December 27, 2012

How to Make Your Handmade Soap Last Longer (With Some Footnotes)

Thanks for dropping by. A slightly different, expanded version of this post can be read on

December 21, 2012

Heartwarming Holiday Soap 2012

For the past eight years, I've been writing a 'Heartwarming Holiday Story' and making a little booklet out of index cards for my A-list friends. Everyone else gets to read the stories online. The stories are never really heartwarming, but my friends are used to my cynical nature and tongue-in-cheek stance on the holiday season.

This year, some of the A-List will receive a bar of 'Heartwarming Holiday Soap' as well. I made two different kinds—one for omnivores that contains lard and one for my vegetarian and vegan friends.
Both have the same heartwarming blend of pine, ho wood, cedarwood, orange and clove essential oils.

For omnivores

olive oil pomace infused with charcoal/spirulina
coconut oil
shea butter
palm kernel oil
castor oil
poppy seeds
NYC tap water

The spirulina didn't come out as green as I wanted. I'm a bit disappointed in that.
And it was another attempt at swirls. I tossed some poppy seeds into charcoal soap batter. It's not bad, very subtle. I might try adding the exfoliator to a swirl again sometime.


For vegetarians


olive oil pomace infused with mint and lemongrass
NYC tap water
melt and pour soap

I used olive oil infused with mint to get the color in the melt and pour and I really like the stained glass effect. In fact, I really love the way melt and pour looks in cold process soap. I just wish it wasn't such a pain to work with.

A bunch of the booklets

The booklets were easy. I've done a few of them now using Photoshop—not the best program for text, but I do it in high resolution (600 dpi) then reduce it to 300.
I'm planning on including similar booklets of my short stories with upcoming batches of soap in 2013. This is how making soap will tie into my writing (there it is—finally!).

Packaged and ready for giving

One thing I'm going have to work on going forward with the Bar and a Book (just came up with that…have to decide if I like it) concept is cutting each bar of soap so it's slightly larger (to allow for shrinkage during the cure time) than the booklet which is 4" x 2 ½". That way the 'packaging' will be tidier. Stay tuned for that.
Anyway, if you'd like to read the story, here it is. Beware—some people might find it offensive.
Heartwarming Holiday Story 2012

Hope you have a happy 2013!

December 12, 2012

Experiment with Booze #1: White Star

Extra special labels for these babies.
So there are in soap-making (and in life) 'Happy Accidents,' 'Screw Ups' and 'Screw Ups That Don't Really Matter.' White Star will be filed under the later.

Surprisingly, adding Champagne to lye wasn't the 'Screw Up' part—due to my vigilant research on soaping with alcohol.  I let the Champagne go flat (fizz will cause a volcano), heated it in a sauce pan to reduce it, then popped it into the freezer. The sugar in Champagne (or any booze) can make the lye mixture heat up too much, causing scary and smelly things to happen. Ya gotta keep everything cool.

Which I did. Even the oils. Heated them up just enough so the shea butter melted.

The 'Screw Up' part was the almond fragrance oil I added at trace. It made the soap seize then separate. It looked and smelled like I was making some sort of cookie dough.

I took the stick blender to the mess, got it straightened out then blobbed it into the mold where a layer of grated clear melt and pour soap lay waiting. The idea was the melt and pour was going be 'bubbles' on top of the soap.

After just a few minutes in the mold, the soap began to separate again, so I dumped the whole thing—layer of 'bubbles' and all back into the pot for another round of stick blending.

The result was 'bubbles' throughout the soap rather than a layer. A 'Screw Up That Doesn't Really Matter.' It's still beautiful soap. And the sugar from the Champagne makes the lather creamy, fluffy and so decadent.

Still bubbly looking, but not what I planned.

I walked away with two lessons learned:

1) I love making soap with booze and will be doing more soon (vodka martinis this summer!)

2) I don't like fragrance oils and will stick to essential oils that don't play tricks and misbehave.

So, cheers. And please lather responsibly.

olive oil
coconut oil
shea butter
palm kernel oil
castor oil
Mo√ęt & Chandon White Star Champagne
almond fragrance oil

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

December 11, 2012

Be My Guest Soap

Made these for my mom to give as Christmas gifts.

They're trimmings and scraps that I molded together while the soap was still soft. About a week later I'd put a hole in the center using a chopstick and string each bar on some jute. Once I'd gotten three bars on a line, I hung them in my closet to finish curing and hardening.

I love the idea that so many people I don't even know will be lathering up with my soap this year.