Wasting Away Again in Margaritaville…

Deep dark secret – I don’t like Margaritas. Bleh. But I’m off today to the New England Chapter of Parrot Heads convention with my appropriately themed soaps. It’s a three-day Jimmy Buffet party in southeastern Massachusetts. I guarantee you I will come home with LOTS of stories. Which reminds me – I need to clear the pics off my camera so there’s plenty of room for evidence. I mean more pictures.  😉

Have been making soap for a few weeks now – prepping for the start of fairs in a few weeks. Made some beautiful soaps, if I say so myself. Really pleased with some new techniques I’ve been studying on YouTube and the like. I see some amazing soaps and wonder how on earth they can spend so much time crafting such a gorgeous soap – then realize they’re making about 6 bars at a time – my molds hold 80 bars each! Some of the techniques just won’t translate to the larger molds, but I’m still having fun. I guess this gal can still learn a thing or two.

See you on the other side of Margaritaville. Or Pina Coladaburg. Whichever works for you.

Stay Clean!


Handmade Soaps and Skincare
Hemlock Springs Soaps

It’s Just a Name

You know, lots of folks approach me about the name of my business, Hemlock Springs Soaps and want to know if I put hemlock (the poison) in my products. ***OMG big eye roll inserted right here!!!***  Not sure I would have survived this long if I had been, but okay!

So, WHY? Where’d it come from?

Well, when I first started doing this on a part-time basis all those 17 (!) years ago, I lived on Hemlock Springs Road. It was my first house, first time living with another human being (eventually my other half!) and what a house it was!!! It was cheap, but the bones were good. Which was good cuz the previous owners were hoarders. I mean HOARDERS. That TV show could have learned something from these folks!!!   They left a van with no engine and stuffed full of cans of expired food for me to deal with (and that’s not all…..) Not to mention the filth. OMG I am cringing just recalling the work we did to clean that place up and turn it into a cute little home. It was perfect for the time, and launched us into the larger old New Englander we have called home for 11+ years. And while I feel like it was a hiccup in time, I never want to forget the importance (to me) of the name.

See, soap-making is more than just a process for me. It’s a soothing, cathartic feeling. Attending markets feels like a connection to old artisans and bakers who sold their wares to traveling folk and townspeople. Neighbors. Friends. So when I left the corporate world and thought “Why not give it a shot?” I struggled with the idea of changing the name of my little company. Originally, it was Hemlock Springs Cottage. I changed to “Soaps” to reflect more of what I actually do. Some days I wonder if I should have changed it to something more hip (a la “Soap & Olive Branch” – a naming trend I hope ends soon!) but it’s so not me – and it’s not where I made that first batch of soap.

But the idea of a cool bed of hemlock needles on a warm day, filtered sunshine streaming through the boughs, clean trickling streams with shallow pools…to me it’s the epitome of a wonderful feeling.

And I wouldn’t change that for the world.


~ Karen


New Things…

It has been a weird winter with the warm temps, lack of snow, etc. Maybe that’s why the water heater decided to give up the ghost out of nowhere last week (that was fun).  And then we had a 36-hour cold snap that bust not one, not Two, but THREE pipes. Three days without water in the house was crazy and I am ever so happy to have water again! Laundry and dishes are done!

Have been formulating some new(ish) products again in preparation for the big Made in NH Expo coming up at the end of April. It’s a huge show and one I kind of look at as a way to debut new scents and products. (If you have never been, it’s really amazing to learn about all the types of businesses in New Hampshire – it’ll be my fourth year there!)

So, what’s new?

Well, it’s more like tweaks to existing products. I now offer my Beard Oil in three scents – Bare Naked (unscented), Sandalwood and Bay Rum. All feature a lovely blend of oils that do a marvelous job of softening whiskers, and providing moisture to the skin. (Heck, I sometimes use it to add a bit of moisture to my damp hair – but a little goes a long way on fine hair like mine). They’re just $10 and I’m really pleased with the amazing feedback I’ve received.

beard oil

Another goodie I’ve been testing and am pleased with is a reformulation of my No-Funk Deodorant. Instead of a cream, I’m trying a spray with Magnesium, Aloe, and a blend of fume-fighting essential oils. Stay tuned for more details on that one!

Until then, stay clean!

~ Karen

Handmade Soaps and Skincare
Hemlock Springs Soaps


So I Mentioned Custom Soaps Last Time

In my last blog post I mentioned doing custom batches of soap and party favors. I’ve done all sorts of fun projects over the years – very chic bars wrapped in coordinating paper packages, sweet little baskets for guests, combinations of soap and lotions, lip balms, and I even make soap cakes – rustic round soaps that can be cut into slices for tea parties or the like:

orange spice cake

If you would like to brainstorm about different options for a corporate party, wedding or bridal shower, baby shower, etc., please know I welcome your call or email anytime. I find these little projects to be a lot of fun!

Cheers –





Fun fact about the method of soap I make – it’s called Cold Process soap. It means once I blend the oils, fats, butters, milk and sodium hydroxide, add scent and color, pour into my molds, and insulate with old blankets, there’s no external heat source applied. It sits in the molds for 24-48 hours making it’s chemical transformation to soap. Then I cut the soaps, and put them on the curing racks:

curing soap

Curing Soap

Why does soap have to cure? Well, it completes the saponification process – transforming the oils, fats and butters into the compound we call soap. While you can use soap within a week or two, it’s not quite dried out yet. And the longer you allow the soaps to cure, the harder then are (meaning they’ll last longer), the more mild they are on the skin, and I think it adds to the bubble factor (soaps I have cured for ages upon ages are super lathery!)

Hemlock Springs Soaps cure for anywhere from six to eight weeks. Or more. I am using a bar of soap I made last spring and it’s simply divine! It still smells great, lathers like crazy, and is as hard as a rock. Winning!

Cheers –


PS – I have had a few inquiries of late for custom bars and batches of soaps for personal use and party favors. There are all sorts of cool things we can do for you if interested! Contact me anytime for a brainstorming session.

So…What About Shea Butter in Soap?

I know lots of folks use goat milk in their soaps these days – it has lots of nutrients and makes soaps perfect for those with sensitive skin. There’s also a creaminess in the lather that is luscious and feels soooooo good.

You know what else adds to that feeling?

raw unrefined shea

Shea Butter. 

Shea Butter comes from the nut of the Karite Tree and is made up of something called “unsaponifiables” – they are molecules of buttery, nourishing goodness that when added to soap are “leftover.”  Instead of cleaning like the other oils do, Shea Butter has lots of vitamins A, E and C that protect the skin gently during the cleansing process.

I use unrefined Shea Butter in every bar of Hemlock Springs Soaps – it retains all of the natural nutrients and vitamins, and adds not only a little hardness to the bar, but a dense creaminess to the fluffy goat milk lather.

So if you are in the market for a gentle yet effective bar of soap, check us out! 

Cheers –


Want to see where I’ll be in the coming weeks? Click HERE!
















They’re Coming…

New Colors

New Toxin-Free Nail Colors Are Coming!

They’re here, and they are spectacular. The Spring 2016 5-Free Nail Colors from Hemlock Springs Soaps are being bottled at the time of the typing of this message and will be on the website within a couple of weeks. Last years’ success in launching the nail polish was so incredibly successful, and we can’t wait to see new colors on our fans’ fingers and toes.

Toxin-Free You Say???

Yeah!!! These nail polishes do not contain the dreadful environmental toxins like Formaldehyde, Formaldehyde Resin, Toluene, DBP and Camphor. I’m also using mineral colorants to create a really vibrant and awesome palette of colors. What’s really cool is they seem to be drying a little faster AND in my experience are lasting a little longer than commercial nail polish.

Check ’em out!

Cheers –



Scents We Love…


Okay…I’ve been making soap for a long, long time. Because I was working at a really good job when I started making soap, I was fortunate to purchase and test several fragrance oils from different manufacturers without the cost being an issue (oh how times have changed!)

The great thing is this afforded me to find the very best scents – like the New Hampshire Lilac soap above. Everyone that sniffs it says it’s a dead-on lilac scent, and I agree. It’s light and ephemeral like the spring blossom, but it doesn’t have some weird chemical overtones some soaps have. Plus, I am a big believer in using high quality oils, so in the end I actually use less oil and have better fragrance. It’s one of Hemlock Springs Soaps‘ best selling soaps. And lotions. And perfume. 🙂

Cheers –



Key Benefits of Arnica…



“Arnica (Arnica montana) has been used for medicinal purposes since the 1500s and is still popular today. Applied to the skin as a cream, ointment, liniment, salve, or tincture, arnica has been used to soothe muscle aches, reduce inflammation, and heal wounds. It is commonly used for injuries, such as sprains and bruises. As an herb, arnica is usually used topically (on the skin) because it can cause serious side effects when taken by mouth. Oral homeopathic remedies do contain arnica, but they use a diluted form that is not considered dangerous. If you have any question about whether you have the herbal or homeopathic form of arnica, talk to your doctor.”

University of Maryland Medical Center

Arnica is pretty awesome stuff. I use my Hemlock Springs Soaps’ Arnica Muscle Rub on EVERYTHING – from sinusitis pain, shoulder pain, tendonitis, sore and swollen feet, and even on my achy hands when I’ve pushed things a little too far.

What’s even cooler is I use dried organic Arnica and infuse it naturally in soothing avocado oil. I melt local beeswax and unrefined cocoa butter, and blend with some essential oils and put it in a recyclable and VERY handy little twist-up container. It’s perfect to throw in a gym bag or purse, is not greasy at all, and doesn’t have any weird chemicals in it and doesn’t smell at all medicinal. Give it a try!