How I Started Soaping

A recent forum topic asked how the members got their start soapmaking, so I thought I'd share here as well.

In 1996 I was a single mom living in the center of a small town. My way of relaxing was to research "lost arts", and learn them. This satisfied my creative needs as well as provided useful and pretty things that I couldn't afford to buy myself. One day I was browsing inside a local bookstore/boutique just to look at all the wonderful treasures for inspiration, and I came across Anne Bramson's book Soap. I was immediately fascinated with the idea of being able to make something so completely necessary and useful, and not being a fan of commercial bar soaps that stripped my sensitive skin, I was excited about making a soap I could actually use.

I walked over to the local grocery store. At that time, grocery chains still cut some of their own meat and the store had a tallow bin. I confused a couple of employees with my request for tallow, but eventually they got me to a butcher who knew what I meant and he reached into the freezer bin and pulled out a wrapped lump the size of a ten pound bag of sugar, and equally heavy. I lugged that thing home, and spent the next couple of days rendering it. Not the most pleasant task, to be sure, but the satisfaction of seeing the pot yield a clean, white disk of tallow was all the encouragement I needed to keep going.

Next chance I got, I set up my soap making assembly line and mixed the ingredients with my fingers crossed. I had no stick blender at the time, the book I had referred only to hand stirring, and the internet was not a common household name then; I was on my own. So I stirred, and stirred... eventually the mix came together into a creamy thick consistency and I added some cedar essential oil and a decoction of rosemary (It amazes me that even with my first batch, I jumped right in to scenting and adding botanicals!)then I poured it into a shoebox lined with plastic.

Little did I realize when I started this batch that I would end up with about 12lbs of soap!! But I still remember turning out that gorgeous, white block of soap... what a beauty it was, even with all its wrinkles and bumps... I was hooked.


The Scenic Route said...

This is a great story! Can I ask - does even handmade soap have lye in it?

savonara said...

See my post above, "The Lowdown on Lye" for an answer to your question!

Anonymous said...

I love how you got started! Thanks for sharing your story.