The Best Way to Learn Soapmaking
Soapmaking is a dynamic process. Unfortunately, words (or even photographs) just don't adequately capture what's happening. I could spend an hour describing "trace" to you and detailing what you should watch for... but it's just not the same as being able to see it yourself, and in that one second, getting it.
For that reason, I believe the best way to learn soapmaking is in-person, with an experienced guide. There's no question in my mind that this will give you the best chance of really understanding what you're doing, and of becoming a happy, successful soapmaker.
Not everyone has access to a master soapmaker. Or the time and money to find one.
The next best thing is to learn by video. You still get to see exactly what's happening, in real-time. You get a sense for how soap actually looks as it goes through each stage, and how long things take. It's the next best thing, in my mind, to having an expert walk you through the process in-person.
My Favorite Video
Learn to Make Cold-Process Soap
I used to recommend an online video, but I've talked to alot of people who are concerned about the download process. Instead, I've started recommending the DVD Learn to Make Cold-Process Soap to friends.
It's a great video for beginners that walks you through everything you need to know to start making soap. And, because it's a video, you'll see *exactly* what should be happening - no need to guess!
There are a couple books that "classics" in soapmaking circles. They both are rated highly on Amazon, and provide invaluable information. I'd still recommend picking up a video for learning, but if you need some extra information... you can't go wrong with either of these....
Smart Soapmaking: The Simple Guide to Making Traditional Handmade Soap Quickly, Safely, and Reliably, or How to Make Luxurious Handcrafted Soaps for Family, Friends, and Yourself by Anne L. Watson
Soapmaker's Companion: A Comprehensive Guide with Recipes, Techniques & Know-How (Natural Body Series - The Natural Way to Enhance Your Life) by Susan Miller Cavitch