Firstly I spread out the nettles on a tarp and put the hose on them then dried them off. It was a very warm sunny day so they didn't take long to dry. Then I put some of the bunch in my 'solar dryer' which is a roasting pan with glass almost completely covering the top. I leave a space so that condensation doesn't build up.
I left these in the sun for a couple of days until dry before putting them in a Moccona coffee jar and covering them with olive oil. To prevent condensation I covered the top with cheesecloth and left the bottle in the sun for a couple of weeks during the day and brought it inside at night.
I intended to make the soap on Thursday so on Wednesday night I made up some nettle tea as we had purchased some recently for the CEO and I hadn't really thought about using it in the soap until I had a brainwave late that night and decided I could add the tea to the juice when making up the liquid which the lye is added to. I was really keen to try and end up with a 'green' soap without having to buy colourants.
So when the time came to make the soap I defrosted the juice ice cubes and added them to the nettle tea before adding the lye. Then I added the lye...what a smell!!! I can't even describe what the smell was like but I knew I didn't like it. LOL! Nevertheless, I forged ahead fearlessly. While the lye was heating up and then cooling down on the front verandah (I never add the lye in the house as I am slightly paranoid about it) I warmed up the olive oil after straining the nettles, added coconut oil and then waited until the oils were 50C and the lye was the same temperature.
I then used the stick blender to bring it all to trace before adding some 'essential oil' I had bought from the $2 shop which probably was just fragrance oil but I didn't want to waste my more expensive essential oils in case the whole thing was a fail. I really should have used more as the smell from the interaction of the lye and nettle was quite overwhelming.
I put the soap in the moulds and wrapped them up for the night and in the morning the smell wasn't quite so bad thankfully and hopefully will go away completely as the soap dries. So far the soap is still green but I daresay it will fade as times goes on. I will let you know how it turns out if anyone is interested.
That afternoon, Racheal from our Simple Living Toowoomba group, held a soap making demonstration at her home so I went along to see how she makes her soap as she brings along some lovely varieties of soap to our monthly swaps.
I was surprised to see that she uses the method where you add the oils to the lye mixture instead of the other way around and, while I am not sure that I am brave enough to try it, it is quicker and there is less washing up. This is the method Phil uses in his DIY Cheap and Easy Soap from Scratch . I might try this method outside sometime as I am so wary of adding oils to lye + water as I have been conditioned not to do that and really don't want to have to deal with a volcano erupting on the kitchen bench.
Anyway, Racheal wasn't perturbed by using that method at all and before long she had produced a couple of moulds of soap. She doesn't wrap up her soap like I do with the method I use and she also leaves it in the mould for a week or so whereas I take mine out of the moulds the next day.
So there you have it...two different methods of making soap although there is probably more chance that Racheal's will be more successful than my batch unless that smell dissipates. ;-)
Here is a photo of my nettle soap up against Racheal's very white Coconut Peppermint Soap and you can tell it is quite green at the moment. Racheal gave each of us a cake of soap after her soap making presentation.
If you would like to have a look at a couple of videos, this one Homemade Soap at Marshas uses the method Racheal used and this one by Crafty Gemini How to Make Soap from Scratch uses the method of heating up the oils although I don't use the microwave to do that as we don't have one. Personally I like to follow Rhonda's instructions and there are lots of instructions on this page on her blog.
Have you taken the plunge and made your first batch of soap yet? I warn you...it can be addictive!