The Week in Soap: 5th March ’17

I got back into the swing of making soap this week. Having realised that I need to be making far more to keep up with demand, a new process was required.    Previously I would usually make three different batches during an evening’s soaping, once a week, but the new routine is four batches a night, twice a week. By doubling up the batches – ie making two lots of two fragrances, rather than three lots of one, I find I can make the four batches as quickly as three, if not faster.

Wednesday was the first day of the new regime – two lots of Welsh Rose and two lots of Bewitched on the cards.  But, wouldn’t you know it, I ran out of lye. Arghhhh – I felt sure I had a second tub but nope…  Nevermind, I had enough for three batches: two Bewitched and one Welsh Rose:

2 Bewitched, 1 Welsh Rose

Two Bewitched, One Welsh Rose

More lye was ordered and arrived within 48 hours, so I was able to make more today – two lots of Oatmeal, Milk & Honey and two of Blodau (Flowers):

2 OMH & 2 Blodau

Two OMH & Two Blodau (Flowers)

I clearly need to have a better handle on inventory.  I do have have the Soapmaker 3 program, which comes highly recommended, but haven’t got round to using it yet. :-/ Maybe that should be one of April’s goals.

This week I also delivered another couple of batches of ‘Ar Lan y Mor’ (By the Sea) and Potters’ Soap – exclusive fragrances/designs for Glosters in Porthmadog:

Ar Lan y Mor / Potters' Soap

Ar Lan y Mor / Potters’ Soap

I also finished off wrapping and packaging the mini guest bars for Plas Colwyn Guest House right here in the village – these are just a small selection of them:

Mini Guest Bars

Mini Guest Bars

We celebrated St David’s Day on Wednesday, and as is traditional, I made up a big batch of Teisen Gri (Welsh Cakes) for the village school show.

Welsh Cakes

Welsh Cakes

I’ve been asked again to share the recipe, so I’m planning on getting that written up this week and posted here on the blog.

This is my little three year old in her traditional ‘welsh lady’ costume, singing her heart out at the front of the stage. She’s normally pretty shy, so it was wonderful to see her enjoying her moment in the limelight…

Little Welsh Lady

Little Welsh Lady

 

I also managed to get out for ONE run this week – 5km on Friday morning. If you saw the post about my goals for March, you’ll know that I want to run at least 30km this month. Easily doable, IF I can get my running mojo back where it was in January. Throw some motivation my way?

 

The Week in Soap: 12th Feb ’17

I’m tired tonight.  It feels like it’s been a long and busy week, and now, not even 9pm on Sunday night, I feel ready for bed.  So I’m going to make this brief, and then tackle the ironing pile before bed.  Oh, the glamour!!

I made four batches of soap this week, all restocks again.  I’m struggling to get my stock back up to a level where I’m not anxious about whether I have enough, but I wasn’t able to make any for most of the week as my Shea Butter didn’t arrive until Thursday – arrgghhh!  So Friday night saw me soaping all evening, and I made, from top to bottom, Blodau (Flowers), Luscious Lavender, Botanica & Clarity:

Soap in the Mould

Soap in the Mould

Ordinarily I would have cut them this evening, but it’ll have to wait until tomorrow, so I’ll share some photos in next Sunday’s update.  But here’s some close-ups to mitigate your disappointment 😀

Blodau in the Mould

Blodau in the Mould

Luscious Lavender in the Mould

Luscious Lavender in the Mould

Botanica in the Mould

Botanica in the Mould

I also made some more bathbombs  – these are blue (although they don’t look so blue here) and fragranced with the same essential oil blend as I use for Serenity soap.  A few people now have said that the Serenity blend smells like being at a spa, so the name is apt I think.  (The scale here isn’t quite right, the bombs aren’t as big as they appear to be compared to the bars of soap – I need to keep that in mind the next time I take photos!)

Serenity Bathbombs & Soap

Serenity Bathbombs & Soap

I also spent a bit of time working on the packaging and labels for the bombs.  I think I have a solution, though I’m not quite ready to share photos yet. Maybe next week.

I’m very happy to announce that as of March I’ll be supplying a brand new retailer, Sunnah Skincare who have a store at 88 School Lane, Didsbury, Manchester.  This Skincare Co-operative was set up, and is run, by women in the local community, and their aim is  to trade as fairly, responsibly and ethically as possible. Check out their Facebook and Instagram accounts.

Oh, more exciting news – I entered a competition on LJ Naturals’ Facebook page to win some of her gorgeous skincare products, and won!  The prize was four items – a full sized bottle of OMG Facial Serum, and three mini products – Organic Scratchy Balm, Balancing Organic Moisturiser & Organic Deep Cleansing Balm. They’ve arrived already and they feel wonderful on the skin and smell truly amazing.  I’ll be writing a review soon, once I’ve been using them for a little while, but here’s a quick peek at what they look like:

LJ Naturals Skincare Products

LJ Naturals Skincare Products

The weather’s not been the best for most of the week, but Tuesday dawned clear and sunny, so a little local walk was in order and I managed to snap this photo. This is Hebog. I suppose you’d call it the village mountain 😀  The path up to the top starts in the village, and I’ve been up to the summit many times, but not this week. Not, in fact, since before we had the children.  Soon, soon…

Hebog

Hebog

Wednesday found me making Teisen Gri (or Welsh Cakes). They’re a bit like a flattened scone, cooked on a griddle on the hob.  They’re utterly delicious, and there’ll be a blog post with the recipe coming soon:

Teisen Gri

Teisen Gri

Well, that was longer than I’d planned for it to be.  If you got this far, thanks for reading. Back soon!

 

The Whats and The Whys…

…that is, what goes into my soap, and why. I’m often asked what my soaps are made from. Well, the ingredients in my soaps are no secret – they’re clearly labelled on each and every bar that’s sold, so here goes 😀

Fact is, you only need THREE ingredients to make soap.  A vegetable or animal fat of some kind, sodium hydroxide (NaOH) (aka Lye) and water.  The sodium hydroxide is combined with the water to create a lye solution, which is then mixed with the oils or butters.  The sodium hydroxide combines and reacts with the fatty acids in the oils and/or butters and hey presto, you get soap, (plus, by the way, glycerine. I’ll come to that later).

Clarity

Clarity

Take, for example, a bar of my Clarity essential oil soap (above). The ingredients, as they appear on the label, are as follows:

Sodium Olivate, Sodium Cocoate, Sodium Shea Butterate, Sodium Avocadoate, Sodium Cocoa Butterate, Sodium Castorate, Glycerine, Aqua, Salvia sclarea (Clary) Oil (Sage essential oil), Cymbopogon schoenanthus Oil (Lemongrass essential oil), Activated Charcoal, Titanium Dioxide (Ci 77891) & Micas *linalool *citral (*naturally present in essential oils).

Now to decipher the ingredients list above.

All my bars contain six different oils and butters: Olive Oil, Coconut Oil, Shea Butter, Avocado Oil, Cocoa Butter and Castor Oil. Bear with me here – small chemistry lesson coming up.  If the soap is made properly, there will never ever be any sodium hydroxide present in the final bar, and so it isn’t necessary to put it on the ingredients label. However, the sodium hydroxide has caused the oils and butters to change – into soap – or, chemically speaking, into ‘salts’.  This is why the first six items on the ingredients list are all ‘Sodium (insert name of oil)ate’  ie, they are all salts formed from the original six oils/butters combined with sodium hydroxide.

So why those particular six oils and butters?  I use coconut for it’s ability to give soap a great, abundant lather, but it can be drying to some people’s skins and so I temper it with plenty of olive oil which produces a mild, gentle soap. Cocoa butter contributes to the hardness of the bar, whilst also being moisturising.  Avocado oil and shea butter are considered to be luxury additives – they don’t contribute to the lather or the hardness of the bar, but they are extremely moisturing.  They’re probably the reason my customers say they don’t need hand cream after washing with my soap!

I decided long ago not to use animal fats in my soap. I don’t have a problem with animal fats per se – I’m not vegetarian, and I know from my early days of soapmaking and experimentation that lard makes wonderful soap. It was just a decision I made early on in my recipe development, and I’ve stuck with it.  Similarly with palm oil, I used it in my early soapmaking, but haven’t done for years. I have no problem with other producers using palm oil – each to their own – but it’s not for me.

Next on the list you’ll see glycerine.  Glycerine is a by-product of that chemical reaction between the NaOH and the oils/butters.  It’s often extracted during the commercial soapmaking process, as it’s a valuable commodity and can be sold on to other manufacturers. In handmade soaps though, it goes nowhere. It stays within the soap and acts as a humectant, drawing moisture to the skin and helping skin retain moisture.  (Note, it is NOT a moisturiser, as I’ve seen claimed elsewhere)

Next comes Aqua (water).  Water is needed to create a solution of the NaOH. That’s its only purpose.  Once the soap is made, we soapmakers leave the soap to cure for weeks on end, drying out the soap and trying to get rid of as much of the moisture as possible.

The next two items on the list are simply the fragrance – Sage essential oil and Lemongrass essential oil.  Some soapmakers claim that essential oils added to soaps have therapeutic properties above and beyond the fragrance, but there is some doubt as to where these properties survive the chemical process. Anyway, without extensive and expensive laboratory testing, making such claims is misleading.

The next three ingredients – Activated Charcoal, Titanium Dioxide (Ci 77891) & Micas – are colourants.  The first two are natural, the mica has colour added to it in a lab, so can’t be considered natural.

Finally we come to the last two starred items: *linalool *citral (*naturally present in essential oils).  The EU Cosmetic Regulation 1223/2009 lists the 26 most allergenic (ie most likely to cause an allergic reaction) substances and states that if your soap (or other wash off product) contains more than 0.01% of that substance then it needs to be declared.  Many essential oils contain one or more of these substances, and it’s very rare that they cause any problem whatsoever. But rules is rules :-)!

Thanks for reading, I’ll be back soon! If you have any questions about my ingredients, or anything else for that matter, please comment below.

 

The Week in Soap: 5th Feb ’17

Happy Sunday everyone!  It’s been a busy week, so I’ll crack right on…

More Luscious Lavender and Welsh Rose were made this week. They’re very popular, and I always like to have plenty in stock:

Luscious Lavender / Welsh Rose

Luscious Lavender / Welsh Rose

Both were cut, but I only got round to photographing the Lavender:

Luscious Lavender, just cut

Luscious Lavender, just cut

I also photographed the two custom batches I made last week. This pic, of Potters’ Soap, proved to be my most liked ever on Instagram – so far! 😀

Potters' Soap

Potters’ Soap

And this one is called Ar Lan y Môr (By the Sea):

Ar Lan Y Mor

Ar Lan Y Mor

I’ve spent quite a bit of time this week bevelling, packaging and labelling soap. It’s almost half term and before I know it the tourist season will be upon us, so I’m getting ahead of the game:

Bevelling Soap

Bevelling Soap

This evening I had planned to masterbatch a load of oils for the next couple weeks of soapmaking but discovered at the last minute that I’d run out of Shea Butter. Arrghhh!!  I’m usually really careful to reorder as soon as I’m getting low of something so crucial. I didn’t because I was sure I had more, but nope, it’s nowhere to be found. So, first off I ordered more Shea, and then changed tack and made some Bath Bombs (or Bath Fizzies, or whatever it is I’m eventually going to call them – decisions decisions!!)

Before Christmas I got my assessment documentation through for 8 varieties of Bath Bomb (in the UK/EU it’s illegal to sell any bath & body product without first paying to get your recipe assessed and approved by a qualified chemist), and tonight I made three of them – Welsh Rose, Clarity & First Kiss:

Welsh Rose, Clarity & First Kiss Bath Bombs

Welsh Rose, Clarity & First Kiss Bath Bombs

They’re not ‘perfect’ looking, but they do what they’re supposed to – gorgeously!!

Eventually I want to be able to provide matching Bath Bombs for each soap in my core range, but at the moment I can only sell the three above, plus Boho Baby (patchouli & orange),  Lavender, Bewitched (was Love Spell), Serenity and Oatmeal Milk & Honey.  I’m waiting on more colourants to arrive then I’ll be making more (woo hoo!)

I had a bit of an interesting experience with Facebook this week.  I’ve neglected my page somewhat recently as, if I’m honest, it sometimes feels like a waste of time. The Facebook algorithm means that very few of my ‘likers’ actually see my posts, and consequently there is very little engagement.  Regardless, I decided that I should give it a go again, and wrote a post explaining why I hadn’t posted for a while and that I would be grateful if people could occasionally like, comment or even (gasp!) share a post. Then I added the photo that had been so popular on Instagram  Well my friends, that post has gone bonkers!  165 likes, 54 comments and, and 47 shares at time of writing…

Soo…. I wonder if the same thing would work here?  May I ask you to click that little like button below?  Would you be amenable to writing a word or two to let me know you’ve been here?  Lol, I can but ask, hey??!  Thanks for reading, back soon.

 

 

The Week in Soap: I made marmalade!

Ok, so I made soap too, but I’m more excited about the marmalade.

I was given 2lbs of Seville oranges last week – the perfect opportunity to indulge in a bit of preserving.  I used a Delia recipe (can’t beat a bit of Delia!) and it proved to be extraordinarily easy: 2lbs of Seville oranges, 1 lemon, 4 pints of water and 4lbs of granulated sugar.  It’s identical to this recipe here, except I took it out of my rather ancient copy of Delia Smith’s Illustrated Cookery Course, which has been my go-to recipe book for years…

Slicing the peel

Slicing the peel

Boiling

Boiling

A motley collection of jars

A motley collection of jars

I’m ridiculously pleased with it – it’s really tasty.

Last week’s adventures in soapmaking was a couple of custom batches – I first made these last year for a local retailer, and they requested more of the same:

Ar Lan Y Mor / Potter's Soap

Ar Lan Y Mor / Potter’s Soap

I’ll have some cut photos to show you next week, but in the meantime, here’s a photo of the Potter’s Soap just before cutting – it’s been one of my all time most popular photos on Instagram:

Potter's Soap

Potter’s Soap

Other than the day job I didn’t get much more done this week – I spent a few days under the weather – a bug which turned into a cold – and then I was away over the weekend (hence the late post). Oh, but more wholesale enquiries have come in this week – hopefully I’ll have some good news to share soon.

I’ll be back very soon with a roundup of January’s goals, and a plan for February – thanks for reading!

The Week in Soap: 22nd Jan ’17

The holiday period is well and truly over, and things are starting to pick up again business-wise.  I’ve started receiving orders for Valentine’s themed bars, and the first one was delivered to a local retailer yesterday. Here in Wales we also celebrate Dydd Santes Dwynwen (St Dwynwen’s Day, considered to be the Welsh St Valentine’s Day) on the 25th January, so there’s a double whammy of love related promotions at this time of year 😀

On the making front I’ve only made two batches this week – a restock of Welsh Rose and an as yet unnamed project for a swap I’m participating in soon. Can’t say too much about that one yet, but all will be revealed eventually 🙂

Welsh Rose & 'No Name' in the mould

Welsh Rose & ‘No Name’ in the mould

So basically I’ve only made one batch for general sale this week – I think I’m going to have to increase the production rate PDQ!

I also cut last week’s Castile soap. Having read so much about how long it can be before it’s hard enough to be unmoulded, I left it a full eight days before unmoulding and cutting, and I was really surprised at how hard it already was.  I had to be very careful and cut slowly, I was so concerned that the wire on my Bud Cutter would snap, but all was well. This was the finished bar:

Castile Soap, first attempt

Castile Soap, first attempt

It’s a lot whiter than I expected it to be when it was first poured, though I’m not too happy about the streaks in it – we’ll see how it looks as it cures.

One of my goals for January was to research facial bar recipes with a view to hopefully making some in February.  During my research I came across a blog/website, Lather Lass, which collects and collates soap recipes from all over the web – it’s worth having a browse if you’re looking for something in particular.

On a personal note, did I mention that I’ve started going to a kickboxing class? Every Wednesday evening, 6-7pm, and it’s amazing. Seriously hard work but I’m hoping it will do wonders for my fitness levels and be a good complement to the running (another of those goals!)

Anyway, talking of goals, it’s time to start thinking about what I want to get done in February, it’ll soon come round!  Thanks for reading – back soon!

Making Castile Soap

Traditional castile soap is made of nothing more than olive oils and a sodium hydroxide solution, and its origins lie in the soap that has been made for many centuries in Aleppo (Syria), from local olive & laurel berry oils. When the recipe was brought to Europe (specifically the Castile area of Spain, with its abundance of olive trees) it would appear that laurel berry oil was hard to come by, leading to it being dropped completely, becoming the 100% olive oil soap that we know today. It’s considered to be the gentlest of soaps – kind to sensitive skin often used as a baby soap (though personally I don’t think very small babies need any soap at all!)

At the beginning of the year I decided to make it one of my goals for January, and hey presto, last week I made my first ever batch of castile.  I don’t always bother with test batches, and I didn’t think an awful lot could go wrong with this one, so dove right in with a full sized batch. The recipe was simply:

  • 1500g Olive Oil
  • 570g Water
  • 193g Sodium Hydroxide (NaOH)

I used my usual method – made up the lye solution and left it to cool down to room temperature.  For my regular bars I melt together the hard oils/butters, then add the liquid oils and let it cool down to room temperature, but there was none of that faffing about with this one – I just measured my olive oil out of the bottle and into my mixing bowl.

Olive Oil

Olive Oil

Then added the NaOH and whisked until it was emulsified:

Oil / NaOH Emulsified

Oil / NaOH Emulsified

Gave it a bit of a mix with the handblender until it traced:

Soap Batter at Trace

Soap Batter at Trace

And poured it into the mould:

Castile in the mould

Castile in the mould

I knew from my reading that I probably wouldn’t be able to unmould / cut after my usual 48 day wait, so I left it a little longer, then kind of forgot about it for a couple of days (oops) and eventually unmoulded it 8 days after it was poured. I was happy to note that it was a lot whiter than it originally appeared to be:

Castile 8 days later

Castile 8 days later

Perhaps I’ll only leave it three or four days next time as it was the hardest batch I’ve ever cut, and I feared for the wire on my poor Bud soap cutter.  I took it slowly, and the end result was this:

Castile freshly cut

Castile freshly cut

The usual recommendation is to allow castile soap to cure for a good six months, if not more, as it’s notoriously slow to harden. I’m not convinced though, and will be testing it often in the next few months to see how it’s developing.

By the way, I’ve never actually used castile soap myself. The things I’ve heard haven’t always been particularly positive – the lather has even been described as ‘slimy’, so I’m going to (try to) put the opinions of others out of my head and be as objective as possible.  Stay tuned and I’ll keep you updated 🙂