Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Lessons Learned

It's amazing how quickly my business is evolving.  Being a business and marketing geek from way back, I had mapped out some possible outcomes when I decided to monetize my #soapmaking hobby. My guess was that I'd have a handful of sales per month in the first year or so, and would likely operate at a precipitous loss for the first year or two.  Hey, this isn't something that most people do to get rich!

I've been so absolutely astounded at how wrong I was! While I'm still operating at a loss at less than 60 days in, I can say that the loss is far less than anticipated, and my sales have been much higher than expected.  Because of the underestimated demand for my product (lovingly #handmade #soap), I find myself behind the proverbial eight ball a lot these days.  I've done one bazaar, and have two more lined up for early next year.  My soaps are already being sold in one shop, and I'm starting to look for more wholesale opportunities.

Sales have been way better than expected!

One thing I've learned is that I need to plan better for a higher level of production.  Since my soap takes four or more weeks to cure, there's a lot of advance planning and resource procurement that I definitely need to do a better job of streamlining.  For example, I ran out of lye the other day.  As anyone who makes soap knows, you just can't make soap without lye.  I ordered some more lye, thinking I could just run to my local source to pick up a pound or two of lye while I waited for my order to come in...only to find out that my local source is going out of business!  Yikes!  So I've been without lye for over a week now.

Not only did this conundrum highlight my need to anticipate supply needs better, it forced me to pivot.  I don't want to waste time waiting for the UPS guy to show up with my lye, so I've been working on some other products.  I found that I really enjoy making bath fizzies (aka bath bombs), and the instant gratification of having them done and ready to go to market within a day or two is a nice contrast to the four week cure time of my cold process soaps.

When life hands you lemons, make lemonade...er...Citrus Splash bath fizzies, in this case.
I've also spent some time on Pinterest recently.  I'm going to be honest, and please don't throw me out of the suburban housewife club.  I kind of don't get Pinterest.  I mean, I understand what it is and what it does, but I just kind of don't get it.  It's like a bookmark bar, but with pictures?  I guess that functionality just isn't something that was missing in my life until now.  Nonetheless, I think that soaps, lotions, and bath fizzies can be really visually appealing, so I think Pinterest can be a good medium for showing off my favorite creations.

So, as I enjoy the holiday vacation with my husband and kidlets (and try to wait patiently for my darn lye to show up), I'll be making bath fizzies, and of course, testing them out.  It's for research, you see. The things we do in the name of science!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Going Retail

Exciting news!  My soaps are now available for sale at a lovely shop in Tacoma, WA called Shyne. Shyne has all sorts of handmade goodies from local artists including jewelry, candles, hats, and now my soap!  It's located in a complex called Freighthouse Square, that I think of as the Pike Place Market of Tacoma.

If you're in Tacoma and are dying for some handmade soap (or other gifts made by local artists), check them out!

Shyne at Freighthouse Square
2501 East D Street, Ste. 101
Tacoma, WA

With my soap for sale at Shyne, and with another craft show (or shows) coming up in February, I really need to up my #soapmaking production!  At this point I'm really focusing on reducing costs where I can and turning out a consistent, high-quality product (as anyone who makes #soap can tell you, it's practically soul-crushing when a batch doesn't turn out!).  Maybe if I've been really good this year, Santa Claus will bring me some new soaping equipment...

Here's what's on the drying rack right now:

  • Eucalyptus Spearmint
  • Forest Rain
  • Pink Champagne
  • Citrus Splash
  • Rosewood (Sandalwood Rose)
  • Lavender
  • Cranberry Fig & Orange
Happy Holidays, all!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Soap Making and Selling (Plus a Question for YOU!)

I finished my first bazaar this weekend, and although foot traffic was sparse, I really feel like I learned a lot.  The soaps that I thought would fly off of my table weren't always the favorites, and the ones that I was lukewarm on were big hits.  I was somewhat surprised that I sold out of some snowman bath fizzies that I made specifically for the event.  I'll definitely need to get on making more bath fizzies!

Today I'm back to #soap making.  I had to resist the temptation to spend my recently earned profits on a sale from one of my suppliers on essential oils.  Fragrances are my downfall!  I'm somewhat committed (to myself, at least - that's one great thing about being the business owner/sole employee of your own business) to using the materials that I have on hand before another big supply order.  I just finished a batch of Citrus Splash soap that smells so good I could practically eat it.

Citrus Splash soap in the mold.  It smells delicious!

Next on the proverbial agenda is finding another craft fair.  I think I found one in February that would work out well, but I'd have to sell quite a bit just to break even after paying the vendor fee.  I'll also need to work on my inventory!  That leads me to my question for YOU.  I have some clove essential oil that I have no idea what to do with.  It's not my favorite scent (it reminds me of pumpkin pie, and my imagination just can't seem to get past that).  What do you think would be a good fragrance to blend with it?  Please, please, please reply in the comments.  I need some input, people!  I'm thinking about a spiced orange scent, with orange, clove, and perhaps cinnamon essential oils.  Any ideas would be so very appreciated.

My soaps take at least 4 weeks to cure.  The waiting is the hardest part!
Lastly, here's what I have curing right now in my office:  Oatmeal Honey, Coffee, Eucalyptus Spearmint, Forest Rain, Pink Champagne, and Lemongrass Green Tea.  Once I unmold the Citrus Splash, I'll add it to the posse. The waiting is truly the hardest part in #soapmaking!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

How Bazaar...

I'm doing my first bazaar on Saturday!  I've been working like crazy to package all of my soaps and solid lotion bars in preparation.  My family has been lathered, slathered, and cleansed while I test and re-test my soaps and lotions!  I have no idea what to expect, and I'm a little bit nervous.  Come see me!

Southgate Chapter #190 Order of the Eastern Star
Annual Christmas Bazaar

9:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Southgate Masonic Hall
1004 SW 152nd. St., Burien, WA

I'm bringing as much soap as I can carry, along with my new solid lotion bars.  I'm also bringing along some jaunty little snowman bath fizzies that are a bazaar exclusive (they're not on my Etsy site).  

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Shop Update, One Month In

My Etsy shop has been up and running for one month as of tomorrow, and I feel like it's off to a wonderful start.  Friends and family have purchased some of my soaps, and some strangers too.  I feel so incredibly supported in this unexpected endeavor!  I had one soap (my cappuccino themed soap that I blogged about last month) that literally sold out within 24 hours.  I count that as a success!

My shop is looking pretty bare right now (although I do still have some Pumpkin Spice and Christmas-themed Kringleberry soaps available), and I'm looking forward to getting some of my latest creations on the site.  Here's what I have coming up in the next few weeks:

  • Cognac and Cubans (a very manly scent)
  • Lavender
  • Lavender Rose
  • Apple Cider
  • Ginger Lime
  • Calendula (unscented)
  • Oatmeal and Honey
  • Coffee
  • Eucalyptus Spearmint
  • Rainforest
I also have a couple of Green Tea Lemongrass batches curing (one scented, one unscented), but they're taking a little longer to cure.  I have to remind myself that patience is a virtue!  Also on the drying rack is a combination of apple and rose, that smells more to me like summer rain.  I'll make sure to post new soaps for sale up on the Facebook page.

If you're reading this and looking to purchase some of my soaps, use coupon code BLOGGER for 20% off of your purchase!  What's your favorite soap scent?  Comment below!

Monday, November 10, 2014

How Bazaar

So, I've applied to be a vendor at a local craft bazaar next month.  I don't want to give full details yet, since I haven't received "official" confirmation just yet, but know that I have been a #soap making fool this last week!  Aside from trying out a couple of lotion bar recipes, here are some of the soaps I've been working on.

Cognac and Cubans smells super manly (Supermanly?).

Lavender (with dried lavender buds on the top) looks like it's dreamily smiling at me.

Lavender Rose Soap
Ginger Lime Soap

Calendula (unscented), using dried calendula petals in the soap, and sprinkled on top.

Monday, November 3, 2014

My First Sale!

My Etsy shop has been live for a little over a week, and I just got my first sale yesterday (thanks, Daniel)!  Woohoo! Things are moving right along with licenses, insurance, and branding now.  I announced my shop and Facebook page to friends and family yesterday, which to be honest, has been the most anxiety inducing part of this entire endeavor.  It's one thing to market to strangers, but it's quite another to put yourself out there to people who know you!

Now I'm just working on making amazing soaps (just finished a Cognac and Cubans batch yesterday that smells super manly) and waiting for my Pumpkin Swirl and Kringleberry soaps to finish curing so that I can put them on my site for the holiday season.  Busy, fun times!

And...what?  No pictures?  Here's one of my husband and I sharing a toast.  This actually took place when we refinanced our house a couple of years ago, but I'll post it here to toast my first soap sale, too.

Here's to my first official Etsy sale.  Cheers!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Lemongrass Green Tea Soap Revisited

A while back I made a lemongrass green tea soap using only lemongrass and green tea for fragrance. At first there was a mild, grassy scent, but now that the bar is cured, the scent is almost nonexistent.  My brother mentioned that he really likes citrus scents, and that led me to revisit lemongrass and green tea, this time using a fragrance oil.

This was also an opportunity to explore new design methods!  Using portions of soap "batter" in condiment bottles, I hosed the mold down with two different greens, a yellow, and white using the method (and similar colors) outlined in this blog post from Bramble Berry.  Here's the result!

Lemongrass Green Tea Soap
The recipe I used was very different that Bramble Berry's, and it was almost all olive oil, but superfatted with some green tea butter.  This one is going to be on the drying rack for quite a while, but I really like how the design turned out!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Open for Business

Well, I took the plunge.  After positive feedback from family and friends, I've decided to put some of my #handmade #soap up for sale.  It's exciting, but I also feel weirdly exposed.  These soaps are something that I made from scratch, using my recipes (except for the odd experiment here and there) and designs.  I just really hope that everyone loves them as much as my family and I do!

My new Etsy shop, Emily's Handmade Soaps can be found here.  I also have a Facebook page that I haven't yet announced to my family and friends about (which I probably should have done before publicizing to the internet - you few blog readers get the exclusive on this one!  LOL).  The Facebook page is here.

Here's to feeling the fear and doing it anyway.  Cheers!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Cold Process Coffee / Cappuccino Soap

Recently I had to reduce my caffeine intake, and I'm really missing the morning coffee ritual.  I still drink decaf, but dammit, it's not the same!  The solution of course, was to make some coffee #soap so that I could enjoy the aroma in the mornings.  As a natural bonus, the coffee grounds make a great exfoliant!

I used this recipe as a model.  I really liked the design element in this one. The layering is really fun, and makes for a playful bar that looks like a solid dose of cappuccino. This recipe relies only on coffee (ground and brewed) and fragrance and essential oils for colorants, yet it still showcases a drastic variety of hues.

You can see in the picture below how the two containers of soap have a subtle variation in color. The darker soap is colored only with brewed coffee and fragrance and essential oils (I left the nutmeg EO out, opting for cinnamon and clove instead).

Soap layered with finely ground coffee.  Check out the natural coloration of the darker soap
using only brewed coffee and fragrance and essential oils!
I sprinkled a little bit more coffee grounds on top of the "cream" layer for embellishment. 

Coffee soap waiting to be unmolded.
I left this one in the mold for two full days, since it was still a little on the moist side after one day. When I unmolded it, the soap was still pliable, similar to the consistency of cutting through a block of cheese.  In four weeks or so, this one should be ready to use!

Coffee soap with a coffee ground accent line.

Coffee soap that looks like a cappuccino cake.  

Friday, October 17, 2014

If At First You Don't Succeed...Rebatch! (And Christmas Soap)

One thing that I've discovered about making soap is that things don't always go as planned.  The next thing I learned was how to make lemonade out of lemons! Thus, the rebatch!

In this example, I only used half of my original batch, which weighed just over one pound.  I used a cheese grater to get the soap into tiny pieces.  I dread this part.  I like to cook well enough, but grating cheese is my very least favorite thing to do in the kitchen.  I hate it.  The first time I did this I was so pleased to discover that the consistency of the soap make grating much easier than I had feared.  I had my four or five bars grated and in the Crock Pot in no time!

Soap is way easier to grate than cheese!
Following the general guidelines on rebatching from this post, I added about 2 ounces of liquid.  I decided to use milk, since it can help to make the rebatched soap a little bit smoother.  The final product definitely turned out smoother than I had anticipated in this case.

I stirred it all up, and set the Crock Pot on low.  An hour later, the mixture was much softer and easy to stir.  After another 45 minutes or so, I checked again to find the mixture to be almost completely gelled.  I added some lovely orchid color and slightly less than 1/4 ounce of jasmine fragrance oil. Jasmine is my absolute favorite scent!

Gelled soap.  Time for color and fragrance!
It was time to mold the soap, and I was a little bit nervous about this part.  Part of what I love about the cold process method is that the soap is so, well, pourable.  I've never done a hot process batch, but smushing the soap into a mold doesn't really appeal to me.  So I decided to get creative and use a Pringles can as a mold!

I cut the bottom off of the can, lined the lidded end with plastic wrap, put the top back on, and secured the plastic wrap with a rubber band.  The top of the container had now become the bottom.  I lined the inside of the can with parchment paper, and cut a few inches off of the can to make it shorter (and easier for the smushing part).  I'm happy to say that this worked really well.  I had read others' horror stories about not lining the can and having the soap react in a weird way to the aluminum-ish lining inside of the can.

After smushing and setting aside to harden for a day, I tore the can right off of the soap.

Unveiling the rebatched soap at the breakfast table.
The finished soap turned out really well, if I do say so myself.  It does have a slightly "rustic" look, since rebatched soap is apparently never as smooth as the first batch (although in this case, I think it was kind of an improvement on how it turned out the first time).

Successful, if rustic, rebatch.
So is rebatching worth the effort?  Yes!  

In other news, I'm starting some holiday soaps that smell delicious!  This one is Kringleberry, and the scent is Christmas morning in a bottle.  I'm really happy with how the swirls turned out in this batch.

Handmade Kringleberry soap.

I used sparkly micas for this one, and learned a valuable lesson about those.  I think next time I would have mixed the sparkly crimson with a little bit of red to make it more vivid.  Also, the lighter color has some iridescent white sparkle mica, but I think next time I'd add some titanium dioxide for a more dramatic color effect.

Kringleberry soap.  I love the sparkles!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Cold Process Pumpkin Roll Soap

It smells like Thanksgiving around here!  I made some Pumpkin Roll #handmade cold process #soap this week so that it would have time enough to cure before Thanksgiving.  I wanted to have some gifts ready for friends and family over the holidays, and this recipe sounded like it fit the bill.

I started out using Bramble Berry's Pumpkin Puree Cold Process Soap recipe.  In fact, I used their recipe exactly, just halfing it so that it would fit into my 3 pound mold.  The recipe worked really well, but I'd caution that the addition of pumpkin puree made for a pretty intense gel phase.  Instead of Bramble Berry's pumpkin spice fragrance oil as recommended, I used Pumpkin Roll fragrance oil from Nature's Garden.  It worked really well, with  no signs of seizing or ricing.

My first of two batches turned out pretty well.

First of two Pumpkin Roll batches.  It almost smells good enough to eat!
I did kind of a layering/drop swirl kind of design, and I'm happy with the results with the exception of the coloring.  I decided at the last minute that my lighter color needed a little more titanium dioxide, and I didn't mix it in well enough (doh!).  You can see the bits of white that didn't fully incorporate into the soap, but I think it adds kind of a cool texture to the finished product.  If I didn't know I'd made a mistake, I might think it looked a little bit artsy.  Maybe?

Colorant faux pas.  I meant to do that...

Having panicked at the last second with the titanium dioxide, I realized when I went to do my second batch that I was out of white colorant.  My options were to wait until my shipment arrived in a week or so, use another color, or just go without.  I really wanted to do this batch of Pumpkin Roll, because I didn't want to move on to another project and leave the Pumpkin Roll fragrance oil sitting around. Let's be honest.  Pumpkin smells amazing, but it's very seasonal, and I didn't want it to be the last scent in my arsenal someday months from now.  So I decided to just go without the white and let the natural color of the soap be my second "color."

Second batch of Pumpkin Roll soap.
While I miss the contrast of the white color, I'm very pleased with how the swirls turned out.  I hope that the colors differentiate a bit more with some curing time.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Green Tea and Lemongrass Soap

This bar has been a real adventure in #soapmaking!  My intent was to make an unscented, vegan bastille #soap (heavy on the olive oil, but with some other oils included) that also excluded palm oil from the ingredient list.  We're not vegan, and I'm still not opposed to using sustainably sourced palm oil, but I wanted to try a recipe combination that might be popular in my local area near Seattle.

First, I infused some olive oil with fresh lemongrass.

Fresh lemongrass and olive oil.

I have a Crock Pot for use exclusively with soap making (I have a couple of soaps that are just begging for a rebatch), so I decided to try the infusion that way.

Lemon grass chunks in olive oil.  My funky Crock Pot makes it look
like I'm soap making in the Serengeti!
Since oil infusion supposedly works much better with dried herbs, I placed some paper towels just under the lid of the Crock Pot to catch any stray condensation.  We wouldn't want water droplets messing up the oil!

The paper towels caught most a lot of condensation that I didn't want in my infused olive oil.
Worked like a charm!
It only took a couple of hours on low, and my olive oil had a lovely, faint smell of lemon.  I refrigerated the oil until the next day.  When I was ready to get down to the soap making, I started by brewing a strong pot of green tea and reserving the spent tea leaves.

Now that's some strong green tea!
I used the green tea in place of water in my soap recipe, and my lemongrass infused olive oil for the olive oil portion of the recipe.  Since this recipe was olive oil heavy at 60% of the recipe, it took a while to get it to trace.  This was perfect, since I also wanted to play with my matte oxide colors that I got in from Bulk Apothecary.

I separated the soap into two containers, and mixed half with a lovely Woodland Green pigment powder.  I loved the color, and it couldn't have been easier to work with.

I had a design envisioned for this project, so I started by pouring some uncolored soap into the bottom of the mold.  I then sprinkled the used tea leaves on top of the layer of soap (after drying them as much as possible to remove any excess liquid).

First layer of soap with tea leaves on top, with Woodland Green lurking in the background.
Next, I carefully spooned the green soap on top of the tea layer.  This went way better than expected! I had saved just a little bit of the uncolored soap, which I drizzled on top of the green layer.  I then swirled away, taking care not to swirl too deeply into the soap so that I wouldn't disturb the tea leaf layer.

The finished product is taking quite a bit longer to dry than some of my others (probably because of the high olive oil content), but I'm really happy with how it turned out.

Tea time, anyone?
My husband specifically requested a non-scented bar, so I was hoping that the lemongrass oil and green tea might add a subtle, natural fragrance.  So far I can't sense even the slightest whiff of lemongrass, but there is a very faint "grassy" scent that I'm attributing to the green tea.  This one will probably take closer to six weeks to cure, but I really feel like my little soap making adventure paid off!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Progress and Cold Processing

It's so gratifying when you can see your progress over time!  Here is an early attempt at a purple and white bar (this one was supposed to have a lavender scent, but I really underestimated how much fragrance oil to use, so it barely had a scent once it was fully cured).

Here is a later, much improved attempt at a purple and white soap.  This one has a better texture, and a nice orchid and vanilla scent (still very lightly scented).

There's undoubtedly room for improvement, and it's gratifying to see the side by side comparison. Today I'm working on a lemongrass and green tea soap.  I infused some fresh lemongrass in olive oil last night, and plan to use green tea in lieu of water in my recipe.  This should be quite an adventure. Stay tuned for pics!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Scent and Seizure

One of my favorite things about making soap is the amazing fragrance.  Unfortunately, I've found that this is the stickiest part of the soap making process for me.  I'm probably not alone in that regard. Before I ever attempted the cold process method of soap making, I did my homework (once a nerd, always a nerd).  When the time came to incorporate my lye water into the measured fats, everything went according to plan.  I held my breath...and added a small amount of lavender fragrance oil that I'd picked up from my local craft store.  My lovely, runny soap mixture immediately turned into what resembled school cafeteria mashed potatoes.  It was my first seize.

You know these things can happen, but you never think they'll happen to you (sniff)...  Okay, I'm being melodramatic, but I was a little bummed.  I quickly spooned the gunk into my mold, tamped it down with the back of a spoon as well as I could, and proceeded as planned.  The next day I cut the soap loaf into individual bars and surveyed the damage.

Rebatch city, here I come!
It had kind of separated, and was a little oily.  I could barely smell the lavender that had wrecked havoc on my project.  But I decided to cure it anyway, so that I can try my hand at rebatching later.

Fast forward to a week or so later, and I'd had a couple of soap successes (soapcesses?  No?) with my Cranberry Fig and my Oatmeal Honey soaps.  I decided to try again with the fragrance oils, thinking that maybe a recipe glitch had been to blame for the lavender debacle.  Using a combination of coconut and pink grapefruit (that smelled way better as a combo than it sounds), I planned my execution.  This time I would keep my lye water and fats at a very low temperature, almost room temperature.  I combined the fragrance oils with olive oil to help eeeeeeeeease it into the soap batter. I barely had the lye water incorporated into the fats when I put the stick blender down (stop mixing, just walk away!).  I added the fragrance oil mixture to my soap and gently, gently stirred...until it seized.  Not as quickly or thickly this time, but enough so that I didn't have time to add any swirls or other designs.  I got the soap into the mold, and at least got to add texture to the top.

The texture on the top turned out pretty cool, even if it is reminiscent of Thanksgiving dinner.
I ended up with some soap that wasn't great to look at, but smelled okay.  Since the soap had been so thick when it went into the mold, the colors didn't incorporate nearly as well as I had planned.

When good soap goes bad.

The silver lining in this process is that I narrowed down the problem; That dastardly fragrance oil from the local craft store.  Even though the package said it was safe for soap, this is clearly not the case for anything other than melt and pour soaps.  Basically, I had spent $50 of unusable, overpriced, low quality fragrance oils, and that is the real crime.  Thank goodness I had by then purchased some fragrance and essential oils on order from a reputable soap supply vendor!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Complexity of Oatmeal and Honey

Having a number of batches of soap under my belt (well, actually curing in my office), I decided to try an oatmeal and honey soap.  This variety is an old standby, and for good reason.  Since one of my kidlets has very sensitive skin and eczema, the thought of turning my hobby into a useful solution that benefits my family was really appealing.  I used this recipe as a guideline, but changed the types and amounts of oils to make my own version.  With colloidal oatmeal, organic honey, and homemade almond milk, it's almost good enough to eat!  Well, if it didn't have extremely caustic lye in it.

First, I had to make the almond milk to use for part of the liquid in the recipe.  I'm a huge fan of almond milk (especially in my morning coffee), but I've never actually made it myself.  Most of the methods I've seen for making almond milk involve soaking almonds overnight, which I have zero patience for.  I thank my lucky stars for Google every day, because a quick web search revealed that you can speed up this process by soaking the almonds in very hot water for an hour or less.  It worked like a charm!

Quick soaking the almonds in hot water made the skins come right off.
I then blended the skinned almonds with filtered water (three parts water to one part skinned almonds) and strained out the chunks.  Apparently the leftover meal can be dried and used for baking, which would be handy if you're doing a paleo or gluten-free diet.

Squeezing the almond milk was kind of fun.

I measured out the organic honey and diluted it in a little bit of filtered water so that it would be easier to stir into the soap.  The next step was to grind up some oats in my coffee grinder.  Grinding up oats into an almost flour-like texture makes it into colloidal oatmeal.  Who knew?  So the next time you see an expensive beauty product that boasts colloidal oatmeal as an ingredient, just know that it's just run of the mill (ha ha, see what I did there?) breakfast oats, but ground up.

Who knew that breakfast could be so good for your skin?
I proceeded with my recipe, poured my soap into the mold, wrapped it for insulation, and waited. And waited.  Okay, I really didn't wait that long, but it felt like a really long time.  After a few hours I peeked in on my soap to find my soap in a really intense gel stage (that means HOT!).

I nervously checked on it every few hours, hoping that the soap would fully gel.  The natural sugars in the honey and almond milk cause the natural chemical reaction to be pretty intense, and that extra generated heat can sometimes lead to disastrous situations (like the ominous soap volcano, which I haven't had the pleasure of experiencing yet).

Luckily, the next morning the soap was a lovely, even texture.  I used my new wavy soap cutter to trim the individual bars, which are now curing nicely in my office.

The finished product.
This batch was intense, not only because of the many steps involved, but also the apprehension that I had miscalculated the more scientific aspects of the recipe.  This soap is a little softer than the others I've made so far, so it might need to cure a little longer (maybe 6 weeks or so).  On to the next recipe!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Learning to Master My Craft...and Waiting

One of my favorite shows to binge watch is Orange is the New Black on Netflix.  In one of the first few shows you see the main character and her BFF making soap in her kitchen.  I'm slightly embarrassed to admit that the thought that you could actually make soap in the twenty-first century had never really occurred to me.  Intrigued by the thought of making my kitchen smell like a Bath & Body Works, I traipsed down to my local Michael's craft store (okay, I didn't traipse, I actually drove).  What I ended up with was a "melt and pour" kit that yielded some fun results.

My first attempt at soap making (of the melt and pour variety).
After the soaps hardened I couldn't wait to try them out!  I washed my hands with one of the bars and wasn't impressed with the fragrance, and really didn't care for the feeling of the soap.  Of course, that's when it dawned on me that all I had really done was purchase a giant bar of soap, melted it in my microwave, and made it into smaller bars of soap (albeit with pretty colors and swirls).  This wasn't rocket science!

Seeking more control over the look and feel of my soaps, I started to research the cold process method.  I have now formulated several of my own cold process recipes, and have found a couple of really good recipes online.  I'm absolutely hooked!  

An early disaster.  I added (not enough) lavender fragrance oil, 
which immediately seized on me.  I think I'll rebatch this one.
I started this blog to document the process of mastering the art and craft of soap making.  I make a new batch about every other day, and as lame as it sounds, soap making feels positively exhilarating.  I feel like a chemist, chef, and artist all at the same time.  The possibilities for colors, scents, shapes, and sizes feel so endless that sometimes I'm not sure which direction to go in next.

This is Cranberry Fig, a really pleasant scent from Bramble Berry
that smalls like neither cranberries nor figs.
The most difficult part of this passion (aside from enduring patient eye rolling from my poor husband as I wax poetic about my daily soaping misadventures, and spending a bunch of money on obscure liquid fats) is the waiting.  Cold process soap typically takes at least 4 weeks (sometimes longer) to properly cure.  Having to wait to test each of my soaps is agony, but I take the edge off by either "visiting" my curing soap (I have to smell them daily, you know, for science) or making another batch every time the urge hits.