Handmade Gift Idea: Looking for a handmade gift idea but don’t want it to look homemade? Then this idea is perfect for you! These super easy decorative Hanging Soap Chains (Zeep Kettingen) make great gifts for any occasion (Mother’s Day Birthdays, Teacher Gifts, Wedding Gifts, Christmas etc).
And what’s more, you don’t need any expensive ingredients or special equipment to make them (like you normally do with handmade soap). All you need is ordinary soap, a cheese grater and things you probably have lying around the house.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links which I think you may find useful – any purchases made via these links provides a small commission to me at no extra cost to you. This helps me keep the blog up and running.
I shared this idea over on Kenarry.com back in November as a handmade gift idea for Christmas but thought I would share it here too now because they also make fab Mother’s Day Gifts.
These Soap Chains (called zeep kettingen) are pretty popular here in the Netherlands and you see different variations of them hanging in a lot of Dutch homes. Not only do they look pretty but they smell really good too.
Handmade Gift Idea – Soap Chains
- 2 bars of soap (you need quite soft soap – I used Dove)
- Liquid hand soap (creamy sort)
- Twine, string, cord or ribbon
- Air drying modelling clay – I used a grey stone look clay (optional)
- Beads & decorative embellishments (optional)
- Cheese grater
- Plastic bag (a freezer bag is ideal)
- Plastic embossed dinner mat (or anything else with a raised pattern to make an imprint)
- Wooden bamboo skewer
- Drinking straw
How To Make The Soap Mix
Step 1. Use the cheese grater to finely grate your soap.
I was a bit lazy here and got bored grating the soap so I decided to throw it into my old food processor and despite it making a really scary noise, it actually did the job beautifully.
*WARNING* There could be a risk of damaging your blades so if have a nice new machine I probably would not recommend that you do this. But if you are super lazy like me and want to risk it, make sure that you cut the soap up into smaller chunks.
Step 2. Put the grated soap into your plastic bag.
Step 3. Add a tablespoon of the liquid soap together with approx 3 tablespoons of water (add this a little by little to make sure the mixture doesn’t become too wet – every soap brand will react differently).
Step 4. Seal the bag and knead the soap through the plastic until it becomes smoother and begins to stick together.
How To Make The Soap Shapes
Step 5. Take a handful of the soap mixture out of the bag and knead it to soften it further.
Step 6. Roll the soap into a ball then flatten with your hand. Aim for a thickness of about 2.5 cm (1 inch).
Step 7. Using your plastic embossed mat (or whatever you have) and a small rolling pin, roll the imprint into the soap – be careful not to roll your clay out too thinly. Aim for approx 1.5cm – 2cm (3/4 of an inch) depth (it needs to be thick enough that you can get a straw through the soap shape to a make a hole).
Step 8. Now, select a part of the pattern you like and cut out a shape using your cookie cutter form.
Step 9. Re-roll the scraps of soap and repeat until you have enough shapes and have used it all up.
Step 10. Take a wooden skewer and carefully make a hole through the soap. Push it through a few more times to widen the hole.
Step 11. Now take a plastic drinking straw and carefully push through the hole to create a larger and cleaner hole that will be big enough to put your twine through (if your soap crumbles you need to check it’s not too dry, knead it a little bit more and/or make your shape a bit thicker).
Step 12. If you do want to use the air-drying clay shapes in your design then you can do this using the exact same process as with the soap (knead it, form a ball, flatten it, imprint the pattern, cut shape out and make a hole through the centre).
Allow the soap and clay shapes to dry out for a day or two.
Soap Chain Assembly
Now, you can begin assembling your soap chains.
This is where you can really get creative and create your own designs by adding different combinations of soap shapes, beads and embellishments etc.
When I first thought about making these I actually had another design in my head. I wanted to use large wooden beads and either some burlap or some thin red gingham ribbon.
Unfortunately for me, it’s not always possible to find certain things locally where I live, so I had to re-think the design.
In the end, I decided to create some shapes using some stone look air drying clay and some natural twine that I already had at home.
Step 13. Cut 1 meter (1 yard) of the twine, then fold it in half and knot it about 10cm (4 inches) down from the top to create your hanging loop.
Step 14. Feed the two ends of the twine through the soap and pull the soap up to the knot.
Step 15. Carry on threading and knotting the rest of the soaps and embellishments that you want to use in your design.
Step 16. To make the tassels, you need to cut 4 x 40cm (15 inches) lengths of twine, place it directly underneath the soap and tie in place with the two pieces of twine from you main chain.
Step 17. Next, cut another 20cm (8 inches) length of twine, then unravel it and split the strands so that you have a thinner piece of twine. Set this aside.
Step 18. You should now have 10 pieces of twine hanging down from your main chain. Divide them into 3 sections (3/4/3) and plait (braid) them as neatly as you can.
Step 19. When your plait (braid) is long enough, use the thinner piece of twine to secure it (I knotted mine at the front and the back to make sure it was secure).
Step 20. Now unravel the 10 lengths of twine at the bottom to create your tassel and trim any uneven lengths.
You may think this is a lot of work but it is in fact really easy to do. I have broken the instructions down into really small steps to make the tutorial easier to follow.
You can also use your basic soap shapes to make all kinds of different designs too. You don’t necessarily have to make them into a soap chain as they would also look nice just displayed on a shelf, in a glass jar, or in a little dish.
In addition to them being a great handmade gift idea, I think they would do really well at craft fairs and markets. I am actually thinking about making some to sell at one of the next King’s Day free markets that we have every year here in the Netherlands. I think they would sell really well.
Do you have a handmade gift idea? I’m always looking for new ideas so I would love to hear your DIY craft ideas (just leave a comment below or tag me in on Instagram).
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