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A Planning Failure

If there’s one thing I’m learning, as the business slowly grows, it’s that planning is everything. Actually, I hope I’ve learnt a lot more, but planning IS crucial. I like to cure my soaps for a full six weeks before releasing for sale, and trying to work out potential demand a good month and a half ahead of time isn’t always easy.  Last year I made two Christmas soaps, and I had a good deal more left after the Christmas rush than I would have liked. How popular do you think a soap called ‘Christmas cake’ is in January? Yup…

This year, I was determined to avoid the same mistake again, and decided to make just one Christmas soap. I chose my fragrance carefully, and opted for ‘Jewelled Cranberry’, described as a ‘festive berry fragrance of juniper berries, elder berries and cranberries with supporting notes of pine nuts, orange peel and crisp apple’ and supplied by Gracefruit.

Jewelled Cranberry
Jewelled Cranberry

I gave it the usual six weeks cure time then posted it on my Facebook Page stating that it was a limited edition. The response was as amazing as it was unexpected – all 15 bars were sold within 24 hours. So that was it, my whole Christmas offering sold out before the end of October!  I was thrilled of course, but also a bit frustrated, at myself, for not foreseeing this possibility. Yes, I could have made more, but by the time I’d ordered the fragrance, made the soap, and waited the requisite six weeks, I would most likely be too late for the Christmas shopping period, and would end up with a surfeit of holiday soap in January again.  Very poor planning from a business point of view, but a valuable lesson learnt for the future!

Oh, and that Christmas Cake soap? I changed the name and it sold rather nicely, thank you very much 😉

Have you made Christmas soaps this year? Please share your links in the comments – I’d love to see them!

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And The Winner Is…

A MASSIVE thank you to everyone who came up with suggestions for a name for my poor nameless orange & ylang ylang soap (as posted here) Facebook in particular turned out to be a particularly fertile creative arena and I do appreciate everyone who took the time to have a ponder and post something.

It wasn’t an easy decision – ‘Pheonix’ & ‘Desert Sands’ were serious contenders, but in the end I plumped for something a little more descriptive of the fragrance. And so, without further delay, I give you, ‘Orange Bliss’:

Orange & Ylang Ylang EOs
Orange Bliss – fragranced with Orange & Ylang Ylang Essential Oils

Orange Bliss was the suggestion of Candice Bond, who posted on our Facebook page here. Thank you and congratulations Candice – please message the FB page with your address and a bar will be winging its way to you!

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A Range? Really…?

So, as work continues on my website (I know, I know, that’s another thing I’ve been banging on about for ever) my Web Designer and trusty assistant (aka my husband) has informed me that I need to develop ‘A Range’. Apparently I can’t keep making random batches of whatever I want to, with whatever ingredients / fragrances / colours I fancy trying and using a near infinite variety of design techniques. Nope, I need ‘A Range’…

Now I’ve read enough on Soap Business Best Practice over the last couple of years to know that this is true.  The main reason I guess is that I’ll lose business if I don’t have a range of bestsellers which are always in stock. I also think the website’s going to look a little crazy if there’s too much choice (and of course keeping a website up to date with an unlimited number of different products will be (I was told, sternly) a ‘nightmare’).

So, despite my misgivings, I’ve had to narrow things down a little and make some decisions.  I’m still going to make both Essential Oil soaps and Fragrance Oil soaps, though they’ll have their own separate categories, with no more than eight in each category to begin with.

To simplify things even further, Essential Oil soaps will all be made using the ‘Drop Swirl’ technique:

 

Enigma - Clary Sage, Rose Geranium and Lemon essential oils
Enigma – Clary Sage, Rose Geranium and Lemon Essential Oils

 

Spice Island - Aniseed and Orange Essential Oils
Spice Island – Aniseed and Orange Essential Oils

And Fragrance Oil soaps will be made using the ‘In The Pot’ (ITP) Swirl technique: (this first one is the soap that was in the mould in my last post – my first ‘post-move’ soap!)

Delicious - a dupe of the popular DKNY Be Delicious fragrance
Delicious – a dupe of the popular DKNY Be Delicious fragrance
Lemon Meringue - An intensely lemony yet sweet fragrance.
Lemon Meringue – An intensely lemony yet sweet fragrance.

The two techniques can sometimes look quite similar, and I might decide in time that that’s not such a good idea, but I’ll wait and see.

I’ll should still be able to indulge my creative streak as I’m hoping to make more seasonal soaps – I’ve missed a trick in the past by not making specific (for example) Christmas, Summer or Valentines Day soaps so that’s where I think I’ll be able to try out different fragrances and designs.

What do you think of my plan?

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…and two months later…

Wow, I realised on Monday that it was exactly two months since I last posted on here.  TWO MONTHS!! I knew I’d take a bit of time out while we packed up our home and made the move to Wales, but I didn’t realise I would neglect the blog so thoroughly – so sorry!

Anyway, we’ve left the big city and are now settling into a much more rural way of life. This is the amazing view from my bedroom window:

photo 1

Not bad eh? We’re still staying with my mum, who has kindly allowed her peaceful home to be invaded by our family of four (thanks mum!) but we’re in the process of buying our new home – in the same village – yippee!

Needless to say the majority of our belongings are still boxed up and in storage and I’ve not been able to make soap BUT I decided last night that enough was enough – I had to get back to it. Mainly because a) I miss it, hugely and b)The Soap Mine is getting seriously low on stock…

So, I dug out all my soaping gear, whisked up a simple 3 colour ITP (in the pot) swirl (and oh oh oh loved every minute of it :-D):

photo 2(1)

  Delicious is scented with a dupe of DKNY’s Be Delicious fragrance, and smells utterly gorgeous. Coloured with two shades of green mica and titanium dioxide. Cut pics to follow soon.

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Anyone for Embeds?

This month’s challenge over at Amy Warden’s Great Cakes Soapworks was to make a soap with embeds, ie soap with different shaped/coloured soap embedded within in it. One of the examples Amy used in her tutorial was this beauty:

Rise-and-Shine-soap

Isn’t it gorgeous?

I wasn’t going to enter the challenge this month as we move next week (are you bored of hearing about it yet? 😉 ) but I do like getting involved so decided to whip up something simple at the last minute, just so that I could take part.  I’ve already taken a peek at some of the other entries and there are some absolutely stunning creations, I’m a little embarrassed to post my little simple soap, but hey ho – I might win the booby prize :0)

Back in 2012 I made a soap that was really popular, called Bubblicious:

Bubblicious

and I thought it would be a quick and easy one to replicate for this challenge.

So I made up two small batches of soap and coloured one pink and one lilac. After about 24 hours I unmoulded them and started to roll different sized balls out of both colours:

Soap balls

This soon became ridiculously laborious and I realised I could probably get exactly the same effect if I rolled lengths of soap like these:

Soap sticks

I then made up a larger batch of soap and added titanium dioxide to make it nice and white. I fragranced it with a lovely floral blend of Rosewood and Ylang Ylang essential oils.

I then simply poured a small amount of soap into the bottom of the mould, laid some balls in and covered them with the white batter, then repeated until the mould was full, making sure I kept enough balls back to decorate the top of the soap. Voila:

Bubbles in the mould

And here are the cut bars:

Bubbles!

Very simple, but a nice effect nevertheless.  There are so many ways to play about with this technique, I’ll definitely be making many more embed soaps in the future.

Thanks, as always, go to Amy Warden for organising the challenge and giving us all an opportunity to drool over each other’s creations :0)

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I missed one…

I don’t know about you, but I go daft for reading Soapy blogs. I use bloglovin, which I love because even though I don’t always get to read posts as soon, and as often, as I would like, it keeps me up to date with all my fellow soapy bloggers and I never miss a thing. In fact, it was fellow soaper’s blog that reminded me last week that I had actually missed something – I’d forgotten to post about my most recent Lavender soap.

Ruth Esteves over at The Sirona Springs Blog posted a great tutorial on creating Mica Oil Swirls on the top of soaps, and invited readers to link their own attempts in the comments section. So I though I would. Only I didn’t have anything to link to, ‘cos I’ve not blogged about it. <Ahem…>

So here it is – a reincarnation of Luscious Lavender, but with a mica oil swirl.  The soap itself is coloured with violet ultramarine, but the closest mica I had was ‘Patagonian Purple’, and it’s not really a good match colour-wise (at all, lol). Never mind – I love the effect anyway (and I’ve just placed an order for ‘Grape’ mica which I’m hoping will be closer to the ultramarine colour and more ‘lavender-like’ for future soaps 🙂

Pure Lavender Essential Oil with a Mica SwirlI didn’t take any photos of the process, but all I did was mix about half a teaspoon of mica in a small container with about a teaspoonful of olive oil, and then used a disposable pipette to drop the mixture all over the soap once it was in the mould. I then used a wooden skewer to create the swirls. Easy peasy 😀

If you have a soapy blog please feel free to share it in the comments below. If I don’t already follow you – I will!

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Taiwan Swirl

I’ve been on a bit of a self imposed soaping break recently, in preparation for ‘The Big Move’, and it feels like ages since I last made soap.  When Amy of Great Cakes Soapworks posted this month’s soaping challenge – the beautiful Taiwan Swirl – I decided  to sign up just to watch the tutorial and see how it’s done.   Anyhow, watching the video got me itching to make soap again, so, at the eleventh hour, I unpacked all the soaping gear (to raised eyebrows from my other half :-D) and gave it a shot.

The Taiwan Swirl calls for a really really thin soap batter, which I knew would be my first challenge. My usual recipe traces fairly quickly and wouldn’t be any good for this design. Amy suggested 80% Olive oil to 20% Coconut oil, so I ran that through SoapCalc and decided I’d like the final soap to be a bit more bubbly. I plumped for 70% Olive oil, 20% Coconut oil and 10% Castor oil. Some of you will have spotted the obvious mistake already – guess who totally forgot that Castor oil can speed up trace?

I mixed up a blend of Lemon, Clary Sage and Ginger essential oils to fragrance the soap, and chose what I hoped would be complementary green and orange micas for the colours. I dispersed the micas in about 15ml of Olive oil:

photo 1(2)

I had already made up the lye solution and melted/mixed the oils earlier in the day, so I had both at room temperature. I added the lye to the oils and briefly mixed with the stick blender to the point of a very VERY light trace.  Amy, in her video, suggested stopping as soon as the batter was emulsified and just before it traced, but I missed that window and definitely hit trace  🙂  I poured a very small amount (just over 100ml from a 750g batch) of batter into each jug of mica and poured the remaining batter into the mould. I knew I was running out of time as the batter in the mould was thickening so I quickly poured the coloured mixes into the base (from high, to get the colour down through the batter to the base – one down one side, lengthways, and the other down the other side). Both were poured at the same time, which proved challenging!

Then I swirled, using a skewer. The swirling is a bit difficult to explain without a diagram but here goes: Put the skewer into the mould, right down to the base, in one corner of the mould then make tight ‘s’ shapes from one short end of the mould, side to side down the length of the mould to the other short end. Then, keeping the skewer in the mould, make long ‘s’ shapes along the length of the mould – at 90 degrees to the first ‘s’ shapes. I hope that makes sense but if not there are some great YouTube tutorials on my Pinterest board here.

Anyone spot the next obvious mistake? Yup, I forgot to add the essential oil blend. Ah well, too late to do anything about it :-s

photo 2(1)At this stage I was a little bit disappointed with what was in the mould – the swirls weren’t as fine as I’d hoped, and the green colour wasn’t very defined, but by the next morning it was looking better, and by the time I cut it I was pretty happy with the result….

Taiwan Swirl by The Soap Mine

It’s still pretty soft – I’ve never made a soap with such a high percentage of liquid oils before – and I think it’s going to need a good long cure time to get nice and hard. I really should have left it for at least 48 hours before cutting, rather than my normal 24 hours, but I was in a hurry to get this post finished, and a picture uploaded onto to Amy’s challenge web page before the deadline, so that’s what I’m off to do now 😀

Thanks Amy for another great challenge!

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Recent Makes

A very quick update with some recent creations.

First up is a restock of Luscious Lavender – an ‘In the Pot’ swirl fragranced with Lavender Essential Oil and coloured with Titanium Dioxide and Violet Ultramarine. It always surprises me how popular Lavender still is – this one’s already sold out!

Pictures 071

This next one is Orange Sherbert.  The batter thickened up VERY quickly but I still managed to do an ‘In the Pot’ swirl.  I really like the resulting folds, but I’m not sure I would ever be brave enough to try to replicate it as I was <this> close to getting the proverbial ‘Soap on a Stick’ :0) Fragranced with Orange Sherbet FO from Gracefruit and coloured with Titanium Dioxide and Orange Mica.

Pictures 264

Finally for today: Parisian Flowers.  A deliberately uneven layered soap, fragranced with a heady blend of Ylang Ylang, Rose Geranium and Lavender Essential Oils. Coloured with Titanium Dioxide and a range of pink micas, with a mica oil swirl on the top.

Pictures 270

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Colourful Camouflage

Another recent make:

Pictures 255

My original plan was to create a four colour version of the black and white soap in the header <up there> but it thickened up really quickly on me, and I had to work quickly to spoon it into the mould and swirl the top.

IMG_0551

It’s scented with “Jelly Beans” fragrance oil, a sweet, fruity fragrance that has held well, and really suits the colourful design.

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Drop Swirls

We finally had a bright day today so I took the opportunity to take some photographs outside – I’ve tried and tried to get decent pictures using my lightbox and artificial lighting but each time I fail miserably so it’s natural light all the way for me from now on!  (This could prove problematic in a North of England winter but I’m nothing if not an optimist 🙂 )

I recently tried something a little different – I’ve seen some beautiful drop swirl soaps on Pinterest, most notably by Tree Frog Soaps and Celine at I Am Handmade, and decided to give it a go. Celine very generously shares her methods on YouTube here so I spent a few happy hours watching soaping videos before I felt ready to make my attempts. Here are the first two:

Green drop

Aniseed & Orange DropI’ve also been experimenting with creating my own essential oil fragrance blends. Neither of these soaps have names yet, but the first one is fragranced with a lovely blend of Rose Geranium, Clary Sage and Lemon essential oils, and the second is fragranced with a totally delicious blend of Aniseed and Orange essential oils.