Last night I had the most fun ever, at our second soap class. After starting last week with basic mould-and-pour using fancy moulds, tonight the shapes were more basic, but the soaps themselves were just wonderful, coloured and fragranced with natural materials.
We used the basic mould-and-pour soap bases we used last week – white and clear. For colour, instead of using synthetic colours, the teacher brought natural powders such as turmeric and cosmetic-grade clays in various colours. The fragrances were all natural too – essential oils and the natural scent of the various additives. She also brought along bags of different botanicals to add for colour and texture, such as tiny flowers, petals, wheatgerm, cinnamon sticks, and dried sliced orange. Everything looked so wonderfully natural and subtly coloured, and as for the smells! My hands continued to smell lovely for several hours afterwards! If none of the subsequent classes are as fun and fulfilling as last night’s, I shan’t mind – I think most of my own soap making from now on is going to be along natural lines.
Having M.E. I can be a bit sensitive to chemical smells, and last night I spent some time going through the two boxes of liquid fragrances the teacher brings – firstly the essential oils, and secondly the fragrance oils, which are synthetic. The latter did not appeal to me at all! They all smelt very artificial and unpleasant to me. However, the essential oils had no detrimental effect at all and with a few exceptions I loved them all. This gave me an idea of what to get for my own supplies.
At the end of the class we spent some time wrapping our soaps from our teacher’s big bag of goodies. I completed this process when I got home.
One of the soaps we made was orange soap. This was made from the transparent base, coloured with natural orange colouring (turmeric) and fragranced with orange essential oil – this smells totally gorgeous… When we turned them out of the moulds, we took a little melted soap base and dipped half a dried slice of orange in it and stuck it to the top of the soap.
Another soap we made was cinnamon and wheatgerm. This was made from the white base, coloured with natural powder colour, with the wheatgerm adding colour as well, and fragranced with cinnamon essential oil. The powder colours cannot just be added to the soap or they go lumpy. You have to put them in a small container and pour in a small amount of melted soap and make a paste, a bit like a roux in cooking, which is then returned to the soap. After pouring the soap into the mould we added a cinnamon stick to the top. The mould we used for this soap was round, with straight sides, so there was no “up” or “down,” which meant we could add any embellishment to the top after pouring. Normally the top of the finished soap is at the bottom of the mould, and if you put something in the bottom of the mould it tends to float to the surface, so the embellishments have to be added afterwards with a shaped mould.
As you can see, I finished the wrapping of this soap with some raffia. I love the choice of natural packaging for natural soaps!
Finally, my favourite soap of the evening. This was a seasonal one, and quite stunning – gold, frankincense and myrrh soap!
This was made from the white base and some people coloured theirs with natural powder colour; however, I followed the teacher’s lead and didn’t add any extra colour, but depended on the botanicals to give a subtle colour. We added frankincense essential oil for fragrance, and ground up myrrh gum, which still had a somewhat grainy appearance. I was intrigued to hear that the gum is supplied in small lumps called “tears” – considering that myrrh is symbolic of death, embalming and the tomb, this seemed appropriate. Finally, the gold… After the soaps had come out of the moulds, our teacher produced some 24 carat pure gold leaf, and we added flakes of this to the top of the soap using a soft brush. This is soooo beautiful… The soap also smells out of this world, and as it is not a specifically feminine fragrance, but more spicy and exotic, it would be suitable for a man, too.
Before I show you the photo of this soap, I will show you the process of making a decorative band which would do justice to this precious soap. At the class, I merely wrapped it in cellophane (necessary to protect the soap from the air and from fingerprints).
I looked in my “card strips” box to see if there were any offcuts that were suitable. I found a strip of Core’dinations “gemstones” in a soft gold colour, and put this through the Cuttlebug, using the Tim Holtz Alterations Texture Fades “Damask” embossing folder. First of all I tried highlighting the embossed parts with gold gilding wax but this didn’t show up as much as I’d hoped, so I painted it with burnt umber acrylic paint.
Adding a layer of iridescent medium just made it look too silvery, so I mixed some with some more burnt umber and painted this on, working it well into all the recesses in the embossing.
When it was dry, I squeezed a little metallic gold acrylic paint onto my craft sheet and picked it up on my brayer.
Rolling it carefully onto the embossed strip, I was able to apply gold to the highlights.
I decided it was a bit too wide, so I trimmed down the sides (keeping the narrow strips in my card strips box – never throw anything away lol!) and then matted and layered it onto a scrap of gold mirror card, which really finished it off.
After making a bow with my bow maker, I wrapped the band around the soap, added some of the same ribbon as the bow, and attached it with glue dots. This is the result.
I really think this packaging does justice to this beautiful soap. In the picture you can see the gold leaf reflecting the light. This has to be my absolute favourite soap ever! It is really special.
Here are the three soaps I made, wrapped and embellished ready to give away. I still need to make labels to stick on the back of the soaps.
I am definitely going to make more natural soaps. All of these are gorgeous, and there are so many more combinations to discover and experiment with. I have seen natural soap made in a large mould and then sliced once it was set – this gives a beautiful hand-made effect, and it looks gorgeous with lots of botanicals on the top! I have also seen this with different layers, which show across the slices. Clear soaps can have botanicals suspended inside so you can see them. The possibilities are endless!
Before we leave the subject of gold, frankincense and myrrh, when I told my hubby about the soap, he found something to show me – a little box which a friend had given him several years ago. I had never seen this before, and I was entranced.
The box itself is beautiful – made of thin wood, very plain.
It hides a secret within!
Some detail shots.
I think the design on the inside of the lid could be adapted to create a beautiful label for the soap. Pulling the little tabs inside the box removes the semi-circular covers, revealing this.
Between the purple tissue are sheets of gold leaf, and in the compartments, real frankincense and myrrh. Isn’t that just perfect?
Finally, yesterday I strained and bottled the lavender oil I have made. A couple of months or so ago, our neighbour from opposite was cutting back her lavender and gave us a huuuuge bunch, asking if I could do anything with it! I said that yes, I certainly could, and decided to make some infused oil with it. Making essential oils is a difficult process involving distillation and I didn’t feel up to that, but you can make wonderful fragrance oils by distilling things in oil and leaving them to steep for several weeks. I filled a jar with the flowers that I pulled off the stems, and then poured enough grapeseed oil into the jar so that it came up to the top. Grapeseed oil is very good for this because it has no smell of its own. It is a pleasant, pale green colour, and easily obtainable from the supermarket. Over the first week or so I stirred the mixture daily, and kept it for the whole time in the airing cupboard, covered with kitchen paper to let it breathe but to keep the dust out, and stirring occasionally, when I remembered. I strained it into bottles. The small bottles are blue glass (not particularly visible because the finished lavender oil is quite a dark green colour). I bought three with dropper tops to give away, and one with a pipette dropper for my own use. The bulk of the oil has gone into a larger brown bottle which had had some medicine in it. I made some labels, using a permanent black pen and colouring with distress inks (Milled Lavender – appropriately! – and Mowed Lawn).
This oil smells out of this world! I shall be using it to fragrance my soaps, and also the lotions and creams that I intend making.