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!