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!
One Mothers’ Day, a few years back, my children gave me a teddy bear. They said they felt sorry for me because they had a lot of lovely teddies and I didn’t have even one! To be honest, I’ve not really given Elwyn the bear the attention he deserves, but when I realised that today was, wait for it… Bring Your Teddy Bear To Work & School Day I couldn’t resist 😉 (Today is also No Bra day, you should be very thankful that I chose what I did…)
Firstly I packed a few website orders. Every single retail order that leaves my workshop will contain a sample bar – something I think the customer might like to try. Elwyn did a very good job of reminding me to add a small sample bar into each parcel before it was sealed. Those bags are cellophane by the way, not plastic 😉
Elwyn was great at checking a wholesale order before it went to be bevelled and labelled:
We bevelled and tidied up some bars of Eryri. Each individual bar is bevelled by hand – using a regular potato peeler – before it gets wrapped in its eco-friendly paper wrapper.
Finally, we did a stock check – a LOT of soap bars have left the workshop in the last 10 days and I needed to know exactly how many of each bar I still had available – both fully cured and not yet cured:
Thanks for reading, I’ll be back tomorrow with a slightly less infantile post, but at least I got to show you just a small portion of what goes on in a typical working day at The Soap Mine.
My number one bestselling soap is Eryri, the landscape soap:
I’m pretty rubbish with technology, but I’ve been asked so many times to record some videos of my soapmaking I thought I ought to give it a go, and this video shows me pouring and sculpting Eryri. Some people use scrapers to ensure that all the bars are uniform in design, but I sculpt my layers freehand, so no two bars are ever the same. I like them that way 😉
I always make this in batches of six loaves (90 bars), but you only see five in the video – the sixth was just out of shot.
I don’t think there’s much else to say about this one, but if you have any questions just pop them in the comments below and I’ll respond asap.
Thanks for reading (and watching). I’ll be back tomorrow with Day 11.
During the summer, while I was trying to button down the fragrances I wanted to use for the autumn specials, I came across the most amazing Toffee Apple fragrance. Unfortunately it was an absolute nightmare to use in cold process soap. It massively accelerated trace, and did actually turn the soap solid in the bucket before I could even think about adding colour, never mind pour it into moulds. Nevertheless, I adored the fragrance and decided to break with tradition and offer my customers a soap made using the hot process method. If you’re not sure what that is – check out this post
Now I’m really not an expert at this method, and while some people can make amazing looking soap this way, my attempts have always been pretty basic and rustic looking, with no fancy swirls or patterns, and that was just how this one came out.
I honestly didn’t think I would sell very many at all, so only made 30 bars, but completely underestimated my lovely customers loyalty and preparedness to try something new and sold out within the hour – arrghh! I felt duty bound to make more PDQ, which I did. A couple of days ago.
Hot process soap is generally made in a slow cooker / crockpot, and is so called because additional heat is added to the soapmaking process to speed up saponification. However, knowing how quickly this fragrance accelerates trace, I dispensed completely with the crockpot but made sure that my oils and lye solution were significantly hotter than I would normally have them. I added the fragrance to the heated oils and butters first and mixed very well, to ensure that it was completed incorporated. I then slowly added the hot lye solution to the oils and mixed well again. It turned solid in the bucket quite quickly, and I let it sit for a while it continued to heat up. This is NOT something I would recomend for any beginner soapmakers, overheated caustic soap batter is dangerous.
I’ve tried to upload a video of the mixing of the batter but I can’t seem to get it work, but here are a couple of photos:
Once I was happy that it was all thoroughly mixed and of the right ‘vaseline-like’ texture I plopped it into the moulds. They’re certainly not the most beautiful ‘in-the-mould’ photos 😉
Yesterday I unmoulded and cut the loaves and I’m really happy with how they turned out. While I usually give my regular bars a full 6 weeks cure time, these psuedo-hot process bars don’t need quite so long, and will be available for purchase on, aptly enough, 31st October.
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.
Today’s weekly catch up is going to be an experiment in speedy posting, I’m officially on holiday, but won’t have anything soapy to share next Sunday and I didn’t want to miss two weeks. Every week seems to get busier and busier, but I think this week that had more to do with being off this coming week and wanting to get all orders out and loose ends tied before I go away.
The main thing I wanted to show you before I go away is…. Drumroll please…. the Christmas bars! The theme is ‘Let it Snow’, and there are five in the range:
What do you think?
This week I delivered my first batch of 840 bars to Babipur, a local online company who offer ethical shopping for kids (and the grown ups in their lives). I have many more bars for them ready to be wrapped, yet more curing and more still to be made, so they’re keeping me extremely busy but I’m SO grateful and happy to be working with them to spread the love of handmade soap 😉
I was lucky enough to secure two new stockists this week. Firstly The Eating Gorilla is the areas newest vegan eatery which has had seriously great reviews in the few short months since it opened. The owner Diane was already a customer of mine and she was keen to share her love of my vegan friendly products with her customers
The second, Celyn’s is an independent shop which stocks a fabulous range of locally produced goods for the home and garden. It’s located in Llanbedr, on the west coast of Wales, just south of Harlech:
In addition to all the deliveries I had to get out this week I also had my regular monthly craft fair in Porthmadog on Saturday:
and spent most of Friday night wrapping and labelling stock for that (oh, and a special order for 40 (FORTY :-0) gift sets that were being picked up on Saturday evening – I was wrapping THEM in my sleep Friday night lol, but sadly I forgot to take a quick pic of them before I handed them over).
Finally, because we’re away next week over Halloween, my kids decided to carve their pumpkins early, and I did a bit of seed roasting for the first time. Oh my word how have I never done this before? Home roasted Salted, Spiced and Honey pumpkin seeds are DELICIOUS! And the children agree, so that’s a win 😉
Tomorrow we head off on holiday for five days – taking the children to do the whole sightseeing shebang in London. There’ll be no soapy stuff going on, but hopefully lots of exploring, fun and… walking. Unfortunately I managed to twist BOTH my ankles this week – my right one last Sunday while out with the pup, and then on Wednesday my left one went and I took a dramatic tumble. Ouch 🙁 They’re improving and I’m hoping that all of the walking to come this week won’t make them worse.
Thanks for reading – I’ll be back in a fortnight if not before!
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!
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