I first got into felting soap because of my cousin, Heather, who lives in Istanbul. We began a Turkish towel company as an expansion of my interior decorating services earlier this year. When the first towel shipment arrived, it was full of bags of wool roving that I initially just tossed to the side. Heather is passionate about preserving time honored crafts that are gradually dying out in Turkey. Even there where the wool, towels, and rugs are inexpensive, people often opt for cheaper mass produced goods instead. Heather suggested I could learn the ancient technique of "felting" soaps to accompany the towels as a gift set, but I had never even seen a felted soap in person. She showed me her amazing designs she had made for the holidays, and I was more inspired but thought "I could never make something like that".
FOMO (fear of missing out) eventually gave me the added push I needed to at least give it a try, since I was suddenly lacking my ticket into growing a local business: a handmade product. I had recently been refused from participating in local markets because even though our towels were hand crafted, they weren't personally hand crafted by ME. I thought well, I could hand make these crazy soap thingies, only my mentor and teacher is a 7 hour time difference away! After a lot of research online and contacting various other felters, I gave it a shot anyway.
I started with lots of cheap drugstore soaps to practice with. I placed long chunks of wool roving on the soap, wet it with hot water, then started rubbing the wool until it lathered. I worked the wool around the soap until it was covering the soap and sticking together, encasing the soap. I let it dry overnight, and voila! Well, actually I wound up with lots of uncovered portions of soap and wool that was falling off the soap. But I kept working at it and then began adding needle felted designs onto the dry soap- my favorite part. It allows me to essentially draw on a medium that I can just "erase" if I mess up, by moving the wool around with my fingers and the needle. To me, that is the most fun part, and makes a great way to personalize the soap- with area codes, flags, and other designs.
The end result? A natural (actually the original) loofah, which is antimicrobal and makes your soap last longer. It also helps you exfoliate your skin in an organic way, without adding more gunky products to your bath time routine. I eventually came across vegetable based "castile" soap, which originated in Spain and is hypoallergenic with only 4 ingredients. Don't tell my dermatologist, but my felted soap has worked better on my arms/skin than any of her very expensive products! I have also learned that there are tons of other uses for your soap, who knew?! It wards off bugs in your garden or knitting supplies, and it won't leave behind a residue in lakes (in case you like that camping thing all the kids rave about)!
I'm now having so much fun getting to design different styles of soap, including a special line just for Ibu, which will be in their stores in early December. I met the proprietor, Susan, at Creative Mornings Charleston, and have a whole other soapbox (ha!) about how amazing Ibu's mission is. I am so flattered to be one of the female artisans they are featuring in their gorgeous store on King Street. I'll also be at Mixson Mingle Jingle on December 13 for their holiday market, so come check out my products and say hello!
Well, I guess I better get back to felting some soap, and I encourage you to give it a try. One of the goals of my shop is give people things to make everyday feel a little less monotonous and a little more like the weekend. If something as basic as soap can be fun, maybe that gives you one more thing in your day to look forward to. Works for me!