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Swirl – VICTORY!

Those who follow the blog closely will know that I have struggled with swirls since the beginning!  They would either blend too much or not blend at all (poor poor Plucky Peppermint …. you never swirl quite right).

BUT, I have done it.  I have made a swirl, a proper swirl!  The Poe-tchouli Soap is everything a swirl should be.  The first  test batch was too blended, but the normal-sized batch got it just right.

I’m using three colors here: brown, yellow, and white.  To create the colors I’m using black walnut hull powder, turmeric powder, and the soap’s natural off-white base.  Mixing them separately did take time, but I actually think that the extra time at trace made them more stable and less likely to blend.

I began by pouring a couple dollops of the brown, then a bit of the white, then a couple dollops of the yellow.  Then I added a lot of the white from a greater height, then topped it off with more of the brown and yellow, poured from various heights. Until it cures completely, the yellow will be that dark orange-y color, but once it’s done, it will be a much lighter semi-yellow.  HOORAY!

Check out the results!

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Upcycled Soap Boxes

Soap is pretty indestructible, but even the hardest soap can get damaged during transport.  Since my soaps are definitely not the hardest on the market, I’m always looking for new ways to protect them.  After looking into pre-made soap boxes, I realized that the cost of boxes was a little high for my finances.

Being the self-sufficient crafter I am, I’ve decided to make my own and rather than buying new card stock, I realized that I could re-use card stock from packaging!  DIY + sustainability = yippee!  In a fabulous excuse to get in touch with all of the people I never have time to see anymore, I sent out requests for old cereal, microwave popcorn, or granola bar boxes.  Dozens of boxes later, I finally got a chance to make my beautiful soap box!  Below you’ll find directions on how to make your own.

Materials:

  • Cereal Box
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Black Marker

Step 1: Prepare the Box and Gather Supplies

You will need to flatten the box and open the glued portions so that it is a single layer.  You’ll also want to gather scissors, glue, and a black marker.

Step 2: Outline the Soap

Working vertically, outline around the long, skinny length of your soap bar (in my case 4″ x 1″).  Do this twice; this will become the flap that closes your box.  Then set the bar down on its biggest side and outline it.  Do another skinny end, then another big side.  Finally, you will want to create side flaps, approximately 1″ around the outside of your initial outline.

Make sure you are working on the side of the box that has the design.  You want the outside of the new box to be the inside of the old box.

Step 3: Cut the Box

Once you’ve outlined the box, you can cut along the outside lines.  Then, you can begin cutting out some of the flaps.  Check twice; cut once.  Don’t cut until you are sure that you are cutting the correct section of the box.

Step 4: Score the Cardstock

Now that you’ve cut all the sections of the box that you need to, use your scissors to score the fold-lines.  Start out scoring lightly; you just want to be able to fold along these lines.

Step 5: Fold the Box

Fold the boxes along the scored fold-lines.  Make sure you fold towards the side with the design (what used to be the outside of the old cereal box).

Step 6: Glue the Box

Now that you’ve folded the box and feel comfortable with the shape you’ve made, glue each side.  Depending on the glue you are using, you may need to use either a paperclip or binder clip to hold the parts together while they dry.  I usually find that the Elmer’s glue I use dries quickly enough that I can just hold it for a few minutes.

Step 7: Put the Soap Inside and Enjoy!

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Display Evaluations: One Store Front

Everyone knows that it’s a rough economy.  I can’t afford to pass up on a single potential sale, especially with soap’s small profit margin.  This is why I’ve been tracking my booth layouts to see which system works best.  Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

Booths with One Store Front

This layout puts me right in front of the customers.   They can see everything that I have to offer and they do not have to decide whether or not to enter the booth, which intimidates some people.  The main disadvantage is that this layout has limited space.  On the other hand, this was a great layout when I had low inventory and wanted the tables to look full.  Another advantage is that I can move the tables either closer to the entrance or further into the shade depending on the weather.  This is crucial since the soaps and lotions need to be kept out of the sun and rain.

 

This layout relies on customers’ willingness to enter the booth.  During bad weather (high heat or rain), folks are more than happy to seek shelter inside.  They do not all make purchases, but I do see a lot more foot traffic with this layout if the weather is killer.  On the other hand, if the weather isn’t pushing people into the shelter, then this only works for determined customers.  The bright side here is that if someone enters the booth, I know they are genuinely interested.  This is also a decent layout if there are two storefronts, one in front and one in back.

This layout allows me to separate special products, especially the fragrance free line.  This is nice because it means I’m not accosting people with the scent of the soaps.  Since the kind of people who need fragrance free products are also usually sensitive to air-borne scents, it only makes sense to put their products up front.  It also gives people a chance to see some of the products as they walk past and a chance to come inside for more information if they want.

This layout allows for the most display space, but requires an additional table.  As with the other internal layouts, this requires that customers enter the booth to see the full range of products.  However, once they enter the booth, I have the chance to talk with them, get a sense of their interests, and suggest products that they might appreciate.  Having those one-on-one conversations is really important in a business like mine that deals in intimate issues like skincare.

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Favorite Scent Line Poll

Hello Soap-Fans!  I know which scents I love, but which scents do YOU love?  Cast your vote and see the results!

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Honey Soap

Now that I’ve switched from using some artificial fragrances to entirely essential oils, I’m beginning to use real organic honey in the soap.  The Miel Citron soap is pretty popular, but I didn’t want to keep selling it with the synthetic fragrance.  Today, I decided to make my first batch of the new recipe.

Normally, the lemongrass essential oil gives the soap a pleasant yellow color.  I found out, however, that honey gives soap a slightly orange tint.  I don’t know if it will last once the gel stage is over, but right now, the soap is a beautiful deep orange:

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We’ll see how it looks when I slice it.  Who knows, it could be the prettiest soap yet!

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Peppermint Swirl: Take II

After the last attempt at a peppermint swirl left me with pink soap.  While cute, it was not my intended effect.  Today, I tried a new technique and I think it will work out much better.  Rather than the pink marbling I got from mixing the swirl in the pot, I hope I can get a real red stripe.

This time, I separated some of the soap at trace and added 2 T of Madder Root Powder to the separated amount.  Then, rather than return it to the pot, I poured the uncolored base into the mold first.  Once that was done, I poured the colored soap into the mold and used a bamboo skewer to swirl.  From the outside, it looks good:

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We’ll wait and see how it looks once I slice it.

Scent Stones

I keep hearing from customers and friends that they wish they could just leave my soaps out to scent the rooms in their house.  Since I’d rather they continue to use and buy the soap, I’ve come up with an alternative product: Scent Stones.  These hard little stones have all the same essential oils as my soaps, but they are much more versatile.

Part of that versatility is the storage.  I’m putting a bunch of the little pebbles into 4 oz. ball jars and then using fabric lids to help release the scent without releasing the stones.  When they’re up for sale, the lids will be closed, displaying the label information, but once they’re purchased, the customer takes off the flat part of the lid, opening up the smell. They can leave them on their desk at work or put them in a dresser to scent their lingerie.  The possibilities are really endless!

At this point, the best prices I’ve found for Ball Quilted Jelly Canning Jar 4 Oz., Case of 12 are on Amazon.  I think the quilting gives them a prettier touch than the regular Ball jars, but those little quilted ones are hard to find! Besides, I want people to focus on my logo, not the jar’s logo.

To make the fabric circles perfect, I’ve been using the OLFA 1057028 CMP-3 Rotary Circle Cutter.  I am horrible at cutting circles on my own and they never look quite right.  At first, I thought I wanted to use pinking shears to make the edges, but I like the look of the perfect circle more than the imperfect circle with pretty edges.

PICTURES TO FOLLOW SOON

I’ve got one in my own lingerie dresser right now.  I want to test to see how long to scent lasts before I put them on the market, but so far, so good!  It’s been in there for almost a month and the smell is still going strong.  Getting dressed is a lot sexier now (which is funny because normally getting undressed is the sexy part)!

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Testing the Neem Shampoo: Day One

Day One: Today we tried the Neem Shampoo.  Justin says that he got lots of great lather from the bar, even at this early stage.  Admittedly, he rubbed the bar directly onto his short hair.  With my longer hair, I had to rub my hands together and only got a small amount of lather.  Chances are he also used up all the nicely cured outer layer and I got left with the younger innards.  As soap ages and cures, the lather increases.

On the bright side, the smell was fine.  I couldn’t smell the neem at all.  All I could smell was the rosemary and the mint, which was wonderful.  This morning my hair feels really soft, much softer than I expected given that I only used shampoo this morning.  I ran out of conditioner and haven’t had a chance to make a batch of my own yet.  Today seemed like a good day to really test out the shampoo and see its effects.  My scalp barely itches today (a miracle) and the hair is soft and shiny.  What little scratching I’ve done today I’ve done out of habit more than anything else.

Normally, my scalp itches uncontrollably and flakes.  There are days I wear gloves in the house just to keep myself from scratching.  Some nights (mostly in the winter), I wear a beanie to bed so I won’t scratch in my sleep!  I’ve been to see the dermatologist, but nothing he suggested really worked and the oil treatment he prescribed left my hair stringy and gross.  Every time I used it, my hair was left greasy.  If this neem shampoo continues to work as well as it did this morning, I’m a convert!  Nice smell, soft hair, calm scalp … HOORAY!

First Craft Show – Loch Raven HS Craft Fair

For my first public appearance, I will be selling soaps at the Loch Raven High School Craft Fair in northern Baltimore, MD.  If anyone is interested in seeing, touching, or smelling the soaps in person, come on out and join us! 

Who: YOU!

What: Loch Raven High School Craft Fair

When: Saturday, March 24th from 10 AM – 3 PM

Where: Loch Raven High School, 1212 Cowpens Avenue, Baltimore, MD

Why: You can buy wonderful soap!