Kitchen Magic – 10-6-2019

Several years ago, maybe 5, I wanted to learn to make soap. I have a friend that I met through knitting, Cat, and she made soap and had for years. One day while I was in Michael’s Arts and Crafts, I saw soap base, molds, and fragrances and I bought some. The soap base was a melt and pour variety, the fragrances were strong and artificial, not what I wanted as soap.

I guess I mentioned this at knitting, I don’t really remember, but Cat invited me over for a cup of tea and a soap making lesson. I was excited, but didn’t know what I was in for. When I arrived, her kitchen counters were covered with thick layers of newpaper, a big pot was out, more different oils than I knew existed, essential oils, molds of various kinds (though we stuck to silicone cake pans and loaf style molds that day), an immersion blender, and printed out copies of several of her favorite recipes and books to borrow. I had a total immersion lesson, making two different batches of soap with her standing at my side, guiding me, but letting me do the hands on part. She taught me that when a recipe says x ounces or grams, it is weighed measure, not liquid measure even with liquids. I came home with two pans of soap curing, part of each recipe made with safety tips, recipes, a thrift store pot and immersion blender, and books to borrow. I was hooked. She had previously given me a bar of her soap and it was so much nicer than anything I could buy in the store and certainly nicer than the melt and pour stuff I had tried.

Only once, after that lesson, but after a bit since I had plenty of soap to use, I goofed and measured by volume, not weight. That batch was a failure, but a lesson learned. As I got better, I experimented with essential oils for scents and soon was making way more soap than hubby and I could use up. Fortunately, one of our children and his family like my homemade soap as much as I and some could go to their home. But still I had too much.

Along the path, a couple friends asked me to teach them and believing in the each one teach one ideal, I had a similar lesson session in my kitchen with each of the ladies making a batch to take home along with a mold, instructions, and some supplies.

I was already environmentally aware, recycling, reusing, making food from scratch, shopping at the Farmers Market, but I wanted more. I wanted to not have unpronounceables in my body products and cleaning supplies and I started making lotion bars and salves, then beard oils, my own cleaning supplies, and laundry soap (after another failed batch that was too caustic due to forgetting an oil). I learned that you could use bar soap as shampoo, with the right lather it can be used as shaving soap as well, and then there was too much of all of it, and Cabin Crafted was born.

I opened an Etsy shop, there is a link at the top of the blog and started doing some smaller local craft shows. This December will mark the 4th year I have set up at the Farmers Market that I frequent on Saturday mornings, for three weekends of Holiday Markets. I have some soaps and salves at a local museum. I will be at Booker T. Washington Park in early November in costume demonstrating fiber prep and spinning and vending my yarn, soap, and salves there. There is one other craft event that I am awaiting a decision on whether I will be allowed to participate. A few others have been tried and not repeated as they were not worth my time and effort. To guarantee that there will be enough supplies for the potentially 5 markets, I embarked on a holiday soap making a couple days ago. Friend, Cat, loaned me some of her holiday shaped molds, I had purchased a couple of my own, and for the past two days, the kitchen has been dominated by soap making.

Once cured, it will be packaged, crated, and ready for the events. There are a couple more days of soap making to be done, I still need to make Lavender scented and a few batches of non holiday shapes.

It is magic to watch the warm oils and butters, the caustic sodium hydroxide (Lye) dissolved in water, tea, milk, or coffee, transform into a solid that was molded or cut into bars from a loaf. Once cured and hard, a rich lathering bar of soap with many purposes.

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