My Other Life as a Soapmaking Teacher
Soapmaking Lessons on the Isle of Man
I’ve been making natural soap as Lovely Greens Handmade since 2011 but for the past two years I’ve been teaching others how to make it too. It makes me smile to think that I’m now a teacher when I remember the days of my soap making failures. I taught myself how to make soap and at the time went through batch after batch of botched attempts not understanding what I was doing wrong.
It’s because of these remembered challenges that I can relate to those who feel that making soap is difficult. It’s not, and I enjoy showing people how easy it can be.
There’s a wide range of ages in my lessons
I’ve met a lot of people, primarily women, in my classes but you’d be surprised at the age range. My youngest student was 13 and my eldest was this lively lady who I taught on Saturday. She’s 83 years young and remembers her family making soap years ago in South Africa. They used to pour the soap into metal bread pans to set and then would bevel the soap’s edges using a wood planer. Even while I’m teaching I’m learning new things.
I always find that when you teach a group of women that know one another that you’re going to have a lot of chatter and giggles. This can be a challenge in a class since sometimes they’re so busy having a laugh that their soap has come to a full trace and it might need to be spooned out of the pan. Fortunately, I keep a close eye on everyone.
Natural fragrance and colours
Though most of my classes are groups of 3-5, I do enjoy the smaller classes of just one to two. I can relax a bit more and have the time to show how to make swirls and other effects. This purple and green soap is scented with rosemary and lavender essential oil and is one of the most stunning colour combos made in my classes thus far. We used the ‘In the Pot’ swirling technique.
We get creative in the group classes though too and everyone has a chance to choose which natural colours, fragrance, and dried flowers and herbs that they’d like to use. Being a soap maker I have a pretty big inventory of natural ingredients so sometimes that part of the class can take a while. Everyone always says that it’s their favourite part though so there’s no way I’m going to limit the choices.
I throw my students into the deep end
I have everything set up, measured, and ready to go when my people arrive. With all of the hard work finished it leaves time to just learn the process by doing and to get creative with the extra ingredients.
If you’ve ever made soap before you’ll know there’s a lot that can go into it – equipment, ingredients, recipes, temperature, superfatting, stickblending, and the whole shebang. It’s overwhelming for the first timer so I get them prepared with safety information, an introduction to their set-ups and ingredients and then I tell them exactly what to do without jumping ahead to describe any steps. I move from person to person to make sure they’re on the right page.
Before long, everyone is ready to pour their soap into moulds. I provide paper-lined takeaway containers but also encourage students to bring empty paper milk cartons or silicone moulds if they’d like. Each student goes home with about 12 bars of soap, depending on how its cut.
It takes 24 hours for the soap to harden and cool
The lesson continues on after my students go home. Cold-process soap needs to harden and cool for at least a day after it’s poured. After that, they can cut the soap into bars and then leave them someplace cool, airy, and dim to cure for a month. It takes that long for most of the water content to evaporate out completely.
I always recommend that they place their two batches of soap in different rooms so that while they’re curing they’ll scent the house as well.
Learn how to make soap with Lovely Greens
I’m currently writing a soapmaking e-book so that I can share my process of making soap with those outside of the Isle of Man. In the meantime, feel free to check out my free 4-part soap making series or learn more about my in-person lessons. Get in touch if you’d like to book one.
If you’re curious to know more about how I started making soap in the first place, I wrote a piece on that several years ago. It may answer some of your questions on why natural bath and beauty products are probably better for you and the environment.