Monday, November 15, 2010


I have been trying to make soap for more than a week.  Stuff keeps happening and I cannot squeeze it into the day.  It rains.  It is too cold, but that happened only one day and the weather, except for the couple of days of actual rain, have been wondrous.

So, I actually took a break this afternoon to make the darn stuff.  Three batches.  Olive, grape seed and coconut oils, my favorite blend.  Late last week I went to the farm supply store to look for some new molds.  I wanted one that was sloped on the sides, so that the bars would slightly narrow at the top and I have been unable to construct anything decent enough to work.  I cannot explain why I have this obsession with the shape, subtle though it is, but I do.  And, I want to be able to pop the loaf out and make a variety of slices, without having to make the predetermined sizes that a wooden mold would give me.  Well, sort of.  Never mind.

I also had this absolutely brilliant idea and bought roof flashing and PVC plug/caps to make round bars, being too cheap to buy a mold, and just before I went to sleep the other night I realized that I could not use the flashing because it is made from aluminum.  Rats.  Although, when I have the time, I might experiment a bit with the stuff, just to see how black it becomes and if it ruins the soap.

So, anyway, I took a moment from all of the hand sewing on the xmas ornaments for this swap in which I am taking part, and hauled all of the stuff outside.  My kitties are way too curious and there is not any way that I can make soap indoors, which means that this is a seasonal activity for me.  Hence the angst about not getting this darn project finished. 

I have a new bucket and pan that I decided to get when I was at the farm store.  Red and purple and I just like them so much.  The pan worked better than the bucket for these small batches and I think another visit there is in order.  It still amazes me that plastic works so well in this process.  All the stuff was finally outside and the cats were inside, despite Lilith's efforts to the contrary, and I realized that I had enough lye for only one batch.  Double rats.

The nice part was that because I was making a single batch, I could take some time and enjoy the process.

It was a bit cool outside; the air felt to be somewhere around 50-55F.  No wind and the sky was as glorious as only autumn skies can be.  I have a brand-new stick blender, but chose to put it aside and bring the soap mixture to trace by hand.

I really have no idea how long I stood out there, stirring and basking in the lovely day, and when it came to trace I kept stirring a bit, only because it was so wonderful to be doing this so slowly and to be a part of the magic that is soap making.  I just love the whole thickening part of the making of soap.  I love how it slowly comes together and the patterns you can make in the stuff.  Time seems to stand still, just me and the mixture and my wooden spoon, making beauty, transient though it may be.  I really do love that part and I have to wonder why I am always in such a blasted hurry to get this done. 

Whilst I was stirring, I was thinking about the women who made their soap before everyone got so serious about measurements and times and additives and all the rest.  I wonder what they would think of our grams.  They made their own lye from their own wood ashes, and I am certain that the end result differed all the time.  They rendered their fats from the savings from the slaughter of their own animals.  My best guess is that is was not always purely fat and nothing else.

They used what they had and they still got great soap, at least most of the time.  Even in the midst of a busy and demanding life, sitting and stirring a pot of goop into something useful might have been the perfect excuse to sit and enjoy the quiet and the process in itself.  I would be that they made it outdoors, just like I do.  Kind of silly, but I felt a real connection to those women this afternoon.  Maybe not so foolish.

It was also my first time using the room temperature method, although, in this case it was the outdoor temperature method.  The coconut oil was slightly warm because I popped it into the microwave so that it would slide out of the jar, but the other oils were the ambient temperature of my back yard and when the lye mixture was ready, I just mixed it into the oils and it was as easy and uncomplicated as can be.  And, frankly, even though I did not keep track, I really do not think that coming to trace took any longer than it does using the cold process method.  The bonus was not waiting around for everything to equalize in temperature before mixing.

I really like it and, depending on how the soap looks tomorrow when I un-mold it, this is going to be my new way of making soap.

All in all, it was a nicely productive day.

Tomorrow when I am out and about with appointments, I will pick up some more lye and will get those last two batches done before dark.

I almost forgot about the mold I found.  It is a mud tray, the kind you use when you are installing drywall and have to mud the seams, the places where the panels abut.  It is 13.25 inches at the opening and 12/5 inches at the bottom, the length.  The top is 4.5 inches at the opening and 3 inches at the bottom, the width and is 3.25 inches high, but the batch of soap only filled it to 2.5 inches.  It has a thin, metal strip along one long edge for scraping your mudding trowel (or whatever it is called), but it is totally not in the way.  It is a very sturdy plastic and cost me $2.50, so I bought three...because I intended to make three batches.
The Soap Mold, formerly known as Mud Tray
The other mold I found was at a discount hardware store and is a tray for use with narrow paint rollers.  The plastic is flimsy and I am guessing that they will not last long, but they were only 99 cents and should work well for making four rectangular shower bars.  This tray has the roller bumps on the bottom, but I can pad that with some cotton batting beneath the plastic that I use to line my molds.  It is 6 inches wide, 10 inches long and 2 inches deep.  It was difficult to photograph because it is so blazing shiny.  It should also work really well for the melt and pour bars that I am making for the grandbabies. 
Small, kind of flimsy roller tray, soon to be soap mold.
I found the best uber-soft dinosaurs to embed in the clear glycerin bars.  They like stuff inside of their soap bars and most of the small toys are hard plastic which does not make for a particularly comfortable bubbly experience in the bath when the bars wear down to where the toys are.

These are the dinosaurs.  They are approximately 2.5 to 3 inches long.  The green and orange ones are kissing because it was the only way I could get them to stand up.  Huh, they are kind of blurry, too.  I will try to do better.
Very soft and lovely dinosaurs

Did you know that there is a glass kiln that you can use in the microwave?  Well, there totally is, for goodness sake!  For someone who is saving all of her discretionary funds for travel, I am seriously tempted, as it is too labour intensive to use my ceramic kiln for little projects, which are the only ones that appeal to me right now.  I wonder how that can work, since glass needs a lot of heat, like lots more than it takes to steam a potato, something that has the capacity to alarm me once in a while anyway.  But.  Man, when I think of the holiday gifts I could make with that baby.  Oooooh, baby.

At around $130.00, they are only a tenth of  the cost of a small, tabletop kiln.  My big one is a Paragon, and they make the small one, too, one that I have wanted for, oh, about ten years or so.  And, the microwave ones get up to 850C inside, which is likely to give me nightmares, so my best guess is that I will not be getting one, especially since I am already having enough trouble sleeping. 

More research is needed.


  1. and you thought you could get away from me lol

  2. I really need to change my username