soap photos

soap recipe calculations
calculations are the first step to creating excellent soap
coconut oil soap recipe
Coconut oil one of the solid oils that I use the most.
cocoa butter soap recipe
Cocoa butter is the secret to a luscious bar of soap
olive oil soap recipe
Olive oil is a magical ingredient for the skin.
soap making ingredients
Soap ingredients. Goat’s milk and beeswax from local sources.
soap making
Melting the oils in a stainless steel pot.
lye soap
Lye is available in flake or powder form. I prefer the powder, it dissolves more evenly, giving fewer surprises when making goat’s milk soap.
ice bath for goat's milk
An ice bath is essential for keeping your goat’s milk from curdling when you add the lye
cold goat's milk before adding lye
Goat’s milk before adding the lye. Always use non-reactive materials with lye, such as plastic or stainless steel.
lye reaction in goat's milk
The lye reaction will cause the milk to turn yellow. It’s important to add the lye slowly so you don’t spoil the milk with it. Takes patience. I usually freeze my goat’s milk now so that I can add the lye more quickly. You still have to be careful though.
adding lye solution to oils
Stir constantly when adding the lye solution to the oils
using hand held blender to mix soap
A stick blender is a great mixer for this but I have burned out a few. I’m going to try out a paint stirrer, the kind that attaches to a drill, to see if that works even better.
Gel phase. It’s not really recommended for goat’s milk soaps to let them enter gel phase. This is what it looks like when it does. The soap is still good, most of the time, but sometimes it can overcook your milk and spoil the soap.
Bentonite clay was added to this soap as a drawing agent. It is good for oily skin. It wasn’t a popular experiment so we haven’t made a second batch.
A horrific failure to saponify. I’m not sure what happened, this was my first soap failure. There have been others.
What not to do: don’t overestimate your crock pot’s capacity, and don’t use aluminum foil. It’s reactive and I don’t know what I was thinking.
seven deadly sins soap
wash away your sins, start with the seven deadliest
An older example of our packaging. All very home-made.
what our soap looked like at LAAFF
Coffee soap.
We got some wooden boxes after realizing how plastic everything was at LAAFF. Naturally, the soap is just a teensy bit too wide for the boxes so we have them stacked sideways.

003 011 001 004 009 019 020 234 011 008


my youtube video of the bacon covered turkey

This is my first video of any sort. The audio is terrible, I sound quite lispy, maybe we can figure out how to make it better next time, but for now I’m blaming my cheap camera. Let me know what you think. I know, it’s probably too long. But I am pretty narcissistic, which is funny since I really don’t like watching myself on video, but it’s okay as long as most of me is not in the picture.

you should still bring your own bag to the store

don't laugh at my lumpy fused plastic bag project

Today as I was looking over my shelves of unfinished projects to figure out what to do, I found these plastic bags stuffed into a King Tut shopping bag (as in, from our trip to see Tut at the Franklin institute a few years ago.  Still trying to figure out what to make out of that bag too).  A few years ago I was going nuts over plastic bags and trying to find various ways to make them into other things, while at the same time other people were doing the same.  I tried fusing plastic bags so many times and just couldn’t get the hang of it, but I did learn that I had more success with the thicker, more plasticized bags, and saved a few, apparently.  So I decided to see if I could achieve some plastic fusing success today.  I could not open the window, since it is below freezing today, so you can all blame the plasticizers for the part of my senile dementia that can’t be explained by the bonk on the head when I was a teenager…but that’s another story…

I used paper grocery bags to sandwich the plastic between whilst ironing.




cut off the handles
and the seam at the bottom



last, cut it open up the side for one layer of plastic

I had a really big piece of plastic from a bag a coat came in.  I split that and laid it flat and started arranging the smaller bags on it.

kitties love to help with these kinds of projects
test on a small piece of handle


Partway through the ironing on process. Some paper stuck to the plastic.
I put a hole in the big piece with the iron, and patched it with the piece of handle


The paper grocery bag worked out well, still, the plastic was hard to be consistent with.  It would get too hot and the paper would stick, especially where the red dye/paint was on the outside of the bag.  If I were to do it again I would maybe put the red toward the inside.

I set my iron a little hotter than medium.  If you used thinner paper you would definitely need to use a lower setting. You have to fiddle with it to get the right setting and the right amount of ironing action.


Now I need to figure out a completed project made of this plastic sheet.  It might just become a plastic sheet to carry in the car for those times you want something plastic to sit on or cover the seat with.  I don’t want to make too big a deal about the plastic bag tarp.  It’s plastic bags.

‘nother snow day project

a pile of t-shirts that I couldn't throw away became this patchwork blanket today

A very quick and dirty job on this blanket of miscellaneous t-shirts here.  The edges are all raw and the seams are exposed.  I did back most of them with another piece of t-shirt.  The Dead Kennedys shirt was showing a lot of signs of wear~

reinforcing around the holes by stitching the front of the shirt to the back

There is some bleach damage to the shirt, but if you look at the white part that is flaking off and away you might see my zigzag stitches.  It is not a beautiful sewing job, but it makes the resulting fabric/blanket a lot more substantial and obviously, less likely to rip apart immediately.

I did feel a bit of a twinge when I snipped into the Butthole Surfers shirt.  I know it doesn’t mean that I am not a punk rock girl anymore, I mean, really, I just listened to Hairway to Steven this morning while sewing this thing, but I couldn’t help but think of one of the TAs in my department in college.  I was trying to make a pair of jester/elf/curly toed slippers out of felt, and she went to look for a book with directions on how to make shoes.  She got this look on her face and said something about how you reach a point when you think you are no longer a hippie and get rid of things then someone needs to borrow your handmade shoe patterns .  She may have made that crazy mistake but I will NEVER give up my handmade shoe or anything else patterns.  Well, I don’t know, those Workbaskets from the ’70s are pretty awful, like almost not even kitschy awful.  The Ayds ads are funny though.  Oh, whatever.  I should not be attached to a t-shirt, neither for itself nor for what it represents.

Stay tuned, it still hasn’t quit snowing yet and who knows what project I will decide to work on tomorrow!

snowdrifts and snakeskin

Everything looks nice covered with a blanket of snow. Well, except maybe that vinyl tube lawn chair.

Already this winter has given us more snow than we’ve really been accustomed to.  Last year we had a lot of heavy snows and we usually have some snow every winter but not like this.  Today we’re getting snow from what I think is the fourth significant storm already this season and it’s just January 10!

how many bushes were there anyway?

So obviously I can’t get out of here for a few days.  If you have not seen my driveway, allow me to simply say that it is responsible for many a tale of woe, mostly when in it’s icy glacial snow or post-snow state.  I will not be posting pictures of the devilish driveway because the last time I walked down there to check on the condition of the driving surface I slipped on the scary part so you will just have to take my word for it for the time being.

I decided to get to work on an art project. I have been waiting for the chance to get to work on that snakeskin, so here are some pictures of how far I got with it today.

trying to get the scales off

The dry snakeskin was shedding it’s scales.  I found that the easiest way to get them off was to just pass it over my thumb while rubbing them off with my finger.

glue and leather to back the skin with

I had some concerns about the leather, mostly that the grain on the non-smooth side would give me problems, but I definitely wanted the smooth side of the leather out so I decided to go for it and hope for the best.

allowing the two halves to dry to the 'tacky' stage required for contact cement

So I put a thin layer of contact cement on both halves, the back of the snakeskin and the inner suede grain of the leather.  The leather was just a scrap I got out of the bin at Earth Guild.

smoothing the snakeskin onto the leather
waiting for the glue to dry

The problem is that I don’t think I have any grommets or snaps to finish the piece.  It may have to wait until after the snow melts!

snow days

One good thing about snow days is that you pretty much get forced to do some work. Here at the alchemy lab I’ve been retooling our labels and making some Seven Deadly Sins samplers. Can’t wait to show everyone the new packaging idea!

Also we poured up the yellow root tincture and I am testing the bundle of yellowroot to see if any dye remains in the sticks. I’m trying it on my police line scarf, the yellow has faded from that one a lot. We’ll see. If it doesn’t do much I may throw in some turmeric.

AND, I’ve almost finished another police line scarf…if noone buys it before Saturday I’ll have it at my booth at the Madison County Arts Council Holiday sale, at the Arts Council building on Main Street in Marshall.

Looks like I will be making a snakeskin project for my Design Project. I am looking for the right kind of glue to use on snakeskin. I have not decided what I am going to make but it will probably be something simple since I have never worked with snakeskin before.

coffee soap unmolded

yep, it looks like brownies

So, we unmolded the coffee soap today. Soon I am going to get actual coffee essential oil so it will also smell like coffee.  This one has a combination of cinnamon leaf, nutmeg, and ginger oils.  I thought it would smell kinda Christmas-ey.  We’ll be able to tell better once the goat milk odor has dissipated.

The coffee (this time I used espresso grind) is for exfoliation purposes.  It also will leave a nice coffee stain in your bathroom if you leave it where it can stay wet.  I keep my old bar in the shower and it hasn’t been a problem, but I plan to try this one as a facial soap, where I feel it may become a problem sink-side.  Just a head’s up if you are planning to get some.

If you have suggestions for other exfoliants..corn meal is one I’ve heard about but have yet to try, chime in!!

some interesting soap making occurences

So, today we made a batch of soap with coffee added to it to be an exfoliant.  I got the coffee from a prospective customer who is opening a coffee shop nearby. It is espresso ground, so it’s very fine.

I completed the soapmaking process with today’s batch.  It was starting to get thick, and I was a little afraid that the soap would seize once I put all those coffee grounds in there.  And at first it was clumpy.  Then I got out the stick blender and started to work it all in and one second it was this sticky stiff mass and all of a sudden it became totally liquid again.  I am thinking it has something to do with the coffee grounds changing the ph of the soap.  Anyway, it got super hot, I actually was seeing steam rising from the soap.  I dunked the hot pot of soap double boiler style into a pot with cold water, and stirred it and blended it until it started to cool down enough to think maybe it will turn into a solid mass of soap…and we poured it up.   I will keep checking on it and noting if it does go into gel phase or something.  Unfortunately we were not able to get any pictures of the weird chemical reaction though.

Another soap making situation occurred in the batch of lavender soap I made a few weeks ago.  It is not cured yet, but sometimes I wash my hands with a soap even if it’s not cured just to see what the qualities of the soap are shaping up to be like.  It’s probably not the best habit, but really all that happens is my hands will be dried out for a few hours.  Anyway, I discovered with the lavender that there is a limit to how much beeswax should be in a soap.  It makes it just a little bit harder to lather with, it still works but I would say it has great potential for using where kids wash their hands a lot, as it is hard and probably won’t get all soggy.  I am still learning so much about this with all the oils and herbal/food type additives.

post script on the lavender….at fully cured stage it lathers beautifully and is really a nice soap, so I think I jumped to conclude that the weak lather was from the beeswax.  most likely it was just not completely saponified.

my first actual wildcrafted tincture-yellowroot

I’ve been trying to learn as much as I can about native (and not-so-native) plants here for a while. It is a ridiculously complex endeavor, and though I’ve gone on many wild plant walks and such at various gatherings I still feel like a novice.  I am feeling ready for more intensive study of woodslore in my life, and I was recently spurred on by how I was able to go camping, find a plant I had been looking for, spontaneously recognize it with no hesitation, determine that there was plenty growing in the area so it was safe to harvest some for myself, dig it up, and bring it home to make tincture.

Unfortunately, I forgot to bring my camera camping.  I was so excited to be getting away from home that I didn’t feel like turning back to get it.

Here are pictures of the tincture making process though.

my bundle of yellowroot

Yellowroot is used for dye, yellow, obviously.  It also contains a high concentration of berberine, one of the active components in goldenseal.  Since I like using goldenseal for what ails me, I get good results with it, I want to see how yellowroot works.  I love every aspect of the herb gathering and preparation.

I cut the roots off the plant when I harvested them, and brought the bundle home.

the roots, all shredded up

We cut the roots up with a variety of tools.  I cut some of them up with the kitchen shears, we used the pruners to cut some of it, and the really tough bits went into the (cleaned out, of course) coffee grinder.

just added the vodka to the roots

I bought a mid-priced vodka, because I just couldn’t bring myself to buy the cheapest kind, even though it would be fine.  I have heard you can make tinctures with glycerin too, but have never tried any that were prepared that way.  I used an ear ache medicine for one of my kids years ago that was glycerin based, I imagine it’s about like that.

this has been steeping for a few days

I have been keeping this jar in a cabinet where it stays dark most of the time.  I will keep it like this for about 6 weeks and then strain the tincture and transfer it to small brown glass bottles, and they’ll be ready to use.

Fun with chemistry in the soap lab

cold process soap in the gel phase

Cold process soap goes through an interesting chemical reaction an hour or even longer after you pour it up into the mold.  If you keep the soap from cooling off quickly by keeping it wrapped in a blanket or otherwise insulated, it will heat back up and almost liquefy into this gel. It starts in the center of the mold and moves outward in a circle until the whole mold is full of gel phase soap. Then it hardens back up in a reverse pattern, outside in. It’s weird.

A guy who stopped by my booth told me he made soap with honey that heated up way more than typical gel phase. I haven’t made much soap with honey, only a few batches. I am going to look into the chemistry of that soon.