November/December in Review

As I perused Facebook this evening, Marla Bosworth’s article from our current issue (Nov./Dec. 13)  rang in my ears.  Yes, I was spending too much time there and I hadn’t accomplished all of my day’s goals.  What about you?  Did you find her piece to be eye-opening and a good reminder?  Granted, Facebook is a wonderful medium and a great business tool for many of us, but too much of anything loses its wonderfulness (is that a word?) and simply becomes a distraction and a time-gobbler.  Of course, Facebook isn’t alone, but it is the most widely used form of social media.  So, how do you apportion your time?  Share with us your tips for making best use of Facebook without getting lost in it.


Off the Facebook soapbox and on to the holidays.  Did you not love Suzanne Finley’s poem,  “A Poem of Holiday Favorites?”  I was amused and delighted.  Any of us making product for sale or for gifts this time of year are sure to relate.


I hope you enjoyed the Castile soap article written by our newest columnist, Marina Tadiello.  Castile’s place in history is as fascinating as is this one-oil soap, itself!  I loved gazing at the photos supplied by Castile soapmakers.  Do you like Castile soap?  Do you make it?


Where would we be without the clever and knowledgeable Kevin Dunn, who educated us in a most fascinating way in his article, “Phun With Ph?”  I’m wishing that my junior and senior high school teachers had been as fun (or phun) as Kevin is.


Deb Sturdevant’s sharing her life and memories of her favorite herbs was a respite from my day and a reminder to count my favorite herbal memories and where they have taken me over the years.  Karen Mallinger’s monographs on bayberry and cloves were a fascinating read for anyone who enjoys herbs and would like to learn more.  I really wanted to find bayberries and extract the wax.  Perhaps someday, I will.  For now though, I have lots of cloves to experiment with.  What are your favorite herbs and why?


Of course, everyone’s favorite November/December issue article, “Raves for Faves” was eagerly anticipated.  I love finding out what everyone else is doing, and apparently, so do you.  How do you stack up among your fellow artisans?


I must mention that I always enjoy the writings of Melinda Coss, esoteric ramblings or not.  Although she knows more than I ever will about soapmaking and the business thereof, she is so down-to-earth and easy to read that I look forward to seeing her name.


Looking for some new ideas for the holidays?  Diane Pither-Patterson is your girl.  Her article on creating candles by upcycling pieces you find was timely in that upcycling is a trend we shouldn’t ignore and during the holidays is a great time to introduce something like this.


What?  You don’t subscribe, but you’re dying to read this issue?  No problem. will provide you with the information that you need.  Join the family!


Please note the ads of our fantastic business partners and consider purchasing from them.  They provide us with the best of everything.


Until next time, may your days be filled with bubbles and wax,


Beth Byrne for the Saponifier

The Wonderful World of Soap Colorants

Color, color, color!  Although I know that some of you prefer not to add color to your soaps, a great many of you wouldn’t make a batch without.  Why is that?  Is a soap not as good uncolored as it is colored?  Of course it is!  A soap’s performance is not dependent upon color; however, our desire to add color is still important to us and often, to our customers or the recipients of our gifts.  


As many soap artisans are truly artists, the appeal of color and design is just too important to bypass and half the fun of making soap is creating colorful designs.  Nevertheless, color isn’t important only to the more fanciful among us, but even to those of us who make simpler, one-colored soaps or other not-so-fancy soaps.  If we’re making soap that smells like the ocean for instance, we want color that is reminiscent of the ocean, and it makes sense that a rosemary mint soap be green.  Moreover, we want our orange scented soap to be. . . well, orange.


Even still, many of us are still confused by color.  We don’t know which colorants to use or how to use them properly.  Our colors morph or speckle or disappear.  How do these soapmakers do it, we ask?  Seeing the beautifully swirled and otherwise colored soaps of our sisters and brothers in the soaping world, we know it can be done, but how?


I can’t do the topic justice in just a blog post, but the most common colorants for soap are:

1.    Herbs and spices (and other natural sources of color)

2.    Ultramarines & oxides

3.    FD&C

4.    Micas


Which one(s) you choose depend upon a few different factors, such as the kind of soap you’re making.  Some colorants that work well in melt and pour soap do not work well under the high pH of cold or hot process soap.  Sometimes, for the effect we want, a bleeding colorant will add to the design; other times, a non-bleeding colorant is imperative.  A number of soapmakers want to use only natural colorants obtained by infusing or powdering herbs, spices and other naturally-derived agents, whether for their properties in the soap for strictly for color.


Your first task is to decide what is important to you when choosing colorants.  If bright colors and crisp designs are at the top of your priority list, for instance, choose ultramarines and oxides or micas.  If your desire is beautiful coloring that is easily  mixed into the soap, and you’re making a once-color batch or you want your colors to blend a bit, then FD&C colors are just fine.  If you’re looking for natural colorants, it’s herbs, spices, etc.  Once you decide, you can purchase your colorants and you’re on your way to making colorful soaps.


In my next post, I’ll go into more detail about natural colorants.


Speaking of color and design, don’t forget to enter our contest!  Details can be found here:


Until next time, may your days be filled with colored bubbles and wax.


Beth Byrne for the Saponifier

Jekyll & Hyde in the Herb Garden

Do you grow Barberry?

Some would call the European Barberry (Berberis vulgaris) a weed shrub, but thanks to Elizabeth Sockol, we know that although it is weedy, Barberry is also a useful shrub.  Along with its close relatives named in her article, we now know that its berries are edible and loaded with vitamin C.  Additionally, it had been used in the past for a long list of ailments.  Nevertheless, this attractive shrub has a dark side due to the fatal fungus that resides within–a fungus that very nearly wiped out wheat and barley growing in the US.

Intrigued?  Make sure you read this most fascinating article and tell us if you don’t agree that Barberry might be called the Jekyll & Hyde of the herb world.

Fortunately, we can turn to one of my favorite herbs, indeed an favorite of many, Calendula (Calendula officinalis).  This lovely, cheerful annual is not only delightful in our flower gardens, but an extremely useful herb, as well, Lindalu Forseth explains.  She talks of Calendula infused in oil, teaching how to grow, harvest, and infuse it for use in a variety of ways.   It’s a known anti-inflammatory, helps heal wounds, and may even be useful as an anti-cancer and anti-viral.

Many soap and b&b makers love Calendula for its skin-loving qualities.  After reading this article, you’ll want to give it a try!

Do you have questions regarding what you’ve read in this issue of the Saponifier?  Did you like particular articles, finding them helpful in your soap, bath product, or candle making?  Let us know.  We love to hear from our readers.

Lastly, be sure to drool over the photos sent in by our readers, and to read the bio of Maria Sarafi from Greece.  You’ll be inspired!

What did you learn from reading this issue?

Water Soldier and Neem, What did You Know?

Wow, so much meat in this issue!

I enjoyed Elizabeth Sockol’s insights into a previously unheard of herb for me, Water Soldier.  It’s hardy to zone 6, so there is some possibility that I might find it where I live; I just need to go looking.  I’d better hurry, though, as summer isn’t going to last much longer.  Given the article’s warning about not using it for products, I won’t try it, but I would like to know if it’s around.

Neem Oil, what do you know about it?  Do you use it?  If not, I hope you’ve read Lindalu Forseth’s article.  This powerful herbal oil has potential for many useful products, from soap to garden insecticide.  Interestingly, it is also known for its ability to increase skin elasticity.  Be sure, however, to pay attention to its precautions.  Like most herbs, although it can be used safely, we need to know its potential for danger when misused.

Have you checked out the Readers Showcase Gallery?  It’s one of my favorite features of the magazine,  as I enjoy reading about other companies and seeing their creations.  This issue’s gallery is not an exception!  I’m inspired by Janie Clark’s (Selkies Artisan Soap Co.) successful business and Ann Stoermer’s Pitter Pattern Designs.  Her goodies look yummy enough to eat!

Finally, be sure to notice our fine advertising companies and check them out!  They offer quality products that you’ll be sure to enjoy.