I Made Soap!

wash-ballsWell, more correctly, I reconstituted soap. But it was fun, whatever it was. I’ve been meaning to try it for years. When I was in Fiji a few years ago I discovered bars of lavendar soap that were about 50 cm long, 4 cm wide and 6 cm high. Mega-soap bars in other words. You could cut them up into chunks whatever size you wanted, or grate them to put into the machine. They smelt great, felt great and were cheap as chips. I ordered some more when my sister made a trip to Suva but she brought back long bars of boring, plain soap. They’ve sat patiently on my shelf for four years, patiently waiting for the day when I would find the time to do something useful with them.

And then I stumbled across a great recipe for how to make washballs. Apparently in the 16 and 17oos the rich English nobility imported expensive scented washballs from Italy. Meanwhile, the poor made them out of grinding up home-made soap, adding herbs and flowers, and used rose water to mix it into a maleable paste. So I spent the evening grating up the boring Suva soap, adding lavendar, and used home-made rosemary water to create a wonderful clay-like paste. Then I added a bit of home-made organge geranium oil and rolled the paste into my very own washballs. They look great! (Awesome fun activity for kids.)

What a great sense of satisfaction it is to make something that has a daily use. I would love to try soap from scratch but it is a bit of a mission to track down all the ingredients. Call me weird but I do enjoy imagining what women in the 16 and 17oos were able to create – cloth, soap, cheese, preserves, etc. Astounding to think just how much time and effort went into these activities, and how much they supported the very basics of life. I would never advocate for a return to the disrespect and discrimination that often went with the traditional roles of women (particularly in English society). However, I do wonder sometimes if we have lost some real basic skills that not only are useful, but also enhance our relationship with the world around us. There was also a very different relationship with time. Here I am struggling for years trying to find time to make soap whereas only a hundred years ago (even less, and in many parts of our world, right now) this sort of activity is a component of a daily or weekly routine. How fascinating it is to think about how different people use time. 

But for me, I’m just wrapped to have finally achieved something I have contemplated for so long. And only a year late – I had originally planned it for a Christmas holiday activity last year. I wonder what I’ll be doing this time next year, that I had planned for right now.

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3 responses to “I Made Soap!

  1. Avoidance Technique

    Hey Jo
    Great effort. Have never made soap but every Christmas holidays (or whenver I have a little extra time) I do make my own bread. There’s a wonderful feeling with taking such simple ingredients and turn them into something that smells wonderful and tastes even better. And, sad as it sounds – I really do get a kick out of watching the miracle of sugar, water and yeast farting and burping away – chemistry at school was never that much fun!

  2. Want to swap?

  3. We’ve sure come a long way… not HAVING TO make soap, or bake our own bread, gather our own herbs, grow our own veggies, spin,card, weave, knit, sew, make candles, make paper, felt…… all the things I avidly do and read about on people’s blogs here in blogland. The difference I feel is that we now have choice. We do this to experience the warmth, the satisfaction of creativity.

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