Sunday, 16 February 2014

Soap.

I've wanted to make my own soap/creams/lotions for a very long time because my skin is SO particular, I was fed up of spending money on products that either didn't help or made it worse. My skin is mostly dry but it probably doesn't help that I love a steaming-hot shower and can be a little lazy when it comes to moisturizing my body...and don't even get me started on my hair - I wash it everyday - this fact usually makes anyone cutting my hair gasp a little. Then I came across an article about all these ingredients in commercial beauty products that sounded awful and I truly believed either caused or did nothing to help with my skin - hence why I wanted to make my own!! This was the only and final solution!!

(I am now also currently on a semi-natural shampoo routine which I will blog about later as I threw away all my L'Oreal's, Pantene's, Aussie's! .... definitely worth reading!!)

Back to soap - soap-making seemed like such a huge expense and I felt that I needed to dedicate a lot of time to get started as it is so technical and specific... and I didn't want to do it the easy way either - i.e. Melt & Pour.
Finding time proved to be very challenging due to my full-time job and running my Etsy shop - which I only had about 4 days each month to spend time on... but I could not get soap out of my mind and if there was something I could make with just my hands, then I wanted to do it even more!

Anyway, I can't remember what provoked me, but as it was coming up to my birthday (January), I decided that I wanted to use the day to get something I really wanted, rather than the usual shopping vouchers/gift cards (not that I am ungrateful of those dear family). So, I asked my family to chip in and send me on a soap-making course! I hadn't found one yet, but they all agreed and all I had to do was to tell them how much they had to send.
After hours and hours of searching online for a soap-course in London that looked genuine, I settled for 'Make Soap' by Melinda Coss...there was something about it that made me choose her course, over the others I came across... but I didn't know why, yet.

The day-course was still a month away by the time I had booked myself into it, that I decided to dig out an old soap book ('the handmade soap book') I bought ages ago, to try to get myself familiar with the terminology, and possibly a bit of a head-start, just so that not everything sounded alien to me!
Lo-and-behold, guess who the author of the book is? Melinda Coss! ... That was why I was drawn to that particular course! It was fate! I knew for sure this was the right course for me.
I remember when I got the book and found it terribly overwhelming but excited too ... cocoa butter, shea butter, poppy seeds, camomile, honey, coconut oil, lavender... all these yummy ingredients needed to make soap... but I really felt I had to be in a classroom environment to confidently start making some myself, especially with the use of sodium hydroxide (lye) .... this was why I left my book on the shelf and never returned to it, until now... after reading about all the horrible things I've been putting on my skin and hair!
So, yesterday was the day of the course!! I was totally surprised at the 20+ people who attended it! The course started at 09:30 and finished at 15:30. It started with Melinda giving a brief introduction to soap-making .. about the ingredients, colours, safety precautions and also to answer any questions we had. We were then split into three groups at a long table each and my group was led by Jackie, also a professional soap-maker like Melinda ...and she was brilliant! In fact, everyone there was just lovely and always available to answer any questions.
I remember thinking how pretty much everything on the table could be found in my kitchen.... I had read about it beforehand of course, but I guess it didn't really register until I saw it all in front of me.
We started with doing a basic 'swirl' soap and followed a recipe step-by-step, while Jackie explained it all in more detail as we took turns doing each part. I couldn't believe how straight forward it actually was, the main thing was to be very specific when it came to measuring everything.

I couldn't repeat the entire process off the top of my head at this moment in time, but after reading through Melinda's book again, after attending the course... things really made sense and not so hard after all!!

We literally made a block of soap from start to finish in only a couple of hours, then we had a nice lunch break, then Melinda took us through a chart of working out the ratios of oils etc and then resumed to make another batch. This time, we did it using Goat's Milk.
I remember buying a handmade body butter once with Goat's Milk in it and it absolutely STANK!! So, I was preparing myself for this ... however, it only smelt a little... but after adding the Lavender essential oil, there was no more smell... Jackie also advised that if we wanted it unscented, there would be no smell after the curing period, if we did not add a fragrance. So, not quite sure what on earth was in that body butter I bought!! Again, I couldn't explain this process right now either but I am challenging myself to recreate the two recipes I tried on the course, at home. So will keep you updated! In the meantime, I will just annotate some of these photos I managed to take during the course!

Each table made enough to be split amongst all the participants on the course - here, we are pouring in the soap mix into paper cupcakes. One is plain and one has poppy seeds added to it...
...and this is how they looked after being decorated with lavender seeds and flower buds. Super cute! At this stage, they would then need to go through 'curing' for over a month, but the benefit of the course is that you are able to take these to 'cure' at home... so, I can't wait to use mine next month! ...although admittedly I did squash mine on the way back!
We also had the opportunity to buy supplies ... I decided to just get a mould and a blue colouring... and get everything else at a later stage as I knew I wanted to perfect the most basic soap recipe first... before I dived in to doing the more fancy recipes, which I don't think I would do anyway.. I imagine my soaps to be quite basic and natural looking. (I will come back to this in a few years time with my glittery soaps and wonder what on earth I was thinking saying this ha!)
Jackie showed us how to create the swirling effect, which is pretty easy. It is done once it is in the mould, and then left to set for up to 24 hours before cutting.
But of course, we had to take it home! ... so it only got a couple of hours...but it still looked great after removing the mould. However, leaving it for longer would have given it a much cleaner cut as you can see. Nevertheless, this seemed like such a fun part! ... but having to wait for a month before being able to use it is going to be hard!!
The other thing I really remember Jackie teaching us is that even though we start off using sodium hydroxide (lye) to bind everything together ... during the 'curing' period, the lye actually evaporates entirely ... so you truly are left with a bar of soap that literally contains the most natural ingredients.
I am so glad I decided to go on a course, rather than figuring it out at home, as I think I would've made a lot of easy mistakes. It was absolutely worth it!! I do hope to possibly sell it at some point too, I mean, clothes, vintage, books, jewellery and fabric just isn't enough stuff to have in my Etsy Shop right?... 
But don't worry, I think it will take me a while!! ...and I'll be using all my friends and family as guinea pigs! My next aim is to go on Melinda's business course about the legal requirements of selling it ...and I also have my eye on the creams and lotions course too... oh, so much I want to do!!!

Friday, 7 February 2014

Haute Couture SS14.

I haven't blogged about the catwalks in ages!!! So, as a quick catch up, I am starting with the SS14 Couture shows with a quick collage of my favourites!
First up is Christian Dior ... so so beautiful! You can see heritage references in the collection but totally modernized. The shoes are jaw-dropping but my favourite pieces were the ones with tiny paintings which looked as though they were framed by the garment, they seemed to tell a little story of their own.
Maison Martin Margiela is always one that I know I will love, before I've even seen it. I loved the 'fly' mask styling and how the fabric selvedges were left exposed. I've always loved Margiela's raw aesthetic and is definitely one of the shows I look forward to seeing each season.
Lastly, the beautiful Valentino.  How can you not love the sheer musical note dress and a slightly darker tutu dress with a snake wrapped around the silhouette. I'm never really keen on safari themed collections, but Valentino makes it work.
Images from Stylesight.com│ Assembled by nuvonova