Soap Making


From November 2012 –

These batches took the  mold shapes really well!

Not so pleased with the colors, though – a bit dark and muddy. The brown seashore shapes were supposed to be “Antique Blue,” but that is plainly not the case. They smell great, though 🙂

Nothin’ but Soap bars above, pure Castile with goat’s milk, they look good enough to eat but are still quite lye-heavy and would burn even the least sensitive tongue. A few weeks of curing and they will be ready to use.

Salted lime above, peppermint oatmeal below. “Antique Blue” again, and too dark. I hope the color gets lighter as they cure…

And so ends the interesting part of Soapapalooza 2012! Nothing to do now but wait for them to dry and cure, turning the bars occasionally and keeping them warm and dry.

From November 2012 –

The last couple of days have been busy here at the Coast – it’s that time of year again – the soap-making marathon!

This –

Becomes this –

Add some color and you get this –

And this –

A ton of fun, but lots of work, too. Twelve different batches in two days – vegan, goat’s milk, scented, plain and even a couple of ugly bars. More pictures to come when the bars are cured enough to remove from the molds. This stage of the process isn’t really all that exciting…

From April 2012 –

My (blogless) friend Awana came over on Monday for a day of soaping. She is new to the Wool Thing and had never made soap. I have more supplies than one person who is not a professional soapmaker should have, so it was a perfect match – we traded labor for soap and it worked out great.

First we made lotion – dead simple with a prepared base that has been sitting around for I don’t know how long. Add warm water, 8 drops of fragrance for each 4 oz canning jar, and Bob’s yer uncle, lovely lotion!

Here’s a warning for you, kids – see that stick blender there? When rendering beef fat, don’t think you’re being all clever breaking up the chunks with a blender – the melting fat is very much hotter than you imagine and will melt your blender before you can say, “Oh, sh!t.” Really. The beauty of blogging is that the stuff that Goes Wrong need never be put up for public consumption. Of course, one must be very careful to keep the mistakes and misguided Great Ideas out of future photos, no? Now you know that things don’t always go according to plan here at Studio T.

We made four loaves of soap (shampoo bars not pictured because I am lame and lazy today) –

Smoky Patchouli, Garden Gate and Orange/Allspice

Even got creative with a cupcake pan (the white on top is grated soap flakes) –

Juicy Lime Cupcakes!

Goat’s milk bars scented with Wine & Roses –

Multi-colored bars

And lots of molded bars –


They are a strange color because they are frozen to help the mold release




Altogether, this represents four separate batches, some with shea butter added, some with sweet almond oil, all with goat’s milk and oxide colors. Awana was a great helper, suggesting scent combinations, color combinations and swirling – I generally just pour it into molds and call it good, but this was much more fun. Thanks, Awana!

From May 2011 –

It’s that time of year again – the handmade soap supply is running low and there’s still a bag of tallow*** in the freezer taking up valuable real estate. Two birds with one stone!

Scented shampoo bars to the left, plain soap to the right. There wasn’t quite enough tallow left to make a full 5 pound batch of plain soap* (for re-batching later) but 3.5 pounds is quite enough. The shampoo bars are a variation on my usual recipe** with fragrance added. Not pictured is a calendula face bar that’s not quite ready to un-mold yet.

* There are many online tutorials and recipes for Cold Process soap making. It’s not hard, it’s not expensive, but you do need to use a bit of Common Sense. Give it a try!

** 20 oz Sunflower Oil
6 oz Coconut Oil
4 oz Castor Oil
10.5 oz Chamomile Tea
4.3 oz lye
Makes a 30 oz batch of soap which fits nicely into a bamboo drawer divider or a small shoe box. Do be sure to run any recipe through a Soap Calculator to be sure it’s correct.

*** Did I ever mention the Tallow Experiment? I had a local grocery butcher order me 10 pounds of beef suet so I could render it into tallow because I am crazy and wanted to make soap From Scratch. 10 pounds is a lot of suet! I plopped it into a large stainless stockpot with a bit of water and turned the heat on low. The first hour it smelled wonderful – just like a roast in the oven. The next seven hours of slow melting made the whole house smell awful! It took a very long time to render the suet down to a liquid fat and by the time it was close to done my stomach was in full rebellion and I just wanted it to be over. So, not really thinking clearly, I decided to use my stick blender to help things along. Big mistake. Seems hot fat is quite a bit hotter than anything this little tool can handle and it began to melt almost immediately. Sigh. It’s still serviceable, but sure looks strange on the business end…

From May 2009 –

Last week I re-batched some soap –

Doesn’t it look just like caramel? Or thick butterscotch pudding? Or maybe pumpkin pie filling?

People seem to have a firm bias about re-batching and I’m not sure why. Kathy Miller is totally against, as are many of the online soap gurus that I’ve read. Everyone seems to agree that while re-batching is a great way to incorporate essential oils (EO) that are too delicate to stand up to the heat of cold processed (CP) soap and healing oils and herbs, they all agree that the finished product is not attractive and will be lumpy and bumpy, needing to be squashed into the mold, rather than pouring freely as it does with the original batch. Some soapers consider it a necessary evil to save a batch that would otherwise be tossed in the trash or to use up odds and ends of leftovers.

OTOH, Norma Coney is all about re-batching and I read her book before I read any of the naysayers so that may have influenced my love for re-batching.

A quick search turned up lots of re-batching recipes and places to buy ready-made soap bases and shredded soap to use if you don’t want to keep lye in stock or want to craft with children, etc., so I’m not the only soaper to be experimenting with this method. I do seem to be the only one brave enough to use a regular pot on a stove, standing by to stir as required, instead of the oven or a crockpot or microwave or double broiler. My method appears to take less time and the soap pours better, IMHO.

The first two batches that I attempted were total flops and I followed the directions in Norma’s book exactly. A bit of research later and I knew that I’d added way too much water and that was the main complaint of people who used Norma’s book. The recipes for the basic soaps are great, just don’t use so much water for re-batching. Adding so much water will cause the soap to take forever to harden and the bars will shrink alarmingly.

But, I really liked the way the soap became totally liquid and poured into the molds easily, so I decided to experiment a bit. The first batch used 1 pound of soap and 3 ounces of water. It was melted slowly on my stove top in a Visions saucepan, stirring with a heat-safe spatula every so often. Many re-batching tutorials have you using a crockpot and only a couple tablespoons of liquid, but I didn’t think that would make the soap liquid enough to pour like I wanted it to.

After the soap was totally melted, off the heat it came and fragrance was stirred in well. Then into the molds to harden overnight.

It turned out so well and I did several more batches with the same proportions of grated soap to liquid and then I upped the ante to fill a 2-pound mold: 2 pounds of grated soap and 4 ounces of water, which is the batch you see above. A bit more water would have been better, but it was still liquid enough to ooze into all the tiny cracks of the mold. All of the batches were dark like this while hot, but cooled to a much lighter cream color. All of them set up enough to un-mold the next day with no trips into the freezer. Now they all sit in the garage to finish curing.

Here it is 24-ish hours later just un-molded:

Nice, crisp edges, no air bubbles on the surface. Pretty nice! All of the molded bars came out equally pretty and so far the bars have not shrunk appreciably.

What’s not to like about re-batching? A few weeks to finish curing and they’ll be ready to go. Place your orders now! I have tea tree, orange, peach, lavender, and unscented. All made from a tallow/olive oil/lard/goat’s milk base.

From March 2009 –

So. I made soap back in late November for Holiday gifts. Lavender and spearmint with oatmeal – two batches, both with goat’s milk. The bars were not all that I wished they could be. The lavender bars had an ashy coating and the oatmeal bars were hard and crumbly. Neither batch held its scent very well, either. I did not send them off as gifts because I just know I can do better!

I stopped in at The Book Bin in Corvallis after knitting a couple of weeks back and found an interesting book, The Complete Soapmaker by Norma Coney. The pictures of all the lovely soaps convinced me that I could re-batch my not-so-great soaps into something truly fabulous, and so I began.

I had The Beast (my son, 17 at the time) grate the soap. I measured the water carefully and melted the soap to a liquid of the correct temperature. I added more scent just before pouring into molds, and then set them gingerly into the freezer. I did not measure out the scents, which will become apparent later in the story.

The spearmint bars set up in a couple of hours and I took them out of the molds and began to melt the lavender bars, as I only have so many soap molds at my disposal. All went well. I added more fragrance. And a bit more. I love lavender!

Into the molds they went, and then into the freezer, and then out of the molds to sit on a pie cooler rack thingy. After a couple of days, the bars were still quite spongy and I was getting impatient.

Enter my Mom, only she didn’t know it. See, she sent me a very generous birthday gift which I have been spending a bit here, and a bit there. One of my purchases was a dehydrator from the local Crap-Mart for drying herbs later this year. They can be spendy and hard to find during the season, so I jumped when I saw it was the last one.

::Aside:: Anyone else notice the lack of goods at Crap-Mart? Where there used to be an obstacle course at the front of the store and down each main aisle there is now empty floor space. Makes it real nice for maneuvering a cart, but also gives the store a very barren appearance. Also, there are lots of empty shelves. Are the cheap plastic goods from China just not coming in? Also, there are noticeable vacancies in the food aisles, pasta, baking goods and soups most notable. All of the shelves were fronted with only one or two “spares” behind the main item. ::End Aside::

A couple of days later, I had a brainwave as I woke up. Bear in mind that last week was one of very little sleep for me and I should have questioned my sudden brilliance. What if I put the still-quite-moist bars of soap in the dehydrator? Would they be hard and shower-worthy in “a few short hours!”? Not being a *total* idiot, I asked over on the soapmakers board on Ravelry if anyone had tried it. A few newbies (of which I count myself) said it sounded like something worth trying and to report back. One experienced soaper said that she heard about someone else doing it and her experiment turned out badly. Only one naysayer? She did mention “shrunken heads” but surely that’s a typo, right?

Of course, I went ahead. I put the bars into the dehydrator, but it was late and I needed to get to sleep, so I left instructions for The Beast to turn it on in the morning, watch it studiously (another sign that I shouldn’t have been making these types of decisions on so little sleep – trusting that boy to do anything studiously!) and report to me what happened. You know that I put *all* of the bars into the dehydrator, right? When I fail, I fail big!

I did not hear from The Beast all day, and was unable to go home at lunchtime to check on the progress of what I knew would be fabulous bars of dry soap. I was on tenterhooks all day and no one was answering the phone. I rushed home to see the results of my brainwave.

The Beast was waiting with downcast eyes. “It didn’t go so well…” He said.

One look told me he was right. Shrunken heads, indeed! The soap had collapsed and melted through the grid of the dehydrator trays.

“I only left it on for half an hour and saw what was happening and turned it off,” TB defended himself.

Dang those experienced soapers for being right! Also? Wow! That lavender is strong!

So back into the pot the mushy soaps went, separated as best I could. The lavender bars may smell faintly of spearmint and vicey-versey, but hey they should be recognizable as soap.

The bars are in the freezer now and I’ll un-mold them when I get home. This time they will be set on a shelf in the garage for a full 3 to 4 weeks to dry slowly, per the instructions. I hope the fragrance dissipates a bit…And that TB can get the slippery soap residue off the kitchen floor. Turns out I was still a bit tired last night and managed to dump a mold full of soap on the floor.

Learn from my mistakes, kiddos!

From December 2008 –


I made soap!

I fell in love with goat’s milk soap about three years ago and bought from various sources, and I was very happy. I tried the shampoo bar from Organic Ways and was hooked. I’ve been a faithful customer for a couple of years now, but the time had come for me to try it on my own. I’ll admit that the first batch seized in the pot. I couldn’t give up, though. It’s only simple alchemy after all, not Rocket Science. What I needed was something simple. Something small and manageable for someone with not a lot of time or space.

I began researching and gathering ingredients and then I came across a mention of this recipe on a blog and figured that it was such a small batch that I couldn’t possibly screw it up. I left out the oatmeal and subbed goat’s milk (previously frozen) for the water and used lavender EO for the fragrance. Guess what? It worked perfectly!

This recipe makes 5 1/2 standard mold bars (I found the molds at Brambleberry) or about one pound of soap. I forgot to spray the molds with cooking spray, so I couldn’t get them out of the mold for a few days, but the soap hardened and looks to be setting up nicely. Another week or so of curing and I’ll give it a try.

The other night I made a shampoo bar batch using the shampoo bar recipe on the bottom of this page again subbing goat’s milk for the water and leaving out the fragrance. My mold was a bamboo drawer organizer found for $4.00 at W-M.

::Aside – am I a hypocrite for shopping at the Evil Empire? I suppose so, but sometimes it’s the only game in town and the savings in gas makes up for having to patronize the store ::

I figure it will be easy to tell the batches apart if I make the bath soap in fancy molds and the shampoo bars plain.

My point is that anyone can make their own soap, in their own kitchen, using tools that they already have, and the soap will be nicer than anything you could buy from any large retailer. Both batches were made in my blender with things I already had on hand. I did have to order the lye special as no stores anywhere near here carry it because evidently it’s a key ingredient in meth production, but the container will last for many batches of soap, so I consider it postage well spent.

Next up – spearmint/oatmeal and peach! Get your orders in now for Holiday giving 😉

10 responses

  1. That last batch of shampoo bars was outstanding! Want more!

    1. just rec’d mine- I am blown over- I had no Idea

    1. I do some stuff 🙂 A Jill of All Trades. Not an expert at any of them, although I can fake it if I have to…

      1. Ha! I wish I had half your talent! I love what you do and I can tell you love it too!

      2. I do love it and soon may have Real Studio Space to spread out and create! If only it earned enough money to quit my day job 🙂

  2. Love all of the information and pictures you have here! Good to see a fellow soap maker!

    1. Thank you! Getting ready for this year’s Soap Fest now. Gonna try it during better weather this time 🙂

      1. Where is the Soap Fest?

      2. LOL! In my yard 🙂 I spend a day or two every year making soap for the Holidays, for sale and for gifts. Last year was a bit abbreviated, but this year I should have some warm bodies…uh…volunteers/students to help out so I plan to make it a bigger event than usual. Lebanon, Oregon or nearby if you’re in the area…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: