I am certainly not an expert on soap making since I have only done it once! But, there were several questions that were too involved to answer in the comments:
Did you do the hot method or cold method? I know there are two ways, but don't know which one to choose yet. Any tips?
I am guessing the answer to your question is that we used the cold method. There was not anything cold about our soap, but we did not use any additional heat. The lye used created enough heat to melt all the remaining ingredients together. And, it did get very HOT! We made our soap on my friend's screened in porch - great ventilation. As far as tips, be prepared to do a lot of stirring - you just have to stir and stir and stir until it is ready to pour! We did not use a stick blender - but agreed that it may be worthwhile in the future if we keep doing this.
Do you have a recipe to share?
Here is the recipe I used which comes from Homestead Blessings:
For further instructions and tips, I will point you directly to their DVD as this was the only input I had in making my soap!
4 c. water
48 oz. vegetable shortening
32 oz. coconut oil
16 oz. olive oil
12 oz. lye
2-3 oz. essential oil added at the very last just before pouring into molds. Can add spices or oats at this point too.
Mix thoroughly in order until soap begins to "trace" ~ pour into greased molds. Let sit for 1 - 1 1/2 hours. Cut into bars. Let harden and remove from container. Let bars harden and dry by curing for two weeks. Made about 45 bars.
Had either one of you made your own soap before?
No, we had no experience and only one of us had seen the video and I confess that I watched it only once, wrote down the directions and sent the DVD back to Netflix. We made soap a few weeks later and just sort of felt our way through it. We did consult Google a time or two!
Is it something you would recommend trying to a newbie?
Yes, this was our only experience with anything like this and I've been washing my hands successfully with my homemade soap! Did we learn things to do differently? Absolutely, but that is part of the success in my view. I want to note that I had someone at home taking care of my children and would not suggest that you do this process with the lye and children around. Too much risk of things getting spilled or someone getting hurt.
How much was it to buy everything to get started..ball park?
I spent around $50 to make the two full batches of the above recipe. Since I was splitting this with a friend - my cost came to about $25. That was the only cost involved. And, it really would cost that much every time almost because the only thing I would not be buying again is the essential oil unless I wanted a different scent. Everything else is used up in the process of the making soap.
Hope that helps - also, check out the comments yesterday, there were a few good tips given there from those who have made soap before!