Blogtober 2016, Day 31

I only flippin’ went and did it!  Participation in the Blogtober 2016 challenge was such a random, hasty and last minute decision that, in all honesty, it was highly likely that I would fail.  I realised, after mentally committing myself, that many of the other participants had been (sensibly!) planning ahead, preparing and scheduling posts beforehand. I didn’t have that luxury, having decided approximately 8 hours into the first day of October that this was something I could/should/would do.

Decision made, I had to be clear on what on earth I was going to write about every day.  I didn’t think I would have enough ‘soapy’ topics to cover, so I made sure I had a rough list of other possible topics. As it turned out, I didn’t need to use many of those off-topic ideas – turns out there is an awful lot to share / write about in the soapy world!

Now, here I am, 31 days later with 31 more blog posts under my belt than I had at the beginning of the month.  I did it (!) and it’s been an extremely useful experience – primarily because it’s got me back into the habit of blogging on a regular basis. I’ve discovered during the last month that I really do enjoy writing, but that doing so within such narrow time constraints doesn’t do anything for the standard of what I produce.  It has without a doubt been a case of quantity over quality (sorry about that 😉 ) Some of the topics I’ve covered have been done hurriedly and I’ll probably revisit them in greater detail at a later date.

Coincidentally, this post is also my 100th on the blog and I’m determined to keep blogging on a regular basis from now on.  More soap pics, more tutorials, more reviews and more personal ‘meet the maker’ posts (Ooh – they scare me :-D).

Thank you SO much if you’ve stuck with me over the last month, and a double/triple thank you to those of you who’ve rewarded me with the odd ‘like’ or ‘comment’.  It really has helped spur me on, knowing that there is somebody, anybody, out there reading every now and then.  Thank you, thank you, and HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!

 

 

Banishing Soda Ash – the easy way…

I see a lot of discussion on line about how to deal with soda ash on soap tops. Freshly poured soap is so glossily glorious – it can be a disappointment when you come back to it a day later to find it dulled and marred by an ashy deposit:

Ashy Soap Top

Ashy Soap Top

The ash is formed when the lye (Sodium Hydroxide, NaOH) in the soap reacts with Carbon Dioxide CO² in the air, and is totally harmless; the soap is no less effective. Nevertheless many find it to be aesthetically displeasing, and I’ve seen many methods used, some fairly elaborate, to eradicate it.  In my early soapmaking days I was advised dip each individual bar into a pan of boiling water.  Yes, this removed the ash and resulted in wonderfully glossy bars, but wow, it was tedious.  I then read that could simply hold each bar in the steam that came from a boiling kettle. Only kettles these days don’t boil continuously – and flicking that switch 20 times a minute was….tedious.  Then I had a lightbulb moment – I could hold the soap in the steam that came from a pan of water at a rollling boil.  Yes, I am FULLY aware that I could have easily missed one of those steps out… That worked too but was still pretty longwinded and let’s be honest, tedious.  There was also the ever present risk of scalding myself trying to use these methods. I came perilously close, believe me.

These days my ash removing regime is simple, fast and effective. I use an ordinary steam iron, on steam setting, to remove the ash from the soap tops before I’ve even unmoulded them. Half of this loaf has already been steamed:

Half Steamed

Half Steamed

My old, but trusty, Morphy Richards…

Steam Iron

Steam Iron

Holding the iron just a couple of inches above the top of the soap, I press the steam button continuously to cover the soap in steam, moving the iron back and forth. This is the result

Steamed top

Steamed top

Easy peasy!  And absolutely zero chance of scalding myself.  It looks freshly poured but is actually fully set up and ready to be unmoulded.  I usually leave it for about 10 minutes to dry off, and then unmould:

Unmoulded batch

Unmoulded batch

And cut – notice how glossy it still is:

On the cutter

On the cutter

After the cut, before the tidy up – perfectly dry and glossy:

Cut Soap, Still Glossy

Cut Soap, Still Glossy

I’ve made a video of the steaming process, but I’m struggling to upload it :-S Once I figure it all out I’ll add it to this post 😀

 

Soap tops revisited

As I was putting together yesterday’s ‘Wet Soap Wednesday on a Friday’ post, I was thinking about how much I like soap tops, and remembered that I’d done a post a while back about them.  When I went looking, I was surprised to find it had been almost two years ago: Soap Tops from November 2014. I was also struck by how different those tops were to the way I do things now. So today’s post is a quick round up of my favourite soap tops from more recent times.

First up is a dupe of the DKNY fragrance, Be Delicious – appley, cucumbery and absolutely….Delicious:

Delicious

Delicious

Then there’s a recent batch of Clarity which turned out just beautifully (last night’s batch didn’t look quite as good as this in the mould!)

Clarity

Clarity

The top of this Oatmeal, Milk & Honey batch swirled really nicely:

Oatmeal, Milk & Honey

Oatmeal, Milk & Honey

And this batch of Florida Sunrise (now discontinued) looked gorgeous as it started to gel:

Florida Sunrise

Florida Sunrise

Another recently discontinued fragrance – a custom blend called Enigma, looked luscious freshly swirled:

Enigma

Enigma

Finally I just LOVE how this batch of Serenity looked in the mould:

Serenity

Serenity

I’d be lying if I said every single batch looks like these, but I do tend to add a lot more texture to the tops than I used to, and I think I prefer them that way. I guess it’s about time I revised my header photo!!

 

 

Wet Soap Wednesday……on a Friday

Today was the first chance I’ve had to make soap in a while, so this week’s Wet Soap Wednesday is a little late! I made three batches:

Clarity, Welsh Rose, OMH

Clarity, Welsh Rose, OMH

Clarity is fragranced with lemongrass and clary sage essential oils, and coloured with activated charcoal, green mica and titanium dioxide:

Clarity

Clarity

Welsh Rose is made with a rose fragrance oil, coloured with titanium dioxide and two pink micas:

Welsh Rose

Welsh Rose

And finally Oatmeal, Milk & Honey, made with an OMH fragrance oil and coloured with titanium dioxide and mica:

Oatmeal, Milk & Honey

Oatmeal, Milk & Honey

Three more days left of Blogtober 2016 – relief from this incessant posting is imminent 😀

Free time? What’s that?

Last month I posted this photo on my Instagram page:

Lovely Language Literature :)

Lovely Language Literature 🙂

It’s a selection of books I’d bought with some Amazon vouchers I’d received for my birthday back in July.  At various points in the subsequent comments I mentioned that my degree is in Linguistics, and as well as being fluent in a second language (Welsh), I have also studied French, German, Spanish and Russian.  Ever since my teenage years I’ve had a passion for anything to do with language in general, and to this day I have a special interest in the history of language and how different language interrelate.

I was fascinated by the comments this post elicited from other soapmakers – so many are bi- or even multi-lingual, and/or have an interest in history, as well as a huge variety of other interests and hobbies.  Soap, soapmaking and soapy social media have a tendency to dominate my life and I forget to take a break and do something completely different.  Truth be told I struggle to find the time to stop and do something different.  Having a business that is also one’s hobby is not the best combination for a good work/life balance it would appear. In the last six weeks I’ve managed to read just the first 35 pages of one of those books, despite finding it deeply absorbing (I usually manage 1.5 – 2 pages in bed before nodding off, no matter how hard I fight it).

So, go on, tell me what you do in your free time. What are your interests, your passions, and how do you find the time to indulge them?

Wrapping Gift Sets – A Tutorial

Much of today has been set putting together gift sets for Saturday’s craft fair:

Gift Sets

Gift Sets

For my Blogtober 2016 Day 26 post (just 5 more to go – hurrah!!) I thought I’d take photographs of the process and share it with you.

  1. Take a (fully cured & bevelled) bar of soap, a co-ordinating facecloth and a wooden soap stand:
Gift Set Step 1

Step 1

2. Fold the facecloth twice to create three layers:

Step 2

Step 2

3.  Fold one third of the length over, and open up the end to create a little pocket:

Step 3

Step 3

4. Fold the other half of the facecloth over into the pocket:

Step 4

Step 4

5. Place the wooden soap stand onto the facecloth:

Step 5

Step 5

6. Place the soap onto the soap stand:

Step 6

Step 6

7.  Take a longish piece of string, ribbon or raffia – I use raffia – and place it under the the facecloth (apologies for the quality of the photo here):

Step 7

Step 7

8. Cross the raffia over like so:

Step 8

Step 8

9. Turn the set over and tie the raffia securely:

Step 9

Step 9

10.  I then slip an information card under the raffia

Step 10

Step 10

11. The secured set, ready for cellophane:

Step 11

Step 11

12.  Place the set, face down, on a large square of cellophane, bring up opposing sides and roll over and secure, as if wrapping a gift:

Step 12

Step 12

Step 13:  Fold up the other two sides – again just like wrapping a gift:

Step 13

Step 13

14.  Cellophane wrapped gift set:

Step 14

Step 14

15.  Take a length of co-ordinating ribbon and labels – I have two labels – one for the soap name and one for the ingredients:

Step 15

Step 15

16. Using sticky tape, stick the ribbon in FACE DOWN on the top right corner of the set, and thread on the labels:

Step 16

Step 16

17. Tie a knot in the ribbon – this makes it much easier to create a half decent bow:

Step 17

Step 17

18.  The finished set – Ta-da!

Step 18

Step 18

10 Tips for Organising a Craft Fair

10 Tips for Organising a Craft Fair

10 Tips for Organising a Craft Fair

Last Saturday I had a stall at a local craft fair. Not any old craft fair mind you, this was important to me for two reasons. First off, it was right here, in my village – the first one we’ve ever had. Secondly, it was the first craft fair that I’ve organised myself.  It was the culmination of a couple off months of planning, and, if I’m honest, a fair bit of anxiety.  I needn’t have worried – it was a great success, so I thought I’d share with you here a few things to consider if you’d like to organise something similar yourself.

  1. Do your research regarding other markets and craft fairs in the area and make sure your event doesn’t clash with another on the same day. As well as competing for visitors, you’ll also be competing for stallholders.
  2. As soon as you’ve decided on a date, secure your venue.  You don’t want to be inviting stallholders until you’ve confirmed your accommodation for the day.
  3. Invite / organise crafters as far in advance as possible. Many crafters book themselves into markets and craft fairs many months ahead.  It’s also worth considering asking for a deposit on the cost of the table – this decreases the risk of stallholders not turning up on the day.
  4. Ensure that all your stallholders have public liability insurance.
  5. Ensure you know how many tables you can fit into the available space. You don’t want to ask 20 crafters to attend and then find when you’re setting up that you can only fit 19 tables into the room!  It’s definitely worth having a trial ‘set up’ before deciding how many crafters to invite.
  6. Don’t double up on crafts unless it’s a BIG event.  There’s nothing worse for a stallholder than setting up at a fair of, say, 12 stalls to find that there are two or three other stallholders there selling something very similar. It’s not fair on any of them.
  7. Don’t try to charge too much per stall / table, especially if it’s the first time this event has taken place. You won’t have any idea what the footfall is going to be and won’t be able to make any claims as to likely number of visitors.
  8. Advertising, advertising, advertising. You want as many people walking through the door of your venue as possible, so this is an instance where too much advertising is never enough.  Get your event all over Facebook – on your personal feed (ask friends to share), on local selling pages, and on local community sites. Put a small ad in the local newspaper, a paragraph in the parish magazine, get it listed on’What’s Happening in Your Area’ type websites. Make sure there are posters put up in the area. Don’t forget your local tourist bureau and local hotels / guest houses if you live in a popular area for visitors – local crafts are just the thing that they’ll be interested in.
  9. Have a spare cash float or two.  It’s not unheard of for stallholders to arrive at a craft fair without their cash box.  Not me of course, oh no… well, only that once a few months ago 😀 and I was both grateful and impressed that the organisers had thought to bring along a couple of ‘spare’ floats for just that eventuality.
  10. Rope in as much help as possible.  Setting up, decorating the venue and getting plenty of directional signage outside and in the immediate area can take longer than you anticipate.  If you’re also planning on holding  raffle / tombola / lucky dip / cake stall you’ll need yet more hands on deck.
  11. A bonus tip – if you’re holding the craft fair or market to raise money for a local cause, consider also having a raffle / tombola / lucky dip / tea, coffee & cakes stall. Just make sure that you put out the call for donations well in advance