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Category Archives: My Hand-Made Soap

baby steps

The longer I am alive, the more it seems that life is
an endless roller coaster of good times and bad.

When it’s good, it’s so thrilling, we feel as though we may spontaneously combust.
Or, it can be an unexpected, horrific crash; effortlessly breaking, and crippling us.

Most of us plod through, doing the best we know how.
A common thread of being a human, together here on Earth for a very short time.

Another year of time, gone, never to be seen again.
This year has been a tough one, simmering steadily with loss.

As a result, the words, I love you, are perpetually locked & loaded on my lips,
ready to catapult forward with the slightest tug of a heart string.

I do believe that we co-create our lives, whether or not we ‘believe’ in that sort of thing. We are either conscious or unconscious of it. Being conscious is better.
So direct your thoughts to the positive, because the body is a follower,
and listens to everything the brain has to say.

Carefully choose your words, as they have an energy of their own,
and that energy will draw in more of the same.

Seize joy when it presents itself. Laugh hard.
Take baby steps toward what you want, while feeling any emotion that goes with it,
and the Universe has to respond. It’s the Law of Attraction, and it never fails.

When I first started making soap,
I also started this blog, with the best of intentions.
With so many other responsibilities, and life’s happenings, it’s been spotty at best.

This year, my little snippets of free time have been insidiously sucked into a
vortex of Facebook soaping groups, craft fairs and local markets.

I try to choose carefully where I will be spending my time, and shlepping my heavy product to next. I enjoy the meet and greet part. Speaking with passion about the things I love, has always come easy for me. People seem to like it.

At a recent holiday fair, I met a vendor who has plans to open a turn-of-the century type general store this coming spring. He wants to carry my soap and candles!
The funny thing is, at first appearance, I judged the fair a waste of a Saturday.

 Perhaps, he was the only reason I was at that fair?

I’m imagining good things, and I’ve saved up enough money from sales,
to buy myself a new, double-loaf soap mold.

soap moldIt’s an excellent mold; the Cadillac of soap molds 🙂

If it doesn’t happen, well, that’s ok, too. Life goes on.

I think that sometimes, when you’re right on top of things,
or in the midst of them, it doesn’t seem like much is happening.

But baby steps do add up. Baby steps matter.
They lay down the roots that we can’t see, and slowly feed growth.

So whatever you’re doing, don’t be discouraged if you don’t have instantaneous success. If you are fortunate enough to do what brings you joy,
you are already successful.

We are in charge of creating our own happiness,
so move in the direction of what moves you, for however long you are given.

Looking Forward To, And Wishing You, A Very Happy New Year!

reminiscing on labels

I was looking at old pictures recently, and it occurred to me that,
if motivated, you can learn a lot about something in a very short time.
Looking back, it’s easier to see how I’ve grown as a soap-maker!

Its only been three years since I began, but it feels like I’ve been doing it forever.
Like most soap-makers I know, I think about it all the time.

I daydream about what I’d like to make next.
Something seasonal? A classic, like Lavender & Oatmeal?
A beer soap? A milk soap? It’s always exciting,
and being passionate about something is food for the soul.

My mind wonders on soapy creations during my day. While I’m cooking,
while I’m rushing about, and of course, when I’m in the shower.
I talk to my dog about ideas, (I’m not sure, but I think I she looks bored)
and then I wonder when I’ll have the time to get soaping.

I’ve gathered that for many soapers’, it’s not the math,
(for me, its the math..but give me a calculator, and I’m a formulating Ninja)
and it’s not the risk of handling the *potentially dangerous lye water
that makes ’em sweat- it’s the labeling!

While I’m naturally horrid at math, I do enjoy labeling.
I liked it right from the start.

When I first starting making labels, I hand wrote them on hang-tags.
Then I decided I wanted something more professional looking,
so I learned how to make simple cigar-band labels.

IMG_1415~Above is a pic of some of my earliest labels. I was very pleased with them!~

IMG_1468~For the packaging above, I used leftover fast food napkins.
Re-purposing is good. Fast food, not so much. 🙂

Here are some more recent labels: DSC_0038~Mermaids are so pretty. She made my Juniper Breeze soap look lovely!~

DSC_0037~I love vintage maps, and they make a great background for masculine scents.~
DSC_0001~Rose always reminds me of my Mom. I’ll save one of these for her.~

I give thanks for the good things in my life; my family and friends,
my furry children, and my job.
And, as strange as it is, making soap feeds my soul.

If a man does not keep pace with his companions,
perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer.
Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away. ~ Thoreau

Or, To Each His Own. Amen.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~
*Disclaimer: ALL bar soap is made with lye, sodium hydroxide, or NaOH.
If you’ve read different, it’s a lie, really.   😉

Lye water is a caustic base solution, and it is potentially dangerous-
but only to the person making the soap!
Adding lye water to fatty acids (your chosen oils) produces
the chemical change which results in soap.
As soap-makers, we are well aware of the risk of handling lye water,
and wear full protective gear during the process.

All that being said..
there is no lye in the finished product of a properly formulated soap!

On the contrary, as a general rule, soap-makers ‘super-fat’ their soaps.
This simply means that there is enough lye molecules to turn most of the
fatty acid molecules into soap, but not quite enough to change them all.
This results in a small percentage of free-floating oils in the
finished product, which ensures a mild and conditioning bar.

Long Island Love

I love where I live, I really do.
Long Island enjoys all of the seasons, but Summer has got to be a favorite of most.
(Personally, I prefer the Fall. October can be spectacular here!)
This especially long winter has left lots of folks here craving milder, warmer weather.
And the Sun & Sea!

I enjoy making soaps that reflect The Love of The Island.
I became acutely aware of this recently, as I was chatting with a woman
who owns a gorgeous, Long Island themed boutique.
She stocks her little shop with one of a kind artisan pieces of jewelry, fiber arts,
and paintings. She also stocks gourmet cheeses, chutney’s and spreads.
It’s really quite lovely.

I met her through a friend and I was trying to convince her
that my soaps would fit perfectly in her shop 🙂

I make a Sea Salt Soap, I heard myself tell her, which is made up of 30% Sea Salt.
Sea Salt soaps possess the same healing properties of the sea, and using them
is equivalent to swimming in our nearby and mineral-rich oceans!

Just as a side-note, last summer, my son took a dip in the ocean, and the eczema break-out on his feet cleared up about 90% by the next morning.
Now, I’m not making any claims here, just an observation..
DSC_0037

Besides the salt soaps, I just love loofah-embedded soaps for the summer time.
Did you know, that loofah is a dried-out gourd that actually comes from the
same plant-family as cucumbers? I think most people associate loofah with the sea.
I did, until I learned otherwise!

These soaps are scented with Juniper Breeze fragrance oil,
and also contain skin clarifying Sea Clay.
I think the loofah peeking out looks perfectly imperfect, and beautiful.
DSC_0038

My enthusiasm must have rang true, because luckily for me,
the boutique owner was an agreeable type, who will be stocking my soaps soon.

So here’s to salty air, fruity drinks and summer breezes.
Hang in there, because it’s all just around the corner!

the joy of moving your business in december

As if the holidays alone aren’t enough work!
Due to some unfortunate, (or perhaps fortunate, as it turns out) events,
I lost my lease right before the holidays. I had been working in the same
location for four and a half years, and the news came as a BIG shock.

So I did something that I thought I’d never do,
and brought my business home. Amazingly, it’s been a dream!

However, It’s been more work than I could ever possibly imagine,
and I’m only now starting to catch up with things.
I can tell you one thing I’ve learned from the experience: haste makes waste.
For sure.

I’d love to tell you that everything I make comes out perfect,
but as any soap-maker would tell you, that is impossible.
I’ve never found soap-making easy, but it’s enjoyable, and I’m persistent.
I would never sell anything that I wouldn’t use on myself or my own family.

Thanks to my gnawing desire to make time for creative endeavors
while trying to settle in, the first soap I made in my new and beautiful
home-studio was diagnosed with the most
dreaded-affliction-known-to-hand-made soap..lye-pockets.

What are lye-pockets, you ask? These crystal glazed, dangerous little pockets
in the finished soap, are filled with unsaponified lye water.
This can happen when the soap batter is not mixed well enough,
which is what happened in my case.
Mermaid Cold-ProcessIt’s not easy to see, but the little white areas are the culprits!
I threw the whole batch in a bowl, and sure enough, the next morning,
there was a small lye puddle at the bottom.

I added insult to injury by posting how I had just made my popular
‘Mermaid Soap’ on Facebook, and I had almost the
whole damn loaf sold within minutes.

It only took me a month, but a bad soap situation, even of this caliber,
can usually be safely rectified..by cooking the hell out of it!

I shredded the whole loaf, and incorporated a small portion of the shreds into a
fresh batch of oils, which is then cooked until neutral in a crock-pot.
Unlike cold-process, after the ‘cook’, this type of soap is ready to use immediately.
Hot-Process Mermaid Soap
I still have plenty of the original loaf left over to re-cook; not a bad thing.

The new hot-processed soap is more rustic looking than cold-process,
but still beautiful, mild, and bubbly! It’s in my shower now, and I’m loving it.

I’m happy with the new soap, and my new surroundings. Lesson learned.
I love happy endings..and new beginnings, too!

they’re here..

The Holidays!

I have to admit, the holidays have always been special to me.
Growing up, nothing made my mom happier than decorating the house,
and cooking delicious meals for large family gatherings.
I liked when my mom was happy, and I still do.

I heard “Let It Snow” while shopping the other day, and while I
realize how much holiday music (too soon) tends to piss people off-
I am not one of them. Yes, I’m aware it’s a little early,
but I can listen to it everyday, from now until Christmas.

Speaking of, I probably should have come up with a bunch
of holiday soaps sometime ago, but life happens.

I did manage to finally get a shop up on Etsy, and even made my first sale!
I can see this is going to take some work, but I’m up for it.

I made these cute little guest-soaps using a fragrance oil I’ve
wanted to try for the longest time; Frankincense & Myrrh.
It’s a deep, warm Vanilla and Amber based fragrance
that is perfect for winter, and especially holiday gift-giving.
The quintessential holiday scent.

I love packaging!
After looking and looking, I finally found these pretty
little cardboard boats to securely sit the trees into:

Holiday Guest Soaps

These will be up in my Etsy shop, soon.

Not today, though.
I have potato’s to boil, stuffing to make, and company to entertain,
all while listening to my favorite holiday tunes, which are all of them.
Life happens, and I’m grateful for it all.

Wishing You A Very Happy Thanksgiving! 🙂

the really big show..

I think my family was just about at the end of their rope with me.
All summer, I had been making soaps and such,
in preparation for a huge local seafood festival & craft fair.
The Mother Load of Craft Fairs.

My house was taken over with soap-making supplies,
half-finished and finished product.
Packed and unpacked, some labeling finished, and some on-deck.

Two eight foot tables covered in signage and stock.
And then..deep breath..after four months of preparation,
everything was finally packed and ready to load.

I’m really loving our display.
My crafty, palm-sander-wielding-friend (and with three young
children under foot, mind you) created these
vintage-looking, distressed crates.
Kudos to Lorraine’s Ninja Crafting Skills.
They’re functional and tough, yet appealing to the eye.
We use them to pack the products in for transport,
and then to create interest with different height levels on our tables.

After much nail-biting and anxiety, the fair turned out to be a great success.
Product flew off the tables that took me all summer to make.

I think the feedback we received from customers may have been just
(if not more) as satisfying as making the actual sales.

I mean, we’re not selling Arbonne here,
not that there’s anything wrong with Arbonne..
but it’s the best feeling to see people enjoying something you’ve made by hand!

We sold so much, I started to panic that we’d have nothing left to stock my shop with.
Being cold-process soap takes so long to cure,
I was a little worried with the holidays right around the corner.
But I got this; I’ll just make more.

After some long-term resistance,
I’ve decided to take the plunge and open an ..Etsy shop!

At this moment, Etsy has 51,318 bath & body products listed.
I’d call that some healthy competition! I’m very realistic in my expectations,
but after this weekend, I’ve realized that I do need a place
to point people who are interested in a more simple way of purchasing.
Telling someone I’m free on Thursday in between 1-2pm ain’t cutting it anymore..
Yay!

Ah, the lovely left-overs all settled in and comfy at the shop.
I have no doubt they’ll find good homes soon.

Listing on Etsy is a slow-go, I’m not so speedy at trying to
figure out yet another new thing. I’ve barely got blogging under my belt.
But new things are good, right? Neuron synapses and what-not.

I’ve always subscribed to the slow and steady wins the race school of thought,
which is a good thing, because the horse before the cart always
turns out to be..awkward.

fun, fun soap swap!

Alright, so I’ve only been involved in two my entire life, but they’re so fun!
I was introduced to them over on one of the forums last year,
and it was such a nice experience, I wanted to participate again.

The way that it works is this: a swap hostess posts the swap info
on the forum, and who ever wants to participate, signs up.

There’s usually a limit of 12 or so people, so you gotta sign up quick.
The hostess then collects shipping money from all the participants,
and we have a certain amount of time to create and then mail her our 12 items.

She will divide these up and make each one of us a box.
Each participant will receive a package containing 12 different items!

I’ve seen lip-balm swaps, soaps made with freshly dried herbs,
welcome swaps, and soaps using all-natural colorants.
Basically a swap theme can be whatever anyone dreams up.

It just so happens that both times I joined, it was a Halloween/Autumn themed swap.
Fall is my favorite season, I’m all about the pumpkin!
So, I made Pumpkin Seed Oil Body Butter:
That beautiful amber liquid is pure vitamin E, being added at the ‘cool down’ stage.
And below, my finished product:
So I mailed in my body butter, by the given deadline,
and I received a package in return, containing the twelve different items!
It included candles, lotions, soaps, bubble bath, perfume and a body scrub:
All of it wonderful.
I knew it was here, because the minute I opened the mailbox, I could smell it!
I didn’t get a chance to go through it until the following night at around 9:30 pm.
My friend was over and we were enjoying a glass of wine, when I remembered
I hadn’t had a chance to open it yet!

With Ooo’s and Ahh’s we admired the packaging, all the
while slathering ourselves in delicious-smellling lotions and body butters.
Then I put everything away, to wait for everyone to receive their boxes.
Once everyone has gotten theirs, the postings and reviews will begin.

I can barely wait to use all my Halloween Treats,
so much better than candy  😉

covet thy cupcake

What is it about the cupcake that makes it so appealing?
Maybe it has to do with the fact that although it’s beautiful,
with all its fancy embellishments, it’s also small,
so therefore, no sharing is required.

Any pretty soap intrigues me, but I find the soap cupcake especially appealing.
A yummy, decadent treat to use and enjoy.
So much so, that you almost feel guilty doing it.
With a case of the guilts, ya gotta be strong and shake it off- use the soap!

On a side note; those tall, lovely cupcakes are very comfortable to use
if you cut them in half vertically. They will fit perfectly in the palm of your hand.

I’ve made soap cupcakes only a handful of times.
Not because I don’t want to, (’cause I always really want to) but because life gets busy,
and there’s never enough hours in the day, and blah, blah, blah-
we’re all in the same boat.
This week I took some time off from work, so I’ve been getting my soaping on.
Lucky me!

I don’t have a huge array of food flavors for soaping,
so I went with what I had on hand.
I’ve always loved chocolate and mint together, and had both fragrance oils,
so I decided to go with that.
I divided my soap batter into three parts.
Two parts for the base, one part scented in mint, and
the other part scented in chocolate.

The last portion I saved for the ‘icing’.
I wanted to color it green, so I scented this portion in the mint.
Mint fragrance oil doesn’t discolor like chocolate & vanilla scents can.

Since I knew the chocolate part would come out brown anyway,
I added some of Brambleberry’s Vanilla Select
to it, just because it smells incredible!
I was having so much fun, I decided to make some Pumpkin-Caramel Delights.
(I just made that up, because that is what they smell like to me)
I figure with Autumn right around the corner,
who wouldn’t like a little Pumpkin Delight?

Pumpkin, lemon, caramel & a touch of chocolate.
And it’s mine, all mine!
Well, one of them is, I’ve had my eye on on it..

liquid soap; in search of the faster dilution

Not too long ago, a couple of people asked me why I don’t make liquid soap..
and I didn’t know the answer.
I love to peruse Etsy, and all things soapy on the interweb.
So much creative and inspiring talent out there!
So after the intriguing question was posed, I started to look for LS specifically,
and wondered why the offerings were so much fewer than for bar soap?

Now that I’ve done some research and made a few batches,
I have a clearer understanding.

I can tell you that from what I’ve learned, the challenge is not in
making the soap itself, (and there are different methods of doing this)
but trying to figure out the proper water to soap-paste dilution rate.
In my experience, this is where things become much trickier..
Oils and lye at the early emulsion stage

Liquid soap begins by creating a soap paste. This calls for Potassium Hydroxide,
as opposed to the Sodium Hydroxide (lye) that we use to make bar soap.
Depending on your method, this can take several hours.
The soap needs to go through different phases,
and then become a thick, clear, honey-like goop.
‘Mashed-Potato’ Stage
Finished Soap Paste

This clear goop cools down into a taffy-like, pliable soap-paste.
This concentrated paste is then diluted, using heat, and/or time..
lot’s of time.

Ah, and herein lies the rub.
As I write this, my 35 oz. of soap paste has been diluting for no less than 6 days today.

I tried a new technique, in hopes of an easier passing from paste to liquid.
~Let Go, Let Go, Let Go~
I ripped off small pieces of paste and flattened then out with my fingers.
I was hoping that this would create more surface space for faster dilution.
Sounds scientific, this just may work!
Soap Paste Chips in Dilution Water
After some ph testing
(I personally go high-tech and use my tongue)
the soap-paste is ready to dilute.
The thing is, every soap recipe dilutes at a different rate.
A soap high in Olive Oil takes a ton of water to dilute properly,
roughly a 3:1 ratio, while a soap high in Coconut Oil takes very little.

Each new recipe tweak requires patience for the long
trial and error method of water dilution.
There are general guidelines, and one expert recommends
starting out at 60% of the weight of the paste in water.

Since it’s easier to add more water than to take it away,
water amounts are adjusted slowly, in ounces at a time.

Sequestered Soap
Successful dilution results in a soap that is clear, not too thin,
and doesn’t form a ‘skin’ on it’s surface when bottled.
In addition, of course you want it to lather well and feel silky and mild.

These are attributes of the perfect, hand-made liquid soap,
and something I’ve been keen on producing for a while now.
Each time I make a batch, it will become easier as I get my
dilution rates down to a science..hopefully 😉

Right now, it is my labor of love, but I’m still learning and experimenting!
The Loverly Finished Product!

That being said, I really like this recipe, that I formulated myself!
Formulated by me, but I have to give credit to people at
some great sites, where I’ve learned  so much.
The Soap Making Forum is the first craft forum
I ever joined. There are many educated, helpful folks there.
And many thanks to my friends over at Let’s Talk About Soap, my daily haunt.
There’s also a particularly informative thread on the
glycerin method of liquid soap making over on The Dish Forum.

If I didn’t have to work, I’d probably spend
way too much time in each of these places 😉

I can’t even begin to tell you how invaluable these forums are
if you are interested in learning how to make your own soap.
Without all the generous sharing of information,
guidance, encouragement and humor I find there,
I probably wouldn’t find soaping to be half as enjoyable as I do.

Not to sound like I’m giving my Academy Award acceptance speech,
but I like to give acknowledgement where acknowledgement
is due. And besides, this craft is so rewarding,

I do, indeed, feel like I won something!

My posts are not meant to be tutorial in nature,
they are just my personal observations and creations.
If you’re interested in specifics, In addition to the forums above,
I’d  like to suggest this  e-book, offered by The Soap Queen.
Catherine Failor’s Making Natural Liquid Soaps
is also a great place to start.

I can see clearly now (you see what I did there?) why this type of soap
is not as abundantly produced, and a little more costly to purchase.
I’m not so sure there is a short-cut to making a fine
liquid soap, but then again, the best things in life
always take dedication and patience,
and are worth waiting for.

soap-pie

Oh, me, oh my, I really want to make a soap pie!
It looks like a beautiful pie, but it’s soap, how cool its that?

A true, round soap-pie, that my family will want to eat, and then be sadly disappointed when they come to realize that it’s not ‘real’.
Then I will know, my job here is done. Muwahaha..

Of course, you have to get your confidence up to make a soap pie,
so I’ve been practicing:
Pumpkin Pie Bars:
Olive Oil, Palm Oil, Coconut Oil, Water, Pumpkin Puree, Sodium Hydroxide,
Avocado Oil, Sunflower Oil, Castor Oil, Sodium Lactate, Titanium Dioxide,
Fragrance Oil, Nutmeg, Cinnamon, Clove & Oo La La Soap Glitter

And I have other questions. There’s the detail of cutting the thing. And packaging.
Will people want to use pie-slice shaped soap to wash with in the shower?
Does the pie slice ever even make it there?
Or just sit prettily on display for years to come?
I’ve considered these things, and still, I really need to try one.

I hear it time and time again, “I can’t use your soap, it’s too pretty!”,
to which I sincerely reply, “It’s ok, I’ll make you more!”

The thing is, hand-crafted soap can, indeed, be quite beautiful.
So beautiful in fact, that those of us who like to make it
refer to the photos as Soap Porn..and it can be addicting.

But I’m going to let you in on a little secret; beauty is not it’s best feature.

In my opinion,
(and I’d wager my precious supply funds
that my fellow soap-making friends would agree with me)
the best part of hand-crafted soap is the quality of the ingredients,
the luxurious feel of the soap as you use it, and the way your skin feels afterwards.

Try it once, and you will immediately feel the difference between it and commercial.
Hand-made soap is insanely popular on Etsy.
People are so impressively creative, you can find something to satisfy any taste.

So go ahead and do it, unwrap the pretty package.
Use The Soap!
I promise, it’s going to be more than ok 😉

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