Etsy – an unexplored (for me) frontier

Etsy.com has caught my eye for awhile now. I’m not exactly sure how I found out about it, but it’s intrigued me ever since I’ve stumbled on it. If you’ve been living under a rock, it’s a mecca site for people to sell their homemade goods online. I’ve done a lot of crafting this weekend in preparation for Christmas and it got me thinking – would it be possible to turn something I actually enjoy doing into something that could make me some extra pocket change?

I’ve been mulling around the idea of selling my homemade soap on Etsy, but I’m hesitant. For one thing, I want to do a lot of research on what all goes into selling on Etsy before I make the plunge. Secondly, I’ve never sold anything online before and really have no idea what I may or may not be getting myself into. Third – there are a lot of people selling soap on Etsy, so I’m wondering if I’m stumbling into an already crowded market.

I’m not looking to turn myself into a millionaire, although I won’t lie that I secretly wish Etsy could turn me into one (don’t we all?). I’m really looking for some extra cash to help pay the bills. Or maybe buy Sax Guy some cable television. Or buy more chickens.

Are any of you on Etsy? Could you tell me your experiences and/or share some tips? Some real-world feedback would help me get off the fence.

 

 

 

Tip – turn bar soap into liquid

I’ve been using my homemade bar soap since August (see Homemade soap success! to learn how to make your own). I really, really like it, but I prefer liquid soap to bar soap when it comes to general hand washing.

Behold the power of a Google search, which lead me to the Savvy Housekeeping blog’s post on how to turn bar soap into a liquid soap. All you need is water, a bar of soap and some glycerin. That’s it!

You can find the detailed instructions at the link to the blog, but all you do is grate the soap and melt it in 10 cups of water and add 1 Tbsp. of glycerin. Several comments on that post said that Dove soap does not make the transition into liquid very well, so I wouldn’t recommend trying that based on those testimonials.

My soap was still pretty much water after I melted it, but a comment left on that page from a user who also makes her own soap suggested stirring in a solution of 1 cup of water with 3 Tbsps. of salt dissolved in it to thicken it up. I poured in this solution while the soap was at room temperature and mixed it with a wisk. That worked like a charm! It didn’t take very much of the salt solution at all, so if you try that go slowly with pouring it in. Too much would probably turn the soap into the consistency of snot.

Not too shabby of a tip, if you ask me!

Soap update

If you’ve been following my blog for awhile, you saw my first homemaking soap fail and finally, soap success. Several people asked me how I liked it, but I wanted to use my bar soap for a full week before I gave you a report.

Well, here’s my verdict – this stuff is awesome. My primary reason for wanting to make my own soap was because my skin is so fickle and sensitive to pretty much any type of soap except Bath and Body Works, and that stuff runs about $10 a bottle. Anything else will not only dry my skin out but make me itchy too. My homemade soap is very gentle, moisturizing and produces a lather that I would argue is just as good, if not better, than Bath and Body Works. I don’t have to cover myself in a blanket of body lotion to make up for the dryness from commercial soaps after a shower any longer either. That reason alone has me sold on using homemade soap as long as possible.

So there you have it! If you’re still tempted to try it yourself, see my soap success post for directions. It’s a long process, but not too difficult.

I forgot to add the cost breakdown of making the soap in my original post, so here it is:
Sunflower oil, 2 bottles: $7.16 (I only used about a bottle and a half)
Beeswax: Free, because I already had some.
Distilled water, 1 gallon: $0.83 (plenty left over)
Lye, 1 pound: $8.99, but there’s plenty left since I only need 6 oz. at a time
Coconut milk, 1 can: $1.50
Almond fragrance oil, half-ounce: $2, with plenty left because I only used about a quarter of the bottle

My next project will be hot water bath canning homemade apple butter and spaghetti sauce. This is my first time canning, so if anyone has any tips, leave them in the comments! I can use all the help I can get.

~ Julie

How to fail at soapmaking without really trying

Every once in awhile, I get the urge to have a one-sided competition with Martha Stewart. When this happens, I tend to try my hand at crafts that I’ve never attempted before and convince myself that everything will turn out perfectly each time simply because I’m awesome. This time, I decided to enter new territory and make liquid castile soap in my slow cooker. Castile soap is traditionally made with olive oil, but in a generic sense it’s any soap that’s based in vegetable fats instead of animal fats.

About the only thing I accomplished in my task was a huge oily mess, six hours of my life I’ll never get back and an ego check. If you followed my Twitter feed on the Outtakes on the Outskirts homepage, you saw this live. After doing several hours of research instead of my initial 20 minutes, I have several guesses as to what went wrong. So, I’m blogging about this so you all can learn from my fail.

For starters, I was using this recipe that I found on eHow.com. The recipe was pretty basic, and that was the problem for this soap novice although I didn’t realize it at the time. The gist of it was that I needed to combine sunflower oil, lye, water and eventually my fragrance oils and then let it cook for two to three hours.

Here are my beefs with this recipe now that I’ve screwed it up and have done more research to know better:

  1. It never specifies if I’m measuring fluid ounces or weight ounces. There is a difference! I assumed fluid, which I think was incorrect.
  2. Never instructs to leave the slower cooker on high or low, nor does it say to put a lid on or not. I left it on high, both with and without lid. I never did determine which was correct.
  3. Doesn’t tell you how warm the sunflower oil should be before adding the lye. I left it at room temperature and the lye was hot. That was probably not what I was supposed to do.

It might also help if I used the right type of lye next time too. I bought sodium hydroxide (which is used in bar soap making) instead of potassium hydroxide. Redhead moment.

So what does a soap screw up look like? Let me show you.

It started off good, or so I thought. This is the concoction after adding the lye:

I waited for what looked like trace to me and let it cook for an hour. After that time passed, it looked like rancid egg drop soup:

Which then cooked into what I can best describe as cellulite an hour later:

So I stirred, and stirred, and stirred some more and let it cook for a total of six total hours to end up with this:

…which looks like bacon grease. Not soap.

The mixture stayed separated the entire time and never blended together. I tossed the whole batch and was grumpy for the rest of the evening.

I did some more searching and watched several YouTube videos, which included this great tutorial by Amy Kalinchuk on what the stages of liquid soap look like. One huge difference I noticed in her tutorial was that she added borax at the end to neutralize the lye. That step wasn’t in the recipe I used, but I don’t know if it’s crucial for this.

I’m going to my hand at soap making again next week while I’m off work for a much needed stay-cation using this recipe. I’ve decided I need to invest in a stick blender and a digital kitchen scale before I try again.

If you’re a soaper and you happen to stumble upon my little corner of WordPress, I’ll take any advice and tips you can give a clueless newbie!

~ Julie