Saturday, July 14, 2012

Laundry Soap

Still preparing for the market tomorrow. Bringing lots of our laundry soap, made with our cold process soap.  I absolutely adore the look of the soap inside a big mason jar. Since we do most of our selling online, selling our laundry soaps in mason jars online is a bit scary, so I'm looking forward to being able to show these tomorrow. I'm hoping people will love the look of these as much as I do!

So pretty and country!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Gearing up for next farmers market

Spending this lovely Friday gearing up for the next farmer's market. We'll be at the Coventry Regional Farmer's Market this Sunday.  I've been working on getting my solid perfumes all packed up today.
Lined up like colorful little soldiers

This is my "lotion bar in a jar" in coconut lime verbena scent. Smells like summer :)

White Ginger & Amber scented "lotion bar in a jar." Quickly becoming one of my favorite new scents.

All natural lavender solid perfume with jojoba oil.

The back of the little package.

In case you are wondering what a "lotion bar in a jar" is, I transformed the solid lotion bars that I make in the fall and winter and added the oils to little clear containers. Same great lotion bar effect without all the melting :)  And I think they are darn cute too.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Happy Summer!

Wow, how time flies!  The last time I posted here, it was below freezing; today it is close to 100 degrees! We have had an incredibly busy 6 months. In addition to soapmaking, we have ventured into some fun new projects, and even have some new products in development.  We are gearing up for Farmer's Market season here in Connecticut...and our first market is this Sunday at the wonderful Coventry Regional Farmers Market.  See you on Sunday!

Friday, January 6, 2012

The soap making process

I've been asked a number of times lately what the soap making process is all about. How does one even make soap? What's involved? Is it hard to do, or expensive?

In an effort to try and demonstrate the process, I attempted to take some pictures while I made soap a few days ago. I apologize in advance for the blurry, out-of-focus pictures.  I am mostly home alone while I make the soap, so taking pictures while wearing googles and big gloves isn't that easy :)  In addition, once the lye solution comes in contact with the oils, there isn't much time, so unfortunately, I don't have pictures of that part of the process. I think next time I'll have the hubby take some pics!

The first thing I usually do is lug all my ingredients and equipment into the kitchen. Since I make a lot of soap, my soapmaking oils come in large, awkward containers. I buy coconut oil in 50 lb drums!

Next, I arrange all my equipment into different stations based on where I perform certain tasks.  My kitchen is small, so I do measuring and weighing in one area, etc.

What I do next depends on the temperature outside. Sometimes I measure out the lye and water and mix that first, while other times I start melting the hard oils first.  I ALWAYS mix the lye and water mixture outside of the house, in a sheltered area away from any people and animals. I add the lye to the water, mix it carefully with a wisk, and get out of the way once it starts to "steam." Those are fumes you do not want to breathe. Once the steam subsides, I crouch down and stir some more. Once the lye and water are introduced, the mixture gets incredibly hot in a short amount of time. I leave the mixture outside to cool down.

Back in the house, I carefully measure out the "hard fats." These are fats, such as cocoa butter, shea butter and coconut oil, that are solid at room temperature. The fats are measured by weight, not by volume. The hard fats are put on the stove top to melt down. While those are melting, I start measuring out the liquid fats - olive oil, castor oil, and the like. Once the hard fats have melted, I add the liquid fats, give it a stir and set it aside to cool down.  Now I start preparing any colors or fragrances I will be adding.
On left: patchouli essential oil. Right: Rhassoul clay mixture with a little olive oil.

Ingredients for the lavender-sage soap: french green clay mixed with olive oil, lavender and sage essential oils, lavender buds.

Getting everything ready to mix

At this point, I bring in the lye mixture from outside. Always wear eye protection, gloves, and long sleeves!! Now I take the temperature of the oil mixture and the lye mixture. I soap at about 100 degrees and like both the lye and oil to be at close to the same temperature.

picture of all of the melted oils
115 degrees - too hot!

110 degrees - still too hot.

getting there...

105 is better :)

I could have put the oil outside to cool off - it was only 25 degrees out!

I put the oils in a cool water bath to finish the cool down

Taking temperature of the lye solution. Note the gloves! Safety first :)

Lye solution is starting to decrease. I'm aiming for about 105.
 Once both the lye and oils are at about the same temperature, I add them together. You have to move fast now!

Adding lye water to oils.

Lye water has been added - now mix, mix, mix!
 At this point, I had to abandon the camera and get mixing.
Soap has been poured into the mold.

Putting the soap to bed. I put the whole soap mold, with cover, into a cooler to keep it warm.

After 24 hours, the soap can be removed from the mold and cut. The soap will cure for 3 weeks.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

What I've been doing

It's a new year and so it's time to make some new soaps! While I will certainly continue making many of my fragrance oil based-soaps, this year I plan on expanding the line of natural soaps. I must be in the mood for herbs, because I've got a lot of herbal based soaps planned for this year.  Yesterday, I made a batch of Rosemary and also Rosemary mint. I'm planning on a batch of clary sage, lavender, basil, and patchouli as well. 

Here are a few shots of yesterday's soapmaking adventures:
Plain Rosemary on the left; rosemary-mint on the right

Here they are out of the mold. This time, rosemary-mint is on the left, and plain rosemary on the right.

Check out the crazy top on the rosemary loaf!

The first slice from each loaf - they smell so nice. Just the right amount of scent for me!

Next up, a batch of Groovy soap, a man's shave soap, and I think Patchouli third.  I will be back in school by the end of the month and want to start cranking out some more soap...getting pretty low from Christmas sales.

Other stuff I've been doing, in pictures:

More Knitting!
Making Laundry soap

At this point, our family has enough soap to last several lifetimes. So what to do with all the soap ends, or pieces that just aren't quite pretty enough? Grind them up into laundry soap! I only make little bits at a time, but I'm finding people really like it, including us. It makes our clothes so nice and soft, and they smell great.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

My new assistant

Now that the semester is coming to an end and I have been working from home, I'm finding that some of my furry companions (our 2 cats and 2 dogs) have been more lovable than usual. Mikki, our mini Schnauzer, is normally the one that has to be forcibly removed from the side of my hip.  She goes everywhere with me.  However, our cat Elliott has her beat lately.  Now that I'm home, Elliott follows me from room to room, attempting to sit on my lap, my books, pretty much anyplace near me. 
Today I was taking some new pictures for my Etsy shop, and because it has been so dreary and gray outside, I was forced to take pictures in a new location. I set up shop in our office, underneath our Ott-light with a big piece of white paper for the background...when guess who shows up?
Isn't he just the sweetest? It is hard to believe this once feral cat has become such a moosh! 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Getting an education at craft shows

This weekend I completed my third ever craft show. This first one I did was a huge festival, the next was a tiny little show, and the third was right in the middle of both - a medium sized show! While every show has been different, one thing has remained the same - the other vendors at the show are some of the nicest people I've ever met.

Being the newbie that I am, I've been taking in a lot of advice and wisdom from the more experienced vendors. It is amazing how you can start the day sitting next to a complete stranger, and by the end of the day, feel like you've known that person a long time.  The vendors I've met so far have gone above and beyond to help me - they've given me tips on looking for good shows, they've given me actual show dates and times and told me which to avoid and which are great.  Heck, they've even given me plenty of pats on the back when things aren't going so well!

Doing these shows is more work than I've ever imagined.  In fact, I'm still not sure if they are for me. But one thing is for sure - I've met some great people out there!