3 Reasons to Make Your Own Soap

Barn Soap sm

Since I am not David Letterman, I will not give you 10 reasons. Personally, I think three is more than enough!

Soap making is my creative passion and has been now for over sixteen years.  I don’t seem to hear this as often now, but I was asked this a lot in my early soap making days… Why make soap when you can easily buy it at the store?

Well, first of all, most of what you find at the store is not real soap, but more of a detergent bar made with synthetic ingredients. Second, why do people make anything? Simply because they find much enjoyment in doing so.

So here are my top 3 reasons for making your own soap.

Reason #1 – Soap Making is the Endless Experiment!

This very fact tickles the creative soul and it is absolutely true, there is always something new for you to try, that you’ve never tried before.

Over the years I have made

oatmeal soap

peppermint soap

lavender soap

goat’s milk soap

sheep’s milk soap

buffalo soap (using buffalo tallow)

beer soap (why not? Better than drinking the stuff!)

coffee soap (I didn’t take a sip)

Just to name just a few.

You can experiment using different oils, different additives, different colorants, different scents and you can even make your own designer scents through scent blending.

So I hope you can see that there is nothing boring about making soap. One of the reasons it is such a great craft is that it can truly can be an endless experiment!

Reason #2 – Real soap is a much better product for your skin.

As noted above, commercial bars are made with synthetic ingredients, homemade soap is made with more natural ingredients. That’s as straight forward as it gets.

Also note that many people suffer with skin sensitivities these days. There are so many different things that a person can be allergic to. So be good to yourself by being good to your skin.

Reason #3 – When you make your own soap, you get to choose exactly what goes in it.

So you want a soap made with lavender? You can make that.

You want a luxurious bar with shea butter? You can make that.

Maybe you want a fancy, pretty swirled soap? You can make that, too.

You can make whatever soap you like because you get to choose. You are no longer limited by the choices you see on a store shelf. How’s that for fun?

Now really there are a lot of different reasons to make your own soap. I just have shared what is to me, the heart of the matter. Hope I have stirred your interest. It’s a great craft!

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One Proud Texas Soaper

Texas Soap

Many times when I introduce myself to a crowd of soap makers, it usually goes like this.

I am a fourth-generation Texas soap maker of Swedish descent.

Texas proud, I am!

It seems hard for people from other states to understand our Texas pride, but they recognize it.

Back in the early ‘90’s my nephew Eric came down for a visit. This was his first solo trip as a young man and one thing that caught his attention was that he saw the shape of Texas everywhere. He was amazed and he told me that it just isn’t like that in Illinois.

Welcome to Texas!

I think that our great Texas pride is due to the fact that we were a nation before we were a state. The Republic of Texas. Other states can’t say that. So there ya go, our claim to fame.

For me personally, a lot of my pride as a Texan is directly related to my Swedish ancestors.

Approximately 11,000 Swedes immigrated to Texas between the years of 1840 – 1920. A good percentage of them settled in Central Texas, in Travis and Williamson counties.

My Great Grandparents, Aaron & Emeila Johnson, settled on a farm just north of Round Rock. I can’t help but think about this every June when I coordinate the Soapmakers Seminar. The hotel and conference center where the seminar takes place is only a few miles southwest from where my Great Grandparents once lived.

I have a good heritage of courageous people who left their homeland to forge a new life in another country. Texas is where they came and thrived.

Today I live with my family in our our little piece of the country, here at our northwest Williamson County outpost. A T.V. reporter once referred to our place using that phrase. It fits.

As a fourth-generation Texas soapmaker I am very proud of my heritage and of my state.

Why you can even see that in the soap that I make.

Keep clean, Y’all!

The Crazy Story of My Favorite Craft Show

Boardwalk at Reelfoot Lake State Park

My favorite craft show, is the craft show that almost wasn’t.

The story is so crazy because of what happened on the way.

Let me take you back to September, 2005.

It was my first time to do a craft show out of state and we were so excited. The three-day Reelfoot Lake Arts & Craft Show is a very popular show held in Northwest Tennessee, only twenty miles from where my in-laws live. It’s an absolutely beautiful state park on the banks of Reelfoot Lake.

We had been watching the weather for weeks in anticipation of our trip. There was certainly weather to be watched. Katrina had hit Louisiana and the Gulf Coast a couple of weeks previous; now, Hurricane Rita had the upper gulf coast of Texas in its sights.

Our goal was to outrun Rita before the remnants of the hurricane came inland.

We left the house around midnight. Our small minivan was packed to the gills with people, luggage, soap and all the trappings that goes into manning a craft show booth. I took the first turn to drive and my son, Daniel, rode in the passenger front seat. The rest of the family settled down to snooze the miles away.

We were only seventy-five miles into our trip as we drove through Waco, Texas. There was a fair amount of traffic on the interstate for it being only 1 a.m. We passed the river, topped a hill and then I spotted something on the road up ahead of me. I couldn’t determine what it is was, all I could see was that it was long, seemingly thin and laid out right across my lane.

A quick glance in the rearview mirror revealed that I had nowhere to go, cars were behind me in every lane. So I did what my momma taught me to do. I grabbed the steering wheel tighter and just held on, white knuckles and all.

We hit the thing with a bang and the rest of the family immediately jolted awake. The van kept moving fast, thankfully in a straight line, but now with much assorted extra noises. When it was safe, my husband yelled at me to get over. I needed that because everything was so loud, and I was kind of frozen in shock at the time.

It all happened so quickly, mere seconds.

We made it to the side of the road and my husband and I got out to look at the damage. Our jaws dropped. Both passenger side tires had blown. As we stood there starring at the tires, we couldn’t help but wonder what would happen next. Did our trip just get cancelled?

The gravity of the situation slowly began to sink in as we realized our kids were starring out the windows at us, all with scared looks on their faces.  It was only by the grace of God that we didn’t flip. We could have all been killed.

Then something really crazy happened.

A Texas D.P.S. trooper pulled up. “Is everyone O.K.?” he asked. We nodded. Then he said, “You hit a steel bar that fell off of an old wrecker truck. I know who it belongs to, I’m going to get him. Will be back in a few minutes.”

My husband and I looked at each other in disbelief. Crazy. Simply crazy!

Nothing could be done to remedy our vehicle situation until the car dealership opened in the morning. This was who the wrecker truck guy worked for. We ended up spending the rest of the night in a very popular convenience store/bakery known as the Czech Stop. At least their scrumptious kolaches were some consolation.

The final word on our minivan was that it was totaled. Besides the blown tires, there was also damage done underneath the van. Our trip was delayed, but we did ultimately make it to Tennessee for the craft show.

Once we got there, we enjoyed ourselves immensely. It was so much fun to do a craft show in another state! Reelfoot Lake State Park is simply beautiful and the people are so friendly. It was simply a fun show.

Now three-day shows are long. It was a good thing I had my entire family to help. But sometimes said help can yield some unique memories.

At one point I left the booth for my family to run, while I went to look for my sister-in-law. Upon my return, I was greeting by a very interesting sight.

There was my five-year-old daughter Susan, standing out in front of the booth asking passersby, “You want to try my Momma’s lotion?”

My husband was at the back of the booth with a grin on his face. The two oldest kids were hovering near him, I guess you could say, for protection. They were the ones who had put her up to it. But we all had a good laugh, and as you can see, enjoy telling this story to this day.

When it was all said and done, the sales from this show was nothing to write home about. Being it was right after the two hurricanes which immediately drove up gas prices, folks didn’t seem very willing to part with their money. Nonetheless, this remains my favorite craft show to date. A lot of fun memories and a testimony to the protective hand of God who had angels riding shotgun with us that night.

Do you have a favorite craft show?

Photo: One of the boardwalks at Reelfoot Lake State Park, Tiptonville, TN

 

Fifth-Generation Soap Makers

Fifth Generation

Ours is a soap making family. Past, present and hopefully future.

All three of my kids, my son-in-law and my husband, have helped me in my soap business. Both of my daughters, Becky and Susan, have made soap, served at my side at numerous craft shows and attended soap gatherings with me. My son, Daniel, son-in-law, Randall and husband, Danny, have all helped shrink wrap many a bar. A soap making family, indeed.

As a fourth-generation Texas soap maker of Swedish descent, I enjoy having a heritage in this great craft. It also very greatly pleases me to pass the craft down to the next generation.

Photo below: Becky & Randall helping prepare for a craft show.

Becky and Randall 103012sm

Our Story

So let me tell you the story of my family’s involvement in my soap obsession. They were with me from the start.

July 4, 2000 was the day I got serious about the soap making. I had experimented with soap making before, but on this day while pushing my baby’s stroller through the arts and crafts fair at Belton, Texas, I came across a soap maker selling her wares and left with my interest reignited.

Three weeks later I went back to Belton to attend a basic soap making class with that same soap maker. Susan came along and was more than content to sleep in her portable playpen. For the next three years I happily experimented making all kinds of soap. I was quite satisfied as a soap hobbyist.

The Country Soaper

The year 2003 brought many changes. In June of that year I attended my first soap convention in Dallas, with my oldest daughter, Becky, at my side and in the Fall I launched my business, The Country Soaper. My business name was one of those things that just kinda happened… and it fit!  It speaks of basic goodness. Basic goodness in a bar!

That first Christmas selling season found us at two different craft shows, again with Becky at my side helping. We had great fun.  She continued to attend soap gatherings with me and accompanied me to craft shows.  She also learned to make her own soap and mineral make up. She is a creative crafter in her own right.

As for Susan, by the time she was ten, she wanted to make her own soap, so we turned to melt & pour.

The picture below shows her selling to her very first customer. It wasn’t much of a craft show, but very unique in that it was held at my Dad’s old school in Jonah, Texas. We were only a few miles north of the farm where my mom had made soap as a young married woman.

First Craft Show 101610 sm

This will be Susan’s seventh year to make her own melt & pour soap to sell alongside my cold process soap at craft shows.  Over the years she has received countless compliments on what a good salesperson she is. She does seem to be a natural. She also enjoys helping me with my responsibilities running the annual Soapmakers Seminar in Round Rock, Texas. At our last seminar in June, she got to serve on the door prize team, distributing the prizes to the attendees.

The Future?

I grew up with my Mom’s old-fashioned lye soap an ever present fixture in our home. My kids have grown up with my soap, and have gone on to make their own.

What will the future hold for this soap making family? Will our fifth generation continue on with the craft? The future is their history to write.

4GenSoapersSM

 

 

My Favorite Soap – Shampoo Bars

Shampoo Bars

Soap making is such a unique craft because it can be an endless experiment. There is literally always something new-to-you to try.

In my own experience, I have found that I go through seasons of liking to make certain kinds of soap.

Currently, my favorite kind of soap to make is shampoo bars. I am having a particularly long season of this being my favorite, going on two years now.

I think shampoo bars appeal to my very Swedish, practical side. I mean, a soap with a dual purpose… to clean your body and your hair. How cool is that?

When I first got interested in making shampoo bars, I turned to the internet for research, but I also turned to old soap books. I took careful note of the oils and the percentage of oils used. To my surprise, I found one shampoo bar recipe in an old lye booklet that used 40% castor oil in the recipe. So I formulated a shampoo bar recipe with a high percentage of castor. I thought that it worked pretty good, but the soap sure didn’t last long.

After many test batches, but I finally came up with a formula I liked.

Here it is:

Shampoo Bar Recipe

10 oz. distilled water

4.6 oz. lye

.6 oz. sodium lactate (added to cooled lye water right before making the soap)

16 oz. canola oil  (50%)

11.2 oz. coconut oil  (35%)

3.2  castor oil  (10%)

1.6 oz. mango or shea butter  (5%)

1 oz. fragrance oil (optional)

Directions… make soap using the standard cold process soap making method following standard soap making safety precautions. Cure for at least four weeks before using.

Using Shampoo Bars for the First Time

When you first start using shampoo bars, understand that there will be a transition period. Your hair is used to what it is used to, it will take a while to get used to using a shampoo bar.

Apple Cider Vinegar Rinse – it is highly recommended that you use an apple cider vinegar rinse after shampooing with a shampoo bar. You can easily make your own by using a plastic bottle, preferably one with a spout for easily application.

Take make the ACV rinse, use a ratio of 1:4. Pour one part ACV into the plastic bottle, followed by three parts water. After shampooing, apply the ACV rinse and work it throughout your hair, then rinse off. Your hair will have the not so pleasant aroma of vinegar afterward, but rest assured that it dissipates rapidly.

Apple Cider Vinegar in and of itself is great for your hair! I like using it because it gives my hair a great natural shine.

If you haven’t made shampoo bars, I encourage you to give it a try!

 

For more of an in depth look at shampoo bars and other hair care products, check out the latest issue of the Soap Collaborative.

http://tinyurl.com/glc92ov

Take Time to Recharge

Recharge

In our modern tech world, most of us own several difference pieces of technology by which we run our daily lives. We have our cell phones, laptops, tablets, etc. Each of these have a battery and said battery can only run so long before needing to be recharged.

But we tend to forget that we need to take time to recharge ourselves.

In our always-on-the-go society, we simply cannot always-be-on-the-go.

We need times of rest. We need time to recharge.

I grew up in a coffee drinking family. This was a natural being a family of Swedish descent. My parents have been gone for many years now, but I can still picture them at the dining room table, sipping coffee and talking over the day’s events. There was morning coffee of course, before and during breakfast. But then there was also the tradition of afternoon coffee when Dad got home from work.

After I graduated from high school we moved to the country. Now my parents could gaze out at the peaceful rolling pastureland while sipping their favorite beverage.

Although coffee drinking was almost treated like a sign of maturity in my family, I didn’t mature until I was in my thirties. My late arrival on the coffee scene was due to my Dad. One day as a young girl, I had asked him for a sip from his cup. He got a kick out of that and gladly allowed me a sip, but with it also came some of the icky coffee dregs. Back in the ‘60’s drip coffee makers had not been invented yet. So that cured me for many years, but I finally came around.

Now I’m the one who owns the dining room table, but my favorite place to sip coffee is out on my front porch. There I can relax while listening to all the many wonderful country sounds that surround me.

And there, I recharge.

Before long, I am ready to go on with my day.

In our seemingly always busy lives we tend to ignore our need to slow down and rest, but we really need to.

How will you take time to recharge today?

Stand By Me

Stand by me

Today I attended the memorial service for my dear friend’s brother. I did not know him personally, but went to support and honor her and her family.

He was young. Only 60 years old. He was struck down by a stroke and died several days later. He leaves behind his daughter and her husband. His wife had preceded him in passing.

His friends gave tributes that were very honoring to this man who obviously lived a very full life. It was all very touching.

As everyone visited after the service, I got the chance to talk with several old friends, most of whom I had not seen in many years. At one point, four of us sat together. I couldn’t help but think of how we were all friends because we all grew up going to the same kind of church. Decades. Ahem. Decades ago, we had a lot of fun times together attending youth group functions, retreats and church rallies. Now, here we sat and visited with our friend who had lost her brother.

When someone loses a loved one it is so important to show that you care. Whether you reach out in a big or small way, reach out. Reach out to the ones who are hurting. The words are not as important as the compassion you show.

Sometimes it doesn’t even have to be words at all.

I remember the day we laid my mom to rest. Before the funeral began I sat at a table at the back of the church. I will never forget the kindness my two cousins, Sharon and Barbara, showed me that day. They came into the room and each took a chair on either side of me. I don’t even remember now if many words were spoken, but I remember the love and compassion they showed. They were just there for me. They knew my need. They had already lost their mom.

True friendship, true love, is standing by someone through the hard times.

Stand by me. Stand by the ones you love.