Just call us the modern pioneer women, if you want – my daughter and I are trying our hand at yet another home handicraft; making homemade soap. We have a couple of craft markets coming up, and my daughter had the notion of adding scented candles and soap to our range of offerings. Well, how hard could it be?

We’ve already done cheese-making, home-brewing and wine-making, we’ve messed about with bread-making, I’m a pretty accomplished seamstress and the Daughter Unit has fiddled around with origami and mechanical knitting. We had the basic tools recommended by a couple of soap-making enthusiast websites – a digital scale, a crock-pot, and an immersion blender, the last two of which we can dedicate entirely to soap-making, because the thought of using them to prepare food after doing soap is just … ugh. Various oils and a lye solution, simmered to perfection in the crock – what could be more difficult?

As it turns out, not much, although I did feel a bit like a chemical engineer, in apron, rubber gloves and eye-protection, measuring out in grams the various ingredients – most of them bought at Costco last weekend. Not much like Ma, in the Little House books, brewing together a concoction of rendered animal fat, and a lye solution made from wood-ash in a big pot over an open fire. Which concoction produced something called ‘soft soap’ – which likely did the job of cleaning, but wasn’t a patch on store-bought hard soap, or which came from our attempts today – a series of rather nice, fairly firm soaps, made from a combination of olive oil and coconut oil, and the Dreaded Lye Solution, with certain essential oil and dried lavender additions.

We did hot-process soaps, a basic recipe, which yields usable results in a day or so. I’m going to venture a classic cold-process Castile soap, make with the last of a jug of pure olive oil – which needs months to cure, before it works up a good lather. But honestly, I’ve been very pleased with the local hobbyist home-made soaps that we bought for sale at various markets and fairs, and if it gains a good product for us, with a minimum of harsh chemical ingredients, so much the better.


  1. I’ve read about soap making, but never tried it. I’ll be interested to hear your take on the final product!

  2. The hot-process soaps came out quite well – I think it all depends on careful and exact measuring. We added pumice powder to one batch and it makes a nice exfoliant. Boyjian lemon oil (we had a bottle in the fridge for years, it’s very strong!) got added to another batch, and it smells delightfully of lemon. We’re pretty happy with the first three batches, overall.