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

 

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

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

A (very) Belated Happy New Year

Well hello 2018!  I’d like to say you snuck up on me there, but nope, I knew you were coming, and. while I planned to welcome you much sooner than this, it just wasn’t to be…

Happy New Year everyone!  Yes, I know it’s late, and most of you are so over it, but I wasn’t sure how else to start this post, it’s been so long! During the run up to Christmas I was seriously busy with soap selling, rather than soap making, and then Christmas came, and I more or less stopped all things soap related for a couple of weeks and had a proper break with the family.  I’m a little ashamed at how long it’s been since I last posted (almost two and a half months) – this blog is supposed to be all about building a business, and I failed to post anything at all about what I was doing during my busiest time of the year. Oops! Ah well, a learning curve, and I plan to be more organised next time.  In hindsight perhaps trying (and succeeding, to be fair) to complete Blogtober wasn’t the best idea in the run up to such a busy period 😀

So anyway, I’m back!  I’m into the swing of things, have lots of plans, and will be sharing more of the business side of things on the blog in future too (selling at craft fairs, gaining more wholesale accounts, demos & classes, and generally more facts and figures about what I make / sell and the time I spend doing various things)  If there’s anything you’d like me to cover, please don’t hesitate to ask and I’ll share what I’ve learnt. Just remember that I’m no expert, I’m learning a lot as I go along, and winging it a lot of the time!!

There’ll be some more posts very soon covering how I got on with last year’s goals and those for this coming year (both business and personal) and also what I’ve been up to since the beginning of 2018.

I did get to make some soap during that quiet week between Christmas and New Year.  I realised that my stock levels were seriously depleted and I would need to crack on with making more sooner rather than later, so I made four double batches of (clockwise from top left) Oatmeal Milk & Honey, Welsh Rose, Scrubby Peppermint and Bewitched:

Soap in the Mould

Soap in the Mould

Thank you so much for staying with me even during my period of absence – I’ll be back again very soon

Vickx