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The Week in Soap: 24th Sept, ’17

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):

Yr Wyddfa in the Mould
Yr Wyddfa in the Mould

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 :-/

Yr Wyddfa
Yr Wyddfa

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:

Yr Wyddfa / Snowdon
Yr Wyddfa / Snowdon

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!)

Star Embeds
Star Embeds

A couple of weeks ago I ordered a selection of green mica samples from U-Makeitup and this week they arrived – a lovely collection:

Green Mica Samples
Green Mica Samples
Green Mica Samples - labelled
Green Mica Samples – labelled

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…

Christmas Ribbons
Christmas Ribbons

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!)

 

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A Soapy Disaster – The Week in Soap: 3rd Sept, 2017

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:

Tutti Frutti Pre & Post Top Swirl
Tutti Frutti Pre & Post 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…

Tutti Frutti just cut
Tutti Frutti just cut

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:

Warm Gingerbread Test Batch
Warm Gingerbread Test Batch

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:

A soapy disaster
A soapy disaster

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…

Thanks for reading, back very soon!

 

 

 

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Goals: September 2017

September Goals

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?

 

 

 

 

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10 (Yes 10!) Reasons my Soap is Better than Commercial Soap

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

  1. 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)
  2. 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.
  3. My soap is never, ever tested on animals, just (very!) willing humans.
  4. 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
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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 😀

Luscious Lavender
Luscious Lavender
Serenity (Patchouli, orange, lemon & ylang ylang essential oils)
Serenity (Patchouli, orange, lemon & ylang ylang essential oils)
Botanica
Botanica (Lavender, lemon & lime essential oils)

 

Clarity (Lemongrass & Clary Sage)
Clarity
Blodau - freshly cut
Blodau (Flowers) – freshly cut  (lavender, ylang ylang & rosewood essential oils)

 

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Facial Soap

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.

Facial Soap
Facial Soap

 

 

 

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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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Rainbow Drop Swirl – A tutorial in pictures

Tutti Frutti
Tutti Frutti

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.)

colourants ready for mixing into the soap batter
colourants ready for mixing into the soap batter

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.

Pre-mixed colourants, oils and a jug of lye water
Pre-mixed colourants, oils and a jug of lye water

I get my moulds ready – notice my high-tech method of stopping the mould sides from bowing inwards 😀

Moulds prepared...
Moulds prepared…

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:

First pour - yellow
First pour – 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:

Red and orange poured next
Red and orange poured next

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)

More colours poured
More colours poured

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:

Filling up the mould
Filling up the mould
Almost full...
Almost full…
Full!
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:

Mid-texturing the top
Starting to tidy up the top

And the finished item:

Tutti Frutti ready to set up
Tutti Frutti in the mould

I generally leave soap in the mould for 48 hours before I unmould and cut:

Rainbow Drop Swirl mid-cut
Rainbow Drop Swirl mid-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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The Week in Soap: 26th March ’17 – BATHBOMBS!!!

Yesterday (Saturday) brought the first craft fair of the year, and a lot of last week was spent wrapping and labelling in preparation.  It also saw the first outing for my bathbombs, which are FINALLY available for sale. I’ve been so busy dispatching wholesale orders and restocking the curing shelves that creating labels for my bathbombs was never a priority – until the night before the craft fair 😮  I took just four varieties – Clarity, Serenity, Lavender and Bewitched (was LoveSpell):

Bathbombs, all wrapped up
Bathbombs, all wrapped up

I was busy Mon, Tues, Wed evenings this week, so couldn’t make soap until Thursday night, and then realised that I was so low on Olive Oil I could only make a two batches of Boho Baby (fragranced with Patchouli & Orange essential oils):

Boho Baby (Patchouli & Orange)
Boho Baby

Friday evening was spent wrapping bathbombs for the fair on Saturday, so I wasn’t able to make more until this evening, but I made up with it with two double batches of Serenity (Patchouli, Ylang Ylang, Orange & Lemon essential oils) and Botanica (Lavender, Lemon & Lime essential oils):

Serenity (left) & Botanica
Serenity (left) & Botanica

I now officially a yellow belt kickboxer!  I went through my first ever grading on Monday evening. I had no idea what to expect and it was intense – I arrived home bruised, exhausted and ravenous, but I absolutely loved it, and I’m ridiculously proud of my yellow belt:

Kickboxing Yellow Belt
Kickboxing Yellow Belt

Orange belt, I’m coming for ya!!

 

 

 

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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.