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What Soap Making Process Do I Choose? October 26, 2014

Filed under: Business,Soap — Meghan Tells It @ 4:08 pm
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When I started this soap making journey, I had some decisions to make.  I knew I wanted an all natural product free of synthetic fragrances and petroleum products.  Those are my own body’s enemies.  The petroleum products make me itch and can even cause me rashes.  The synthetic fragrances make me dizzy and can trigger migraines.  I suspect they also are the trigger in my son’s stuffiness when I use synthetically fragranced laundry detergents.

So that narrowed it down to:

  • Melt and Pour – the soap is already made, you just melt it in a double boiler and add your own fragrances, then pour it into whatever shaped mold you want.
  • Cold Process – you make the soap from scratch with minimal heating of product and let it sit for six weeks until ready to use
  • Hot Process – you make the soap from scratch using low heat to speed up the reaction between the lye and your oils/fats

Melt and Pour finished product

Melt and Pour Pros:

  • You already have usable soap without having to do anything.  There are several wonderful products on the market that list their ingredients, so that if you are like me and have allergies and sensitivities, you can avoid the things that hurt you.
  • You don’t have to worry about proper storage and use of lye. (Note: lye or sodium hydroxide is a naturally occurring substance that we used to extract from ashes.)  It is caustic and makes some awful fumes.  If, like me, you have a small child underfoot, this is a very big pro.  The last thing you want is for your family to be burned or breathe this stuff in.  Storing lye out of reach of little hands and then measuring it accurately when making soap is a very big deal.  I nearly went with melt and pour because of this, but realized that given the personality of my son and our schedule, it probably wasn’t going to be a big issue.
  • It is the fastest and easiest way to make fancy looking soap. You can make fancy soaps with the other processes, but you first have to make the soap.
  • Minimal equipment – all you need is a double boiler, the scents and the colors you want, and molds to shape your product.

Melt and Pour Cons:

  • You don’t have control over raw ingredients.
  • Can be just as expensive as buying soap at retail stores, especially if your primary objective is all natural ingredients.

Cold Process Soap

Cold Process Pros:

  • Control over raw ingredients.  If you have a sensitivity, you don’t need to use it.  If you have an ethical problem with an ingredient, you don’t have to use it.  (Many palm products are a source of controversy from farming methods to farmer salaries.  Some people want to use 100% organic and/or free trade products.)  You can experiment to see which recipes work best for your skin.
  • Less process time than hot process.  Once you’ve mixed your ingredients, pour them into the molds.  Next day, remove and cut the bars as necessary, then leave them to cure for six weeks.
  • You can make up large batches of plain soap to use as melt and pour later if you wish to add different shapes into the centers of your product.
  • It’s easy to use detailed molds and swirl colors together to make a marbleized effect.
  • You know that the glycerin hasn’t been removed, leaving your soap to be much gentler and more moisturizing.
  • If you have particularly dry skin, you can formulate your recipe to leave a bit more oil unused in saponification so that you have an extra moisturizing bar.

Cold Process Cons:

  • More equipment: all of the oils, lye, colors, scents; a thermometer to make sure your lye water and your oils are both at the proper temperature; accurate scale for weighing ingredients; stick blender (unless you enjoy stirring for hours at a time); pots, bowls, spoons, etc… that won’t react to lye; protective clothing/gear to prevent burns should the lye spill or splash on you; molds for shaping product; and probably a few more things that I’m forgetting.
  • More learning time so that the soap comes out correctly.  You wouldn’t want to give yourself or anyone else a chemical burn.  On the other end of that spectrum is you want to use the appropriate amount of oil to avoid a greasy mess.
  • Long curing time: You have to wait six weeks to use your soap.
  • Proper storage and use of lye:  It needs to be kept sealed so it doesn’t react with moisture in the air when in storage.  You don’t want children getting into it, so it needs to be out of reach and childproofed if that’s a concern in your work space.  When you use it, you must have adequate ventilation and consider wearing a mask to avoid breathing in the fumes.  It can be very nasty stuff.  You should always have vinegar on hand to wash any spills off of yourself as it will neutralize the lye.  Also, plastic gloves are a good idea to protect your hands.  If you’re clumsy, have kids, or need to work in an enclosed space with little ventilation, this is not the stuff for you.

My Own Hot Process Soaps

Hot Process Pros: Almost identical to Cold Process

  • Control over raw ingredients.  If you have a sensitivity, you don’t need to use it.  If you have an ethical problem with an ingredient, you don’t have to use it.  (Many palm products are a source of controversy from farming methods to farmer salaries.  Some people want to use 100% organic and/or free trade products.)  You can experiment to see which recipes work best for your skin.
  • No curing time. You can use it immediately. I use mine the next day. Leaving it to air out makes it even harder and nicer, but there aren’t any safety concerns if you’ve cooked it up correctly.
  • You can make up large batches of plain soap to use as melt and pour later if you wish to add different shapes into the centers of your product.
  • You know that the glycerin hasn’t been removed, leaving your soap to be much gentler and more moisturizing.
  • If you have particularly dry skin, you can formulate your recipe to leave a bit more oil unused in saponification so that you have an extra moisturizing bar.

Hot Process Cons: Almost identical to Cold Process

  • More equipment: all of the oils, lye, colors, scents; accurate scale for weighing ingredients; stick blender (unless you enjoy stirring for hours at a time); pots, bowls, spoons, etc… that won’t react to lye; protective clothing/gear to prevent burns should the lye spill or splash on you; molds for shaping product; and probably a few more things that I’m forgetting.
  • More learning time so that the soap comes out correctly (even more than cold process).  You wouldn’t want to give yourself or anyone else a chemical burn.  On the other end of that spectrum is you want to use the appropriate amount of oil to avoid a greasy mess.
  • Longer process/mixing time.  Once you’ve mixed the batch, you need to heat it to speed the reaction between the lye and the oil.  This means checking it and mixing it every 15 minutes or so.  Some people do it in their slow cookers or on the stove top and constantly stir to keep it from bubbling over the sides of the pot.  I use a tall pot and take my chances in the oven.  This can take anywhere from one to two hours.
  • More difficult (though not impossible) to get multi-colored swirls and to use finely detailed molds.  The hot product out of the pot is rather like a stiff cookie dough or bread dough, but it’s very very hot, so pressing it into molds can prove problematic.  If you like “pretty” soap, go with one of the other methods.  If you just want a plain bar, this works great.
  • You must be more careful with essential oils used to scent the soap.  Your soap out of the pot will likely be too hot for the oil and can burn off the scent. But if you wait too long to add it, your soap will begin to harden and even mixing becomes difficult.
  • Proper storage and use of lye:  It needs to be kept sealed so it doesn’t react with moisture in the air when in storage.  You don’t want children getting into it, so it needs to be out of reach and childproofed if that’s a concern in your work space.  When you use it, you must have adequate ventilation and consider wearing a mask to avoid breathing in the fumes.  It can be very nasty stuff.  You should always have vinegar on hand to wash any spills off of yourself as it will neutralize the lye.  Also, plastic gloves are a good idea to protect your hands.  If you’re clumsy, have kids, or need to work in an enclosed space with little ventilation, this is not the stuff for you.

My choice: Hot Process

I chose hot process because I didn’t have any place to set bars of soap to cure in a well ventilated area for six weeks.  Most of the advice I read advised against starting with hot process if you’re new to soap making, but I went for it.  I’ve had good luck, but then again I did a lot of research and was willing to lose a few batches in the learning process.  I also wasn’t interested in the decorative potential for soap (though there are some people who manage it with hot-process).  Mine was and remains to be a purely functional interest.  That is my personality.  I like plain and simple.  I also like the near instant gratification while remaining in control of my ingredients that hot process gives.  If you get gratification from making beautiful looking things, go with either melt and pour or cold-process.  The loss of ingredient control, or the wait time on curing will be worth your while.

If all of this sounds fascinating, but you’d rather just buy some soap, you can find me on Etsy and just order some.

 

Adventures in Starting a Home Business October 25, 2014

Filed under: Business,Personal Growth — Meghan Tells It @ 3:46 pm
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IMG_20140926_122710-1

When Alex was a baby and I stopped working outside the home, I needed something to keep my hands busy.  So I took up a crochet hook and relearned what to do with it.  When he was about four years old, he had decided baths were something Satan invented and the only redeeming value was being able to play with bars of soap.  With extremely sensitive skin all around, this amounted to me having to choose between watching $5.00 or more go down the drain every time I bathed him, or listening to him scream.  We didn’t have that kind of money.  I didn’t have enough strength to listen to the screaming.  Maybe bathing was invented by the devil?

Along comes a Facebook page post about frugal living and saving money.  The admin posted a link to how to make your own soap from scratch.  I had one of those light bulb moments where I’m sure there was an actual bulb above my head.  I could handle making soap!

Challenge #1 was finding a source of lye.  It used to be readily available in grocery and hardware stores.  Not anymore.  I found a source online.  Hooray!

Challenge #2 was finding a method that didn’t involve me letting the soap cure in a well ventilated place for six weeks.  I don’t have that kind of space in my apartment.  Hot process soap would work.  I’d only need to take up space for a day or two.

Then people started showing an interest in the soap and oohing and ahhing over the crocheted things.  Could I sell this?  Hmm.  I started an Etsy shop and held my breath.  I haven’t had a lot of sales there, but I’ve had people buy stuff from me outside of that.  I may close the Etsy shop.  If I keep it open, I’ll have to give it an overhaul and do some serious editing.  I’ve repackaged my soap to what you see below.  It’s been tough not having an Internet connection to our house and trying to have an online business.  Now that we’re back online, I think I may give it another go.

IMG_20140918_145617

I have had some wholesale soap orders from another crafter.  That seems like the way I’d rather go.  It’s less money in my pocket, but less dealing with direct sales.  The older I get, the less I like the general public.  There are plenty of individuals who are wonderfully gracious, but those few jerks out there grate on my nerves more and more.

I’m trying to stay focused and let the business grow little by little.  I’ve seen people try to do too much all at once and crash and burn.  I want to keep a job where I can work from home.  So, I keep reminding myself that I need to do what I do and do it well.  As I get more orders and more money to put into more equipment and supplies, I’ll expand. And as I sit here with a check in hand, I’m trying to decide whether to upgrade supplies, or join a few craft shows.  I’ll let you know.

UPDATE:  I made several changes to the Etsy site.  I’ll continue to add better photos and see what I can make of it.  Someone go buy something and support my writing habit?

 

Ready to Live Again October 23, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Meghan Tells It @ 2:42 am

Ready to Live Again.

 

Ready to Live Again

Filed under: Personal Growth,Uncategorized — Meghan Tells It @ 2:30 am
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depression_by_thirsty5

Depression Sucks.  Not just metaphorically.  I mean it sucks the life right out of you.  It slows every process in your body down.  Was mine major?  Nope.  But it has certainly interfered with my life and continues to try.  I’m beating it back though.  Most days are good.  But it’s always there, lurking and waiting to rear its ugly head.

But, Meghan, you don’t seem sad.  You have a lot going for you.  How can you be depressed?

It’s a sickness of the brain.  Like any mental illness, my neurons don’t always fire the way God designed them to.  So, in my case, my thoughts are slowed somewhat, but mostly still there and just fine.  My body lags.  Sometimes it’s all I can do to get a shower and make sure that Alex is where he needs to be and has some sort of food in his growing body.

Write?  Nope.  Too hard.

Clean?  Too hard.

Answer the phone?  You’ve got to be kidding me.  Maybe a text, but no promises.

My “to do list” is rarely very long.  But Depression will put up a brick wall between my organized self and my ability to get off my butt and get it done.  How do I get this wall out of the way?  For me, St. John’s Wort is very effective.  But like anything, you have to actually take it for it to help.  A number of years ago, I saw a therapist when I realized Depression wouldn’t go away on its own.  My health insurance was crappy and a number of respectable studies had come out saying that St. John’s Wort was actually effective for mild to moderate depression.  She told me to try it, as it would be cheaper than a formal prescription.  If it didn’t work, she’d prescribe something stronger.  It worked.  I was on Prozac for a while after Alex was born.  That worked too, but it made me feel flat, rather than reconnecting my head to my body the way St. John’s Wort does.

Anyway, it works for me as long as I take it religiously.  For several years I didn’t.  And I slid down that hill of disconnection and crankiness.  Life circumstances didn’t help either.  Craig has been hospitalized twice in that time period.  The first one was a nightmare of a time in our lives.  He’d done everything right by taking meds and going to his appointments, but the NP didn’t seem to get that things were going very very badly.  The last time was much better.  The new NP understood immediately that Craig needed a change and called for an ambulance before it was a big problem.

Raising a child isn’t easy.  Raising a child with a man who can’t work and Depression trying to tell me I can’t work either, is even harder.

Now?  Now, I’m moving again.  My home is less trashed.  My family is often fed healthier meals. Business is moving again.

Hmm.  Funny how treating an illness actually can make it better rather than ignoring it.  I’m done letting it suck the life out of me.  I’m ready to live again.

sunshine1

 

Coming Back September 24, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Meghan Tells It @ 10:52 pm
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So many thoughts. Some are deep. Some aren’t. So I’ll start with the overarching struggle of the past couple of years – Depression with a Capital “D.” I didn’t even realize how bad I had it until I started to come out of it late last spring. Perhaps if I had realized, I’d have sought professional help. Perhaps not. I’m sure there are a number of contributing factors. And it’s not totally over, but things are much better inside of my head now.

Now that my brain is functioning with more clarity, I have some projects that are finally getting off the ground. My soap looks like it may start selling. Hooray! I’m so glad I said “Hi!” to Teri in the grocery store. She ordered some for her farm stand. (Why wouldn’t I say hi? Because of the Big Depression and Hormones making me miserable that day. But she’s wicked nice, so even if she didn’t want soap, it would have been good talking to her.)

I crochet. I would like to sell that stuff too. I am struggling with pricing. It’s nearly impossible to make minimum wage on crocheted items. Most people don’t want to pay you for your time. Perceptions are difficult to overcome in this arena. So, do I sell it just because maybe I can get back my yarn costs plus a little? Do I insist on getting an hourly wage? ($120 baby blanket anyone?) So, I guess the bottom line is that I will be at a few Christmas craft fairs and see how it goes.

Alex is 6 and in 1st Grade this year. I’ve been going back and forth on whether or not to home-school him since before enrolling him in Kindergarten. It’s a big undertaking and I just don’t know what will be best for him. Hmm.

On the to-do list is an overhaul of my Etsy site, but if you’re interested, go check it out at http://www.etsy.com/shop/MegInStitches

Also on the to-do list is to write more.  So, perhaps it won’t be two more years until there is new content here.

 

 

A Good Day June 9, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Meghan Tells It @ 3:30 am
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Today was pretty good. I found out my boy has Hand, Foot, and Mouth disease. What’s good is that he has not had it nearly as bad as some people get it. Although it can last up to three weeks, usually the first week is the worst. And we are at the end of the first week. I have also had a sore throat, so hopefully I am about done too.

Mr. Man was advised by his doctor to stop taking the new vitamins he bought a few weeks ago and cut back on the coffee in order to relieve his bowel distress. Today, he did that and did not need to constantly run to the bathroom. Hopefully this will continue and his meds will stay in his system long enough to fully do their job.

Crazy Boy went to his grandparents’ house for the afternoon. So Mr. Man and I each got a nice long nap. That was great, because what mother doesn’t need more sleep? And I didn’t have to deal with my husband being cranky from caffeine withdrawal.

Even the weather was nice. The sun came out and stayed out. Yeah, I was in the pediatrician’s office for the morning and in bed for the afternoon, but it was nice knowing it was there.

I leave you with this bit of advice from Crazy Boy in his 4 year old wisdom. “You should never go swimming in a thunderstorm. Lightning might poke a hole in you.”

 

This and That June 8, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Meghan Tells It @ 4:44 am

It has been a heck of a couple of weeks. Mr. Man’s mental health has been steadily declining. If you follow my facebook page, you know this is probably due to his bad and prolonged case of “the runs.” If his pills don’t stay in him long enough to be processed, he has little hope of maintaining any level of sanity. I finally got him to see his primary care doctor. He is having labwork done and a follow-up appointment. I hope this goes away soon. He is in a lot of discomfort, can’t go far from home and te safety of our bathroom, and is losing his marbles down the toilet.

Crazy Boy probably has strep throat and I feel like I am getting it too. He sees his new pediatrician in the morning. I switched because his old one didn’t take our insurance. I hope the new doctor is good. I also need a new doctor for the same reason. So I may have to go to the emergency room for this as I have no primary care doctor and there are no longer any walk-in clinics in my area. Hooray! Not…

My Bible reading is sporadic. I am in Psalms. I am uninspired. I am not surrounded by enemies as David was. I am surrounded by sickness. I would really like God to grant my family health. This constant illness is wearing on me.

 

 
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