Saaaaaaaave!! (Blogtober 19)

°OMG I’m so relived today.  Remember a couple of day ago in my last Reader’s Questions post where I confessed that I’d recently had two failed double batches of Clarity?  The ones that looked like this when cut?

Clarity fail...

Clarity fail…

6kg / 12lbs of soap that I don’t know what to do with (except I might have a plan, which I’ll come to in a moment..)

Anyway, it was with much trepidation that I decided I had to attempt making it again. It’s a REALLY good seller, and I can’t afford to run out, but I was nervous – wasting more precious oils (both regular and essential!) wasn’t an option.  I had decided that it was probably down to a partial gel situation, and it would appear that, contrary to what I said here about changes in the weather not affecting my soapmaking, recent changes in the weather had indeed affected my soapmaking (Gah! This is where making bold statements in a blog post gets me!!!!)

I decided to try the CPOP (Cold Process Oven Process) method.  I made the soap with the oils and lye solution just a little warmer than room temp (I usually soap at room temp) and preheated both ovens (on the dough proving setting) to just 40°C.  I had to use both ovens as I make two loaves at a time but can only fit one in at time:

CPOPping!

CPOPping!

I did actually try to take a pic with the door closed but it didn’t quite come out as planned :-D:

Look! It's me...

Look! It’s me…

So, I left the moulds in there for an hour, then turned off the heat and left them there for another hour.

When I took them out the tops definitely looked different to my non-CPOPped batches:

Soap in the mould after CPOP

Soap in the mould after CPOP

And then, a mere 24 hours later (I usually leave them in the mould for 48 hours)  I cut the first one loaf, practically holding my breath as I brought the wire down for the first slice…Success!!  (but do bear in mind that these are freshly cut and not yet tarted up…)

Clarity freshly cut 1

Clarity freshly cut 1

Clarity freshly cut 2

Clarity freshly cut 2

Cue a little happy dance…

And what to do with the other 6kg of spoiled soap?  Well, in the comments section of this post where I also shared my ‘fail’, Sly of Soaps by Sly was kind enough to share a video of Tania of Soapish showing a method that seems to ‘fix’ a partial gel. This could be a gamechanger, and I’m definitely planning on giving it a go (just don’t ask me when!!)

Thanks for reading – back tomorrow!

Vickx

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Reader Questions #1 (Blogtober 10)

Back in mid-September I put out an appeal to you lovely people for questions to help me with topic ideas for Blogtober and I wasn’t disappointed.  Rather than try to answer them all in one post, there will probably be three posts in total during Blogtober – this here being the first.

Question 1 came from Claire of Saponista, who asked ‘What is your favourite soapmaking oil, and why?’  Without a doubt, my favourite soapmaking oil isn’t actually an oil, it’s a butter – cocoa butter, and I can’t imagine making soap without it (that’s a bit of an exaggeration of course – I made castile recently, and there ain’t no cocoa in that, but as a general rule each batch I make contains 10% cocoa butter) Cocoa butter adds skin loving properties to soap, and because I choose not to use palm oil, it also helps a lot with making a nice hard bar.

Question 2 comes from Jo who asked what I do about soaps and bath bombs that aren’t perfect.  I’ll be honest, I have my own idea of what a ‘perfect’ drop swirl is, and it’s very rare that I achieve what I see as perfection.  Consequently, practically none of my soaps are perfect in my eyes and I’m always striving to make them better. Providing a soap is a good hard bar, even if the design isn’t my best, it’s made available for sale. (Having said that, I’ve just cut one this week that I’m really not happy with – 3kg of soap that is more than likely going to have to go on the reject shelf – but I’m keeping the details of that one for a post later on this month)  

Bath bombs, on the other hand, don’t go out unless they’re pretty much perfect.  It took me a while to be able to get the mixture to the right consistency every time, but I think I’ve cracked it and it’s rare that I get bombs that aren’t pretty good (but the odd one that doesn’t quite make the grade will always find a place in my kids’ bath!)  Interestingly (and this was part of Jo’s question), although I live in a particularly wet part of the country, I haven’t found that the climate or weather conditions have any effect whatsoever on my bomb making abilities.  This seems to go contrary to what I’ve heard so many others say about bath bomb making, but there you go, that’s my experience.


Jo – I will write up some of my top tips for bath bomb making in a near-future post – I promise!

Question 3 kind of leads on from the last question, and came from Barb of Scrub Me Down Soap who asked how the weather affects my soaping.  This one’s easy – it doesn’t!  I live in a mountainous area, but the climate is effectively wet, cloudy, windy and mild.  We don’t experience great extremes of temperature, and the only time the weather has ever affected anything to do with my soapmaking was that time my coconut oil unexpectedly melted and made one hell of a mess in my storeroom. It’s ALWAYS solid at room temperature, but that one time – arrghhhhh we just don’t get that kind of heat here often…

Question 4 is another one from Barb – what music do I listen to when soaping?  Actually, it’s not always music.  I LOVE the radio, and I’m a big fan of BBC Radio 4. It keeps me up to date with current affairs and has the most insanely interesting programmes, on all subjects under the sun.  When I do listen to music, it’s inevitably rock music; contemporary rock,  70s rock, or any era in between, including the occasional trip down memory lane to my uni days with 1990s indie rock.

Question 5 is the last one for today, and yet again comes from Barb – where do I buy my stash?  I buy my oils and butters from a variety of companies, including LiveMoor,  Mystic Moments, and the local Cash&Carry for olive oil. (Anyone else notice how expensive olive oil is at the moment?!!)  I buy my soap colours (micas) from U-Makeitup , and my bath bomb colourants from Soaposh.   As for fragrances, I buy most of my fragrance oils from the wonderful Gracefruit (who. by the way, have the BEST customer service) and essential oils, well I’m currently looking for a new supplier, so if you have any recommendations…

Thanks for reading – back tomorrow!

Vickx

The Week in Soap: 8th Oct ’17 (Blogtober 9)

It’s been a quieter week on the soaping front.  I was grateful for that to be honest – we had family visiting for the first half of the week, and I’ve been getting into the swing of Blogtober.  Day 9 today, almost a third of the way through the month already!!

On Monday I made two double batches, both restocks, of Welsh Rose and Blodau:

Welsh Rose & Blodau (Flowers) in the mould

Welsh Rose & Blodau (Flowers) in the mould

The Welsh Rose wasn’t my best – it accelerated a little and the colours weren’t as bright as they usually are, but it’ll be fine.  The Blodau on the other hand, turned out great  – this is a closeup of it in the mould which proved to be really popular on Instagram:

Close up of Blodau in the mould

Close up of Blodau in the mould

On Tuesday I made more restocks – double batches of Clarity and Traeth Craig Du (Black Rock Sands):

Clarity & Traeth Craig Du in the Mould

Clarity & Traeth Craig Du in the Mould

The new wire for my cutter arrived on Tuesday, and it would appear I ordered the wrong one again. AARRGGHHH  It was a coiled string (?) and slightly thicker than I expected it to be.  Well, we fitted it onto the cutter anyway (taking a bit of a risk but by Wednesday morning I had 12kg of soap to cut and I couldn’t risk it getting too hard) and although it IS a little too thick, it did the trick.  I did a bit of research and discovered that I probably need 20 gauge wire, so I’ve ordered some and it should be here soon.  What a flippin’ palaver!

On Wednesday evening I gave my regular weekly soapmaking presentation.  I can’t tell you how much I enjoy giving these. It often turns into a bit of a conversation rather than a ‘talk’ and I get to indulge in waffling on about my favourite subject to a captive audience. AND then I get to sell them soap too!  I’ve only got another two or three weeks to go before they stop for the winter, but the manager has already asked me to go back next season – hurrah!

Thursday was another completely soap free day, and Friday was spent in the office, cutting soap, labelling soap, wrapping soap, photographing soap etc etc….

I took some better pictures of my Christmas specials, which I’ll be sharing with you this week, and of the mountain soap (from yesterday’s post) and this one – the Blodau from earlier this week:

Blodau - just cut

Blodau – just cut

I realised that the reason I don’t get round to sharing cut pictures as much as the ones in the mould is that I don’t usually tidy them up until they’ve been curing for a couple of weeks, so I made and effort to try to tidy up the freshly cut bar and take a picture, and it worked ok I think:

Blodau, tidied up

Blodau, tidied up

Towards Friday evening I started to develop a sore throat which worsened as the evening went on and meant I got very little sleep on Friday night. Saturday was spent feeling ill, lethargic, weak and sorry for myself generally, and Sunday was mostly spent in bed, trying desperately to kick whatever it was that was making me feel so rubbish…

I’ll be back tomorrow, come what may, hopefully with a clearer head and body that’s more willing to co-operate!!

Vickx

 

The Week in Soap: 24th Sept, ’17

Just a quick catch up this week. Posts have been fairly few and fair between over the last couple of weeks because I’m gearing up for Blogtober – every time I think ‘Ooh, that might make a good blog post’ I decide to save it for next month…

I was waiting for supplies to arrive last week so I only made one main batch of soap – a remake of ‘Yr Wyddfa’ (Snowdon):

Yr Wyddfa in the Mould

Yr Wyddfa in the Mould

I’ve been trying to find a better way to create this design – this was the previous version which, while it sold really well, has, to me, more than a passing resemblance to *ahem* dog mess :-/

Yr Wyddfa

Yr Wyddfa

and when I saw the lovely designs created and document by Danica on her blog Seife und anderes, I realised that the sculpted layers technique might just be the way forward. There’s a great description of the technique on Danica’s blog, so I won’t go into details here (and anyway, I forgot to take any photos of the process, I was so anxious to get on with it – next time I will definitely document it better) so here’s the final result:

Yr Wyddfa / Snowdon

Yr Wyddfa / Snowdon

The colours aren’t quite right this time – the mountain needs to be more grey, and the greenery needs to be more, well, green… but I’m getting there.  It’s fragranced with a blend of essential oils including rosemary, peppermint, eucalyptus, lemon and patchouli.

I also made another batch of dinosaurs and more stars for the next batches of Frosted Christmas Tree (which I still need to photograph to show you – oops!)

Star Embeds

Star Embeds

A couple of weeks ago I ordered a selection of green mica samples from U-Makeitup and this week they arrived – a lovely collection:

Green Mica Samples

Green Mica Samples

Green Mica Samples - labelled

Green Mica Samples – labelled

Oh, and the Christmas ribbons have started to arrive – I know it probably still feels a bit early but I’ve already had a wholesale order for my Christmas range for delivery by 22nd October, so there’s no time to be to complacent…

Christmas Ribbons

Christmas Ribbons

Thanks for reading – my next post will be the first of this year’s Blogtober posts on the 1st of the month (next Sunday – eek!)

 

A Soapy Disaster – The Week in Soap: 3rd Sept, 2017

The last week of the school holidays didn’t give me much time to devote to the business.  I made some soap, wrapped a few bars and uploaded a few items to the pending website and had one, massive, disaster. But more of that later.

I didn’t make a lot of soap this week but I did make a double batch of Tutti Frutti. Here it’s in the mould, before and after the top swirl:

Tutti Frutti Pre & Post Top Swirl

Tutti Frutti Pre & Post Top Swirl

And the cut.  I think I tried to be a bit too clever this time. I wanted the colours to more strictly follow the order of the colours of the rainbow (so how did I get red next to green lol?) but to do that I had to be a little more ordered in the pouring. I think I prefer the more randomly poured swirl so. Apologies for the rubbish photograph…

Tutti Frutti just cut

Tutti Frutti just cut

I also learnt my lesson and made a TEST batch using a new fragrance. Warm Gingerbread FO is one I’m hoping to use for Christmas, and I planned small batch with a simple design just to see how it handles.  I’m glad I did – the website testing notes said it would accelerate, and accelerate it did.  This pic is immediately after the cut – the two bottom layers should turn a lot darker over the next few weeks because of the vanilla in the fragrance oil.  I left the top layer fragrance free:

Warm Gingerbread Test Batch

Warm Gingerbread Test Batch

It smells delicious, and I really want to use this FO to make a drop swirl bar for Christmas, so I’m going to have to use all the acceleration-reducing tools in my arsenal – and keep my fingers crossed!!

As I’d already made a start on the Christmas bars during the previous week, Candy Cane, Star embeds for the Christmas Tree bars, and a couple of batches of Dinosoaps, I’m confident that I’m on track time-wise.

And that disaster. Urgh… I was making more of the Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon) soap.  The last version was ok, but the bars weren’t uniform enough and the mountain itself didn’t really reflect reality.  I intended to use the sculping soap technique (I was recently reminded of it by the incredibly creative Danica of Seife und anderes – if you like soap blogs you really should check it out), but the soap batter riced on me in seconds. I’ve used this fragrance before (and besides, the testing notes say no acceleration) so I REALLY wasn’t being reckless.

Anyway, just for the giggles :-/ I decided to try to squish it into the mould anyway. I actually had to get my hands in there to mix in the colours and colour squishing IS now a technical term.  Was there the slightest possibility that it would come out acceptably rustic looking? NO. No, no no NOPE!!  The soapy gremlins were well and truly esconced in my kitchen that day lol:

A soapy disaster

A soapy disaster

No, I didn’t rebatch it. Yes, I trashed it.  I know, I know, one of these days I’ll have to give rebatching a go but I don’t currently have spare a slow cooker that I could do it in, and, really, I just don’t feel the rebatching love…

Thanks for reading, back very soon!

 

 

 

Goals: September 2017

September Goals

Does anyone else feel like September is a bit of a fresh start? Almost like a mini New Year if you will.  It’s always been the same for me, probably because it’s the start of the academic year, and therefore was often a time of change during my younger days.

Anyway, this September, things get serious for The Soap Mine.  My youngest starts full time school next week, and I’ve known for a couple of years that this September will be a pivotal month for the business.  Up until now I’ve had to work during the evenings and weekends, but going forward I’ll have 22 more hours a week to really grow and take this business forward.  (I’ll continue to work in the Village Pre-school for 8 hours a week – on Wednesdays and Thursdays, for the time being)  Having said that, it won’t actually  be 22 hour MORE, as I’ve no intention of continuing to work all evenings and weekends like I’ve had to do this last couple of years.  I’m taking some time back for me!

Ok, back on task. There really should be only one goal for September – get the website up and running.  I’ve made a start – today I spent a couple of hours inputting text and uploading photographs – but it’s going to be quite a long process if today’s anything to go by. Many of my photos need to be re-shot too so that may take some time.  Part of the website launch will involve migrating this blog onto the new site – I have no idea how that’s going work – am I likely to lose all my readers in one fell swoop or will you all somehow, magically, be redirected to the new site? We’ll see I guess :-/

But one goal’s just not going to cut it this month. I need to get the majority of my Christmas soaps made if they’re going to be cured and wrapped by the beginning of November. I also want to get back into the swing of regular blog posts too. I’ve committed to doing Blogtober again this year, but aiming for 8 – 10 during September should keep me on my toes.

So there we go. Website, Christmas soaps and blog posts.  Together with the ongoing restocks, they’re the priorities for this month. What are yours?

 

 

 

 

10 (Yes 10!) Reasons my Soap is Better than Commercial Soap

Ever since I started making soap, I’ve been asked why?  Why do I bother making soap when it can be bought so cheaply in the supermarket?  Clearly, first and foremost I love doing it. You know what they say – ‘Find a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life’. There’s much more to it than that though.  Traditionally crafted, handmade soap like mine is superior to commercially made soap in so SO many ways.

*Please note, the reasons listed below apply specifically to MY soaps – they may apply to many other handmade soaps, but I can’t speak for the ingredients in anyone else’s handmade products

  1. It is vegan- (and therefore by definition, vegetarian-) friendly.  I use no animal fats or derivatives, not even beeswax (which can be used in soap to give a harder bar).  According to Vegan.com  most commercial soaps contain some degree of animal fat derivatives (and look for sodium tallowate or sodium lardate on the ingredients list)
  2. I never use palm oil.  Palm oil is a popular ingredient in both commercial and handmade soap (for good reason – it’s cheap, and makes great soap) However it is also extremely contentious, as palm oil production stands accused of the destruction of the South American rainforest, and of human rights violations due to the forced relocation of indigenous peoples.  There are, of course, two sides to every story, and some soapmakers who do use palm oil have been able to source sustainable, ethically produced palm oil.  There is also an argument that cutting out the use of palm oil completely could cause economic harm to those people who are employed within the palm oil industry. As I’ve never used it, this isn’t a concern for me.  Palm oil will appear as sodium palmate on the ingredients list of a bar of soap should you wish to avoid it.
  3. My soap is never, ever tested on animals, just (very!) willing humans.
  4. Glycerin. GLYCERIN!  Yep, I’m shouting. This is important.  Glycerin is a byproduct of the soapmaking process, and is fantastic stuff. It’s a humectant, which means that it draws moisture from the air and helps lock it into your skin. It’s not technically a moisturiser, but it has moisturising properties. Commercial soapmakers almost always extract the glycerin during the production process for use elsewhere (eg lotions or nitroglycerin production). Glycerin is found naturally within every bar of traditional handmade soap and is one reason that people with sensitive skin CAN use handmade soap but can’t use commercial soap
  5. Traditional, handmade soap is…. soap.  Obvious right?  Well yes, except that some commercially produced soap isn’t soap at all. It’s detergent.  Take a look at the packaging on a Dove Beauty Bar.  You won’t find the word ‘soap’ on the label because actually, it can’t legally be called soap. It’s a combination of various ingredients put together to create a detergent that closely resembles soap in appearance.  Clearly all those ingredients have been approved for use on the skin so it’s not necessarily inherently bad, but many of those ingredients can cause skin irritation.
  6. My soap does not contain parabens, sls/sles, phthalates.  As above, these ingredients have been approved for use in skincare products, but they can cause skin irritation (and worse) to those with skin sensitivities, and many people will avoid them at all costs.
  7. My soaps do not contain triclosan or any other antibacterial compounds.  The use of triclosan in soap has been banned in the US, but is still permissible in the UK/EU.  It was claimed in the US that antibacterial soaps were no more effective than regular soap and water and they could even play a part in increasing antibiotic resistance.
  8. For many of the reasons listed above, my soaps are FAR gentler on your skin than commercially produced soap.  If you are one of those people whose skin is sensitive to commercially made soap and you ‘can’t’ or ‘never’ use bar soap, please contact me via The Soap Mine FB page for a sample (UK only) – you may well find that you can use it without any of the problems that commercial soap can cause.
  9. Your skin WILL notice the difference.  Do you need to use a moisturiser after washing your hands with commercial bar or liquid soap?  You probably won’t after using my soap.  The generous amount of cocoa butter and shea butter in each and every bar, along with all that lovely glycerin, will ensure that your hands feel clean, soft and moisturised after every use.
  10. My soap is made by hand, in small batches, with an awful lot of care and attention to detail. Yes, you will pay more for it than you would a bar of commercially made soap, but you know what? You absolutely get what you pay for.

There you go, 10 really good reasons why I believe my soap is better than commercially produced soaps.  Try some 😀

Luscious Lavender

Luscious Lavender

Serenity (Patchouli, orange, lemon & ylang ylang essential oils)

Serenity (Patchouli, orange, lemon & ylang ylang essential oils)

Botanica

Botanica (Lavender, lemon & lime essential oils)

 

Clarity (Lemongrass & Clary Sage)

Clarity

Blodau - freshly cut

Blodau (Flowers) – freshly cut  (lavender, ylang ylang & rosewood essential oils)