I LOVE good smells. I’ve always been the one who has to sniff every variety of whatever’s on offer, and of course as a soapmaker, fragrance plays a huge part in my daily life. Not everybody feels the same though, and over the years I was often asked whether I offered a fragrance-free soap. It surprised me, actually, how regularly the subject came up. For a long time the only unscented soap I could offer those customers was Castile. Castile – pure olive oil soap – is a wonderfully gentle and mild bar but it doesn’t have the fluffy, abundant lather of my regular bars. Finally, last year, I decided to create a fragrance-free bar with that same fabulous lather.
That was was when Purity (Purdeb in Welsh) was born. I chose to make it uncoloured as well as fragrance free, and while I love my fragrances and colours, there is definitely something beautiful about a plain white bar in all it’s glory
Purity proved to be a popular choice as soon as it was launched. It seemed to make sense to create a new category on the website for all the uncoloured/fragrance free options, and so the Purity range was created. If you’re not a fan of fragrance for whatever reason, you can now find fragrance-free soaps, solid shampoo, solid conditioner and a facial bar all in one place on the website.
Thanks for reading, back tomorrow when I’ll be halfway through Blogtober! Hooray 😀
How long has it been since I last published a blog post? It was before last Christmas certainly, and I don’t think I’d been particularly prolific for a while before that either. SO much has happened since then, as we all know. The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the way most of us live our lives, and has affected us all to a lesser or greater extent (high five to all the parents out there who’ve been homeschooling!). My soapmaking has remained constant however. Increased, if anything. My customer base has changed of course – wholesale orders dried up completely as soon as the lockdown was announced, and all craft fairs and markets were cancelled. This website however has been my saving grace. It was still under construction last time I posted here but we managed to get it launched last February and thank goodness we did – that’s where more or less all my sales have come from over the last 4-5 months. If this is your first time visiting do have a look around before you go and let me know what you think!
With the new website came this new blog. All the old posts have been transferred over to here, and fingers crossed all the subscribers have too, but nothing’s certain so I’ll press publish with bated breath and see what happens.
The best thing to happen (soap wise!) since I was last here is the change of packaging. I’ve been wanting to upgrade my packaging for a long time but couldn’t settle on what it was I wanted to do. When I started making soap for a local company and saw that they were selling it in beautifully simple paper wrappers, I realised that I could do something similar. I approached a local printers and they designed and printed my current packaging. It’s a fantastic solution and as an added bonus, it’s fully bilingual, which I’ve wanted for a while.
Another big change since I was last here is the design of the fragrance oil bars. They used to be all done using the drop swirl technique which, while pretty and distinctive, wasn’t something I could keep scaling up as I made more and more bars. I routinely make 6kg batches now, poured into four loaf moulds, and the drop swirl design is just too time consuming to do effectively. I now make all my fragrance oil bars using the ‘In the Pot’ technique.
There have been two limited edition releases since I was last here – the Spring Specials and the Summer Specials (no surprises there :-D) –
I’ve just finished making the tester bars for the Autumn Specials:
And started gathering together options for Christmas. Well, it is July after all 😉
So there we go – a whistlestop tour of the last 9 months or so. My goal is to get back to weekly posting if possible – maybe something along the lines of the weekly updates that I was doing last year, but it may take me a while to get back into the habit, so bear with me.
Please join me on social media for way more regular soapy updates – just seach for The Soap Mine on Instagram, Facebook & Twitter. We also have an active (and very friendly) facebook community here https://www.facebook.com/groups/841016452928421 where you’ll find competitions, giveaways, sneaky peeks and the occasional bit of sillyness 😉
The theme for this year is ‘Let it Snow’, for what are, I hope, obvious reasons. There are five different fragrances to enjoy:
Fruity and warm, this fragrance combines berries, orange and cherries with a hint of vanilla and sugar:
Back for a third year, this fragrance has proved so popular in the past that I couldn’t NOT bring it back. It’s a delicious blend of buttery peppermint and sugary vanilla – do not eat!! 😀
I’ve never made a blue Christmas soap before and with a color like this I couldn’t resist a Frozen reference. The fragrance is a complex blend combining herbal and fruity top notes, middle notes of jasmine, cinnamon and clove and base notes of amber and patchouli. It’s a really difficult scent to describe but it’s heady and exotic and perfect if you’re looking for something a little less traditional.
Back for its second year, this fragrance is absolutely gorgeous and proved hugely popular last year. Ginger and cinnamon, vanilla and freshly baked cake give a warm, comforting scent perfect for winter days.
A strong, rich and spicy orange and cinnamon blend, heartwarming and cosy.
All available from week commencing 11th November. Pre-orders being taken now, £4.50 each.
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!!
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!!!
Eight weeks to the day since my last post. EIGHT WEEKS!! I totally underestimated how difficult the summer holidays would be without any formal childcare in place, and it’s been a bit of a struggle to be honest. I had prepared to a certain extent. I’d hammered the soapmaking in the couple of months before so I had plenty of stock and didn’t have to worry about running out of product (I can’t say the same for the bathbombs – I’ve been skating on thin ice as far as they’re concerned, but more on that in a mo). BUT whilst my working hours were drastically reduced for six weeks, the business demands kept growing (woop!!) and while my ever supportive husband took as much time off as he could to help with the kids, there was precious little ‘family’ time and we were very much tag-teaming most of the summer.
I did manage a couple of sessions of soapmaking (more as therapy than out of necessity if I’m honest lol) but almost every ‘making’ opportunity I had was taken up with bathbomb making. I took my eye off the ball in the run up to the summer break there, and was totally unprepared for how popular these were going to be. The making, wrapping and labelling of mounds of bombs just to keep up with orders had to take priority and THAT needs to be better organised next year!
Needless to say, I now have a list of lessons learnt from this summer, not least of which is to actually put aside, diarise, and actually HAVE holiday time with my family next summer. Don’t misunderstand me, the kids had a whale of a time this summer, didn’t miss out on anything and always had one parent or the other with them. But next year, whether we go away or not, there will be at least a week, if not two, during which nobody works, and we spend the time together, having fun.
I’ve started supplying another four (I think it’s four, it’s at least four anyway) stockists over the summer – in Criccieth, Bala, Dolgellau and another on Anglesey, which I’m thrilled about. They’re all lovely shops, and I want to tell you more about them, so I’m going to write an updated stockists post very soon.
The facial bars were launched last month, and wow, what a response. The first batch was sold out within twenty four hours, and the feedback I’ve been getting is just incredible. People are enthusing about them left right and centre, so again, I’ll be writing a separate post about them in the next week or two.
The mini guest soaps are also seem to be gaining traction, and I’m getting more and more enquiries. I’ve supplied two new customers in the last couple of weeks, and have a couple more in the pipeline.
I also have a post about breast milk soap in the pipeline. Yep, you read that right, breast milk soap 😀 It’s absolutely a thing you guys…
Oh, oh, oh I almost forgot – I have a new soap cutter, a flippin’ multi-wire soap cutter!! I’ve wanted one for a long time, but wasn’t thinking of shelling out for one until the beginning of next year (after I make my millions in the run-up to Christmas lol). But my hand was forced somewhat when I heard my preferred vendor would no longer be making and stocking them, and only had four left. I moved fast, and got one. Phew… There’ll be another post on it’s way about THAT, too (I’ve not yet got round to photographing yet, so can’t even share that much yet!)
On a personal note (as if this isn’t all kinda personal eh? :-D) I took part in the village craft, horticulture and produce show this year again, and did just a little better than last year – I got a trophy! I don’t think I’ve ever won a trophy in my life before (well, maybe at school? If I did I’ve forgotten, but then I do have a terrible memory) My chocolate cake not only won best in its class, but best entry overall in the cookery/preserves section – woop!! I have to admit, it was rather tasty lol….
Finally, a quick heads up about my next post – a review of some fragrance oils I was sent to try by a new (to me) supplier here in the UK. They were sent almost a month ago now, and the soaps were made on the 16 August, so I really need to get my thoughts written down and back to the poor supplier who’s probably thinking I’ve forgotten all about them by now!
So there you go, a quick tour through my crazy summer. The kids have started back at school, I’m slipping gratefully back into my regular routine, and blog posts will return to some semblance of regularity. Thanks for reading, back soon!
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 😉
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