Nobody warned me that soap making could become an addiction.

This blog has been a long time in the writing, it’s been churning around in my head for two or three months.  At first I put it down to a bit of writers block but as the weeks pass by I’ve come to understand it’s the subject matter that’s to blame.  I’m simply too busy making soap!

Strictly speaking the title is a lie, but I’ll get to that later.  My story begins with cheese – yes, cheese.

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3 perfect, fluffy pillows of Camembert

The story begins back in late 2016 where I met Gavin at a free community marketing workshop. Gavin was a participant in the course but clearly had it all together in the marketing department.  3 YouTube channels, blogs, websites, a home based business running workshops and selling supplies – even guest appearances on a TV gardening program.  The secret to Gavin’s success?  “People just love cheese”.  I looked Gavin up on line after the workshop and found he was right – it wasn’t long before I was on the home made cheese bandwagon.

As well as cheese making, Gavin’s enterprise spreads further into D.I.Y. home products such as soy candles, soap, bath products etc.   Little Green Workshops YouTube and Little Green Workshops website are a wealth of information.  Even though Gavin and his wife (and business partner) Kim run local workshops in all these domains, being that I’m time poor AND impatient I was able to learn it all by purchasing starter kits from them and watching their YouTube tutorials click here for a soap making example.

It’s about this stage that I have to ‘fess up about the validity (or lack thereof) of the title of this blog – “nobody warned me that soap making could become an addiction”.  I remember having a phone conversation with Kim around the time I started looking into soap making.  Kim said that I’d love it and that my house would soon be smelling delicious.  On a technicality though, I don’t recall her using the word “addiction” and even if she had I’m pretty sure I would have underestimated the level of “addictiveness” that soap making would hold for me.

Not one to do things by halves I jumped into soap making head first and after the initial start up pack from Little Green Workshops I set about immersing myself in the soaping world, trawling the internet and local health food stores for ingredients and watching countless hours of YouTube tutorials.  A soap “chef” I came across pretty early on was Jan Berry – a.k.a. “The Nerdy Farmwife”.  Jan is the author of several e-books and also a couple of the papery variety too.  One thing that really stood out to me about Jan was that the also freely shares LOTS of recipes online and has built a lovely online community for people who enjoy soap making and other natural home made products for the body and home.  You can find Jan’s website here The Nerdy Farfmwife

Looking back at my first few efforts in soap creation they look pretty clumsy now.  Nonetheless I was stoked and the addiction soon took hold.

There are many methods of soap making – the most common ones being “cold process”, “hot process” and “melt & pour”.  The first two are similar, with the exception that in hot process you cook the soap batter whereas – you guessed it – in cold process you do not.  “Melt and pour” is just as it sounds.  You buy a base of pre made soap which you then cut into cubes, melt in the microwave and add frangances, colours etc before pouring into moulds.  I’ve seen people do some really creative stuff with this method and it’s great for people who are nervous about handling the chemicals necessary for making cold & hot process soap.

Cold process is the method which has been the most enjoyable for me as it caters not only to my creative side but also feeds my inner mad scientist..  It is made from a recipe of assorted oils, butters (or fats), liquids, fragrances etc.  These ingredients, coupled with the chemical sodium hydroxide create a chemical reaction which transform the fats into soap.  Many people question the fact that a normally dangerous chemical is an ingredient in soap but the reality is that once the chemical process is complete you are unlikely to find any trace of it.  Jan describes it well here

Along the way I’ve had some memorable, funny & heartwarming moments, such as walking around the neighbourhood at night, scissors in hand, surreptitiously snipping a few flowers overhanging fences (shhhhhh…..),  harvesting tinging nettles (carefully) I spotted on my morning walks around a local lake, donations of roses from a truckie friend who noticed a lot of lovely blooms in a client’s garden, and an offer from a lovely lady to grow some plants suitable for use in my products.

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Now that I’m a seasoned soaper with a whole 5 months of experience (lol) I think I’ve come a long way.  I like to create my own recipes and am quite adventurous when it comes to playing around with ingredients.  Many of my soaps seem to have a “foodie” theme and look good enough to eat.

Below are a few examples I’m really happy with – from left to right:

  • Everything’s Just Peachy, made with my home made Kombucha infused with fresh peaches, this soap has peach scented lotion bars melted and blended through the top to give it a crumble like appearance and extra hit of moisturiser
  • Chai Spice Latte, made with goat milk & strong black tea, cinnamon leaf & clove bud essential oils and an exfoliant of fine black tea
  • Choco Raspberry Slice, again with goat milk – this soap features cacao butter which lends a lovely chocolate aroma to compliment the raspberry fragrance oil

I should note too that soap is only the beginning and it all ties in nicely with my “green epiphany” (a term I’ve borrowed from Gavin).  This has become a journey of reflecting on what chemicals are in the home, what I’m putting on my skin and hair, as well as into my body, aiming to keep it as natural as possible.  Of course the story wouldn’t be complete without looking at cleaning products too and I’m slowly replacing store bought products with natural alternatives.

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I’ll finish by saying big thanks to Gavin for his inspiration and excellent YouTube videos (plus wonderful customer service from Gavin and Kim), and thanks to Jan for sharing her creativity and being an example of generosity.  I’ve bought lots of e-books and paper books from Jan and love them all.  My story is far from over, but for now this blog has come to an end.

If you’d like to see more of my work you can check out Outdoor Obsession.  It’s a bit of a mishmash of natural living, photography, hiking and travel.  For soap specific stuff head to my Facebook page Down to Earth Bath & Body.

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