Sunday, 27 March 2011

Feeling Soapy!

Happy weekend, dear readers! And now for something completely different....

Behold my first batch of handmade soap for 5 years!

As a diversion from knitting, I've started to have a little reversion to the past and thrown myself back into cold process soap making. This used to be one of my major crafty obsessions from the late 1990s - just one of the many building blocks in my crafty journey through life. At some point oil painting took over as my number one obsession, not to menton knitting, and my love affair with soap was put on the back burner...

But recently a series of things have conspired to reignite my soapy urges. First of all, I used up the last of my lovely handmade bars and was filled with regret at having to revert to shop-bought soap. Then a few weeks ago I listened to the soapy episode of the iMake podcast and recalled how much fun I used to have with this, bringing evocative memories of a time when my house smelled like a fragrant pharmacy.

Finally, I discovered my intact (and delightfully anal) soaping spreadsheet, which contains my recipe calculator and detailed notes about all of my previous batches. (Sadly I was not a blogger back in my soapy days, but the spreadsheet meant that I still had a full set of records to refer to - hoorah!) This time around, I intend to supplement my spreadsheet notes for each new batch with a blog post and photos... so watch this space.

These bars are currently 'curing' to firm up a litttle and will be ready to use in a couple of weeks. They're made from a combination of olive oil, coconut oil, palm oil and palm kernel oil - mixed with sodium hydroxide and coconut milk. The yellowish colour is a result of combining olive oil with the warmed coconut milk and the deep hue of one of the essential oils. When the soap became ready for moulding, I added calendula petals for decorative effect and scented the batch with my personal favourite blend of Lavender, Ylang Ylang and Patchouli essential oils. Scent blends are a very personal thing, but all I can say is that this one makes my heart sing. Each of the oils is changed in nature by combining it with the others and, as it matures, this blend becomes reminiscent of light rain on a summer evening.

This week I've been testing the curing of this batch by using offcuts like these to wash my hands.

I've noticed that the lather is geting fluffier by the day and the soap milder. Once these offcuts are fully dried out, I'm going to try something new, by grinding them to a powder and combining with finely ground oatmeal to make a softening skin scrub... (will blog the results of that later!)

For now - if any of you are interested in giving cold process soaping a go, I'd recommend a copy of Smart Soapmaking by Anne Watson - it's a great beginners' guide that demystifies the process beautifully.


  1. These look GORGEOUS Susie!

  2. Your soaps are beautiful! I love the fact that you add essential oils to them. Natural scents are the best!

  3. Thanks Martine and Dona! I am glad you approve of the soapy topic :-)

    I'd almost forgotten the joys of getting my essential oils out of hiding and playing with fragrances.