The Week in Soap: 25th Feb ’18

Happy Sunday folks!  Hope you’ve had a good week?  It’s flown by here – can’t believe it’s Sunday evening once again…

So, as it’s already 8.30pm and I still have a mound of ironing to get through, I’m going to make this fairly brief.

I made another 8 loaves of soap this week.  This was on Tuesday, as once again my regular Monday making needed to be postponed as the children didn’t go back to school after their half term break until Tuesday. These are four loaves of Luscious Lavender and four loaves of Blodau (Flowers):

Luscious Lavender & Blodau in the mould

Luscious Lavender & Blodau in the mould

This follows on from the previous week’s enforced trial, and it truly does save a significant amount of time.  I was a good 90 minutes faster making those eight loaves this week than it took me a fortnight earlier when I made two loaves each of four different varieties.  Now, you know by now don’t you that I LOVE making soap, but when I’m making restocks I just need to get them done as quickly as possible, so this is a big win for me.  A couple of close ups of this week’s makes:

I’ve finally hit my goal of having 1000 bars in stock (as I write the exact figure is 1041 bars) but I’ve realised over the last few weeks that it’s not enough, and I need to have at least 100 bars of each variety in the core range made at any one time. I don’t ever want to have to tell a wholesale client that they can’t have a particular bar, and whilst I’m prepared to accept that it may happen occasionally, it’s something I want to avoid if at all possible.  Obviously those 100 bars will be at different stages of the curing process, and so I hope that if I do happen to sell out of a variety, it will only be a week or two at the most before the next batch is ready for sale.

I gained a brand new stockist this week. I was contacted by Zip World about supplying soap to their gift shop at Zip World Velocity in Bethesda. If you’re a bit of a thrill seeker, do check out that link, you won’t be disappointed!! By last Friday they had received their stock and the bars were already on display. This is a quick snap kindly sent to me by a member of staff…

Soap on display at Zip World Velocity

Soap on display at Zip World Velocity

Wednesday, Thursday and Friday were spent fulfilling orders and wrapping and labelling stock.  I’ve also been in discussion with another potential new stockist, more of which at a later date, fingers crossed.

This weekend has been a complete work free zone.  The weather was dry and bright, and although it was cold, it was the perfect opportunity to get out and tame a bit more of the garden.  I use the term ‘garden’ very loosely – it was an overgrown junk heap when we first moved in, and we’re spending an awful lot of time and energy clearing it, but we’ll get there eventually. In the meantime I’m giddy to announce that I have ONE raised bed ready for sowing! Look at this beauty:

Raised bed

Raised bed – woop!

Want to know how much work that was? Every single last bit of soil in that raised bed was sieved, by hand, to remove every last bit of glass, stone and rubble, and I couldn’t be more pleased with it (well, until it’s full of edibles anyway!!) If I wasn’t so sore this evening I’d be happy dancing 😀

I have quite a long ‘to-do’ list for this coming week.  I was contact recently by Plastic Free Snowdonia who were interested in solid shampoo bars. I’ve not made shampoo bars for quite a while, so that’s top of my list of things to do. I also need to make up bath bombs for a couple of orders, and for the craft fair I’ll be attending next Sunday in Abersoch (for which I also need to make up a load of gift sets – Mothers’ Day is coming dontch know! :-D)  Finally,  I want to make some shaving soap this week, this is a new one for me – the potassium hydroxide is on order and I can’t wait to start experimenting with recipes!

And I nearly forgot – look at this happy mail I received this week:

Creative supplies

Creative supplies

This rather suspicious collection of white powders was sent to me all the way from Ireland by Barb of, erm, well… I’m honestly not sure if I’m allowed to say yet as I suspect there may be a big reveal coming soon… Barb if you’re reading this do let me know if I can mention/link your new company name 😀 😀   Anyhow, she and I did a bit of a swap – I sent her some soap and she sent me this awesome selection of cream / gel / lotion making supplies, and these, together with Lisa’s e-book, are going to keep me quiet for a good while 🙂

Thanks for reading, back soon!

Vickx

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The Week in Soap: 18th Feb ’18

Last year, at the end of October, my day job came to an end and my soapmaking business became my full-time concern, and sole source of income.  If I’m honest, that last point is still sinking in – during the run up to Christmas I was so busy that the bank balance was never a concern, but now – eeek!!  Anyway, Christmas came and went, and it soon became very apparent that I needed to get back to soapmaking pdq. Stock levels were low, and while I was expecting a quiet period during January & February, I knew that I had to fill my curing racks ready for when things picked up again.  As soon as the children went back to school after the Christmas holidays, Monday became my regular soaping day, and I’ve been making 8 loaves of soap ( 2 each of 4 varieties) every Monday since.

Soap in the mould x 8

Soap in the mould x 8

More soap in the mould x 8

More soap in the mould x 8

So, back to this week. I didn’t choose the ideal time to get back into the swing of things as far as the blog goes, as it’s been a very atypical week.  The kids have been home from school for half-term, and to compound matters my husband was working away.  I didn’t have the luxury of a full day’s soaping on Monday (I won’t contemplate soaping while the kids are around) so once I’d got them both to bed, I made four loaves of Clarity (Lemongrass & Clary Sage EOs with activated charcoal):

Clarity in the mould

Clarity in the mould

This was a bit of an experiment.  I didn’t have an awful lot of time (if I wanted to get to bed before midnight!) and I wondered just how much time I would save if I made four loaves of the same variety, as opposed to 2 loaves each of 2 different varieties.  Turns out it saves a significant amount of time, but no real surprise there.  I could do it even faster if I had larger mixing buckets, but more on that in a future post…

On Tuesday I decided to repeat the process and once the kids were asleep again I made 4 loaves of Eryri (the landscape bar).  I’ve been putting off making this one as I perceive it to be fairly time consuming, but I really need to stock up on it as it’s perfect for the local market, and it was hugely popular at the pre-Christmas fairs. Actually,  I was pleased at how quickly I was able to make this lot:

Eryri in the mould

Eryri in the mould

So even with the kids home and husband away, I was able to make my (now) regular 120 bars this week. And I’ve a feeling that I’ll be making 4 loaves of 2 varieties every Monday from now on, rather than the 2 loaves of 4 varieties that I’ve been making up to now.

Wednesday was Valentine’s day, and with my other half still away, I treated myself to some beautiful red tulips:

Red tulips

Red tulips

On Wednesday I cut the Clarity, but was rushing and didn’t get a photograph. I did get a quick snap of the freshly cut Eryri on Thursday though:

Just cut Eryri (Snowdonia)

Just cut Eryri (Snowdonia)

This one is fragranced with a blend of rosemary, lime, patchouli, peppermint and a touch of eucalyptus – a fresh, outdoorsy fragrance.

On Friday my husband was home, and took the day off to look after the children while I spent time in the office bevelling and wrapping.  That’s the problem with upping production – there’s more of all the other stuff to do too!!

Otherwise it’s been a fairly quiet week as far as The Soap Mine goes.  I’ve had a few small wholesale orders, and a couple of wholesale enquiries for which I’ve sent out some info and samples, but I can’t wait to get back to a proper routine again on Tuesday when the kids start back to school.  Hopefully next week will give a more accurate picture of what I do as a (nearly) full-time soapmaker 😉

Thanks for reading, back soon,

Vicki

In case you were wondering…

… where I’ve been.

I posted in mid Jan with great intentions to get back on the writing horse, and then found myself paralysed with indecision about WHAT I should write.  I felt that I should recap everything that I’ve been up to since the end of October, but that felt like too big a job.  It would never be complete (and would probably not be 100% accurate either – I don’t have the best memory these days!) and I wouldn’t be satisfied with half hearted attempt.  Anyway, THAT is only reason I haven’t written anything for the last month.  Crazy really.

I’m jumping back onto it tonight, and from now on I’ll be doing my weekly roundups and any other stuff in between, just like before. I’m not going to try to backtrack, but if you have any specific questions about what’s been going on over the last few months, please just ask  (my memory’s not that bad ;-D) but I may well naturally fill in the blanks as I go along anyway.

The run up to the Christmas period was amazing, business-wise. I was busier than I had anticipated, and for that reason I’m still playing catch-up as far as stock levels go.  My current goal is to get to 1000 bars in stock over the whole range, and I every time I think I’m getting close, another big order comes in. Mind you, I’m DEFINITELY not complaining.

I’m making a minimum of 120 bars a week now, and if you follow me on Instagram (www.instagram.com/thesoapmine) you’ll know that Monday is my big ‘making’ day.  I’ll make four double batches every Monday (that’s my 120 bar minimum) and occasionally try to fit in another session later on in the week.

I’ve retired a couple of fragrances that weren’t selling so well – Delicious (a dupe of DKNY Be Delicious) and Boho Baby (Patchouli & Orange essential oils) have both gone. I don’t have any plans to replace them with anything permanent just yet, but if I come across a fragrance that I just ‘have to have’, I have the capacity.

This was the result of last week’s Monday session:

Four Double Batches of Soap

Four Double Batches of Soap

From left to right are Serenity, Welsh Rose, Tutti Frutti and Blodau (Flowers), and here are a couple of them cut:

Serenity Handmade Soap

Serenity Handmade Soap

and

Welsh Rose Handmade Soap

Welsh Rose Handmade Soap

I used slightly different colours for the Welsh Rose this time, and there’s a more subtle different between the pinks that I usually have (I’ve also just realised that this is such a fresh photo that I’ve not bevelled this one yet!) Anyway, I can’t decide whether I really like it, or I really don’t… Hmm… what do you think?

I’m going to leave things there for now, and not try to get too ahead of myself. I’ve already had some thoughts ping into my head for the next post, so I THINK I’m back on a roll. I’ll be doing my best anyway.  I’ll be back next Sunday for a full weekly round up, if not before…

Thanks for reading!

Vickx

The Week in Soap: 5th November, 2017

Sometimes a week goes completely differently to expectation.  This last week the kids have been home from school for the half-term break (already! Yikes…) and I honestly thought it was going to be a toughie.  I’m right in the middle of the pre-Christmas rush and I knew Dean was crazy busy with his work and not able to take any time off, so was resigned to night time working.  I was able to arrange one reciprocal playdate with a friend who has similar aged children, so i had a houseful of children on Tuesday, and Thursday was to be my one and only ‘work’ day.

Still, on Monday and Tuesday I managed to escape over to the office at 4pm when Dean finished work to pack up a few orders. When I got back, I found out that he’d managed to take the following day off as a holiday so that I could work. He’s a good ‘un.

So of course on Wednesday I took full advantage of an unexpected work day and made a load of bathbombs, as well as making a serious dent in the orders that needed to be packed and dispatched.

Thursday was my kind of day. Once the kids had been safely delivered to their friends’ house,  I made over 16kg of soap – the first time I’ve ever used all my moulds at once:

Four double batches of wet soap

Four double batches of wet soap

I think I may need more moulds!  Clockwise from top left these are Serenity (Patch, Ylang Ylang, Lemon & Sweet Orange EOs), Botanica (Lavender, Lemon & Lime EOs). Blodau (Lavender & Ylang Ylang EOs) and Luscious Lavender.

Wet soap

Wet soap

Later on Thursday Dean said he’d managed to get the Friday off too – result!  I managed to get another few batches of bath bombs made, and then I indulged in a little experimentation  I made another test batch of lip balm – this time in packaged in a tin:

Lip balm test

Lip balm test

This one was made with beeswax, cocoa butter and rice bran oil, and turned out harder than the last test – this one would probably have been better in a tube rather than a tin. I didn’t flavour or fragrance, and I think I prefer it that way…

I also tried making whipped body butter – two separate batches, both made with unrefined shea butter and coconut oil, with a touch of evening primrose oil.  I added lavender and rosemary essential oils to the first batch, and ylang ylang and benzoin essential oils PLUS 1tblsp of arrowroot powder to the second batch.

Melting oil  & butter

Melting oil & butter

Whipping the oils and butters

Whipping the oils and butters

Amazing how much final product came from a relatively small amount of oils – these are far from dainty containers (I popped a pound coin in the photo to give some idea of scale):

Whipped Body Butter

Whipped Body Butter

I used unrefined shea butter, and I’m definitely not a fan of the fragrance – I’ll use refined next time, which is what I usually use in my soap.  I also didn’t add enough fragrance, although it might be that the shea was overpowering the essential oils.

On first trying it I found the body butter to have quite a greasy texture.  Being used to commercial body butters, this version does feel oily on the skin, but having used it for a few days now I find I’m liking it more and more – it sinks into my skin quite nicely.  The arrowroot is supposed to reduce the greasiness of the body butter but I can’t discern much difference between the one with, and the one without.

On Saturday I took over family duties while Dean did some work on the house – the children and I visited the library and went swimming, then had fish and chips at the beach.

On Sunday Dean and the children went to visit friends for the afternoon while I went to the office and unmoulded, then cut, the soap from Thursday’s soaping session. I’m conscious that I often share photos of freshly poured soap and then forget to share the cut pictures, so I made a special effort to get a snap of the freshly cut soap – do bear in mind that they’re still soft here and haven’t been tidied up yet. Clockwise from top left – Luscious Lavender, Blodau, Botanica & Serenity:

Freshly cut soap

Freshly cut soap

Finally, some exciting news on the home front.  Since moving into this house over three years ago now we’ve lived with a really grotty bathroom while we upgraded other parts of the house and it’s meant that I haven’t been able to share the kind of in-use product photos I would have liked.  This week work begins on our new bathroom – woop!  I can’t wait to share pictures, just as soon as it’s done.

Thanks for reading, back soon!

Vicki

Luscious Lavender in the mould

Luscious Lavender in the mould

Blodau in the mould

Blodau in the mould

Botanica in the mould

Botanica in the mould

Serenity in the mould

Serenity in the mould

Wet Soap Wednesday (Blogtober 18)

As another Wednesday comes around, I give a little cheer (yey!) because I can use #wetsoapwednesday as an excuse to share more of my favourite soap in the mould pics!

Bewitched in the mould (Love Spell type)

Bewitched in the mould (Love Spell type)

Serenity & Oatmeal, Milk and Honey in the mould

Serenity & Oatmeal, Milk and Honey in the mould

Luscious Lavender in the mould

Luscious Lavender in the mould

Clarity in the mould

Clarity in the mould

Bewitched in the mould

Bewitched in the mould

Christmas Tree in the mould

Christmas Tree in the mould

Serenity in the mould

Serenity in the mould

Blodau in the mould

Blodau in the mould

Welsh Rose & Clarity in the mould

Welsh Rose & Clarity in the mould

Wet Soap Wednesday (Aka Soap Tops / Blogtober 11)

Happy Hump Day everyone!  After a text heavy post yesterday, today I’m taking full advantage of #wetsoapwednesday and sharing a selection of favourite recent soap ‘in-the-mould’ tops.  If you love wet soap as much as I do, you might find something you like here…

Tutti Frutti in the mould

Tutti Frutti in the mould

Warm Gingerbread in the mould

Warm Gingerbread in the mould

 

Oatmeal, Milk & Honey in the mould

Oatmeal, Milk & Honey in the mould

Ar Lan y Mor in the mould

Ar Lan y Mor in the mould

Serenity in the mould

Serenity in the mould

Candy Cane in the mould

Candy Cane in the mould

Luscious Lavender

Luscious Lavender

Botanica in the mould

Botanica in the mould

Milk & Honey in the mould

Milk & Honey in the mould

Clarity & Traeth Craig Du in the Mould

Clarity & Traeth Craig Du in the Mould

Thank you so much for still being here 😀  Back tomorrow…

Vickx

 

The Week in Soap: 17th Sept ’17

It would appear that Autumn is well and truly here. There’s a chill in the air in the mornings, and we’re lighting the fire every evening. It’s also a reminder that Christmas is coming, and with it that big, three day Christmas Fair I’ve committed myself to at the beginning of December – eek!  To that end, this week’s soapmaking was all holiday based:  Double batches of Candy Cane, Frosted Christmas Tree and Warm Gingerbread:

Frosted Christmas Tree, Candy Cane & Warm Gingerbread in the mould

Frosted Christmas Tree, Candy Cane & Warm Gingerbread in the mould

I’ve not taken ‘proper’ photographs of the cuts yet, but here’s a sneaky peek at the Frosted Christmas Tree:

Frosted Christmas Tree

Frosted Christmas Tree

And a quick (and rather rubbish – sorry!!) snap of the Warm Gingerbread (this is the previous weeks batch – this week’s moved even more quickly and I didn’t even attempt the drop!)

Warm Gingerbread

Warm Gingerbread

I had a bit of a mishap with the Candy Cane – there was a knock on the door mid-pour, and instead of ignoring it I went to answer it, thinking that the soap batter was nice and fluid and I could leave it a moment or two… There’s a lesson learnt – I was away from the soap just that little bit too long and when I came back it had thickened up too much to finish off the drop swirl, arrghhhhh….

Candy Cane Interrupted

Candy Cane Interrupted

Bath bombs are a relatively new thing for me and I’ve always found them a little tedious to make to be honest. Last Friday I made 90 of them, and I seemed to be quicker this time. I guess practice does make perfect (still need a LOT of practice though :-D)  They were pretty trouble free, except for one variety, but that’s a story for another day…

Bath bombs

Lots, and lots, of bath bombs

I also packaged up another 100 guest soaps, and bevelled a load more – there’s confetti soap on the horizon I reckon:

Soap shavings

Soap shavings

On a personal note, the highlight of the week was earning my green belt in kickboxing on Monday night:

Green Belt!

Green Belt!

Unfortunately I didn’t feel quite so kickass when I got to training on Wednesday night and discovered exactly what I’m going to have to do to earn my blue belt – there’s some hard work ahead of me!!

If you have a soap (or bath & body) blog, please do join our Soapmaking Bloggers facebook page (and maybe even consider taking part in Blogtober Soapers? ;-D)

Have a great week everyone, I’ll be back soon.