The story of how I began making soap | By Ann Marie Craig

February 23, 2020 – Big Cedar Lake, WI – My grandmother – the grandmother who lived in this pretty log farmhouse – was a soap maker, probably because she had to be. A farm woman was frugal, and with animal fats readily available it was a given that she would make soaps at least for doing the laundry. Grandma’s soaps were made primarily with chicken fat as that was what she had an abundance of all year round.

Century Farmhouse soaps

When I was growing up, my mom and my grandmother made laundry soap together; most of my sisters do not remember this, which makes me wonder if I dreamed it?? I remember Grandma would pour the soap into wooden fruit crates lined with freezer paper, then cut it into hand-sized chunks, perfect for scrubbing stubborn stains on children’s clothing. With my grandmother’s daily work as my creative inspiration, you might understand why learning to make soap was on my bucket list before bucket lists were a thing, but I pretty much taught myself how to make it.
When I finally decided 20 years ago that I had better get busy, I hounded our local library for information on how to get started. One of my tricks was to find a book I really thought helpful and repeatedly put it on hold at the library so I could keep it for months. The librarians now roll their eyes when I mention doing that, but at the time the catalogs were not as automated as now and I could get away with it.
The very first batch of soap I created was Lemon & Poppyseed, and I poured it into an old enameled pan that my father had used for photo enlarging. Imagine my horror when two days later I could not get it out of that pan except by scooping it out with my hands and making snowballs of soap. Yikes! That was a learning experience I had not anticipated and I still cringe at the thought. I do remember my father handing me $20 and telling me to go buy soap, but the process was so intriguing, and the results so much fun to see that I just kept making it. Each new batch and new scent I created had me asking more and more questions until I finally had a house full of soap and needed to sell it to be able to keep making more soap. ….and you know the rest of that story.
John McGivern, Ann Marie
At the time I was starting out, I would have loved to have attended a class where I could not only learn the process, but could ask questions along the way and have a contact point for future questions. Did you know that if you take one of our classes, you can always and forever contact me with questions about soap making? You can’t often get that kind of personal attention from online how-to videos and classes.
Registration is now open for our classes on March 7 and November 14 at the beautiful Museum of Wisconsin Art in West Bend, Wisconsin. Think about learning a new life skill!

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