The Fortnight in Soap: 15th May ’17

Good afternoon from a very wet Monday in Snowdonia!  We’ve had some glorious weather recently, but this morning we awoke to pouring rain and it hasn’t let up all day.  Ah well, the gardens will be all the happier for it!

I didn’t post a round up last Sunday, as, to be honest, there wasn’t that much to tell you. I’d made one batch of soap – yet another two loaves of Tutti Frutti (I’m selling out as soon as it’s cured, and I need to get stock levels back up):

Tutti Frutti in the mould

Tutti Frutti in the mould

And last week I only soaped twice – another restock of Welsh Rose:

Welsh Rose in the Mould

Welsh Rose in the Mould

and the second time was some wedding favours for my friend who gets married at the end of June.  I’ll share those in another post as I’ve not got round to photographing them yet.

I’ve been really busy with orders for my mini bars. These are really popular with holiday accommodation owners in the village and the surrounding area.  Three lots have gone out over the weekend, and there’s still more to do.

Welsh Rose Mini Guest Bars

Welsh Rose Mini Guest Bars

I only sell these on a wholesale basis, with the minimum order being 50,  they’re just too fiddly and time consuming to wrap to make them cost effective in smaller amounts.  I’m considering doing a selection pack of one of each of the core range, but I need to think a little more about the practicalities (I’m back to whether or not I can make them cost effective again)

The other big thing taking up my time over the last week or so has been trying to get some quotes for soap boxes.  I currently wrap in cellphane bags, but I’m looking for something a little more professional, and which will give the bars more protection in transit / on shelves. I’d like plain white boxes with a window, so that the soap can be seen (and smelled!) and early indications suggest that they’re not cheap!!  It’s a work in progress, and I’ll keep you updated.

But the main reason I’ve not made soap for a while?  I was all out of Olive Oil, and had been for a week.  I strongly suspect that there’s a shortage at the moment as, although I could buy plenty of Pomace Olive Oil, I’m struggling to get regular olive oil at a good price. I know many soapmakers use pomace without any problems, but I find it accelerates trace compared to regular olive oil, and that’s no good for my drop swirls.  I usually get mine via Amazon’s subscribe and save facility, but they didn’t deliver April’s order, and when I went online to check what was going on,  they’d cancelled the order without so much as an email to let me know ARRGHH   May’s order is still in place so I’m hoping that turns up as planned. Anyway, I ordered some more from another supplier last Monday evening, and it finally arrived today…

Oh, and this blog was featured in Feedspot’s 100 top soap blogs last week. I’ll be honest, Feedspot was new to me, but it appears to be very similar to Bloglovin’.  If you’re interested in soapy blogs (and of course you are, right?!) do have a look through. There I am, right down at No. 62 😀 (and it seems my location is wrong – I’ve not lived in Manchester for over 3 years, so I’ll need to find a way to change that – I’m guessing it’s here in my settings somewhere?)

And don’t forget, if you have a soapy blog yourself then why not join our Soapmaking Bloggers Facebook Group?

Thanks for reading – back soon!

Facial Soap

It’s finally ready for testing! Back in early April I made up a small batch of what I hope will prove to be the final version of my long awaited facial soap.  I’ve been using it myself for the last week, and I have to say I’m really really happy with it.   It has a light, creamy lather and leaves my face feeling clean but so soft and not at all tight.

It’s unscented, uncoloured, and alongside the more commonplace ingredients, it also contains argan oil, jojoba oil, evening primrose oil and sweet almond oil.  My feeling is it’s suitable for most skin types, but I’m no skincare expert, so I’ve asked for some volunteer testers via my Facebook page.  I’m hoping to send out some samples this week:

This isn’t the final shape, and I have some work to do on packaging still, but hopefully I’ll be able to offer them for sale soon, together with a charcoal version for oilier skins.

Facial Soap

Facial Soap

 

 

 

When Fragrance Oils Go Rogue

My hands-down-most-popular summer special last year was my Lemon Verbena Confetti, so obviously I had to make it again this year.  It has a white base colour, is crammed with multi-coloured soap shavings and is fragranced with an amazing smelling Lemon Verbena fragrance oil.  I LOVE lemon verbena – it’s fresh, crisp and citrussy with herbaceous notes, but sadly, this particular lemon verbena fragrance does NOT behave itself in cold process soap.

I knew from my experience using last year that it was a fast mover, so I thought I was well prepared this time. The soap shavings were ready to go, the oils and lye were at room temperature, I didn’t discount the water, and was prepared to work quickly. It wasn’t enough…

Soap shaving ready to be added...

Soap shaving ready to be added…

I added my titanium dioxide AND the Lemon Verbena FO to to my oils, added the lye water and KAPOW!  it solidified immediately. I refused to be beaten.  I splodged the stick blender in and loosened it up a bit before adding all the soap shavings. How much soap shavings you use is entirely up to you – I don’t measure it out, I just mix in more and more until it looks like enough <not helpful sorry>:

Soap shavings added

Soap shavings added

I mixed as far as I could with a spoon but in the end I had to plunge in my (gloved!!) hands to give it a thorough mix. It was the only way to get everything properly combined without breaking up all the soap shreds with the blender.  I also used my hands to get the whole lot into the the moulds (one benefit of making confetti soap – two batches with added confetti makes enough soap to fill three moulds – yey!)

Moulds filled with confetti soap

Moulds filled with confetti soap

It was only then that I realised that one of my gloves had split and I had the beginnings of a lye burn on the end of one of my fingers – ouch 😦

Two days later I unmoulded and cut, and the result wasn’t too shabby:

Confetti soap, the cut

Confetti soap, the cut

It has a few small air holes here and there, trapped during the mould filling, but it’s pretty good, considering!

Incidentally, the company from whom I bought this FO claim on their website that it causes no acceleration in CP soap, but when I asked in a FB group whether anyone else had had an issue with this particular FO, it seems to be fairly common. Ah well, forewarned is forearmed eh?!

Another month gone…

I’m in holiday mode again. It’s May Day bank holiday here today, so even though Easter seems like just yesterday, we’re enjoying another long weekend, and I didn’t even think to get my weekly round up post done yesterday.  (*Ahem* If I’m honest, it did cross my mind briefly last night, but by that point we were binge watching Dexter on Netflix and enjoying rather nice bottle of red 😀 It’s all about balance eh?!)

This week saw me making a start on the summer specials – Lemon Verbena Confetti. I’ve not got round to taking a photograph of this year’s version yet, but this is a photo from last year to give you an idea…

Lemon Verbena Confetti

Lemon Verbena Confetti

The Lemon Verbena fragrance oil smells absolutely amazing, but it’s such a fast mover that I was in two minds whether to use it again this year.  In the end my (and my customers’) love for the fragrance won out, and last Thursday I made two batches. It was worse than I remembered 😦  I’m in the middle of writing a post about it, and I’ll definitely have some cut photos of the recent batches by then.

The rest of the week was spent fulfilling orders (inc one for a brand new stockist, Crumpton Hill Farm Shop in Herefordshire), end of month accounts and wrapping & labelling for the monthly Porthmadog Craft Fair on Saturday, including these:

Botanica

Botanica (Lavender, lemon & lime essential oils)

Serenity (Patchouli, orange, lemon & ylang ylang essential oils)

Serenity (Patchouli, orange, lemon & ylang ylang essential oils)

This week we also enjoyed the fourth birthday of the littlest Soapminer but I’m ever so glad such important birthdays only happen twice a year!!

Oh, and guess what?  I actually read a whole book in April!  Yep, I managed to finish The Girl on the Train yesterday and it’s definitely whetted my appetite to read more.

Goals.  Should I or shouldn’t I?  January through to March, one of my monthly goals was to read a whole book.  Failed on three counts.  In April I had no goals whatsoever and I read a book.  In February and March I wanted to create a wholesale linesheet, or at least put all the information into one place for customers to access.  Didn’t happen either month, but in April I managed to post about the Core Range.  Is it just a coincidence or am I subconsciously sabotaging my own efforts when I have a ‘goal’ to achieve? Why would I do that though? Am I asking too much of myself? Perhaps I should just have the one goal until it becomes a habit and then introduce another… On a personal level that’d probably work well, but I need to be a little more productive and proactive workwise, and push myself a little more, not less…

So here’s the deal – I’ll give myself just one personal goal, and that’s to read a book (I so very nearly wrote ‘two books’ before I realised how utterly ridiculous I was being :-D) My challenge now is to find a book that will grip me as much The Girl on the Train. To that end I did a quick ‘what should I read next if I liked…’ Google search, and I now have 7 books on order with my local library. I’m hoping that at least one or two will arrive pretty quickly and I can make a start.

Workwise there are a few things I want to achieve, alongside the regular restocks, and I don’t think I’m being over-ambitious here either:

  1. Get my facial bars out to testers
  2. Make trial batches of lipsalve
  3. Get back to posting on the blog at least eight times during May

I also have another 200 mini guest bars, for three different customers, to be cracking on with this week and my regular Tuesday (tomorrow) night session has been hijacked by an meeting that I’m expected to attend, so I’m having to bring my soaping session forward to tonight in order to have soap to cut at my regular Thursday night soapmaking presentation. Juggling, always juggling, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Thanks for reading, I’ll be back soon with more soapy updates.

Rainbow Drop Swirl – A tutorial in pictures

Tutti Frutti

Tutti Frutti

There’s been a lot of interest in my rainbow drop swirl (Tutti Frutti) soap recently, so I thought I’d put together a little pictorial tutorial for anyone who’s interested in how it’s done (I really, REALLY should start making videos shouldn’t I?).

Many of you will already know how big a fan I am of the drop swirl technique. Almost all of my core range is made using either a full or partial drop swirl, and Tutti Frutti is no exception.  I made another couple of batches recently, and took some photographs along the way…

**Please make sure you’re familiar with the basics of soapmaking before you try any advanced swirls (Soap Queen is a good place to start) and always wear protective clothing / gloves / goggles.  Safety first!!**

I generally make soap at room temperature, so I’ll mix up the lye solution in advance and put it to one side to cool down (I don’t discount the water for this one). I’ll also melt the hard oils and butters and combine them with the liquid oils and butters and allow them to cool down to room temp.

Next I measure out the seven different micas straight into the pouring jugs (actually here you’ll see six different micas and one liquid colourant.  It’s notoriously difficult to get a good red in CP soap, but I use a liquid colour from Gracefruit which is rather good.  They appear to be out of stock of the red at the moment, but hopefully it’ll be back in soon.)

colourants ready for mixing into the soap batter

colourants ready for mixing into the soap batter

Next I add my fragrance oil to the room temp oils and butters.  Many people add their fragrance AFTER adding the lye and tracing the soap, but my preference is to add it before.

I then add a couple of teaspoons of the fragranced oils to each jug of mica and get them well blended.  I know it’s common practice to skip this stage and simply add the traced lye batter directly onto the powdered mica (or add the powdered mica directly to jugs of traced batter), but I don’t always use a stick blender and this way I know I can get the colour incorporated well just by giving it a good mix with a spatula.

Pre-mixed colourants, oils and a jug of lye water

Pre-mixed colourants, oils and a jug of lye water

I get my moulds ready – notice my high-tech method of stopping the mould sides from bowing inwards 😀

Moulds prepared...

Moulds prepared…

And then we’re ready to go…  I mix the lye water into the tub of (already fragranced!) oils and butters, and share the soap batter out equally into the seven prepared jugs.  It would appear I forgot to get a photo of that stage – sorry!   What we’re looking for is a really light trace as the soap will thicken up during the pouring process. Personally I don’t stick-blend this soap AT ALL.  I find that by the time I’ve mixed up all the colours thoroughly it’s already at a light trace, but this will very much depend on how quickly your particular soap recipe traces and which fragrance you’re using. I’ve even found that certain micas can inhibit trace, so there are many different factors involved. It’s a case of using your judgement and, to be honest, trial and error.

Next comes the pour.  First in this time was yellow:

First pour - yellow

First pour – yellow

What’s crucial for a nice drop is the height from which you pour the soap in to the mould. At the early stages my jug is quite close to the bottom of the mould as I pour a line of soap along the length of it. Here’s the next couple of pours:

Red and orange poured next

Red and orange poured next

Once the bottom of the mould has been covered with soap, I start to raise the jugs a little higher as I pour, so that the soap drops into the previous layer, rather than sit on the top of it.  It’s very hard to give a precise height as it very much depends on how thick your soap batter is (the thicker it is, the higher you’ll need to drop it from)

More colours poured

More colours poured

I try to make sure I pour from the jugs in the same order on each round of pouring, and also try to make sure I’m not pouring a colour on top of the same colour in the mould.

I keep pouring until the moulds are full:

Filling up the mould

Filling up the mould

Almost full...

Almost full…

Full!

Full!

By this stage the batter is quite a bit thicker than when I started to pour, and looks none too tidy, but it doesn’t really matter once I start adding texture to the top:

Mid-texturing the top

Starting to tidy up the top

And the finished item:

Tutti Frutti ready to set up

Tutti Frutti in the mould

I generally leave soap in the mould for 48 hours before I unmould and cut:

Rainbow Drop Swirl mid-cut

Rainbow Drop Swirl mid-cut

And that’s it.  It’s cured for 4 weeks, bevelled and tidied up, cured for another 2 weeks then released for sale.

Some time ago I started using the Instagram hashtag #dropsaretops for some of my photos – please use the tag to share your own drop swirls and make this drop swirl junkie very happy 😀

 

Happy Easter!

Hope you’re all having a happy and peaceful holiday weekend.  This week has been fairly quiet on the soapy front – not an awful lot going on other than restocks, blah blah… Don’t get me wrong, I adore making and cutting soap, restocks or otherwise, but it’s not so exciting for you dear readers to be seeing the same thing over and over again 😀

I took the children to visit friends over night on Tuesday, which is generally soaping night, so I brought it forward and made two double batches on Monday instead. These are First Kiss & Luscious Lavender:

First Kiss & Luscious Lavender Handmade Soap

First Kiss & Luscious Lavender Handmade Soap

I’m in the process of trying to rename ‘First Kiss’. It was so called because it’s so sweet (groan!!) but I’m pretty sure that some people are put off buying it as a gift because of the name.  If you have any thoughts pleeeaaase share –  it’s a dupe of Aquolina’s Pink Sugar, and is a a rather delicious sweet, vanilla-y / caramely fragrance.

My second soapy session was today – two double batches of Scrubby Peppermint and Botanica.

Scrubby Peppermint & Botanica in the Mould

Scrubby Peppermint & Botanica in the Mould

 

I’ve said before that Botanica’s blend of Lavender, Lemon & Lime is my current favourite, and today the fragrance of the essential oils together was literally making my mouth water, they blend stunningly well together.

This week we finally got to make a start on the EPIC project that is our back garden.  It’s pretty big, but as we’ve been focussing on doing up the house since we moved in, the garden’s not had a look-in. It’s been totally neglected for the last 20 (30?) years and making it beautiful is going to be a real labour of love, but we’ll get there.

Here are a few ‘before’ photos to give you an idea of the hard work we have ahead of us!!

The Garden - Before

The Garden – Before

The Garden - Before

The Garden – Before

I’ve called these ‘Before’ photos, but believe it or not these photos were taken after  we’d done a fair bit of clearing already.  We did take some photos when we first moved in, maybe I’ll try to hunt some out for a future post – I’m sure there will be regular updates as and when we make progress 😉

That’s it for now. It’s Easter Sunday evening and I really must go and spend some time with my (mostly) ever-patient other half!  Thanks for reading, back soon!