Some People Bake ~ I Make Soap

Welcome to soap week at FIMBY. My first ever attempt at having a theme for an entire week of posts. 

The rest of soap week posts:

The fun thing about what I have planned for this week is that not only am I writing about soap and body care products, I'm making them in "real time". Often how blogging works for me is I do an activity, take photos, think a deep (or not so deep) thought and it will take days, weeks, sometimes months for me to share that in a blog post.

This week I'm both making soap and writing about soap, without all the lag time in between.

I did make soap, lip balm and lotion this summer and I will be sharing photos and reflections from that also during this week.

How am I doing all this writing and soapmaking while doing everything else? My usual homemaking and homeschool responsibilities keep me busy most hours of the day. Here's my little secret, homeschool this week is soapmaking. How clever is that?

In actuality, this week starts a long homeschool break for our family as we will be moving in less than three weeks and then we spend most of November and December celebrating birthdays and the Christmas season. There will still be individual math practice and read alouds but lots of other intentional mom directed stuff gets literally shelved.

This week the kids will learn how to make soap. Chemistry, math, botany, history, geography (soap oils come from all over the globe). Nothing formal, just lots of conversation and making soap, together. The kids are old enough now, the youngest is almost nine, that I can use lye in their presence (with all the safety measures in place) and actually teach them the soap making process hands-on, not just the theory - which they already know from my years of making soap.

Brienne is especially excited about doing this with me. She often volunteers to help in the kitchen (they all have to help with various food tasks whether they volunteer or not) and loves to pretend she works in a factory making frozen meals. She is the family story teller and has such a great imagination. I just love it.

So, I'm sure she's be joining me this week making soap in her factory. Which brings me to a point I want to share. Not about factories - though I could go into all the nasty stuff that's in factory-made soap but I think you can figure that out on your own - but about working in the kitchen.

You see, I don't bake. What does this have to do with soap making you ask?

I think it has a lot to do with soap making because we all only have so much time for DIY projects.

Nearly three years ago I set the record straight on things I don't do. It's an old post but the sentiment is the same. I don't do it all.

I don't make soap and harvest all our own food, can tomatoes, quilt, and exercise early each morning. I think you know all this already, but it bears repeating.

Calendula is one of my favorite herbs to use for skin care products

I love soapmaking because it is a craft that adds functional beauty to my everyday. Handmade soap is lovely to use, excellent for your skin and fulfills a need I have to create beautiful, decadent, and lovely smelling things in my kitchen.

Home baked goods have pretty much disappeared from my repetoire. This is due mostly to Damien's nearly gluten-free status and the realization, the deeper we go in our food journey, that healthy baking (with the exception of desserts like these) is an oxymoron. Maybe it's growing up in a home with weekly fresh baked desserts but I have in inherent desire to make luscious cinnamon-y, orange essence and vanilla scented goodies. Soap meets that need.

You'll notice a lot of my soaps (winter soaps especially) feature these scents. I didn't rationally think it out this way but after crafting several peppermint chocolate and spice cake inspired soaps, I saw a pattern emerging - soapmaking is my baking.

And so there you have it. I don't bake, I make soap instead. And no, I don't make my kids eat it (smile).

On the "menu" this week is a shampoo bar for Celine, who's hair needs more lather than my usual bars have. I've never made a dedicated shampoo bar before and almost all of my usual bars feature natural exfolianting plant material that isn't so great stuck in your hair. I'm excited about trying something new.

Also planned is a batch of my Simple Soap (getting ready to make cleaning soap again for when we move, we've been using Down East products while living with my parents), and a decadent Christmas gift bar. It will smell like Christmas baking to be sure. 

I'm going to be talking about where to buy supplies, this is much trickier since moving and I've got some resources to recommend especially for my Canadian friends. I'll be sharing a new lip balm recipe and talking about removing palm oil from soap.

And I'll be taking pictures and making notes as I work this week and sharing those here. 

It should be lots of fun. I look forward to talking soap with you this week.

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Peppermint Cocoa Lip Balm »
  • Liane

    Liane on Oct. 17, 2011, 6:25 p.m.

    I just read your "I don't do it all" post. How refreashing it is to read honest words...I read only 4 blogs- and although most say they "try to focus only on the positive", I really enjoy your "yeah, but let's be honest" attitude. Your honesty is thanks! And looking forward to a soap class (and thanks for the CanCon- it IS hard to find products now that we're back in Canada, isn't it?)


  • heather

    heather on Oct. 17, 2011, 7:38 p.m.

    such fun! i will be here all week soaking up your knowledge. i actually spent part of the weekend organizing my soap making supplies... and here you are with soap week. perfect!


  • Emily

    Emily on Oct. 17, 2011, 7:41 p.m.

    Hooray! I can't tell you how much I appreciate you doing this series, Renee. The soap making bug is after me again (it has been for such a long time now), and this comes at the right time. After focusing on the "outer" this past summer, I am now enjoying this time for the "inner". Autumn's gentle push to all things kitchen, the urge to stock my pantry shelves (just like a busy little squirrel), and finding interesting gift giving inspiration ideas. All this speaks of a season of creativity.

    These soaps are exactly what I've always wanted to produce. So beautiful to the senses. That's what I love.

    I'm totally inspired now!!


  • Ellen

    Ellen on Oct. 17, 2011, 8:01 p.m.


    I've made your Simple Soap Recipe (scented with lavender oil) and it's curing now, and I'm just itching to make a "fancy" soap for gifts. Perfect timing!

    Also, thanks to you, my homemade vanilla extract is ready, my tinctures will be ready in two days, and my lozenges (are those from you too?) are being used right now (I have a sniffley one today).

    I love your posts, Renee. Thank you for sharing your knowledge with us!


    • renee

      renee on Oct. 17, 2011, 8:06 p.m.

      Nope, can't take credit for the lozenges (smile). You are welcome Ellen. It is my pleasure to teach and share what I know.


  • Elaine

    Elaine on Oct. 17, 2011, 8:48 p.m.

    Oh I bet your home smells divine this week:)I look forward to hearing more. I'm planning to make some liquid soap today. Not sure how that is going to go, but we'll see!


  • Mel

    Mel on Oct. 18, 2011, 1:33 a.m.

    Funny that you should post this because this morning I was thinking about making soap, which I've not done before. But then I decided it might be one of those things that I don't do right now so I have time to do the things I do do.

    But this week might just persuade me to change my mind again....


  • Rose

    Rose on Oct. 18, 2011, 1:58 a.m.

    Hi Renee, I met you at Heather's recent 30 Day Vegan course. You've given me some great guidance on beans, pulses and pressure cookers so this week I'll be looking forward to your take on soap making. I've made some basic non-scented soap in the past but would love to expand my repertoire.

    Rose in Oz


  • foxbrooken

    foxbrooken on Oct. 18, 2011, 2:05 a.m.

    What a coincidence! We made soap last Monday and used dried calendula petals from our 2010 garden (didn't get around to starting calendula plants this past spring :) ). I look forward to your series.


  • Francesca

    Francesca on Oct. 18, 2011, 3:50 a.m.

    looking forward to your posts Renee! I've been wanting to make (olive oil) soap for a long time, but I can't find some of the supplies, and I don't know where to store it while it cures (correct term?) - which I heard can take several weeks, up to 11!


    • renee

      renee on Oct. 24, 2011, 11:32 a.m.

      Francesca, soap is pretty forgiving, it doesn't need to be stored anywhere special while curing. It will do best though with air circulation. Something like a baking cooling rack on a shelf.  Soap doesn't take 11 weeks to cure but pure olive oil soap will take longer to get really hard. So if you want a really hard bar of soap let it cure longer. My current curing time is 6 weeks. The chemical reaction part where the lye becomes saponified oil (or saponifies the oil, I'm not sure) doesn't take all that long - maybe a couple weeks? But letting your bars sit longer will yield a harder bar that won't get as goopey when you use it. 


  • Cindy

    Cindy on Oct. 18, 2011, 9:48 a.m.

    I've been in Maine for a month and missed visiting you and the kids! And I have to admit, I miss your soap, too! It was the very nicest homemade soap that I've ever used. So, I guess I'll just have to try making it!


  • Renee

    Renee on Oct. 18, 2011, 3:27 p.m.

    Just read your "don't do" post. I gotta say, I love your honesty. So excited to read about your soap making.


  • Beth Wagenius

    Beth Wagenius on Oct. 18, 2011, 4:06 p.m.

    I read your don't do post also. So great for someone to say we don't have to do everything. Prioritize and decide what you do want to do and do it!

    I haven't made soap in years and will be reading with interest your posts on how you do it.


  • tara

    tara on Oct. 19, 2011, 12:40 p.m.

    Renee, it's funny you should equate your soapmaking with baking because I often tell people at craft shows who mistake my soap for fudge (it happens quite often. I think it's due to the use of natural ingredients as opposed to synthetic dyes) that I often find myself inspired by stuff that comes out of my kitchen. I can't wait to find out how your shampoo bat went. I started making shampoo bars a few months ago. My secret to good lather (perhaps it is also yours)-- beer. Looking forward to the week.


    • renee

      renee on Oct. 19, 2011, 12:42 p.m.

      Nope, no beer. I read about that though. I'm trying coconut, shea and some other oils in combination.  I like making soap that smells good enough to eat. 


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