Friday, August 21, 2009

I Made Myself Some Soap

It probably wasn't that hard to guess what handicraft I was trying for the first time in my previous post. Seriously, how many craft projects involve a pot on the stove?

I bought my very first cold-process soap-making kit at a soap-making class at Barefoot Herbs + Barefoot Kids, run by The Kitchen Girls. This was way back in the winter, but with lye and all, I wanted to wait until I had a good bit of time without the girls with me to make it.

Y'all, it took me nine months to achieve that block of time.

Yeah, it's been a while since my one workshop, but my kit has instructions in it, plus all the ingredients I needed except for the distilled water (remember that part--that's important), plus I did quite a bit of reading about soap-making last winter, so all in all, IF the soap turns out in six weeks, I did pretty well for a first-timer.

I got everything to the right temperature eventually:
And I wore my goggles like a good girl:
Because, of course, I've seen Fight Club many times (I used to teach it in my freshmen comp classes), I was TERRIFIED of the lye, and it didn't help when, as I stirred it with my rubber spatula to cool it down, it turned slushy and started to hiss and fizzle, and then turned brittle-hard and began to make really loud cracking noises.

Noises that definitely didn't happen during my soap-making workshop.

So obviously, I throw off my gloves and run to the internet, searching Google for "soap lye troubleshoot*". I think my problem was thusly (but those of you who ACTUALLY know how to make soap, please correct me if I'm wrong): the oils and lye used in soapmaking are measured by weight, which is why a kitchen scale was on my list of supplies. The water, however, is measured by volume? So when I saw that my recipe called for 16 ounces of water, I measured 16 ounces in my kitchen scale, and that was about half a cup. But 16 ounces of water by volume is more like 2 cups.

And so I added in another cup-and-a-half of water and stirred and stirred, and eventually the lye uncracked and dissolved and I had to reheat the oil to get it back to the right temperature, and stir and stir to get the lye down to the right temperature, but eventually they were happy together.

My other worry is that, after I finished my soapmaking, I was reading about it some more (never do this--it's like looking in your book to see all the questions you missed after finishing a test), and one author was talking about this think called false trace, in which your immersion blender beats so much air into your mixture that it lowers the temperature of your mixture enough that the oils begin to solidify again, and you think you get a trace even when saponification hasn't finished, and so you pour prematurely. You're supposed to turn off the immersion blender frequently and hand-stir for a few seconds, which I did not do, and thus the freaking out.

But after a day to harden, don't my soaps look okay? I've got some cut into blocks: Some poured into Lego molds with a little Lego inside as a treat (see the poorly hidden Lego?):
And some poured into heart-shaped molds with a vintage heart bead inside each, although you can't see it this time:

That's about how they're supposed to look, right?

Now...anyone know a good place to buy soapmaking supplies? My kit was a one-time-only deal, but now I'm hooked, and greatly desire a lifetime of hand-crafted hippie-dippy essential oil-and-herb soaps.


Anonymous said...

Pretty awesome soap!

Do I know of soapmaking supplies places?! Are you kidding? More than half the people on my blog's to-read list are soap makers!

I happen to like Brambleberry a lot, but they can be a bit pricey with shipping. There's also From Nature with Love ( I've not ordered from them yet, but I've heard good things about them.

I also want to order from this super nice lady but her shop's in Scotland and I'll have to see if I want her FOs enough to pay for shipping.

cake said...

i know someone who made soap for her extended family for christmas. after returning home from holiday travel (where she distributed all of her handmade soap), she took a shower and tried out her soap. suddenly, her skin was burning, and she was screaming from the shower for her partner to quickly call everyone in her family and warn them not to use the soap! she hadn't followed the directions carefully enough.

i honor your courage in pursuing this craft. i love the home made soaps i've used, but am too skittish to try making it myself.

julie said...

I will ABSOLUTELY use my own soap before I gift it away as gifts, oh my goodness. That would be the last thing needed to convince both sets of extended family members that Julie? Is, as suspected, a total freak.

I wonder if she could have convinced all her family members to mail their soap back to her so she could rebatch it?

Abby said...

they look great!!!! scott made soap a few years back, and it was fantastic.