I had thought to write a quick round of ‘The Week in Soap’ today – always a good Blogtober fallback – but then something pretty cool happened and my fallback is no longer required 😉
Some of you may know that back in June I had an operation on both of my feet to correct bunions and to treat advanced cartilage deterioration caused by arthritis. I’d been on the waiting list for nearly 4 years, and had suffered daily pain for far longer than that, so when the hospital called asking whether I would be willing to be admitted for surgery within a fortnight, I didn’t have to think about it for too long.
Anyway, to cut a long story short, the surgery went ahead as planned on Wednesday 23rd June. The affected joints in my big toes were broken and had steel rods inserted to fuse the the joints. It was a day case under general anaesthetic and I was given special shoes to get me back on my feet straight afterwards but I had to make judicious use of painkillers and rest for long periods of time afterwards. I spent the whole of the unusually great weather during July (and my birthday!) in plaster casts, but they eventually came off on the 2nd August and rehabilitation began in earnest.
Which brings me to the point of this post. Prior to the surgery I walked a lot. I averaged 17,000 steps a day, but 22,000 wasn’t unusual. Obviously this dropped right down post-op, but as the weeks go by I’ve slowly been increasing my activity and this week, for the very first time, I managed to walk over 10,000 steps EVERY DAY! This is a massive milestone for me, and worth a blog post dontcha think? 😉
I hope you’ve all had a spooktastic evening (or managed to avoid one, whichever you prefer!) But there’s another reason to celebrate tonight – Happy End of Blogtober!
Having completed Blogtober in 2016 without too much trauma, I was a little blasé about doing it this year. What I failed to take into account is how much busier I am this year. I have more customers, more retail outlets, and I needed to make (and wrap & label) far more Christmas specials too. I won’t lie, it’s been a squeeze some days to get my posts written and posted by the midnight deadline.
I’ve been trying to work out exactly WHY I wanted to do it again this year. I know blogging is good for SEO, but given that I don’t have a live website yet, that’s kind of immaterial. I like writing, and blogging every day has given me an excuse to do that, and of course, I LOVE a challenge. I like goals, lists and challenges. Hmmm…
Have there been any benefits? I’ve picked up 10 new followers during October, which is a few more than the monthly average. I’ve had 2.5k views during this month (the next highest monthly views was LAST October, at 1.7k, and I’ve also seen my highest number of views in a single day this month, on the 12th October when I posted my top tips for giving a soapmaking demo.
There were some downsides though. I didn’t complete a single other of my October goals NOT ONE! I didn’t do ANY work on my website. I didn’t make a lotion or a cream and I ran a grand total of 3.5km – a far cry from the 50km I wanted to complete. I struggled sometimes with finding something I wanted to write about. I had plenty of ideas, but it wasn’t always the right time to tackle that subject, or I didn’t feel I had the time to do a particular subject justice. That was another concern to be honest, lack of time led to some superficial posts that I probably wouldn’t have been posted had I not had the pressure of daily deadlines.
So would I do it again? Probably, yes. Maybe not Blogtober though. This October has been my busiest month EVER in the business. I’m rushed off my feet, and I think the challenge of daily blogging for a month is better suited to sometime during the first half of the month – Bloguary anyone?? 😀
So that’s me done for Blogtober 2017. If you stuck with me thus far, thank you SO much! I can’t close before giving a shout-out to my partner in crime Sarah of Sas-Oki Soaps, one of only two others who started the challenge with me, and the only other one who completed it. A special mention too has to go to Hayley of The Pamper Kingdom who got to day 17 before family had to take priority. If you enjoy soaping blogs and haven’t yet checked out theirs, please do!
This week is half term here in in Wales, a week later than the rest of the United Kingdom it seems. This means, of course, that there’s no school all week, and I’m left wondering how I’m going to fit in everything I have to do while entertaining two energetic children. It also means that this is going to be a whistle-stop post as every minute counts this week!
On Monday I made two double batches of Candy Cane and Frosted Christmas Tree. I’ve been caught by surprise somewhat at how well (and quickly) these soaps are selling, and seeing as I still have time, I made some more…
Wednesday was my last-but-one day at the day job, followed by kickboxing and then my last Wednesday night soapmaking demo of the season. I have been asked back for next year (yey!) but that won’t be until the hotel opens to guests again at the end of March.
Thursday was bittersweet. My last day at the pre-school was lovely – we took the children for pizza and ice-cream, and then to the park and everyone had a wonderful time. It was sad to think that I won’t be working closely with them again BUT I can’t wait to be able to focus properly on this business from now on (well, after this week anyway!!) As soon as Dean finished work at 4pm I headed over to the office to put together orders for the following day’s deliveries and ended up feeling elated and just a little bit in awe at how quickly the Christmas soaps are heading out the door!
Friday morning was spent making soap deliveries, including to a brand new stockist – always exciting! The sky was clear and it was a joy to drive around beautiful Snowdonia in the sunshine, delivering soap and chatting to the stockists. I had a load of wrapping and labelling to do in the afternoon, in preparation for the Porthmadog Craft Fair the following day but by 7pm I’d had enough and took the evening off.
Up and out early the next day for the end of month craft fair in Porthmadog. Honestly, I think it was the quietest day I’ve ever had there in all the years I’ve attended. I suppose it’s that lull between the end of the summer season and the start of the Christmas shopping, but given that I’m busier than ever with wholesale and online orders I really didn’t mind. While I was there I managed to put together a long list of places I want to approach in the new year with a view to becoming stockists, and also worked on plans for new projects, so it wasn’t wasted time.
I spent most of Sunday with Dean and the children on a Halloween themed day out. The plan was to have a completely work-free day but during the drive home I started getting anxious about my low stocks of bathbombs. Arrghhh! I couldn’t help myself, I made 5 different varieties – 75 in total. Ho hum… the life of a business owner 😀
Back tomorrow for the last Blogtober post of 2017 – woo hoo!!
After a really busy week, I’ve hit the blogging wall. I’ve utterly lost my blogging mojo today and if I’m thankful for anything it’s that there are only two more days of this to go… I had thought about writing a post about time management today, and perhaps if I wasn’t sitting down at 9.30pm to start thinking about it, I might just have done so – guess my time management was a bit off today 🙂
Anyway, yesterday was Porthmadog Craft Fair (about which a post STILL hasn’t been written) but today was a much needed family day. We took the kids out on a Halloween themed train ride followed by a rare trip to McDonalds. Not one of my favourite places, and we’ve managed to avoid it for years, but somehow the younger members of the family have discovered it and we occasionally give in :-/ I took no photos until, on the way home, we passed by the classic view of Snowdon that I’d been trying (and failing) to recreate in soap:
See – for the highest mountain in England & Wales it doesn’t look particularly impressive or majestic does it? No wonder I couldn’t make it look good in soap. Perhaps I need to choose a different perspective? To drive around it and find the most iconic aspect and try to recreate that in soap? Or perhaps I’ll stick to my plan of simply calling it ‘Snowdonia’ instead.
I sense I’m straying into the waffle zone, so I’m going to stop right here, get a good night’s sleep and I’ll be back tomorrow with my weekly round up and a better attitude. Thanks for reading!
The fourth and final Social Saturday, at least for a while, features my current favourite social medium – Instagram. I was a bit of a latecomer it and if I’m totally honest I couldn’t initially see the point of it. That soon changed once I jumped in and started sharing photos and following other accounts, and believe it or not I’ve gained most of my wholesale customer through Instagram. I’ve found that there is a lot more interaction on IG than other social media – follow, like and comment on other accounts/photos and it’ll often be reciprocated.
It’s undoubtedly the best social medium for soap porn. Follow the right accounts and you’ll get photo after photo of beautiful soap (or whatever floats your boat, lol). Using the right hashtags to search (eg #handmadesoap #coldprocesssoap #soapshare) will help you discover new accounts to follow.
I’m so excited to be able to share today that I have a brand new Stockist – Siop Ogwen in Bethesda, Snowdonia. I delivered a selection of bars and gifts sets there this morning, and by the time I’d got home they’d already shared a pic on social media:
They started out as a book shop (my other passion):
but they’re diversified their range and now have some lovely, locally made gifts like this jewellery:
and these utterly glorious Welsh lady prints and bags by Twinkle & Gloom:
I’m honoured to have been asked to supply this lovely shop, so if you’re not near enough to be able to pop in and check it out (33 High St, Bethesda), then please take a look at their website or social media: Twitter, IG and Facebook.
As the Blogtober juggernaut trundles on, I thought it would be interesting (and easy!) to make the most of the fact that it’s Thursday and do a quick #throwbackthursday post. I’ve kept photos of every single batch I’ve ever made so I dug out the earliest incarnations of some of the varieties that are still in the current range to compare them to today’s version…
Original Blodau (Flowers)
Current Blodau (Flowers)
Original Luscious Lavender
Current Luscious Lavender
Phew! It’s becoming clear that I can’t keep this ‘blogging every day’ business up for much longer – I’ve gone from writing posts a few days before (organised huh?) to posting them less than an hour before deadline…
I had plans for today. Big plans. Important plans.
Today was the day for finishing off the wrapping and labelling of the first batches of Christmas soaps which had emerged, at the weekend, from their curing confinement
Today was also the day for delivering/dispatching said soaps to all the lovely people, both wholesale and retail clients, who had pre-ordered them.
I got up, and started making breakfast for the kids (pancakes, from scratch, in case you cared). I made my husband a coffee and took it up to the bedroom. He works from home and I take him a coffee in bed every. Sodding. Morning. Mind you, I can’t complain. I get a cup of tea in bed at the weekends. If I nag enough…
I digress. I should have known it was going to be a strange day. Most days my kids are awake before me – they were both utterly rubbish sleepers as babies (my eldest was over 18 months old before he slept more than 2 hours at a time) and have always been early risers. Today, for the first time in our family history, I had to go in to each of their bedrooms and WAKE THEM UP!! (*Ahem* capitals are for effect – I didn’t actually shout – how mean would that be?!!) Seriously though, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve ever had to wake one, or the other, up in the morning. Never, ever have I had to wake them both.
So, they were up a bit later than usual, and I was hurrying them along to eat their pancakes and get ready for school. At 7.45 the electricity went off. Complete power outage throughout the village. Never mind, teeth still got done, faces still got wiped, hair was still brushed and we put on layers of waterproofs to brave the howling wind & rain for the arduous 45 second walk to school (have I mentioned how close we live to the school?)
Did you see it coming? We arrived at the school door and were turned away. No school today – ‘Health and Safety’. Can’t do school without electricity. “Arrrrgggghhhhhhhhhhh!!!” (I might have said, under my breath)
So home we go. I couldn’t go to work, and I couldn’t even take the car to make deliveries as my husband, at a crucial point in his current project, needed to use the car to go hunt for the to nearest reliable wifi connection (which, it turns out, is to be found parked up outside our nearest Tesco (8 miles away), laptop balanced on knees – who’d have thought??!!)
So I spent an hour trying valiantly to do ‘housework’ (but mostly boiling a pan of water to make cups of tea). The kids spent an hour not knowing what on earth to do with themselves until I remind them that they have some toys that don’t have screens…
Mum turned up at about 10.30am, saw the wild look in my eyes and took the kids for a couple of hours. I ran (literally, the rain was still an issue) over to the office and wrapped and labelled as much as I could in the gloom. These are about half of the orders that were supposed to go out today:
It was dark, really dark, and although I had so much to do my eyes did get sore and I was glad when 12.30 came around – time to collect the kids.
The electricity finally came back on at about 5.30, just in time to illuminate our meal of fish and chip suppers that Dean brought home, in full-on hunter-gatherer mode. The family was fed.
I’m back at the day job tomorrow, so I have a lot of soapy catching up to do somehow but one thing’s for sure – I’ll be back with Blogtober 26 😀 #blogtobersoapers
Earlier this year I hosted a second International Soap Swap (You may remember the last one, back in 2015, which I wrote about over three posts: Post 1, Post 2 & Post 3). We had fewer participants this year (we started out as a group of 14 but unfortunately a few had to drop out and the final count was 9 participants in total) but they are all wonderful, highly respected soapmakers, and if you have an interested in the soaping world I’m sure you’ll recognise at least some of them.
Here we go – the final haul. This was a truly international swap, with participants from Europe, the USA, Canada & Australia, don’t they look amazing?!
I’ve been procrastinating over this post for quite some time, but I’ve come to the conclusion that you probably just want to see the bars, and the packaging, and to know who made them. You don’t really need me to wax lyrical too much about them. Suffice to say that as well as looking stunning, they all smell flippin’ wonderful too.
Wendy of Heavenly Bubbles is based here in the UK. I love the unique cuboid shape of these bars, and the utterly fabulous packaging. You can find Wendy on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and on her website.
Wendy of Heavenly Bubbles is based here in the UK. I love the cuboid shape of these bars, and the fabulous packaging. You can find her on Facebook, Instagram,Twitter, and on her website
Kangaroo Apple Soap
Lisa of Kangaroo Apple Soap is based in Australia, and sent these beautiful rainbow bars. Sadly Lisa’s return parcel with all her soapy goodies was lost in transit 🙁 Some of us sent extra little parcels individually in an attempt to make up for her disappointment. You can find Lisa on Facebook.
Melinda is based in the United States, and is currently on a break from soapmaking, so we were really lucky to get ourselves a bar of Blossom Dreams when we did. Perfectly natural and scented with a sweet frangipani fragrance.
Mimi & Boo
Look at this gorgeous packaging! Linda is the face behind Mimi & Boo, and these wonderful bars are scented with her own custom blended fragrance. You can find her on Instagram, and also on her website.
Shieh Design Studio
Emily of Shieh Design Studio was a soapmaker who’s blog I devoured when I first started making soap – she’s a really innovative and interesting soapmaker. Sadly her blog hasn’t been updated for a while but if you’re not familiar with it out you really should check it out. She’s also on Instagram and Facebook.
Sienna Lily Soaps
Carolyn of Sienna Lily Soaps is based in Spain, and has the most amazing imagination. These ‘Sailor’ themed soaps each came with their very own maritime based quote and hand decorated packaging. Find her on Instagram, Facebook,Twitter, and her website
Soap & Soap
Zacil once made and sold soap commercially under the ‘Soap & Soap’ company name. She no longer makes soap to sell, so again we were so lucky to have her as part of the swap group. The photos don’t really do justice to her bars – the piping on the top is exquisite!
Soga Artisan Soaperie
Louise, the owner of Soga Artisan Soaperie, is based in Canada. She sent these gorgeous ‘Frozen’ themed bars, who’s cool scent was a perfect match for the design and colour. You can find Louise on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and her website.
What do you think? Aren’t they gorgeous? A huge thank you goes out to each of the participants, it’s a real honour to be able to experience the creations of all these amazing soapmakers.
Blimey it’s been a busy week! It started on Monday with two double batches of Luscious Lavender and Warm Gingerbread:
and continued on Tuesday with two double batches Welsh Rose and Clarity:
I was so SO pleased that the Clarity turned out ok:
The two previous batches failed (I wrote about that trauma here) and I still need to try my hand at rectifying the failed batches with the oven method. Soon, soon…
Wednesday was my regular weekly soaping presentation. I only have one more to go this season before the hotel closes for winter, but I’ve been asked to go back in the spring which I’m really happy about. That’ll be my fourth year so I must be doing something right!
On Thursday (after the day job) I spent the late afternoon / most of the evening wrapping and labelling soap for the Beddgelert Craft Fair the following Saturday. I spent all day (and evening) on Friday doing the same.
Saturday was the fair itself and, being the organiser, I needed to be there before anyone else to set up, and was the last to leave after the clear up. Despite the (relatively) poor turnout, which was entirely down to the rubbish weather, it really was a good day. The stallholders and customers left happy, and I breathed a sigh of relief – it’s definitely going ahead again next year 🙂
Sunday, yesterday, was a family day. I needed a breather, away from work, so the kids and I baked and generally spent the day relaxing. Well, as much as one can relax when one’s dear husband is taking apart the bathroom… Yep, the next phase of home renovation has started, the reno-rollercoaster has begun again and we should have a shiny new bathroom by Christmas. I’ll share pictures when I can.
Happy Saturday guys! I’m now officially two thirds through this blogging marathon, and I seem to be noticing more articles online about why you shouldn’t post on your blog too often (like this one!) I’m committed, I’m not giving up, but there’s no doubt that I can’t find the time to write in depth, well rounded and well researched pieces at the moment, so my writing does feel a little superficial. I guess it’s all part of the challenge 🙂
This is the third Social Saturday of Blogtober17, and today it’s Facebook’s turn. Ah Facebook. Is it losing popularity? Is it becoming the social medium for an older demograph? My number of FB followers has grown slowly but steadily over the years and I get more engagement on there than I do on Twitter, but less than I do on Instagram. Insterestingly I have more business followers on Instagram – that’s where I’ve connected with most of my wholesale customers / stockists, and Facebook is the place where I find I have the most personal, individual customers.
Today’s post is a real quickie. For the last couple of months I’ve been organising the second annual Beddgelert Craft Fair. It happens today (woop!) and I have an awful lot to do, so, with no further ado, this is my Facebook Page. Do pop over and say hi, or share your link in the comments field and I’ll come to visit you!
I’ll be back tomorrow with a run down of the Craft Fair – keep your fingers crossed for me today!
**Waffle Warning** I’ve just reread this post before pressing publish, and it’s rather text heavy and lacking in pretty pictures. While the turn of events is a little sad, it’s exciting stuff in terms of growing the business and so I just had to share.
When I decided to take The Soap Mine forward as a bona fide business, I knew it would be a slow burner. It was 2010, I had a small baby (I was still on maternity leave) and I had just discovered that it would cost me just shy of £1,000 a month if I went back to my full time job. Neither my husband nor I were happy with the prospect of putting our baby into full time childcare (I was a project manager in a Manchester ad agency – crazy long hours) and so I gave up paid work to become a Work At Home Mum and set to making a business out of selling soap.
I practiced and experimented for months and months, and finally applied for SAs (Safety Assessments – professionally certified documentation that proves that my recipes are safe), organised insurance and dealt with all the other legal admin that needs to be done in the UK before you can sell soap.
I spent a couple of years selling at markets and fairs in and around Manchester, and then we took the big decision to move back to my childhood home in Snowdonia, North Wales (well, not actually my childhood home, I don’t think my dear mum would have been too impressed at that, but the same village) This was the turning point for my business. I was able to slowly increase the number of wholesale customers that I deal with, start giving soapmaking demonstrations and talks, and supply local visitor accommodation with guest soaps.
Throughout most of this time I’ve also had a part-time job in the village pre-school. For the last 2.5 years I’ve been the Assistant to the Setting Leader – just the two of us and up to ten 2-4 year olds. Happy chaos!! To be perfectly honest it would never have been my first choice – working with children had never been a dream – but I was offered the job when my youngest turned 2, and I could take her to work with me. There aren’t many jobs out there where you can take your child to work so it didn’t take me long to accept.
BUT, as I got busier and busier on the soaping front, I had started thinking about giving up the pre-school role and running the soap business on a full time basis. My youngest started school full time this September, and so, with some trepidation I told my employers that I would be leaving at the end of the Christmas term. Then fate decided to move things on just a little bit more quickly. Last week, the Leader of the setting handed in her notice – 4 weeks notice. She has another job, and we can’t replace her. Not for want of trying, there’s just nobody out there with the appropriate qualification who wants the job, and so she is literally irreplaceable.
So, sadly, we have to close the pre-school. We’re shutting our doors for the last time a week today – next Thursday, and I’ll be officially out of work. Except I won’t be. I have more than enough to do with the business, but now I need to think seriously about growth, and increasing revenue. It’s extraordinarily exciting, but ridiculously daunting too. I have so many ideas and plans, and now I’ll have the opportunity to put them into action – wish me luck!!
°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!!)
Today’s four questions are courtesy of Barb of Scrub Me Down – Happy Skin. There was going to be a fifth from Lisa of Aquarian Soap (see link below), about time management, but I’m going to give that subject a post all of its own!!
Question 1 is ‘What are my favourite blogs to follow?’ Well that’s an easy one – go to my homepage and down the right hand side you’ll see a list of some of blogs that I follow (I don’t know how it chooses which ones to display – Lisa’s Aquarian Soap blog doesn’t show up but I LOVE her posts, and Sarah of Sas-Oki Soaps too. Oh, and Danica’s Seife und Anderes) I went through and did a bit of a cull just recently as I realised that many of them hadn’t been updated for the longest time. Are there any glaring omissions there that I really should be following? What are your favourite blogs (not necessarily soapy ones!)
Question 2 – If you could carve out half a day and make something other than soap, what would you make? A cake. Always, a cake. I might not be the best cook in the world, but my baking usually goes down quite well. I’m going to post another couple of recipes before the end of Blogtober I think! I also really REALLY want to learn how to crochet, and if I had any regular free time I think I’d give that a go…
Question 3 – What’s your favourite fragrance for soap? My favourite fragrance oil of all time is a Pink Sugar dupe from Gracefruit called Pink Kisses (used in ‘Sugar Drops’), but I’m also in love with their Warm Gingerbread at the moment – it’s all ginger, cinnamon and vanilla and is mouthwateringly delicious. I’ve recently received a little sample of a fragrance called Tabac Vanille which I think is a dupe of a Tom Ford fragrance which is really intriguing me and can’t wait to try in a test batch. My favourite EO blend at the moment is the one I use in Botanica – lavender, lemon & lime. I could stand and sniff a bar all day…
Question 4 What was your worst batch of soap? Hahahaha there have been loads of them over the years. I’ve forgotten to add fragrance, or added to much. I’ve miscalculated and made lye heavy soap, and made soap that never set up. Luckily these days ‘bad’ batches are few and far between, but I did have that one a month or two ago – when I tried to make ‘Snowdon’ with a new FO that I hadn’t tested – rookie mistake!! I’ve still got it carefully stored in the hope I can use it to experiment with rebatching – and report back my thoughts of course!!
Unfortunately I had another couple of disasters just this last fortnight. I mentioned it in yesterday’s post so I won’t go on about it now but Clarity, with activated charcoal has been proving problematic too:
Thanks for reading – back tomorrow!! If you have any questions please comment below and I’ll do my very best to answer them.
So, Blogtober rolls on and, to be totally honest, here at the halfway point, I’m suffering from a bit of blogging apathy. I’m certain it’s temporary, and I’m absolutely not giving up (are you cheering or groaning?? 😀 ) but I am glad that today is my usual weekly update day and I don’t have to come up with something new!
Despite only having a few more weeks in which to squeeze in Christmas soap making, I only managed to make two double batches this week – Clarity & Tutti Frutti:
You probably won’t remember that I made two batches of Clarity the week before too. Unfortunately they proved, shall we say, problematic – the first one I cut had developed soda ash throughout the bar (or is it a partial gel?) which in a black bar is really ugly. How bad does this look?!
I’ve seen photos of this before, but never experienced it, and I was absolutely gutted – it’s throughout BOTH loaves. I had read that it could be because the oils & butters weren’t completely transparent when I added the lye (ie too cold) – which is perfectly possible as I soap at room temperature, so for my second lot this week I made sure that the oil mixture was completely, utterly, thoroughly, melted… And the same thing happened again. 6kg of soap spoilt… Gahh!! I’ve ALWAYS made this the same way – nothing has changed. Anyway, I’ll be upping the temps for the next batch and hope that that does the trick.
I released the Christmas soaps (Candy Cane, Frosted Christmas Tree & Warm Gingerbread) for pre-orders this week – they’ll be ready by the 21st October and orders, both wholesale and retail, have started coming in…I KNOW it probably feels early to many of you but I got caught out last year – retail outlets wanted to stock Christmas items immediately after Halloween, so really, I’m only just ready…
The rest of my time has been spent wrapping and labelling LOADS of bars for the *crosses fingers* Christmas rush.
Oh, and I think I have redesigned my labels. I’ve not been totally happy with mine for the longest time, and I’m quite excited about the new look, but all will be revealed in due course.
Thanks for reading – I’ll be back tomorrow, hopefully reinvigorated and ready for another fortnight of daily blogging!
IT’S THE WEEKEND! It’s also time to celebrate day 14 of Blogtober – another full week completed – phew!
Last week’s Social Saturday was all about sharing soap / bath & beauty blogs (you can still add yours in the comments section here), but this week I’m all about Twitter.
Twitter is the social media (medium?!) that I’ve found hardest to crack. I just can’t seem to gain any momentum and I’ve been stuck in the mid 400 followers for the longest time ( you can find me here )
I’ve Googled for advice and found a few posts that share hints and tips such as:
so I guess I should just put my focus onto Twitter for a couple of weeks and put some of these ideas into action. In fact you know what? I think I’m going to start a bit of a Twitter challenge for the second half of October – see if I can ‘up’ my followers / engagement and attempt to tame the Twittersphere 😉 I’m currently at 434 followers, let’s see if I can increase that by any significant amount by the end of the month.
Do you use Twitter? Do you LIKE Twitter? Do you have any helpful tips to reinvigorate my Twitter love? I even have problems finding accounts to follow, so if post your Twitter name below I’ll happily follow you (and maybe learn a thing or two in the process)
Thanks for reading and sticking with me thus far – nearly halfway through Blogtober already!!
When I put out my appeal for Blogtober topics here, Jo asked for hints and tips for making bath bombs. Now, I’m absolutely not an expert but I did learn a few things while I was knee deep in frustration trying to crack the bath bomb enigma. Everyone else seemed to be effortlessly cranking out these beautiful bath bombs, while I was crying into my bath bomb mix, WILLING the two sides of my balls to stick together…
Here’s a few points that might help you if you too if you find yourself in bath bomb purgatory…
While you only need baking soda and citric acid as your dry ingredients in bath bombs, it helps to add extra dry ingredients which can help prevent the premature reaction between those two main ingredients. I use both cornflour (cornstarch) and kaolin clay in my recipe. (Don’t use more than half the weight of the citric acid)
Use POWDERED anhydrous citric acid. You can buy the coarser citric acid and grind it yourself, but to be honest it’s a right faff. Just buy the powdered version. Also, be careful not to buy monohydrate citric acid, you definitely need anhydrous citric acid.
If you’re a beginner, or having problems with your recipe, don’t use Epsom salts or Dead Sea salts in your bath bombs. I have seen recipes using them, but they’re high in magnesium, which is a humectant (i.e. it attracts moisture from the air), and can prematurely set off the fizz
Sieve, sieve, sieve all your dry ingredients. Never, ever try to make bath bombs with ingredients that haven’t been carefully sieved to remove all and any lumps.
If you plan on making a lot of bath bombs, consider investing in a dedicated kitchen aid type mixer. Get it mixing all the dry ingredients, then combine your oils (cocoa butter and rice bran in my case), your fragrance and your colourant in a separate container, then drizzle it into the mixer and get everything really well combined with minimal effort.
Citrus essential oils can prevent bath bombs from hardening. I made three big batches of bath bombs using my ‘serenity’ essential oil blend (that contains both sweet orange and lemon essential oils) and couldn’t understand why the bath bombs never got hard. I suspected that the essential oils might be to blame but a lengthy Google didn’t come up with anything. I finally got my answer after posting in a bath bomb Facebook group. Citrus EOs can be problematic in bath bombs.
Use a water soluble colorant specifically designed for use in bath bombs. I use these from Soaposh. Mica in bath bombs aren’t recommended and can lead to a hot mess in and around the bathtub unless to you use Polysorbate 80.
Once everything is combined, spritz with a little Witch Hazel. Really, just a very small amount. For a recipe that starts with 900g baking soda I only need one or two spritzes of Witch Hazel. You really don’t want a ‘wet sand’ texture (certainly not the wet sand that I’m familiar with anyway) If you squeeze some mix in your hand it should hold together, but it doesn’t look or feel wet. This bit is notoriously hard to explain, and really, trial and error is the best way to become familiar with it (but it’s like riding a bike, once you’ve got it you’ve got it for life :-D). Too much moisture (of any kind) in your bath bombs can lead to lumpy, warty or cracked bombs as they dry out.
Don’t put any water anywhere near your bombs. Despite seeing plenty of recipes advocate a quick spritz of water, you don’t need it, and you’re risking setting off the fizzing prematurely. Also make very sure that your kit, implements and moulds are completely, utterly dry (be especially careful when you wash your moulds between making different varieties – dry them well)
Fill the two sides of your mould then press them down a little to compact it. Then pile more mix loosely on top of each side and press them together really hard. Don’t twist! I then use a teaspoon to tap all around one side of the mould, and the bath bomb then drops out into my hand. Turn it over, tap, tap, tap again, and the other side of the mould should come off. It’s taken me a while to get to the point where this works 99.9% of the time. If it doesn’t work – empty out the mix and give the mould a good wipe on the inside before trying again.
I never leave the bath bomb in the mould for any length of time. Soap Queen has a great Q&A on bath bomb making here, but while she recommends leaving the bomb in the mould for a few hours, I’ve never found it to be necessary with round bombs, but it might well be necessary for different shaped moulds.
I don’t mind a little bit of a flat bottom on my bombs, but if you’d like to avoid one then placing them on bubble wrap that’s been covered with some kitchen roll works well. (The wetter your mix, the more likely you are to get a flat bottom, so consider that angle as well if you want to avoid flat bits)
It’s worth considering the humidity of the air in your ‘making’ area. I live in a notoriously wet area and I genuinely haven’t had a problem making bath bombs when it’s raining. However, if you live in particularly humid area, or your kitchen is particularly steamy, then you might find bath bomb making becomes troublesome.
There you go, those are my tips for bath bomb making. If you have any tips to add please comment below!
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:
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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 😀
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Also ensure that you have plenty of cloths and/or paper towels to mop up any spillages.
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)
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.
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.
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.
Consider talking about the wrapping process and/or labelling rules & regulations.
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!
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.
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.
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
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