Monday, December 31, 2007

Hot Process Soap Tutorial - A Little More Info

Tamara of Natural Magic Soaps has been nothing but helpful in getting a tutorial out there for those of you who are struggling with hot process soap making.  There was a comment left by someone about measurements not listed in the original tutorial post, so I quote Tamara's email verbatim for clarification and also for some reference information that may be useful for you.  To thank her, I hope some of you purchase a bar or two from her to support her soap making magic!  Here is Tamara:

While I can provide a basic recipe for soap, it is much easier if they actually create their own- and helps the learning process too. 

The amount of oils that are needed will be greatly different because of the volume on different molds. Here are some really great links you might want to share with your readers: : This is a fantastic tool for creating, storing and resizing soap recipes.  Once a mold size has been entered, the program can resize recipes to fit your specific mold. This volume calculator makes it a snap to figure out the volume of a mold. Just plug in the dimensions (in inches) and it will give you the total cubic inches of the mold (which can then be used in Soapmaker!) 

A really good beginner reference for choosing oils to include in a recipe can be found here:

It is also really important to remember that soap which hasn't cured doesn't mix well with most metals.  All of the pots used should be stainless steel or enamelware and soap should be poured into a cardboard, wood or plastic mold to set. 

Here is a very basic recipe that can be added to Soapmaker and resized to fit individual molds-

Olive Oil: 40%
Almond Oil: 38%
Coconut: 22%

Since the amount of oil varies so much, it doesn't make sense to post a lye or water amount.

The other bonus to using Soapmaker is that it will automatically generate the proper amount of lye and water to be used for a recipe based on the total oils used.  

I hope this helps!

Tamara Dourney
Natural Magic Soaps |
Craft Revolution | |
Saponifier |

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Hot Process Soap Making Tutorial

Tamara Dourney of Natural Magic Soaps is generously allowing us to post her tutorial on Hot Process Soapmaking!

This soap is made with a basic cold process soap recipe (including lye) but then is cooked at the end to speed up the curing time.

Before you make something like this, make sure you are prepared. Use all the safety precautions for working with dangerous chemicals- gloves, protective eyewear, etc.

Make sure that none of your tools are aluminum, as lye will eat it. I recommend you visit some sites like Kathy Miller's website and read up on the soapmaking ingredients, methods, and safety before you decide to try this. Done? Good.

Here we go!

Step One: Preheat your oven to 200 degrees.

Step Two: Measure out the water for your lye. I used a very heavy anchor hocking batter bowl.Don't use glass if you can avoid it- the lye will cause the glass to become brittle and it can shatter. (This is a do as I say, not as I do


Step Three: Measure out the lye. Add it SLOWLY to the water and stir well. I use a special high temp rubber spatula for this. Sorry I don't have a pic of this particular operation, but lemme tell you what a bear it is to hold the lye as you're pouring it, stir AND take pictures. Without sprouting a few extra appendages, nigh on impossible for a clutz like me.

Put the lye water someplace SAFE to cool. I sit my lye in the kitchen window- it's up high where my kids can't reach and the fumes go outside.


Step Four: Measure out the oils and add them to the pot to melt. I melt my oils in an enamel pot at a very low temp. Once melted, remove from heat so they can cool.

Step Five: Once the oils and lye have reached a point where the outside of their container is only warm to the touch (110 degrees for most of my batches for those of you who have a thermometer and want to do it the RIGHT way) Mix the lye water into the oils slowly and stick blend until it gets thick and you can see lines in it from where your mixer moves.

Step Six: Put the lid on the pot and pop it in the oven. Well...don't pop. Set gently. The pot will be warm and kinda heavy, so popping is probably not a good idea. At this point, turn the oven down to about 180 degrees.

Step Seven: Go check your email, play with your kids, surf craftster or otherwise occupy yourself for 20 minutes.

Step Eight: Open the oven, remove the lid and stir. Replace lid. Close oven. At this point the soap kinda looks like custard to me. Now go play on Craftster for another 15 minutes or so.

Step Nine: You patiently waited 15 more minutes! Now open the oven, remove the lid and stir. Replace lid. Close oven. The soap is cooking nicely- if you look at the edges of the pot (in the picture) you can see a dark ring- that part of the soap has gone from looking like white custard to looking like applesauce (in consistancy and color!). This is good, this is normal, this is what we want it ALL to do. Once it passes this stage it will turn into mashed potatoes-looking goop. Which is how we know it should be done.

Step Ten: Get your fragrance oil, essential oil, additives, etc ready. This helps pass the 15-20 minutes you'll be waiting. Possibly more. Check the soap after each 15-20 minute interval and make sure that it has gone all applesaucy and then mashed potatoey. There is no set time on how long this is going to take- I have had batches done by the 45 minute mark and some that have taken two hours. Pray to the soap goddess that your's is a short cook and hope for the best.

Step Eleven: This picture is my soap at 55 minutes. You can see how it now has the consistancy of mashed potatoes. Which is good, because now you have to stick your tounge on it, and it might help to pretend it's potatoes instead of soap. Because soap tastes icky.

Anyway, you'll want it to be about as thick as the picture above. You should be able to take a small amount and roll it into a ball- it should stick to itself at this point. Make a ball, let it cool, then pick it up and GENTLY stick the TIP of your tounge on the soap ball. If you feel like you just licked a 9 volt battery, the soap is still lye heavy and needs to go back in the oven. If it doesn't 'zap' or 'sting', it's done. In my case, the soap tasted pretty nasty but didn't sting. Yay! Take it out of the oven and turn the oven off. Yes- TURN THE OVEN OFF NOW! It really sucks to soap late at night then get up to make coffee the next morning and realize the oven has been on all night. Don't be like me.

Step Twelve: Hmm. A 12 step program? No not really- more than 12. This particular step involves adding your colorant if you are using one. I pull a healthy bit of soap out of the main pot and mix my color into it. In this case, I wasn't really adding color but some additives that would GIVE color and I wanted them to stay more concentrated. So there is my soap-in-a-bowl-with-misc. stuff-added.

Step Thirteen: You can't see it, but I'm stirring the fragrance oil into the main pot of soap now. Once it's stirred up, I add the soap-in-a-bowl-with-misc. stuff-added back to the main pot and stir that in. If you want a swirl, be gentle. If you want well mixed, go to town. You're ready for the mold!

Step Fourteen: Smoosh your mashed soap into the mold. It'll all kind of glop together and won't look very smooth or even. That's ok.

Step Fifteen: Bang the mold. Seriously. I like to hold mine about 2 inches off the floor and drop it. You may prefer a less jarring method, but the idea is to force the soap down into the mold and pound out any air bubbles. Once that's done, I like to lay a sheet of saran wrap over the top and just use my hand to press out the top and make it smoother.

Step Sixteen: Put the lid on the mold and go to bed. Well, only go to bed if you're like me and making soap at 2 am. Otherwise, just occupy yourself with other things until three or four hours have passed. Check the soap then and see if it's cooled off. If it is cool to the touch ALL THE WAY AROUND (bottom too!) then you can take it out of the mold and cut it.

This is the finished soap from this batch:

Here is a better picture of the soap as it starts to turn translucent:

Sometimes I see people panic because their soap gets too thick to stir and 'appears to be siezing'. When this happens I cook the soap a little more and see if it starts gel (it gets REALLY thick right before then). If it looks like it's not getting to gel properly, you can add a little extra oil a tiny bit at a time.

Here's a picture of how thick this batch got. I could barely stir it. Five minutes later it was gelling.

Here is the 'cooked' soap:

If you have questions, contact Tamara Dourney of Natural Magic Soaps


Thank you, Tamara, for an educational treat this holiday!!



Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Platypus Dreams Is Owed Big Time!

Platypus Dreams is owed a serious soap review.  Can you believe all the soaps Sharon Elvin sent me - AND she sent them from Australia???!!!?  She is amazing.   I consider myself to be darn lucky to have gotten a chance to see her artistic creations in person.... I am so thankful.  She will be receiving bunches of fragrance oils she has trouble getting here in the States and a big box of my very own body products as a small token of my huge gratitude.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Natural Magic

Natural Magic Soap is a one person operation in my state, sunny Florida!  I tried to find out her name, but I can't find it on her website.  She has a family with three children, she is a co-founder of Craft Revolution, an online magazine with a mission to restore an awareness and appreciation of crafts, and she is an editor of The Saponifier Magazine!  Very impressive.

When I find soaps that look this beautiful, I have to share.  The smells are coming through my flat screen, especially the Pina Colada soap....wish it was in my hand, as I need to go shower in a minute.  Here are some soaps she makes in Fort Pierce, just a hop skip and a jump from me.

Pina Colada
"The latest in our tropical soap line, this delicious blend of pineapple and coconut is sure to be a hit in your house! Artifical color and fragrance are combined with our all-veggie base to achieve the perfect blend of natural soap and oh-so-tasty scent!"

Mountain Spring
"...warm and spicy mixture is a blend of lemon, eucalyptus, rosemary, jasmine, patchouli, clove and powdery musk. The scent is a favorite with both men and women."

Spa Bar 
"...all natural spa bar features Green Tea and Feverfew infused into the base. It is then combined with Organic Sea Salts, scented with Ginger Essential Oil, Bergamot Essential Oil and Lime Essential Oil."

Tequila Sunrise
"Tropical delights await you... The fun layers of color are a perfect match for the scent, a warm citrus base and floral top notes."

Perhaps she gives soap making classes...  ;-)

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Soap Cakes

I am on such a sugar kick these days ...  It's kind of turning into a sad state of affairs.  Me + cake = Fatty Me.

So tonight I found some very luscious looking soaps that will not stretch the leather belt I'm wearing and they look so delicious that I'm starting to think I'm smelling freshly baked treats in my living room...  Maybe I am going nuts, but I smell (long inhale) frosting, I kid you NOT!
So here are three photos of soap cakes from My Primitive Boutique that will not stretch the waistline (unless you are eating cupcakes in the shower at the same time):

Coconut Lime Verbena


Spice Trade 

My Primitive Boutique is an online shabby chic boutique filled with custom made signs, appliques, candles, clothing, gifts and, of course, these soap cakes.  Cheryl owns the shop and her "about me" page is filled with descriptions of the love for her family.  It warms my heart when people talk of their family with such adoration!

Here is a handcrafted ornament - yet another wonderful item she makes and sells...

Monday, December 17, 2007

Daybreak Lavender Farm - A Guest Review

One of my readers, "Kayti Bear", asked if she could write a review on a soap she absolutely adores.  I welcome a community with others ideas and opinions.  Under the beautiful soap photo is Kayti's review.  I hope you enjoy it!

Vanilla Bourbon & Tonka Bean By Daybreak Lavender Farm
10 ounces $16.95

I am a person who loves handmade soap. My cupboards are full of (soap) just in case I run out (haha).   Even my dresser has a couple of bars to scent my clothes.  My skin is sensitive by nature to most commercially produced products.  I used to be really bummed out not being able to go to the mall and get the hottest scent from Bath and Body works.  Then one day I got my first bar of handmade soap.  It was love at first wash and the rest as they say is history.

I wanted to review Vanilla Bourbon & Tonka Bean soap by Daybreak Lavender farm.  Please keep in mind that for me to bother to review it as opposed to the other stuff in my cupboard equates it with something special.

The first thing I judge on is packaging and presentation. Daybreak sent this bar carefully wrapped in tissue paper. It's a large bar easily cut into two bars. The smell is to die for.  People visiting asked me if it was fudge. I had to convince myself it wasn't fudge.  Daybreak may call this Vanilla Bourbon & Tonka Bean but I call it soap for people who chase a screaming toddler all day.

Here's what Daybreak says about it:

Vanilla Planifolia Bourbon (sorry no Jack Daniels here, the Bourbon is the finest vanilla variety!!) is an elegant orchid-dotted vine growing deep in the tropical forests of Madagascar. With a history dating back to the 1400's this is complex vanilla blend that we create with that tradition in mind.  Starting six months before soap making day, we take an insane number the finest Madagascar Vanilla beans to infuse our sunflower oil so that the orchid's elusive perfume deeply permeates every molecule of your bar.

We then add extravagant amounts of Vanilla Absolute and Vanilla Essential Oil -- along with Tonka Bean Essential Oil for a rich bottom note -- and just a touch of something very secret for the briefest of top notes.

Besides being decadent and tasty smelling, the folks at Daybreak use some oils you just don't see.... the amounts they use. Daybreak is all about quality. They care about producing a great product that is good for you and the environment. They do seventh generation farming meaning the land will be in better condition than it is now seven generations from now. Customer service is excellent. You can email or call them with questions and a real person answers.

This bar is made with the following oils:

pure, Ghanaian unrefined shea, mango and cocoa butters in a rich base of Grade A olive oil, high oleic sunflower oil, coconut oil, pistachio oil, and castor oil.

All of which are beneficial to your skin. I frankly haven't found someone who combines these oils. The lather is smooth and creamy. When I came out of my bath, my nephew (said screaming toddler) said "You smell like ice cream". It leaves your skin soft and full of moisture without being an oily mess.

At first I shook my head at paying the $16.95 but the size of the bar and ingredients make the price. It lasts twice as long to three times as a normal bar. Mind you it's just me taking a bath . Speaking of which my mother came over and raided my soap collection taking this bar. It's just that creamy and good. 

Just remind yourself it's not fudge.


Thank you Kayti Bear!!

Friday, December 14, 2007

The London Soap Factory

I found this soap company, The London Soap Factory, and loved the names of their handmade soaps.  Set in New York City and operated by Oliver Andrew Wells of California, this handmade soap comany does things a little different.

 Their process:
"...use a two step process where we first make the soap base and then return later to add in all of the great indgredients that give each soap its unique character. The first step involves saponifying our unique blend of oils...... We hand mix these ingredients for hours until the thicken or trace. Once ready, they are poured in molds where they will sit for two weeks.

The next step involves grating our soap base down and melting it back into a liquid form. Once melted we can blend in our high quality ingredients and essential oils. Once mixed in by hand the soap is returned to the molds and later taken out to cure for about another month. It is only at this point that our soap is ready and safe for use."

Some of the cute names of the soaps are Tea With The Queen, Mind The Peel and Green Goat Gruff among others.  Check 'em out!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Felted Soap

Etsy Seller AmeliaMakesArt

I have been avoiding this topic for as long as I could.  Why, you ask? I'm not entirely sure.  Felted soaps have only become noticeable to me personally within the last few months or so, but it is an ancient craft.  

I love to exfoliate....with scrubs, washcloths, seed filled soaps, etc.  Makes me feel extra clean and refreshed.  My nerve ending all feel alive and my skin feels revived.  So why the puss when I look at felted bars?  Well, there is something about the idea of wet wool that makes me physically uncomfortable.  Gives me that "fingernails on a blackboard" shiver.

Since I started writing this soap blog, I feel it is my duty to explore and share all things soap; Trends, styles, techniques, recipes (although for some strange reason, no one has shared their tutorials), so felted soap feels like the next natural topic.  

What I know about felted soap:
1.  It can be very pretty.
2.  It is exfoliating, like a built-in washcloth.
3.  It's not felt, it is wool (apparently Merino wool works best).
4.  Anyone with hands can do it.

Etsy seller lanadeflor

Mike's Fiber Arts has a great looking tutorial with step by step instructions and photos.

A video tutorial below made it feel easier to tackle this project.   I'm big on visual aids, so here is one featuring SuZanna Anna:

If you have felted soaps I would love to see photos!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Racing Motorcycle Ultimate Fighter Soap

Carol Ochs of Simply Soap outdid herself this time!  My husband wrote an excellent soap review on her Wylde Jasmine Orange Blossom Faerie soap, but as far as Brad was concerned, it should have been called Orange Racing Motorcycle Ultimate Fighter Soap.  Apparently, the soap was too cool for its given name.

I am guessing that Carol was so happy with his review that she sent us more of the same soap. She changed the name on this package for Brad, wrapped the bar in denim and decorated the package with boxing gloves, a screw and a helmet.  Finally the soap came in a handmade jute pouch. Very manly!

Brad took a shower with the soap last night and announced to me, "Yep, that's the stuff!"

Carol, you are very talented.  And funny.  We wish you the best and hope you sell oodles of the Orange Racing Motorcycle Ultimate Fighter soap.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Yummiest Handmade Soap Contest - UPDATE!

Due to the holiday season with all of you soaping fanatics out there trying to fill orders, Crystal and I decided to extend the soap contest until February 6th.  This will allow you to have the holidays, kick back, and start formulating again shortly after your family goes back to where they came from.  

Over four weeks later (time to cure) the deadline will come.  All entries must be received by February 6th and the winners will be announced on the lovely Valentine's Day holiday.

Please feel free to email Crystal at or me at

To check out the whole contest including the general rules, go see the original post.

We hope you take this opportunity to try new things or whip up some old favorites.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Soap Tutorials, Recipes, Secrets

If you have made a soap tutorial or have a soap recipe you'd like to share, please email it to me:


I would love to post it on this blog.  I am trying to not only review soaps, but to share interesting topping or swirling methods.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Raven Moon - Coconut Whipped Soap

I received a bar of coconut whipped soap from Nikki of Raven Moon Soap.  I have a thing about coconut.  I think it is one of the finest smells on the planet.  My all time favorite scent, but as a body products maker (is that what I am?) I have tried coconut fragrance oil from umpteen suppliers and haven't found a coconut scent that actually smells like coconut. The bar didn't really smell like true coconut but lightly sweet and soothing, nonetheless.

So the other day, I get in the shower and open her soap from the plastic shrink wrap.  The color was a soothing light brown with a pinkish brown top, lightly scented and clearly whipped. With whipped soaps, there is a "fluffier" look to the bar which I find to be so appealing to look at.  I am a very visual person, so looks matter when it comes to soap, but it is only one part of the whole experience obviously.  Then there is slip, suds, shaving abilities and scent....the 4 S's.

I took the whipped soap under the water and there was instant lather, big and full bodied. Ooooooh.  It felt great, the slip action was perfect so I slid it down my legs in hopes that this could be a good soap for my legs.  If you don't already know about my leg issues, I'll share.  My legs are so so sensitive and shaving or choosing not to shave (having stubble) has a tendency to irritate my entire lower legs so badly, I start scratching out of control, then my legs welt and then finally, I look as though I am a 9 year old who climbs trees all day.  It's just not a pretty sight.

I hate shaving cream smells, so I use soap to shave, always.  Otherwise, I would be hairy like a beast and my husband would be bummed out.  

So back to the soap.  I went to use it for shaving my lower legs and right away I knew there would be plenty of lather to make the shaving experience a nice one, but then there is the after shave dryness/irritation that can often occur after a soap shave.  Not this one.  This whipped soap performed so well I think this will be my staple shave soap.  It was moisturizing enough that when I completely dried off and got dressed, but legs didn't feel tight and dried up.  I suggest to anyone who has lower legs shaving issues, like myself, should definitely pick up a bar of this for shaving.

This was a great all around good soap, for the body, face and shaving.  Bravo Nikki!

Nikki also makes cupcake and cake soaps for the holidays.  Don't they look good enough to eat??

Monday, December 3, 2007

There's A Man In My Shower! Guest Soap Review

I've been after my husband for quite a while to contribute to one or both of my blogs.  I love his writing style and humor (anyone who's read a label on one of our products has had a small sampling) and he finally contributed a hilarious review of one of the soaps I received.  This should also give you a slight idea of what it's like at our house both in terms of living here with him and showering here with a soap blogger and product manufacturer.  Enjoy!

I'm not a soap guy.  Which is not to say I don't use soap.  Were that the case I'm fairly sure I'd be single and playing a lot of online games right now, and while online gaming is probably just fine, I prefer the company of my wife most of the time.  So clearly soap has advantages over, say, plain water and cheap deodorant and I am happy to enjoy them.

But I'm still not a soap guy.  I don't think about soap except when I grab a bar in the shower or at a sink, I don't care how it looks, and I give no thought at all to how it's made.  As for smell, well I prefer coconut or citrus, but don't much care as long as it fits my personal critical soap criteria, which I present for you here:

1 - My soap must not stink.  In practice this means it can't reek like cheap cologne, a urinal puck, or both.  Irish Spring for example makes me gak - so that should give you some idea of what I'm talking about.

2 - My soap must wash off cleanly.  Feeling like I've been dipped in partially hydrogenated soybean oil just pisses me off.  Ivory feels like it never comes off (99 44/100% pure WHAT, exactly?) and plenty of other soaps make me feel so oily I just want to grab a thong and hit the beach in St. Tropez.

3 - My soap must have slip and the slip has gotta last.  I like my long lasting slip and that's all I'm going to say on the matter so move along to number 4.

4 - My soap must not be crunchy.  Now I'm not talking about physically crunchy here, I'm talking about the smell.  And I know you might think this belongs under criterion 1, but I feel so strongly about it I'm granting it its own number.  Here's the thing:  If I take a shower and end up smelling like I just stepped out of a 1967 be-in, someone's gonna pay.  You'd think that's not a real risk, I mean you can certainly smell soap before rubbing it all over your body, right?  Not always, not in my house.  With Joanna doing her soap blog there are an awful lot of bars of soap kicking around my place, and I'm in real danger of grabbing something that smells like it just fell out of the man-purse of some dude named Sunbeam who just left his VW bus running out front so that he wouldn't have to push-start it again after he ran up to hip us to the groovy jam band that he and Jasmine are going to drop acid and dig from the hill just outside of the festival because they can't get tickets since he just spent his last couple of bucks on a new pair of Birkenstocks and some really righteous hash.  On more than one occasion Joanna has had to respond to me yelling from the shower "DUDE! Is there any soap that doesn't smell like a hippy?!  Please?!"  Yes, I call Joanna dude sometimes, and it's because she's so cool, and if you knew her you would too, so drop it.

So I'm assuming you get the point: I'm not a big soap guy and have fairly simple, though rigid rules on the subject.  By the way, while I may well be an opinionated ass, I'm also a live and let live kinda guy.  If you like the crunchy smells, more power to you!  Just please don't expect me to pick you up if you're hitchhiking.

All of which I assume makes it rather surprising that I'm writing a review of a soap at all, much less one we'll get to that in a moment.

So I'm in the shower faced with way too many soaps, none of which are any of my standard go-to bars and I have to make a choice.  The selection process traditionally goes something like this:  pick up a random bar, give a cautious sniff, then either a) put it back immediately and rinse my hand off while I mumble about tie-dye shirts and looms, grab another bar and try again or  b) say something along the lines of "this'll do" and start washing.  I had no idea that thinking "holy crap this smells great" was even a choice.

But after using the soap in question (the name of which was a mystery to me until today), I have to admit that there is more to soap than just being good enough to do the job without bumming me out scent-wise.  At any rate, here's how it performs under my 4 point check list:

1 - Does is stink?  Nope, just the opposite.  The smell of this bad boy is perfect.  It's citrus: not too strong, not too weak, not too sweet.  Made me actually pay attention to it and say "heyyyyy,  niiiiiiice."

2 - Does it wash off cleanly?  Yup.  No film or greasy scuzz whatsoever.

3 - Got slip?  Check.  Slides all over nice and easy, but not so out of control that I kept dropping it, which makes it perfect for me as well as a good prison soap .

4 - Is it crunchy?  In smell, no.  In feel, no.  In name.....oh yeah.  But don't let that put you off.  I know I would have, but I'm too opinionated for my own good sometimes.

So it passes my personal tests, but why write a review?  Because it ROCKS.  I was seriously bummed out when the last sliver disappeared from the shower, and now that I know what soap can be like, other soaps just suck.  So it's a good news bad news thing - loved the soap, but now I'm spoiled and whiny.

If you've stayed with me for this long, I suppose I owe you the name of the soap now.  Caveat: I didn't actually see the label, so I'm going to have to take Joanna's word for this.   The manufacturer is Simply Soap, and the soap in question is called Wylde (yes, spelled like it's from a Renaissance Faire) Jasmine Orange Blossom Faerie Soap.  Or so Joanna says - as far as I'm concerned it's called Orange Motorcycle Racing Ultimate Fighter Soap. 


So buy some.  Use some.  And let the man in your life use some, because he'll dig it.  Just remove the label first, because he won't touch it if you don't.