Thursday, 13 November 2014

First Soap Making Class–Learning the Ropes

Tonight I began my second 5-week course of evening classes this autumn. Since my hubby was doing a 10-week water-colour painting course, and the felt class was only 5 weeks, I decided to enrol for the soap making class. This is being taught by the same excellent teacher who did the felt-making course I finished three weeks ago. This time we have moved from the woodworking room at the school, upstairs to the kitchen, which is a gorgeous big, light and airy space with great facilities. It really is a beautiful school – very modern and very well equipped.

I got so carried away in the class tonight, that again, I completely forgot to take any photos during the class!

What we did tonight was to learn the basics of the melt and pour method of soap making, and we each made two basic soaps. This is an extremely simple technique. We were provided with two bags of lumps of the soap base, one white and the other clear, and all we had to do was weigh out a certain amount, and melt it in an ordinary microwave for 30 seconds or less, add some colour (only a few drops necessary) and some fragrance if desired – this came in two forms, either fragrance oil, which our teacher explained was synthetic, and the more costly essential oils, distilled from natural ingredients.

I decided not to add any perfume to mine, as I can be a bit susceptible to strong smells, particularly artificial chemical-type smells, with my M.E., and also I wanted to try the soap first of all in its purest form. Also, my hubby suffers from allergies and his skin is very sensitive to such things, and always has to use Simple soap to avoid coming out in a rash. I wanted to see if I could make soap which would be suitable for him.

The final step was to pour the liquid into a silicone mould and leave it to set. Any bubbles were dispersed with a quick spray of rubbing alcohol. Because our time was limited at the class, the teacher put the moulds in the freezer to speed up the process, but she said it was better left overnight, especially with the clear variety, which tends to go a bit cloudy if it is set too quickly.

There was a choice of moulds for us to use, including one of a gingerbread man. My hubby is very keen on teddy bears, but there was no mould for one, so I chose the gingerbread man as the closest thing! For his soap, I added some brown, and a few drops of orange colouring.

My second soap was made from the clear base, to which I added some glitter. This is cosmetic glitter, not normal craft glitter. When the soap came out of the mould, all the glitter had sunk to the bottom (a common occurrence, it seems) so it was all at the top of the piece of soap once it had been turned out. I have found some special soap base on Ebay which apparently enables any additives to remain in suspension throughout the soap and I may get some of this. Perhaps if I left it to cool a bit more before adding the glitter, it would hold its position in suspension a bit better, too.

We got on quite speedily at the beginning of the class, to enable the soaps to set enough to come out of the moulds so we could take them home. The second part of the class was devoted to the packaging of the soaps, and the teacher had brought along a big bag of sheets of cellophane, ribbons, labels, etc. etc. for us to play with, including some card, and a basic box template to make packaging for our soaps. My box didn’t turn out well; it wasn’t actually quite wide enough for the gingerbread man, whose arms stuck out too much! Also, there were no rulers, and I only had my nail scissors to cut it out. I can make much more satisfactory boxes here at home with all my equipment and supplies.

The teacher had come up with an ingenious way of matching the soaps to their owners – once they are all in the mould it’s hard to tell them apart. She issued us with small circular coloured stickers which we put on the two bags of soap base. Each one of us had their own colour. When we poured the soap into the mould, we had to add a sticker of our chosen colour to the mould beside the soap that was ours. That way each one was reconciled with its owner once they were removed from the moulds.

Here are the two pieces of soap I made. I’m afraid something went wrong with the camera for the first photos – I’ve been having some problems with this on and off, with it not focusing properly, so I’m afraid they are a bit out of focus. The first photo shows the soaps in their cellophane wrappers.

01 Basic Soaps, Wrapped

Unwrapped, so you can see them better:

02 Basic Soaps, Unwrapped

Finally, one of the clear snowflake soap. This one is in focus! I love the ice-blue of this one. It’s really pretty.

03 Clear Glitter Soap

This soap is gorgeous to use. It gives a good lather, and is incredibly soft to the skin – my hands still feel really soft several hours after trying it.

In the next two classes we will be continuing with soap making, and in the final two, will be making bath bombs and bath melts.

This first class was really very basic, and apart from choosing colour, fragrance and shape, there wasn’t anything desperately creative about it, as all we were doing was taking some shapeless lumps of soap base and melting them and making them into a different shape!! However, in subsequent classes we will be taking the technique further and learning how to layer differently-coloured bases to create some interesting effects.

One soap the teacher showed us was in the shape of a snow globe. The base of the globe was opaque white, and the top was in the shape of a dome, made from the clear base, and standing up in the middle of this was a tiny soap gingerbread man. There was glitter suspended in the clear soap.

Next week we will be making natural soaps, with different additives such as wheatgerm and loofah. The teacher showed us an excellent book:

which has lots of recipes in it, as well as the history of soap making, and some great information about different additives for different purposes. For instance, she explained to us that certain essential oils and other additives are good for different skin conditions, or for different purposes. A soap for the kitchen, for instance, with orange and/or lemon essential oil, will not only smell gorgeous, but will help eliminate the smell of onions from one’s hands.

Our teacher told us how she’d made some dog soap for sale once (called “Dirty Dog” lol!) which contained essential oils for the prevention of fleas, and for a good glossy coat. She also described some gardener’s soap she’d made, which would be lovely to give as gifts in the summer. I recently saw some interesting stuff online about felting around a piece of soap, and a lovely idea of suspending one of these felted soaps over the outside tap so that the gardener of the family (in our case my hubby) can wash their hands before coming in – my hubby always makes an awful mess, with mud all over the taps, and worse, all over my hand towel lol! Men…

Next week we will be making Christmas soaps. One of the examples she showed us was the “Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh” soap, with real natural ingredients, including little flakes of pure gold leaf! It was a small bar, cellophane wrapped, with a beautiful band made from gold embossed paper, with a really oriental and exotic feel. What a great Christmas gift that would make! I couldn’t smell it much because of the wrapper, but I am sure it smelt gorgeous.

Soap making is something that has interested me for quite some time. I have been drawn increasingly to the idea of making our own skin products and cosmetics, and household products, not just because they are a lot cheaper, but because you know exactly what’s in them. I am sure that a lot of the health problems people suffer these days are due in part to the bombardment of our systems by harsh synthetic chemicals. Also, anything to help my hubby’s allergies, not to mention the absolute pleasure it will give me to make things for him with my own hands, that he will use and enjoy, is a tremendous incentive! He called downstairs just after he went up to bed, saying that he’d tried the soap and loved it! Let’s hope he has no reaction to it, but I am sure he will not.

I don’t suppose I shall go all out on soap making because I haven’t got the time, with the other creative activities I am involved with, but I shall make enough for our own use, and for presents. Very satisfying!


  1. Adding yet another string to your bow, I see Lol. I loooove! the snowflake soap its so pretty.

  2. Hi Shoshi! Visit my blog. I have an answer for you...

  3. Hi Shoshi, loved this informative post. The idea of soap making has been rattling about in the back of my head for a while now, I may try to find time over Christmas to give this a go. Love the two you have made, and so totally agree about all the rubbish that is in the products we buy.Running very late this week, had a stupid 10.00 appt on Thursday, so we had to get some sleep after finishing work at 2.00am, then get up, go to hospital, then come back and get some more before going to work. I never feel like I've rested properly sleeping in two halves, so lost a lot of Friday catching up.Not long now, only 6 treatments left, I'll be glad to finish, with all the travelling this has been hard work. Have a great week, hugs, Shaz #20


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