Well hello, everybody!
This weekend, I spent my time down in Gambrills, Maryland, at a local antique, home, and artisan show - The Barn Show! A couple of my customers at my day job run the show for one weekend every season, and were kind enough to invite me to sell my soap at the Spring sale. I had a wonderful time and I am so grateful for the opportunity they provided me to sell my soaps in public for the first time ever!
I am glad I waited for such a long time to sell my things in person, because I wanted to make sure I really had a good handle on my soap making and could reproduce my soaps reliably. I have now opened my own little Etsy shop so that people who may be interested can purchase my soaps (or repeat items of what they've already purchased) instead of just grabbing them at a public market. I am also hoping, though, that The Barn's staff will allow me to come to their seasonal sales, and I am happy to volunteer one weekend every few months to help them out in exchange for allowing me to keep my items there! *Crosses fingers* We shall see!
I figured that this would be a great time to go over some of the things I learned this weekend, standing there on the sloshing muddy hay-covered ground as people hectically brought us items to purchase! My soap was set up on a table, in a little farm box, right by our checkout area. It was sort of a last minute thing to throw there - I couldn't be there on Friday (opening day!) due to work, and priced my items (they required special tags because it is a mixture of vendors that sell at the show) literally ten minutes or less before they opened!
I really liked the little display I had, however, I realized pretty quickly that I needed to open one of each of my soaps and set them out for people to "sample." Originally, I had planned to do this - however I was instructed by one of the staff not to do so, as they were going to scatter my soaps around the barn for people to purchase. But in the craziness of Saturday morning, with people running around trying to save items from the damp ground (it absolutely POURED on Friday, all day long), and trying to quickly price my soaps, and find space for the box, etc....yeah, the scattering didn't happen, and they all got stuck together in their box on the table.
So lesson one: Have soaps that people can smell.
It seems kind of obvious, but since I'd been instructed not to keep any open...well, I didn't. However, I noticed that once I had them opened, people definitely stopped to sniff them a lot more. Kids, especially, were super interested in all the smelly awesomeness, and that was really cool! The only down side was that, ya know, as kids do - they kept setting my soap bars back down sideways, or all askew, or flat on the table, etc. But they're kids - so there isn't a lot I could have done about it, especially across the "room" (well...under a tent...), where I was busily assisting with wrapping, checkout, reserving items for later purchase, etc. Next time, I think I will definitely keep some soaps open, and perhaps provide little trays or plates or something for them to sit on, so that they maybe make it back to where they belong (instead of little kids flopping them around). A friend of mine also suggested a little bowl of water for people to try the soaps, but the jury is still out on that. I'm not sure yet. Seems a little gross (if everyone washes their hands in the bowl? Kinda ew). I'll give it thought, though.
Lesson two: FEATURE YOUR INGREDIENTS!
This is something I really wished I'd done - my soaps had two different price points, and honestly, that was because of the ingredients in some of them. For instance, my oatmeal milk and honey soaps have colloidal oatmeal and goat's milk in them. They are made as closer to a castile-type soap, so as to be gentle on the skin. My "Under Your Spell" bars featured apricot kernel oil, mango butter AND shea butter - again, something that is nice and luxurious, and something I wish I'd featured to drive sales. I definitely wish I'd had a chance to be like, "hey, these soaps have colloidal oats and this here has some skin loving butters!" From across the room, though, I really couldn't. And I wish I had written on little chalk placards or something the featured ingredients of my bars instead of relying on people to maybe read the ingredients label on the back. I was definitely kicking myself for that by the time I left Saturday afternoon. Ugh!
Lesson 3: Make the display visually appealing.
While I liked the way my soaps were set up, I definitely had a lot of room for improvement. The little farm box I had my soaps in fit the theme and decor, but it also looked kinda clumsy, as the soaps were just sorta lined up inside, and as people bought them, they were falling everywhere and I kept having to run over and straighten them, as well as my sample soaps. Next time I really want to put more emphasis on the way the soaps are presented, and I'd really like to up my packaging game. Since this is my first time ever selling in public (and not to just people who know me), I am using shrink wrap and labels I got from Vistaprint. While the Vistaprint labels are nice, they really aren't the...erm...look? Feeling? I want for presenting my brand. I want something more whimsical and rustic, as opposed to just...kinda...plain. And I definitely think I could up my game to make the packaging look more professional too. A friend of mine is currently designing me a logo and I LOVE what she has done so far. Hopefully, in the near future, she will finish (or at least give me a picture of the inked version so I can at least get a custom stamp made), and I can get my own custom boxes and whatnot with my very own original label instead of something mass produced on Vistaprint.
Lesson 4: Don't skimp yourself on your prices.
Since this was my first time selling, I kinda lowballed myself on my prices (don't get me wrong - they were still a little profit, but I had to pay myself a lot less at these price points for my time and work). And the week beforehand, I also learned that the Barn takes 25% of what I make for themselves. I am fine with this, as they are the ones being kind enough to lend me their space, their time, their venue, their customers, etc. But what I should have done (and thought about doing but decided not to - derp) was worked a higher price-for-my-time into my overall price, and priced my soaps a little higher. After all, it is also my time, my work, my resources, my effort, etc., that goes into making these things. And the time I spent wrapping, labeling, weighing, doing the ingredients, etc., is not something I paid myself for AT ALL during this process - and truthfully, I should have. Especially since my heat sealer died, I had to rush order a new one, and I ran out of labels, and had to rush order more. All of that adds up. And it needed to be worked into my price.
Another suggestion was to average out the prices across all my soaps. Some are more expensive than others? Instead of having different prices, add them all up and divide said prices across all the soaps. That way, people can't opt for the "cheaper" soaps. I'm not sure how I feel about this, as some soaps had more/better ingredients than others (like mango and shea butter, goat's milk, etc)., and I think that featuring the ingredients in my soaps like I explained above would justify the price discrepancies and that the average of prices may not be necessary. Again, that's something I will think about - but I believe that if I feature my star ingredients next time, that will be enough explanation for the price differences.
Lesson 5: Make sure you check your shit!
What do I mean by this? I mean check your shit. Do you have enough shrink wrap bags? What happens if they tear - do you have enough to re-bag? Do you have enough labels? Do you have a backup heat sealer? If I'd actually checked that I had enough labels instead of just assuming I did, I would have learned pretty early on that I did not have enough labels and would have ordered more from Vistaprint without having to pay a $19.99 rush to get them in time to finish labeling everything for this weekend. And if I'd had a backup heat sealer, I wouldn't have had to frantically buy one on Amazon Prime on Sunday of last week. Ugh!!
So check yo' shit.
Overall, I had a wonderful time at The Barn Show, I saw a lot of really unique and authentic items, I met some really fantastic people, got to see my customers outside of being customers and instead being people, and sold approximately half the soap I took with me. Is it as much as I'd wanted? Nah. But is it still good? For my first time - and not being able to interact with anyone, AND missing the opening (and busiest) day? Yes. I'll take it. It's better than continuing to give soap away to everyone (though I do still do that, too).
I really hope that I can join The Barn Show during all of their sales, and stay all weekend this time instead of just one day! And I hope that in the future, I am able to apply the lessons I learned from my first time EVER selling in public, and create an even better display!
If you have any tips or tricks for selling in public, let me know in the comments! Until next time, happy soaping!
There are always those smells that can transport a person back to another time and place, or evoke a memory that has long since been forgotten. It can happen anywhere, at any time. Sometimes it's good, sometimes it's not. But that's okay - our memories are what makes us "us." :)
Why am I waxing poetic about smells today? Well, for a couple reasons, actually. For one, it has gotten a bit chilly here in good ol' Maryland, and despite having some insane bipolar weather the last two weeks, the leaves are changing, the chill is hanging in the air, there's even that autumn fog I've grown to expect in the mornings. Also deer trying to commit suicide by vehicle, but that's a story for another day.
My favorite thing about autumn is when people start using their fireplaces. For whatever reason, the sweet smell of chill on the air mixed with that creosote and wood ash smell is so incredibly comforting to me. It reminds me of my grandmother, and my childhood. Growing up, we had a regular fireplace, and a wood burning stove (a potbelly stove, to some). When it would snow, or be super cold, my family would light a fire in the fireplace and snuggle on the couch in blankets watching movies, or cuddle on the floor in our blankets with our pets and coloring in coloring books, or drawing, or whatever.
My grandmother had a small waterfront cottage and their only source of heat was that wood burning stove. MawMaw's wood burning stove being lit meant winter was in the air, pancakes were going to be made for us (with sausage, and sausage gravy like only she could make it!), Halloween and Thanksgiving were coming, Christmas tree picking and decorating was just around the corner, and we'd have a bunch of time off school to spend visiting the old bat. It was excellent! My dad always cleaned out her stove pipe, too, to make sure it was safe, and I'd be allowed to help. Nothing better than being allowed on the roof to your mother's dismay! Oh! And there were always bonfires too! We'd burn the hell out of some leaves. Fireplaces are just...my favorite smell of childhood!
Anyway, on to the second reason, I got off on a tangent there. The second reason is that I obviously work with fragrances when I make soap. There are few that make me stop and say, "Where do I know this from?" But that is exactly what happened when I received a bottle of "Warm Flannel" from Brambleberry last week. I knew I recognized it. Where from, though? I kept sniffing, like some weirdo teenager huffing Lysol, just to figure out (remember, kids, don't huff things. There are too few people with a brain these days - save all the brain cells you've got!). And then I realized - it really does smell like flannel blankets. Only it had been so long since I'd snuggled up in one that I'd forgotten that smell. And of course, it brought me back to my MawMaw's house, curled up with her wood burning stove going, watching Looney Toons and Tom & Jerry on Saturday mornings while she made us pancakes and sausage, playing with tinker toys, or maybe a board game. This freaking fragrance bottle encompassed my entire childhood sleeping over at my grandmother's house.
Holy freaking crap.
And suddenly there I was, little 9 year old me (my MawMaw died when I was 11 so all of my memories are pretty early in my life), arguing with my cousins Emily and Greg about who would get to sleep on the "gold couch" (arguably the most comfortable couch in the house - they were a mish-mash of grandmother patterned sofas, and the coveted gold couch was the best one for sleeping on...PLUS, it was right next to the wood burning stove, so it was also the warmest spot). I was curled up on her horrible 1970s rust brownish-orangeish carpet, with wood paneling on the walls, a tall, gaudily decorated Christmas tree to my right in the corner, while my cousins and brother took up the couch, all of us laughing at Tom & Jerry, not understanding the WW2 jokes and propaganda that we couldn't fully grasp until we were significantly older...Listening to the old bat cackle (you could find her anywhere in a room as long as you listened for that cackle) at some horrible joke, while Big Band music (Benny Goodman was one of her favorites) played in the front area of the house so she could sing while she cooked.
I am actually quite convinced that my penchant for bursting into song in my day-to-day life is because of her. She did that all the time. Everything was a song to her.
But there it all was. All of it. That whole story. In this one fragrance bottle. I wasn't sure whether to smile or to cry. So I put the bottle away for a few days while I sorted out life things, thought on it, and then came back. I decided I felt loved, and I wanted to make a soap that reminded me of my MawMaw. I was hoping to make a nice soap that looked like a flannel blanket.....but, as with everything in life, I got a significantly different end result! It is okay, though - it still looks neat. I don't have a name for the soap yet. It turned out very 'Merica patriotic, or maybe Grateful Dead fan. I'd like to try again after this current batch is cured and gone, and hopefully get a more MawMaw-worthy pattern out of it. Though who knows, she might have liked the patriotic look!
The fragrance made it through the saponification process just fine - the batter itself thickened up like pudding on me relatively quick, even for soaping at room temp...But I still had enough time to get the initial Taiwan swirl done. And since the fragrance didn't morph, I'll put the thickening in the "worth it" category. I can't wait for these bars to be usable - I will just keep one to smell and think of my MawMaw forever.
I hope that the rest of you encounter good memories through smell or food or sight in the near future, especially with the holidays coming up. And I hope those memories make you feel super happy and loved like mine made me feel.
Greetings and salutations, everyone!
Oh my gosh, it is HALLOWEEEEEN! :O! How exciting!! I don't know about the rest of you, but Halloween is my absolute favorite holiday! I love dressing up, I love watching guilty pleasure movies (Hocus Pocus and The Craft are my favorites!), I loooove handing out candy to all the kids that come by our house, and I love carving pumpkins! Basically, I love everything about Halloween!! :D (And yes, I will be watching Hocus Pocus and The Craft while I hand out candy as Hipster Ariel tonight! And my dog will be dressed as a bumblebee. No shame!)
Husband and I went to a party on Saturday, and it was (as always) a great time! In fact, it was five years ago Saturday that we met for the first time - at the Halloween party thrown by the same friend! Crazy! It was a really nice time, and it's always great to catch up with everyone.
On the school front, I've got three classes going right now in addition to working full time, so I have been running on pretty much no sleep for the majority of the last two weeks. One of my classes ends this week, though, so I am hoping that things will calm down enough over the next two weeks that I can work myself into a routine and still have some free time.
Next weekend I am running a 5k through a corn field on a farm, which I am super excited about! And then that evening we're going for a hot air balloon ride for our 5th anniversary. :D So much awesome stuff is coming up, and SO MANY HOLIDAYS AND SPECIAL OCCASIONS!!
Speaking of holidays, you may have noticed that many soapers are already into Christmas soaps! I am no exception to this - I have a custom order which I've made for someone, and I am making three dozen bars of soap to give to my co-workers. I was given an American Soap Supplies tall and skinny mold for my birthday, and I have to say - I think I love this shape the best! I think I might want to do all of my soaps in that mold from now on. But the jury is still out - there are some soaps that just do well with the square shape, you know?
Moving right along - you may have noticed some changes to my menu bar recently! And if not, that's okay too. :) I am now taking custom orders! Obviously, I need 4-6 weeks notice, but I am happy to work with anyone who is interested and come up with something you will love! All of my FAQs and policies are up, as well as an order form. If it's too complicated, shoot an email my way for clarification. I am looking very forward to expanding my customer base. So many people have been asking if I sell my soaps yet, and no, no store front yet (though I'm hoping to have something up online maybe by the summer?), but custom orders, I definitely can do!
Also, I am thinking I will cut palm oil out of my recipes once I run out of this current bag I've got. I have a friend who is allergic to palm and coconut, and while researching alternatives for custom recipes for her, I learned about the palm oil trade and problems with sustainability and labor in the industry. While I understand soapers use such a small amount of palm oil relative to the larger industries (looking at you, food), I still feel like it would be better to step away from palm altogether. Brambleberry actually has a very informative article on it, and there is also a really interesting and enlightening conversation in the comments of that particular article as well.
I will likely switch to mango or cocoa butter in place of palm, which will make my bars a bit more expensive, but I feel it will be worth it in the long run. Additionally, there are several local farms I can get tallow from, for those who aren't as worried about the vegan aspect of things. I also have a friend who is raising bees now! They are keeping what wax they get just for me! So I will have that as well for soap and lotion bars. :)!!
That is it for now, I gotta run and finish - you guessed it - more homework!
TTFN! <3 And happy soaping!
I am horrible at this blogging thing. I desperately want to write more, but damn if there isn't always something going on! School has resumed, and a class I discounted as being, "not that hard" is actually somewhat whipping my ass. Yay advanced research writing. *sobbing* On top of that, husband, myself, and three of our friends are ALL September birthdays, so we've had a *lot* going on in terms of celebrations. Plus, the Renaissance Festival is in town until the end of October, which means LOTS OF FOOD AND DRINK AND MERRIMENT! So long story short: we've been busy!
I am a few weeks late to the party, but I wanted to write about the fun times I had on Labor Day with my friend D. She came up to visit, stood in my utility room (where the soap supplies live) smelling ALL of my fragrance oils, and concocting various plans for many different soaps, lotion bars, and other sundry bath and body items. We made three batches of soap and one batch of lotion bars (not something I had yet attempted, so fun!) that day.
Our first batch was made with Mermaid Pilsner, which I had previously boiled and frozen into ice cubes. It actually performed WAY better than either of us expected it to. To go with the the marine theme, we used Brambleberry's "Yacht Club" fragrance oil, which.......ohmahgah, smells SO sexy. Like man. MMMMMMMMMMMMMMM. Seriously, it's soooooo nice. And the beer, surprisingly enough, paired with it really well! We tried to do a tilted mold pour, and while it turned into nice stripes, it wasn't *quite* what we were going for. It still came out great, though, and we are super happy with the result. Given the fun use of beer, we decided to call it "Drunken Mermaid." I can't wait until it's cured so I can have my husband lather up with it. Oh yesss.
The second batch of soap we made that day was another batch of Lemon Drop Martini, which I've run out of. Everyone at work loves it the most, so I needed more! I am glad it's a hit, I enjoy it a lot. It helps quite a bit to know what peoples' preferences are so I can narrow stuff down (and buy bigger bottles of fragrance oil, too).
We also decided to attempt shampoo bars from one of Soap Queen's recipes. We didn't use the exact fragrance blend that she recommended, rather we chose orange and lavender (mmmmmm). I am so excited for these to cure, they smell amazing. I am really pumped to use them, as I love Lush's shampoo bars, and I am hoping that making my own will be better long-term. Plus, it's so gratifying to get in the shower and use stuff you made. I love it!
Finally, we made lotion bars. I used this incredible fragrance from Nurture Soap called "Gaia's Harvest." I got it as a sample, and D and I were trying to figure out a good fragrance for, "Rennies" (Rennie: (n.) person that goes to Renaissance festival in garb every week, loves merriment, glitter, and all things natural/awesome/somewhat offbeat). We chose that, and made a recipe with coconut oil, avocado oil, vitamin E, shea butter, and bees wax. The bees wax was sourced from our local Amish market, and when it was melted down....Ohhhhhhhmygoodness! It smelled like honey! Combined with Gaia's Harvest, the fragrance of the lotion bars is just *divine!* I absolutely love it, it's so perfect. D told me that some of her friends wanted "craft herpes" (glitter) in their lotion bars, so we messed around trying to figure out what would make the best shimmer. We made two or three bars with cosmetic glitter (Nina Simone from Mad Oils) and two different micas (Sister Golden Hair Surprise from Mad Oils and Snowflake Sparkle from Brambleberry).
I believe we have determined that the cosmetic glitter was the best "transfers to the skin but doesn't get glitter everywhere!!!" result. :) Which is good to know if people want more of the lotion bars in the future!
The day after experiment day, I was ready to make another batch of soap that I'd been wanting to try, and D helped me come up with a "female" version of Drunken Mermaid, which we named "Siren of the Seas." It's a combo of Nurture Soap & Brambleberry fragrance oils (I don't wanna give it away, hehe), and it's soooooooo nice smelling. Very floral, with some citrus and a wee hint of musk. I tried to get a "mermaid tail" shape in the swirl, which actually did show up on some of my bars. Huzzah! I love the way it smells, and so far, everyone that has smelled it has fallen in love with it too. I am hoping people will like it once they try it.
Overall, I've gotten a lot of really great soaps made, and I am looking forward to starting in on Christmas soaps! :D I can't believe I'm thinking about that, but the time is getting nearer!! I will be making my custom order Christmas cupcakes in a couple weeks, oh my gosh!! <3 Time is flying!
Enjoy the photos below of everything, and have a soapy day!
Aloha again, everyone!
Today I shall be writing about a very special soap I am doing for a very special little lady - one of my very best friend's daughter, Emma. Emma is seven, and is into Paw Patrol, dinosaurs, space, Batman, cheetahs, sharks, and wants to save the ocean, maybe even the planet. She is a kid after my own heart, and reminds me so much of myself as a kid at her age. Though I wanted to be an archaeologist veterinarian astronaut. You know, because reasons.
For those of you who don't know me, I'm not really a huge fan of kids. They're okay, I guess, when they're older and become small people, so for me to say I super duper dig Emma is a huge deal. I've known her since my friend was pregnant with her, and being able to watch her grow up (if from a distance, cuz she and my friend are halfway across the country) into the interesting little person she is has been really fucking cool. Someday I think I'll kidnap her and take her shark's tooth hunting and snorkeling and teach her all the ways that cats and dogs make awesome children (what is being an auntie worth if you can't corrupt the small ones in your ways? MWAHAHAHAHAHA!)!
Recently, my friend asked me if I could help her out and make Emma a special soap. Not only does she evidently have Eczema, she also has recently developed a condition known as "Molluscum Contagiosum" (say it out loud, it sounds like a bad Harry Potter spell, doesn't it?). Apparently, this skin condition is related to Chicken Pox, but isn't pox itself. It's a viral infection (so no antibiotics), and according to the CDC, it can take six to 12 months to resolve. In some instances it can take up to 4 years. It presents as little pox-like lesions and, like chicken pox, are very itchy for the patient. It can be spread and transmitted by skin-to-skin contact, so it's extremely contagious.
Needless to say, little Emma is not having a good time of it at the moment. She is soldiering on like the awesome kid that she is, but her mom is having a hard time treating her. Nothing they have tried so far has worked, except tea tree oil. The problem with that is that the smell is overpowering and both mom and Emma have a hard time using it topically. That's where I come in! I was approached by my friend to make her some soap with tea tree to try to help her out! It has to be as mild and gentle as possible, and be able to fit in a wee child's hand.
So, off we went to brainstorm land, where we came up with a formula that will hopefully offer some relief to the poor kid. I have that calendula and lavender that I grew and dried this summer, so we started there. I decided to make her a sensitive skin formula with mostly olive oil and shea butter. I decided to steep the oil in the calendula, lavender, and mint for a few hours to get all that healing goodness. I also decided to add coconut milk, aloe juice (from the aloe vera plants I've been growing out back), and colloidal oatmeal to the mix. In addition, I cut the tea tree oil a little bit with lavender essential oil, just to try to tone back the smell for mom & kid. I used Bramble Berry's 12 bar silicone mold, as we decided that would probably be a good size for a kid's palm. If not, mom can always cut the bars in half to little squares. :)
Since CP takes 4-6 weeks to cure, and little Emma could use some soap, well...now...I also made her some melt and pour soap in her favorite color (blue), and used a small paw print silicone mold I had to make her "paw patrol" soap. I used hemp & aloe vera MP bases, and added colloidal oatmeal with the lavender & tea tree oil. Hopefully those will help her out and last a bit while I have her "actual" soap curing. I hope very much that the soap helps her feel better and gets her life back to "normal" (or as normal as it can be until the condition is gone).
Overall, I am looking forward to seeing results, and desperately hoping it can help her. I know I'd feel helpless were I in her mom's shoes and nothing worked, so I am hopeful that I can at least provide SOME form of relief for the poor kid. If nothing else, at least she'll feel special that she has her own "special" soap, just for her. And that will make her feel awesome. Plus, what kid wouldn't be eager about their favorite color "Pat Patrol" soap, yeah?
Hello, hello, everyone!
My apologies to all of thee for going a bit MIA the last few weeks. As you know, I am a student and work full time, so my schedule is a bit full at times. Not to worry, though, I've been able to slow down enough lately to make more soapy cupcakes and some regular ol' bars. Just not enough to sit down and write this stuff out! If you follow my Instagram or Twitter, though, you will definitely see a lot of what I've been up to. :) I am also trying to work on my photography skills a bit. They're pretty lacking, but I will learn!
The soapy cupcakes that I've made for my Sister In Law's baby shower have been a huge hit with the family. I hope they are an equal hit with the guests. I've finally had a chance to sit down and start wrapping them, and I gotta say - I'm proud of my handiwork. :) And as an aside - tying bows is basically the most annoying crafty thing I can possibly think of, apart from trying to use glitter in any meaningful way without making a mess. Still - it's totally worth it. I love how they came out!
In other news, these little guys have totally inspired me to make more cupcakes! I got a new bottle of Blueberry Jam fragrance oil from Bramble Berry and I decided to go ahead and try my hand at blueberry cupcakes. I used my normal recipe (which I'm still working on perfecting) for the base of the cupcakes, and did Soap Queen's cupcake frosting recipe for the top. I fragranced the bottom with Bramble Berry's "Blueberry Delight" (which I bought a huge bottle of because I absolutely love it and they're discontinuing it), and the top with blueberry jam, which I colored a nice light blue color. Then I topped the cupcakes with jojoba bead "sprinkles." They came out adorably, I love them. The bottom part is discoloring, but I planned for that. Light blue and amber brown look nice together, and they just smell fantastic. I also made orange cupcakes that same week, with Bramble Berry's "Turkish Mocha" for the base and "Orange 10x" for the icing. I also topped those with jojoba bead "sprinkles" but my orange beads were much smaller than my blue ones, and it's tough to even see them on top of the orange icing. Next time I think I'll nix the beads. You can see pictures of my recent projects, including the cupcakes in the gallery below.
I am starting to mess with melt and pour embeds - I like the notion of melt and pour, though glycerin soap and I are not friends. It dries out my skin and leaves it wanting. It's not my jam, but I can't help but loooooooove the way embeds look on/in a lot of soaps. What's more, I had surgery this past Monday (6/13), and have been laid up in my bed for most of the week. What's a girl to do when she's laying in bed (and not in a Percocet induced coma)? Watch soaping YouTube videos, of course!
I have recently found Stacey (I think is her name?) at Yellow Cottage Soapery, based somewhere near Myrtle Beach, SC. I adore her work so much, and I have been binge watching her channel all week. She is super creative with her soaps, there is so much detail that goes into them and I love how she mixes her own colors and all of her cute creative little piping. By the way, this is totally not paid/promoted, I just found her channel last week and have been watching it and catching up on everything ever since. I love her work and she has inspired me to try embeds and piping on my regular soap bars. Between her and Katie at Royalty Soaps, I am really inspired (and totally intimidated!) to take my soaps to the next level. I am still trying to work out the "kinks" in my "Master Batch" recipe, but I really like it. The biggest challenge for me right now is finding the best temperature to soap at. I am planning to give room temperature a go for my next batch.
My upcoming batch is going to try a new fragrance oil from Nature's Garden - I have only ordered two fragrances from them and never used them, so I am looking forward to trying them out. I know a lot of people have NG fragrances (Clyde has pretty much exclusively NG fragrances), but I've never tried them. I did spend a lot of time this week pinning a whole metric butt ton of them that I want to eventually order. I think I'm going to need more cabinet space soon. Guess my goal of cleaning out the house some this summer is going to be for a good cause. :) Woot!
So, that is it for now - stay tuned, I've got a few other soaps I want to write about making, and a small announcement or two for you guys. In the mean time, enjoy my most recent creations, and have a wonderful soapy day!
By now, you're probably sitting on the edge of your seat, just dying to know what the mistakes I made were! Dear lord, you're saying, tell us! Or not, I don't expect anything of you. You might even be bored (though if you are, you might ought to go read something more interesting. I'd hate to bore ya!).
First, I will start off by saying my #1 mistake was not having a freaking checklist. Why does this matter? It matters a lot, for reasons that will soon be apparent. I started my soap just like any other time I've made it - adding lye water to oils, bring to extra thin trace, blah blah. Normal stuff. Falter number one was: I stupidly added the FO blend to the entire batch BEFORE splitting it up. Why did I do this? I saw Clyde do it, and thought it was a good idea. Whoops! Now I know why Soap Queen splits her batches up and adds FO last. As you may know, florals tend to accelerate trace. And as I mentioned in my previous post, I also had a FO in my blend that can cause ricing. So here I am - adding accelerating and ricing fragrances to my main batch before even splitting it. Dear lord, what was I thinking?
I lightly stick blended it and started to split up the batter, but I could see it starting to thicken, and some ricing was happening in my yellow color. Shit! Oh god! How do you fix ricing? You have to blend it out with the stick blender. Know what also accelerates trace? Freaking stick blending! There I am, stick blending the hell out of an already accelerating soap batter, desperately hoping for a drop swirl/hanger swirl! IDJIT! I quickly realized what I was doing, set the stick blender aside, and grabbed my whisk. I am not a praying person, but I was there in the kitchen trying to negotiate with the soap gods to - for the love of all that's holy - spare this lovely soap batter from becoming ploppy gloppy horribleness!
Obviously, someone heard me (I don't dare believe I have any kind of skill at this yet), and I was able to fix the ricing, and keep the various colors relatively liquid enough to start pouring into the mold. I worked as quickly as possible, swirling and layering as quickly as I could. I noticed that once the mold was filled, it wasn't quite to the top where I'd expected it to be - but maybe that was just because there was so much gloppy batter left behind. I scooped out as much as I could from the measuring cups, and set about doing a hanger swirl.
Shit! Oh god, my hanger! Where is it?!?! I had forgotten to grab it! What's worse is that it was a regular ol' closet hanger - you know, the old school type from the 90s that all the cool kids were using before plastic hangers became the thing. I tore upstairs where I'd left the hanger, meekly bent it into a somewhat acceptable shape (went at it with the wire cutters, but am not strong enough. Thankfully, Hercules husband saved the day later that evening), and shoved it into my mold, trying to remember the technique I'd seen on YouTube.
I could feel the batter getting thick and resisting the hanger, and was starting to get really discouraged. But, I went with it anyway and tried my best. I did, in fact, go with a somewhat textured top, though I am not really happy about it, and the colors kinda mushed together, so in the end it was not my favorite. Know what I am good at? Mica swirls. I might just stick to those for now.
So, here is a picture of the soap when I was finished with it. As you can see, it's pretty low in the mold. But!! I got it in there! I was sooo proud! I didn't mess up too much, and even with a misbehaved batter, I still managed to get everything into the mold AND do a swirl! Huzzah! Only, not so fast....Wanna know why the soap is so low in the mold? Fast forward to me cleaning up, when I go downstairs to put away my supplies and open the cabinet where I store my oils to find - one of the oils I'd forgotten to put in the recipe. Ten...freaking...percent of my oils right there, staring me in the face. I just stand there in disbelief, while my soap is upstairs gelling on a heating pad, knowing that it is going to be lye heavy and I'm going to have to rebatch. I was heartbroken.
I trudged back upstairs frowning, cursing the shitty Monday for being so awful, and pouted the entire time I did the dishes. My husband came home and gave me a hug and I just sobbed about how terrible my day had been and that look, I made this beautiful soap and I'll have to melt it down! Ugh!! My first hanger swirl! UGH!!! Stupid kid and his stupid chihuahua and my stupid workday and now my stupid soap!! Yes. I did throw an inner tantrum as if I were a five year old. No matter how adult I may pretend to be, I'm definitely not above some self-indulgent whining every now and then. It was just one of those days, you know?
The next day, I came home and cut my soap. Oh gosh, it was so pretty! I loved it! You could see that it was definitely "off," but I loved it nonetheless. I was so worried that my swirl hadn't really worked, so I was pleasantly surprised to find that it (mostly) had! I am still proud that I achieved that, even if it's not the greatest thing ever. Unfortunately, I combat soda ash pretty poorly, and am still trying to find the best solution to prevent it, so the top looked ugly. But the soap itself turned out better than I'd expected given the circumstances. In case you are wondering, I did end up rebatching it, and that in and of itself was its own disaster (tried to turn it a single color, overcooked it while mixing said color - whatever, this soap obviously wasn't meant to be). Regardless, though, it IS usable now, and has tested safe with a pH test. As long as it's safe, it can be as ugly and crumbly as it wants.
So what did I learn from this experience?
As some wise internet meme once said, "Mistakes are meant for learning, not repeating." I certainly learned a great deal from this soapy disaster, and have learned how to avoid the problems next time. I am looking very forward to that next time!
Elizabeth is a new to soap making, and wishes to share her journey in learning to make cold process soap with the hope that it will help other newbies who may stumble upon this site as a resource. From swirl techniques, choosing colors, combining fragrances, embeds, toppers, and textures, she chronicles her lessons and stories here.