Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Portugal, soap and lots more!

Hi, I did promise I would blog about the soap we are making, rather than other things.  Well, we had a bit of a disaster - so I was reluctant, but then got to thinking, well hell, these are the things that help soap makers gain experience and ideas as well as growing in confidence about their ability to control what is a very difficult science!!.....................................

Now, those of you who make soap will know exactly what I am talking about, those who dont, just enjoy!  As you know, from the last post, we picked up our olive oil (150L) from our local co-operative, we took his old oil, suitable for soap making, not the years best virgin (which is not that great for soap making, its lovely to use in the kitchen but tends to be very green in colour, and really is not worth spending the additional £'s on)

So, we used our first recipe and decided to make our first joint bar of Puro soap, a really lovely castile recipe that uses lots of lovely essential oils, no fragrance oils, Coconut oil as well as cocoa butter, castor oil and beeswax.  Well it should have been a doddle, apart from the fact that Shelley and I really had not made soap on this scale together before, not a problem, we are both pretty experienced, then, as I use Brambleberrys iphone soap calc. (which is only in oz) and Shell uses the proper and more modern grams and kilos - Nightmare!!
Just trying to sync the recipes/lye/liquid amounts/fragrances was a mind bender.  We did it though and mixed up our first batch, added the essential oils and mixed.........................  THEN PANIC, it started to move so fast, we had to rush to mix, no chance of using the blender, pushing it into the mold and trying to whip up the tops into something that looked vaguely nice.  It got so hot, the centre of the soap seemed to turn black, but as it started to cool, it looked a bit better.

Lots of soul searching, what had we done wrong? the oil did smell a bit weird but could that be the problem? the beeswax was very, very local and a bit smelly to start with, Shelley did a great job filtering it and it looked fine, if a bit dark, could that be the problem? Could we have got the recipe totally wrong, bearing in mind we were both used to using different units of measurement?  Well, that night, heads were whizzing with ideas and a very broken night of sleep was had by both.  Next day did look better, at least worth cutting.

Next day - we jointly decided it could have only been the beeswax or olive oil after sychronising our recipes once again.  the soap looked a lot better, its seemed to have evened out in colour, if a bit darker than normal.  So this time, we mixed 3 of the different olive oils we got, they were different colours and some smelt a bit like engine oil! to see if that helped, we also decided to do without the beeswax completely, deciding that was the problem.....................ARGHHHHHHH YOU DONT EVEN WANT TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENED!  it was about 10 times worse that the last batch.  We managed to get it in the mold just, then it got soooo hot, almost went totally dark brown, like jelly, started oooozing horrid little oily patches, generally the most F'ugly soap ever on this planet, and the worst that either of us had ever done before!!!! Take a look and see what it was like the day after..........

Greasy, slimy little F'ugly
Ready for disposal, asap.  Now I really dont want you to think we have not had a lot of laughs too, it has been brilliant, I am sooooooo loving making soap, planning, thinking, chatting, designing, weighing, buying and generally doing all soap stuff with someone else, and I would not want to do it with anyone else, Shelley is brill, a really experienced maker who brings whole new dimension to my soap making.  She is much better at accuracy and recording that I am, and I need that, so we are good together, its so good to make soap with someone who loves music, having a laugh, chatting, and, best of all, the odd beer/wine o'clock at the end of a busy, hot working day!

Making trugs yesterday was a perfect example, we both just got on a roll, it was so hot, we were using power tools, sanders and making lots of dust and mess, then this happened.............

Shell just started laughing, and we both fell about when I realised what she had done - spot the deliberate mistake, based on the one in the front?!!!

Well, today was brilliant, we made a perfect batch of Puro, after using better, normal olive oil (meaning it was definitely the old stuff from the press that was giving us the trouble - yet to decide what to do about this), two further batches of fun soap and our first Christmas soap, all perfect.  It has given us the kick we needed, we are good at making soap, we can do it and its still great fun.  See what you think?

Perfect trugs waiting for their handles
Just one last thing, after I got back yesterday and the horrors of the F'ugly - soon to be destroyed soap, I got a bottle of cold beer from the fridge and sat on our rock watching the mountains and the sun going down/moon coming up, noticed our cactus was flowering, thought about sky colours and new soap inspiration, everything gets better so fast!!!  That is the joy and beauty of Portugal........ 

The beautiful new moon coming up over the Serras

Soap layer inspiration?
Sorry, a very long blog, I hope I have kept you interested until the end?  Life here is good, its hot, beautiful, natural and very, very hard work but worth every minute.  Thanks for reading, do leave a comment if you feel like it?


  1. I'd say you're both troopers! Way to hang in there and figure out the problem! Of course it's always more fun to make mistakes with a friend. :) Of course your good batches look fabulous as always! I'd love to see a soap that mimics the sunset...

  2. Sometimes you just have to laugh at the F'ugly soap, right? I can't stop looking at the good soap. It's so pretty. looking forward to seeing more inspired soaps.

  3. Yes you held my interest right until the end... and congrats for hanging in there! I am very interested in the different qualities of oil in soap... and have a meeting with a local Almazara on Monday to work out a deal to use their olive oil... various types. Whatever are you going to do with 150litres of crap olive oil now???? I would like to experiment with the same soap recipe with various qualities of olive oil! xoxo Jen

  4. I'm always interested in your ( long or short ) posts. I love your soaps (I'd like to make some as beautiful someday) and your pictures. And I understand your love for Portugal, my family lives close to Tras os Montes, but in Spain. It's sooooo beautiful...