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 Sad Story of February’s Goals…

Remember a month ago when I posted about my success regarding January’s goals? It had been a good month but, was I too full of hubris? Was I perhaps a little smug? Were February’s goals desperately ambitious and unattainable? I can only assume so because, my friends, February was a washout. Suddenly (seriously, without warning :-D) the end of the month arrived and was devoid of goal success.

So, here’s how bad it was:

  • Create a wholesale Line Sheet.  Wholesale enquiries are increasing and this is a high priority ‘must have’. Oops Still need to do this asap
  • Make a test batch of facial soap Oops Still want to do this asap
  • Make 3 Spring Special soaps Oops Have decided against this – I’m struggling to keep up with the core range at the moment
  • Post 8 times on the blog  Oops Only 6 posts in February 😦

The personal goals weren’t much better. I was aiming to run 50km during February, and actually managed *ahem* 12km.  I seriously lost my running mojo very early in the month.  I’ve missed it though, and have arranged to go with a friend tomorrow morning, so hopefully I’ll get back into it soon enough.  I also wanted to read more. Well, I have read more, but still not a whole book, so back to the drawing board with that one too.  Lastly, I wanted to do some baking.  Well that much I did do. I make a rather lovely Victoria sponge (but rubbish photograph) for my mum’s birthday, and a couple of batches of Welsh Cakes (which I’m going to post about very soon!)

Victoria Sponge

Victoria Sponge

Welsh Cakes

Welsh Cakes

So, a couple of small wins in a big sea of fails un-met challenges 😀

I’m not, however, despondent. By no means.  I’ve been ridiculously busy during February.  I’ve taken on two new BIG wholesale customers, and I’ve been snowed under with making, wrapping and labelling.  It’s all good stuff, but it does feel like I’m running to stay still, so I firmly believe that goals are still a good and necessary thing, helping to keep me challenged and moving forward.  To that end, I’m going to reset last months business goals, excluding the one about Spring specials:

  • Create a wholesale Line Sheet.  Wholesale enquiries are increasing and this is a high priority ‘must have’. ASAP…
  • Make a test batch of facial soap
  • Post 8 times on the blog

And as far as personal goals go, I’m going back to basics – run 30km and read a book. That’s it.  I’m taking part in a Library Bingo Challenge which is encouraging me to get to the library more often, and which might motivate me to find the time to read more often, but I’ll post about that another time.

Wish me luck! I’ll be back soon – I will smash that ‘8 post goal’ this month LOL

 

A Belated ‘Week in Soap’ – Tutti Frutti Cut…

I almost didn’t post a weekly update this week as it’s been a strange one, work-wise. The children have been off school for half term, and although the youngest only goes for two hours a day, I’ve still missed that time to ‘get stuff done’. Days have been spent entertaining the children, and evenings have been mostly spent wrapping and labelling for a couple of BIG wholesale orders I have going out this week.  Then we had a weekend away visiting family, so I have very to share on the soapy front.

But then I remembered that I needed to show you the cut of the Tutti Frutti that I made last week:

Tutti Frutti - freshly cut

Tutti Frutti – freshly cut

Coloured with micas from U-Makeitup and Happy Olive, they didn’t let me down 🙂

The children start back at school tomorrow, so I’m hoping this coming week will be far more productive on the soaping front, and keep an eye out for my February update coming up in the next couple of days.

 

The Week in Soap: 19th Feb ’17

I have at least 6 draft posts half written, but somehow it’s got round to Sunday again and I’ve not managed to even think about finishing any of them…

It has, however, been a busy week… I’ve been busy wrapping and labelling the bars for the shop in Didsbury, all 150 of them.  It’s a big order for me, but I’ve got a week or two to get it all together.

On Thursday I agreed to supply a local guest house with soap on an ongoing basis. It’s self catering accommodation, and they want to leave both full sized and mini bars for their guests.  The first lot of regular bars has been delivered, and this coming week will see me cutting and wrapping the mini sized bars for delivery before the weekend.

I’ve made another five batches this week, three on Monday – First Kiss, Love Spell & Peace:

First Kiss, Bewitched, Peace

First Kiss, Bewitched, Peace

That little heart was added for Instagram as a nod to Valentine’s Day, as I didn’t get around to making any Valentine’s specials this year.

And two batches of Tutti Frutti on Friday – I’ve been waiting on more fragrance oil for this one for quite a while, and I’m nearly sold out, so I got a couple of batches done at once.

Coloured soap pre-pour

Coloured soap pre-pour

Tutti Frutti poured

Tutti Frutti poured

Tutti Frutti finished

Tutti Frutti finished

The colours on the top of the finished batches look a little muddy, but I’m hopeful it’ll be fine inside *crosses fingers*

And tonight I made more bathbombs – I literally finished cleaning up 10 minutes ago, so these are very rough and ready photos, but you get the first peek:

Bewitched:

Bewitched Bathbombs

Bewitched Bathbombs

Lavender Bathbombs

Lavender Bathbombs

I’ve not managed to take many soapy photos this week, but here’s the Blodau (Flowers) bar from last week:

Blodau (Flowers)

Blodau (Flowers)

The kids are off school for half term this coming week, so it’ll be interesting to see how much I get done (especially as we go away on Friday for a couple of nights) but hopefully I’ll get an update out on Sunday at the very least :-/

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.