Sunday, October 18, 2020

Priority Shipping...

I thought I should explain why I ship Priority USPS. It isn't the cheapest way to go, that's for sure. 

To send a package First Class with one bar of soap it would cost the buyer around $3.50 (I'd love to offer free shipping but it's just not feasible). Most people purchase more than one bar at a time, postage goes up as the weight goes up. It only takes a bar or two more to reach Priority prices.

I can get up to 8 bars of soap, possibly more depending on the size of the bars, in a flat rate envelope. There are boxes called Scotty Stuffers that are made to fit inside one of these envelopes, just had to order more. I get the flat rate price with a bit of protection for the soap.

Priority is better for timing. I work compacted work weeks, 12-hour days, 3 days on 4 days off, then 4 days on 3 days off. When I receive orders on the days I work I can print Priority labels and get the package ready when I get home. The package is picked up by the postal worker the very next day. Shipping quickly is very important to me. Priority labels are the only labels I can print at the moment. 

Priority is faster by a few days.

I can get free Priority boxes and envelopes from the Post Office, they deliver them to me for free, too. Anything I can save is reflected in my soap prices.

Sometime soon, maybe at the beginning of next year, I plan on signing up at an online postage printing site. For the most part I would still ship Priority but if it's cheaper for my customers I will be able to print First Class postage.

So there you have it. I want to offer the best service possible to my customers and to get orders on their way quickly, Priority shipping is my only option at the moment. 

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Who do You Tube?

There are only three things I watch on YouTube. Soap makers, to get inspired to make soap,  Dungeons and Dragons terrain videos to get ideas for...building D&D terrain, and a few streaming D&D games to get Dungeon Master tips...which includes watching Critical Role.

Everyone has their likes and dislikes of the various YouTube shows, stars, genres, etc. I'm going to share some of my favorite soap makers with you...not in any particular order. A lot of people find it relaxing to watch the soap making and cutting process, some of us find it inspiring.

Not affiliated with anyone below...well...we're all soap makers so we're kindred spirits.

Katie Carson at Royalty Soaps. Katie is the epitome of quirky. She's funny, lively and extremely artistic. Her soaps are colorful and fun and each month she releases several batches that reflect a theme. Recently the theme was Disney Villians. She also does a secret soap series where she makes a different soap each week for several weeks and gives hints. Viewers can guess in the video comments and the secret is revealed with the last soap in the series. Katie also has a great tutorial on how to make soap (including this one on using lye) and she uses two recipes, one is basic and less expensive, the other takes it up a notch or two.

Clyde Yoshida at Vibrant Soap. Clyde's gift with color is amazing and it reflects the fact that he's an artist. He's actually well known in soap maker circles for the Clyde Slide soaping technique where you mix several colors of batter and alternating the colors, gently pouring them down the side of a large bowl in layers. Then pour that into your mold. The results are very thin, colorful layers. Beautiful!

Tierra Hayes at Gypsyfae Creations. Tierra does some pretty creative fandom soaps! She's done a Golden Snitch soap as well as the various House soaps from Harry Potter. There were also Star Wars fandom soaps. She makes gorgeous seasonal and cupcake soaps! 

Billie at Hippie Mumma Artisan Soap. Billie is an organic dairy farmer and soaper in Victoria, Australia. She uses the organic milk from her farm in her soap and her soaps all look amazing. She's great at making beautiful bars. I also love that you hear the occasional rooster crow when watching her videos!

Keeley at Soy and Shea. Another Australian soap maker, Keeley is fun to watch and isn't afraid to share videos where things go wrong. Usually it's a battle with a fragrance oil that moves the batter too quickly. But, she always manages to get a beautiful bar of soap no matter how stubborn the fragrance oils are and she does it while keeping her sense of humor. It helps other soapers learn how to deal with these types of issues. She, like others in this list, make gemstone soaps and sharing geological interests in such things I find her discussions on the gemstones very interesting. 

Lastly, but definitely not least, Valerie Mosher at Shalebrook Handcrafted Soap. Valerie is a soap maker in Canada and she uses some of the most unique ingredients I've seen of any soap maker. Many of which I'd like to eventually incorporate into some special soaps for my shop! Sea buckthorn oil, a variety of teas and milks. Things that are great for your skin! I believe the majority of her soaps are hot process and most, if not all have maple syrup. 

There are many more amazing soap makers out there! If you've ever thought about making your own soap to create something good for your skin it can be as cheap or expensive as you want to make it. My first soap was shortening, water and lye. And it was pretty awesome. Coconut oil can be inexpensive at places like Big Lots and 100% coconut oil soap can be one of the best soaps for your skin! Do your research, use a lye calculator to make sure your soap isn't lye heavy and I highly recommend Katie Carson's Royal Creative Academy videos. With a few inexpensive tools you can make soap for your family and friends!

Friday, October 16, 2020


No affiliation with any of the links below...except the ones that take you to my soap shop.

It has been too long since I blogged, I guess I don't feel the need to write about everything I think in my head. Do y'all have that thing where your thoughts bounce around like a ball in a pinball machine, too? 

I've been making some changes in the ol' soap business, mainly converting all my recipes from hot process to cold process. I'm finding I like the resulting bars much better. Still a bit rustic, though!

Another change I've made is the beveling of edges on my bars. My granddaughter pointed out that they were too sharp at first. I still don't plane them so there will still be cut marks or drag marks from botanicals on or in the soap. I will use all of the shreds from the corners that I've been saving for a confetti soap sometime in the future.

I also purchased a "joyssoaps" stamp from ThreeDGeek over on Etsy. I'm really happy with the quality, it's exactly what I was wanting! 

I'm wrapping a wee bit differently... 

So, here's the thing about that, soap continues to evaporate off water after it's cured. If I label the soaps once they had finished curing after 4-6 weeks, the soap would still shrink up a bit and the labels would slip off. Before the change, I basically had to label everything when I got an order. Hopefully this new way of wrapping, with a dab of glue to affix the label to the raffia, will allow me to have things ready for orders. My next option is wrapping the soap in biodegradable cellophane bags. 

In addition to all of that I've been making imbeds with organic melt and pour... 

Sunshine imbeds!

It's quite a bit of fun to find cute things to add to the bars. It's slightly challenging getting natural colorants to disperse well but the imbeds are looking pretty cute!

This was a harder change to make. Titanium dioxide. It drives me cray not to be able to make white soap. Titanium dioxide is used in practically everything white, medical creams, sunscreens, ointments, toothpaste, makeup...soap. Does that mean it's safe, or maybe used too much? I really can't answer that.

But, I've spent some time looking into this and found a titanium dioxide that is 99.5% TiO2. It's non-Nano, Food Grade, nonGMO...and vegan. I'll probably only use it in soaps that require a white-white, which not many of my soaps do.

I'll be shifting some things in my shop, some soaps will be discontinued and placed in the Sale Bin. If you've not tried handmade/handcrafted soap this would be the time to check it out. I've talked with a lot of people about handmade soaps, and not necessarily mine, I have never heard a single complaint about handmade soap being worse than store-bought. Always the opposite, it really is worth a try. 

One change that should hit my shop in the first two weeks of November (I can't believe it's almost November!), Andee's Facial Spa Soap is shrinking from a rectangle to a heart. After talking to my daughter about it, we thought a face soap bar didn't need to be as large as a body soap bar. It's still the same recipe, just a bit smaller and it will also be less expensive. This is the most expensive bar in my shop and one that goes pretty quick so being able to drop the price and make more bars is pretty exciting!

I hope everyone is staying safe, and to steal a quote from Critical Role's Matt Mercer, "Don't forget to love each other."

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Learned something new today but I'm not sure what...

I've been planning a line of coconut oil soap for a wee while now. Coconut oil soap is probably the most lathery soap I've used. It's also very moisturizing. I've made hot processed coconut oil soap, there are still a few bars in my shop, but I am trying to switch back to making cold process soap.

I prepared my base recipe that I'll be using (coconut oil, coconut milk, essential oil, lye, water) and ran the numbers through SoapCalc to get the proper amounts of water and lye.

I removed four ounces of coconut oil and halved it, two ounces would have alkanet root as a colorant, the two were left plain.

I melted the coconut oil then added the coconut milk, blended it well.

I made the lye solution with the lye and water.

When the lye solution and oil were in the 80-85 degree F, I blended it to emulsion, added the lavender essential oil then blended together to almost a medium trace. I split the batter in half and added the alkanet oil to one half and the plain oil to the other half and stirred them each well.

I decided to try an "in the pot swirl" and poured the lavender batter into four different spots into the plain batter, gave it a quick stir and poured it into the mold, giving it some swirls on the top.

Looking kinda pretty!
I check the temp of my soaps frequently to watch for anything unusual...

Definitely starting to heat's been about 5 minutes since it was poured. As soon as I put the thermometer down and turned back to my soap I saw this...

I stood there while watching it crack before my very eyes...

I watched as the gelling soap from the inside started pushing up through the crack. I was really worried about it causing a volcano and spewing right out of the mold so I placed the mold in a pan.

The temps reached 140F, honestly not extremely hot for a soap that's going through the gel phase, but what was an issue is that it did that all within 15-20 minutes. The top was already setting up (coconut oil makes a hard bar of soap) and when the inside started gelling it expanded and cracked the top.

I'm not exactly sure why all of this took place, maybe the lye reacting with the sugars in the coconut milk and heating up? Maybe I should skip the coconut milk in the other batches of my coconut oil soap?

I will have to do some research before I make more. I'm anxious to see what the soap will look like on the inside. Will the swirls still be there? Will the color change a bit...or drastically? Will I be able to cut it since coconut oil soap bars are hard and I have to let it cool and solidify from the gel phase? Will I end up with one big uncuttable hunk of soap? We'll see...

Monday, December 16, 2019

Why handmade soap...

Have you ever had to cook something and gotten oils or even shortening on you hands then noticed how soft you're hands felt afterwards? Me too.

That is one of the benefits of handmade soap. Soapmakers build their recipes around moisturizing the skin, cleansing and sometimes exfoliating. Many soap makers go beyond that by decorating their soaps into some beautiful bars. I watch several on YouTube that I admire a great deal, but that's another post for another day.

In order to make soap moisturizing it's necessary to superfat your recipes. If you weren't to superfat every oil/butter molecule in your recipe would saponify into soap with no extras to linger behind for the moisturizing properties we like. I have a Castile For Real bar that isn't superfatted and made with olive oil. It's great for making laundry detergent because there is no extra oils that will get into your clothes. It could also be used for people with extra oily skin.

The percentage of superfatting isn't as tricky as it sounds because so many people have made soap that there are some general rules of thumb. Most soapers start recipes at no less than 5% extra oils and adjust from there. I generally soap at 7-9% depending on the recipe. If you superfat too high, it results in a soft bar of soap that will turn to mush when used.

So handmade soaps are generally more moisturizing to your skin.

Why else is handmade soap great? Depending on the soap maker, there's not extra crud added. Some people add micas and fragrance oils to their soaps, I don't consider them crud. When you do this you can pretty much know what your soap is going to consistently look and smell like. There are some beautiful bars of soap out there!

Other soapmakers stick to natural ingredients, and while everything pretty much comes from nature, some things are altered by humans. Changed chemically, mixed with other things that have little resemblance to what they were in nature, then don't tell you exactly what it is. This.

If I can't make an informed decision on what I'm adding to my soaps, how can I list the ingredients for people who may have allergies?

I don't purchase certain brands of essential oils for this same reason. One of the things that first grabbed my attention here was when I was looking for vanilla essential oil. I don't think it would be financially sound for a company to sell (what they say is) 100% vanilla essential oil for $13 for a 4 ounce bottle. Any reputable company will tell you that it is blended with another oil and tell you what that oil is (in my case it's coconut oil and it will be listed as such in my ingredients).

If I can't tell my customers each ingredient, I wouldn't feel right about putting it in my soap. It's the same with colorant. Micas are beautiful and add gorgeous colors to soap but not knowing exactly what is in the mica, I can't list those ingredients in my soap.

In all honesty I've never heard of anyone having a reaction to micas and most people learn through trial error which fragrance and essential oils they are allergic to. There are a multitude of people who will react in a multitude of ways to a multitude of things so for me, personally,  I'd rather keep things simple.

I hope that doesn't sound like I'm complaining about soapmakers who use these things because I'm not. Just trying to explain why I choose to keep my soaps simple.

The best thing to me about handmade soaps, isn't so much about the things I leave out, but rather, the things I put in. Oils and butters have so many beneficial properties as do essential oils (even though we're not allowed to say that).

I've had people tell me if they have to use store bought soap after using my soap their skin gets dry to the point that it's itchy. I've had others tell me they no longer have dry, scaly skin. And even a few claim that using my soap got rid of rashes that were still there after taking prescriptions. I will never claim my soap fixes or cures anything. I think its possibly a blend of things that's left out of my soap that may be in store bought soaps. Dyes, perfumes, preservatives that maybe their bodies reacted to without them knowing what the exact problem is.

It does my heart good to hear such things though because that's what it's all about for soapmakers. People who find something that feels good on their skin. Something they love and gives them great results.

I highly advise that everyone try handmade soap, even if it isn't mine. Our skin is our largest organ so it's just as important to care for it as it is the insides of our bodies.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Imperfect soap...

Sometimes I have to kind of laugh when I look at the soap images on my shop page. I see all of the little imperfections on my soap bars. Marks from knife cuts, finger smudges from handling the bars while moving the bars to drying racks, not so perfect edges or corners, some soda ash. I think there's a couple of coffee ground drag marks on the Gma's Jittery Mocha Latte Soap picture.

I do have a device that cleans up the bars, it bevels the corners and smooths the flat surfaces. My Dad built it for me and it works great! The thing about doing that is it can take off quite a bit of soap. I would either have to sell smaller bars or make the bars bigger to account for any trimming. Then I have to do something with the trimmings because I'm not going to just toss them.

It's possible to rebatch the trimmings by melting them in a crock pot to make bars for personal use. I have three lunch bags full of these plus 16 bars of rebatched soap at the moment.

As much as I would like my soaps to look perfect, I made the call to stop trimming them. Once the soap is used, all of the imperfections disappear. It's like magic...or something. It's soap. I realize people may want perfect when they buy something but the thing most important to me is how the soap treats skin. How it is made with only natural/organic/nonGMO oils, butters, scents, botanicals and colorants. The finished bars have no harsh chemicals (yes, I use lye but it's no longer in the soap once the soap has cured, it's science), no unpronounceable ingredients (though I do have trouble saying Ylang Ylang and for years I pronounced Calendula CalenDULa).

Minor imperfections are...well...rather minor when it comes to something that's going to disappear as soon as it's used. I really think the amazing properties of my soaps speak for themselves...if they could speak.

Whipped body butter

Loren and I decided to try making whipped body butter last week, it's been something I've been thinking about quite a bit.

I work in a clean room environment which means I have to wear gloves for at least three hours a day. I don't know about you but my hands sweat when I wear gloves like that. Not sure what they're made from, I do know they're latex free. On top of that, my skin doesn't seem to like the soap dispenser soap I use all day at work, either.

My skin was getting so dry at work that it was starting to crack. I've been using lotion bars that I made (oils/butters/beeswax) but the moisturizing quality was very short-lived.

I looked into other things that might do the trick and stumbled across whipped body butter. The recipe I came up with was formulated by what I already had on hand. As a soapmaker I had quite a few options and went to my notes on the beneficial properties of each oil and the percentages that would be best for a leave on product.

Shea butter makes up 50% of the end results. Now, to be quite honest shea butter is not my favorite smell. I can't pinpoint what it is but sometimes when I smell it I am fine with it, other times not so much. And I'm talking about the same brand and package.

Anyway, making a small test batch we needed to use a hand mixer, which can take up to 30 minutes to whip the oils into a solid butter (halfway through the process my Mom informed me that the mixer had a stand, that was a very handy contraption).

We ended up with an amazing product, nothing but oils, butters and a tiny bit of arrowroot powder to keep the body butter from being sticky. Have to say I'm really loving this! I used it daily at work and my hands are back to normal! The slight greasy feel disappears almost immediately as does the shea butter scent. There are no added colors or scents, I may leave it like that. Just pure and natural moisture for dry skin!

I'm having it tested by my volunteers...and I'm sending some samples in soap orders as well. Hopefully we've come up with a recipe that others will love as much as we do!