Craft Snippets: Soap-making

Sally reports back from the last Craft Snippets event at Upper Riccarton Library. The next event on Wednesday 27 January 2021  will feature knitter and designer Ethan Barclay-Ennew.

It was lovely last month to hear from Debbie Fox. A Christchurch City Librarian, Debbie is also a crafter, making and selling beautiful cold process soaps as well as other products under the label The Eco Fox.

If there is a craft out there, Debbie has probably had a go at it. She grew up in a household full of craft and as a student had a go at most things such as quilting, card making, basket weaving and macrame. Some interests have stuck, like knitting and quilting but some have gone by the by, like basket weaving. Craft makes Debbie feel good, especially after a long day at work and there is nothing she likes more than going into her studio, her happy place, and mixing things up. I am sure many of us feel the same.

A move to eco-conscious making

Debbie moved to an eco-house a couple of years ago and at this time stopped to reflect on the chemicals used to clean the house and our bodies. After much research, Debbie thought ‘I could do this’ and embarked on making her own products to clean the house without the use of harsh chemicals. This then moved to making personal care products such as soap.

The fact that you can take a few products, mix them together and make beautiful soap that smells and looks good really fascinates Debbie, “It takes you back to another age when life was simpler. You don’t always know what is in soap you buy from the supermarket, but you do if it is something you have made yourself from scratch”, she says.

Plus, it’s better for you, with more moisturizing fats so it doesn’t dry out your skin the way commercially made soap can.

Debbie is quick to say that it has been a learning journey, and still is. There have been times when batches of soap have seized in the pot and turned to mush or gone an unfortunate colour.

Ingredients and inspiration

The only chemical Debbie uses is lye, but it is not possible to make soap without it. You do have to be careful with this product though. Debbie uses only essential oils rather than fragrance oils and natural colours such as coffee, charcoal, seaweed and rose. Websites sell ingredients and it is like being a kid in a toy shop and very easy to go over budget. For example Pure Nature has a good selection of products, and Cottage Herbs for buying seaweed (no, she doesn’t collect it off the beach) and a huge array of plants, some she had never heard of. Debbie says you only use a very small amount, so not too expensive. Some products, like spirulina you can buy from the supermarket and for the coffee soap she uses coffee grinds from her plunger. Someone suggested the Harbour Coop in Lyttelton would be a good local place to buy from.

Debbie is always experimenting and looking for new recipes and finds YouTube, magazines, and books great for inspiration and new ideas. A couple of favourite sources are ‘Willow and Sage’ and The Green Goddess Wendyl Nissen. You’ll find a Wendyl Nissen's book on Angela’s booklist below. Two YouTube recommendations are Lovely Greens and The Nerdy Farm Wife.

Catalogue record for Natural soap makingCatalogue record for The complete photo guide to soap makingCatalogue record for Herbal soap makingCatalogue record for Soap making recipesCatalogue record for Pure soapmaking

The sky is the limit on this journey says Debbie. She has drawn the line at making shampoo bars but there are so many other beauty products you can easily make such as lip balm and body butter that are simple and don’t need a lot of ingredients. Debbie explained the process of making cold process soaps versus hot and prefers the cold process method. While in her garden Debbie is always looking around and wondering what she could put in the soap, such as calendula flowers (a success) or lavender flowers (not so successful, after a while they turned black and looked like mouse poo).

Debbie sells her products via the website Felt. Felt is a Christchurch-based website that sells products from all over New Zealand and is a wonderful place to try selling your products. Debbie also sells at Stoddart Cottage in Diamond Harbour, where she lives, and at Sollos, a shop at The Welder. Do pop in and check out The Welder in Welles Street, it is a great spot for coffee and Christmas shopping, and you would be supporting local artisans like Debbie and previous Craft Snippets speaker, Macrame artist Gina Reid.

The New Zealand Soap Makers Association was recently set up. Debbie said this is a great place for asking questions, connecting with others and they also send out a regular newsletter.

Debbie also makes household cleaning products and is always trying new things. Currently she is experimenting with a paste you can use with your dish brush to wash your dishes, and fizzing toilet bombs.

More craft resources

Angela talked about some of the latest crafty books and magazines in the library with a special emphasis on books featuring homemade cleaning and beauty products (see below).

There were  also several magazines chatted about and a reminder that you can get many library eMagazines sent direct to your email. Of the ones we talked about, both Good and Wellbeing are available.

There are also plenty of titles on soap and soap-making, and natural cleaning products.

Craft Snippets November 2020

New items shared during our November gathering. You can put a hold on any of these titles.

View Full List

Sally did a round up of some of the crafty events coming up before Christmas. Here is a link to crafty events on Christchurch Eventfinda. One new regular event that is happening is Come Sip and Craft with Angie at Creative Junk in Disraeli Street. If you haven’t been along to Creative Junk yet, do go - it is well worth a look.

Our next Craft Snippets event will be on Wednesday 27 January 2021, and we are super excited to announce that our speaker will be knitter and designer Ethan Barclay-Ennew from Outlaw Yarns. Ethan is a self-described ‘finished object knitter’ who loves a challenge and seeks to create garments that suit all bodies and genders that maximise the potential for self-expression while creating functional , thoughtful, and beautiful objects that will last.

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