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 lurve soap tops. Fancy or plain, swirled or textured, it really doesn’t matter to me, I love them all. My favourite posts on Instagram are often the tops of bars, wet or dry, in the mould or cut… So, having had a really busy day trying to finish off everthing before the weekend (and not having spared a single thought for today’s blog post) I thought I’d share some favourite pics of some of my recent soap tops.
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…
Monday and Tuesday of last week were the big soaping days – this was the result of Monday’s session:
On Tuesday I was mostly speed (read: ‘panic’) making Christmas soaps. I made a load weeks ago, thinking I was really on the ball, but I wasn’t happy with them. AT ALL 🙁
I prevariacated for a while, conscious that time was getting on and that I needed to make a quick decision, and finally this last week I redesigned and made bars that I’m happy with – phew! They’ll be released a little later than I’d hoped, but still in plenty of time for the holiday period. I don’t have any pictures yet, but I’ll share the fragrances next week, and perhaps a photo or two the following week – maybe 😉 In the meatime, here’s a sneaky peek that doesn’t give too much away 😀
A brand new stockist came on board last week, Snowdonia Nurseries in Glan Conwy. They’ve taken a lovely range of soaps for their gift shop, and shared these photos with me over the weekend:
The next bit of excitement last week was the fact that my Cosmetic Product Safety Report finally came through from my solid conditioner bars. It’s illegal to sell any body care / cosmetic product in the UK (well, the EU actually) without one of these reports, which proves that your recipe has been checked by a qualified chemist and is safe to use. So although I’ve had them ready for a while, I’ve not been able to sell them until that report came through. These are some of the ones I made during the formulating / testing process:
They’ll be available in three varieties initially, to match the shampoo bars – Bergamot & Lime, Lemongrass & Spearmint and Unscented – but more varieties will be coming soon. Now I just need to get making! A few people have asked for more information about the ingredients etc so I’ll be writing a dedicated post about the conditioner bars later on this week.
Lastly, I’m giving away a free mini Peppermint Scrub bar with all orders over £10 this week (while stocks last). These are what’s left over when I make the full size peppermint bars – I use the usual amount of soap mix but because there’s so much extra stuff in there (ground apricot stone and oats) there’s far too much to fit my regular moulds and I have plenty left over to make these little ones – a little treat for my valued customers 🙂
I’m clearly not back into the habit of regular posting. It’s 10pm on Monday and I just realised that I haven’t written last week’s roundup post (I would normally do it on Sunday evening if not before). So this will be a short one, forgive me!
I didn’t get half as much soap made this week as last because, as much as I’d like to make soap every day, there is a lot of other stuff that needs to be done when running a business, however small, and it was a lot of that that got done this week ;-D
Monday I spent wrapping, labelling and dispatching retail orders from the weekend, cutting and wrapping guest soaps and putting together wholesale orders.
On Tuesday I travelled to Pwllheli, about half an hour away, to take stock to a new stockist – Oriel Pwlldefaid. I’ve been keen to find a stockist in Pwllheli for a while so I’m thrilled that they agreed to stock my soaps. In the afternoon I made soap – hooray!
Wednesday saw me making more soap again, this time 60 bars of Botanica (Lavender, Lemon & Lime essential oils) and Lavender & Peppermint Shampoo:
See the orange in those bars above? That should be yellow! This soap has always been a white base with drops of purple, yellow and green (lavender, lemon & lime) but I used a different yellow mica this time and POW! Bright orange!! Luckily it morphed back to yellow by the time I cut it.
Thursday and Friday I spent getting ready for my monthly Craft Fair in Porthmadog on Saturday, none of which I took photos of. Saturday’s Fair was a strange one – very quiet in the morning but much much busier late morning and into the afternoon and ended up being a great day.
On Sunday I spent a few hours masterbatching enough oils and butters for 24 loaves, and took the dog for a looooong walk in the late afternoon. (Oh, I’ve just realised that Jac the Border Collie joined our family during my blogging break, so I won’t have introduced him yet – I’ll try to rectify that very soon!) Anyway here’s just one of the photos from my walk through classic Beddgelert weather – clouds, drizzle and a glorious peek of sunshine highlighting the autumn colours on the mountains.
I took very few ‘cut’ pictures this week (another thing I’ve got out of the habit of since taking a break from the blog) but here is the current batch of Eryri (Snowdonia), more of these are on the ‘to make’ list for this week or next…
That’s it for now. Apologies for the rather rushed and superficial post – maybe I just need to get back into the rhythm? I hope so…
Thanks for reading if you got this far, back next week!
Last week I set myself a challenge to make a minimum of 600 bars of soap in seven days with today (Sunday) being the last day. As well as trying to restock after a busy summer season and getting ahead for the festive season, I have a new wholesale customer who has placed a very large (for me) order that I’m steadily, but surely, fulfilling (I’ll share more about them once the first shipment has been delivered in a couple of weeks) and all that means I need to increase my rate of production. This week was a bit of an experiment in masterbatching larger amounts of oils & butters and working out how to work smarter and be more productive. That 600 bars was a fairly arbitrary goal – more than I’d ever made in one week before, but hopefully doable given my proposed new processes.
In the past, each soaping session has begun with the mixing of the lye solutions – usually enough for 8 loaves in four separate containers, which were put to one side to cool. I’d then weigh out four separate lots of hard oils & butters and melt them while also weighing out four lots of the liquid oils, ending up with four 5kg capacity buckets each containing enough prepared fats for two loaves (30 bars total) of soap. I would then go ahead and make soap, ending up with two loaves of four different varieties, giving me a total of 120 bars each full soaping session.
This week I decided to get all the oils / butters / lye prepared the night before production, and also to make more, and bigger (four loaf) batches. This gave me far more time the following day to make soap and I was able to get this lovely lot, a total of 632 bars (woop!!) made over three separate days:
So what about temperatures? I read a lot in online soaping groups that temperatures are important in the soapmaking process, but I haven’t used a thermometer since my very early days of soapy experimentation. I generally soap cool anyway, so using lye solution that was mixed the day before isn’t an issue, and I found that I needed to sit the buckets of oils & butters in some hot water in the sink for a little while to remove any granularity from the cooled hard oils. I dream of having a large insulated tank with a heating band in the future, but until then, this works really well – hooray!
Next week I aim to make as much, if not more, again. Keep rooting for me 😀
Thanks for reading, back soon!
PS Thought I’d share this little vase of nasturtiums, freshly picked from the garden today. I have a mass of them at the bottom of the garden where they’ve self seeded and they just keep on coming, in beautiful autumnal colours. Just lovely!
One year. One whole year, exactly. My last post was on 18th September 2018, a year ago. 365 days ago.
Right, well then, erm… Hello! Gosh, this is awkward. How’ve you been? Sorry I didn’t write, or call, or, well, you know… I’ve missed you though. Did you ever think about me? I thought about you a lot, even considered typing a few words a couple of times, then decided it had been too long. Didn’t think I could just jump back in like nothing had happened. Thought you might have found someone new. It would be rude, wouldn’t it? To try to muscle in on your new blog relationships, when I’d deserted you without so much as an au revoir?
Just kidding, obviously. I will ABSOLUTELY muscle in on your new blog relationship 😉
Yes, I’m back. I lost my blogging mojo there for a while, but with the launch of the website on the horizon, forcing me back onto my laptop to write about the benefits of a soap based facial bar, different types of solid shampoo bars and ‘about us (ain’t we just darn peachy)’ pages, I realised that I kinda miss writing.
So, a quick round up of the a last year in one paragraph. Christmas came, it was busy. January was supposed to be quiet, time for a bit of a break. It was busy. Spring came and things picked up, and then summer just went nuts – as did I, I think. Over that time the facial bars have become really popular, and I recently launched a charcoal version. The solid shampoo bars are also now available and are selling well – I’ll write a post all about them very soon. I’ve also submitted the paperwork for a Cosmetic Product Safety Report (CSPR) for solid conditioner bars which I’m hoping will be approved in the next few weeks, so fingers crossed I’ll be able to offer them for sale very soon. What else? I have a few more wholesale customers (more on them in another post), lots more retail customers AND a whizzy new Facebook Group (well, since May new) which now has almost 450 members. Join here.
I’m going to go back to weekly posting, just a round up of what’s been going on, together with ad hoc posts as and when the urge strikes. I hope you’ll forgive my absence and we can enjoy soapy stuff together just like the old days 😉
Here’s a quick pic of the charcoal facial bar in the mould – I promise to include more photos in future posts!!
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!
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…
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