Continuing with the idea of making your own holiday gifts of "beauty," the Nesmith Library has a goodly number of soap making books. If you've been to craft fairs over the past 10 years, you've noticed an increase in the number of handmade soap vendors. Why pay an arm and a leg for a bar of soap simply because it is labeled "handmade"--you can make the soap yourself! Customize it with a label or wrapper that personally relates to the recipient and you've got a thoughtful and unique holiday gift!
In the olden days making soap involved melting down pounds of animal fat and adding an extremely dangerous ingredient--lye. In the older olden days, you first had to make the lye by processing wood ashes! But luckily, we're in an era when making soaps has become a whole lot easier! Working with lye may still be part of the process in some recipes, but, with detailed instructions and cautions, it has become safer. And, with the availability of essential oils, the soaps smell a whole lot better!
A website called Teach Soap covers many aspects of soapmaking and is a good place to explore before getting started.
Browning, Marie. Beautiful Handmade Natural Soaps: Practical Ways to Make Hand-Milled Soap and Bath Essentials: Included--Charming Ways to Wrap, Label, and Present Your Creations as Gifts. [668 BRO]
Failor, Catherine. Making Natural Liquid Soaps: Herbal Shower Gels, Conditioning Shampoos, Moisturizing Hand Soaps, Luxurious Bubble Baths, and More. [745.59 FAI]
Failor, Catherine. Making Transparent Soap: The Art of Crafting, Molding, Scenting and Coloring. [658.12 FAI]
Hulbert, Mike. Country Living Handmade Soap: Recipes for Crafting Soap at Home. [658.12 HUL]
If you want to make soap the old-fashioned way, simple instructions are on this page.