Phew! Made it to the halfway point! Tonight’s post needs to be a quick one because as always, I have nothing prepared and Saturday night is family TV night in the Hinde household and we have a date with The Cube!
It’s been a busy week making soap (I’m still catching up with stock levels) so I thought I’d show you one of the batches that came off my one-woman production line this week. Blodau (Welsh Flowers) is scented with a 50:50 blend of lavender & ylang ylang essential oils. Ylang ylang on its own can be a bit heavy for some, but combined with lavender it’s just gorgeous. This bar has been my 7th best selling variety of regular soap bars on the website this year, but for some reason it’s more popular in wholesale orders where it’s my 4th most popular.
I generally make four loaves of soap in one batch – this was Blodau in the mould this week:
The next day I unmoulded and cut the four loaves, and ended up with 60 bars of soap, no two of which were the same. I love how ever bar of soap I make is individual and unique:
All sixty bars have now been put to bed for their six week cure, but as always there’s plenty available on the website, get yours here!
I can’t be the only one who’s incredulous that there’s only a week and a half left of October? They say time flies when you’re having fun so I guess I must be having a whale of a time 😉
I didn’t manage to get a weekly update out last week, I posted the info about the solid conditioner bars (here) and that, it would appear, brought me to the limit of my available blogging time. However, you really didn’t miss much. I made soap. I wrapped soap. I labelled soap. I dispatched soap to retail and wholesale customers. I read about soap and talked about soap soap – in person and online. Oh, I took the dog for a few walks as well.
Seriously though, I am living and breathing soap at the moment (with the odd foray into solid conditioner bars). I’m running out of space in my rented office space (a 20 second commute over the road above the village Tourist Info Shop – I should share some pics sometime), and I definitely need a larger making area at home. It feels like I should be expanding my space, but there isn’t really anywhere local I could move into, and the children are still too small for me to travel too far afield. We’ve talked about the possibility of building a workshop in the garden, which would solve the studio space issue, but I’d still be struggling for curing / wrapping / packing space. It’s one of those things that’s on the back burner, but always there, niggling at me to find a solution, so I’m trying not to fret about it too much during the run up to Christmas, and will give it some more thought in January / February (supposedly my ‘quiet’ time, but it didn’t quite work out that way this year so we’ll see).
I’ve had a big run on guest bars this last couple of weeks. The guest houses and holiday lets around here continue to be occupied throughout autumn and are always full over Christmas and New Year, so I think everyone’s getting their orders in now to be sure they don’t run out over the festive period. I have 250 of these mini bars to cut and bevel over the next two or three days. Thankfully customers are becoming increasingly eco-conscious and don’t always want them fully wrapped – the ‘naked’ option is becoming more popular, and I always provide a full ingredients list and other mandatory info for the customer to pass on to their guests.
Ooh, and I’ve added a new fragrance to the FO range… During the summer I released four limited edition bars, one of which was Watermelon, which proved to be extraordinarily popular. And justifiably so – it smells utterly delicious. When I dropped Tutti Frutti from the core range I had room for a new regular fragrance and adding Watermelon was a no-brainer. Here’s the very first batch of 60 in the mould:
I said in my last weekly update that I would share a bit more about the Christmas range soon but I’ve STILL not managed to take any photos. I hereby undertake, no, I PROMISE, that I shall reveal the Christmas range in my next update post. *Adds another thing to this week’s to-do list*
I’m still working on my HUGE order that I alluded to back on the 22nd September. The first batch are now all fully cured and are bevelled and ready for wrapping. There are almost 800 bars just in this first delivery to get labelled up with a cigar band wrap, and I’m so grateful that my lovely friend has been willing to come round and help me in return for a cuppa and a chat. Now these are new to me, but I love the way they look, and I’m edging more and more towards doing my own this way. They’re eco-friendly, look great, and are quick to wrap once you get into the swing of them. However my customer is an online only company, so these bars won’t be sitting on a shop shelf for any length of time, whereas mine would be, so I’m not sure whether it would work for my wholesale customers? I think I’m going to give it a go though. Here’s a sneak peek of some we’ve wrapped already:
And finally, here are some pics of cut soap and soap in the mould from the last couple of weeks…
My first full week back at work after the school holidays flew by SO quickly, but I did finally round to starting the Christmas range (yup, THAT ‘C’ word). I’m a bit later this year than last so I have some catching up to do.
Monday saw me making the first batch of Christmas bars – a reprise of Candy Cane which has gone down so well over the last few holiday periods. I also made some Traeth Craig Du (Black Rock Sands) to restock the shelves. Winter and Summer in one soapy session!
I also made another batch of the facial bar. I need to get to a point where I’ve always got it in stock, rather than selling out, which is what’s happening at the moment!
Tuesday was a wrapping and labelling kind of day. I also spent some time researching more stockist possibilities. I’d like to get a map up on my office wall with all my current stockists marked on there so that I can easily see any obvious gaps in the local area before setting my sights a little further afield…
On Wednesday morning I went to my monthly networking group, Women Working Together. It’s predominantly a women’s group (but men are by no means excluded) and I’m finding it invaluable for so many reasons, not least the fact that it’s really good to take time out every now and then to be sociable (a must when working alone!). The support of others in a similar position, and the wealth of advice and insights that they’re willing to share, are a huge benefit too of course!
I didn’t have much time left in the afternoon before the school pick up but I did manage to unmould and cut the soap that I made on Monday. I only took photos of the freshly cut Candy Cane (I’m not happy with this red by the way – I didn’t use enough red colourant. The next batch will be better)
Thursday was spent in the office again, and writing up the results of the fragrance oil testing I did for Blossom Oils. Friday saw MORE soapmaking! Two soapmaking days in one week – woop! Four loaves, or 60 bars, of Warm Gingerbread (the second of the Christmas bars) and another loaf of the facial bar. Apologies for the rubbish photo ;-D
There was a bit of a first for me over on Instagram last week – this photo here got over 1,000 likes. ONE THOUSAND!! I don’t understand why, but I’m not complaining lol…
And on a personal note, another first – my first brown belt in kickboxing, 20 months after I threw my first punch. It’s going to take even longer to get through all the browns though, but with lots of determination, and a little bit of luck *crosses fingers*, I’ll get there:
The weekend was spent in non-soapy, family pursuits, including the longest bike ride we’ve yet undertaken as Team Hinde – 7km Don’t forget that the little one is only five, with an ungeared little bike, so this was a fair distance for her. She did so well!
Sadly my husband didn’t do quite so well and fell off his bike, injuring himself, right near the beginning. Being the trooper that he is he soldiered on, but probably shouldn’t have, given that he had to be taken to the local hospital the following day, oops! PS see that bridge there? Built in 1798!!!
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 😉
I’ve realised this evening that I need to start some kind of daily diary. This blog is supposed to serve as a record of the development of my business, but as I sat down this evening to write, I wasn’t entirely sure what it is I’ve been doing all week 😀 I think it’s the heat, going to my head. It’s been another scorcher, with temperatures around 28-29 degrees every day, and I’m loving it… I have fingers, toes and everything else crossed that it hold up after the schools break up for summer (less than two weeks away now – yey/eek!!) but I’ll confess to being a little pessimistic about the chances…
Back to last week then, and on Monday I took the day off and climbed a mountain. The perfect start to week, despite the oppressive heat. I went with three girlfriends, and we took our time, putting the world to rights as we walked. This is the view back down towards our village from the top:
We got back in time for the school run and then we all headed down to the river for a cooling dip. By the time I got to bed that night I’d clocked up over 28,000 steps on my Fitbit. That’ll do me 🙂
I was back to work on Tuesday, wrapping and labelling stock to replenish what I’d sold at the fair the previous Saturday. I spent a bit of time reorganising my office, and came across these bars that I hadn’t put up for sale because of the partial gel:
It’s great soap (of course!) and has been curing for months so it’s wonderfully hard, but it’s just not perfect, so I wasn’t happy selling it. Anyway, there’s only so much ‘reject’ soap that we can get through at home, so I decided to offer it for half price on my Facebook page. I had absolutely no idea it would prove so popular. I went off to a dentist appointment and forgot about soap for a while, and when I came out my notifications were going crazy and they were all sold no time. Why on earth has it taken me so long to do that?
On Wednesday I sent off my application for the largest Christmas fair around here, the Portmeirion Winter Fair. It’s held on the first weekend of December, and I had a great (and profitable!) time there last year, so fingers crossed I can return this year.
Thursday was soapmaking day – woop! I made 4 loaves (60 bars) of my most time-consuming bar, the seven colour Tutti Frutti, scented with a jelly beans fragrance oil. I also made a batch of my luxury Facial Bar, in my tall ‘n’ skinny mould from The Moulds Shop. Nope, I’m not on commission, I just love their moulds :-D.
(Yes, that’s a permanent kink in the silicone liner 🙁 Entirely my fault, I stored it badly)
Generally I don’t gel my soaps. It’s too difficult to cover my textured tops to insulate them, so I don’t normally bother. Last time I made the facial bars I got a partial gel so this time, when I saw that the batter in the mould was starting to gel, I popped it outside into the (hot!) sunshine and let it do its thing. Because I don’t often get to see the gelling process, I excitedly took a few snaps along the way:
At this point I had to go over to the office and was worried that the batch might overheat if I left it in the sun unattended, so I brought it indoors again. I’m sure it would have been fine, and I kind of wish I’d left it out to finish off, but never mind…
On Friday morning I unmoulded and cut the facial bars:
I am ridiculously, utterly excited about this facial bar. I’ve been using it myself for months, to the exclusion of anything else, and I absolutely LOVE it. I don’t want or need anything else. It’s been tested by many others, and the feedback has been amazing, so this batch is the first that I’ll be offering for sale, probably in mid to late August. It’s got some wonderful ingredients, including evening primrose, sweet almond, jojoba and argan oils, and I’ll be writing a post about it closer to the launch date.
I took Friday afternoon off (yes, more time off lol) and caught up with an old friend, so I was back into the office on Saturday, just briefly, to cut the Tutti Frutti soaps:
The rest of Saturday (or what felt like an awful lot of it anyway) was spent painting our hallway. Not exciting, but very satisfying. Oh, and avoiding the flippin’ football. Apparently England are doing ok? Bah – give me the Tour de France any day 😉
Thanks for reading, have a great week, and I’ll be back soon!
July. JULY guys!! How the hell did that happen? Officially half way through the year, closer to next Christmas than last… Uh oh… Mind you, it couldn’t possibly feel LESS Christmassy here in north Wales; our heat wave continues, very unusual weather for us, and there’s a lot of huffing and puffing and complaints that it’s too hot. Well not for me it ain’t. I’ve been waiting YEARS for this kind of weather, seriously, years. Since the last proper heatwave in 1976 in actual fact (I’m not even kidding). Hands up who thinks it’ll last juuust up until the schools break up for the summer holidays?
We’re lucky enough to have a river run through our village, one that’s swimmable in, and that’s where we’ve been after school every day this past week. I don’t often tend to work past 3pm anyway, as that’s when the kids finish school, but I will occasionally go back to the office after my husband finishes work at 4pm if I have a lot on. There was no chance of that happening this week. Swimmies on, down the river, and a cooling dip was in order every single day – bliss. These are the kind of childhood memories that we dreamt of giving our kids when we left the bright city lights to move back home to the countryside:
It’s been another fairly quiet week on the business front. On Monday I sent out a few orders that had come in over the weekend, and the rest of that day and Tuesday was spent in the office, wrapping and labelling.
On Wednesday I got to make soap again – happy days! 60 bars of Welsh Rose and 60 bars of Scrubby Peppermint:
On Thursday I was back in the office, making sure everything was ready for Saturday’s Craft Fair in Porthmadog. I cut the soap from the day before – I usually wait 48 hours before unmoulding and cutting, but for some reason I thought Thursday was Friday (and I also forgot to steam the tops, so they’re a bit more ashy than usual) This is a quick ‘first look’ snap of both varieties.
Friday was a short day as I had an appointment at the hairdressers. I did take a few photographs though. I still have this crazy idea that I’ll have a live website sometime soon, so I’m still playing with photography ideas. This one is Sugar Drops in its packaging:
Saturday was my first Craft Fair since the end of April:
It was a sweltering hot day, and I wasn’t expecting much, but I ended up having a pretty good day. This was mostly thanks to returning customers which was really gratifying. I was so pleased that Saturday was relatively successful, it raised my spirits somewhat as in all honesty, I’ve been feeling a little downhearted this last 7-10 days. I know there are ups and downs in every business, and while I’ve had an awful lot of ups this year, the downs still have an effect. I’ve contacted a few potential retailers recently with a view to them stocking my products. Of the four most recent, three haven’t even acknowledged my communication, and the one who did, and to whom I sent samples (which were received and described as ‘lovely’) has since cut contact with no explanation. I like to think I’m fairly thick skinned, and I would have no problem whatsoever with a ‘thanks but no thanks’ kind of response, but this made me question my quality of my products (which is patently nonsense given the number of returning customers and glowing testimonials I have). Ah well, onwards and upwards as they say.
Sunday was another very satisfying, if exhausting, day, continuing the saga of taming our garden. It was mostly heavy work – digging, landscaping etc – with nothing spectacular to show at the end, but we GOT STUFF DONE, which always feels good. I do have one single raised bed that I’m particularly happy with though:
In there I have loads of broadbeans, some tomato plants, two courgette plants, a cucumber plant, runner beans, sweetpeas and sunflowers. Not bad for a small plot eh?!
Thanks for reading, I’ll be back again soon. Have a great week everyone!
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!
June? June?? JUNE?? Erm… How did that happen exactly? It’s almost two and a half months since I last posted, and if I’m honest, I do know how it happened. There’s been so much going on that I should have written about, but didn’t get round to, and those things just kept building up until I felt I could never get caught up. It’s been a bit of a Catch 22, loads to write about, no time to write, more to write about, even less time to write about it, et cetera, et cetera blah blah blah…
But on Saturday, I got a bit of a kick up the bum. I received notification that this blog had been placed in the top 5 (Ok, at No. 5 ;-D) Soapmaking Blogs in the UK. You can see the post here. The criteria were:
Google reputation and Google search ranking
Influence and popularity on Facebook, twitter and other social media sites
Quality and consistency of posts.
Feedspot’s editorial team and expert review
And it was that third bullet point that finally got me REALLY wanting to write again. Quality of posts? Well thank you, I’d better crack on. Consistency of posts? Oh, um, yeah, sorry, I seriously DO need to crack on.
So please accept my apologies. There has been a lot going on, and while I’m not promising to give a blow by blow account of the last few months, I am back. I am over my post paralysis, and I will be posting waaaay more regularly from now on.
Oh, and here’s a picture of Sugar Drops, mid-cure, because you know I can’t share a totally image free blog post 😀
Uh oh. I’m a day late posting again. I should have written and shared this yesterday. I had plenty of time to do so, but I was resting a freshly sprained ankle and if I’m honest I was feeling totally unmotivated and a little sorry for myself.
But hey, today’s a new day and I can just about hobble from one place to another, so that means it’s getting better, right? Anyway, my positivity has returned. Woo hoo!
Last Monday was mostly spent doing paperwork and putting together orders, and I had to wait until Tuesday to get any soaping done. Four loaves of Oatmeal, Milk & Honey were the result:
I ran out of the darker brown, so two loaves were made with it, and two loaves without. This is a quick snap I took of the freshly cut bars, just to compare the two colourways. I definitely prefer the version with the darker brown – what do you think?
I got some happy mail on Tuesday too. I’ve long admired the talents of Hayley of Paintbox Soapworks on Instagram, and was thrilled when she agreed to a soap trade. This gorgeous and generous selection is what she sent. I can’t tell you how good it all smells, and I can only hope that one day I can be as accomplished at the hot process technique:
Tuesday night (all night) was spent nursing a poor boy with an ear infection. I got very little sleep, and consequently very little got done on Wednesday. I spent the day in a fugue of tiredness, and pottered about the house doing the bare minimum. Luckily the little fella got some antibiotics and was soon on the mend.
Thursday was spent putting together an order for a brand new customer. All these bars were packed up and dispatched to the wonderful Cwtchicoo, a fellow Welsh business which specialises in baby photography, props and luxurious blankets:
Thursday evening was a toughie. After a few hours of hard work I earned my purple striped belt in kickboxing, and went home battered, bruised and knackered, but happy 😀
Friday was spent in a state of mild anxiety if I’m honest. I was preparing to host my first Bathbomb Making Workshop at the Glosters Creative Hub the following day. Although I was really looking forward to it, and I knew I would be fully prepared, you never really know how it’s going to go. I had to make sure that I had everything I needed for each attendee (ingredients, utensils & sundries such as disposable gloves/aprons etc) plus extra in case of last minute bookings. I also had to be sure that I knew exactly what I was going to cover theory-wise, that I knew what we were going to make, that handouts / recipes were prepared and printed, that my ‘plan’ for the three hours was doable… Lots to plan and consider and I used my usual method of mentally working through the whole session and making notes of requirements as I go along. It was only after going through this process to the VERY end that I realised that I hadn’t considered how the attendees were going to take home their bombs. Boxes were swiftly found and packed!
Saturday morning I was up bright and early and off to run the workshop. Thankfully all the preparation paid off and it was a successful workshop. There were five lovely ladies and an adorable four year old called Dexter:
and look how well they did:
It was a great session, and the attendees all seemed to go home really happy. I could have kicked myself that I hadn’t thought to make up some feedback forms to be completed before they left, but they’re on the list for next time.
Afterwards, as I was loading the car, was when I tripped and sprained my ankle. Right in the middle of the street. Carelessness I guess. A kind passer-by helped me load up the car and I managed to drive home somehow, but as soon as I took my boot off my ankle swelled right up and that was it – no more walking for the rest of the day, or the following one (Sunday) for that matter – it was incredibly sore. By today (Monday) I’m able to weight-bear a little, so I’m hobbling and wobbling about painfully and hoping it continues to improve…
So yesterday was a total waste of a day – I relaxed a bit and read a bit, and generally felt sorry for myself. There were a couple of rays of sunshine though – one was my 4 year old writing me a little get-well note (that blob is a heart, apparently :-D)…
…and the second was finding out that I’d won an Instagram giveaway – the prize being something I’ve genuinely lusted after for quite a while. It should arrive at some point this week so you’ll have wait until my next update to see what it is – sorry! 😀
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…
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 😉
I posted in mid Jan with great intentions to get back on the writing horse, and then found myself paralysed with indecision about WHAT I should write. I felt that I should recap everything that I’ve been up to since the end of October, but that felt like too big a job. It would never be complete (and would probably not be 100% accurate either – I don’t have the best memory these days!) and I wouldn’t be satisfied with half hearted attempt. Anyway, THAT is only reason I haven’t written anything for the last month. Crazy really.
I’m jumping back onto it tonight, and from now on I’ll be doing my weekly roundups and any other stuff in between, just like before. I’m not going to try to backtrack, but if you have any specific questions about what’s been going on over the last few months, please just ask (my memory’s not that bad ;-D) but I may well naturally fill in the blanks as I go along anyway.
The run up to the Christmas period was amazing, business-wise. I was busier than I had anticipated, and for that reason I’m still playing catch-up as far as stock levels go. My current goal is to get to 1000 bars in stock over the whole range, and I every time I think I’m getting close, another big order comes in. Mind you, I’m DEFINITELY not complaining.
I’m making a minimum of 120 bars a week now, and if you follow me on Instagram (www.instagram.com/thesoapmine) you’ll know that Monday is my big ‘making’ day. I’ll make four double batches every Monday (that’s my 120 bar minimum) and occasionally try to fit in another session later on in the week.
I’ve retired a couple of fragrances that weren’t selling so well – Delicious (a dupe of DKNY Be Delicious) and Boho Baby (Patchouli & Orange essential oils) have both gone. I don’t have any plans to replace them with anything permanent just yet, but if I come across a fragrance that I just ‘have to have’, I have the capacity.
This was the result of last week’s Monday session:
From left to right are Serenity, Welsh Rose, Tutti Frutti and Blodau (Flowers), and here are a couple of them cut:
I used slightly different colours for the Welsh Rose this time, and there’s a more subtle different between the pinks that I usually have (I’ve also just realised that this is such a fresh photo that I’ve not bevelled this one yet!) Anyway, I can’t decide whether I really like it, or I really don’t… Hmm… what do you think?
I’m going to leave things there for now, and not try to get too ahead of myself. I’ve already had some thoughts ping into my head for the next post, so I THINK I’m back on a roll. I’ll be doing my best anyway. I’ll be back next Sunday for a full weekly round up, if not before…
Sometimes a week goes completely differently to expectation. This last week the kids have been home from school for the half-term break (already! Yikes…) and I honestly thought it was going to be a toughie. I’m right in the middle of the pre-Christmas rush and I knew Dean was crazy busy with his work and not able to take any time off, so was resigned to night time working. I was able to arrange one reciprocal playdate with a friend who has similar aged children, so i had a houseful of children on Tuesday, and Thursday was to be my one and only ‘work’ day.
Still, on Monday and Tuesday I managed to escape over to the office at 4pm when Dean finished work to pack up a few orders. When I got back, I found out that he’d managed to take the following day off as a holiday so that I could work. He’s a good ‘un.
So of course on Wednesday I took full advantage of an unexpected work day and made a load of bathbombs, as well as making a serious dent in the orders that needed to be packed and dispatched.
Thursday was my kind of day. Once the kids had been safely delivered to their friends’ house, I made over 16kg of soap – the first time I’ve ever used all my moulds at once:
I think I may need more moulds! Clockwise from top left these are Serenity (Patch, Ylang Ylang, Lemon & Sweet Orange EOs), Botanica (Lavender, Lemon & Lime EOs). Blodau (Lavender & Ylang Ylang EOs) and Luscious Lavender.
Later on Thursday Dean said he’d managed to get the Friday off too – result! I managed to get another few batches of bath bombs made, and then I indulged in a little experimentation I made another test batch of lip balm – this time in packaged in a tin:
This one was made with beeswax, cocoa butter and rice bran oil, and turned out harder than the last test – this one would probably have been better in a tube rather than a tin. I didn’t flavour or fragrance, and I think I prefer it that way…
I also tried making whipped body butter – two separate batches, both made with unrefined shea butter and coconut oil, with a touch of evening primrose oil. I added lavender and rosemary essential oils to the first batch, and ylang ylang and benzoin essential oils PLUS 1tblsp of arrowroot powder to the second batch.
Amazing how much final product came from a relatively small amount of oils – these are far from dainty containers (I popped a pound coin in the photo to give some idea of scale):
I used unrefined shea butter, and I’m definitely not a fan of the fragrance – I’ll use refined next time, which is what I usually use in my soap. I also didn’t add enough fragrance, although it might be that the shea was overpowering the essential oils.
On first trying it I found the body butter to have quite a greasy texture. Being used to commercial body butters, this version does feel oily on the skin, but having used it for a few days now I find I’m liking it more and more – it sinks into my skin quite nicely. The arrowroot is supposed to reduce the greasiness of the body butter but I can’t discern much difference between the one with, and the one without.
On Saturday I took over family duties while Dean did some work on the house – the children and I visited the library and went swimming, then had fish and chips at the beach.
On Sunday Dean and the children went to visit friends for the afternoon while I went to the office and unmoulded, then cut, the soap from Thursday’s soaping session. I’m conscious that I often share photos of freshly poured soap and then forget to share the cut pictures, so I made a special effort to get a snap of the freshly cut soap – do bear in mind that they’re still soft here and haven’t been tidied up yet. Clockwise from top left – Luscious Lavender, Blodau, Botanica & Serenity:
Finally, some exciting news on the home front. Since moving into this house over three years ago now we’ve lived with a really grotty bathroom while we upgraded other parts of the house and it’s meant that I haven’t been able to share the kind of in-use product photos I would have liked. This week work begins on our new bathroom – woop! I can’t wait to share pictures, just as soon as it’s done.
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…
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.
°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!
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