The Week in Soap: 15th July ’18

This is going to be a quick post – I haven’t made any soap this week, but it’s been a busy week for wholesale and guest bar orders, so most of my time has been spent putting them together.

Wedesday was the exception to the regular routine, and I spent the morning at my monthly networking group, telling them all about my business.  I’ve done so many soapmaking demonstrations and talks, but I’ve never had to speak to a room of business people people about MY business. About my struggles and successes, and future development and growth.  I was a little nervous to begin with, but soon warmed up, and I even made some sales, which is  always a bonus!  I joined the group  back in January, and although time constraints have meant that I haven’t been able to attend every meet-up, I’m really beginning to really appreciate the benefits of being a member.  There was a time, not so long ago, when I would have been rather dismissive of this kind of group. And all the more so because it’s called ‘Women Working Together’.  But to be honest the idea of networking was a little daunting, and I’d heard some horror stories of pushy men practicing their sales patter on unsuspecting newbies at networking events.  So, I decided to give this group a whirl, and I’m so glad I did.  I was welcomed from the beginning, and the advice and support I get from other members, who have far more experience of growing businesses, is invaluable.

I’m really short of soapy pics to share with you this week, but here are a couple of the guest bars that I put together for one of my holiday home orders.  These particular ones were for a gorgeous cottage on the Lleyn Peninsula (well worth checking out if you ever fancy a break in this neck of the woods!)

Mini guest bars

Mini guest bars

More mini guest bars

More mini guest bars

I’ve got some new ceramic soap dishes on the way, made by my talented friend Helen of the Snowdonia Blue Slate Pottery.  These are so beautiful, and sell well as part of sets.

Ceramic Soap Dishes

Ceramic Soapishes

And here, just for you, is the very first look at how I’m proposing to package my new facial bars when I launch next month:

Facial bar packaging

Facial bar packaging

There’ll be a tag on the ties (as I have now) and a stamp on the bag with my logo – that’s the plan anyway.

Oh, and I’ve finally taken the plunge and signed up for a card reader, so that I can take card payments at fairs and markets. I don’t think that not having one has caused me to Iose an awful lot of sales in the past, but I know I have lost some.  People who say they’ll come back later when they’ve been to the cash-point, but they never do.  Perhaps they never meant to do so, but who knows?

Over on Instagram, this was my best performing post of the week – a #throwbackthursday collection of discontinued bars. I still love the all-blues one, and I’m thinking of using that colour scheme to make a nice ‘ice blue’ themed bar for next Christmas:

Discontinued Drop Swirls

Discontinued Drop Swirls

And this one was my favourite IG post of the week, purely because it combines my two passions of soapmaking and books – a selection of my favourite soaping books. How many of these do you have?  I’m open to recommendations too 😉

Soapmaking books

Soapmaking books

 

On a personal note, this week saw the first harvest from the garden – a cucumber and two (TWO lol) beans. This was taken at the beginning of the week, and there have been a further two cucumbers since. Fortunate, as my son absolutely loves them!

Cucumber & beans

Cucumber & beans

This weekend has been pretty active, with an early morning walk with my friend yesterday (Saturday) morning. The sun shone, the birds sang, and I got home in time for breakfast feeling, dare I say it, awesome!!

Beddgelert walk

Beddgelert walk

And then today (Sunday) my husband and I took the children on a walk up into the mountains, to a hidden lake called Llyn (Lake) Idwal:

Llyn Idwal

Llyn Idwal

 

Kind of an incongruous place to find a beach, but a beach it certainly is – there were even a couple of swimmers.  We had a bit of a paddle, and the kids did a load of rock climbing, before we headed back down and home just in time for dinner. My kind of day 😉

Thanks for reading!

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The Week in Soap: 8th July ’18

I’ve realised this evening that I need to start some kind of daily diary. This blog is supposed to serve as a record of the development of my business, but as I sat down this evening to write, I wasn’t entirely sure what it is I’ve been doing all week 😀  I think it’s the heat, going to my head.  It’s been another scorcher, with temperatures around 28-29 degrees every day, and I’m loving it…  I have fingers, toes and everything else crossed that it hold up after the schools break up for summer (less than two weeks away now – yey/eek!!) but I’ll confess to being a little pessimistic about the chances…

Back to last week then, and on Monday I took the day off and climbed a mountain.  The perfect start to week, despite the oppressive heat.  I went with three girlfriends, and we took our time, putting the world to rights as we walked.  This is the view back down towards our village from the top:

Beddgelert from the summit of Hebog

Beddgelert from the summit of Hebog

We got back in time for the school run and then we all headed down to the river for a cooling dip.  By the time I got to bed that night I’d clocked up over 28,000 steps on my Fitbit.  That’ll do me 🙂

I was back to work on Tuesday, wrapping and labelling stock to replenish what I’d sold at the fair the previous Saturday.  I spent a bit of time reorganising my office, and came across these bars that I hadn’t put up for sale because of the partial gel:

Botanica with partial gel

Botanica with partial gel

It’s great soap (of course!) and has been curing for months so it’s wonderfully hard, but it’s just not perfect, so I wasn’t happy selling it.  Anyway, there’s only so much ‘reject’ soap that we can get through at home, so I decided to offer it for half price on my Facebook page.  I had absolutely no idea it would prove so popular. I went off to a dentist appointment and forgot about soap for a while, and when I came out my notifications were going crazy and they were all sold no time.  Why on earth has it taken me so long to do that?

On Wednesday I sent off my application for the largest Christmas fair around here, the Portmeirion Winter Fair. It’s held on the first weekend of December, and I had a great (and profitable!) time there last year, so fingers crossed I can return this year.

Thursday was soapmaking day – woop!  I made 4 loaves (60 bars) of my most time-consuming bar, the seven colour Tutti Frutti, scented with a jelly beans fragrance oil.  I also made a batch of my luxury Facial Bar, in my tall ‘n’ skinny mould from The Moulds Shop.  Nope, I’m not on commission, I just love their moulds :-D.

Tutti Frutti in the mould

Tutti Frutti in the mould

Freshly poured facial soap in the mould

Freshly poured facial soap in the mould

(Yes, that’s a permanent kink in the silicone liner 😦 Entirely my fault, I stored it badly)

Generally I don’t gel my soaps.  It’s too difficult to cover my textured tops to insulate them, so I don’t normally bother.  Last time I made the facial bars I got a partial gel so this time, when I saw that the batter in the mould was starting to gel, I popped it outside into the (hot!) sunshine and let it do its thing. Because I don’t often get to see the gelling process, I excitedly took a few snaps along the way:

Gelling...

Gelling…

More gelling...

More gelling…

(nearly) fully gelled...

(nearly) fully gelled…

At this point I had to go over to the office and was worried that the batch might overheat if I left it in the sun unattended, so I brought it indoors again. I’m sure it would have been fine, and I kind of wish I’d left it out to finish off, but never mind…

On Friday morning I unmoulded and cut the facial bars:

Facial Bars, freshly cut

Facial Bars, freshly cut

I am ridiculously, utterly excited about this facial bar. I’ve been using it myself for months, to the exclusion of anything else, and I absolutely LOVE it.  I don’t want or need anything else.  It’s been tested by many others, and the feedback has been amazing, so this batch is the first that I’ll be offering for sale, probably in mid to late August.  It’s got some wonderful ingredients, including evening primrose, sweet almond, jojoba and argan oils, and I’ll be writing a post about it closer to the launch date.

I took Friday afternoon off (yes, more time off lol) and caught up with an old friend, so I was back into the office on Saturday, just briefly, to cut the Tutti Frutti soaps:

Freshly cut Tutti Frutti

Freshly cut Tutti Frutti

Freshly cut Tutti Frutti

Freshly cut Tutti Frutti

The rest of Saturday (or what felt like an awful lot of it anyway) was spent painting our hallway.  Not exciting, but very satisfying. Oh, and avoiding the flippin’ football. Apparently England are doing ok?  Bah – give me the Tour de France any day 😉

Thanks for reading, have a great week, and I’ll be back soon!

 

 

The Week in Soap: 1st July ’18

July.  JULY guys!!  How the hell did that happen?  Officially half way through the year, closer to next Christmas than last… Uh oh…  Mind you, it couldn’t possibly feel LESS Christmassy here in north Wales; our heat wave continues, very unusual weather for us, and there’s a lot of huffing and puffing and complaints that it’s too hot.  Well not for me it ain’t.  I’ve been waiting YEARS for this kind of weather, seriously, years. Since the last proper heatwave in 1976 in actual fact (I’m not even kidding).  Hands up who thinks it’ll last juuust up until the schools break up for the summer holidays?

We’re lucky enough to have a river run through our village, one that’s swimmable in, and that’s where we’ve been after school every day this past week.  I don’t often tend to work past 3pm anyway, as that’s when the kids finish school, but I will occasionally go back to the office after my husband finishes work at 4pm if I have a lot on.  There was no chance of that happening this week.  Swimmies on, down the river, and a cooling dip was in order every single day – bliss.  These are the kind of childhood memories that we dreamt of giving our kids when we left the bright city lights to move back home to the countryside:

River Fun in the Sun

River Fun in the Sun

It’s been another fairly quiet week on the business front.  On Monday I sent out a few orders that had come in over the weekend, and the rest of that day and Tuesday was spent in the office, wrapping and labelling.

On Wednesday I got to make soap again – happy days!  60 bars of Welsh Rose and 60 bars of Scrubby Peppermint:

120 Bars of Soap in the Mould

120 Bars of Soap in the Mould

 

Welsh Rose & Peppermint Soaps in the Mould

Welsh Rose & Peppermint Soaps in the Mould

On Thursday I was back in the office, making sure everything was ready for Saturday’s Craft Fair in Porthmadog.  I cut the soap from the day before – I usually wait 48 hours before unmoulding and cutting, but for some reason I thought Thursday was Friday (and I also forgot to steam the tops, so they’re a bit more ashy than usual) This is a quick ‘first look’ snap of both varieties.

Scrubby Peppermint & Welsh rose, just cut

Scrubby Peppermint & Welsh rose, just cut

Friday was a short day as I had an appointment at the hairdressers. I did take a few photographs though. I still have this crazy idea that I’ll have a live website sometime soon, so I’m still playing with photography ideas.  This one is Sugar Drops in its packaging:

Sugar Drops, Packaged

Sugar Drops, Packaged

Saturday was my first Craft Fair since the end of April:

Soaps for Sale

Soaps for Sale

Traeth Craig Du on Display

Traeth Craig Du on Display

Bathbombs

Bathbombs7

It was a sweltering hot day, and I wasn’t expecting much, but I ended up having a pretty good day.  This was mostly thanks to returning customers which was really gratifying.  I was so pleased that Saturday was relatively successful, it raised my spirits somewhat as in all honesty, I’ve been feeling a little downhearted this last 7-10 days.  I know there are ups and downs in every business, and while I’ve had an awful lot of ups this year, the downs still have an effect.  I’ve contacted a few potential retailers recently with a view to them stocking my products.  Of the four most recent, three haven’t even acknowledged my communication, and the one who did, and to whom I sent samples (which were received and described as ‘lovely’) has since cut contact with no explanation.  I like to think I’m fairly thick skinned, and I would have no problem whatsoever with a ‘thanks but no thanks’ kind of response, but this made me question my quality of my products (which is patently nonsense given the number of returning customers and glowing testimonials I have).  Ah well, onwards and upwards as they say.

Sunday was another very satisfying, if exhausting, day, continuing the saga of taming our garden.  It was mostly heavy work – digging, landscaping etc – with nothing spectacular to show at the end, but we GOT STUFF DONE, which always feels good.  I do have one single raised bed that I’m particularly happy with though:

FULL raised bed!

FULL raised bed!

In there I have loads of broadbeans, some tomato plants, two courgette plants, a cucumber plant, runner beans, sweetpeas and sunflowers.  Not bad for a small plot eh?!

Thanks for reading, I’ll be back again soon. Have a great week everyone!

The Week in Soap: 24th June ’18

Last night I had the niggling feeling that I should be doing something.  I wouldn’t come to me though, so we spent the evening binge watching Better Call Saul (have you seen it yet?  I LOVED Breaking Bad, but didn’t think much to the idea of a spin off so avoided it despite Netflix’s best attempts at drawing me in. Given that it has the same writers, producers and directors I really should have known better, but there we go – Netflix 1, Me 0  Mind you, it has tried to foist some real doozies on me recently – the new Lost in Space remake for one – arrghhh!  Anyhow, within three seconds of waking up this morning I remembered just what it was I should have been doing last night – writing this…  Guess I’m not quite as firmly back in the saddle as I thought I might be ;-D  Now, clearly I realise that  nobody is out there desperately refreshing their screen in the hope that a new post from me will pop up, I’d like to maintain some form of regularity, so I apologise!

Well then, what’s been happening in my soapy world over the last week? On Monday I sent out orders that had come in over the weekend, and Tuesday was spent wrapping and labelling. Again.  I don’t think I realised when I decided to turn my hobby into a business that, while I would get to make a lot of soap, I would also have to wrap and label a lot more soap too.  Ah well, at least I’m not sweeping chimneys!

On Wednesday I had my first big soaping session in about three weeks.  I stocked up on Serenity (patchouli, ylang ylang, lemon & sweet orange essential oils) and Bewitched (a dupe of the ‘Love Spell’ designer perfume), 120 bars in total:

8 loaves / 120 bars of handmade soap

8 loaves / 120 bars of handmade soap

Thursday was another day of non-stop wrapping and labelling, oh, and a little bit of photography.  I’m still trying to get good shots for my website, and I quite like this one of Traeth Craig Du (Black Rock Sands):

Traeth Craig Du (Black Rock Sands)

Traeth Craig Du (Black Rock Sands)

On Friday I cut the batches that I’d made on Wednesday.  I took a very quick snap of them just cut, so forgive their rather tatty appearance.  I also got a touch of partial gel in the Serenity, which hasn’t happened before – I’m trusting they’ll look fine once they’ve been tidied up and bevelled:

Serenity & Bewitched, freshly cut

Serenity & Bewitched, freshly cut

In the afternoon I donned my science coat (not really) and made a few more batches of emulsified sugar scrub. It’s one of the things I’ve been working on whenever I have a spare half day, and I have to say I absolutely love this stuff. I’ve whittled my recipe down to three options, and I’m hoping I can finalise the recipe soon.  I have so many things I want to launch this year, but at the very least there’ll be cold process shampoo bars and these sugar scrubs (fragranced with mandarin essential oil in this case) :

Emulsified Sugar Scrub - tester

Emulsified Sugar Scrub – tester

Emulsified Sugar Scrub - testers

Emulsified Sugar Scrub – testers

So that was it – my work week in soap.  This coming week is going to see more soap being made, including shampoo bars, and more work on the sugar scrubs. I’m hoping to be able to send off for my scrub assessments sooner rather than later (as they can take a good few weeks to get done) and in the meantime I’ll have to think about labelling.

Have a great week everyone, and if you’re in the UK, what about this weather eh?  Absolutely glorious, although it does mean watering my hanging baskets a lot more often than I’m used to!

Hanging Baskets, June 2018

Hanging Baskets, June 2018

Thanks for reading – back soon!

A Kick up the Bum

June? June?? JUNE??  Erm… How did that happen exactly?  It’s almost two and a half months since I last posted, and if I’m honest, I do know how it happened.  There’s been so much going on that I should have written about, but didn’t get round to, and those things just kept building up until I felt I could never get caught up.  It’s been a bit of a Catch 22, loads to write about, no time to write, more to write about, even less time to write about it, et cetera, et cetera blah blah blah…

But on Saturday, I got a bit of a kick up the bum.  I received notification that this blog had been placed in the top 5 (Ok, at No. 5 ;-D) Soapmaking Blogs in the UK. You can see the post here.  The criteria were:

  • Google reputation and Google search ranking
  • Influence and popularity on Facebook, twitter and other social media sites
  • Quality and consistency of posts.
  • Feedspot’s editorial team and expert review

And it was that third bullet point that finally got me REALLY wanting to write again.  Quality of posts?  Well thank you, I’d better crack on.  Consistency of posts? Oh, um, yeah, sorry, I seriously DO need to crack on.

So please accept my apologies. There has been a lot going on, and while I’m not promising to give a blow by blow account of the last few months, I am back.   I am over my post paralysis, and I will be posting waaaay more regularly from now on.

Oh, and here’s a picture of Sugar Drops, mid-cure, because you know I can’t share a totally image free blog post 😀

Sugar Drops

Sugar Drops

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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

 

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

 

Hot Process – First Attempt

On Monday I decided to try my hand at making Hot Process (HP) soap for the first time.  It’s been on my list of things to do for aaaaages, and I even bought a fancy pants slow cooker / crock pot before Christmas in readiness, but the time was never right.  Recently however I was contacted by Plastic Free Snowdonia, a group who, as the name suggests, are trying to reduce the amount of plastic being used in this area.  They were interested in solid shampoo bars, which I’ve not made for a while, and I decided that this was the perfect opportunity to try out the HP method. My starting point was this tutorial by Sarah of Sas-Oki Soap and while clearly I am in no position to write a HP tutorial, being an absolute beginner, I did take a load of photos and so I thought I’d share the experience with you.

In the past I’ve used Liz Ardlady’s shampoo bar recipe, but used water instead of the apple cider vinegar (ACV), and left out the sodium lactate. I should confess that I’ve never used the original recipe as written, but I’ve always been really happy with the final bars without the ACV, so I decided to use the same recipe for my foray into Hot Process.

I put all the fats into the slow cooker and while they were melting down I made up the lye solution.

Oils & Butters Melting

Oils & Butters Melting

Off I went to do something else, and of course by the time the lye solution had cooled down, the fats were waaaaay to warm, so I popped them out into the snow to cool down 😀

Oils & Butters Cooling

Oils & Butters Cooling

Once everything was cool enough I added the lye to the oils and gave it all a quick stick blend to emulsify:

Lye added and stick-blended to emulsification

Lye added and stick-blended to emulsification

I turned the crockpot onto ‘medium’, covered the top with some cling film before putting the lid on to keep the moisture in (a tip I got from the Modern Soapmaking HP tutorial) and let it do its thing.  Another tip from the Modern Soapmaking tutorial was NO STIRRING.  So all I did was take a photograph every ten minutes or so.

This one was after 10 minutes cooking – the soap is beginning to saponify round the edges.  Apologies for the quality of these photos, there was condensation forming on the cling film over the pot:

After 10 mins cooking

After 10 mins cooking

After 20 mins cooking:

After 20 mins cooking

After 20 mins cooking

The soap continued to cook, and change colour as time went on. This was what it looked like after 40 mins, and it didn’t really change appearance for the next 10 minutes or so. I decided it might be ready.  All tutorials I’ve read have recommended using an infra-red thermometer to check readiness, but I don’t have one, so was winging it…

After 50 mins cooking

After 40 mins cooking

 

So a the 50 minute mark I removed the lid and the cling film, gave it a good whisk, then did the zap test.  For the uninitiated, the zap test is the process whereby you remove a small amount of soap from the pot and touch the tip of your tongue to it. Yep, you LICK potentially caustic soap.  Sounds crazy I know, but it’s a time honoured method of checking whether soap has fully saponified. If it simply tastes, erm, soapy, it’s good to go. If it zaps (and trust me, you’ll know what I mean if it happens to you) it’s not yet ready.  Oh, and please don’t put the licked soap back into the pot!!  😀

Fully cooked soap, whisked

Fully cooked soap, whisked

I then added some grapefruit essential oil,  and whisked that in thoroughly before the soap was spooned (actually, plopped and stuffed) it into the mould… It was very thick, and solidifying very quickly.  I’ve read that adding yoghurt, (or coconut cream/milk for a vegan version) can be added at this point to help fluidity – I’ll be trying that next time.

Solid shampoo freshly plopped into the mould

Solid shampoo freshly plopped into the mould

I scraped the last bits out of the pot and rolled them into little balls – with my bare hands!!!  I know, I know, I wouldn’t normally do it but these balls at least are for my own personal use only.  And the novelty of being able to squidge soap that’s straight out of the pot with my bare hands was irresistible 😀

Shampoo Balls

Shampoo Balls

Two days later the soap has become even more opaque:

Shampoo Bars in the mould after 48 hours

Shampoo Bars in the mould after 48 hours

I unmoulded the bars, and then cut them in half. These bars are going to be sent out as testers as, although I personally love this recipe, I want as many opinions as I can get before I think about selling this solid shampoo.

Unmoulded Shampoo Bars

Unmoulded Shampoo Bars

Cut Shampoo Bars

Cut Shampoo Bars

There seems to be conflicting opinions regarding how long Hot Processed soap should be cured for.  Strictly speaking, it’s safe  to use straight out of the mould, as the process of saponification has completed in the pot. I did use one of my little balls of shampoo on the same day as I made it, and it worked perfectly. However, as with CP soap, the bars were still somewhat soft when they came out of the mould, and I’m definitely going to give them an as-yet-undetermined cure time to dry out and harden up a bit. I’ve weighed one of the bars and I’ll monitor the weight reduction on a regular basis and report back when it’s ready.

I’m surprisingly thrilled with the result. It’s not very pretty. Not pretty at all actually. But it’s quick & easy and the clean up process is an absolute doddle and I’ll definitely be doing it again.  If you have any tips I’d love to hear them – pleeaaaase 🙂

Thanks for reading,

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