Your Best Foot Forward: Crafting a Solid Tutorial Post

August 29, 2013

Best_foot_header

Welcome to our special series on how to write a great blog post! Every other Thursday, we'll debut a new article that will teach you how to write posts for your blog that will engage and inspire your readers, encourage conversation in comments, and keep them coming back for more.   Put your best foot forward and watch your audience grow! Late to the party? Check out the other posts in our series here.

Crafty folks tend to be drawn to blogs and for good reason - it's a great platform for teaching others how to do and make things from the comfort of their laptops. From knitting to woodworking, there's a whole world of DIY waiting.

Maybe you have a skill or craft that you want to share with the world but you're not sure where to start. Telling someone how to do something is very different from showing them in person. Luckily, there are ways to bridge the gap and create a solid tutorial post.

Why would someone want to learn your hobby?

Before you even get into the how-tos, you might consider covering the whys. Why would a new reader to your blog want to learn how to create their own greeting cards, or how to build a kite, or how to blow glass? Is it fun? Is it profitable? Is it a hobby that will allow them to meet new people? Tell people why and then they'll want to know how.

Start with the basics

When a student is learning anything new, they have start with the very basics. It's the same thing with any craft or skill - start at the very basic level in your first tutorial. For example, if you're an avid crocheter, it doesn't make sense to kick off your tutorials with a sweater - go for something that's quick and easy. People are motivated by success.

Don't get too fancy

A lot of hobbies involve buying pricey supplies - don't be tempted to recommend the most cutting edge products within your niche. Keep it simple and accessible. Most people have easy access to craft and hobby stores, so take a look around in your local craft shop to see what's available for newbies. No one wants to buy a ton of new supplies just to make one thing and get bored.  Hey, we've all done it.

Choose the shortest path to success

Sure, you could hand make your own... everything, but the fun of crafting is in the results. Pick a project that people can whip up quickly. Give them that taste of pride and they'll want to learn more.

Walk through your own steps before clicking Publish

Did you forget a step? Did you leave out an important detail that you've only learned through experience? Read through your post with a critical eye and don't be afraid to include a lot of detail. You might even have someone else read the post and walk through the steps to see if they could complete the project without your help.

Ok, let's write our tutorial post. Don't forget to share yours in the comments. We want to learn, too!

How to Make Melt and Pour Soap

Whenever I tell people that I make soap, they give me That Look. Like "Really? You can't just buy it in the store like the rest of us?" What the naysayers don't know is that making soap is really easy, really fun, and really great for gifting. I've made soap favors for both of my nieces' first communion parties and they were a hit.

There are a few basic tools you'll need for any soap-making project, including:

  • A glass bowl or big glass measuring cup. Glass is easy to clean and can withstand more heat than plastic.
  • A cutting tool. I use a cutter like this one.
  • A spray bottle of rubbing alcohol.
  • Something to stir with. I like to use a regular metal tablespoon and a mini whisk, like this one.
  • A clean, flat surface to work on. I have a wood cutting board that I use just for soap making but you can lay down some parchment paper on your counter and that's fine.
  • A microwave. Yes, a microwave.

Then, there are supplies that might change with each batch of soap you create. Those include:

  • Soap base. The possibilities here are endless but when getting started, I recommend the soap base you can find at craft stores like Michaels or Hobby Lobby. It will give you an idea for the process before you venture into fancier soap.
  • Fragrance oil. Again, something you can find in craft stores. Even Whole Foods has basic oils like peppermint and lavender.
  • Colorant. Don't use food dye! Use a colorant that's specifically for making soap, like this. I like liquid dye but it comes in powder form as well.
  • A mold. I really prefer silicone molds because the soap pops out easily. Some of my favorite molds are actually for baking, so take a look around the baking section of your craft store.

That's it! Later on, you can experiment with glitter and different additives but for now, let's make a few simple bars of soapy goodness. You're going to be surprised at how easy this is.

First things first!

Gather all of your materials and have your soap mold ready for pouring. It should be clean, dry, and sitting on a level surface that won't get bumped or bothered by animals or nosy children.

supplies
Make sure to collect all of your supplies before getting started

Melt the soap base

  1. Chop your soap base into small chunks and toss those into your glass bowl or measuring cup. You'll notice that cutting soap base is a lot like cutting up cheese. Don't eat it, it tastes like soap.
  2. Place the bowl into your microwave and heat for 30 seconds.
  3. Take the bowl out and check the melting process.
  4. Stir the soap very gently, being careful not to create bubbles.
  5. Microwave at 20-30 second increments until the soap is completely melted.

Don't let the soap boil, burn or otherwise get crazy. Just gently coax it into melting.

Add the fragrance and color

This is where you get to make decisions based on your own soap preferences. I start with fragrance, pouring in just a few drops at a time, stirring gently and then sticking my nose into the bowl to get an idea of the intensity of the fragrance.

The fragrance will be less intense when it's cooled down, so keep that in mind. I add enough that it's just a bit more fragranced than I'd want it to be when it's cool.

The same goes for color - add just a bit at a time, stirring gently as you go. Be careful not to make bubbles but be sure to completely stir the color into the soap or you'll have streaks.

color and fragrance
Add your color and fragrance and stir well

Pour the soap into your mold

This is when a steady hand is nice to have but it's soap - it'll clean off most surfaces with a wet towel.

Pour the melted soap into each well in your mold, being careful not to pour too quickly or you'll get bubbles. Fill each section to the top without going over.

Next, lightly spray the surface of each section of soap with rubbing alcohol. This very, very gently breaks any bubbles that are on the surface of the soap and leaves a nice, smooth finish.

Walk away from the soap and resist urges to poke at it to see if it's cooled. Don't even look at it, just walk away.

no touching!
No touching!

Your soap is ready!

When you're absolutely sure your soap has totally cooled, you can pop it out of the mold and admire your handiwork. Hop in the shower or package them up to give away to friends and loved ones.

completed soap
Completed soap!
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