Friday, 27 May 2011

My Very First Soap - EUREKA


The very first soap I made & first soap photo I ever took


I cuddled under the duvet one Sunday night, and read till the wee hours of the morning even though I had to be up for work early the next day… I was reading a non-twilight Susan Meyer book – The Host.

Earlier that day I had accompanied my husband on his weekly golf foray…. I can’t say it was a golf game because at that point, he was greener than green and would spend more time swearing at lost balls than actually hitting them… (since then he has learned a lot and plays much better now!) I don’t play, I just go with him sometimes, support him, take photos etc. I lasted about an hour or 2 with him that morning, left him there with his golf buddy and came home to my plants. My daughter must have slept over at a friends’ because she wasn’t there that day although I can’t remember exactly why.

I had bought some new pots and soil and was very eager to get to work on my Aloe Vera plants. They were multiplying at quite a rate. There I was pulling out the little off-shoots and replanting them… when I realized just how many plants I had! I had been given 1 Aloe Vera plant as a gift a couple of years earlier and here I was with about 20 plants now! What was I going to do with them all?


My very first soap packaging of that very first soap


I remember fantasizing about enjoying a profession where I could use them… and getting out of the job that I didn’t love. What could I do? Start a proper Aloe Vera farm? Learn how to make Aloe Vera Gel? Cream? Juice? Could we drink this stuff? At that point in my life, I fantasized a lot about jobs I would enjoy…

So there I was, late that night, cuddled under the covers. I had just turned off the lights and was drifting off to sleep when WHAM. EUREKA. SOAP! That’s it. I want to make soap!!!! I sat bolt upright in bed, turned on the bedside lamp and grabbed my book. I went back over the passage where the characters had to invent some sort of soap to wash themselves inside the underground hide-out where they were living. It was pretty basic, but the idea of it sparked something in me. Soap – THAT’S IT. What the heck is soap made of? I am going to make it!!! Maybe I could even use my Aloe Vera!!

I don’t think I got much sleep that night. I was too excited. I went downstairs before my husband, my daughter and the sun got up and got on the internet. I looked up soap making and at a quick glance realized that YES, I could make this at home! I got into Amazon and read a ton of reviews on soap making books before deciding on “The Soapmakers Companion”, by Susan Miller Cavitch. I was so excited about starting that I paid more for the super-duper-speedy shipping than I did for the book!


My very first market, selling my soap


I received the book within a couple of days, read it from cover to cover and began the ingredient hunt. I had lots of Olive Oil locally, found Lye easily, had a couple of cake moulds and found some “Essences” for scent which I naively thought were purely natural, simply because I got them at the health food store. Coconut oil was going to be a challenge… So I began without it.

My very first soap was a one-oil pure Castille soap with Vanilla “essence”. I loved it. It took AGES to trace. I wasn’t even sure what trace was at that point. Just started getting thicker and looking like pudding. My stick blender actually over-heated a couple of times and I had to carry on mixing by hand while it cooled down.

I don’t know how I waited the 24 hours before uncovering the mould. My daughter, my husband and I hovered over as I pulled the blanket off. And oooooooohhhhhh…. Ahhhhhh…. Wow. We lifted it out of the mould. Cutting it was pure heaven. I had done it!


Making one of the early soaps


Waiting the month for it to cure was unbearable. There we were again one month later hovering around the tap washing and washing with that first bar of soap…. No suds really, just soft goo…. Slightly disappointing but wonderful all the same. We lined up for the shower. My husband kept telling me how amazing he thought it was.

It brings tears to my eyes right now as I remember back to my family’s support in those early days. Soap stuff all over the kitchen. Soaps drying all over the house. Gooey sudless soap. Money being spent on moulds, materials, equipment – a money pit. Forgetting to make dinner…. Forgetting to eat… lost a ton of weight. Just total obsession.

Eventually my recipes got better and more and more uniquely mine. With a lot of experimenting. I began to make the personal decisions toward my soap identity. All this artificial colour and glitter and fragrance that I saw other soapers using was cool but not where I wanted to go. I also decided to try to focus on as many local ingredients as possible. Why use green tea and dead sea salt if I had aloe vera and Mediterranean sea salt on my doorstep!?

Now, I no longer work in that job I didn’t enjoy. I make soap almost every day. I am doing what I love. Don’t have the cash I used to have but somehow we are fine without it. Supplementing with some English classes. And business is growing. I feel very fortunate and blessed to have found my passion… !!


Another early soap making photo


I would love to hear your first-time soap-making stories. How did you discover soap-making? Why did you start? What was your very first bar like??????

Happy Soaping everone. Today is my 41st birthday and I am feeling great!

Xo
Jen

30 comments:

Miss Polly said...

What a great story and a great journey you have been on. You really are inspirational - your soaps are always lovely, you have such passion and drive and knowledge.
I totally empathise with the beginning and all the spare money you have being spent on soap things, soap ll round the house, boxes on the floor, living, thinking,breathing soap to the point where it dominates your life. We have very understanding families I think :)
Thanks for sharing your story, and lots of Happy Birthday wishes from Scotland from me xxxxx

Amina said...

wooooooooooooooooooooooow!
Your story is very very very inspiring! I am so glad you shared it! Thank you! I was enjoying the part where you said your family and you kept hovering to take a sneak peek. Happy Birthday too!! YAY!!
I can't wait to try your soaps one day.

Coco said...

What a great story! Clearly you have found your calling. Congratulations and Happy Birthday. Keep us posted on how the business process is going!

Natural Aroma Beauty Handmade Soaps said...

Thanks so much for sharing Jen, I really enjoyed reading about your journey and look where you are now, it's great to see how far you have come. A great big happy birthday, I hope you had a wonderful one xxx

Tara said...

Happy birthday! This is perhaps my third visit here and I really enjoyed this post. I began making soap about six months ago and I feel like I have also found my passion. I had been wanting to make it for about 10 years but here in Canada, before online shopping, lye was not easy to find. I finally decided to take the plunge after finding a supplier and am so glad I did. I am in agreement with the more natural soap vs. the glitzy soaps. I love looking at those glitzy soaps but whenever I have considered doing likewise, I realize it's just not me to have glittery soap. So glad you found your passion. love the photos.

Jabonera said...

Jen que historia tan bonita y antes de nada feliz cumple. Me ha gustado la historia tuya y como cuentas tu evolución. A mi me ha pasado algo parecido, pero ahora he decidido que tengo que dar un pequeño rodeo para llegar a donde quiero, ya te contaré. Besos. Ana.

Nitya said...

Thanks for sharing you lovely story!! What I find amazing is how the idea of making soap came to you....from a book. My inspiration was a gypsy girl from a movie. :)
It is great to see how far you have come and how much you enjoy the art of soap making. Congratulations on your successful business and a very very Happy Birthday to you!!

Ambra said...

That is so wonderful to read. I completely agree with you, making soap is so much fun :) Happy birthday. Enjoy!

Tierra Verde Handmade Soap said...

Happy,Happy Birthday my sweet friend.Jen,you are just too cute. Look at you, at your first market with that great big smile. So glad you happened upon soap making!

My first soap was a catastrophe-it's a wonder I ever, ever gave it a second thought. We(my husband and I)tried a batch of hp with shea butter-we had no idea what we were doing and had instant acceleration. The result resembled dog poop and that is no joke, but still for some reason I was hooked. (even though I was the one who thought my husband was out of his mind for even suggesting I try it.) I can totally relate to the soaps being all over the house, curing on every shelf, all over the kitchen table etc. Gee! Too bad you don't live here-we could go in together for a workspace etc. xoxo and again Happy Birthday!

The Soap Sister said...

A lovely story of a lovely soaper! Happy Happy Birthday my bubbly friend! I hope you had a marvelous day. I am so glad you have discovered your passion -you are a blessing to all those whose lives you touch, including mine! God's richest b;essings to you Jen. xo -Becky

Jennifer Young said...

Miss Polly, Thank you for the comments. Sounds like we had similar obsessive beginnings. I wonder if people could really take on this hobby without supportive families? Funny, but when I connect with another soaper, I just assume they must have a pretty awesome family since I know what mine have been through!! You are so sweet. Will get to Scotland one day. My husband wants to play golf there. I want to see Edinburgh and drive around the countryside, hike. You are lucky to have Gracefruit. Great suppy company. xoxo Jen

Jennifer Young said...

Amina, I am so glad you enjoyed my story. Thank you for the awesome comments. xo Jen

Jennifer Young said...

Coco, Thank you very much. I am enjoying following the build process of your "Galician Garden"... I agree with you about kitchens and loved the ones you loved... xo Jen

Jennifer Young said...

Jan, So glad you enjoyed the story. Thank you! I am just LOVING your new logo. Every time I see it I like it even more. So colourful, so alive. xo Jen

Jennifer Young said...

Tara, Nice to hear from you. Where are you from in Ontario? I am going for a visit to Canada at the end of June and will be primarily in Toronto and Collingwood. Maybe we could hook up, if you are near, to make some soap? Glad to hear that you have also found your passion! I checked out your blog, and will follow as soon as I get out of this blog problem I am having. I can only comment on some sites, can't follow anyone new.... Anyway, nice to hear from you! xo Jen

Jennifer Young said...

Ana, Muchas gracias por tu comentario, siempre eres tan positva. Tengo ganas de saber mas sobre ese rodeo que mencionas. Nos vamos contando nuestros progresos. xoxo Jen

Jennifer Young said...

Nitya, Glad you enjoyed the story. Your inspiration came from a movie? What movie was it? You have made me curious and I want to see it!! Thanks for your nice comments. xo Jen

Jennifer Young said...

Ambra, thank you so much! Glad you enjoyed reading the story! xo Jen

Amy Warden said...

What a fabulous story, Jen! Thank you for sharing it! Mine was a quest to find something I could make for my friends for Christmas that year. Of course, I didn't start looking for ideas until November. My first batch was completely crumbly because it hadn't reached trace, so I ended up putting it back in a pot and hot processing it in the oven. It turned out perfectly! Hope you had a wonderful birthday!!

marianadelasflores said...

que hermosa historia Jenora!!!!
todos nuestros comienzos en el jaboneo son de lo más originales; algunos más divertidos, otros más accidentados; pero siempre marcan un antes y un después en nuestras vidas.
El amor y la pasión por éste oficio, nace con el primer jabón...no es cierto??

Nitya said...

The name of the movie is 'Suraj ka Satvan Ghoda'. It is an Indian movie made in Hindi. The name of the character is Satti and I mentioned her in my first post.

It is so wonderful that you have the support of your family. I can't imagine making soap and buying so many supplies without my encouraging and supportive husband. It's heart-warming to see how excited he is to try out the soaps I make. :)

Jennifer Young said...

Michelle (Tierra Verde), Thank you so much for your sweet sweet comment. I would LOVE to share some work space together... or better yet, make some soap together... maybe one day!! xo Jen

Jennifer Young said...

Becky, Thank you so much for your always encouraging words! xo Jen

Jennifer Young said...

Amy, Ah yes, those initial Christmas gift... the first soaps... I wonder if the recipiants actually enjoyed them? My first soap Christams gifts didn't have any suds.... Glad you enjoyed the story! xo Jen

Jennifer Young said...

Mariana, Totalmente de acuerdo... asi que tu eres un apasionado también? Que bonito quedó tu puesto en el mercadillo en tu ultimo Post! Wow! Mi marido es Argentino... Mendozino. Gracias por tus lindos comentarios! xo Jen

twobloomsdesignstudio said...

What a great post and your right money isn't everything when you have your freedom and are doing something you love.

Erika said...

I've been stalking your blog from Dublin! I love it. I've been making soaps for personal use and I've just started giving them away as gifts with a great response. I've been flirting with trying them out at local markets but I do not have a huge inventory and I have no idea how much I should prepare to start. I use both cold and hot process (hp for basic uncomplicated soap). This post seemed to appear right on time and I wonder how much did you offer at your first market? Thanks.

Jennifer Young said...

Erika, I responded to you on your blog... xo Jen

Jennifer Young said...

Michelle. Thank you! You are so right!! xo Jen

Rose Marie Lewis said...

Hey Jen! Sorry I missed your birthday - hope you had a great day! Your story was so fun, and very familiar! My first batch - I killed the cheap little hand mixer I'd had for years and never used. I spent yesterday organizing many tiny bottles of fragrance and essential oils, and vacillating again about how simple or complex to get with my soap.