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Soap for Soldiers {a casual soap-making tutorial}

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Several weeks ago, this appeared near the entrance of my work facility:

I donated some requested items, but I got to thinking about what I would crave most if I were away from home, fighting every day to survive.  Besides a good, home cooked meal, my second biggest comfort and indulgence is a luxurious bath with lovely scented soaps, body scrubs, etc.  But what I’d want most of all is love and appreciation.

The military can’t accept homemade food from people they don’t know personally, but I really wanted to make something to make the gift more personal, so that the soldiers that received it would know that love was poured into it, not just money.

Soap wasn’t listed as a requested item, but I got the idea in my head to donate some homemade soap, and I called my sister, who is an old hand at making it by now (she has been making it for six years and selling it in her own shop for the last four), to see if she’d be game to help me do it.  I knew she would love the idea, and I was right!  She agreed to help me make it for only the cost of the supplies, and we met in the back room of her shop to get our soap-making party started.

Dennis came along to photograph the process so you can learn how to make soap along with me.  Thank you, honey! <3

This is Danielle’s basic soap recipe, which we tripled to fill two log soap molds.  All measurements are in ounces and all but the last two ingredients are oils & butters.  To make goat’s milk soap, she just subs goat’s milk for the water, but we went with water this time.

You can click here for a printable recipe with step-by-step instructions, or click here for one that includes a photo of the finished product.

Danielle ate her dinner while I measured the oils using an electronic kitchen scale.

Coconut oil

“I only use the best Mountain Rose Herb organic cocoa butter in my homemade soap!”

Castor oil.  Apparently soap-making has already driven me to drink.

Safflower Oil

Sunflower oil.  Allow me to deflect the attention away from my sister’s hilarious expression and onto my shirt with the flipped hem.  It is this way in every. single. photo.  And Dennis didn’t tell me.  He also lets me go shopping with chocolate on my forehead.  But I love him anyway.  :)

Palm kernel oil. This stuff is firm like cocoa butter and has to be hacked out with a knife or spoon.

Once all the oils are measured, it’s time to melt them together.  Some people do this on the stove, but Danielle just does it in her microwave.

“I LOVE MAKING SOAP SO MUCH I COULD DIIIIIE!!!!!”

While the microwave was doing its thing, Danielle measured her water into a glass bowl in preparation for making her lye-water mixture.

It is very important to add lye to water, meaning putting the water in your bowl first and adding the lye second, and not the other way around, or it will explode and burn your skin.  I know that sounds like something I’d usually say as a joke, since I like to exaggerate, but I’m not exaggerating here. Please be careful with lye!

You can find lye at any hardware store by the other drain cleaners in the plumbing section.  Make sure it says “100% lye” on the label.  And don’t’ be scared that you are putting it in something that will be used on your skin.  The process of making soap, combining the lye with water and fat and then curing the mixture, makes it completely safe for your skin.  All soap you’ve ever used contains lye–it is a necessary ingredient.

Danielle microwaved her oil mixture in bursts, stirring in between to help it melt evenly without heating it too much.  Here she’s preparing to put it in for about the third time before she adds lye to the water.

“And now, Pinky, we add the lye to the water and TAKE OVER THE WORLD!”

Combining the lye with water causes a chemical reaction which heats the water and puts off fumes that will make you choke and can burn your skin, so as soon as your lye is measured, take the bowl outside and start stirring to keep the mixture from solidifying.  You should wear a glove on the hand you stir with, as the vapors could burn you if you have sensitive skin.  Danielle has been doing this long enough to know she doesn’t need a glove, but she recommends you use one to be on the safe side.  Danielle also says to make sure you’re situated so that the wind is blowing the fumes away from you.

Stir for about a minute or so to allow the fumes to dissipate.  The mixture will be quite cloudy when you first start stirring, and will get more clear as you stir.  Danielle held the bowl up so I could feel how hot it got.

It reaches 200F, so be careful when handling the bowl not to burn yourself, either from the heat or the corrosive mixture inside it.  Again, gloves are a good idea.

Once inside, Danielle set the lye mixture aside to cool a bit while she finished melting the oil.  At this point it was melted except for a few cocoa butter and palm kernel oil chunks, so she removed them to a separate container to melt completely so that she wouldn’t have to heat the whole batch too much to get them melted.  You want both your oil and lye mixtures to be about 110F when you combine them.

Once the oil was ready, we combined them because the lye mixture had time to cool off and the oil wasn’t too hot either.  Danielle doesn’t use a thermometer, but you probably should until you get comfortable with the process.

Danielle likes to stir while pouring the lye water into the oil, but she says it’s not necessary.  You can just dump it in and then start your stirring.

You’re going to stir, stir, stir, until the mixture is thickened.  This can take a very long time, but an immersion blender makes the process much faster and it will be ready in a matter of a minute or two.

You will know it’s ready when it starts to trace.  To test it, lift a spoonful and drizzle it over the surface.  If you can see a line for a second or two before it disappears (leaves a trace), your soap is ready to pour into molds.  Here it was just barely tracing, but we stopped at this point because we were going to be adding more stuff and stirring a lot more.

Now’s the time to add the scent and extras you desire.  I chose lemongrass because it is a nice unisex smell.

For a batch this big, we needed two (1 ounce) bottles of lemongrass oil.

I wanted to do sort of a camouflage swirl so we divided the batch into thirds to turn each a different color with natural additions.

We added chamomile powder to the large bowl to give it a golden color, French green clay powder to the bottom bowl for a green color, and vanilla bean seeds and black clay powder to the top bowl for a brown color.  You can also put in herbs or oats into your soap at this point–all additions like this will make your soap more firm and it will last longer.  We just poured our additions in until we liked the colors.  Then we mixed, mixed, and mixed some more.

We made sure the soap traced before we stopped mixing.  This isn’t a great photo, but you can see the lines of soap that fell from the spoon.  It’s ready!

We poured the smaller batches of soap into the large bowl in random patterns to help the swirl effect.

Danielle gave the whole batch one swoop of the spoon for a swirl effect.  Don’t do more than this or your soap will become one color–it’s very easy to over mix.  One circular swoop from top to bottom is plenty.

Pour the soap into molds.  She uses silicone molds, which you do not have to line.

You can texturize the top with a spoon or spatula.

Allow the soap to set up in the molds overnight before removing.  Danielle took the soap out of the molds and cut them when I wasn’t there so I don’t have any photographs of that part, but I’m sure you can figure it out. :)

You can use the soap after a week, but it is generally recommended to let it cure for 4-6 weeks before using it, especially if you have sensitive skin.  The longer you let it cure, the harder it gets and the longer it lasts because it won’t “melt” so easily in the shower.

We got 19 bars out of this batch.  Pack it up…

…and share the love!

Hope you guys enjoyed this.  I know I enjoyed making soap for the first time and giving it to the soldiers, and I hope it helps boost 19 spirits.  If you’d like to send a letter or goodies to a soldier, you can get the name and address of an actual soldier serving now at this website.

Thank you, Danielle, for helping a sister and some soldiers out!  You’re the bomb-diggity!  And thank you to the Haus (that’s what I call Dennis if I never told you before-pronounced Hoss, like “boss”), who not only provided most of the photos here, but helped me with some of the captions.  You’re also the bomb-diggity.  And thank you to my readers for reading and (hopefully) enjoying my antics.  You’re all sorts of bomb-diggitiness. <3

And for those of you still recoiling from the mess in Danielle’s supply room, her excuse is the same as mine…

Creativity is Messy and I am Very Creative!-

Danielle’s Flying Pig

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Meet Danielle:

https://i0.wp.com/a4.ec-images.myspacecdn.com/images02/80/7754e7ff8cde4cbbbd82423296faadcd/l.jpg

This brilliant blonde is my middle sister (I’m the oldest of three girls, no brothers),  and she owns a gift boutique here in Wichita called The Flying Pig.  The first question people always ask when I tell them the name of her shop is why she chose it.  She has such a good answer, I’m going to let her tell you in her own words.

2600 E. Douglas  Wichita, KS  67214 / Open 10 AM – 6 PM every day

The Flying Pig was a natural choice for my shop for several reasons. First and foremost, “when Pigs Fly” conveys the idea of always reaching and working towards a goal, however unattainable it may seem, in pursuit of your dreams. I believe that we can all relate to the experience of working hard (pouring our blood, sweat, tears, and most importantly our heart), to get our own “Pig to Fly” in some manner. So the name is personal to me, and it encompasses the feeling of taking on all of the risks, challenges, responsibilities, joys, and rewards that come with having my own business.

Another reason for the name is that it is just a whimsical, fun, classic image. People notice the big Flying Pig sign and are intrigued to find out what’s inside. It’s not easy to forget a name like The Flying Pig!

In 2005, while in still college & working to get her degree in Industrial Engineering, Danielle started making homemade soaps & lip balms at home.  She got such positive feedback from friends and family on the quality of her products, and she enjoyed doing it so much, that she started a website to sell them and orders started coming in.

She graduated in 2007, and started working full-time as an industrial engineer for an airplane manufacturer.  In her free time, she was making bath & body products in an apartment she rented exclusively for producing & storing them, because she didn’t have enough space for the supplies in her own.  She sold her products on consignment in local shops, but had a bigger dream and she didn’t stop in her journey until she had reached it and opened up her own business at the age of twenty-six in 2008, in the heart of the recession.

Despite the floundering economy, in just three years her business has grown to the point where she can support herself with it.  Up until a few weeks ago, she was still working for Hawker Beechcraft, but now she is able to devote herself entirely to her true love.  The Flying Pig!

Danielle’s soaps are all-natural, made from plant-derived oils and high quality ingredients.  Many are vegan as well.  Every customer seems to have their own favorite product, and mine are her sugar scrubs and lotions.  They smell so good and make my skin super smooth, moisturized, and baby soft.  My husband uses her bar soaps exclusively, and his aunt Dorothy raves about them, claiming they’re so moisturizing she doesn’t have to use lotion after her shower.  She’s even got her husband hooked.

In addition to the bath & body products, candles, and room sprays that she makes, Danielle sells a wide-array of gift items, many of them handcrafted by local artists who sell on consignment in her shop.  Many of the artists have an arrangement with Danielle to work at the shop for free in exchange for her not charging a consignment fee for them to sell their goods there.  This allows her to keep the shop open every day of the week without being tied to the register herself.  She needs to be able to escape to the back room so she can make the soap, after all!

The place is packed with jewelry, clothing, prints, photographs, antiques, pottery, children’s items, even Amish baked goods, and smoothies are made to order.  There is a professional massage therapist with her own room in the back, and gift certificates are available.  If you’re looking for a unique gift for a special lady, you’re likely to it Dani’s shop.

Danielle also offers soap classes every Thursday.  I sat in on one a few weeks ago and it was so much fun, and not anything like the stiff atmosphere I usually associate with a “class.”  Danielle’s teaching style is very relaxed and you feel very at ease with her–all the ladies in attendance never hesitated to ask questions and Danielle had so much information to share.

One of the ladies in attendance had flown in from Detroit just for this class, which she found in an online search.  I thought that was pretty neat!  Everyone carried out Danielle’s instructions, standing around the messy round table in the back room, putting things into a big bowl, and we all laughed about how much it reminded us of witches making a brew.  They all got their own separate bowls of the master batch that they added their preferred scents and colors to before pouring into molds.

For those of you who live outside the Wichita area, you can buy many of Danielle’s products on her website, though she doesn’t have time to keep the site updated with all the new things.  Be sure to call or email her if you have a special request because she can makes soaps, etc., to order!

Giveaway!

*Update: this giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to Rick! What are the odds the only man who entered would win? lol!

Danielle has offered a set of her homemade products for one lucky reader.  This bag is filled with 6 bath and body products in “Kumquat Citrus” scent: body wash, shampoo, conditioner, lotion, body powder, and massage oil.  If you would like the set, leave a comment below about your own what kind of pig you would like to make fly (i.e. your dream), or share what kind of business you would have if you decided to open one.

Giveaway is open until Thursday, 10:00 PM CST.  I will draw from the eligible comments using random.org and announce the winner on Friday.  Good luck!

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