November 26, 2011

Infusing Oils

The oils look so pretty on my window sill--even on a gloomy day.

It's up for debate on whether or not herbal properties survive the lye process. The fragrance rarely does, but I'm planning on doing hand-milling  (or re-batching) and hoping at least some of the good stuff survives.
In any case, I want all my soap to contain at least some herbs that I grew in The Readers' and Writers' Subplot, so all my olive oil is getting infused. And I've read that it is a good way to get some color (wonderful info at Lovin Soap).
I'm especially excited about using the annatto seed oil. What a great orange color and the seeds contain emollients.  I didn't grow them though. It's a bit of a cheat.

If you like this blog, check out my new one: The Haley Maxwell Soap Making Mysteries

November 24, 2011

Why Soap?

The Readers' and Writers' Subplot

Things in New York seem to happen serendipitously.  My learning to make soap really started because I don't cook and I started growing all these herbs in The Readers' and Writers' Subplot which is part of Oasis Community Garden in Hell's Kitchen.
Lemon Verbena--smells amazing!

Last year, I'd go down to the Farmer's Market in Union Square every weekend and find some beautiful smelling plant that only cost a dollar or two, bring it back and plunk it into the soil. I ended up with quite the herb garden. Nothing to rival the garden at the Cloisters, but still impressive.

Hyssop grown by Jim Seffens

I then started researching the herbs. Learning their histories, their properties and uses. True, cooking was usually the biggest use, but I also learned they could be infused in oils and made into hand creams and lip balms.
So, inspiration:  I could make hand creams and lip balms and sell them in the garden as a way to raise money for Oasis.

So invigorating

More research. Packaging would cost a fortune (not to mention go into the landfill). And the shelf-life of hand balms is only about 6 months. What if the stuff doesn't sell right away? It'll just go rancid in my apartment and all that packaging would go to waste.

Passion Flower. Sexy, huh?

And then I stumbled on soap. The shelf life is long (in fact, the longer soap cures, the better). Packaging can consist of a simple wrapper.  And everybody needs soap, right?
Lemon Balm. Grows like a weed. And is part of the mint family.

So, the journey into soap-making begins. I've read every book I can get my hands on, scoured the net for soap-making information (and found some amazing ideas and recipes), bought my scale, lye, oils and goggles. I'm ready for the adventure to begin.

If you like this blog, check out my new one: The Haley Maxwell Soap Making Mysteries