Since moving back to our house after the builders moved out, we’ve only succeeded in getting two rooms anywhere near a finished condition.
The kitchen has a single coat of paint up on the walls, but that at least makes it look better than everywhere else where the bare plaster sings out in all its beigey drabness.
The bathroom is, actually, almost entirely finished. Tiling done. Walls painted. Bath, shower, sink in place. Glorious custom made wood shelf fitted around the sink. The only things left on the to do list are fixing a bath panel and painting the window frame.
And so it is, in this one little oasis of properly decorated living that I decided it was absolutely imperative that everything looks incredibly beautiful and ready to be photographed by an interiors magazine. (Ahem, sort of…)
Even the soaps.
I’ve got a bunch of soaps that I made a while ago (there’s a tutorial here, if you’re inclined to do the same: homemade soaps), which had been relegated to living in a brown paper bag in our bedroom, because they weren’t packaged as beautifully enough to be out on display. (And yes, I do know how that makes me sound and, trust me, it’s even weirder given that the rest of our house is a complete sh*t heap… But there’s something about the sparkling new shower and lovely tiled floor that just cries out for matchingly lovely accessorising.)
I won’t insult your intelligence by giving you a step by step how to tutorial. Clearly, all I have done is print off some nice vintage images, wrap up the soaps and tie them up in garden string.
I’m pretty pleased with them. Pleased enough that they are now allowed to sit in my glass soap jar, in full view on the shelf.
I know, I know, it’s time to get on with painting the walls now…
PS If you follow me on instagram, you will have seen that I was originally trying to shoot these soaps alongside some lavender, in one my first ever attempts at photo styling. (Oh, I find it so hard!)
The lavender was just too dark alongside the soap parcels, though, and I couldn’t get the colours to be right for both at once. But in case you were here, just looking for some lavender photos, here’s one of it sans soap, but looking rather glorious.
I try and live a relatively “green” life, but I could hardly claim to be an early adopter.
Back in my carefree, childless days (otherwise known as my early 20s) I used to flit around the capital doing fun things and, I have to admit, rather scoff at people who were overly concerned about the environment. Sure, I minded about things like the polar bears dying out or pandas or whatever, but to translate that concern into actions in my every day life seemed a bit tedious. Verging on the overly fastidious and definitely lacking in humour.
I remember watching a friend cook supper and then wash out the tins of beans after she’d emptied them. I asked why. She said she was going to recycle them and they needed to be clean. Really, I thought to myself, that is taking things a step too far… Lighten up, love, live a little, put them in the damn bin! Don’t waste your time washing up your rubbish…
Now, of course, I would never dream of not recycling tins. Why would I not? It only takes a second and helps to prevent landfill. (Though I do often sneak them into the recycling bin unwashed…)
It’s not something I’ve ever consciously U-turned on. There was no Damascene conversion, just a gradual shift as time’s gone on. Old(er) age in me? Changes in society? Both, most likely.
Nowadays, I recycle, have a wormery, use my own bags, watch my water consumption, turn off light switches, buy organic, blah blah blah; all the standard, liberal, woolly green behaviour of your average Guardian-reading Londoner.
But I remembered my (carefree, thin, smoking) twenty-year-old self the other day when I decided to make some of my own deodorant. Honestly. Making my own deodoorant! Once, if I’d heard that someone made their own deodorant I would have rolled my eyes, exhaled a puff of smoke in the middle of the restaurant and made some droll quip about knitting their own yoghurt…*
In fact, even the week before making the deodorant, I might have thought this was a step too far. As I mentioned in my post the other day about homemade cleaning products, I am always suspicious of people who make their own cleaning products / beauty stuff and then proclaim them to be “better” than the expensive mass-produced chemical-filled products they were previously using.
Yes, there are hundreds of reasons not to use aerosols, but it could never be said that one of them is that they don’t work. All of the noxious, dangerous chemicals filling up these things make pretty sure they work really well.
And let’s face it, nobody wants to smell.
But, inspired by the shame I’d felt looking at that great cupboard of natural products, I decided to have a crack at some homemade deodorant.
I found a simple-sounding recipe on How about Orange, which uses coconut oil, baking powder, arrowroot and grapefruit essential oil, and thought I would give it a bash — fully expecting it to meet the same fate of my homemade cleaning products. (Tried for a day or two then relegated to the back of the shelf in favour of some shop-bought but effective alternative…)
But to my surprise, this was a total success.
Firstly, the deodorant smells great. I am possibly the world’s biggest fan of anything with grapefruit aromas, so the grapefruit essential oil in this couldn’t be beaten by anything shop-bought in my opinion.
Then there’s the cute little tin. There’s something imminently appealing about your deodorant sitting on your dresser in a shiny silver tin, with a nice label on, rather than an ugly plastic spray bottle. (The round vintage labels are from the world label blog if you want to print some yourself…)
I was initially put off by the idea of scooping it out by hand and rubbing it into my armpits, thinking it would leave my fingers greasy. But really it’s totally not a problem at all, and it means that I actually get it into the right place as well (the number of times I’ve sprayed an aerosol into my eyes, or my clothes, or the side of my body, or just in the air behind me. Okay, most people probably don’t have that problem, but it was a frequent one for me…)
And, finally, it actually works! That was the outcome I was perhaps expecting the least.
So, an all round success story for my first attempt in 2013 of using up the eco beauty ingredients stash. Any other suggestions for things I should try? Post a comment below and let me know any ideas…
I have to admit, my favourite type of craft project is one that involves little more than putting a few things together. Okay, as I’ve written that, I realise that “putting a few things together” is a distillation of every craft project there ever has been, as well as any food recipes too. But, when the putting of things together is really straightforward, then you have a happy London Wolfe.
With this in mind, don’t be put off by the rather alarming title of this post. Make your own soap, I say. Make my own soap? you ask. Why on earth would I make my own soap? I can buy lovely soap for not very much money and besides, I’m no chemist, I won’t have any of the equipment needed for making my own soap… But fret not! Rather than suggesting you don a lab coat and goggles and mix together a range of ingredients to bubble away on your stove top, I’m only actually suggesting that you purchase yourself a “melt and pour” soap kit and then add some nice flavours.
(If you were thinking Brilliant, finally a chance to get out the Bunsen burner and test tubes and use all that glycerin I’ve got stored in the attic then I apologise, this article is going to be a sad disappointment to you…)
So, slight misnomer title aside, on with the actual soap making.
As I mentioned in my post on Homemade Christmas presents, lack of funds this festive season has meant that I’m making all my gifts this year and only spending money on supplies.
Okay, this does mean that it’s December 17th and I’m in a slight panic because I’ve only made three presents, but on the upside, I’ve discovered the joy and simplicity of home made soap. With some readymade soap base you can easily make up absolutely any flavour soap you can imagine. And, because it’s the time of giving, I wanted to share that joy with you…
For a really attractive, distinctive and unusual present, this is all you need to do. I’m going to talk through how to make lavender soaps, but I’ve put suggestions for lots of other flavours at the end…
Melt and pour soap base. As ever, because I am frequently too lazy to leave the house and look for something I haven’t bought before in the actual shops, I got this from eBay. It cost me £9.86 for 1kg – which is enough to make about 18 small bars. I got a translucent base, which was SLS free.
Lavender essential oil (other flavours suggested at the end of this article…)
Soap moulds. This can be anything you like the shape of: old yoghurt pots, soft cheese pots, Tupperware or cake moulds. I’ve used a 12-hole silicon cupcake mould in the photos of round soaps below and Tupperware for the square ones. Of course, you could also buy an actual soap mould if you’re so inclined.
What to do
1. Melt the soap base squares in a big jug in the microwave. Or, if like me you don’t have a microwave, use a double boiler. Or, if like me you don’t have a double boiler, stick a pyrex bowl into a much bigger saucepan filled with boiling water.
2. Once all the soap is melted, add in some drops of lavender essential oil and stir round. If you’re making one batch all the same flavour, add the essence straight into the mixing bowl. If you want to make each bar a different scent, you can add flavours directly to the individual moulds. Use approximately one or two drops per bar of soap.
3. Pour the liquid soap base into the moulds to about half an inch deep, using approximately half of your total mixture.
4. Return remaining liquid soap to heat, so it doesn’t set.
5. Add a sprinkling of dried lavender to each mould (or see below for other solid flavours you can add)
6. Let the soap set for a minute or two, then pour the remaining liquid soap over the top (this lets the lavender sit about half way through the soap…) You may find a few air bubbles get trapped inside as well. Personally, I think this is really pretty, but if it bothers you, spray your first half with pure alcohol before adding the second batch and they should disperse.
7. Leave your soap to set for at least four hours
8. To release the soap from the moulds, put it into the freezer for ten minutes. When you take it back out, the difference in temperature loosens it from the mould. (If you’re using a silicon mould, you can probably skip this step and just push the soap out.)
9. Admire your beautiful homemade soap…
Other ideas for flavours
Just add a pinch, sprinkle or drop of the following flavours more other delicious smelling soaps…
Earl grey tea and bergamot oil:
Of course, being English, I’m all about a good cup of Earl Grey. Just a word of warning: once you’ve added the tea leaves, they’ll continue to bleed into the soap day by day, so if you’re making this as a present, leave it to the last moment to make, if you want to still see the contrast between the tea leaves and the clear soap. (After approximately a week, the whole thing will be brown.)
Honey and ginger:
Mix these together in a separate container before adding to the soap.
Cinnamon and clove:
Perfect for Christmas! You really only need a tiny pinch of each of these otherwise the soap turns a rather unappealing dark brown colour…
On their own, these won’t provide much scent, but I thought they looked really beautiful. You could mix in another essential oil to provide more flavour. (Or crush some cardamom seeds and add to the liquid soap.)
Another one that I’ve used more for the way it looks than its flavour or scent. But bung in an essential oil too and you’ll have both…
Or, of course you could just add any pure essential oils and have a beautiful clear soap. I tried lemon, grapefruit, ylang ylang and rosemary.
Oh, I have great plans for the packaging for these soaps. If they materialise and look as nice as they do in my head, I’ll add a post on that with some templates for boxes too…
I did indeed manage to make some attractive packaging for the soaps. Take a look at some photos, along with a free template and tutorial: gift boxes.