Serendipity and the Soapmaker

One recent batch of soap that was a lot of fun to make is "Rorschach on the Rocks".  Cold Process soaping has a way of toying with you as to who's directing the creativity.  The "rocks" are a two tone pink soap colored with Red Reef Clay and scented with Bitter Almond Essential Oil.  Bitter Almond is the natural Amaretto scent.  The cherry scent came on strong even though I used a very light hand with the essential oil.  It so happened that I had also made a batch of soap scented with natural Anise Essential Oil.  My son came in and said, "It smells like Cherry Twizzlers in here!"  So I decided when dealing with the too strong cherry scented soap, I'd blend it with an Anise soap to have a batch that smelled like the popular candy. 

The following day, I chopped up the cherry soap and decided to try to outline the pink chunks to stand out visually.  I did this by sprinkling powered activated charcoal over the pink chunks and shaking them in a plastic bag.  My plan was to have the Anise scented "pour over" have a black swirl in it.  But, as often happens with cold process soap, the texture of the liquid soap can begin to thicken before you have finished putting it where you intended to.  The black soap which was colored with black clay and activated charcoal, got thicker than I intended, sooner than I I poured the thin white soap over my pink cherry rocks and then blobbed the pudding thick black soap on top.  A visiting friend said, "That looks like an ink blot test."  "Rorschach on the Rocks" was born.  It doesn't look like I planned, but it does smell just like Cherry Twizzlers. 

The Great Pumpkin Adventure

This fall we have been on a great pumpkin adventure. Early on we went to a pumpkin farm where we bought as many different varieties of pumpkin as we could. We have made the most wonderful foods, and even a couple of soaps with our finds.

While cleaning seeds from the gourds, I noticed that the starchiness that gets on my hands does not easily wash off. I can wash with my own soap and feel clean, but after drying I still have a starched feeling on my hands. I got to wondering what that would do in a soap as I have oily skin and figured it may be a good thing if it came thru in the finished soap. So I saved the "matrix" as I call it, from scraping the middle of two princess pumpkins. The web of fibrous moist stuff that suspends the seeds in the middle of the cavity is what I refer to as the matrix. I always dry the seeds to snack on. As I seperated them from the matrix, this is where I was getting all the starchiness. Everything I scrapped free, minus the seeds, was then chopped fine with a stick blender into goat's milk. This goat's milk and pumpkin matrix is what I added to my regular soap recipe. I scented it with a warm, sweet blend of essential oils and have a soap that is a beautiful rich orange color and smells wonderful. One tester said the color and the natural scent bring you into autumn, then the lather has the crispness to go along with it. This soap is a soapmakers favorite.

Then, just last night we had baked a pumpkin and it came out of the oven in a syrup of its own juice that was an inch deep in the pan. This was a big pan that is made for 3 cake mixes worth of cake. So we poured that syrup out into a sauce pan to reduce into a sweet, truly pumpkin syrup. We were just sitting in the next room, but we let it scorch on the bottom. We hated this, but it was a done deed.

Later as we were outside watching the eclipse begin, we realized just what to do to fill in the few hours we intended to stay up to watch the eclipse.....Sugar is a great lather booster in soap. Charcoal is also a lovely soap ingredient as it absorbs impurities. Though the scorch on the bottom of our syrup pan may not approach charcoal, if it did go there even just a little bit, then that would be OK. So we made a batch of soap and swirled the pumpkin syrup throughout.

The scent for this soap should be warm for autumn, and yet cool for the winter season we are welcoming with its solstice eclipse. So we did the scent with a blend of cool mint essential oils, and just a little of the warm spiciness of benzoin essential oil. What a lovely fragrance surrounded us while making this soap. It's just an amazing blend of natural essences that captures our thankfulness for warmth in the midst of cold weather. A star is born..."Solstice Sweet".

Art & Science

Soap making drew us because it is both an art and a science. Once the science is understood, the creativity is ready to be explored. As we changed what we eat to a more healthy set of choices, we began to eagerly explore healthy food quality ingredients we could use to achieve interesting colors and textures in our soaps. But then the science returned as we realized that many of these items might be as beneficial on the outside as they are inside of our bodies. Cinnamon, for example, is sited in scientific studies to kill e-coli bacteria. It does this so well that the reports say that scientists stopped trying to add e-coli to their tests to find at what point the cinnamon would be overcome. There have even been talks about adding a very small amount of cinnamon to ground meat in the US as an approach to bacteria in the meat supply. This is why Katherine and Leslie carry cinnamon tea in our purses so that if our families are away from home and get a stomach upset from something we eat, we can do something that certainly cannot hurt, but may well be the solution. We add cinnamon to our Carol's Birthday soap for many reasons. It has a beautiful natural color, an interesting texture, especially in such varied amounts as are found in Carol's Birthday soap, and it just may provide germ killing benefits to the surface of the skin.

You will also find similarly excellent values in our Salt Stone Shower Bar. The salt provides an amazing mild texture that our customers really enjoy as well as treating the skin to an environment which is gentle to skin yet inhospitable to bacteria. It was definitely an interesting thing to imagine what effect salt would have on the lather in a soap, as most of us have sprinkled salt onto suds and seen how it instantly effects them. It is very gratifying to witness our Salt Stone, which is over 50% salt by weight, having such an ample lather. As Spring is passing and Summer is on its way, we are again enjoying the Salt Stone as our favorite bar after hot muggy days. It refreshes and leaves you feeling “pepperminty” cool. Salt Stone Shower Bar is a Summer “must have” soap.

Art and science are both delightfully experienced in the look and the feel of each variety of Katherine Leslie Soaps.

Simple Elegant Gift Giving

If you keep a dozen or two bars of Katherine Leslie Soaps on hand, you can be ready at all times to give an inexpensive, yet quality gift. Just think of the list of times that a bar or two would make a lovely hand crafted gift, at a reasonable price to anyone who enriches your life.
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Lather, Rinse & Repeat

I recently realized that I always do the "Lather, Rinse & Repeat" routine with my own soaps. I got to thinking about this and knew that I ought to explain why. Soap and detergent in our current day have largely come to be thought of as synonymous. But there are very important differences--especially in the skin care realm.

One thing that clouds the air as to which is which
is that commercial interests have blended or even switched to detergents in skin care products. Want proof of this? Next time you are at the store, read a few labels. See how many bath bars are called just that: Bath bars.....or Shower bars, or Facial bars, or anything but simple soap. This is because they are not soap, and cannot legally be labeled as soap.

Soap is a chain shaped molecule with one end being drawn to water and the other end being drawn to oil. This is how it cleans our skin. It's molecules are able to grab oil off our skin surface, and then hold to the water, washing the oil down the drain. Detergents do the same thing, but at an extremely broad scope.

Detergents are the products of saponified petroleum in various forms. They are very nice to have around for jobs where the removal of a great deal of oil is needed; like cleaning oil stains off the driveway. Soap is a far milder product. Soaps are saponified vegetable or animal oils. Soap is mild and well suited to skin cleaning without being overly drying by pulling away too much oil. I would not recommend that a mechanic wash his work pants in soap. I would definately say he needs detergent for that job. But neither would I say that we need detergents to wash our skin on a daily basis. Our skin is alive and an important organ of our bodies.

So what does all this have to do with "Lather, Rinse & Repeat"? Soap is really amazingly appropriate for skin washing. It is so gentle that the first time 'round with it, the little bit of oil on our hands can sometimes diminish the lather--but the second time around we see the full lather of the soap.

It's like a walk with a toddler; Katherine Leslie Soaps invites you to take the time to appreciate what you overlooked yesterday.

Name the Soap Contest Winner

Katherine Leslie Soaps is happy to announce the winner of our name the soap contest. We have had some very good suggestions and really enjoyed this contest.

We have two winners; suggested "Merriment". Then, suggested "Troubadour's Lady". We liked these so much that we are blending them together and awarding both as winners of two free bars of "Troubadour's Merriment" soap.

We will ask our two winners to please contact us at to provide us with the address where you want your soaps sent.

This is a creamy white soap, with tiny bits of fresh rosemary leaf swirled through it in areas; some areas of each bar remain pure creamy white. On top is a swirly texture from working with the thick soap after it was poured. Finally we sprinkled a few fresh whole leaves of rosemary on the surface. And let us again mention the wonderful Essential Oil blend of Mint and Rosemary which fragrances it naturally! "Troubadour's Merriment" is an herbal delight. Of course the lather is enhanced by coconut milk and silk protein. Bars weigh in at 4 oz each. Order from

Soap Contest Winner Announced Tonight at 7:10pm Eastern

Dear Contest Entrants,

We want to let you know that we are expecting very tempestuous weather this evening. As our sky's are already quite gray and the wind very blustery, we will just say here that if possible we will post the winner at 7:10 pm eastern .

So far we have had several good suggestions, but a few excellent ones. In just the last couple of days we have really liked some that have come in. So much so, that we are not going to have to draw from a hat. We have clear front runners. We will post at 7:10pm eastern or as soon as possible thereafter.

We have enjoyed having a contest to win free bars of soap. If you would like to have another "Win Free Soap" contest here on the blog, please comment and let us know. It's not often that we are stumped as to what to name a bar, please feel free to suggest other contest formats.

On the Drying Rack

This is a just poured soap with 5 weeks yet to go before it will be just right for facial and bath use. This post is just to let you know what is up and coming at Katherine Leslie Soaps. If you are enticed by this bar, please be aware that it cannot ship before April 9th.

This is Scarborough Fair. We have a friend who gave us the idea for this soap. She is the eyes behind our "Lady Grey" bar. It was her suggestion to feature parsley, sage, rosemary, & thyme, and then to name the soap "Scarborough Fair". This bar has lather enhanced with silk protein and coconut milk. Scarborough Fair is a facial and bath soap with a creamy soft lather and an herbal finesse. This beautiful swirled soap is creamy white with fluid motion swirls of parsley, sage, rosemary, & thyme botanicals, and essential oils--naturally the Scarborough Fair four. You do remember the song, don't you?

Bars weigh in at 4 oz each. Order from

Inside & Out

We often get asked something like, "Is the right soap going to clear up my skin problem?" Did you know that soap companies are not allowed to make health claims for their soap unless they want to be regulated by the government under rules for health and medicinal products.

In our family quest to use items with pronounceable ingredients in what we eat and use on our bodies, we have been richly rewarded. As our friends know, we have been changing the way we eat around here--drastically. We seriously want to escape the 'Average American Diet'. We have moved to a "high protein, and 'best carbs' diet". I think you could say that we are mainly avoiding highly processed foods, sugars, artificial sweeteners, and unpronounceable ingredients. Our bodies are telling us that with better nutrition we are indeed on the right path. For a couple of us who needed to gain weight there have actually been healthy weight gains; and for some of us who were overweight, we have lost around 25 lbs each. For the teenagers who had struggled with acne, there have been improvements that are amazing. We are feeling better in many ways.

So we have been thinking a lot about how important it is not only to be good to our skin with natural ingredient soaps and body products, but how urgent it is to get to the core of the issue and eat in a more healthy way. We seem to have a runaway train between our science and food industries in this nation. If some wild color will frenzy a child into eating his Cereal-O's in the morning, we have "gone there" without thought as to what we are doing to our health. Stepping off of that train has made an amazing difference for us. Having come to both a healthier way of eating and to our cold processed soaps, we are very happy to have found what is best for both our insides and outsides. This has taught me to say to customers that what we put on our bodies is very important, but what we put in them is core!

Of course, Katherine Leslie Soaps are as natural as we can make them with no color or fragrance other than natural essential oils and foody additives like oats, flax, organic cocoa powder, almonds, and even coconut.

Introducing Our Science Advisor

Katherine Leslie Soaps is delighted to introduce our readers to someone who has an incredible talent for explaining molecular goings on, and a sense of humor as well . He has chosen to keep his day job for now, and be identified on this blog only as "Uber Brainiac". I will address him as "Doc". Doc is a high school friend who has since reached dizzying heights in the research laboratory. He has very generously agreed to occasion us with helpful descriptions as needed. We thought that a good place to begin would be with a definition of the word "saponification".

Picking the Big Brain: Saponification

Saponification is a chemical reaction whereby a fat or oil (fatty acid ester) is hydrolyzed with an alkali to produce an alcohol and the alkali salt of the fatty acid.

  1. Mostly, we think of fats or oils as triglycerides (three fatty acids connected to the same alcohol-end of a molecule).

  2. When the alkali (also called “caustic soda” or “caustic” or “sodium hydroxide” or “lye”), typically in a water solution, reacts with the ester, the reaction takes place that we call saponification.

  3. As soon as all of the ester linkages are hydrolyzed by the caustic, one molecule of glycerin is created, and, in the case of a triglyceride being used, 3 molecules of the “soap” are created. The soap is actually the sodium (Na) or potassium (K) salt of the triglyceride acid. Neat thing about this is: the end of the molecule with the K or Na on it is “water-loving” or hydrophilic and the “fatty” end is water-fearing, or hydrophobic. That’s what makes soap work. The fatty end attaches to the dirt (grease, oil, etc…) on your skin, and the water-soluble hydrophilic end allows the soap-encrusted grease particle to be rinsed away. This soap-encrusted grease particle is sometimes called a “micelle.” (MY-sell)

  4. Glycerin, or glycerol, is a by-product of this reaction, and is actually an alcohol by chemistry classification. Although glycerin is classified as such, it is an emollient and humectant...

    (from Wiki)

    Pharmaceutical and personal care applications:

    Glycerol is used in medical and pharmaceutical and personal care preparations, mainly as a means of improving smoothness, providing lubrication and as a humectant. It is found in cough syrups, elixirs and expectorants, toothpaste, mouthwashes, skin care products, shaving cream, hair care products, and soaps.

Cool stuff! ~U.B.

The Aqua Effect & Cut Soap Bar Pictures

The base soap recipe that we use for most of our bars makes a wonderful lathering, and skin friendly soap. We have been able over the years to formulate a handful of recipes that we really like. But this particular recipe does the neatest thing! It gives us the "Aqua Effect" when freshly cut. This visage of aqua blue disappears within only a few hours as the soap bars are exposed to air and begin to cure. Batch after batch, if the soap is left mostly its creamy natural color, the soap bars are blue inside when cut. This does not appear in the recipe when we add oats or flax, or other additives that make the soap a beige color. We have never seen this aqua blue on any other recipe either, even if left to its lightest natural shades. The "Aqua Effect" designation is entirely our own. There is probably a proper scientific name for what is happening, but either way it is an aqua color, and it is lovely. In this particular batch with rosemary leaf bits inside, it is still visible and very pretty to see.

Included also in the same picture is the way the bars will look on the top. Each one has a few leaves of rosemary and a creamy white color, with a gentle frosting like texture to the soap surface.

Also we have a Picture of the cut "Coconut Dark Chocolate Swirl" bars. All these bars are freshly cut and will have their edges beveled before sale. Beveling is done for ease of use, so the bar can roll over better in the users hand, and it also provides the shavings which we use to make our "Shades of Natural" soap.

Been Soaping 2

The second batch we made this afternoon is named "Coconut Dark Chocolate Swirl". This "no artificial colors or fragrances" soap is a bold beauty! We recently bought some organic cocoa that is the absolute darkest we have ever seen. Today we blended just a little bit of it in a batch of soap. The cocoa has made a deep, dark, delicious swirl you see.

The batch is textured naturally with the addition of fresh, finely ground, unsweetened coconut. The scrubbiness will be definite, but gentle. These ingredients are so much like a "Mounds Bar", and the colors are right on. But the fragrance will be due alone to the soap, ground coconut, and dark cocoa powder. It will be a pleasure to discover where this soap takes its own fragrance in the weeks to come. This picture is of an entire batch weighing over 10 pounds. Come back to see the cut soap bars picture tomorrow.

Been Soaping ~Read This Post for Contest~

Been soaping this afternoon. We had a really enjoyable time working with some new essential oils--many thanks to Dr. BJ! We made two batches.

This batch has already provided a Mom moment! When I came back to my soap studio, just before dinner, with one of my teen aged sons along, to get the photo you see, I lifted the lid on the batch and he immediately drew in a breath and said, "That looks like buttery mashed potatoes with chives!" I think my impression of this soap is a bit more sophisticated and herbal than he has in mind.

Here is a creamy white soap, with tiny bits of fresh rosemary leaf swirled through it in areas; some areas of each bar should remain pure creamy white. I will add cut pictures of this soap tomorrow. On top is a nice swirly texture from working with the thick soap after it was poured. Finally we sprinkled a few fresh whole leaves of rosemary on the surface. The picture is of over 10 pounds of soap. When cut, each bar may have only 4-6 leaves on top. And did I mention the wonderful Essential Oil blend of Mint and Rosemary which fragrances it naturally? This one is already smelling so nice! I am going to have a real impatient wait until I can try it in a few weeks. Cold Process soaping really teaches you that good things come to those who wait! It was a delight to make.

If you would like a chance to win a couple of bars (two) of this soap for free, please send us your suggested names for this batch by commenting below. Please be sure to provide your email address so we can contact the winner. The name chosen will be entirely at the discretion of Katherine Leslie Soaps. Naming opportunity will last until 7pm Eastern time on March 19th, 2008. If your name for this soap is chosen, we will send you two bars, we pay postage to United States destinations.

Katherine Leslie's Variety Pack

We got to thinking that it would be nice to have a way to try all 6 of our most basic facial & bath soaps. This is it; 6 full sized 4 oz bars of Katherine Leslie Soaps. Included are both smooth elegant bars, and textured bars with natural additives like Oats, Flax, or even Salt. Each one is a fine soap for facial or bath & shower use. All of our facial and bath soaps are formulated with coconut or goat's milk, and silk protein. Various textures, Unvarying Quality.
Available at

Pine Tar Soap

We have been making Pine Tar Soap for years. Pine Tar has a distinctive fragrance all its own. Though it is not a perfumy scent, it is a fine skin soother. My Father has a hilarious story from his childhood about getting into chiggers and his Mother washing him off with pine tar soap. I have a friend with beautiful thick, super curly hair who uses our PineTar Soap occasionally to keep her scalp clean and itch free. We have also used this bar on our beautiful German Shorthair Pointer, whose hair is so short that any skin irritation shows up red right through her coat. When we first got this dog we thought the rose red on her sides was so pretty, then we realized that it was irritated skin. We were sold on our own soap when one Pine Tar Soap bath was the end of the redness! For years now we have bathed her in Pine Tar Soap every couple or three weeks and the itchy redness has not returned. This is the only soap we make without silk protein or a milk additive. Pine Tar is all this bar needs to keep man and beast alike happy around here! Bars weigh in at 3.5 ounces each.  Available at

Lord Grey

This is the second of a complimentary set of His & Hers soaps. Lord Grey is colored with powder of activated charcoal, but just a little bit deeper in shade than "Lady Grey". It is fragranced with the same essential oils, Peppermint, Sage, & Lavender, but with a slight proportion difference tilting the scent toward the masculine. As I woman, I would not hesitate to use this soap--it's not an all macho guy scent, just a refreshing blend that has had the sweetest fragrance note reduced a bit from Lady Grey's. Lord Grey is bar with a thick lather enhanced by coconut milk and silk protein. Bars weigh in at 4 oz each. Order from

Lady Grey

This is Lady Grey, one of a His & Hers set of complimentary soaps. When we first formulated this soap, we were trying to imitate the color of a friend's eyes. She was wearing autumn shades, and though her eyes do shift color in different lights or with what she wears, that day they were a lovely cool gray that made me think of Aspen bark in contrast to its autumn yellow leaves. Becky, this one's for you! I had planned to name this soap "Becky's Eyes", but after it was finished, I realized that though it is a lovely gray shade, I could never make a soap to look like the deep, God created beauty of anyones eyes, so we used the name "Lady Grey" instead. This is a soap with no artificial color or fragrance. Lady Grey is mildly colored with powdered activated charcoal. The fragrance is an invigorating blend of Peppermint, Sage, & Lavender essential oils. Lady Grey has a slight texture and a creamy white lather which is formulated with coconut milk and silk protein. Bars weigh in at 4 oz each. Order from

St. Mary Mead -- An English Countryside Soap

Introducing "St. Mary Mead". This is a mildly textured soap with finely ground, then boiled almond. The almond lends a rich beige color with flecks of dark brown. As this texture is mild, I think that it will be comfortable even on delicate aged skin. Being a lover of English manor house mysteries, Agatha Christy's crime solving heroine, "Miss Marple" came to my mind. The soap is fragranced with essential oil of lavender for a classic fragrance that still sings today. A facial and bath soap with no artificial colors or fragrances, St. Mary Mead is formulated with double rich cow's milk and silk protein. Bars weigh in at 4 oz each. Order from

Carol's Birthday Soap

This is "Carol's Birthday" soap. Carol loves cinnamon. This is a smooth, naturally white soap with embedded chunks colored with cinnamon bark powder. The cinnamon smell comes through and is the forefront fragrance. The cinnamon powder will provide a slight texture in the chunks. The chunks themselves make this bar a massage bar as the soap is used, the peaks are washed into a smooth yet mountainous surface. Just rub the corners of the peaks with a wet wash cloth the first time you wet the bar to smooth them a bit, and you have a massage bar. This lovely soap is a sure favorite.

Formulated with coconut milk and silk protein, the lather is delightful, and the art is evident. Bars weigh in at 4 oz each. Order from

"Shades of Natural" Soap

This soap is made by pouring our Pure Smooth soap over the shavings we get from beveling soap bar edges. The shavings are from at least 4 of our more deeply colored varieties of soap. The soap is variously textured with shavings of our other soaps. Formulated with coconut milk and silk protein, the lather is delightful, and the art is evident. Bars weigh in at 4 oz each. Order from

Kathy's Knit Soap Drawstring Bag

Here is a beautiful, 100% cotton, hand knit drawstring bag into which you may place any bar of Katherine Leslie Soap. Specially designed to fit our bar size and shape. Knit bag comes in natural colored, unbleached, ivory shade. This is one way to build lather quickly, and elegantly. Bag pictured with soaps, but is sold separately. One knit bag is $10.00 Order yours at

Pure Smooth Soap

This is Pure Smooth Soap. It is our most simple basic soap for facial and bath use. Each creamy bar is amazing in smoothness, with a lather enhanced by coconut milk and silk protein. Bars weigh in at 4 oz each.  Order from

Goats Milk Soap

This is our Goat's Milk Soap. It is a silky smooth, non-textured soap, ideal for facial or bath use. It is made using goat's milk and silk protein, with no artificial colors or fragrances. Bathe in luxury with Goat's Milk soap that just smells of pure clean soap. Full creamy lather washes gently. Bars weigh in at 4 oz each.  Order from

"Old Flax Mill" Soap

This is our ground flax seed soap. The flax makes this bar smell mildly of a morning flax muffin. The light texture is reported by many to be "just right". Perfect for facial or bath use. Big creamy lather washes you clean, yet with the moisture of flax. Formulated with coconut milk and silk protein, and no artificial colors or fragrances. Bars weigh in at 4oz each. Order at

Almost Promised Soap

This is our oatmeal soap with just a touch of clove. My Mother really liked the texture of the ground oats in a soap I made with oats, milk, and honey which we called "Promised Land". But, she wanted just the oat texture, and not necessarily the milk & honey, so we made her a soap with coconut milk rather than cow's milk, and left the honey out. When it was done, we needed to call it something, we decided that it was so similar to the previous rendition, that we called it "Almost Promised".

The top is sprinkled with whole rolled oats. This bar is wonderful for a bit of texture and scrubiness. It is fragranced naturally with oats and clove. Rich lather with time honored oats, a bath time classic formulated with coconut milk and silk protein, and no artificial fragrances or colors. Bars weigh in at 4 ounces.