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Making your own soap is incredibly gratifying. It is lovely knowing that each time you have a shower or bath the lathery bar is filled with herbs and flowers of your choosing.

It can be a little daunting making soap from scratch as it usually requires a chemical called lye, but this recipe does away with the need for lye, so it's a great one to start with. This recipe uses instead a natural product known as 'melt and pour soap' as your base. This, along with all of the equipment, is easily available online.

You will need …
500g melt and pour soap base
natural soap colouring
your favourite herbs (dried or fresh)
your favourite flowers (dried or fresh)
a few drops of your favourite essential oils
moulds (flat tins, small jars or silicone chocolate moulds are all suitable)
double boiler (or use a heatproof bowl and saucepan)
thermometer

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1. Start by chopping up your soap base into small chunks, or grate it, to make it melt faster. Prepare your moulds by spritzing them with a little oil for easy removal afterwards. Organise the colours you want to use and decide on the combinations of herbs, flowers, and aromas prior to melting.

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2. Melt the soap base in a double boiler to the temperature recommended by the manufacturer. Once melted, stir in your colour (start with a few drops or pinches until you get the colour you desire). Remove from the heat. Once the mixture has cooled slightly, add 6-10 drops of your favourite essential oil. If you are using more than one oil, blend them together first to ensure you get the scent you desire. Mix through.

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3. Pour your soap into moulds. You can either add flowers/herbs to the bottom and top of the moulds, just sprinkle them over the top, or stir them all the way through. Allow to set for 24 hours in a cool place, but not in the fridge or freezer.

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4. Remove from the moulds when set. If you have trouble removing the soap, put the mould in a bowl of boiling water momentarily until the soap loosens. You can also use a sharp knife to help ease it out.

These make the perfect gift when presented in a jar with a ribbon.

Photography © Nassima Rothacker
Rebecca Sullivan is the author of The Art of the Natural Home (Kyle Books, $39.99), from which this recipe is reproduced with kind permission.