The Week in Soap: 26th March ’17 – BATHBOMBS!!!

Yesterday (Saturday) brought the first craft fair of the year, and a lot of last week was spent wrapping and labelling in preparation. ¬†It also saw the first outing for my bathbombs, which are FINALLY available for sale. I’ve been so busy dispatching wholesale orders and restocking the curing shelves that creating labels for my bathbombs was never a priority – until the night before the craft fair ūüėģ ¬†I took just four varieties – Clarity, Serenity, Lavender and Bewitched (was LoveSpell):

Bathbombs, all wrapped up

Bathbombs, all wrapped up

I was busy Mon, Tues, Wed evenings this week, so couldn’t make soap until Thursday night, and then realised that I was so low on Olive Oil I could only make a two batches of Boho Baby (fragranced with Patchouli & Orange essential oils):

Boho Baby (Patchouli & Orange)

Boho Baby

Friday evening was spent wrapping bathbombs for the fair on Saturday, so I wasn’t able to make more until this evening, but I made up with it with two double batches of Serenity (Patchouli, Ylang Ylang, Orange & Lemon essential oils) and Botanica (Lavender, Lemon & Lime essential oils):

Serenity (left) & Botanica

Serenity (left) & Botanica

I now officially a yellow belt kickboxer! ¬†I went through my first ever grading on Monday evening. I had no idea what to expect and it was intense – I arrived home bruised, exhausted and ravenous, but I absolutely loved it, and I’m ridiculously proud of my yellow belt:

Kickboxing Yellow Belt

Kickboxing Yellow Belt

Orange belt, I’m coming for ya!!




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 ūüôā

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 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 ūüėÄ

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).



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 РSage 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.


January 2017 – Goals Roundup

So that was January! Four and a half weeks of my least favourite time of year, but you know what? It’s been pretty productive. ¬†Back on the 3rd January I posted my goals for the month, and I’m really happy with what’s been achieved since then.

I completed my tax return.  Deadline was today, 31st January, but I made sure it was one of the first things I ticked off my list. Missing that deadline was not an option!

I finally got round to making some Castile soap¬†– something that had been on my list of things to do for aaaages. I’ll be posting an update on the cure is progressing towards the end of next month:

Castile Soap, first attempt

Castile Soap, first attempt

I’ve done a fair bit of research for my facial bar. I’m planning on making two – a charcoal bar for younger / combination skin, and a bar aimed at older skin. ¬†I have a good idea of the recipes now, and hope to make some trial bars next month.

Finally I hoped to post on this blog at least 8 times. Well, this post is the eighth of the month, so a big fat tick for that one too…

I was gentle with myself as far as the personal goals went – I wanted to run 30km, and read a book, any book, just to try to get back into the habit of reading again. Well, I smashed the running – I’ve run 65.5km (!!) during January, and it would have been more had I not picked up a bug which morphed into a cold towards the end of the month which meant I only really ran for the first three weeks or so. ¬†I’ve also started kickboxing once a week, which is hard work but amazing fun.

The reading went pretty well too. ¬†I finished the book that I’d been crawling through for the last three months of 2016 – Lingo: Around Europe in Sixty Languages by Gaston Dorren¬†It’s an extraordinarily interesting book (if you’re as fascinated by languages as I am) and a very easy read. Each stand alone chapter is only a few pages long but packed with facts that made me ooohh and aaahhh with delight as I learned about the vast similarities and differences that exist within the languages of Europe. ¬†I also got halfway through a novel – The Magicians (Book 1) by Lev Grossman. I enjoyed it enough at the beggining, but I had a nagging feeling that it was aimed at a younger readership – maybe a YA novel? Turns out it’s not, but I can’t get excited about the characters, and have decided life’s too short, and reading time too precious, to continue with something that I’m not ABSOLUTELY loving. ¬†I only found out today that it’s been made into a TV series in the US. Have you seen it? ¬†Is it any good? ¬†Anyway, I now need to find a better book to read for February, ‘cos it’s going on that goals list again ūüôā

So there we go – January goals smashed… I was going to include my February goals in this post but it’s got a bit longer than planned, so I’ll leave them for tomorrow – which gives me a little longer to think about them too ūüėČ

Don’t forget to comment below if there’s a particular¬†novel that you would absolutely, definitely recommend I read – I’m open to all and any suggestions and genres (except horror – I don’t do horror)

Thank you if you’ve read this far – the fact that someone might actually read what I write is definitely an incentive to stick to my plans.

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



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: 8th Jan ‚Äô17

Where did the week go? ¬†The first week of January has come and gone, and it’s time for me to get back into the habit of weekly updates – it’s been a whole month since I last did one of these!

It’s been a fairly quiet week, but I have managed to make a start on restocking the shelves – last Monday saw me making the first two batches of the year, Oatmeal Milk & Honey (OMH) and Serenity:

Oatmeal Milk & Honey / Serenity

Oatmeal Milk & Honey / Serenity

I had this crazy idea that I’d try the Thermal Transfer method for the OMH, and as I could have predicted had I thought about it for longer than a couple of seconds, it didn’t go so well (keep an eye out for another post on that little adventure very soon). ¬†These have now been cut but I’ve not got round to taking any photographs yet (and to be honest, I’m not sure I want to take photographs of the OMH – seriously, it’s a bit of a hot mess…) but there’ll be some up on my Instagram (@thesoapmine) account soon enough.

Tonight I made another three batches. The left hand one is a brand new (to me) Fragrance Oil called Flora, which I’ve done in white, yellow and green (thoughts of spring already…), then we have restocks of First Kiss and Clarity.

Soap in the mould

Soap in the mould

The soaping gremlins were well and truly out to play tonight. The only one to behave properly was First Kiss. Clarity really surprised me by thickening up super-quick. Not sure why – same recipe, same colours and same ratio of eo’s, although the lye water was possibly cooler than usual so it’s likely that was the cause. Anyway, I can usually get wispy drops in this one, but tonight it was a bit, hmmmm, ‘ploppy’. ¬†And Flora…well, it’s a floral fragrance, notoriously bad for acceleration, so I wasn’t entirely unprepared. I used extra water with the lye, and tried not to over mix but it was still thicker than I would have liked, so my dropswirl was a bit, well, ploppy again. ¬†Ho hum, these two won’t be perfect but they WILL smell flippin’ gorgeous!!! ūüėÄ

In other news I’ve confirmed a new customer with a sizeable order for my mini guest bars, and I’ve taken a booking to do one of my soap talks in a few months time, so all in all it’s been a productive week.

Hope you’ve all had a great week. Thanks for reading – back soon!


Happy New Year!

I took some time off. I hadn’t planned to, but the kitchen refurb necessitated a halt in soapmaking, and once the last Christmas fair was done I decided to step back completely and take a proper break. And it’s been fabulous. ¬†But I’m ready, no, ITCHING to get going again.¬†Today I masterbatched 10 lots of oils and butters, and soapmaking resumes on Monday – woo hoo!!

I fully intend to get back onto my twice weekly posting schedule, and I’ll be kicking off this week with a round up of the successes (and otherwise!) of last year’s goals, and setting down my goals for 2017 – from both a personal and a business perspective. I’ll also be setting monthly business goals to keep me more focused.

All that remains is to wish each and every one of you a VERY Happy New Year, and a peaceful, prosperous and healthy 2017. Thank you so much for following and reading my scribbles – I hope you’ll continue to do so next year. ¬†I’ll leave you with a montage of photos from this year. These were my 16 most popular photos on Instagram during 2016:

16 Best of 2016

16 Best of 2016