Since the whole depression/anxiety/monkeying with meds thing, I just haven't been up to doing the things I normally love to do. Soapmaking is one of those things. And they are lovely soaps, truly. So mild and kind to your skin, compared to store-bought "detergent bars." Plus the creative process is just so amazing. You start with a bunch of oils like olive, avocado, evening primrose, wheat germ, coconut, sweet almond, etc., and butters (not Land O' Lakes, I mean like shea butter, cocoa butter, mango butter, etc.), some lye crystals, and a liquid. You can use almost any liquid in soapmaking. Water, tea, milk, cream, even beer or wine. If you like, you can add fragrance oils or essential oils, Ground herbs, oat flour, honey, and even colorants if desired. Somehow, by some amazing process, if you do it all just right, stirring and monitoring temperatures, and pouring at *just* the right time, this mixture saponifies, and you have SOAP. Sometimes I like to be creative, like with these bars I made for Valentine's Day. The "base" bar was scented with cherry-almond fragrance oil, and the heart-shaped embeds, which I hand-milled from a plain white batch, and colored, leaving white pieces in the mix, were scented with strawberry fragrance oil. It made a nice soap.
But most of the time, I prefer simple, nice-to-your-skin (or hair--we do shampoo bars for people and pets) goodness. The saponification process has never stopped being magical to me. That just stirring these molecules around so that they will contact and bind with each other to form another substance is awesome. I love the stirring, I love the pouring--here's a batch of a very rich full goat's milk soap that has just been poured into one of my favorite posessions, my Upland soap mold: Isn't it beautiful? Then you cover your soap--unless it contains milk, honey, or oats, or other things that are "heaters", but especially milk of any kind...and the process continues. If you check on it later, you will find what we call the "gel phase", pictured (albeit blurrily) here: Once soap has gelled into all corners of the mold, it's time to unwrap/uncover it and let it cool. Soap does not have to gel to be good soap, and many people who make milk soap don't allow it to gel, so they'll get a lighter, creamier color that way. Many people believe that the gel process gives the soap a smoother texture. Me, I live in Arkansas, so I don't have much choice. My soap gels whether I want it to or not!
My favorite, very favorite part of soapmaking, I think, is the slicing. I have a fabulous custom-made cutter from an Arkansas artisan, and it just slices perfect bars every time. I love getting to see how the texture looks, the color, the feel, and especially if there were swirls, that is exciting to unveil! Here is this same batch I've been showing, after cutting:
It was a very rich formula with lots of shea and cocoa butter and rich oils like avocado (my favorite soaping oil, I think) and jojoba. It was made with goat's milk as the only liquid, and raw organic silk fibers were dissolved into the milk/lye mixture. I called it "Silky Milky", and actually kept most of it for myself, it was that nice!
Hopefully I can get back to it soon, but first I have to clear out the 800-odd bars that are in my tiny house right now. I am thinking of doing a flat-rate "grab-box" sale on my website, with a random (or maybe two or three choices of selections) in each box, for a bargain price on my website, just to move 'em out. (Those of you who are waiting on specific things, like Carrot Facial Bars and Oatmeal Cookie soap--Hi, Mildred!--I think I still have all your requests covered. Just gotta get 'em out.)
If any of you have gotten this far, you are obviously either very bored or a hobby junkie! Bless your hearts.