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The Christmas Range 2021 – Snow Fairy

Blogtober 2021 – Day 27

The second of this year’s limited edition Christmas specials is Snow Fairy. This fragrance was the runaway favourite amongst my customers last year, so it had to come back for a second appearance this year (with a new look, of course!)

Snow Fairy is fragrance that’s difficult to describe, so I’m going to break my unwritten rule and just copy the supplier’s description. Let’s see what you make of this:

“A captivating blend of sparkling pink snowflakes laying gently on opulent velvet moonlight rose mingles with zingy black raspberry to complete on a seductive base of warm dark smooth ambers, earthy patchouli and sheer musk”

What do you think? Any the wiser? If you know what pink snowflakes smell like, please do share! All I can tell you is that it smells absolutely gorgeous, as a great many of my customers from last Christmas will testify….

Thanks for reading, back tomorrow!

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Rainbows for Christmas

Blogtober 2021 – Day 25

I promised a photo of the cut bars of Enfys (Welsh for ‘Rainbow’) that I made yesterday, and here they are 🙂 Fragranced with a sweet and fruity berry-like fragrance.

Just over 90 bars of Enfys, freshly cut and still a little tatty around the edges. Please forgive their current rought and ready appearance – once they’ve dried a bit they’ll be bevelled and generally tarted up, but they’re a little too soft to be titivated at this stage.

They’re currently out of stock, but when they’re ready – around the end of November, you’ll find them here.

I had thought to tack this photo on the end of a completely different post today, but Blogtober exhaustion has hit, and I reckon as long as I get SOMETHING posted every day, that’s good enough. We’re also going away for a few days tomorrow, and so today has mostly been a day of washing and packing, rather than composing an interesting and constructive blog post 😉

Speaking of which. When I first decided, on a whim, to take part in Blogtober this year, I completely neglected to consider our little trip away. It’s just a few days in Fishguard, on the Pembrokeshire coast, but it’s a few days away from work, to enjoy time with the children, and I’m not taking my laptop. So over the next four days I’m going to introduce the four limited edition Christmas special for 2021, and I’ll be back with a ‘proper’ post on Saturday. Which, in all honestly will probably just consist of photos of our trip.

So, short and sweet, but thanks for popping by anyway. There will be a post tomorrow, and the following three days, but I’ll be back in person on Saturday.

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The Purity Range

Blogtober 2021 – Day 15

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 Handmade Soap

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 😀

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A Return to Posting?

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.

Watermelon Handmade Soap
Watermelon Handmade Soap

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.

Bewitched

There have been two limited edition releases since I was last here – the Spring Specials and the Summer Specials (no surprises there :-D) –

Spring Specials Montage
Clockwise from top left – Lemon / Pepper, Maple & Cedar / Pear & Freesia / Fresh Linen
Left to right – Jasmine / Black Tie / Cucumber / Very Cherry / Pina Colada

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 😉

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The Christmas Specials 2019

The theme for this year is ‘Let it Snow’, for what are, I hope, obvious reasons. There are five different fragrances to enjoy:

Sugar Plum

Fruity and warm, this fragrance combines berries, orange and cherries with a hint of vanilla and sugar:

Sugar Plum Handmade Soap
Sugar Plum

Candy Cane

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!! 😀

Candy Cane Handmade Soap
Candy Cane

Snow Queen

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.

Snow Queen Handmade Soap
Snow Queen

Warm Gingerbread

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.

Warm Gingerbread Handmade Soap
Warm Gingerbread

Spiced Orange

A strong, rich and spicy orange and cinnamon blend, heartwarming and cosy.

Spiced Orange Handmade Soap
Orange Handmade

All available from week commencing 11th November. Pre-orders being taken now, £4.50 each.

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The Week in Soap: 6th October ’19

Monday and Tuesday of last week were the big soaping days – this was the result of Monday’s session:

180 Soap & Shampoo Bars

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 😀

Festive Collection Sneaky Peek

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:

Snowdonia Nurseries Display

Snowdonia Nurseries Display

Snowdonia Nurseries Display

Snowdonia Nurseries Display

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:

Solid Conditioner Bars

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 🙂

Mini Peppermint Scrubs

Thanks for reading, back soon!

Vicki

 

 

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The Week in Soap: 23rd Sept ’19

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!

Soap in the mould
Triple Coffee Scrub, Serenity & Lavender & Orange Solid Shampoo

Wednesday saw me making more soap again, this time 60 bars of Botanica (Lavender, Lemon & Lime essential oils) and Lavender & Peppermint Shampoo:

Botanica and Lavender & Peppermint Shampoo
Botanica 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…

Four bars of Eryri handmade soap
Eryri Handmade Soap

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!

Vicki

 

 

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The Week in Soap: 16th Sept ’19 Ramping up Production

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:

Tuesday’s Makes

Thursday’s Makes

Sunday’s Makes

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!

Vicki

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!

Vase of Nasturtiums in Autumn Colours
Autumnal Nasturtiums

 

 

 

 

 

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The Year in Soap: 19th Sept 2018-2019

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!!

Charcoal soap in the mould
Charcoal Facial Bar

 

 

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The Week in Soap: 16th Sept ’18 – Wherein I mention the ‘C’ Word

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!

Candy Cane & Traeth in the Mould
Candy Cane & Traeth in the Mould

Facial bar in the mould
Facial bar in the mould

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)

Freshly cut Candy Cane
Freshly cut Candy Cane

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

Facial bar / 4 loaves of Warm Gingerbread
Facial bar / 4 loaves of Warm Gingerbread

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…

Guest Bars
Guest Bars

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:

First brown belt
First brown belt

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!

Bike Ride
Bike Ride

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!!!

Thanks for reading, back soon…