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) are great to give for any occasion (Mother’s Day Birthdays, Teacher Gifts, Wedding Gifts, Christmas, etc).
And what’s more, there are no specialised or costly soap-making supplies needed to make these. All you need is ordinary bars of soap, a cheese grater, and a few other household items that you probably have anyway.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links that I think you may find useful – any purchases made via these links provide a small commission to me at no extra cost to you. This helps me keep the blog up and running.
I have actually broken the tutorial down into even smaller step-by-step instructions to help make the tutorial even clearer.
In the Netherlands, these Soap Chains (called zeep kettingen) are pretty popular and you see different variations of them hanging in a lot of Dutch homes (especially in the downstairs WC/Bathroom).
They smell divine and they look pretty stylish too!
DIY Soap Shape & Decorative Hanger Materials & Instructions
Materials Needed To Make DIY Decorative Soap Hangers
- Normal bars of soap (you need quite soft soap – I used 2 bars of Dove hand soap)
- Liquid soap (with a creamy consistency)
- Twine, ribbon, cord, or string
- Modeling clay (self-hardening/air dry) – I used a grey stone look clay (optional)
- Beads & decorative embellishments (optional)
Additional Equipment Needed For The Project
- Cheese grater
- Plastic bag (a freezer bag is ideal)
- Cookie cutters
- Plastic decorative dinner mat (or anything else with an embossed or raised pattern)
- Wooden bamboo skewer
- Drinking straw
DIY Soap Shape Instructions
DIY Decorative Soap Shapes Recipe
I have shared the quantities of ingredients I have used to make this no-cook soap shape method. Please be aware that you may have to play a little with this as the consistency can vary depending on the type of soap bar and liquid soap you have used.
- Use the cheese grater to grate soap finely
- Put the grated soap flakes into a plastic bag
- Add 1 tablespoon of liquid soap
- Add about 3 tablespoons of water (add it bit by bit to make sure the mixture doesn’t get too wet – different brands of soap will react in different ways)
- Close the bag and make sure it is well sealed
- Squeeze and knead the soap through the plastic until it becomes smoother and forms a solid lump that sticks together
I was rather lazy here and got bored grating the soap so I decided to throw it into my food processor (it is very old) and despite it making a really scary noise, it worked great.
*WARNING* This could damage your blades so if you 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.
How To Make The Soap Shapes
For this step, I find it great that you do not need to buy any special soap-making molds to do this project.
All you need are some basic cookie-cutter shapes and you are good to go.
Knead, roll, and add a pattern to the soap mixture
- Take a handful of the soap from the bag and knead it until it becomes soft and putty-like
- Make a ball shape and flatten it with your hand (aim for a thickness of about 2.5cm (1″)
- Place embossed place mat (or whatever you are using) on soap
- Use a rolling pin to evenly imprint the pattern into soap, be careful not to roll it out too thinly
Aim for approx 1.5cm – 2cm (3/4″) in depth (you need to be able to push a straw through the soap shape to make a hole with out it breaking up)
Cut-out soap shapes
- Now, select a part of the pattern you like and use a cookie cutter to cut it out
- Re-roll the scraps of soap and repeat pattern printing and cutting out process
Make a hole in the top of the shape
- Take a wooden skewer and make a hole through the soap
- Then make the hole bigger by pushing your straw through (this should give you a hole big enough to put your twine through)
If you have problems and your soap begins to crumble just check that it’s not too dry, then knead it further and make your shape a bit thicker
Cut-out air-dry clay shapes
I absolutely love working with self-hardening air dry clay! Its versatility and the fact it is so easy to use makes it a great medium for many different clay craft projects
So if you do want to include the self-hardening clay shapes in your design then just repeat the same steps you did with the soap
- Knead it
- Make a ball
- Use your hand to press it flat
- Imprint pattern
- Cut out shape
- Make a hole with a straw
Allow to dry out
Allow a couple of days for the soap and clay to dry out completely.
How To Put The Soap Chains Together
The next step is to create the soap chains.
This is my favourite bit because you can let your creative juices flow.
Just add different beads, soap shapes, and embellishments to create your very own custom designs.
When I first thought about making these I had a different idea in mind. I wanted to use large wooden beads together with some burlap or some red gingham ribbon.
Unfortunately for me, it’s not always possible to find certain things locally where I live, so I had to rethink the design.
In the end, I went with the idea of creating some shapes using some stone-look self-hardening (air-drying) clay and some natural twine.
Cut twine lengths and thread shapes
- Cut 1 meter of the twine
- Fold it in half and knot it about 10cm (4″) from the top (this will create your loop to hang it up with)
- Feed the two ends of the string through the hole in the soap
- Push up tight against the knot and knot again closely underneath the shape
- Carry on threading and knotting the rest of the soaps and embellishments
How to make the plaited (braided) twine section
- Cut 4 lengths of twine that are approx 40cm (15″) long
- Place it directly under the soap and secure it in place with the 2 pieces of string from your main chain
- You should now have 10 lengths of string that are hanging down from your main chain
- Divide them into 3 and plait (braid) them as neatly as possible
Secure plait (braid) section
- Cut another 20cm (8 “) length of string
- Unravel it and split it to create thinner pieces of string
- Use one of the thin lengths of string to tie it off the plait (braid)
- Knot at the front and the back to make sure it is secure
How to make the twine tassels
- Unravel the string at the bottom of the plait to create a tassel
- 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 decorative 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 on Instagram – ahappyhomeinholland).
Oh yes, and don’t forget to sign-up for the Happy Home In Holland Newsletter, that way, you won’t miss any updates or new DIY tutorials that get added to the site.