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5.0 out of 5 stars A Melt & Pour Soapcrafting Book For All Levels, October 17, 2002
This review is from: 300 Handcrafted Soaps: Great Melt & Pour Projects (Hardcover)
Whether you're a beginner or an expert soapcrafter, 300 HANDCRAFTED SOAPS by Marie Browning is definitely a must-have for your library. If you craft melt & pour and are low on ideas, you'll be inspired after just the quickest look through this book. The photographs are stunning, and I'm sure this will be mentioned in all reviews. Almost all of the 300 recipes have accompanying pictures and this is necessary for such an eye-catching craft. Ironically, the one photo that could have been improved is the cover shot---the background is a bit too dark to effectively highlight the soaps.
This book is up-to-date as the author mentions more than her standard coconut oil, clear or opaque glycerin melt & pour bases. Olive oil, avocado and cucumber, goat's milk, colored, and the newer frosting bases are described and pictured. Marie Browning offers helpful suggestions for selecting QUALITY soap bases and her advice is very important for those beginners who tend to buy whatever's on sale or available. Without a decent soapbase you might as well just go on using commercial soap found in your local grocery or drug store, which is notorious for being loaded with synthetic ingredients. As the author of a book about melt & pour soap and a soapcrafter for several years, I've learned that you must read the ingredients. If doing business with an Internet based soap supplier, ask for the soap base ingredients if not already listed on the site. If the supplier refuses this request, don't do business with them as they probably have a low-grade soap base.
Ms. Browning has sections on aromatherapy, fragrances, and what makes safe additives such as herbs, spices and oils, along with a few cautions. She can be ultra conservative in her warnings: "Avoid all essential oils, natural herbal products, and salt baths during pregnancy." But she's also straightforward about using alcohol to spray on soap to avoid bubbles and adhere layers preferring to "wait until a skin forms; I then carefully remove the skin with a knife." This is the most effective method I've learned over the years.
For those looking to explore the boundaries of hand-milled [sometimes called rebatch] soapcrafting, you'll be advised to purchase a copy of her earlier book, BEAUTIFUL HANDMADE SOAPS. Ms. Browning's latest offering is for melt & pour soapcrafters only! Her recipes can be adapted to hand-milled soap however. She has a handy chart comparing hand-milled and melt & pour [also known as M&P]. I laughed when I read of her advice to use M&P soap within three months as it loses its fragrance and "colorants migrate." I think her usage of fragrances, her method is to measure by drops and she doesn't indicate whether it's a fragrance oil or essential oil as she believes it's the soapcrafter's decision, is minuscule. Admittedly, some colors can be problematic, fading or bleeding in the soap and making a mess. In moderately or uncolored soaps I've personally made, there have been some bars last for over 1 year and still smell as fragrant as they were when removed from the molds. Not mentioned in this book is the fact that even M&P should cure [harden] for a few days rather than be used instantly.
It's refreshing to see the evolution of her soaps as her 1998 recipes for soap pebbles have evolved into truly spectacular and authentic looking gems. The lemon, lime, and orange slices are also better looking than what was shown in her earliest soapcrafting book.
Marie Browning has concocted so many new recipes that I'd recommend a person look at the photographs first, then go back and match the photo numbers with the recipes. A few new categories include: bagged soaps, fizzy soaps, carved soaps, dip-dot painted soaps, shampoo and scrub bars, and soap sweets-well, the author's imagination is all-encompassing. When she cautions you to label your soap, please take her advice. Some of the pictures look like they belong in a dessert cookbook!
With the holiday season fast approaching, you'd better hurry up and order this book so you have time to make some of these wonderful recipes to give as gifts. But the best part about soapcrafting is that it's an inexpensive hobby that can be done year-round because there's always a forthcoming holiday, and people always use soap!
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