Monday, 20 August 2012

Wintergarden Design Market - August 2012

The market is held upstairs in the gallery
I had a wonderful market at the Wintergarden Design Market on Sunday. Most of these were taken early before the customers were around

Watch out for more information, as they are thinking of having a pre Christmas market in November.

The cafe downstairs was flat out all day.

I struggle to fit everything on a six foot table as I'm used to working a larger outdoor site.

Handmade glass cufflinks.

Wonderful Australian hand felted wool.

Busy with a customer.

One of a kind upcycled dresses.

Crocheted sea creatures fluttering in the breeze though the window.

Smiling stall holders

Chainmaile by Maille Fantasy eery single link in these is joined by hand.

More information on the market can be found through

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Point Lonsdale Market

I grabbed my camera to take along to the Point Lonsdale Market today. I needed a couple of shots of my stall for a couple of market applications and didn't have current ones. Point Lonsdale market is a mixed market with a load of locally made and grown products.

While I was there a snapped a few shots of the market early in the morning while everyone was setting up. I thought I'd share a few of them. Watch out in the next month or two the Point Lonsdale market will be moving back onto the original grounds and the indoor stall holders into the new building. I'm rather exicted about that.

Some of my soap photos.
 A few of the stalls setting up. Local honey, olive oil, fresh bread and lots more.
Delicious rhubarb has been so good this winter. I love rhubarb and apple crumble
The biggest fruit and vegetable stall of any of the markets I do.

Happy stall holders setting up.

These guys have lots of unusual herb plants and lots of spices and herbal teas to buy.

What more could any little girl want new clothes for their dolls.

I couldn't resist taking a shot of all these colourful flax plants at one of the many plant stalls there.
 Colourful shoes I love this bright yellow tent. It makes me smile every time I see it.

There are lots of clothes at the market too. This bright red cloak took my eye.

Fresh bread my family love the Turkish bread from here.

Indoors in the school. If you haven't ventured indoors you should sometime. Today there was handmade cakes, fudge, local artists, handmade candles, cards, my soap, teddies, jewellery and more inside.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Soap - To Package or not?

Every now and then I get asked why do I package my soap at all.

This was one thing I tossed up when I first set up my business. Legally all cosmetics have to to have the ingredients available at point of sale. 

One of the things I always wanted was to have the ingredients listed fully for allergy sufferers, to be able to check if they were given my soap as a gift. This meant I needed to attach the ingredients to the soap somehow. So for me totally naked soap wasn't an option for this reason alone.

Simple cigar bands made out of paper or light cardboard are the easiest way to do this. I initially trialled cigar bands when I started selling soap. But apart from the fact that as soap continued to cure and shrink a little the bands would become loose and fall off - very annoying. This option also offered little in the way of protecting the soap from the environment.

Simple protective packaging cellophane bags
 with paper labels
I'm now using genuine cellophane bags (not the "cello" polypropylene bags that are often sold) to enclose the soap in. This packaging protects the soap from the environment extending its life. This packaging is produced from cellulose so is from renewable sources. It's totally biodegradable. It is allows water vapour to move through it preventing soap sweating. But cellophane excludes the passage of oxygen into the soap preventing oxidation and degradation of the soap over time. The scents also don't pass through the packaging well either so the soap retains its scent much longer.

How can packaging protect the soap?

1. The correct packaging helps retain the scent in the soap a lot longer. Essential oils and other fragrances are comprised of volatile chemicals (natural or otherwise depending on what is used to scent your soap). You can smell them as the chemicals are gradually evaporating from the soap. I found that the packaging I'm using now means the soap retains it's scent about 3 times as long as unpackaged soap. The downside is that it's harder to smell what the soaps scent is like through the packaging

2. Oxidation.
Soap is made from fats and oils and like these may eventually oxidise or go rancid. This may take weeks or many, many years depending on a large number of variables.

These variables includes which are oils used in manufacturing the soap. Those that have a short shelf life in the kitchen have a shorter shelf life in the soap too. I've avoided short shelf life oils in my soap for this reason.

Some additives or contaminants can increase the problem, iron and some colorants may do this. Choosing the colours carefully and using distilled or rainwater (my choice) instead of town water is useful.

Added antioxidants can help prevent oxidation the most common additive in commercial soap is the chelator ethylene diamine tetraacetic acid (EDTA). This works well but has some potential environmental issues to to its stability in the environment. I don't use EDTA or any other added antioxidants preferring to avoid oxidation other ways .

How dry the atmosphere is. Free moisture sitting on the surface of the soap in warm humid spots will promote oxidation. I'm talking about stored soap not soap in use, where there is a fresh layer of soap being constantly produced. Packaging that soap can sweat in accelerates the problem.

Light can accelerate the process.

BUT the one thing that absolutely must be present for oxidation to take place is oxygen. So packaging that excludes this is ideal.

3. Colorants fading.
Whether or not to use light excluding packaging is an interesting one. I'm not as I like to be able to display the swirls and colours of the soap I produce. But it does mean that eventually some of the colours I use may fade if exposed to bright light. Indigo, annatto and paprika extracts will do this.

4. Personal hygiene.
True soap is actually a very, very poor medium for bacteria to grow on. However having soap packaged means that if it is being handled in a retail environment that it's not ending up covered in grime and viruses that might otherwise be deposited there.

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Testing Floral Waxes in Soap

Some very expensive perfumes are made from absolutes. These are incredibly expensive to buy. From my wholesalers you are looking at fragrances like rose, jasmine and mimosa starting at around $20 for 2 ml and these aren't even the particularly expensive ones. Obviously unless you have very deep pockets you aren't going to use them in soap. For those of you that don't make soap the rate of essential oil use in soap varies depending on the oil but is generally in the vicinity 2-6%.

A by product absolute production these floral waxes are full of lovely phospholipids and of particular interest to me they still retain a significant amount of the scent too. Last year I had the opportunity to import some through a co-op buy with some lovely US soap makers to try them out.

There isn't a lot of information around on using them is soap so I thought I'd just let you know my experience.

I'd received 4 waxes Jasmine sambuc, rose and mimosa from The Perfumery (previously the Essential Oil University) and narcissus from Premier Specialities.

Clockwise from top left - Narcissus, mimosa, jasmine, rose
The first 3 were strongly scented the Narcissus only weakly so.

Thoughts on the scents smelt straight up.

The mimosa smelt softly green with a slightly floral/lilacy scent. The scent was soft but very persistent. I quite liked it but found that it wasn't popular with customers in general.

The rose smelt very much like fresh green moss roses rather than heady floral rose. Lovely in a blend but perhaps not what someone would automatically expect as a straight rose.

The jasmine, extra strong heady jasmine sambuc with the musky notes from the indoles.

Anyway, I melted these in the microwave and added them in the thin stream while stick blending the soap at light trace. This seemed to incorporate them well. The melt point is relatively high so they start to re-solidify at room temperature very quickly, so ideally need melting immediately before use. The saponification value for them was very low. Even lower than beeswax so I ignored this when calculating the amount of sodium hydroxide for the batches and treated them purely as a fragrance.

I tested them all at 3% of the oil weight. At this the scent of the narcissus was lost completely. The rose was quite strong (about right), the mimosa a bit too soft and the jasmine overpowering only those that like their soap super scented would like it at that level.

Jasmine wax soap coloured with charcoal
The jasmine wax noticeably discoloured the soap to a light yellowish tan as shown in this photo. The colour of this soap base is typically off white. The other waxes discolouration wasn't noticeable.

Since I did the initial tests I've been using them in blends with quite a bit of success. If I get the opportunity again, I'll certainly buy the jasmine and rose waxes as they add to the range of affordable scents I can use in making my soap.

Mimosa wax soap with French green clay.
The mimosa I simply can't work out what to do with enough in soap to purchase again. Although if you were into making lotions I could see it being useful.

Note. None of these straight floral wax soap is left to sell. There are a few for sale containing the waxes in blends.

Random Winter Photos

New Holland Honeyeater
Willie wagtail
I had an hour to kill this morning before an appointment. So I decided to walk up to Kingston Park with my camera as it was a beautiful clear sunny morning.

I was thinking it would be quiet up there but the birds were all out and making a racket. Lots of cute lorikeets in the canopy. My camera is not ideal for birds as I don't have a big enough lens but here are a few of the locals that were around.

The New Holland honeyeater calling out to the rest of its family there are loads of them locally.

The black and white Willy Wagtails who never sit still and when nesting in their cute little cobwebby nests scold and chase away birds 10 x their size.

Eastern Rosella
Crested pigeons

Eastern Rosellas we have lots of these resident in the area. They nest in old eucalyptus tree hollows locally.

These plump crested pigeons I never noticed here before the last drought but now you see them all the time feeding around the local football oval.

Nest box

My husband last school holidays downloaded plans for a nest box to build with the kids. This one is aimed at the Eastern Rosellas but there are plenty of other hollow dependant animals and birds that could move in. We are still waiting? We've got lots of hollow dependant parrots around here  so hopefully someone will move in.

Dusty Miller - Spyridium sp

The dusty miller in my garden is still flowering, seriously I think it has flowers on it 12 months of the year.

Golden wattle

Johnny Jump Ups
There was some golden wattle flowering but mostly it was like this one just days away from bursting into fluffy golden balls.

I love these cute little Violas and how they just spring up in random spots to brighten the garden.

A surprise yesterday I found these (just slightly LOL) out of season roses flowering in the garden.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Storing your hand made soap.

I'm feeling guilty as I haven't blogged forever. My health had been suffering due to TMJ joint problems causing chronic headaches. I gave up and had surgery in early May which has a very long recovery time. It's worked very well so far and I can't wait until the recovery process is over (6 months was the time frame I was given). I'm feeling better than I have in years.

Anyway I thought I might as well answer some of the most common questions I get asked at markets in some of my blog posts.

One is "How do I get my soap to last the longest?"

In use the simple answer is to store it on a draining soap dish so it's not sitting in a pool of water. If it's sitting in water then if will soften and dissolve over time.
Many of the modern sinks don't actually have a good spot for this. So buying an inexpensive draining soap dish is a good idea.

Something like this works well.

Another thing is if you use your soap in the shower to make sure it doesn't sit under the shower spray when not in use. Depending on your shower you may be better storing it out of the shower anyway. Some showers stay quite humid and the soap doesn't dry out between use. I find this is particularly a problem in hot weather.

If you buy multiple bars then the ideal spot to store them is somewhere cool, dark and dry. So all those soaps being used to scent underwear drawers and linen closets are in the perfect spot.

Why cool, dark and dry? The scent and colours will last longer. Heat causes fragrances to evaporate. Many colours are light sensitive and fade over time. Also like the oils they are made from soap can oxidise. Especially if the soap has lots of short shelf life oils like canola, soy or hemp. Light, heat and moisture can accelerate this process. How do you know if your soap is oxidised? It will smell off and may develop soft orange spots. I'd suggest if you find soap like this you throw it out. I tend to avoid using these oils in the soap as I make I prefer to use longer lasting oils like olive oil and coconut oil.

The soap that has been used to scent a cupboard and faded pull it out to use. It will be very dry and last for ages in use. It's quite likely the once you start using it and wash off the outer layer that there will be some scent left in the centre.

Remember that myself and any other soap makers would love to make you more. After all a cup of coffee costs around $3.50 - 4.50 and is gone in 15 minutes. A bar of $6 soap can give a month or more of pleasure.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Nightjar Market 2012

I decided to try something new this year and went along to the Twilight market that is held in Torquay in January on Thursday nights, the Nightjar market.

There were lots of food vendors to choose from for tea, including perennial favourites such as hot, potatoes, BBQ sausages to Nepalese vegetarian and the coolest looking cones of calamari and traditional lemonade. And a licensed area for the adults to enjoy a quiet drink or to as well.

Lots of live music and street performers were around. The street artist playing with flames was a particular hit with the kids. There are some more of the night shots on Nightjars facebook page. I was busy at my stall them and unable to get away to take photos.

As usual there were quite a few resellers of handmade imported goods.

But amongst the stall holders we had a decent number of locally talented people to. A few that caught my eye included these cute little owls made out of kimono fabric by Sonia at sohsoh she had cute dolls and adorable handmade little birds on twigs as well.

Grant from Jungle Rain was beside me for all 4 nights and I was kept entertained by the antics of the teenagers trying out the extra hot chilli sauces he had. He grows the chillis and makes the sauces all himself as well. His very adorable little kids were well behaved to.

Andrea from Antigone.K had some very fun affordable handmade jewellery made from jigsaw puzzle pieces that she hand decorates.

Michelle from Unmatched candles was there with her all her soy candles in vintage teacups and glassware along with the more modern jars. Michelle provides refills to her customers to so they can keep on using their favourites. She didn't have her dinner plate clocks along as it was just too windy at the site.

Then of course I with Alchemist's Grove's handmade natural soaps as well. I had a lot of fun and will probably do at least one of these markets again next year.