Homestead Blessings – The Art of Soapmaking

How many of you have ever wanted to make homemade soap like our ancestors did? For many years I have loved the idea, mostly because I enjoy history and connecting with the past, but this past week I finally took the leap!
Since becoming more concerned about the various chemicals and additives in most health and beauty products I have been using homemade soap that I bought at the farmers market. But I finished my last bar of chemical free soap a few weeks ago and decided it was time to make my own my own. So, my mom and I, along with a few good friends got together last Monday and made soap.
I would like to share with you our experience. This won’t be a step-by-step tutorial, but you can find a great tutorial on the basics of soap making here at offbeat + inspired.
For our soap making experience we followed the recipe and instructions from the Homestead Blessings – The Art of Soap Making (DVD). The Homestead Blessings DVDs are a wonderful series that cover many old-fashion skills that have slowly been forgotten by our society, they are a great resource for anyone seeking to be more self-sufficient!
It was truly a blessing to be able to work alongside other ladies in the process of making soap. Even though we each used the same ingredients, the process and end results varied slightly, so it was helpful to be able to compare as we went along.

The recipe:
48 oz shortening
32 oz coconut oil
16 oz olive oil
4 cups water
12 oz lye

> The process begins by slowly pouring the lye into the water and mixing. Even though we were all trying to be careful not to breath in the fumes, we all ended up coughing and stepping away from the pots for a moment. It would be ideal to do this part of the process outside, but it was too cold here.
> Next we carefully added the oils, one at a time.
> Then you stir and stir and stir some more. The goal is to break up or dissolve all the pieces of coconut oil and shortening. We tried to accomplish this with just a spoon. Then at the very end we decided to try a metal whisk…next time we’ll start off with the whisk.
> After all the oils are melted your soap should begin to look like a thin pudding. Once it “traces” (check out the tutorial) you are ready to pour your product into a mold.
> Make sure your mold is lined with freezer paper or well-greased.
> Once you pour your soap into the mold put a cover on it, then wrap it in a blanket.
> Your soap will be ready to cut into bars within 2-24 hours. Why such a variation in the time? We found that if your mold is deeper it will take much longer to set. Just keep checking it. They are ready to cut when the knife cuts through easily, but also comes out mostly clean.

I wish I had a picture of the process to show you, but my camera didn’t want to corporate that night. It was fun how unique each of the soaps turned out in the end. My mom and I added oatmeal, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, and cinnamon essential oil to our soap before pouring it into the mold. One of the gals left hers as the basic recipe and the other gal added lavender to one mold and cilantro and lime to another mold. They all looked beautiful! It was such a fun evening, spending time together and learning a new skill. One of the best parts is that of us came away more confident about soap making and excited about trying new recipes!

Have you ever tried making your own soap? How did it go? Do you have any ideas or words advice to share with a beginner? Please share you thoughts!