#reverb10 – Day 6: Make. What was the last thing you made?

December 6 Prompt

Author: Gretchen Rubin
The Happiness Project

Prompt: Make. What was the last thing you made? What materials did you use? Is there something you want to make, but you need to clear some time for it?


I started making soap again. I’ve been making it on and off since about 2003, but I tend to go in fits and spurts. Make a ton of soap in a short amount of time, then not make any for months.

It’s been many months since I made my last big batch. I’m not even sure if Flora was born the last time I made a serious batch of soap. So it’s definitely been a while.

It felt really good to get excited about a non-computer-related hobby again. Of course, I spent lots of time online sourcing the best prices for my materials and reading up on new scents, but eventually I had to leave the laptop and iPhone and get my hands dirty (or clean really, since it’s soap and all).

Here are some of my latest creations:

Massage bar soapMassage bar. One of my newest molds, it’s a large bar and it looks gorgeous up close.

Snowflake soapHeart soap

Guest soaps (smaller in size) with snowflakes and hearts. This was my first time painting the shapes (or in the case of the heart soap, around the shapes) It turned out better than I thought, which always makes me happy).

Fish soap

Fishy soap! The fish part comes from an Ikea ice cube tray. The fish is then put in the oval mold and the second colour of soap is poured around it.

These soaps are made using the melt and pour method. Some purist soapmakers consider this slacker-style soap, which is okay with me. Melt and pour works like this:

  • Get your hands on some melt and pour soap base. This is premade, unscented, uncoloured glycerin soap. Other oils may be added. The fish and massage bar soaps have hemp oil in them, and the guest soaps have goat’s milk.
  • Melt the soap. This can be done in the microwave, or in a pot on the stove
  • Add your chosen fragrance and colourants
  • Pour into soap molds
  • Let harden, pop out of your mold, wrap and put in your bathroom
  • Scrub away!

I haven’t gone over the finer details like how much fragrance to use (important in these scent-sensitive times). That information can be found online or in books related to soapmaking. I am happy to talk more about it in the comments if anyone is interested. This is a craft you could do with school-age kids quite easily. I’ll likely make soap with my daughter when she gets a little older.

Two things I really like about melt and pour soapmaking are:

  • Soap is meant to be used. So many crafts just hang around the house, long after they should be tossed because “someone made it”. Soap can be admired while on display, enjoyed while using and put to rest when you’re down to the last tiny sliver. There’s a lifecycle.
  • Soap is a forgiving medium. I’m not the best crafter. I get sloppy and things never turn out as nice as I would like. Mistakes in soap can be considered artful, and at worse, you can always melt it down and repour it.

This is a craft I really enjoy. It’s easy, quick and produces impressive results. I’m happy to answer any questions you have, so if you have any, leave them in the comments or drop me an email.

I've been making a lot of soap lately

This is all the soap I’ve made in the past week or so. There’s probably 30 or so bars in there.

Everytime I take up a hobby or interest, I get obsessive about it. I want to learn everything I can about how to do it well. I buy lots of supplies and books. I create like crazy. I make lists of other supplies I want so I can create more stuff.

A few years ago, I got into the knitting craze, and bought all sorts of books, and patterns, but since I was still learning, I didn’t buy a lot of yarn. I even went to a knitting workshop held by the Downtown Knit Collective (a Toronto knitting guild) where I participated in several classes and talked about knitting with like-minded souls.

I never really got past cotton dishcloths and a still-unfinished scarf, so it’s a good thing I didn’t buy much yarn. I wasn’t an awful knitter (see the dishcloth to your left), but knitting just took too long to get results. Since I am a perfectionist, I spent a lot of time ripping rows out and starting over again, which I found frustrating (although not frustrating enough to just let the mistake lie). I also never felt ready for anything more advanced than those dishcloths and scarves, and the idea of anything fancier than stockinette stitch (yarnovers? k2tog? yikes!) was alien to me. Never mind the whole increasing and decreasing bit for sweaters.

Now my knitting supplies sit unused in my deacon’s bench by the front door. I’ve passed some stuff over to my mother-in-law, and should probably pass the rest on to her and my mother and sister. But I keep passing this beautiful yarn that’s on sale right now, and I think “two balls, 13 stitches, and it makes a scarf. I could do that.” Then I remember those unfinished projects and think that I shouldn’t start new projects until I finish old ones. Also the beautifiul yarn is a little overwhelming since it’s usually that eyelash yarn or something fuzzy and hard to work with if you don’t know what you’re doing.

And that’s why I like making melt and pour soap. I can have four bars of beautiful, scented coloured soap ready for shower use in less than two hours. That’s from cutting the base into small pieces to melt to colouring and fragrancing, to pouring in the molds, to drying and popping them out, to wrapping the finished bars. Most of that time is wating for the soap to dry, so I can do other things (like catch up on Vox) while I’m making soap. (I’m so glad that I setup my soapmaking station in my office next to the computer – makes multitasking so much easier.)

Soap is easier than knitting to me. I find it more rewarding because I’ve actually seen myself improve and grow my skills in this hobby. The only advantage knitting has over soap is that knitting is portable, and soap isn’t. But since knitting is next to impossible on the subway (I’ve tried), I’m quite happy to continue making soap at home.

Vox Hunt: This Is DIY

Show us something that’s DIY.
Submitted by Jenstar.

These are bars of soap that I’ve made. They are normally wrapped to maintain their scent, but I unwrapped them for the picture so you could see them in their full beauty.

These soaps are made using the melt and pour technique. Unscented, uncoloured soap base is melted into liquid at low heat. Once it is liquid, scents and colours of your choice can be added. Once the ingredients are mixed together, the liquid is then poured into molds to cool. The soap is ready to use in an hour or two.

These soaps are meant to be used so Sean and I don’t buy a lot of regular bars of soap anymore. I like being able to control the amount of fragrance a bar of soap has.

Melt and pour soap can also be as simple or as fancy as you want. These soaps are super simple to do, but with the right techniques, you can make some really beautiful soaps with multiple colours and layers.

I also make bath bombs and lotions, but I don’t have any around to photograph. Bath bombs are surprisingly easy to make. The lotion is easy too, but that is because I use a lotion base, rather than make it 100% from scratch, which is more finicky.

I love melt and pour soapmaking as a hobby. The soap doesn’t take a lot of time to create, and the product is to be used and not just looked at. Cleanup is also usually pretty easy cuz the pot is covered with soap – a little water and some light scrubbing and everything is clean again!


I made some soap for the first time in a few months today. The first batch turned out okay, but unfortunately the soapbase I bought doesn’t reheat well after it’s been melted once and it warped one of my favourite molds when I poured it in. It’s a real bummer since I really liked the mold, and now it’s wrecked. I can replace it, but that’s money I really didn’t want to spend.

I really want to get into making soap regularly again, but since I have four pounds of base I don’t like, and I want all sorts of new fragrances, I need to spend some money to perk up my soaps. Of course, I only want to spend money when I don’t have any to spend. I need to start buying Christmas presents and since I don’t think I’m giving soap to anyone this year, soapmaking supplies shouldn’t be high on the spending priority list.

My inner child is screaming “But I waaaaannnt it!” in my head. That child makes me nuts sometimes.

A plastic mould containing 4 bars of sparkly red hemp oil soap is sitting on my table hardening right now.

Yes, I’ve decided to give melt and pour soapmaking a try. It seems to be a nice companion to aromatherapy because I can use essential oils to fragrance the soap. The inaugural batch has been tarted up with benzoin and patchouli essential oils, and tea rose fragrance oil.

Some explanations. 1) Benzoin is a thick oil that smells like a combination of vanilla and chocolate – smells as divine as it sounds. 2) The difference between essential oils and fragrance oils is that essential oils are 100% natural – extracted from the plant, and fragrance oils usually have some synthetics added, and wouldn’t be used in true aromatherapy. However, fragrance oils still smell nice and have their place in homemade cosmetics and toiletries – not least of all the fact that tea rose fragrance oil is much, much cheaper than true rose essential oil.

Once I use the soap, I will give a more detailed review.

Oh, and details on my San Francisco trip are coming – I got my picture back earlier this week and I am so pleased with them – now I just need to get the best ones on the site. There is also some huge news that I need to share soon, but I need to tell more people offline first. (it seems that more and more people I know offline are reading this site, and that’s neat.)

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada
This work by Melissa Price-Mitchell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada.
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