What’s with all the numbers, part three!

Previously on SomeSoapWorks, we looked at the explanations for the 1630 and 1842 on my labels.  And now, on to the thrilling conclusion!  😉

1872

My 1872 soaps are some of the most fun I can have in terms of experiments!
My 1872 soaps are some of the most fun I can have in terms of experiments!

In all processes, especially those which involve some measure of trial and error experimentation, you are going to have some failures.  I’ve had plenty, including one early in my soap making experience, when I didn’t insulate a mold properly (the chemical reaction which turns oil, water and lye into soap puts out a lot of heat and you have to keep it warm until the reaction concludes).  The resulting loaf of soap looked horrible!  It had a thick rind on the top from where it had cooled faster than it had cured, and though it was chemically fine (the reaction had finished and the resulting soap was only just slightly more basic than neutral in pH), I had no illusions that anyone would want to actually use it.

Doing some research on what to do with my ‘failed’ batch, I discovered the process of “rebatching”, or remelting and remixing a finished batch of soap to try to fix errors or problems that come up in the initial cold process reaction.

I was surprised to find out during this research that many ‘soap makers’ do not in fact produce their own soap base.  Granted, the idea of working with lye can be daunting for some people, and plenty of folks only want to make a small amount of soap customized for themselves or to give as gifts, and so they buy a premade soap base, grind it up, melt it down, and mix it with a customized recipe of ingredients (colors, scents, and other elements) before pouring it into molds.  This “melt and pour” process does have advantages: since the ingredients you will be adding don’t have to survive the cold process reaction (which can produce heat in excess of 200*F) you don’t have to worry about the scent being “cooked out” of an ingredient, or having the color changed by exposure to heat.

The limitation of buying a premade “melt and pour” base is that you can’t change, and might not even be able to know, what is in that soap base.  Soap is rather loosely regulated by the FDA, and many companies who produce soap bases follow the letter of the law, rather than its spirit, and provide very little information on their labels.

Again, there is nothing necessarily or inherently wrong with this.  Companies are allowed under the law to protect their recipes as trade secrets.  The only trouble you get into is when you have allergies or sensitivities and have to be doubly and triply sure not to come into contact with something that will trigger a reaction.  I’m in favor of an exhaustive listing of components because I’m one of those people who reads and researches labels carefully, and I have still been burned (literally!) by a product whose manufacturer did not list all the ingredients.

My soap “failure” provided me with the perfect opportunity to try making melt and pour soap on my own terms, using a base that I could feel absolutely confident about.  I started  with my own pure olive oil castile soap, ground into flakes, and tested a variety of added liquids to see which provided qualities I liked.  It’s been a lot of fun to experiment, and provided me with an amazing range of new possibilities that I’ll write about here in future posts.

The simple key I use to refer to these remilled soaps is 1872, the year that the residents and government of the town of Somerville decided to mix everything up and reincorporate themselves as a fully fledged city.  I could think of no better analogy for this decision to take what the process gave me (the good with the bad), put in a bit more hard work and inspiration, and reintroduce it to the world as brand new and better than ever!

Great late breaking news!

Somerville Soap Works will be at the Assembly Row Riverfest this Saturday with 13mL designs!

Tomorrow’s weather looks to be perfect for a day out celebrating local art, design and the opening of the brand new Baxter Park.  There will be an outdoor marketplace, food trucks, live music, a Steampunk Exhibition and fireworks at 8pm!

The event opens at 11am and closes after the fireworks.  It promises to be a fantastic day and I hope to see you there!

Crowdsourcing Call to Action!!

I went to stock up on more of that wonderful organic cotton that I made my first soap socks from and I discovered this.

Of course, I had to have it!

Of course, I had to have it!

Same US grown cotton, but this one comes in a blend of the raw cream color, and a chocolate brown, as well as a mid tone that seems almost the color of caramel or toffee.  It’s really gorgeous, and I can’t wait to see how it looks made up as soap socks!

And, actually, I don't have to wait.  The verdict? Pretty awesome.

And, actually, I don’t have to wait. The verdict? Pretty awesome.

Which brings me to the point of my call for help.  This lovely yarn has the distinctly non-melodious name of “brown melange” and that just won’t do.  I’m thinking of calling it “s’mores” because the mix of chocolate brown, cookie/toffee taupe, and marshmallow white makes me think of those ooey, gooey delicious treats!

What do you think, folks?  Got any suggestions for me?

Sock it to me!

What’s better than a luxurious bar of handmade soap?  A luxurious bar of handmade soap in a nubbly organic cotton sock that makes it easy to hang on to a slippery bar in the shower and provides soft exfoliation!

Like this!

Like this!

I’ve been experimenting with little sachets sized for my soap bars that would take even the mildest, softest soap and give it an added texture for superior scrubability!

"Scrubability"?  What, you're just making up words now?

“Scrubability”!?!  What, you’re just making up words now?

I’ve made my prototypes out of a raw organic cotton to avoid fabric allergies and because cotton is one of the few fibers with the magical property of getting stronger when it is wet while still remaining soft and pliable.  Add a bar of soap and the cotton will allow the silky lather through while adding just a little bit of roughness for getting skin clean and smooth.

See those little purl stitch bumps?  THAT'S scrubability.

See those little purl stitch bumps? THAT’S scrubability.

Once the soap inside is used up, you can just pop the sock in the washer and get it ready for the next full size bar, or you can keep it hanging around to drop in all the slivers and ends of soap bars that are too small to be easily held in the hand, bits that would otherwise clog the bottom of the soap dish and get thrown away next cleaning day.

There you go: an ideal blend of luxury and thrift!

Now that I have my prototype figured out, I’m going into production.  These should be in the shop by the end of the week!