99 Bars of Soap on the Bench, 99 Bars of Soap…

As promised, ages ago, I am going to write about soap making! Whoot!

I got into making soap at the suggestion of the dude I’ll be married to in 24 days, 8 hours and some odd minutes. I was kicking new “things to do” ideas around and soap was on the lower part of the list.

I am a consummate cheap-skate. I won’t fully invest into something unless I am 100% confident that I will like it and 100% confident that it is feasible to do it, store it, succeed at it. Soap making is not cheap, let me just warn you there. You have to make some major investments in ingredients, tools and time. So mostly I was trying to think of ways to do it on the cheap and reading every book ever written on soap, when BAM! one day the dude shows up with soap making stuff in tow and that was how it all started. He’s into straight razor shaving and wanted to make some fancy shaving soaps. So, I guess we were making soap!

Now here is a delightful tool for all you soap heads, SoapCalc! You make up your recipe and it helps you figure out ratios, what the soap will be like, et cetera. However, if you are a beginner, please stick with a tried and true. There are plenty of books with recipes out there. Ask me how I know (besides common sense) that you should maybe practice a few batches before you try your own creation. Ahem. Just sayin’. Wasn’t me.

So as you can tell from the above paragraph, our first soap adventure wasn’t perfect by any means, but it produced a decent soap, my complaints were that it was near impossible to un-mold and it tended to melt away quickly. So for the next batch we did an old tried and true from the book and it turned out beautifully. And we’ve made about 4 or 5 batches since then. We’re only two people, we give away some of the soap, but always seem to have a bunch cropping up and creeping around. If you ever come over to my house, you’ll leave with a loaf of bread, at least 3 bars of soap, probably a book we’ve loaned you that you HAVE to read and a full stomach. Sometimes a crochet something. Depends on what I have laying around in crochet world.

Business at hand, we decided to make soap as a favor at our wedding. My dear maid of honor (WHO ARRIVES FROM FLORIDA IN 19 DAYS, OMG!) has been whipping out crochet washcloths like she’s gettin’ paid to go with the soap. Well, if you know a little sumptin-sumptin ’bout soap, you know it has to cure for a bit. I, Captain Paranoid of the Great Ship Fartlandia, prefer to leave the soap to cure for a month, however two weeks should be satisfactory. I prefer not to burn our guests. Soap making is a bit dangerous.

Let’s talk about that for a second. Soap making can burn you. Ever seen that scene in Fight Club? Maybe a little dramatic, but let’s not play with lye. It can burn you. I’m going to leave you with just that because you should probably read more on the topic and not just listen to me. I have not been burned yet, but I treat the lye with the up most respect. Goggles, apron, gloves. Tie up your hair. No long sleeves. Pretend everything that the lye touches will burn you. Shoo away pets, children, anyone who might disturb it. Respect it, m’kay?

I did not get a ton of pictures because I was working on my wedding dress, but I did sneak a few. The next batch (they’ll be three total) I will be more hands on with.

wpid-20140601_143759.jpgscale, just for soap; container, just for lye; oils; fats; freezer paper; thermometers; stick blender, just for soap; et cetera.

All your soap making tools should be just for making soap. That’s it. Don’t mix food and soap making.

wpid-20140601_144915.jpglining the molds

wpid-20140601_164254.jpgticked off greyhound shunned to the other room.

The when the lye and water is mixed, it will get really, really, freaking hot. The oils/fats will have to be heated and they both need to be at the same temperature before you combine them. So basically you get the lye going, heat the oils, dance around (away from the chemicals!) until they cool and then you pour the lye into the oil slowly. We use a stick blender, but you can do it by hand. If you like mixing a lot. You need to get the soap to trace. With a stick blender, this takes like a minute and you’ll see the soap thicken and, well, the best word to describe it is indeed trace. I did not get a picture of that because I was cursing at my dress or something. I will make sure to get a photo next time. Then you pour the soap (remember, still has lye in it! still hot!) into the molds. After two days, you can unmold them and cut into bars. They will still need to cure.

wpid-20140604_080249.jpgingenious soap cutter, a board and a guitar string

wpid-20140604_080235.jpgour soap all cut out, what didn’t fit into the long mold, we used a silicon mold.

A third of the way there! Two more batches and we should have soap for everyone at the wedding! I’m putting my maid of honor and I to work on making clever little bags for the favors and I hope everyone will enjoy.

I’m sorry I don’t have more detailed, step by step instructions for you, but like I said, I was working on the dress. It’s so close to being done that I can smell it. All the pieces are cut out (I think) and I need to just sew the top and finish some nice details. It’s taking a very long time because I am so new to sewing. This was the first time I had a sewing machine in my possession and this was the first time I ever made anything from it. If I have learned one thing from hobbies it is that,

  1. I am an idiot

And that is why the dress is taking a very long time. I spend at least 30 minutes throwing my arms around, demanding that my brain slow down and not try to sledgehammer our way through it. Lots of breaks.

Anyway, really, it’s going great, it’s just that I have to force myself to go slow and take it easy.

I hope you enjoyed this quick bit about soap, if you’re thinking about it, it is a load of fun to do!