Few things feel so luxurious on the skin as the suds from a bar of handmade soap. And after taking a class in cold process soap making with Robyn Talbot of Ekologie, I was surprised to learn how easy it is to create Lush-style spa treats at home.
Talbot, who sells her creations at local markets and the Made It online handmade market, is more than familiar with the properties of different base oils used in soap making. 'Coconut oil is a super cleansing addition that produces big, copious bubbles,' she explains. 'But it needs to be balanced with other oils in a recipe as it is so good at cleaning, it can be drying to sensitive skin.'
The soap we're making under her guidance today combines several oils - coconut, olive, rice bran and macadamia - along with cocoa butter and lemon myrtle essential oil. But first we need to measure out the lye - the ingredient that combines the oil and water together in liquid to form soap.
In this case, the lye is caustic soda. The safety-conscious Talbot insists we all don googles, gloves and masks, and then stand well back, to protect ourselves from any caustic steam. She then pours a carefully measured 144 grams into a bucket of water on a table outside our work space.
Back inside, we sit down to go through several pages of detailed notes on how to undertake the soap making process at home. We savour the different essential and fragrant oils that can be added during the soap-making process, and look, feel, touch and learn more about the other ingredients, such as clay, exfoliants and different dried herbs, that can be added. Then we watch as Talbot heats the special blend of oils and butters and stirs in the lye once both mixtures reach the same temperature.
All that's left is to pour the soap mixture into moulds and cover with plastic wrap. The best thing about this workshop is that we get to take home our own bars of soap which we will prise from their moulds after they've been left to cure for a day. The soaps will then air dry for a further four weeks ... and then it's bath time, baby!
If candle-making is more your thing, Ekologie also offers workshops in crafting vintage teacup candles. These come highly recommended from a participant in our soap-making class (who completed the candle-making class first).
Visit the Ekologie website for details on upcoming course dates and costs. And if you're looking to start your Christmas shopping, check out the Ekologie store on Made It from late October onwards.