For beginner soap makers the process of making soap is scary & overwhelming. We don't think it will matter which book you choose. "Wear goggles, gloves, full sleeves, don't breathe the fumes!" It's enough to scare anyone. Our first attempts at soap making were with milk from our Nigerian Dwarf goats. We didn't learn from Jan. We learned from Milk Soapmaking: The Smart Guide to Making Milk Soap From Cow Milk, Goat Milk, Buttermilk, Cream, Coconut Milk, or Any Other Animal or Plant Milk. We found a recipe that we love & use to this day; making adjustments to that one recipe as our base.
The thing we really love about Jan's book is that she doesn't use fragrance oils, or man made colorants. Every single recipe uses anything from essential oils, infused herbs, spices, clays, flowers, etc. Not only that but she doesn't promote other brands or try to get you to buy something. We cannot even tell you how many soap making books we've come across with beautiful enticing 'soap porn' photos only to find that the book has ridiculously complicated recipes requiring you shop at that authors website. Another thing we come across all of the time is books saying 'natural' soap making. Yet they will recommend things that most certainly are not natural. Jan has written a book that is hands down perfect for folks like ourselves running an Eco-farm who don't want potentially toxic unnatural ingredients in their soap. If you are looking for this too, then this book without a doubt is for you.
While we are already experienced in making milk soap, there are things we never attempted. Lovely things like swirls, pencil marks, layers (We did this a little, they came out okay you can find our soaps here), impressions & colorants (other than what we grew ourselves which were always hit or miss). We have tried a few of Jan's techniques & have been more than pleased with the results. She also provides full color images of what different natural ingredients can do for the color of the soap. We love seeing how adding a certain amount of an ingredient can change the color of the soap in so many different ways depending on when it is added & how much is added. For example what different shades of pink you can get out of one natural colorant like rose clay.
The book begins with a chapter titled 'Getting Started' this gives you the basics on safety, equipment & basic how to's. The middle of the book provides a wide variety of recipes using both hot & cold soap methods. It starts with simple recipes, progressed to herbs, veggies & flowers, continues on with milk, honey & even eggs. There are also recipes for soaps using salt & pine tar. You'll find recipes for shampoo bars & shaving soaps as well. Next is our favorite section that we already mentioned, it is the one on techniques & tips. Nearly to the very end she provides troubleshooting advice using full color photos. There is also a useful resources section.
Overall, we highly recommend this book to anyone looking to make natural soaps. If you are a beginner, don't be scared. Keep it simple. Make a batch of plain soap to get a feel for how it works. Like anything, you will learn as you go & get a feel for what is right. If you want to learn all about milk soap we recommend the book we previously mentioned, Milk Soapmaking go ahead & get this book too. As you progress with your milk soap, you'll appreciate all the techniques & tips in Simple and Natural Soapmaking.