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Adventures in Soap Making: A Review of the new book ‘Soap Crafting’ by Anne-Marie Faiola

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My first attempt at soap making was ridiculous. It was my 31st birthday and I was sporting safety googles and rubber gloves. One judging from my getup may have assumed that I knew what I was doing, but that was certainly not the case.

At the time, I was beyond nervous about using lye to make soap, so nervous, in fact, that I bought the wrong kind – a diluted, liquid variety – and hurried home to mix up a batch of soap that would never amount to anything more than smelly glop.

It was a real disappointment – that first batch of soap. But I tried again and discovered that soap making is actually really fun when you use the proper ingredients. My second batch was much better than my first, and I’ve made several basic batches since in the six years that have passed since my initial cannonball into the exciting world of soap making. I still consider myself a rookie soaper and up until recently I’ve been sticking to very basic recipes.

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And then Alee from Storey Publishing sent me a copy of Soap Crafting,” by Anne-Marie Faiola, a.k.a. The Soap Queen, and the book has changed the way I approach soap making and made me wish I had read it before making my first batch. Anne-Marie explains the art and science of soap making in her book that includes instructions to make 31 cold-process soaps ranging from basic beginner soaps to beautiful 12-color Linear Swirl bars that look almost too pretty to use. 

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Whether you’re a full-time soap maker or hobbyist, this book provides a great foundation for all of us to up our soap making game. With sections dedicated to choosing oils, colorants and additives, this book serves as an easy resource to pick up quickly and find the information you need to plan your next batch.

AMLaughing

I was so impressed by this book that I interviewed Anne-Marie for the upcoming fall issue of CraftSanity Magazine and recorded a podcast with her, too. (Coming soon, folks!) In additional to writing a wonderful book for soap makers, Anne-Marie is a mom and the powerhouse businesswoman who built the Bramble Berry soap supply business from the ground up.

She sent me some fun Bramble Berry supplies to try a couple recipes from the book and I’m happy to say I finally advanced from making the same old plain batches of soap in shoeboxes lined with freezer paper. (One of the great things about Anne-Marie’s book is that it includes directions to use shoeboxes, milk cartons and plastic tubs, PVC pipe and cupcake molds, so investing in fancy molds is not required to try the recipes.) While I do enjoy making and using even the most basic handmade soaps, Anne Marie has expanded my soap world.

soapmixerSince virtually meeting Anne-Marie, I’ve made a batch of soap using the natural colorant spirulina, a high-protein dietary supplement that produces a pretty green color, and three-color Avocado Moisturizing Bars. I made the avocado bars first and botched the batch when I got distracted and let my soap pot get a little too hot. The ingredients separated in the pot. I thought I was going to drown in a sea of embarrassment because I was using supplies Anne-Marie sent me to try a recipe from her book and then I went ahead and made a foolish mistake. Thankfully, Anne-Marie had my back when things went south. On p. 234 of “Soap Crafting” she outlines a “SOS (Save Our Soap)!” modified hot-process technique that can be used to save a batch. And let me tell you, folks, it works.

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Anne Marie’s Avocado Moisturizing Bars

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These are my rookie Avocado Moisturizing Bars after I accidentally exceeded the recommended cooking temperature for the oil. And because I can’t seem to let anything go to waste, I dropped the undyed soap pieces into the mold. At the time I didn’t think through the fact that these would not pick up the color. I was just trying to use it all up.

While my avocado bars (below)are not as pretty as the bars in the book (left) due to operator error, I saved the batch and felt empowered when I was able to solve my own problem using “Soap Crafting” as a reference. And that’s the mark of a great book – one that equips readers to troubleshoot and be self-sufficient in a pinch. LOVE that!

I also appreciate the fact that the book was written by a soap maker and owner of a soap supply business because readers can easily order all the supplies they need to make any of the recipes in the book from Bramble Berry and avoid the time-consuming hunt for oils, colorants and other ingredients. This is genius marking on Anne-Marie’s part and simultaneously beneficial to her customers who benefit from knowing that she and her staff have tested out all the supplies they sell. They can’t prevent operator error (ahem), but they can set us up with what we need to have the best chance of success. : )

And while you don’t need a Soap Queen soap mold to make soap, I was thrilled to try Anne-Marie’s wooden molds with silicone liners. They make the process seem all the more official and it feels pretty darn good to graduate from the shoebox phase of soap making.

While I’m using “Soap Crafting” as a reference for making soap to use at home and gift to others, this book is a great resource for those who have aspirations to pursue it as a business. (For best results, start with the basic recipes and work your way through to the marbled and swirled varieties.) From the first batch to the next 100, this book, featuring more than 30 recipes and supporting tutorials, is one to keep on the shelf. It explains all the things that rookies need to know while still inspiring more confident veteran soap makers.

High five, Anne-Marie! You nailed it. : )

UPDATE: WE HAVE A WINNER! Congrats to Mariah who won the random drawing for a copy of “Soap Crafting.” Enter to Win Anne-Marie’s Book! The folks at Storey Publishing are giving me a copy of “Soap Crafting” to give away to a lucky CraftSanity reader. Leave a comment below by Monday Sept. 9, 2013 to get into the drawing. A winner will be randomly selected and announced Sept. 10. Good luck, everyone!

Visit the Oil and Butter blog to read another reviewer’s take on Anne-Marie’s book and see some more book photos.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go slice my latest batch of soap into bars. : )

green soap

Comments

Comment from Stacie
Time: August 30, 2013, 10:44 pm

Great blog post, love your first soap batch story, and glad the book helped you to solve your soap issue on this batch. I sadly have not gotten my hands on one of these fabulous books, hopefully soon. Your soap has a fun rustic look to it, thanks for sharing.

Comment from Paula@weewhimsicals
Time: August 30, 2013, 10:45 pm

Oh, I’d love to win this book. I did check out a few last winter from the library but scared myself off! This sounds like just the book from novice to experienced!

Comment from kelly h
Time: August 31, 2013, 8:41 am

what a wonderful give away. I have been sooooo curious to make soap. Thanks for sharing your successes-whether they started out that way or not. It is very encouraging for the rest of us. I hope to try soap making soon!

Comment from Margo
Time: August 31, 2013, 9:46 am

I’ve often thought of making my own soap but haven’t taken the plunge yet. This book sounds like a great resource.

Comment from Marci
Time: August 31, 2013, 10:21 am

I would love to expand my craft skills into soap making…I have extremely sensitive skin and have to use special soap to avoid problems. Thanks for the chance to win <3

Comment from Britt
Time: August 31, 2013, 1:12 pm

I admire everyone who bothers making soap. Someday ill try! Until then? I’m buying fun soap at craft events, art fairs and sheep/wool festivals

Comment from Julie
Time: August 31, 2013, 2:32 pm

That bottom soap looks good enough to eat. I have a feeling that soap making would be fun and, like yogurt, I’d end up preferring my homemade to storebought. Fun!

Comment from Cee
Time: August 31, 2013, 10:07 pm

Thanks so much for the shout-out! Your hot processed avocado bars turned out wonderful, great save!

Comment from Donna (Crippled Crafter)
Time: September 1, 2013, 3:57 am

This book sounds brill! I’ve made one batch of soap from a kit but have been too scared to try a batch on my own. If I won this book however….!

Comment from Jen E
Time: September 1, 2013, 4:41 am

Great save on the soap batch, I think it still looks great! Super cool giveaway too. I just found your site and I love it!

Comment from Lelah
Time: September 1, 2013, 6:22 am

The first time I tried to make soap was a disaster as well! I’d love to have this book and learn from the best like you did. Anne Marie is an inspiration to me because of her successful business she built from scratch.

Comment from Nicole
Time: September 1, 2013, 9:02 am

I love soap making! Your soap looks awesome

Comment from Jaimie
Time: September 1, 2013, 9:31 am

Sounds like fun! I’ve never tried soap making, but it’s on my craft bucket list.

Comment from Elizabeth Adams
Time: September 1, 2013, 11:33 am

Been eyeballing this since Amazon offered a pre-order. Thank you for the offer!

Comment from Bonnie
Time: September 1, 2013, 11:59 am

I would love to try my hand at making soap – and the book looks great (along with your soap too!).

Comment from Mariah
Time: September 1, 2013, 1:57 pm

I’m a rookie soapmaker myself, and through endless hours of research and trials and error I’ve mannaged to make a few simple batches of soap though I would love to learn more (especially using oil and mica)

Comment from Raluca M.
Time: September 1, 2013, 4:14 pm

I was also nervous on my first attempt at making soap that I spoiled anything. My girl was a little baby by then and I didn’t take into account that she might awaken while I was making the soap and she did. I chose the wrong time of making soap and I was in a hurry and nervous and then anything was spoiled. I would love to know more about making soap.

Comment from Marsha Gibbons
Time: September 2, 2013, 9:34 am

I have never made soap, but would love to try!

Comment from Jen B
Time: September 2, 2013, 1:16 pm

I’ve been curious about soap making (especially since I saponified fatty acids as a chemist!). I just didn’t know where to start.

Comment from Ruby R
Time: September 2, 2013, 7:35 pm

It’s been a while since I’ve made basic soap, this book sounds like the thing to get me back into it and beyond. Loved the story of your soapy experience.

Pingback from Tutorial: Make Your Own Laundry Soap (Video)
Time: September 2, 2013, 9:23 pm

[…] Adventures in Soap Making: A Review of the new book ‘Soap Crafting’ by Anne-Marie Faiola […]

Comment from Cherry Bao
Time: September 4, 2013, 3:27 am

The book seems great.I had tried to diy soap.It is really interesting.It will add to colour to your life.

Comment from Kim
Time: September 4, 2013, 7:29 am

I’ve wanted to try soapmaking just never made the “leap.” This book sounds like it would be a great help!

Comment from Rachel
Time: September 4, 2013, 4:31 pm

sounds like fun!

Comment from Anne-Marie Faiola
Time: September 4, 2013, 5:27 pm

Thank you so much for being part of our Soap Crafting Blog Tour. It was really fun to read your post and see your gorgeous soap. =)

Comment from Cat C.
Time: September 4, 2013, 7:18 pm

I love hand-crafted soaps! Thanks for the give away!

Comment from Anamaria
Time: September 5, 2013, 1:45 pm

Have been wanting to try soapmaking–this looks like a great place to start, thanks!

Comment from Kim Stachowiak
Time: September 5, 2013, 5:53 pm

I would love to give this a try. Right now I pay a good bit of $$ to order soaps online that don’t have as many chemicals in them b/c the kids have super sensitive skin.

Comment from Jean Meredith
Time: September 5, 2013, 8:26 pm

I have been making soap for several years now and am just beginning to learn how to swirl and pipe soap icing.

I would love to win this book.

Comment from Suzanne
Time: September 7, 2013, 9:31 pm

Always wanted to try this!

Comment from MzTallulah
Time: September 9, 2013, 12:36 pm

The book sounds really complete and interesting; I’ve been reading up on soapmaking for a while, but still haven’t mustered the courage to try (like you, I’m scared of the lye!). Thank you for the giveaway, and looking forward to hearing the podcast with Anne-Marie.

Comment from Kathy
Time: September 9, 2013, 7:44 pm

awesome blog and amazing inspiration! hoping to win this book myself, thanks for the opportunity!!!

Comment from Alexis
Time: September 10, 2013, 12:13 am

Soapmaking looks like fun!

Comment from Mujer
Time: September 13, 2013, 11:03 am

Looks really good, thank you sharing

Comment from Coco
Time: September 27, 2013, 4:48 am

To feel good, no deformation, wear RMK SOAP bar, beautiful appearance as well as the trust of the majority of consumers.

Comment from IPL
Time: October 17, 2013, 5:27 am

It looks yummy, I like it. Thanks for sseing this beautiful cake.

Comment from annie
Time: October 21, 2013, 5:28 am

They look so beautiful. Thanks for you share.

Comment from Stan Alderson
Time: October 28, 2013, 12:24 am

not a bad try at all, Jennifer. Guess I’ll venture into soapmaking too..maybe one of these days. :)

Comment from Meri
Time: June 6, 2014, 10:50 am

Wow! After all I got a web site from where I be capable of actually obtain useful facts regarding
my study and knowledge.

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