One of the tricky things about making your own skincare products is sourcing the ingredients.

When I started this "hobby", nearly a decade ago, I lived in a small Maine city with an excellent health food store that stocked everything I needed to get started with making soap and body care products. I could buy a little bit of this, a little bit of that. I didn't have to pay for shipping.

I could experiment and play with this hobby without a huge financial investment.

As I become more interested and invested in making my own skincare products, selling some of my soap and teaching others, I started ordering larger quantities from online suppliers.

When I was living in the United States I was able to access the many online stores and took for granted the relatively inexpensive shipping prices. When we moved back to Canada six years ago it felt like going back to dark ages in terms of online shopping; fewer stores, higher prices, expensive shipping.

Thankfully, the online shopping options have improved in Canada over the past few years.

Making soap and body care products, herbalism, and essential oils have become businesses for many people (which is great!) and online suppliers have responded in kind with wholesale sizes and pricing.

This is good for those willing to spend hundreds of dollars on an individual order, but not everyone is able or interested to make that kind of investment into materials, especially if you're just exploring or experimenting with a new hobby.

Sunrise Botanics fills an important niche in the online Canadian market. (They sell also to US customers, but US customers have so many options for buying these supplies online, whereas Canadians have much fewer.)

Like other online retailers, Sunrise Botanics sells soapmaking, cosmetic and skincare raw materials, bulk herbs, candle making supplies, and essential oils.

Unlike other online Canadian suppliers with wholesale pricing and sizes, they have no minimum order and small sizes are available for almost all of their products.

And they have $5 flat rate shipping with minimum $50 purchase. They are the only online retailer, that I am aware of, in Canada to offer this.

Sunrise Botanics has a modern, up-to-date online interface. They have an extensive inventory, products are easy to find, and shopping cart mechanics are straightforward.

Their turn-around is excellent. I received my order within 5 business days, during the pre-Christmas rush, the busiest season of the year. A similar order at one of the wholesale suppliers would have taken three weeks. And I received excellent and friendly customer service. (I am doing a review, so it was in their best interest to do so. I would hope they treat everyone the same.)

A brief summary from a company representative highlights Sunrise Botanics unique place in the Canadian market:

  1. No order minimums.
  2. Shipping charge is subsidised for order minimums of $50 and above. $5 flat rate is the best in Canada bar none for this industry.
  3. Wide range of products from oils to bulk herbs/spices, dried flowers, and raw materials.
  4. Place your order today and it is shipped in 2 to 3 business days 95% of the time.
  5. Small sample sizes available for practically all of our products.
  6. Wide range of packaging options at reasonable price points.

In my experience with the company I cannot disagree with this assessment.

Sunrise Botanics meets a unique need in the Canadian market with an extensive supply of soapmaking, cosmetic and skin care raw materials, bulk herbs, candle making supplies, and essential oils in accessible sizes and quantities; while offering quick shipping and low cost delivery.

Sunrise Botanics is pleased to offer blog readers a 15% discount at their store, good until the end of February. Use the discount code FIMBY at checkout.

I received product in exchange for this review. I do not accept compensation for my opinion, ie: you can't buy my good recommendation or endorsement, but I do accept compensation for my time and expertise in evaluating products, services and/or brands. See here for full review compensation policy.

Hibernate starts in a few days. There is still time to register.

I am teaching a soapmaking tutorial in this year's retreat and have prepared a supply list for those of you who are taking the class and want to get a head start on getting your materials.

I was specifically asked for this list by some friends on Instagram and I'm posting it here so I can keep it with my soapmaking pages for future reference.

In the soapmaking tutorial I've prepared for Hibernate I walk you through cold process soapmaking, from gathering the things you need in the kitchen before you start, to cutting and curing the bars at the very end. I teach a bit of troubleshooting, as I had issues arise in my own soapmaking during the video process.

This is a basic tutorial. I teach a straightforward technique, without too many variables to overwhelm you or introduce possibility for error.

My goal for this tutorial is that class participants will feel soapmaking is an accessible craft and that they would be empowered by the instructions and information I’ve provided to be confident enough to try it on their own.

Many people I've met are interested in making soap but they are intimidated by the process, and using lye especially. My main message when it comes to lye is this: use common sense and appropriate safety measures and fear not. Don't be so afraid of lye that you don't try making soap. Unless you are ridiculously clumsy or unable to follow simple safety rules, you can handle this.

Although I kept things simple in this tutorial I do spend some time talking about creating essential oil blends for soap. The natural fragrance of essential oils is one of the deep pleasures for me of soapmaking and I wanted to make sure to share some of that knowledge and experience with you.

Here's what you'll need to make this soap.


  • 4.5 oz lye
  • 12.2 oz distilled water
  • 8 oz coconut oil
  • 8 oz olive oil
  • 8 oz palm oil
  • 3.2 oz sunflower oil
  • 3.2 oz canola oil
  • 1.6 oz castor oil
  • 1.5 oz essential oils

In the tutorial I provide a detailed recipe with metric measurements also.

As I explain in the tutorial I do not use the highest quality essential oils in soapmaking. I don't use the bottles sold at the health food store or through multi-level marketing companies.

I buy all my soapmaking essential oils online, in "bulk" quantities where possible.

This recipe calls for a total of 1.5 oz of essential oils. I used a blend of rosemary, lavender, and peppermint.

You can find those essential oils, the vegetable oils and fats (called carrier oils), and the lye for this recipe at one of these suppliers.

United States:


Supplies & Tools:

  • scale
  • thermometer
  • immersion or stick blender
  • gloves
  • eye protection
  • stainless steel soup pot
  • a couple glass, ceramic, stainless steel or plastic mixing bowls for measuring oils (I use a 2 cup glass measure)
  • small glass jar, plastic or stainless steel container for measuring lye
  • 4 cup/1 quart mason jar - must be heat resistant
  • stainless steel spoon (for measuring lye and scooping the solid fats)
  • wooden spoon for stirring lye mixture*
  • silicon spatula or plastic spatula*
  • wooden spoon or spatula for melting oils
  • newspaper/circular flyer papers/piece of cardboard
  • paper towel
  • rags
  • vinegar
  • small cardboard box for a mold
  • thick plastic bag
  • scissors
  • tape

*These tools should be designated for soapmaking or craft purposes only.

Most of these supplies and tools you will already have around your house.

That's the list. With these supplies on hand you'll have everything you need to make soap.

I am so looking forward to participating in Hibernate again this winter. I need it! And I look forward to connecting with you in that warm and cozy space.

I love to make soap, lotion, lip balm, and candles. I love puttering in my kitchen mixing up herbal remedies and health-supporting herbal tea. I love this part of homemaking. If I didn't write what I do, mostly memoir and introspection, I would write more about these interests and exploits.

This is a tension I feel in my writing, I have a strong desire to share soap recipes, herbal how-to's and similar health and homemaking content but I have a stronger cognitive, emotional, and spiritual need to write through my experiences. And we all know there is only so much time.

But sometimes the right opportunity presents itself to satisfy the desire I have to teach these skills.

This winter I am so pleased to be partnering with Heather Bruggeman to offer a soapmaking tutorial as part of her Hibernate Winter Retreat.

Skip to here to register for Hibernate, or keep reading for why I love this course so much.

Winter is a great time to make soap. There's just something about fall and winter that stirs in people the desire to "make stuff". It's the increasing hours we spend indoors, it's the natural rhythm of preparing for and enduring winter.

For two winters now I have been singing the praises of Hibernate. Hibernate has been a winter game changer for me. Hibernate gave me the permission I needed to do what my body calls me to do in the heart of winter: burrow, rest, care for myself, drink lots of hot beverages, make things.

Hibernate has been more than a course, it's been a gentle "call to action" for me to honor my body's natural rhythms, live seasonally, nurture my creativity and grow my skill in domestic arts.

When I look back to that list I wrote of things I love about homemaking; making soap... candles, herbal remedies and tea mixes, the influence of Heather's courses is clear. It was three years ago, inspired by Hibernate content, that I started making my own herbal tea mixes. A skill I have since studied more, so that now, I confidently prepare specific blends for our family's winter health needs, using the right herbs for specific symptoms and support. (I'm excited to see that this year Rachel Wolf is offering herbal Winter Wellness recipes as part of Hibernate.)

My favorite candles, the ones I made a few weeks ago and have been burning daily, I learned that recipe from Heather. The herbal chai I've adapted to my own, that too started with a recipe from Hibernate. Throughout my home there are touches everywhere of Hibernate offerings: things I've made (felted bowls), art I've pursued (Hibernate introduced me to meditative drawing, which was the springboard into my own Zentangle practice), and ideas I've learned (my vision board).

Heather teaches hands-on, inspirational and practical, content-rich courses. So much content that you will need to pick and choose which lessons and projects, offered as stand-alone ebooks, one for each day of the course, you will embark on. There will be more in the course than you'll have time to do in the course period. But you'll have all the material, in those tidy little e-books and video teaching, everything you need to pick up a project or idea during the long weeks of winter. Of note, this year's Hibernate Online Retreat is all new content.

Where I live winter is long. And if we look at that positively, winter gives us lots of time to learn a new skill or incorporate a new homemaking habit or idea into our life.

I want to just say something here about having the heart of homemaker.

I am a homemaker. This is the work I love to do. I was raised by a homemaker and grew up surrounded by a community of women, my aunties, who were homemakers. Almost all these role models, my mother included, worked outside the home also, part-time or full-time, depending on the stage of family life, but these women made homes first and foremost. This is my heritage but it is also my heart.

I love nothing more than putzing around my house, tidying spaces, devising better systems of organizing. I love making beautiful and useful things for our home. Not a ton of things, we don't have the space and I lean to warm minimalism, as a style, if there is such a thing.

I don't love, nor do I put my hands to, all the tasks associated with traditional homemaking. I don't really like cooking. I'm not a baker. I don't quilt. I don't spend a lot of time or energy on decorating. I don't host the large gatherings I grew up watching my mother execute with aplomb. (My mother is amazing in her gifts of large gathering hospitality, she's my hero.)

I have grown into my own expression of homemaking, my own standards of homemaking. And what I consistently find is that Heather's courses meet me where I'm at, as they would meet the seamstress, the knitter, the cook, the baker, the candlestick maker.

But lest I give you the wrong impression, Hibernate is not just about homemaking, it's also about our emotional and physical well-being this time of year. It's about attending to yourself during the season of winter. Listening for the lessons of winter, enjoying what this season alone can offer us. It's not a "do more" message. Craft, quilt, knit, sew, cook, bake, host,... a frenzy of activity for the winter. Like Heather says, "Starting where you are, and working with what you have, you will pick and choose the projects, prompts, recipes and inspiration that speak to you."

Hibernate is about nurturing a certain kind of environment, in our hearts and our homes, as an expression of love for our families and ourselves. It's a retreat to help us create a physical space where our winter needs for rest, reflection, and creativity can be met.

When Heather asked if I'd like to contribute a soapmaking tutorial for this year's Hibernate retreat, I gave a hearty yes, delighted that I could contribute to such a great course.

I am so excited to share this tutorial with you. You may remember from a previous post that I had been working on a soapmaking course, but set it aside because I don't have the time in this life season to produce a complete course, as envisioned. But I so want to share some of that material with you, and Hibernate is the perfect place for doing that.

In addition to learning how to make soap, you will get all the other good stuff Heather teaches. Lucky you!

I have poured my heart, head, and hands into this soapmaking tutorial. I have created an easy, yet luscious, beginners recipe for you. I have tested this recipe repeatedly to minimize your risk. I have broken it all down, step-by-step, with photos, video, and written instructions so that you can make a lovely batch of soap with confidence and ease.

I want you to enjoy the beauty of homemade soap this winter. To learn a skill, a very old domestic art, that will bring enjoyment to your winter days and help nourish your dry skin.

Join me at Hibernate.

You can find the full description of Hibernate 2017 here.

I have a little request, if you decide to join the class, could you please use this link to make your purchase? It's a Thank You page that says Hibernate 2017 Renee Tougas under Item. Heather and I are trying an affiliate arrangement* for this class and this link tracks those purchases for us. (Thanks, I really appreciate it.)

Heather prices her courses to make them as accessible as possible. As someone who has taken a few online courses, from various sources, I can tell you the value you receive from Heather's courses is well beyond the price you pay. I go back and reference material from her courses all the time.

In addition to this great value Heather offers a two-for-one special for the first few days of registration. She knows that you will want to share this material with a friend and she offers you a way to do this. That two-for-one deal ends 12/19.

Special note to my Canadian friends and readers: the exchange on the dollar is a killer for making purchases in US dollars. If you want to take this course but the exchange rate is too steep for you (I hear you!) take advantage of the two-for-one friend deal. Don't know anyone to split the cost with? Find a friend here on my blog.

Leave a comment that you want to split the cost with someone. I'd love to play matchmaker. Heather does the same thing on her blog. Comments are open for people to find friends to split the two-for-one cost. I am using comment moderation right now to control some spam problems but I will check diligently and approve comments as quickly as possible to expedite the process. Also email me renee at tougas dot net if I forget.

Right now, I am not offering this soapmaking tutorial as a stand alone product. For now, it is nested within Hibernate.

Hibernate Registation is open today and will remain open for approximately one month, till the course starts in mid-January. But for the next seven days only you can purchase two-for-one registration. Pay the cost of one registration and you get access for two people. What a great holiday gift for a friend, sister, daughter, or mother.

If you want to learn how to make soap, if you want to participate in a beautiful winter retreat, if you're looking for ways to honor your body's seasonal rhythm, if you want to be part of a community of likeminded women (level of involvement is entirely up to you) who desire to create a health, relationship and soul-supporting home environment this winter, I do hope you'll join us for Hibernate.

* See this page for an explanation of affiliate arrangements.

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