Posts Tagged ‘soap’

Craft, science and skincare: the Fair & Square soap making story

Monday, April 10th, 2017

Carly of Fair & Square makes natural soaps using the traditional cold process technique. She and her husband (with their two children aged 8 months and 2 years) live near Ngunguru (Tutukaka Coast, Northland) on a small lifestyle block where they have built a lovely little “eco/passive solar/off the grid” home. She’s a full time mum, and manages to fit in making her soaps from her kitchen in between looking after the kids, animals, and gardens!

fairsquare title

fairsquare grease monkey

How did you get into your craft?
I was given a soap making kit as a gift about eight years ago, and was instantly hooked. I love that soap making combines chemistry with art.

Do you have formal training or qualification in your craft?
No. I quit all math and science classes at school as soon as I had the chance and never once imagined that chemistry would be in my future. I do a lot of research online into various things, including aromatherapy, different properties of oils, butters and how they react when turned into soap. In every batch of soap I make, I learn something new, and get a better feel of how the soap batter is behaving and why. Like any craft you never really stop learning and evolving.

Your favourite tools, materials and processes?
My all time favourite tool is a little hand held leather bound soap beveller. I like to bevel the edges of my soaps so that they glide smoothly from the very first use. After un-moulding the soap and cutting into bars, I run the beveller over all the sharp edges. It is monotonous and repetitive and I love it! The beveller sits so easy in the hand, and the texture and feel of the soap being peeled away is so calming and wonderfully meditative.

I also couldn’t work without my trusty old stick blender! I’ve had her from the very start of my soap making and she has helped to create every single batch of soap I have made. I never thought I would ever come to have feelings for a kitchen appliance, but this old Betty slowly and steadily whizzed her way into my heart.



Tell us about the techniques in producing your soap:
For a product that most of us use on a daily basis, very few people know what soap is and how it is made. True soap is created by the chemical reaction (saponification) that occurs when you mix lye (sodium hydroxide) and fats (animal or vegetable origin). It’s as simple as that.

Lye was traditionally made with hardwood ash and water, but was notoriously difficult to get right. The joy of modern soap making is that we can purchase lye that gives us reliable results every time. Lye is extremely caustic/alkaline on its own, but through the magic of chemistry (by combining lye with fats) an entirely new substance is created. In a saponified bar of soap there will be no trace of lye in it.

To produce a nice moisturising bar of soap, I add an extra 7-8% of oils to my recipe that aren’t bound up in the saponification, and so are floating around in the bar, free to love on your skin.

I create my recipes using a range of oils and butters that bring different values to the bar of soap. Some oils create a dense lather (castor) while others provide wonderful moisturising properties (avocado, olive). Coconut oil is a main ingredient in all my bars and helps to create a nice hard, long lasting bar with lots of fluffy bubbles. It is a constant juggle and balancing act to get the perfect combination of oils and create the ultimate soap bar.



Once the mixture is poured into the moulds, it needs to sit for 24-36 hours before being solid enough to remove from the moulds. Then the soap logs sit for a further 24 hours before cutting and bevelling. Once they are all dressed up, the bars sit for a further 6 weeks to create a lovely mild, long lasting bar that is heaven for your skin.

A bi-product of soap is glycerine, which is produced naturally during the saponification process. Glycerine is a humectant and so draws moisture from the environment to your skin. This means your skin feels hydrated and soft after the wash. In commercial soaps, the manufacturers remove this glycerine and use it to make higher value products like moisturisers, meaning the soap is super drying and harsh on your skin. In fact, many commercial ‘soaps’ are not true soaps at all, rather a combination of chemical detergents, artificial lathering agents and toxic chemicals. Considering the average person uses soap ten times a day- this is something we should be more wary of!

What inspires you?
I love both the simplicity and complexity of nature. I enjoy being able to experiment with ingredients from the natural world, and am especially captivated by the aromatherapy enigma. Coming up with new blends of essential oils that actually work and smell amazing is an ongoing quest. When I smell certain scents in nature, my thoughts instantly turn to soap and how I can capture that memory and recreate it in bubble form.

My fellow soap makers, who are forever raising the bar, (We see what you did there. – Ed.) also inspire me. I love following artisan soap makers on Instagram with their amazing creations. I have tried out many different techniques from things I’ve spotted through social media and YouTube instructional videos.



Is there a philosophy behind your work?
I aim to provide a little bit of luxury in peoples everyday lives. I wanted to create an experience that all my customers can not only enjoy, but also be sure that it is truly good for them. It’s near impossible today to get away from all the nasties in our world, and with a beauty industry heaving with products, I wanted to create something simple, honest and beautiful.

I choose to use therapeutic essential oils rather than synthetic fragrance oils because I believe that what nature has to offer is so remarkable, and I want to celebrate the splendour of these natural ingredients. I want to provide my family and friends and customers with a product that I am proud to put my name to and that is a joy to use.

In our throw-away culture, single use plastics (shampoo/body wash/liquid soap bottles etc.) are piling up in our landfills and making their way into our oceans and that’s just not ok, so all my packaging is cardboard and completely biodegradable. My packaging is 100% compostable, and in fact they work really well as seed raising pots that you can plant directly into the soil.




Describe your workspace:
I create my soaps at home, between the kitchen and the laundry. I call it a laundry but it has very little laundry hardware in there. We are in the process of building our home and the laundry isn’t finished yet, and so I have commandeered it for my soap workshop. At any one time I would have 500 or so bars of soap curing in racks and shelving, along with buckets of oils, bottles of essential oils, containers of clays and other natural additives and tools. It’s quite the mess. My goal is to have a designated soap workshop where I can create and store all my work tucked away in my soapy haven.

Five words that describe your mind:
Obsessive, motivated, dedicated, scrambled, and very much sleep deprived!

Your favourite feedback from a customer:
I get so much lovely feedback from my customers; it gives me goosebumps to know that something I have created brings joy to peoples lives. Comments such as “Best smelling amazing soaps LOVE LOVE LOVE!” and “Best handmade soap ever, leave your body feeling amazing” and “This soap is DIVINE” just reinforce that I am on the right track.

What are you listening to?
An audiobook called: Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. It’s super interesting, and if you haven’t discovered the joy of audiobooks – you need to!

Recommend a book:
The Passage by Justin Cronin. It’s a dystopian fantasy, but don’t let that put you off! It’s easily the best book (it’s actually a trilogy) I’ve read in a long time. I couldn’t put it away (get it on audio and you’ll be finding any excuse you can to listen, including doing the dishes, weeding the garden, painting the house… All those monotonous jobs are suddenly very appealing when it means you can listen to your book!)



Recommend an album:
If you have children and value your sanity, then you can’t go past Anna Van Riels’ Cooking Up a Song. It’s super catchy and cute and you’ll find yourself singing along in no time. It is perfect for the car; it will stop meltdowns in their tracks. It’s a kids’ album that is actually really enjoyable for parents too.

What’s your favourite childhood book?
There’s a sea in my bedroom. I loved the illustrations and the utter joy at imagining having the real sea to play with in your bedroom. My daughter loves this book now too (I have the same copy from when I was a little girl), so any book that spans generations has got to be a goodie.

Who is your hero and why?
I’ve got to say that my husband is my hero. He’s dedicated, extremely hard working and he adores our kids. He is also exceptionally talented in making stuff (including our beautiful home). He is a creative genius and is forever dreaming up (and building) innovative projects that are both beautiful and functional. He also tolerates it when I bring home yet another animal, raise baby chicks in our bathroom, or bottle-feed orphaned baby guinea pigs that the cat brought in. He’s a keeper.

A favourite quote:
“Love her, but leave her wild.” – Atticus.

Tell us about your pets:
Our indoor pets include Levi the Italian greyhound, Charlie the border collie and Moss and Hazel; Persian x fluffball cats. Outside we have Honey, our milking cow, Marmite, Copper and Porsha (horses), Tinkerbell and Petal (mini ponies), a few free ranging guinea pigs, ducks and countless chickens.


If you were a crafty superhero what would your name and superpower be?
I would be Bubbles McWitchypants! Bubbles can collect and store therapeutic aromas from plants and use them to manipulate the emotions of her fellow humans. Bubbles could be the best weapon for peace the world has ever seen. Her specialty would be infiltrating terrorist groups to sooth their rage and anger with her herbal potions. Then they would all decide to go and take a nice afternoon nap rather than blowing each other to pieces.

Advice for those starting out a crafty business:
Create your brand, and live it. Don’t compromise on quality. Have a very clear philosophy about why you are in business and follow your heart. I think the best small businesses are true to their creator and this is one thing that helps to make them so successful.


Favourite handmade item:
I couldn’t be without my Japanese vegetable knife lovingly handcrafted by the super talented Peter Lorimer of Omakau. I use it every single time I cook. The bone handle sits with absolute precision in my hand and it is weighted to perfection. I will be one very happy mumma the day I have replaced all of my random knives with a simple and stunning set of Peter’s masterpieces.

What’s in store for 2017:
I have so many ideas crashing around inside my foggy mind that it’s hard to pin down exactly what I will end up doing this year. These include a shaving soap in a handmade ceramic refillable bowl, beer soaps made from local craft beers, naturally scented bath bombs, solid moisturising bars, natural candles and melts, probiotic solid-bar deodorant and essential oil massage blends. First and foremost, I will be spending all the time I can hanging out with our kids. In the greater scheme of things, they are the most important part of my day and I intend on soaking up as much of them as I can. So, in saying that, it is entirely probable that I don’t achieve any of my business goals this year. Or next year. But eventually, I will have a little more time to push my business and see where it will take me.

As a special treat for Felt customers for the next two months Carly is offering a whopping 30% off all Fair & Square products bought through Felt!

Enter the voucher code DIRTY30 at checkout to claim your discount. :-)


Purchase from Fair & Square here »



The joy of a warm bath in winter

Wednesday, May 13th, 2015

I can always tell when I’m just starting to feel a bit cold on a winter’s evening, because I find myself suddenly thinking what a good idea a lovely warm bath would be. There’s no better way to up one’s core temperature and wind down for a warm and restful night’s sleep than a good soak, don’t you think?

And it’s always nice to make a bath extra luxurious with all the right accessories. Of course Felt is bursting with delicious handcrafted bath and beauty products perfect for the purpose. The only difficulty is choosing which luxurious goodies to use tonight!




Oh, I find much simple pleasure when I’ve had a tiring day,
In the bath, In the bath!

Where the noise of gently sponging seems to blend with my top A,
In the bath, In the bath!

To the skirl of pipes vibrating in the boiler room below,
I sing a pot pourri of all the songs I used to know,
And the water thunders in and gurgles down the overflow,
In the bath, In the bath!

Oh, the tingling of the scrubbing brush, the flannel’s soft caress,
To wield a lordly loofah is a joy I can’t express,
How truly it is spoken one is next to godliness,
In the bath, In the bath!*

Treat yourself, or someone in need of pampering, and find your bath-time happiness in the huge range of bathing goodies on our health and beauty pages.

*Marvellous bath-time lyrics by the incomparable Flanders and Swann. :-)


Scrub up for sunny weather

Friday, September 19th, 2014

It’s nearly that time… that time when we start exposing pale winter skin to the world again. We reckon the best way to feel gorgeous is to start with a good scrub to slough off winter.


With gorgeous handmade skincare products like these, your skin will love you and you’ll be a bathing beauty in no time. Check out all of our bath and beauty products for more ways to pamper yourself.


Featured seller: The Cottage Soap Co.

Monday, August 19th, 2013

Travel, wine and a love for natural products has led Otago-based Amy Burke down the path to The Cottage Soap Co., her handmade soaps and skincare business. Her passion for good food and wine has translated to a skincare range characterised by rich essential oils, so delicious they’re almost edible!

What do you make?
I make luxuriously natural skincare and soaps. Currently I have released my hand cream and face cream with rosehip oil, but I have so much more in the pipeline.

How did you get into your craft?
After working in the wine and restaurant industry for a long time I knew it was time to discover my other passions. I have always had a love for all things natural. I’m grateful to still be part of the wine industry because of the amazing people that we work with and have got to know, and everyone can appreciate a good glass of vino at the end of the day.

Your favourite materials, tools and processes?

Essential oils, dried rose buds, rosehip oil and coconut oil. Yum! Almost better than making cupcakes!

galleryWhat inspires you?
Travel – we love to travel. Especially Europe, for the wine, the scenery, the produce.

Is there a philosophy behind your work?
My philosophy is to be natural as well as practical. To create something that will benefit you and your life everyday.

Five words that describe your mind:
Dreamy and full of creative clutter… My heart has more control unfortunately.

Your favourite feedback from a customer:
I recently had a customer that suffered from sensitive skin and couldn’t use any of the products from the supermarkets or pharmacies. I told her to give my goats’ milk soap a try, which she did. Now she claims it’s the only thing she can use and she loves it. Fantastic!

Describe your workspace:
My kitchen used to be for creating edible masterpieces, however now it seems to be over-run with my skincare products and soap making utensils. I ‘should’ be getting slimmer due to the lack of baking I do now! Unfortunately that’s not the case…

What are you currently listening to?
Red Hot Chilli PeppersOne Hot Minute. Fun and cheesey at the same time. Dave Navaro adds an unusal dimension to this album.

Recommend an album:
Jake Bugg – Self Titled Album – (He wrote the Lightning Bolt song from the Gatorade ad).

Your favourite childhood book?
The B.F.G. by Roald Dahl. Loved it and when I had finished that book I read every other book he wrote.

What are you reading now?
Every Bastard Says No – The 42 Below Story. Very inspiring.

A favourite quote: You only get one chance to make a first impression…!

Do you have any pets?
Yes, I have two dogs (Chopper, a six year old old border collie and Belle, a two year old huntaway/collie cross) and Tiggy and Alley, two black cats. It’s like a zoo at our place!

What was the last handmade item you bought?
I bought a homemade candle from the Kandle Co. It’s delightful and I have recommended her products to many of my wholesalers.

Visit Amy’s Felt shop to see her full range of luxurious skin products. Amy has kindly offered one lucky Felt blog reader a prize of a set of her lovely hand and face creams, worth $36.50. To be in to win, leave a comment below, telling us what inspires you about Amy’s story and her products. The draw will be made on Friday 30 August and is open to New Zealand residents only.

Pamper yourself with luxurious handmade soap

Thursday, June 27th, 2013

I reckon there’s no time when a nice hot bath seems more appealing than in the deep of winter. We all need a little pampering every now and then, so why not take a look at our lovely range of bath and beauty products and brighten up your day?

There’s a delectable range of gorgeously decadent soaps to choose from – the only difficulty is picking one! But hey, why stop at one?


The menfolk aren’t left out either. There’s a great range of soaps and goodies for guys too – because everyone needs a little pampering, even our blokes.


Go on, treat yourself. Spend a little quality time with your bathtub. After all, as Sylvia Plath once said “There must be quite a few things that a hot bath won’t cure, but I don’t know many of them.”

Racking your brains for Father’s Day?

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

Allow me to assist with a few handpicked items for the discerning gentlemen.

Gift Box of 3 Honey & Spice BLOKE SOAPS
Honey and Spice has a full range of soaps for blokes, made from raw natural ingredients in manly combinations like Cinnamon and Black Pepper. A Father’s Day gift box includes three Bloke Soaps of your choice.

Handmade leather notebook with pocket by elephant+bird
A hand bound leather notebook from elephant+bird is perfect to slip into a pocket or keep in the glove box. There’s an internal pocket to store extra papers in one place and the super slick snaplock button keeps the pages snug. Tightly bound together with organic cotton and secured to a stitched spine, this makes a great notebook for handyman dads to note down plans and schemes.

Polished Boogers by Fat Spatula
And last but not least, from Fat Spatula, we have carefully hand-picked bogies that have been polished to perfection using the ancient technique of rolling them vigorously under the sweaty armpit of an hirsute man. Once polished to a light sheen they are then left to harden naturally in a musty hot-water cupboard. After a few months they are then gathered up and placed in jars to make the perfect Father’s Day gift for the hard-to-buy-for dad. If polished boogers don’t quite fit the bill, choose from a selection of other rare delicacies.

Clean and simple

Sunday, December 12th, 2010

I always think it’s super cool when the powers of two awesome Felt makers combine to create a whole new product, and this wee package deal is a lovely example. Gorgeous moisture-rich handmade soap by Honeynspice served up on a stylish ceramic soap dish by MudbirdNZ makes a beautiful gift or a treat for yourself.

Mum&Kid: Citrus Sweeties

Wednesday, November 24th, 2010

Enjoy a refreshing Calendula Blossom Tea & get squeaky clean with Pineapple Salsa Soap


Green Blessings : Calendula Blossom Tea $6.50 | HoneynSpice : Pineapple Salsa Soap $3.50

Soap for Birds – A Crafty Side Trip

Tuesday, October 6th, 2009

The first in a series of writings from the side of the road by Briar.

This summer my daughter, Jacque, and I plan to take to the road with a tent and a list of intentions. One goal is to find people living interesting and creative lifestyles, where their chosen craft or art plays a significant part.

Today, it felt as if we had already left home. Returning from a local festival which had a few good moments and lots of average ones, I suggested we cheer ourselves up by stopping at Cedar Cottage Soaps. I had visited once before, and remembered stocking up from their very reasonable ‘seconds’ basket.


The little shop is a fragrant wonderland. Bars of artisan soap sit appealingly in rows on the wooden shelves. Each bar is hand wrapped in a strip of coloured cloth, and bears appetising and wholesome names such as Peppermint Twist (Jacque’s first choice), Lemon & Almond and Gardener’s Bar. Body creams and butters, candles and bath melts sit among other tantalising products on a central table. I’m not a boutique shopper, and tend to pass such places assuming the stock is out of my budget. Yet, Cedar Cottage products manage to be affordable and luxurious at the same time.

At any rate, our shopping fate is sealed with the friendly welcome offered by Terry and Belinda Clancy. They never seem hurried, and are happy to let curious crafters such as myself peek into their workroom at the back of the shop. If arranged in advance, it is even possible to view soap being made, and blocks of beeswax are sold with recipes to enable someone to make their own products.

And there is more! Proceeds from Cedar Cottage are being used to build and maintain a 1.5 acre bird sanctuary on the property, providing refuge and respite care for old or injured birds. Belinda and Terry have planted native trees and shrubs indigenous to the area, and landscaping features such as the hand dug pond make this corner of Banks Peninsula a welcome green spot for both native and introduced birds. Terry named the long term residents as we walked a well maintained path, names I instantly forgot as I marveled at the care and cleanliness so evident throughout.


We purchased some beautiful soaps, had a wander among the birds, and a chat over coffee about important and interesting ideas. Driving away, we felt heartwarmed and inspired by the generosity and integrity of this small business. Terry and Belinda are careful and skilled soap makers. Yet, more importantly, it is their approach to their work and life that makes Cedar Cottage a place worth visiting again, and again.

Cedar Cottage is located in Kaituna, approximately 15 minutes from Halswell (at edge of Christchurch) on the main Akaroa Highway. About 9km from the Blue Duck Tea rooms at the Gebbes Valley Pass turnoff, look out for the green SOAP sign on the left.

Belinda can be found at the Riccarton Market, from 9am till 2pm every Sunday at Riccarton Racecourse in Christchurch.