ever are with any of my bars lol…) Terry is an expert at the Hot Process method (which I tried for the first time a couple of weeks ago) and she’s given me some hints and tips for my next batch which I’m looking forward to putting into practice soon.
So other than sending out the usual stream of retail orders for soap and bathbombs, that was my week. This coming week is going to be very busy – I have a bathbomb making workshop on Saturday morning, and then a craft fair on Sunday, both of which I need to prep for. I also have a few wholesale orders to get out this week, I’m making soap tomorrow (Tues) for a change, I have a networking meeting on Wednesday morning, AND my grading for my next kickboxing belt is on Thursday. Plenty to write about next week lol…
On Monday I decided to try my hand at making Hot Process (HP) soap for the first time. It’s been on my list of things to do for aaaaages, and I even bought a fancy pants slow cooker / crock pot before Christmas in readiness, but the time was never right. Recently however I was contacted by Plastic Free Snowdonia, a group who, as the name suggests, are trying to reduce the amount of plastic being used in this area. They were interested in solid shampoo bars, which I’ve not made for a while, and I decided that this was the perfect opportunity to try out the HP method. My starting point was this tutorial by Sarah of Sas-Oki Soap and while clearly I am in no position to write a HP tutorial, being an absolute beginner, I did take a load of photos and so I thought I’d share the experience with you.
In the past I’ve used Liz Ardlady’s shampoo bar recipe, but used water instead of the apple cider vinegar (ACV), and left out the sodium lactate. I should confess that I’ve never used the original recipe as written, but I’ve always been really happy with the final bars without the ACV, so I decided to use the same recipe for my foray into Hot Process.
I put all the fats into the slow cooker and while they were melting down I made up the lye solution.
Off I went to do something else, and of course by the time the lye solution had cooled down, the fats were waaaaay to warm, so I popped them out into the snow to cool down 😀
Once everything was cool enough I added the lye to the oils and gave it all a quick stick blend to emulsify:
I turned the crockpot onto ‘medium’, covered the top with some cling film before putting the lid on to keep the moisture in (a tip I got from the Modern Soapmaking HP tutorial) and let it do its thing. Another tip from the Modern Soapmaking tutorial was NO STIRRING. So all I did was take a photograph every ten minutes or so.
This one was after 10 minutes cooking – the soap is beginning to saponify round the edges. Apologies for the quality of these photos, there was condensation forming on the cling film over the pot:
After 20 mins cooking:
The soap continued to cook, and change colour as time went on. This was what it looked like after 40 mins, and it didn’t really change appearance for the next 10 minutes or so. I decided it might be ready. All tutorials I’ve read have recommended using an infra-red thermometer to check readiness, but I don’t have one, so was winging it…
So a the 50 minute mark I removed the lid and the cling film, gave it a good whisk, then did the zap test. For the uninitiated, the zap test is the process whereby you remove a small amount of soap from the pot and touch the tip of your tongue to it. Yep, you LICK potentially caustic soap. Sounds crazy I know, but it’s a time honoured method of checking whether soap has fully saponified. If it simply tastes, erm, soapy, it’s good to go. If it zaps (and trust me, you’ll know what I mean if it happens to you) it’s not yet ready. Oh, and please don’t put the licked soap back into the pot!! 😀
I then added some grapefruit essential oil, and whisked that in thoroughly before the soap was spooned (actually, plopped and stuffed) it into the mould… It was very thick, and solidifying very quickly. I’ve read that adding yoghurt, (or coconut cream/milk for a vegan version) can be added at this point to help fluidity – I’ll be trying that next time.
I scraped the last bits out of the pot and rolled them into little balls – with my bare hands!!! I know, I know, I wouldn’t normally do it but these balls at least are for my own personal use only. And the novelty of being able to squidge soap that’s straight out of the pot with my bare hands was irresistible 😀
Two days later the soap has become even more opaque:
I unmoulded the bars, and then cut them in half. These bars are going to be sent out as testers as, although I personally love this recipe, I want as many opinions as I can get before I think about selling this solid shampoo.
There seems to be conflicting opinions regarding how long Hot Processed soap should be cured for. Strictly speaking, it’s safe to use straight out of the mould, as the process of saponification has completed in the pot. I did use one of my little balls of shampoo on the same day as I made it, and it worked perfectly. However, as with CP soap, the bars were still somewhat soft when they came out of the mould, and I’m definitely going to give them an as-yet-undetermined cure time to dry out and harden up a bit. I’ve weighed one of the bars and I’ll monitor the weight reduction on a regular basis and report back when it’s ready.
I’m surprisingly thrilled with the result. It’s not very pretty. Not pretty at all actually. But it’s quick & easy and the clean up process is an absolute doddle and I’ll definitely be doing it again. If you have any tips I’d love to hear them – pleeaaaase 🙂
Happy Sunday folks! Hope you’ve had a good week? It’s flown by here – can’t believe it’s Sunday evening once again…
So, as it’s already 8.30pm and I still have a mound of ironing to get through, I’m going to make this fairly brief.
I made another 8 loaves of soap this week. This was on Tuesday, as once again my regular Monday making needed to be postponed as the children didn’t go back to school after their half term break until Tuesday. These are four loaves of Luscious Lavender and four loaves of Blodau (Flowers):
This follows on from the previous week’s enforced trial, and it truly does save a significant amount of time. I was a good 90 minutes faster making those eight loaves this week than it took me a fortnight earlier when I made two loaves each of four different varieties. Now, you know by now don’t you that I LOVE making soap, but when I’m making restocks I just need to get them done as quickly as possible, so this is a big win for me. A couple of close ups of this week’s makes:
I’ve finally hit my goal of having 1000 bars in stock (as I write the exact figure is 1041 bars) but I’ve realised over the last few weeks that it’s not enough, and I need to have at least 100 bars of each variety in the core range made at any one time. I don’t ever want to have to tell a wholesale client that they can’t have a particular bar, and whilst I’m prepared to accept that it may happen occasionally, it’s something I want to avoid if at all possible. Obviously those 100 bars will be at different stages of the curing process, and so I hope that if I do happen to sell out of a variety, it will only be a week or two at the most before the next batch is ready for sale.
I gained a brand new stockist this week. I was contacted by Zip World about supplying soap to their gift shop at Zip World Velocity in Bethesda. If you’re a bit of a thrill seeker, do check out that link, you won’t be disappointed!! By last Friday they had received their stock and the bars were already on display. This is a quick snap kindly sent to me by a member of staff…
Wednesday, Thursday and Friday were spent fulfilling orders and wrapping and labelling stock. I’ve also been in discussion with another potential new stockist, more of which at a later date, fingers crossed.
This weekend has been a complete work free zone. The weather was dry and bright, and although it was cold, it was the perfect opportunity to get out and tame a bit more of the garden. I use the term ‘garden’ very loosely – it was an overgrown junk heap when we first moved in, and we’re spending an awful lot of time and energy clearing it, but we’ll get there eventually. In the meantime I’m giddy to announce that I have ONE raised bed ready for sowing! Look at this beauty:
Want to know how much work that was? Every single last bit of soil in that raised bed was sieved, by hand, to remove every last bit of glass, stone and rubble, and I couldn’t be more pleased with it (well, until it’s full of edibles anyway!!) If I wasn’t so sore this evening I’d be happy dancing 😀
I have quite a long ‘to-do’ list for this coming week. I was contact recently by Plastic Free Snowdonia who were interested in solid shampoo bars. I’ve not made shampoo bars for quite a while, so that’s top of my list of things to do. I also need to make up bath bombs for a couple of orders, and for the craft fair I’ll be attending next Sunday in Abersoch (for which I also need to make up a load of gift sets – Mothers’ Day is coming dontch know! :-D) Finally, I want to make some shaving soap this week, this is a new one for me – the potassium hydroxide is on order and I can’t wait to start experimenting with recipes!
And I nearly forgot – look at this happy mail I received this week:
This rather suspicious collection of white powders was sent to me all the way from Ireland by Barb of, erm, well… I’m honestly not sure if I’m allowed to say yet as I suspect there may be a big reveal coming soon… Barb if you’re reading this do let me know if I can mention/link your new company name 😀 😀 Anyhow, she and I did a bit of a swap – I sent her some soap and she sent me this awesome selection of cream / gel / lotion making supplies, and these, together with Lisa’s e-book, are going to keep me quiet for a good while 🙂
Last year, at the end of October, my day job came to an end and my soapmaking business became my full-time concern, and sole source of income. If I’m honest, that last point is still sinking in – during the run up to Christmas I was so busy that the bank balance was never a concern, but now – eeek!! Anyway, Christmas came and went, and it soon became very apparent that I needed to get back to soapmaking pdq. Stock levels were low, and while I was expecting a quiet period during January & February, I knew that I had to fill my curing racks ready for when things picked up again. As soon as the children went back to school after the Christmas holidays, Monday became my regular soaping day, and I’ve been making 8 loaves of soap ( 2 each of 4 varieties) every Monday since.
So, back to this week. I didn’t choose the ideal time to get back into the swing of things as far as the blog goes, as it’s been a very atypical week. The kids have been home from school for half-term, and to compound matters my husband was working away. I didn’t have the luxury of a full day’s soaping on Monday (I won’t contemplate soaping while the kids are around) so once I’d got them both to bed, I made four loaves of Clarity (Lemongrass & Clary Sage EOs with activated charcoal):
This was a bit of an experiment. I didn’t have an awful lot of time (if I wanted to get to bed before midnight!) and I wondered just how much time I would save if I made four loaves of the same variety, as opposed to 2 loaves each of 2 different varieties. Turns out it saves a significant amount of time, but no real surprise there. I could do it even faster if I had larger mixing buckets, but more on that in a future post…
On Tuesday I decided to repeat the process and once the kids were asleep again I made 4 loaves of Eryri (the landscape bar). I’ve been putting off making this one as I perceive it to be fairly time consuming, but I really need to stock up on it as it’s perfect for the local market, and it was hugely popular at the pre-Christmas fairs. Actually, I was pleased at how quickly I was able to make this lot:
So even with the kids home and husband away, I was able to make my (now) regular 120 bars this week. And I’ve a feeling that I’ll be making 4 loaves of 2 varieties every Monday from now on, rather than the 2 loaves of 4 varieties that I’ve been making up to now.
Wednesday was Valentine’s day, and with my other half still away, I treated myself to some beautiful red tulips:
On Wednesday I cut the Clarity, but was rushing and didn’t get a photograph. I did get a quick snap of the freshly cut Eryri on Thursday though:
This one is fragranced with a blend of rosemary, lime, patchouli, peppermint and a touch of eucalyptus – a fresh, outdoorsy fragrance.
On Friday my husband was home, and took the day off to look after the children while I spent time in the office bevelling and wrapping. That’s the problem with upping production – there’s more of all the other stuff to do too!!
Otherwise it’s been a fairly quiet week as far as The Soap Mine goes. I’ve had a few small wholesale orders, and a couple of wholesale enquiries for which I’ve sent out some info and samples, but I can’t wait to get back to a proper routine again on Tuesday when the kids start back to school. Hopefully next week will give a more accurate picture of what I do as a (nearly) full-time soapmaker 😉
°OMG I’m so relived today. Remember a couple of day ago in my last Reader’s Questions post where I confessed that I’d recently had two failed double batches of Clarity? The ones that looked like this when cut?
6kg / 12lbs of soap that I don’t know what to do with (except I might have a plan, which I’ll come to in a moment..)
Anyway, it was with much trepidation that I decided I had to attempt making it again. It’s a REALLY good seller, and I can’t afford to run out, but I was nervous – wasting more precious oils (both regular and essential!) wasn’t an option. I had decided that it was probably down to a partial gel situation, and it would appear that, contrary to what I said here about changes in the weather not affecting my soapmaking, recent changes in the weather had indeed affected my soapmaking (Gah! This is where making bold statements in a blog post gets me!!!!)
I decided to try the CPOP (Cold Process Oven Process) method. I made the soap with the oils and lye solution just a little warmer than room temp (I usually soap at room temp) and preheated both ovens (on the dough proving setting) to just 40°C. I had to use both ovens as I make two loaves at a time but can only fit one in at time:
I did actually try to take a pic with the door closed but it didn’t quite come out as planned :-D:
So, I left the moulds in there for an hour, then turned off the heat and left them there for another hour.
When I took them out the tops definitely looked different to my non-CPOPped batches:
And then, a mere 24 hours later (I usually leave them in the mould for 48 hours) I cut the first one loaf, practically holding my breath as I brought the wire down for the first slice…Success!! (but do bear in mind that these are freshly cut and not yet tarted up…)
Cue a little happy dance…
And what to do with the other 6kg of spoiled soap? Well, in the comments section of this post where I also shared my ‘fail’, Sly of Soaps by Sly was kind enough to share a video of Tania of Soapish showing a method that seems to ‘fix’ a partial gel. This could be a gamechanger, and I’m definitely planning on giving it a go (just don’t ask me when!!)
Back in mid-September I put out an appeal to you lovely people for questions to help me with topic ideas for Blogtober and I wasn’t disappointed. Rather than try to answer them all in one post, there will probably be three posts in total during Blogtober – this here being the first.
Question 1 came from Claire of Saponista, who asked ‘What is your favourite soapmaking oil, and why?’ Without a doubt, my favourite soapmaking oil isn’t actually an oil, it’s a butter – cocoa butter, and I can’t imagine making soap without it (that’s a bit of an exaggeration of course – I made castile recently, and there ain’t no cocoa in that, but as a general rule each batch I make contains 10% cocoa butter) Cocoa butter adds skin loving properties to soap, and because I choose not to use palm oil, it also helps a lot with making a nice hard bar.
Question 2 comes from Jo who asked what I do about soaps and bath bombs that aren’t perfect. I’ll be honest, I have my own idea of what a ‘perfect’ drop swirl is, and it’s very rare that I achieve what I see as perfection. Consequently, practically none of my soaps are perfect in my eyes and I’m always striving to make them better. Providing a soap is a good hard bar, even if the design isn’t my best, it’s made available for sale. (Having said that, I’ve just cut one this week that I’m really not happy with – 3kg of soap that is more than likely going to have to go on the reject shelf – but I’m keeping the details of that one for a post later on this month)
Bath bombs, on the other hand, don’t go out unless they’re pretty much perfect. It took me a while to be able to get the mixture to the right consistency every time, but I think I’ve cracked it and it’s rare that I get bombs that aren’t pretty good (but the odd one that doesn’t quite make the grade will always find a place in my kids’ bath!) Interestingly (and this was part of Jo’s question), although I live in a particularly wet part of the country, I haven’t found that the climate or weather conditions have any effect whatsoever on my bomb making abilities. This seems to go contrary to what I’ve heard so many others say about bath bomb making, but there you go, that’s my experience.
Jo – I will write up some of my top tips for bath bomb making in a near-future post – I promise!
Question 3 kind of leads on from the last question, and came from Barb of Scrub Me Down Soap who asked how the weather affects my soaping. This one’s easy – it doesn’t! I live in a mountainous area, but the climate is effectively wet, cloudy, windy and mild. We don’t experience great extremes of temperature, and the only time the weather has ever affected anything to do with my soapmaking was that time my coconut oil unexpectedly melted and made one hell of a mess in my storeroom. It’s ALWAYS solid at room temperature, but that one time – arrghhhhh we just don’t get that kind of heat here often…
Question 4 is another one from Barb – what music do I listen to when soaping? Actually, it’s not always music. I LOVE the radio, and I’m a big fan of BBC Radio 4. It keeps me up to date with current affairs and has the most insanely interesting programmes, on all subjects under the sun. When I do listen to music, it’s inevitably rock music; contemporary rock, 70s rock, or any era in between, including the occasional trip down memory lane to my uni days with 1990s indie rock.
Question 5 is the last one for today, and yet again comes from Barb – where do I buy my stash? I buy my oils and butters from a variety of companies, including LiveMoor, Mystic Moments, and the local Cash&Carry for olive oil. (Anyone else notice how expensive olive oil is at the moment?!!) I buy my soap colours (micas) from U-Makeitup , and my bath bomb colourants from Soaposh. As for fragrances, I buy most of my fragrance oils from the wonderful Gracefruit (who. by the way, have the BEST customer service) and essential oils, well I’m currently looking for a new supplier, so if you have any recommendations…
It’s been a quieter week on the soaping front. I was grateful for that to be honest – we had family visiting for the first half of the week, and I’ve been getting into the swing of Blogtober. Day 9 today, almost a third of the way through the month already!!
On Monday I made two double batches, both restocks, of Welsh Rose and Blodau:
The Welsh Rose wasn’t my best – it accelerated a little and the colours weren’t as bright as they usually are, but it’ll be fine. The Blodau on the other hand, turned out great – this is a closeup of it in the mould which proved to be really popular on Instagram:
On Tuesday I made more restocks – double batches of Clarity and Traeth Craig Du (Black Rock Sands):
The new wire for my cutter arrived on Tuesday, and it would appear I ordered the wrong one again. AARRGGHHH It was a coiled string (?) and slightly thicker than I expected it to be. Well, we fitted it onto the cutter anyway (taking a bit of a risk but by Wednesday morning I had 12kg of soap to cut and I couldn’t risk it getting too hard) and although it IS a little too thick, it did the trick. I did a bit of research and discovered that I probably need 20 gauge wire, so I’ve ordered some and it should be here soon. What a flippin’ palaver!
On Wednesday evening I gave my regular weekly soapmaking presentation. I can’t tell you how much I enjoy giving these. It often turns into a bit of a conversation rather than a ‘talk’ and I get to indulge in waffling on about my favourite subject to a captive audience. AND then I get to sell them soap too! I’ve only got another two or three weeks to go before they stop for the winter, but the manager has already asked me to go back next season – hurrah!
Thursday was another completely soap free day, and Friday was spent in the office, cutting soap, labelling soap, wrapping soap, photographing soap etc etc….
I took some better pictures of my Christmas specials, which I’ll be sharing with you this week, and of the mountain soap (from yesterday’s post) and this one – the Blodau from earlier this week:
I realised that the reason I don’t get round to sharing cut pictures as much as the ones in the mould is that I don’t usually tidy them up until they’ve been curing for a couple of weeks, so I made and effort to try to tidy up the freshly cut bar and take a picture, and it worked ok I think:
Towards Friday evening I started to develop a sore throat which worsened as the evening went on and meant I got very little sleep on Friday night. Saturday was spent feeling ill, lethargic, weak and sorry for myself generally, and Sunday was mostly spent in bed, trying desperately to kick whatever it was that was making me feel so rubbish…
I’ll be back tomorrow, come what may, hopefully with a clearer head and body that’s more willing to co-operate!!
Just a quick catch up this week. Posts have been fairly few and fair between over the last couple of weeks because I’m gearing up for Blogtober – every time I think ‘Ooh, that might make a good blog post’ I decide to save it for next month…
I was waiting for supplies to arrive last week so I only made one main batch of soap – a remake of ‘Yr Wyddfa’ (Snowdon):
I’ve been trying to find a better way to create this design – this was the previous version which, while it sold really well, has, to me, more than a passing resemblance to *ahem* dog mess :-/
and when I saw the lovely designs created and document by Danica on her blog Seife und anderes, I realised that the sculpted layers technique might just be the way forward. There’s a great description of the technique on Danica’s blog, so I won’t go into details here (and anyway, I forgot to take any photos of the process, I was so anxious to get on with it – next time I will definitely document it better) so here’s the final result:
The colours aren’t quite right this time – the mountain needs to be more grey, and the greenery needs to be more, well, green… but I’m getting there. It’s fragranced with a blend of essential oils including rosemary, peppermint, eucalyptus, lemon and patchouli.
I also made another batch of dinosaurs and more stars for the next batches of Frosted Christmas Tree (which I still need to photograph to show you – oops!)
A couple of weeks ago I ordered a selection of green mica samples from U-Makeitup and this week they arrived – a lovely collection:
Oh, and the Christmas ribbons have started to arrive – I know it probably still feels a bit early but I’ve already had a wholesale order for my Christmas range for delivery by 22nd October, so there’s no time to be to complacent…
Thanks for reading – my next post will be the first of this year’s Blogtober posts on the 1st of the month (next Sunday – eek!)
The last week of the school holidays didn’t give me much time to devote to the business. I made some soap, wrapped a few bars and uploaded a few items to the pending website and had one, massive, disaster. But more of that later.
I didn’t make a lot of soap this week but I did make a double batch of Tutti Frutti. Here it’s in the mould, before and after the top swirl:
And the cut. I think I tried to be a bit too clever this time. I wanted the colours to more strictly follow the order of the colours of the rainbow (so how did I get red next to green lol?) but to do that I had to be a little more ordered in the pouring. I think I prefer the more randomly poured swirl so. Apologies for the rubbish photograph…
I also learnt my lesson and made a TEST batch using a new fragrance. Warm Gingerbread FO is one I’m hoping to use for Christmas, and I planned small batch with a simple design just to see how it handles. I’m glad I did – the website testing notes said it would accelerate, and accelerate it did. This pic is immediately after the cut – the two bottom layers should turn a lot darker over the next few weeks because of the vanilla in the fragrance oil. I left the top layer fragrance free:
It smells delicious, and I really want to use this FO to make a drop swirl bar for Christmas, so I’m going to have to use all the acceleration-reducing tools in my arsenal – and keep my fingers crossed!!
As I’d already made a start on the Christmas bars during the previous week, Candy Cane, Star embeds for the Christmas Tree bars, and a couple of batches of Dinosoaps, I’m confident that I’m on track time-wise.
And that disaster. Urgh… I was making more of the Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon) soap. The last version was ok, but the bars weren’t uniform enough and the mountain itself didn’t really reflect reality. I intended to use the sculping soap technique (I was recently reminded of it by the incredibly creative Danica of Seife und anderes – if you like soap blogs you really should check it out), but the soap batter riced on me in seconds. I’ve used this fragrance before (and besides, the testing notes say no acceleration) so I REALLY wasn’t being reckless.
Anyway, just for the giggles :-/ I decided to try to squish it into the mould anyway. I actually had to get my hands in there to mix in the colours and colour squishing IS now a technical term. Was there the slightest possibility that it would come out acceptably rustic looking? NO. No, no no NOPE!! The soapy gremlins were well and truly esconced in my kitchen that day lol:
No, I didn’t rebatch it. Yes, I trashed it. I know, I know, one of these days I’ll have to give rebatching a go but I don’t currently have spare a slow cooker that I could do it in, and, really, I just don’t feel the rebatching love…
Does anyone else feel like September is a bit of a fresh start? Almost like a mini New Year if you will. It’s always been the same for me, probably because it’s the start of the academic year, and therefore was often a time of change during my younger days.
Anyway, this September, things get serious for The Soap Mine. My youngest starts full time school next week, and I’ve known for a couple of years that this September will be a pivotal month for the business. Up until now I’ve had to work during the evenings and weekends, but going forward I’ll have 22 more hours a week to really grow and take this business forward. (I’ll continue to work in the Village Pre-school for 8 hours a week – on Wednesdays and Thursdays, for the time being) Having said that, it won’t actually be 22 hour MORE, as I’ve no intention of continuing to work all evenings and weekends like I’ve had to do this last couple of years. I’m taking some time back for me!
Ok, back on task. There really should be only one goal for September – get the website up and running. I’ve made a start – today I spent a couple of hours inputting text and uploading photographs – but it’s going to be quite a long process if today’s anything to go by. Many of my photos need to be re-shot too so that may take some time. Part of the website launch will involve migrating this blog onto the new site – I have no idea how that’s going work – am I likely to lose all my readers in one fell swoop or will you all somehow, magically, be redirected to the new site? We’ll see I guess :-/
But one goal’s just not going to cut it this month. I need to get the majority of my Christmas soaps made if they’re going to be cured and wrapped by the beginning of November. I also want to get back into the swing of regular blog posts too. I’ve committed to doing Blogtober again this year, but aiming for 8 – 10 during September should keep me on my toes.
So there we go. Website, Christmas soaps and blog posts. Together with the ongoing restocks, they’re the priorities for this month. What are yours?
Ever since I started making soap, I’ve been asked why? Why do I bother making soap when it can be bought so cheaply in the supermarket? Clearly, first and foremost I love doing it. You know what they say – ‘Find a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life’. There’s much more to it than that though. Traditionally crafted, handmade soap like mine is superior to commercially made soap in so SO many ways.
*Please note, the reasons listed below apply specifically to MY soaps – they may apply to many other handmade soaps, but I can’t speak for the ingredients in anyone else’s handmade products
It is vegan- (and therefore by definition, vegetarian-) friendly. I use no animal fats or derivatives, not even beeswax (which can be used in soap to give a harder bar). According to Vegan.com most commercial soaps contain some degree of animal fat derivatives (look for sodium tallowate or sodium lardate on the ingredients list)
I never use palm oil. Palm oil is a popular ingredient in both commercial and handmade soap (for good reason – it’s cheap, and makes great soap) However it is also extremely contentious, as palm oil production stands accused of the destruction of the South American rainforest, and of human rights violations due to the forced relocation of indigenous peoples. There are, of course, two sides to every story, and some soapmakers who do use palm oil have been able to source sustainable, ethically produced palm oil. There is also an argument that cutting out the use of palm oil completely could cause economic harm to those people who are employed within the palm oil industry. As I’ve never used it, this isn’t a concern for me. Palm oil will appear as sodium palmate on the ingredients list of a bar of soap should you wish to avoid it.
My soap is never, ever tested on animals, just (very!) willing humans.
Glycerin. GLYCERIN! Yep, I’m shouting. This is important. Glycerin is a byproduct of the soapmaking process, and is fantastic stuff. It’s a humectant, which means that it draws moisture from the air and helps lock it into your skin. It’s not technically a moisturiser, but it has moisturising properties. Commercial soapmakers almost always extract the glycerin during the production process for use elsewhere (eg lotions or nitroglycerin production). Glycerin is found naturally within every bar of traditional handmade soap and is one reason that people with sensitive skin CAN use handmade soap but can’t use commercial soap
Traditional, handmade soap is…. soap. Obvious right? Well yes, except that some commercially produced soap isn’t soap at all. It’s detergent. Take a look at the packaging on a Dove Beauty Bar. You won’t find the word ‘soap’ on the label because actually, it can’t legally be called soap. It’s a combination of various ingredients put together to create a detergent that closely resembles soap in appearance. Clearly all those ingredients have been approved for use on the skin so it’s not necessarily inherently bad, but many of those ingredients can cause skin irritation.
My soap does not contain parabens, sls/sles, phthalates. As above, these ingredients have been approved for use in skincare products, but they can cause skin irritation (and worse) to those with skin sensitivities, and many people will avoid them at all costs.
My soaps do not contain triclosan or any other antibacterial compounds. The use of triclosan in soap has been banned in the US, but is still permissible in the UK/EU. It was claimed in the US that antibacterial soaps were no more effective than regular soap and water and they could even play a part in increasing antibiotic resistance.
For many of the reasons listed above, my soaps are FAR gentler on your skin than commercially produced soap. If you are one of those people whose skin is sensitive to commercially made soap and you ‘can’t’ or ‘never’ use bar soap, please contact me via The Soap Mine FB page for a sample (UK only) – you may well find that you can use it without any of the problems that commercial soap can cause.
Your skin WILL notice the difference. Do you need to use a moisturiser after washing your hands with commercial bar or liquid soap? You probably won’t after using my soap. The generous amount of cocoa butter and shea butter in each and every bar, along with all that lovely glycerin, will ensure that your hands feel clean, soft and moisturised after every use.
My soap is made by hand, in small batches, with an awful lot of care and attention to detail. Yes, you will pay more for it than you would a bar of commercially made soap, but you know what? You absolutely get what you pay for.
There you go, 10 really good reasons why I believe my soap is better than commercially produced soaps. Try some 😀
It’s finally ready for testing! Back in early April I made up a small batch of what I hope will prove to be the final version of my long awaited facial soap. I’ve been using it myself for the last week, and I have to say I’m really really happy with it. It has a light, creamy lather and leaves my face feeling clean but so soft and not at all tight.
It’s unscented, uncoloured, and alongside the more commonplace ingredients, it also contains argan oil, jojoba oil, evening primrose oil and sweet almond oil. My feeling is it’s suitable for most skin types, but I’m no skincare expert, so I’ve asked for some volunteer testers via my Facebook page. I’m hoping to send out some samples this week:
This isn’t the final shape, and I have some work to do on packaging still, but hopefully I’ll be able to offer them for sale soon, together with a charcoal version for oilier skins.
Do you blog about making soap? I’ve created a facebook group where anyone blogging about ANY type of soapmaking (HP, CP, M&P, Liquid etc etc…) can share their blog posts, learn from others and find new soapy blogs to follow.
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…
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>:
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!)
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:
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?!
There’s been a lot of interest in my rainbow drop swirl (Tutti Frutti) soap recently, so I thought I’d put together a little pictorial tutorial for anyone who’s interested in how it’s done (I really, REALLY should start making videos shouldn’t I?).
Many of you will already know how big a fan I am of the drop swirl technique. Almost all of my core range is made using either a full or partial drop swirl, and Tutti Frutti is no exception. I made another couple of batches recently, and took some photographs along the way…
**Please make sure you’re familiar with the basics of soapmaking before you try any advanced swirls (Soap Queen is a good place to start) and always wear protective clothing / gloves / goggles. Safety first!!**
I generally make soap at room temperature, so I’ll mix up the lye solution in advance and put it to one side to cool down (I don’t discount the water for this one). I’ll also melt the hard oils and butters and combine them with the liquid oils and butters and allow them to cool down to room temp.
Next I measure out the seven different micas straight into the pouring jugs (actually here you’ll see six different micas and one liquid colourant. It’s notoriously difficult to get a good red in CP soap, but I use a liquid colour from Gracefruit which is rather good. They appear to be out of stock of the red at the moment, but hopefully it’ll be back in soon.)
Next I add my fragrance oil to the room temp oils and butters. Many people add their fragrance AFTER adding the lye and tracing the soap, but my preference is to add it before.
I then add a couple of teaspoons of the fragranced oils to each jug of mica and get them well blended. I know it’s common practice to skip this stage and simply add the traced lye batter directly onto the powdered mica (or add the powdered mica directly to jugs of traced batter), but I don’t always use a stick blender and this way I know I can get the colour incorporated well just by giving it a good mix with a spatula.
I get my moulds ready – notice my high-tech method of stopping the mould sides from bowing inwards 😀
And then we’re ready to go… I mix the lye water into the tub of (already fragranced!) oils and butters, and share the soap batter out equally into the seven prepared jugs. It would appear I forgot to get a photo of that stage – sorry! What we’re looking for is a really light trace as the soap will thicken up during the pouring process. Personally I don’t stick-blend this soap AT ALL. I find that by the time I’ve mixed up all the colours thoroughly it’s already at a light trace, but this will very much depend on how quickly your particular soap recipe traces and which fragrance you’re using. I’ve even found that certain micas can inhibit trace, so there are many different factors involved. It’s a case of using your judgement and, to be honest, trial and error.
Next comes the pour. First in this time was yellow:
What’s crucial for a nice drop is the height from which you pour the soap in to the mould. At the early stages my jug is quite close to the bottom of the mould as I pour a line of soap along the length of it. Here’s the next couple of pours:
Once the bottom of the mould has been covered with soap, I start to raise the jugs a little higher as I pour, so that the soap drops into the previous layer, rather than sit on the top of it. It’s very hard to give a precise height as it very much depends on how thick your soap batter is (the thicker it is, the higher you’ll need to drop it from)
I try to make sure I pour from the jugs in the same order on each round of pouring, and also try to make sure I’m not pouring a colour on top of the same colour in the mould.
I keep pouring until the moulds are full:
By this stage the batter is quite a bit thicker than when I started to pour, and looks none too tidy, but it doesn’t really matter once I start adding texture to the top:
And the finished item:
I generally leave soap in the mould for 48 hours before I unmould and cut:
And that’s it. It’s cured for 4 weeks, bevelled and tidied up, cured for another 2 weeks then released for sale.
Some time ago I started using the Instagram hashtag #dropsaretops for some of my photos – please use the tag to share your own drop swirls and make this drop swirl junkie very happy 😀
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