2017 Soapy Updates, plus a note on Naked Soap

Happy April! I wanted to share what’s been going on over at Flora & Pomona. So far 2017 has been a productive year, albeit with a slow pace (I am a stay at home mom to a toddler after all). Most of my energy I put into production, because that’s my passion, but also because I am trying to build enough of an inventory to officially launch an Etsy shop. Having an online outlet is going to be a big step for me and I decided on Etsy after visiting an Etsy MTL event two summers ago. I expect that I will have five listings to open with within the month! On May 20th I will be participating in the artisan market Marché créatif de la Paroisse in the St-Édouard church on 425 Beaubien.

This soaping season I decided to cut my bars a bit thicker so that they use up more evenly. I also started beveling the edges on my bars: this makes the soap more comfortable to use, at least until the edges wear down from use.

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Rose Water & Coconut Milk Soap – with beveled edges and a thicker cut

I have had lots of fun using ingredients from local producers this year too – like making Oat Stout Beer Soap using beer from a local Quebec brewery, and Mocha Latte Soap using fairtrade coffee beans from a Quebec roaster.

I have also decided to make larger bar versions of the puck shaped Wool Wash soap that come on a hemp rope.

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Flora & Pomona’s Wool Wash Soap with Lanolin : larger bar version

This year I renewed my determination to make high quality natural soap, but with an added focus on what I call naked soap. By naked I mean soap that is not “dressed up” with colorants and fragrances but that smells and looks like what it is made of. A soap made with shea butter will smell very different from a soap made with cocoa butter, and a soap made with goats milk will smell and look differently from a soap made with distilled water. Instead of using synthetic colorants, which I rarely did anyway, I use herbs, clays, resins and infused oils.

Despite of common wisdom that the best and most economical thing for a small batch soap maker can do is to find a recipe and stick to it, varying only your fragrances and colorants, I have never had a standard formula. I have developed a preference for certain ratios, but this is not the same. Each soap I make is made for a specific purpose and I formulate my soaps according to the qualities I’m looking for. But back to the naked soap.

My initial motivation for making unscented and colorant free soaps was because I found a retail outlet in a children’s clothing store in my neighborhood. Once I started making these soaps it all just made sense. Of course I have a baby myself, but I also suffer from psoriasis and generally sensitive skin. For babies, children and people with skin issues, less is always more. I also discovered that my soaps actually smelled good – all by themselves.

Last year during a market a man walked up to my stall and asked me: “do you have any soaps that will leave a good smell on my skin”. I thought about it for a while, then said “no.” I have never used fragrance oils but I did have soaps scented with essential oils. But none of them would have scented your skin. I guess I could have given him some kind of sales pitch, but I just knew that I didn’t have what he was looking for. There are lots of soap makers who make soaps that will perfume you, but I’m not one of them. And when I use essential oils, I use them because I think they have purpose to serve, and never in such a quantity that they’ll double as perfume. So hopefully even after you use one of my soaps, even those scented with an essential oil blend, when you step out of the shower, you too will smell like what you are – yourself, naked and clean.

Some examples of Naked Soap 😀

Flora & Pomona at La Bobineuse!

I am very pleased to announce (belatedly) that as of 2017 the delightful wool store La Bobineuse carries Flora & Pomona’s Lanolin Enriched Wool Wash and Felted Soaps, both pictured here below:

 

La Bobineuse is located in the Plateau neighbourhood in Montreal. This store has been in the area for nearly half a century, a mecca for fiber enthusiasts, knitting addicts and beginners alike. They also offer classes on how to knit and crochet (which I plan to take as soon as possible). I spent lots of time in this cozy store last winter – buying skeins of beautiful turquoise merino, luscious baby alpaca and sheep’s wool (yes, I can’t even knit) – so I’m very happy and proud to see my Wool Wash and felted soaps on their shelves.

La Bobineuse is located at 2196 Avenue du Mont Royal East, Montreal, QC H2H 1K3.

Flora & Pomona’s debut at Marché Angus

Yesterday, October 7th, I debuted Flora and Pomona at Marché Angus’s Parc Jean Duceppe location. It was a gorgeous day, tall blue skies, lots of sun and summer-like temperatures – perfect for an outdoor market!

I was the first one to arrive, clearly the newbie on the block. So I poured myself a cup of lemon balm and peppermint tea and started setting up my stall.

In addition to my soaps, I also brought two types of bath bombs, chocolate mint bath truffles, aromatherapy tea cup candles, an herbal balm and two types of lip-balm. The coconut lipbalm turned out really well, if I do say so myself.

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All my soaps are cold processed and in bar form, except this keychain soap sampler. Isn’t it cute? I got the idea from a baby book my daughter has.

There are five soaps on the rope: peppermint, lavender, orange, cinnamon and unscented. They are all colored with natural herbs and spices. The hemp string has a bit of a story. Apparently, it’s made by an Italian family owned company that has been making hemp rope for five generations, and this was from the last roll the Montreal store received from them before they went out of business. It’s very fine string indeed. Marche-Angus-Flora-&-Pomona-October-7-2016 (41).JPG

This teacup aromatherapy soy candle is called “Woods – Relax” because it is scented with an essential oil blend of Siberian pine, cedar and ho wood. Pine and cedar are good for relieving nervous tension, anxiety and stress. Cedar has a calming effect, helping you unwind and relax, while pine gives you a lift when you’re feeling down. Ho wood is referred to by aromaweb as a “peaceful” oil that helps you relax and unwind and like cedar and pine is perfect for someone who feels anxious, stressed and has trouble sleeping. This candle is ideal for the holidays, in so many ways. Smells like walking through an evergreen forest, or sitting next to your Christmas tree. I’m very happy with how it came out 🙂

At the end of the day the sun came around into my stall. At the far end I had my bathbombs, bathtruffles and teacup candles. But of course, the soaps did better than the bath products, and out of the soaps, the best seller was Pink Salt and Grapefruit. It’s my favourite as well 😉

Flora & Pomona will be back at Marché Angus next Friday, October 14th from 3-6PM. The location can be hard to find unless you know the area, but aiming for the corner of William Tremblay and Augustin Frigon you will get you right into the market. Hope to see you there ❤

Once upon a Breast Milk Soap: Great Cakes Soap works October challenge

INTRODUCTION

When I stumbled across Amy Warden’s October challenge “Alternative Liquids” I knew I had to join. I have never soaped a challenge before, in fact, I haven’t been soaping for very long at all. Last year I discovered soapmaking and didn’t stop until I became pregnant and couldn’t deal with much anything with a smell. Flash forward to 2015: I’m a new mother, nursing every 2 hours and I’m sitting on a large bag of frozen breast milk. Wondering what to do with it I remembered a recipe I’d seen in a soaping book last year. Now I can’t remember who the author was, but I remember that she called the soap something like “Mother and Baby.” (I can’t find any mention of this book online anymore – it wasn’t Casey Makela, because she wasn’t allowed to publish her recipe for breast milk soap in her book). The basic gist of it was that nothing is as nourishing and beneficial to your baby as your breast milk, inside and out. I’d recently read about women curing baby acne, cradle cap, eye infections, and various nicks and cuts with breast milk, and I knew from before that milks and milk soaps are very soothing for your skin – so breast milk soap it is! I made one trial batch, having never made a milk soap before, and was very happy with the result. Not only had I found a way to use and preserve my milk, but I had soap for my baby to last her whole childhood – a soap that is as natural and customized to her skin as can be. To date, I have preferred not to use too much soap on my baby because baby skin is so sensitive. This homemade milk soap will be gentle enough even for a little baby.

RESEARCH

Recently breast milk has been in the spotlight as the new old super food. Apparently in China it’s become a hot commodity and body builders buy it online because it contains human growth hormones. But the benefits of breast milk have even been picked up by the mainstream: in Chicago you can get breast milk facials!

So what is it about breast milk that makes people go ga-ga? And why would you use it to make soap? Apparently it has antibacterial and antiseptic properties. It also contains “anti-infectious and anti-inflammatory agents, growth factors, and prebiotics” (source). Although many of the bioactive agents may not survive freezing and heating (not to mention the lye) there are many beneficial fatty acids in human milk that do. Presumably, breast milk soap would have just as many if not more properties than say, goats milk soap, because it isn’t pasteurized and store bought milks still make a pretty nourishing bar of soap. The fats in human milk are composed of “palmitic and oleic acid” (source) as well as up to 20% of lauric and capric acid (source) (you may recognize these from the soapcalc). Lauric acid is often recognized as beneficial in treating acne and inflamed skin and also exists in coconut oil and goats milk (source and source). Caprylic Acid/Capric Triglyceride, again also found in goats milk and coconuts, act in a similar way by being a very gently anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-fungal. But the main cosmetic use of the caprylic and capric triglyceride is as an emollient or moisturizing agent. Finally breast milk, like other milks, contains lactic acid which acts as an exfoliant, gently buffing away dead skin cells: this is why milk products, including breast milk, works so well as a facials leaving your skin feeling fresh and clean.

Milk soaps are some of the most gentle soaps on the market, and are considered perfect for children and people with sensitive skin. The difference between using say goats milk and using breast milk is of course that it is uniquely designed, and exists expressly, for your baby; to match their make-up not only as humans but as individuals. The fact that breast milk changes during the course of your child’s development is amazing in itself, but it also changes during the course of a feed. This may be worth considering when you express your milk for soap, because the “foremilk” tends to be higher in sugars and the “hindmilk” higher in fats. Typically, the higher the fat content of your milk, the silkier and more moisturizing your soap will be. All to say that breast milk is a substance that your baby’s body recognizes and responds well to, or rather, thrives on: it is “uniquely suited to the human infant, both in its nutritional composition and in the non-nutritive bioactive factors that promote survival and healthy development” (source). And I believe that if it’s good enough to eat, it’s good enough to put on your skin 🙂

SUMMARY

Ok, here’s a run down of the properties and benefits of breast milk and using breast milk in soap:

  1. It has anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory properties
  2. Lactic acid polishes off dead skin cells
  3. The fatty acids may help treat acne, and other skin issues
  4. Is it moisturizing
  5. It is gentle (more gentle than if you were to just use water)
  6. It is uniquely suited to your baby, and humans in general
  7. It is safe – you know where it comes from (assuming you are using your own)
  8. It’s ecological: requires no transport, packaging, farming, etc.
  9. Making soap with breast milk is a great way to preserve it for your baby
  10. If you have lots of it, making soap is better than letting it go to waste

On that note, if you do have an oversupply please consider donating to your local milk bank.

Now, enough research – onto the soap!

Making this soap was no fairy tale, but it was kind of epic. It went from being Rosebud Baby Soap, to Green Monster Soap, to Lavender Baby. Here is what happened (if you want to just see the video, scroll down):

MAKING THE SOAP

Since this is a milk soap, the first thing to do is freeze the milk so that it doesn’t burn when I add the lye. Also, I make sure to have lots of ice so that I can put the lye mixture in an ice bath. I also hope that if I soap at a low temperature that more of the nutrients will survive. IMG_20151012_180152

Next, I measure out my oils. For this recipe I am doing a Bastille type with added Shea butter and my secret ingredient for the superfat, a rose-hip maceration and rose hip oil. Rose hips are rich in vitamin C (twice as much as oranges) and as a child I had to eat a lot of rose hip soup for this very reason.IMG_20151012_182241

To my oils I added vitamin E, GSE (grapefruit seed extract) and sodium lactate to give my soap some longevity because I want my child to be able to use it throughout her childhood.

When the breast milk and lye were both dissolved I added it to my oils. I believe that both liquids were at about 80F. Right away, before I even started stick blending, I could tell that the mixture was going to trace quickly. There were white strands in the bottom just from stirring and I blended it quickly to emulsion. At that point I added the lavender EO (not very much, because I like it really mild) and then separated my batter into two parts. One I added half of the superfat and the other I divided further into three parts: each with incrementally more rose hip powder dissolved in the rose hip oils. The idea was to get three shades of pink. I gave them a quick whisk with my small whisk and then set them aside to blend the neutral soap to trace and pour it. I didn’t have to blend the soap very much at all to get to trace and it set up very thick while I flitted about. I decided that one of the sections was too pale and added more rose hip powder to it. Then one by one, they all started going green.SAM_5980.AVI_snapshot_00.04_[2015.10.15_21.20.08] At first I thought maybe my whisk was aluminum and that it reacted with the soap, but the one part that hadn’t been touched was also turning green. Now afterwards I realize that rose hip powder must be a kind of ph indicator just like red cabbage. I proceeded as planned and tried to do a Holly swirl with the thick green batter, knowing in my heart that I’d end up with a discolored plop design. SAM_5981.AVI_snapshot_00.22_[2015.10.15_12.21.25]

What I had imagined was a drop design throughout the soap, sort of like a milk drop. But I thought a drop swirl would be too boring, so I aimed to combine an in-the-pot swirl with a drop swirl using only two colours: the natural soap colour which will be an off white, and three shades of pink. I had recently bought some rose hip powder on the advice of a clerk at an herb store and was really excited to try it. Originally, I was going to call this soap “Rosebud Baby” but that went out the window when I saw my soap batter turn green! I was even more surprised the next day when I peeked under the cover to see the soap has completely neutralized and turned a light tan colour!SAM_5984.AVI_snapshot_00.17_[2015.10.15_20.18.34] And of course, when I cut it, it was clear that the soap had set up too quickly to get much of a drop. More like, plop.

When I cut it I discovered that the rose hip batter had maintained some colour – a tan, beigy colour – but clearly defined from the uncoloured soap at least. There were no swirls at all, or even lines (now two days later you can make out a few faint lines). Clearly the amount I put in each section wasn’t enough to differentiate it in its tan state. I’m sure if it had stayed pink it would have been more visible. Also, the soap set up soo quickly that my pour didn’t penetrate the bottom layer – it just pushed it down. Oddly enough, I ended up with a soap looking much like I had first envisioned it: as a bosom leaking milk (I got the inspiration from Nourri Source’s logo, the Quebec nursing organization). The tan coloured “breast” with the milk coloured soap underneath.  SAM_5986.AVI_snapshot_08.57_[2015.10.15_20.33.15]

In the end, I have a perfectly good set of softly scented lavender breast milk soap. No bells and swirls, but it’s filled with motherly love…and tons of skin loving nutrients! A great gift for baby!

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Lavender Baby, a Breast Milk Soap – 20 hours cure

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Lavender Baby, a Breast Milk Soap – 40 hours cure

 

VIDEO

PART 1

 

PART 2

Easy Homemade Laundry Detergent

I have been gearing up to this post for a long time: making washing soda, getting borax, shopping around for bars of soap, and of course, reading blog posts on how to make laundry soap. However, after reading many great blog posts, experimenting on a small scale, and learning a lot, I decided to go with my own, modified recipe rather than link one. First, I want to give credit where credit is due, and tell you what I based my recipe on. Most recipes follow a ratio of “2 parts borax, 2 parts washing-soda, and 1 part soap-flakes” and here are some of those recipes (there seems to be some dispute on who came up with it…): Wellness Mama has an awesome post on laundry detergent; DIY Natural does too; and I love MommyPotamus’ post and what she says about lemon oil. Of course, there are more, but these are the posts I based my recipe on. Here is what I found out when trying to make my own detergent:

1. Most blog posts on homemade laundry detergent will tell you to use a mild, all natural hard soap, like Dr. Bronner’s or Ivory. But I don’t like spending 3 bux on a bar of soap, because then I won’t really save on making my own detergent. Ivory is cheaper, but I don’t like Ivory (it’s owned by P&G).

2. Other recipes will tell you to get Fels Naptha. I had to google it to find out what it was. It is laundry soap! Here in Canada, or in Quebec at least, we don’t have Fels Naptha. We do have Soapworks however, and as it happened I had half a bar of Soapworks laundry soap in my bathroom – which just happens to be the best ever stain remover I have ever had! And very affordable at about 2.50$ because it lasts so long!

I have also found Portuguese laundry soap for whites, at Segals on St-Laurent. Even cheaper at 99 cents. Here is that soap:Solavar Laundry Soap

3. Washing soda is easy to make! And cheap! So no need to buy it.  For details, read Wellness Mama’s post.

4. You can make a bare-bones laundry soap by mixing washing-soda with soap: my first try (before I found borax) consisted of melting a sliver of olive oil soap in a liter of water and mixing that with a quarter cup of washing soda, and a few drops of lemon essential oil. Got my clothes clean just fine.

5. I found that the 2-2-1 ratio was ok, but not great at getting grease stains out. Also, I don’t see how 2 tablespoons (!) of this soap would work for a full load of laundry. Maybe I am dirtier than most people? So I upped the ratio to 2-2-2 and used at least 1/4 cup of laundry soap for one load of laundry.

6. I agree with MommyPotamus : you want lemon essential oil. Or maybe some kind of citrus oil. Otherwise, if you are using a plain, lard-y laundry soap, your clothes will smell kind of lardy. Even if it’s not made with lard! Go figure! The plus is that lemon oil also cuts grease, and is a stain-remover! (see MommyPotamus)

So this is my final recipe that I am happy with:

  • 2 cups of Washing soda (which you make by baking baking soda)
  • 2 cups of Borax
  • 2 cups of grated laundry soap, or vegetable based soap. I’m sure most would work, just choose something natural.
  • Lemon Essential Oil

Cover your mouth with a mask or scarf, and mix everything together in a big bowl. Using a whisk works well, because laundry soap tends to be kinda greasy. SAM_9444

As you mix, drop the lemon oil into the powders. You will want at least several tens of drops, I must have dropped at least 20-30 drops in there. Put it in a container, like an old yogurt tub:SAM_9539

This recipe will yield 6 cups of soap and if you use 1/4 cup per load you have 24 loads of soap!

I find the smell very pleasant, it is mild, my clothes feel clean but don’t stink like chemicals. My partner loves it, and says it’s the best laundry soap he has ever tried (he likes mild smells and hates the residue smells left on your skin by commercial brands)! Here is a test strip I stained and washed in this laundry soap. As you can see, it really works! The only stain that still lingers is blueberry jam. Always a tough one 😀

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