Last Spring, my sister hosted a soap making party. A group of us got together and melted and mixed to our heart's content. At the end of the night everyone brought home a couple of bars and the rest were sent with a short term missions team from our church to a village we partner with in Afghanistan. They've done this before and I heard that families really love getting these. Confirming that no matter where you live or who you are, and bar of handmade soap is a welcome gift.
We based some of our soap recipes on this article from Martha Stewart. They talk about using fresh herbs and citrus for bars.
We made mostly glycerine soap. But we also experimented adding in beeswax and cocoa butter (see the little round white one below). You can buy glycerine soap by the bag at craft stores, but it can get pricy ($18 a bag), so wait for a sale or use a coupon. We ended up melting the soap both in the microwave and on the stove to keep up with so many soap makers. If you do this as a party, you may have to use both methods as well. Once the soap was melted we added scents, food coloring, and herbs like dried mint, dried lavender, dried citrus peel, and dried chamomile.
We used plastic baby food containers to make the little rectangle bars and apple sauce containers for the round ones. My sis bought (at the dollar store) a package of 8-10 mini tupperware that were about two inches wide and came with lids. These were perfect for the guests to bring home their creations.
We also tried making large bars (like a short loaf pan) and then slicing them into average size bars. The slicing worked great, but we had some trouble layering them. We later read that we should have not let the layers cool much in between and been sure to spray the top of each layer with alcohol spritz before adding the next layer. You also spritz the soap with alcohol when you are done to keep it from forming bubbles on top. I know I'm just heaping on the good advice here, but you may want to even pick up a book to help you get started. My sister got this one from Hobby Lobby and it had lots of good tips. We maybe should have read more of them before we started : )
Here's another word to the wise. Use dried herbs not fresh. I don't care what Martha says. See the bars on the left below? They are both citrus mint, but the bottom bar was made with dried mint and the top with fresh. Big difference, right? The soap also lasts longer if you use dried. Recommendations for using fresh herbs (even if they don't discolor like this right away) is that the soap be used up in three months. That may or may not happen and you don't want the recipient to have to toss out your gift because it gets weird.
We learned a lot during our first soap making adventure and it was a great group activity. I thought then this would be a great stocking stuffer party: a fun girls night + everyone leaves with lots of gifts to give.
Soap could be wrapped in wax paper and sealed with a Christmas sticker or sticker seal with the recipient's initial, or simply tied with string and maybe a tag with the scent. These soaps are great because again they are one size fits all, so you should be able to cover everyone on your list. There's more stocking ideas to come. See you soon!