Thursday, 19 November 2009

Busy week

This time of year is always busy for me. As the festive season approaches I'm lucky enough that Old Pit Potions are in demand for gifts, fairs and other winter delights. I've got used to making more stock as the cold weather approaches, it helps me get over some of the sadness that summer is over and the dark nights are upon us. A days work that produces such a fragrant atmosphere is a welcome bonus. Yesterday I made some batches of soap that I've put away to cure.

Among them was Sylvan pictured here still in the moulds.
Fragrantly woody with cedarwood, pine needle, rosewood & patchouli in a base that includes coconut & extra virgin olive oil, this soap is a popular choice with men although a lot of women like it too. It also is special to me because it's my husbands favourite, so the scent of it always makes me think of him. In fact it was his desire to have an aftershave or cologne that smelled like the soap that led me to develop a range of perfumes and spritzers. I'm told that his work colleagues like hanging out in his office because it always smells so nice. That's a great endorsement.

I also have been making some Mint Smoothies

This bar was one of the first of my own soap recipes that I ever made. It has extra glycerine to moisturize and a refreshing blend of spearmint and Tea Tree essential oils which makes it an ideal morning shower bar and is also really popular as a shaving soap. I just love making this one because the whole place smells of zingy mint as I pour it. I've had the idea of making this one in larger round bars suitable for use with an old fashioned shaving brush. So I'm off to  dig out some suitable circular moulds. I have some large sillicon muffin trays that look like just the thing.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Catching up

I've been quiet for a few days and unable to post. This was because I was involved in making something different from soaps and potions for a change. I was making a wedding cake.
It was for a beautiful young woman who is part of my extended family and her lovely guy. My gorgeous niece was fulfilling a long held ambition to be a bridesmaid, a role she carried out to perfection.
The wedding party were dressed in 1920's style clothing all in ivory and black. The bridesmaids wore black fringed "flapper" dresses with ostrich feather fascinators in their hair. The bride asked for a suitably themed cake. The picture shows the finished article.

It was a rich chocolate cake with a vanilla lemon upper tier. It had to be freshly made as near to the wedding day as possible so I really only had one shot to get it right. Luckily it went very well and the thanks, smiles & big hugs from the bride, groom & families was worth more than gold.
It was an interesting project for me and an honour to be asked. I started making celebration cakes back when my sons were small. I did their birthday cakes suitably themed to each child and made & iced fruitcakes for the family as presents. Then the people who brought their kids to the birthday parties started asking if I could do them a cake, word spread and I found myself very busy. I made my sisters wedding cake and pretty soon I was making them for all occasions.
 I once made a leaving party cake for two very dear friends and a few days later received a call from the local poetry society. The man on the phone sounded desperate. The poetry society was having a party to celebrate their 15th anniversary. They  wanted a cake that would feed at least 150 people. This represented the number of poets who'd read for them over the years. What they were looking for was a big cake with space for all 150 names to be written on the top. I had a couple of weeks to make the cake, they knew it was short notcie and they didn't have much money but the local bakery had turned down the job and a mutual friend had suggested I might be able to help?
The upshot was I made a huge fruitcake shaped and iced to look like an old leatherbound open book. I hand painted all 150 surnames onto the "pages" of the cake and I really wish I had a scan-able picture of it because I swore I'd never do another like it. It turned out really well and the poetry society loved it but I had nightmares, when I could sleep, for the entire week leading up to the event. This included a dream where I mis- spelled all the names on the cake & another where I dropped the cake in the river ( the party was held on a boat)  It also made me realise I couldn't possibly do this for a living because the stress was too much at the time.
These days I'm happy to make cakes for special occasions, and  I find the whole thing much more enjoyable, soap is still my first love and Old Pit Potions is taking a lot of my time but there's always room for a cake or two if I'm feeling inspired.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Finding my way

This could just as easily refer to my new experience of learning to blog as much as making soaps and potions. Big big thanks to my lovely, talented friend Pixie Sue/ Poppie at for suggesting that I start this blog and for being so encouraging too. Not to mention for being a willing tester for my experiments with whipped shea butter face creams.
I'm sure that the more I blog the more I'll learn.
When I started making soaps I quickly became hooked on finding and sourcing ingredients and moulds. For me it is still as fascinating as the making. When you're fussy about what goes into the stuff you're going to put on your face and body it is vital to know the origin of the ingredients.
The decison not to use anything artificial was easy, realising that a standard 10ml bottle of Lavender essential oil was not going to stretch very far when it came to perfuming my soaps was less so. It was also expensive.
I knew  very early on that I'd hit on something that I loved doing. I knew that I wanted to make more than just the odd batch of soap so with the help of a friend I found a supplier who could do beautiful Lavender oil in 100ml bottles. Buying this was was cheaper too so I was off to a good start. Their catalogue was like a treasure trove of exotic smelling oils.
I was still working in the wholefood store which was a great resource, when I needed a decent quantity of beeswax The man who sold us his local honey came through with a sweet smelling block weighing about a kilo at an excellent price. I discovered that Asian grocery stores were the perfect places to buy all sorts of base oils, not to mention having an excellent range of  Rose & Orange flower waters, more herbs and spices than I could dream of and lots of other fab things I saw as potential ingredients. They were cheaper than a lot of cosmetic supplies companies too.
Another challenge was finding the moulds to shape the soap. No piece of tupperware, plastic packaging or juice box was safe. Again the Wholefood store came up trumps as their weekly yoghurt deliveries arrived in plastic trays that could turn out six beautifully hexagonal soaps. They didn't last long but I felt happier reusing something that would have otherwise had to be thrown out. When things took off I invested in some purpose made moulds but I still use pringle tubes to mould my circular soaps, as you can see in the picture. People pass on the empties for me to clean and use.
The first bath fizzers I made used a small pot of bicarbonate of soda and a packet of citric acid from the pharmacist. These days my bicarb comes in 12 kilo sacks, which greatly amused my neighbour when she came to borrow a spoonful. The garden has herbs and flowers that become ingredients. A friend has taken up beekeeping and brings me the most wonderful beeswax. The essential oil bottles multiplied as did the bottles, jars and boxes. Where was I going to put them all?   Well that's another story...

Monday, 19 October 2009

How it all began and the question that everyone asks

Welcome to my Blog.
My name is Lorraine and I'm the creator of Old Pit Potions. A range of handmade, all natural bath & beauty products. I started out making soaps & bath goodies at the beginning of this century. makes me sound stately and venerable doesn't it?
A friend had bought me a book on soap making as a present and I was too busy working in a job that was not good for me to do anything other than look through the pages but I dreamed of making some of the beautiful bars pictured there.
Two years down the line I was happily working in a wholefood store filled with the sort of wonderful goodies that looked to me like they'd be just the thing to turn into soap. So I loaded a a basket with things like raw honey, organic oatmeal, goats milk & Lavender essential oil. I bought Coconut, Almond & Extra Virgin Olive Oils and turned my kitchen into a soap factory for the day.
Some weeks later I had what looked, smelled and lathered like very good soap indeed. Guess what everyone got for Christmas that year?
It didn't stop there. I just wanted to make more and more so that's what I did and that's where things got interesting, but that's a story for another time.
Right now I'm a few years down the line and I'm surrounded by bath fizzers & salts, massage melts & oil blends. Body and face creams, perfume spritzers and bars and bars of soap. Not to mention the wonderful materials I need to create these goodies.
Oh and the question that everyone always asks is "Why Old Pit Potions?"
The name raises a few quizzical eyebrows and a few chuckles, especially from some American friends who think that it's all about the underarms.
The truth is that the labels started as a really nice joke. I did a swap with my lovely neighbours, who wanted to give my soap as gifts alongside their delicious Sloe Gin. They came up with the label Old Pit because we live close to the site of an old coalmine. As a Miners daughter I loved the name and the picture and so the label stuck.