The Week in Soap: 18th March, ’18

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:

Oatmeal. Milk & Honey in the Mould

Oatmeal. Milk & Honey in the Mould

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?

Oatmeal, Milk & Honey, two colourways, cut

Oatmeal, Milk & Honey, two colourways, cut

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:

Things of Beauty!

Things of Beauty!

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:

Soap ready to be packed and dispatched

Soap ready to be packed and dispatched

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  😀

Purple Stripe Kickboxing Belt

Purple Stripe Kickboxing Belt

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:

The Workshop Attendees

The Workshop Attendees

and look how well they did:

Bathbombs Galore

Bathbombs Galore

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)…

Get Well Mam

Get Well Mam

…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! 😀

Thanks for reading!

Vickx

 

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The Week in Soap: 11th March, ’18

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.

Lilies & Apple Blossom

Lilies & Apple Blossom

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:

Beautiful Snowdonia

Beautiful Snowdonia

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:

Bewitched colours ready to go

Bewitched colours ready to go

Bewitched in the mould

Bewitched in the mould

And I also made two loaves of Castile.

Castile in the mould

Castile in the mould

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…

Bewitched Handmade Soap

Bewitched Handmade Soap

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 😀

Lemon Drizzle - yum!

Lemon Drizzle – yum!

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…

Thanks for reading, back soon!

Vickx

 

 

 

The Week in Soap: 4th March ’18

Or perhaps, this week, the title should be: Yr Wythnos Mewn Sebon: 4ydd o Fawrth, ’18, because this week, on Wednesday 1st March, we celebrated St. David’s Day, or Dydd Gwyl Dewi as we know it.  St David is the patron saint of Wales, and as a good Welsh girl, I felt I really should include a little Welsh language, and some daffodils, in this week’s post 😀

Of course, Welsh Cakes had to be made too. There were many, many more than this, but by the time I thought to take a photo the pile had depleted somewhat:

Teisen Gri (Welsh Cakes)

Teisen Gri (Welsh Cakes)

Other than St David’s Day, the most notable thing this week has been the weather.  There’s been a LOT of weather.  The Beast from the East blew down from Siberia, and, along with Storm Emma, caused chaos and crisis the length and breadth of Britain. We got plenty of snow here in our little corner of Snowdonia, but to be honest weren’t too adversely affected.  In fact, the only inconvenience for me was the fact that delivery lorries couldn’t get through so I ran out of sodium hydroxide, despite having ordered it in plenty of time. Ho hum….

On Monday, I made up a big, four loaf batch of Traeth Craig Du (Black Rock Sands) soap.  This one’s such a doddle to make as I don’t have to worry too much about keeping the batter fluid for the swirls – it’s just a simple three layer soap. Here it is in the mould:

Four loaves of Traeth Craig Du in the mould

Four loaves of Traeth Craig Du in the mould

And freshly cut:

Traeth Craig Du freshly cut

Traeth Craig Du freshly cut

I also made seven dozen bathbombs this week, six large and six small of each fragrance.  They’re not huge sellers, but they’re slowly growing in popularity, and I’ve had some wholesale orders through, so I thought it was time to start building up stock levels again.  I made, clockwise from top left, Bewitched, Lavender, Clarity, Welsh Rose, Oatmeal, Milk & Honey, Sugar Drops and Serenity (in the middle)

Seven varieties of bathbomb

Seven varieties of bathbomb

The only other thing of note that I’ve done this week, other than the usual day to day mundane stuff, is make Hot Process soap. I  finally got round to getting out that slow-cooker that I bought before Christmas to make up a batch of solid shampoo. I was surprisingly happy with the results, especially for a first attempt:

Cut Hot Process Shampoo Bars

Cut Hot Process Shampoo Bars

These bars are half sized, as I’m planning on sending most of them out to friends & family for testing once they’ve cured a while, and I’m looking forward to hearing what people think of them.

I was due to be at a craft fair today (Sunday), but unfortunately it was postponed because of the adverse weather conditions – it’s been rearranged for a couple of weeks time so nothing’s been lost.

Oooh yes, and I finally hit 500 followers on Twitter.  It’s been a long time coming but I’ve been putting a bit more effort into it and it seems to be paying off slowly. Very slowly!

As always, thanks for reading.  I’m going to try to devote some time to my (not imaginary, I promise) website this coming week, but don’t hold me to it!!

Vickx

 

Hot Process – First Attempt

On Monday I decided to try my hand at making Hot Process (HP) soap for the first time.  It’s been on my list of things to do for aaaaages, and I even bought a fancy pants slow cooker / crock pot before Christmas in readiness, but the time was never right.  Recently however I was contacted by Plastic Free Snowdonia, a group who, as the name suggests, are trying to reduce the amount of plastic being used in this area.  They were interested in solid shampoo bars, which I’ve not made for a while, and I decided that this was the perfect opportunity to try out the HP method. My starting point was this tutorial by Sarah of Sas-Oki Soap and while clearly I am in no position to write a HP tutorial, being an absolute beginner, I did take a load of photos and so I thought I’d share the experience with you.

In the past I’ve used Liz Ardlady’s shampoo bar recipe, but used water instead of the apple cider vinegar (ACV), and left out the sodium lactate. I should confess that I’ve never used the original recipe as written, but I’ve always been really happy with the final bars without the ACV, so I decided to use the same recipe for my foray into Hot Process.

I put all the fats into the slow cooker and while they were melting down I made up the lye solution.

Oils & Butters Melting

Oils & Butters Melting

Off I went to do something else, and of course by the time the lye solution had cooled down, the fats were waaaaay to warm, so I popped them out into the snow to cool down 😀

Oils & Butters Cooling

Oils & Butters Cooling

Once everything was cool enough I added the lye to the oils and gave it all a quick stick blend to emulsify:

Lye added and stick-blended to emulsification

Lye added and stick-blended to emulsification

I turned the crockpot onto ‘medium’, covered the top with some cling film before putting the lid on to keep the moisture in (a tip I got from the Modern Soapmaking HP tutorial) and let it do its thing.  Another tip from the Modern Soapmaking tutorial was NO STIRRING.  So all I did was take a photograph every ten minutes or so.

This one was after 10 minutes cooking – the soap is beginning to saponify round the edges.  Apologies for the quality of these photos, there was condensation forming on the cling film over the pot:

After 10 mins cooking

After 10 mins cooking

After 20 mins cooking:

After 20 mins cooking

After 20 mins cooking

The soap continued to cook, and change colour as time went on. This was what it looked like after 40 mins, and it didn’t really change appearance for the next 10 minutes or so. I decided it might be ready.  All tutorials I’ve read have recommended using an infra-red thermometer to check readiness, but I don’t have one, so was winging it…

After 50 mins cooking

After 40 mins cooking

 

So a the 50 minute mark I removed the lid and the cling film, gave it a good whisk, then did the zap test.  For the uninitiated, the zap test is the process whereby you remove a small amount of soap from the pot and touch the tip of your tongue to it. Yep, you LICK potentially caustic soap.  Sounds crazy I know, but it’s a time honoured method of checking whether soap has fully saponified. If it simply tastes, erm, soapy, it’s good to go. If it zaps (and trust me, you’ll know what I mean if it happens to you) it’s not yet ready.  Oh, and please don’t put the licked soap back into the pot!!  😀

Fully cooked soap, whisked

Fully cooked soap, whisked

I then added some grapefruit essential oil,  and whisked that in thoroughly before the soap was spooned (actually, plopped and stuffed) it into the mould… It was very thick, and solidifying very quickly.  I’ve read that adding yoghurt, (or coconut cream/milk for a vegan version) can be added at this point to help fluidity – I’ll be trying that next time.

Solid shampoo freshly plopped into the mould

Solid shampoo freshly plopped into the mould

I scraped the last bits out of the pot and rolled them into little balls – with my bare hands!!!  I know, I know, I wouldn’t normally do it but these balls at least are for my own personal use only.  And the novelty of being able to squidge soap that’s straight out of the pot with my bare hands was irresistible 😀

Shampoo Balls

Shampoo Balls

Two days later the soap has become even more opaque:

Shampoo Bars in the mould after 48 hours

Shampoo Bars in the mould after 48 hours

I unmoulded the bars, and then cut them in half. These bars are going to be sent out as testers as, although I personally love this recipe, I want as many opinions as I can get before I think about selling this solid shampoo.

Unmoulded Shampoo Bars

Unmoulded Shampoo Bars

Cut Shampoo Bars

Cut Shampoo Bars

There seems to be conflicting opinions regarding how long Hot Processed soap should be cured for.  Strictly speaking, it’s safe  to use straight out of the mould, as the process of saponification has completed in the pot. I did use one of my little balls of shampoo on the same day as I made it, and it worked perfectly. However, as with CP soap, the bars were still somewhat soft when they came out of the mould, and I’m definitely going to give them an as-yet-undetermined cure time to dry out and harden up a bit. I’ve weighed one of the bars and I’ll monitor the weight reduction on a regular basis and report back when it’s ready.

I’m surprisingly thrilled with the result. It’s not very pretty. Not pretty at all actually. But it’s quick & easy and the clean up process is an absolute doddle and I’ll definitely be doing it again.  If you have any tips I’d love to hear them – pleeaaaase 🙂

Thanks for reading,

Vickx