Archive | Crafts RSS for this section

New soap moulds and colours


The new soaps curing next to the last of the previous batch.

After a long while using the soaps I last made, I decided that it was time to make some more so that it had time to harden into better bars before I needed it.

A casual browse on the internet brought up a website in the UK selling loads of fancy moulds for soap and bath bomb making. Hah – watch the last sentence trigger the security services…

I was a bit unsure about justifying spending a lot of money on silicone moulds, and almost as unsure about how easy the cheaper plastic moulds would prove to be when it came to getting the soaps out.

However I can attest that a light smudge of cooking oil applied to the moulds first gets the soaps out easily without making them feel greasy. Or at least, within a few hours they were no different to soaps that I have made without greasing the moulds. The patterns are beautiful!

I have to admit that I was too impatient to make two batches of the solid soap to put the colours in. All I did was half-fill the moulds, dye the second half, then drizzle it on top of the still fairly liquid first layer. At least the layers should not separate in use.


The minute he saw them, Tim said that they looked professional and pretty enough to sell. High praise indeed. I have loads of ideas for making scent and colour patterns with new batches.

I also tried a liquid soap based on the same oils and butters but using potassium hydroxide lye instead of sodium hydroxide (as for solid soaps). It made WAY more soap than I had expected, necessitating an emergency trip to Ikea for more soap containers! It is very foamy too. It works beautifully as hand soap, but isn’t the consistency I wanted to achieve. Not yet pretty enough to sell, for definite.


Maple Leaf Shawl finished


This is the first shawl I have knitted, and a rare thing in that I don’t usually use lace weight wool or knit lacy patterns. I get bogged down if there are too many holes!

I started the project three weeks ago when I fell ill with a bad cold, and sitting on the sofa knitting in between sneezing was about all I was good for…

I finally washed and shaped the shawl yesterday, and given that it is knitted in whole rows – there are no short rows or bits cast on or off to make the points of the leaf shape – I am fascinated that it turned out so well.

So it feels great to have a piece of work completed that is not my usual kind of project. The pattern is by Maria Magnusson and came free with a copy of The Knitter. There was a slight error at the end of the pattern as it was printed, but I fixed it by looking at the excellent photographs.

Now my wrists are trashed, as anyone else with hypermobility will understand, but it was well worth it!

New soap batches

On Sunday I finally found the time to make the new soaps I have meant to make for some time now. I made two batches – one to the coconut oil, olive oil and Shea butter recipe I have used in the past with my five essential oils blend. The five oils are Frankincense, Mandarin, Lemongrass, Orange and Ginger. The second batch I didn’t have enough coconut oil left, and I discovered that I had accidentally bought cocoa butter instead. So after a panicked visit to the Mystic Mountain Sage site to check what the revised recipe would need in terms of lye, I got cracking on an Orange and Vanilla essential oil soap. I thought I had been over generous on the essential oils, but I think they will be quite subtle when it has cured. Here are some pics image image image The wavy loaf and the five pots are the Orange and Vanilla soap, the big slab is the Five Oil soap.

Second go at soapmaking – going slightly mad!

Today I have had another go at making soap, and I decided to try several different things with the base soap. This may or may not turn out to be a good idea, but at least the experiment should teach me something.

I only have two pieces of soap left from my previous batch, so I needed to make some more now and give it time to cure. Here it is:

Two pieces of homemade soap

Homemade soap

To make the new soap, I got my equipment together and put newspaper down to protect as much of the area as possible. Here are the items I used:

Sodium hydroxide, olive pomace oil, solid coconut oil and shea butter

Soap ingredients

Essential oils in several small vials

Quite a few essential oils

Optional extra soap components - red, blue and yellow dyes, and pumice powder

Optional extras for soap

A Pyrex bowl, electric whisk and thermometer

Essential equipment

Two bottles of mixed essential oils

Oils I mixed ready for the soap making

A small digital kitchen scales for weighing soap ingredients

Small digital scales for ingredients

The scales are particularly important! I protect mine by covering the plate with a piece of cling film. Then, if any really nasty chemicals such as the sodium hydroxide get on the cling film, it does not matter – that can be thrown away more readily than anything else bar the newspaper.

I measured out the oils and then heated them in a pan until they all melted. Note that the coconut oil is a solid – there are other types that are liquid at room temperature, but this is the best kind for the soap. They don’t look too promising at first:

Soap oils - some as solid lumps of white  - ready fo melting into soap

Soap oils in the pan

Then, once the oils were slowly warming up, I weighed out the cold water (the recipe I have uses weights rather than wet measures) and put it in the pyrex bowl. I then weighed out the sodium hydroxide (or lye) on the scales on top of some cling film, and added it to the water. This reaction is exothermic, which means it generates a lot of heat. By the time the oils have melted, the lye was be nearly boiling hot, all from the chemical reaction.

The next bit I couldn’t photograph because it all either goes far too fast, or needs both hands to be constantly on the job! Once both the oils in the pan and the lye in the water were at about the same temperature – about 45 degrees Celcius – I added them together in the pan and used the electric whisk to mix them. They should reach “trace” – a bit like doing meringues where the egg whites start to leave a trail if you lift the whisk out of them. This took about 15 minutes even with the electric whisk, so I am very glad I did not try to go old school and do it by hand!

I made up a third of the mixture with a seven-essential-oils mix involving Frankincense, Lemongrass, Lemon, Orange, Mandarin, Cinnamon and Ginger. This is quite close to my first ever batch, though I don’t think I bothered with the Cinnamon that time. The second third, I added red dye, and an orange and vanilla mix. The third part, I went silly. Two small cupcake moulds were given some poppy seeds, red and blue dye and lavender oil and then topped up with soap, and mixed. A third cupcake mould was given some pumice powder, blue and yellow dye, and tea tree oil then topped up with soap. I did the same again but making one soap with each of Rosemary and then Tea Tree oil. These should make fancy foot soaps. The last scraps I repeated the lavender and poppy seed mix.

Needless to say, there was a lot of washing up to do! The soaps are now curing quietly in the bedroom, where they should cool slowly to make really nice soaps. I can’t wait to try them out.

First Steps in Soapmaking

Well this summer I gave cold process soap-making a go, having read a couple of websites and deciding that I want to stop using palm oil in my life as much as possible.  I love orang-utans, as my favourite author does, and it is heart-breaking to see the “person of the forest” increasingly become the “person with no forest left”.  These highly intelligent and interesting apes are far more important than the convenience of the palm oil.  And I do not believe that it is as good in all the uses it is put to as is claimed. It is in just about any processed food you can buy, and also in loads of cosmetics.

The soap was a great success, using olive pomace oil, coconut oil and shea butter as the basis and then going slightly mad with all my favourite essential oils!  I am nearly at the end of the first loaf-tin-full, and so this week I shall try to get in another batch. 

Here are some of the websites and so on that I found useful when making my soap: was great for a basic instruction for the cold process.  There are loads of typos that I found distracting – took ages to work out that “leaf mold” meant “loaf mould”!  But the instructions were essentially spot on. was a fantastic tool for working out the recipe I wanted, especially given that I have not made soap before.  It helps you to work out important things like “super-fatting”, where you put in more fat than the lye can convert, both for safety (no nasty lye left over at the end), and for skin moisturising.  You also get an indication of how the various types of fat work singly or in combination, with useful information included. And this is their calculator to try to indicate how much fragrance or essential oil to add.  This is probably not going to be pin-point accurate, as the grades of oils and their strengths can vary, but it should get you somewhere near.

I can add a couple of tips of my own:

1.  Cover the main processing area (apart from the cooker of course!) with loads of old newspapers.  This will make tidying up much easier. 

2.  If using an electric device to spare yourself having to hand-whisk for up to an hour, choose a cheap stick blender rather than a whisk type machine.  Otherwise, you are going to have a terrible time trying not to cover the kitchen in blobs of half-made soap…!

3.  I found that the colourant I wanted to use was wholly inadequate.  Maybe it was meant to do a smaller quantity, but after sticking in half a bottle I decided it was unnecessary anyway. 

4.  Choose fragrances or essential oils that will work for everyone who will need to use the soap.  My boyfriend would not want to smell of lavender, so a bath soap cannot contain it.  Frankincense, however, is suitably “blokey” and very good for the skin, so that is a winner.  Mandarin and Roman chamomile are supposed to be sufficiently benign that they can be used in baby products, so they should be fairly safe too.  I love lemongrass, orange and ginger, and fortunately most of those blend well with each other.  I got a lovely well-rounded scent in the end.


Hand Knitted Yorkshire

It's more than just knitting, there's other stuff too

Road Essays

Travel writing and long form non-fiction narrative from the road


Just a bendy girl who should be in Middle Earth.

Knitting in the North Woods

Living, loving, Northern Michigan

Austrian Wine

USA Edition - Accents not required!

The Garden Smallholder

Allotment - Chickens - Kitchen Garden

Crafted in Carhartt

about women who do amazing things

Rachel E. Moss

Blogging on feminism, medieval studies, teaching and learning

the inquisitive vintner [ + His Daughter]

A Yooper, psychology professor, amateur winemaker...and his daughter

The Contemplative Mammoth

ice age ecology, early career academia, and diversity in STEM


This is all the stuff that happens in my brain, translated to my fingers.

The Nerdy Farm Wife

All my random interests in one place

The Rookie Allotmenteers

To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow (Audrey Hepburn)

Winemaking in west Wales

Brew brew brew brew brew brew brew brew brewwww

Ben's Adventures in Wine Making

All my random interests in one place

Hiking Photography

Beautiful photos of hiking and other outdoor adventures.

Sarah's Patterns

A place for me to document all the projects in my head