Friday, November 20, 2015

Pumpkin Gingerbread Vertical Swirl

It is autumn, which means that it is time for pumpkin-flavored and pumpkin-scented everythings.

I love pumpkin season. Mostly because of the eating of the pumpkins. Pumpkin pie, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin bagels, pumpkin cupcakes, pumpkin lattes.

Pumpkin soup.

But also pumpkin soap.

Here is my contribution to Pumpkin Mania: a pumpkin-gingerbread swirl soap.

I knew that I wanted to make a pumpkin-themed soap. I went to my fragrance cabinet to see what was there and I discovered that I had an ounce of Bramble Berry's Pumpkin Pie Cybilla fragrance oil, which it appears they no longer carry. (It had been hanging around for a few years and I forgot that I had it.)

The Pumpkin Pie fragrance oil would most likely discolor brown, though, due to the vanilla content. I didn't want a brown soap. So I wondered, how can I make the brown work to my advantage?

That's when I decided to combine it with a Gingersnap fragrance oil. My plan was to make half of the soap orange and unscented, and the other half scented with both the Pumpkin Pie and Gingersnap fragrance oils. The unscented half would stay orange, and the scented half would turn brown. I suppose that I could have used just the Pumpkin Pie fragrance oil, but a) I didn't have enough of it for the whole batch, and b) the Gingersnap fragrance makes the brown color make more sense (or scents?), at least in my mind anyway.

I'm calling it Gingerbread, though. Just cuz I wanna.

Next I had to decide on a design. I remembered this tutorial from the Soap Queen blog using Bramble Berry's vertical mold to make a half-circle design in the soap.

The idea is to pour one color into each side of the vertical mold. Then you lift the divider out just enough to get it out of its groove, twist it 180 degrees, and then carefully pull the divider all of the way out. It is supposed to make half-circle designs on each side of the soap; in this case, orange soap with a brown half-circle on one side, and brown soap with an orange half-circle on the other.

Here's a video of me making this soap:

My design didn't turn out as crisp as I would have liked, but it is still a neat look. I think I just need more practice.

For this project, I went with 50% olive oil, 30% coconut oil, 15% avocado oil, and 5% castor oil with a 5% superfat figured into the recipe. It seemed to trace slowly for me. I wanted the trace to be at about medium to help the design stay crisper, so I had to stickblend for quite a while, which is something I usually have to stop myself from doing.

Before adding the lye solution, I stickblended three ounces (84 grams) of pumpkin puree into my oils to get it really well incorporated. ( I also subtracted three ounces of water from the recipe to make up for the water content of the pumpkin.) Then I added the lye solution and brought the soap to trace. I split the batch in half and colored one half with orange mica, mixed with a bit of oil pulled from the total to work out the clumps. I added all of the fragrance oil to the other half and left it uncolored since the fragrance oil would turn it brown. The scented half got a little thick with all of that fragrance oil in it, but it was manageable. The unscented orange half stayed pretty loose.

Then I poured the orange soap into one side of the mold and the scented soap into the other side. I like to pour the two halves simultaneously to keep the divider from coming loose and sliding around. After pouring, I twisted the divider as described above.

While this recipe has a nice slow trace, it does make a soft soap initially. I left it in the mold for a long time - about two weeks - which is probably much longer than I needed to. I'm just lazy. But it probably does need to sit a little longer before cutting to let some water evaporate and allow the soap to firm up a bit.

I had some trouble getting the plastic liners to come away from the soap because it was so soft, but I was able to remove them after putting the soap in the freezer for a few hours. Then I let the soap sit for a couple more days before cutting. When I did finally cut it, it cut well and didn't seem especially soft anymore.

I've tested an end piece and some of the leftover soap and it is very nice! It feels great on the skin and smells delicious.

And the soap pairs nicely with my pumpkin-scented body lotion. Always have to buy some of that this time of year!

Oh, and what to do with any leftover pumpkin puree? Pumpkin Blondies! (I just swapped pumpkin for the sweet potato.)

Are you a pumpkin fan? If so, what is your favorite way to incorporate pumpkin into your projects?

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Dragon's Blood Drop Swirl Soap


Did I scare you?

It's almost Halloween, and so a Halloween soap is in order. I got some of my mojo back and actually felt like soaping, so I hurried to my fragrance cabinet and perused my stash. You may recall that when we moved only a few of my fragrance oils made the trip and I am trying to use them up before buying more. I know, HAHAHA!, right? So far, though, I haven't bought any more scents, but the next time I go shopping for supplies ... well, you know how you start clicking on things and then those things have a way of sneaking into your cart and then later, after you emerge from a hazy fragrance fog, you're like, "Where did all of my monies go?"

Anyway, I had some Dragon's Blood fragrance oil from Elements Bath and Body. I immediately thought of a black and red soap. And the drop swirl technique would be perfect for making gruesome bloody droplets of bloody blood.

To make the soap, I brought the batch to a very light trace. I successfully resisted the urge to stickblend ONE MORE TIME, so the batch stayed fairly loose. I think that I could have stopped stickblending even sooner, though. I'll work on that. I'm almost there.

For the recipe itself, I used 50% olive oil, 30% coconut oil, 15% shea butter, and 5% castor oil. I'm still trying to come up with a palm-free recipe that I like. So far, this one seems promising.
 Here is a video showing how I made this soap:

Because the fragrance oil discolors brown, I didn't scent the entire batch. After bringing the soap to a light trace, I portioned off one cup in a measuring cup and left it unscented. Then I colored the rest of the soap black with activated charcoal and added all of the fragrance oil to the black soap. (I used one teaspoon of activated charcoal per pound of oils, so two teaspoons total for this batch. I also mixed the charcoal with some oil pulled from the total to work out any clumps.) Then I colored the unscented cup of soap with one teaspoon of Merlot Sparkle Mica. This way, the red soap will stay red and the black soap will hide any discoloration from the fragrance oil.

Next I poured the black soap into my mold. To make the drop swirls, I poured the red soap from up high in a random pattern. Pouring from higher up allows the drop swirls to sink deeper into the soap.

Once I was done pouring the red soap, I swirled and texturized the top of the loaf, being careful not to disturb the drop swirls beneath the surface.

To do drop swirls, it's important to keep the soap loose and to maintain a light trace. As I said, I resisted the urge to overmix. And I also soaped a little bit cooler - around 93 degrees F.

These bars turned out boo-tifully! And I tested an end piece and it lathers white, so I don't think I overdid it with the charcoal.

I've got a couple more soap ideas rattling around in my head. Next up will be an autumn-themed soap, and then a holiday soap.

In the meantime, have a safe and fun Halloween! I think this year we might actually have trick-or-treaters in the neighborhood. Instead of candy maybe I should hand out slivers of soap, eh?

Nah. Candy. Definitely candy.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Lemon-Lime Spinning Swirl Fail

So, it's been forever since I've blogged. And it's been forever since I've made any soap. I made this batch in May and that's been it. Part of it is because I've still got soap bars that are a year or two old that I need to use up before I make more. Although if I'm going to make any soaps for the holidays it's about time to get going.

Truth is, I just haven't been interested in blogging lately.

For the past few months I have been distracted by other things, other interests. I just haven't been able to get myself in gear to write a blog post. I would sit down at the computer to do it and then be all like BLURGH. It has taken me months of doing a little here and a little there to get this post done.

My lack of enthusiasm isn't helped when projects go wrong. I'm still struggling with soap batter that is chronically thick. I think I am overmixing, even when I try not to. I see it when I play back the videos. The soap is emulsified and loose and then I watch in horror as I pick up the stickblender one more time and buzz away. In my head I scream, "PUT THAT THING DOWN YOU CRAZY PERSON!" I think I'm afraid of not mixing enough, of getting a false trace, and so I hit it one more time just to be sure. When I feel that urge to stickblend one more time, I need to recognize it and stop myself.

So, as a result of my hyper-diligence, my soap got too thick. Again.

The plan was to create a spinning swirl (or spin swirl, I've heard both and I'm not sure which is correct), a technique that has been very popular lately among soapmakers. I don't know where the spinning swirl originated, but here is a short and beautiful video showing how the spinning swirl is supposed to work. (If anyone knows who came up with the spinning swirl technique, please let me know in the comments so I can credit the creator!)

Here is a video of my spinning swirl fail. Of course, it's not a useful tool for properly illustrating the technique, but it will give you an idea of how this project went for me:

To do the spinning swirl, you basically do a faux funnel pour in each corner of your mold (a slab mold works best for this). In the demonstrations I've seen, the soapmaker alternates colors in two diagonal corners and, after several passes, pours from the other two corners as well. Then the mold is spun on the countertop to make the swirls.

You need to have a very fluid, thinly-traced soap for this to work. I have used this recipe before and it behaved beautifully for me in the past. A while back, I made an Orange Basil Swirled Hearts Soap using the same recipe from The Nova Studio Blog that I used here. (It's the second recipe: 41% olive oil, 25% coconut oil, 25% mango butter, 6% avocado oil, and 3% shea butter.) This recipe traced slowly when I made my Orange Basil soap and I was hoping for a repeat performance this time, but my soap was too thick and I was unable to achieve the spinning effect. So, instead of spinning the mold, I used a skewer to draw a circular pattern through my soap. It's still pretty, but not what I was going for.

And I don't think my fragrance oils (Lemon Sugar and Lime Crystal Kisses, both by Elements Bath and Body) were to blame for the acceleration. The vendor notes and reviews don't mention any problems with acceleration. Most likely I just overmixed my soap. And it probably would have helped to soap a bit cooler, maybe around 90 degrees F instead of 100-105 F.

On the bright side, for a fail this soap turned out pretty well! Looking at the photos, I thought, "That's a nice-looking soap. Not too shabby there, Captain Stickblender." I love how the swirls are throughout the entire bar. These should be really pretty to use, revealing new swirls with each wash.

So things could have gone worse. The soap is still beautiful and it smells nice. The lather feels very luxurious, too.

Yay for happy endings! Now if I could just get my mojo back.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Chocolate Patchouli Soap

Hear me out now.

Chocolate and patchouli are really good together, you guys.

What made me combine the two?

Well, my husband kinda gave me the idea. There was a bar of Geranium Patchouli soap in the bathroom. After he showered, he smelled faintly of patchouli. Then he put on some cocoa butter lotion. And I remarked that he smelled like chocolate and patchouli.

You can guess what happened next.

Off to my fragrance stash, where I knew I had some patchouli essential oil. But did I have anything chocolate-y?

Why, yes, I did. Bramble Berry's Chocolate Espresso Cybilla FO. Funny, I don't pick up any of the coffee notes in this scent. It just smells like chocolate to me. A Tootsie Roll, to be exact. Which worked out great for this soap.

For the fragrance ratio, I used the Chocolate Espresso at a 3:1 rate with the patchouli EO. So, for two pounds of oils, I used 1.5 ounces of the Chocolate Espresso and .5 ounces of patchouli. Looking back, I think I might enjoy a 1:1 ratio better. I was afraid to use too much patchouli because it is such a strong scent and I worried that it would overpower the chocolate. But the chocolate is pretty strong, too, and I mostly smell chocolate in the finished bars, although it seems that the patchouli blooms a bit when the soap is used.

The recipe is based on a Soap Queen guest post called "Sea Clay Avocado Facial Bar" written by Amanda at Lovin' Soap. I didn't use any sea clay, though, and I did swap out canola oil for the olive oil because gawd have you seen how much olive oil costs lately? And of course, I ran the recipe through a lye calculator after making the substitution.

Amanda's recipe includes a good amount of cocoa butter, which goes with the chocolate theme nicely. And I also colored the soap with a bit of cocoa powder at a rate of 1 teaspoon per pound of oil. So, I used 2 teaspoons total here and mixed the cocoa powder with a couple of Tablespoons of oil pulled from the total. I tested an end piece and the soap lathers white, so I think that is probably an okay amount to use. The Chocolate Espresso contains vanilla and discolors the soap brown anyway, but I thought that the cocoa powder would work nicely with the theme as well.

And speaking of cocoa butter, here's a "grate" tip I heard (I can't remember where) for making it easier to work with - use a cheese grater! Take those big chunks of rock-hard cocoa butter and grate them down into manageable shreds. Grate a whole bunch and store it in an airtight container. The cocoa butter shreds are easier to measure and they melt faster, too.

For this batch, I decided to make some gold mica lines, which I thought would look striking against the dark brown color of the soap. I poured about one-third of my batter into my mold and then propped the mold up at an angle with a couple of packs of playing cards. Then I spooned a bit of gold mica into a tea strainer and gently tapped out a light layer of mica onto the surface of the soap. It is important to just cover the surface and to not be heavy-handed - too much mica can make your layers separate.

After I made the first mica line, the plan was to spoon some more soap on top (being very careful not to disturb the mica line) and then tilt the mold the other way to make a line slanting the other direction. I opted to just leave the mold level, though, and to do a straight line, mostly because the soap batter was pretty thick at that point and not very fluid. So I made my second mica line, spooned the rest of the soap on top of it, and then finished it off by sprinkling a bit more gold mica and texturing the tops.

Then I insulated the mold with a towel and set it aside to let it gel. I admit that I have been known to peek at the soap during this stage. I'm glad I looked because the soap heated up pretty quickly and even started to crack a bit on top. So once the soap was in full gel phase, I removed the towel and the cover. Another reason I'm glad I peeked is because it allowed me to photograph the soap about halfway through gel phase. See how it's darker in the middle? The heat radiates from the center outward toward the edges, which is why your soap may get a dark circle in the middle if it only partially gels.

If you look closely, you can see droplets of moisture forming on top of the soap.

The soap developed some moisture on top, but the liquid wasn't zappy at all. I suspect that it was either fragrance oil or condensation from a very hot gel phase.  I let it sit for several days and the soap reabsorbed most of the liquid. When I went to unmold, the sides were a bit wet, too, but, again, it wasn't zappy, so I just blotted the loaf dry with a paper towel.

Here's a video of the making of this soap:

To the cut the soap, I laid the loaf on its side. Cutting from top-to-bottom can drag your mica line through the bar - cutting the soap on its side minimizes dragging and helps keep your mica lines cleaner.

I am very happy with how these bars turned out, and they smell so good. It was difficult not to lick the bowl while I was making this soap - it looked and smelled just like chocolate cake batter.

What are some of your favorite chocolate scent combinations?

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Bedtime Bath Salt Bars

Can you believe that it has been four months since I made a batch of soap?

I made my Christmas Tree Feather Swirl soap in late September and that was it for 2014. My husband and I had a cross-country move looming and I was busy with a million things getting ready for it. Plus I didn't want to haul a bunch of uncured soap two thousand miles.

By late January, we were settled enough in our new home for me to start thinking about making soap again. After such a long hiatus, I was worried that I wouldn't remember how to make soap. So I chose something simple by design and also out of necessity. I was out of almost all of my oils, as I had used most of them up and didn't want to buy more until after we moved. But I did have some coconut oil left, and two pounds of pink Himalayan sea salt.

You know what that means.


(You may remember that I adore salt bars. Hubby likes them, too. You can see previous batches that I've made here. And here.)

I did drag some fragrance oils with us on our road trip. And a bottle of lavender FO leaked all over the place. BUT the car smelled lovely. And lavender is known to be calming, and it is important to stay calm while driving.

One of the scents that made the cut was Element's Bedtime Bath fragrance oil, which also happens to feature lavender - along with chamomile - and it smells like a popular brand of baby lotion.

Salt soap batter gets thick pretty fast once the salt is added, so swirls and other intricate designs are just about impossible. So I decided to do a two-layer soap.

For this batch of salt soap, I used 100% coconut oil. Salt is a lather-killer, so a large percentage of coconut oil is necessary to restore the lather. In fact, coconut oil lathers well in salt water, unlike other oils. And because coconut oil can be drying in high amounts, I included a high superfat of 20% to make the soap more nourishing.

My recipe called for 32 ounces of oils. I decided to use the salt at a 1:1 oil:salt ratio, meaning that I used equal amounts of oil and salt. So for 32 ounces of oil, I used 32 ounces of salt.

The colors that came to mind for this baby lotion-type fragrance were pink and purple, probably due to marketing influences. I brought the soap to trace and then split it in to two equal portions. One portion I colored with ultramarine pink, the other with ultramarine violet.

Next I added 16 ounces of pink Himalayan salt to each portion. Then I poured the purple layer into my acrylic slab mold, smoothed it out, and then carefully poured the pink layer on top of it. Once both layers were poured, I inserted the dividers and let the soap gel.

A few days later, I unmolded the bars. Salt bars get hard really fast, so I could have unmolded much sooner. I just didn't get around to it right away. I especially like using my slab mold with dividers for salt bars because it takes all of the guesswork out of when to cut the soap. Salt soap needs to be cut at just the right time. Wait too long and you get a crumbly mess. With the dividers, I don't have to worry about cutting. And because salt bars are so hard, unmolding was a breeze.

Here's a videoooooooooo!

I'm glad that I've got a new batch of salt bars made and curing! We'll be set for a while now. And with such a fresh, soothing scent, we'll smell like clean, happy babies!

Friday, January 30, 2015

Here I Am!

Happy New Year, everyone! A little late, yes, but it's still January for a couple more days. I hope that you all had a wonderful holiday season and are having a great 2015 so far.

So, where have I been?

More like, where haven't I been?

You probably remember me mentioning a couple of months ago that hubby and I were moving cross-country. Well, we made the journey and we're both finally getting settled in.

A week before Christmas, the movers came and packed up our stuff in Louisiana.

Movers are always super happy when they find out that our apartment is on the third floor. And also that there's no elevator.

The next day, we drove home to Florida for Christmas.

Those presents are mine, you understand? All mine!

It was nice to have a break in between the chaos from the weeks before and the chaos we knew was looming in the weeks ahead. We savored having nothing else to do but relax and spend time with family and friends for a few days.

We even had time for our annual Goofy Golf tournament. I lost. Again. It's a holiday tradition.

A couple of days after Christmas, it was time to pack up the Family Truckster and hit the road. We spent six days driving through the great states of Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona before arriving in California.

This represents approximately 2,100 miles and 32 hours of driving.

I said farewell to my car in Louisiana, so hubby and I made the trip together in his car. I was not looking forward to the long drive, and probably neither was my husband since after only a few hours in the car I tend to get agitated and basically become a giant three-year-old. ("I'm bored ... I'm hungry ... I don't want to be in the car anymore ... I have to go potty.") We made the trip more manageable by breaking it into 4-6 hour days, with the exception of the 8-hour drive from Florida back to Louisiana, so it wasn't all that bad for either of us. And the car drove like a champ and gave us zero problems, which always makes road trips nicer.

And we got to smell the calming scent of lavender all the way to California after one of my fragrance oil bottles leaked. Fortunately, the cardboard box absorbed it all and none of it stained the floorboards. Hubby's car still smells faintly of lovely loveliness. (You're welcome, hon! Enjoy!)

The terrain was pretty flat from Florida to Texas, but as we got closer to El Paso, the topography began to change. Mountains began to appear and the landscape became more desert-like. As the roads became more hilly, my ears began to pop. The scenery was definitely different from what I'm used to, and the drive through the southwest was very pretty. It was so pretty that I sometimes even forgot to whine about being in the car.

Here are some snapshots from our journey:

Wind turbines near Odessa, TX

Hey, look, Stitch was hanging out in New Mexico, too!

Las Cruces, NM.

Between El Paso and Tucson, we saw several billboards coaxing us to make a detour to behold "The Thing."

We didn't stop to visit The Thing, but we did visit the Googles and found some info about The Thing there. (Spoiler alert.)

Somewhere in Arizona along the interstate.

FINALLY made it to California!

We rolled in to town on New Year's Day. Talk about a fresh start to the new year! Our stuff arrived about a week after we did, so we stayed at Base Lodging in the meantime.

Moving-in day.

The house was a disaster for the first week or so after unpacking. Here is a before-and-after of my soap supplies storage room: 

Before                                                                   After

The move came with a few glitches and headaches. We lost a few screws (literally and figuratively), and I'm still not quite sure what's going on with our mail. But I think we've got most things worked out now and we're settled enough to start checking out our new surroundings.

We've already found some restaurants and shops that we like, and I've got a jogging route and a routine at the gym squared away. There are lots of fun things to do, both of the indoor and outdoor variety. And we are treated to some gorgeous views around here:

Now that things are finally calming down, I think I can even begin to think about making soap again soon! I am short on a  few soapy supplies, but that should be rectified shortly. I do have some coconut oil and pink Himalayan salt on hand. A batch of salt bars may be a thing that is about to happen ... 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Christmas Tree Feather Swirl

Seasons greetings, everyone!

I hope that you all are gearing up for a wonderful holiday season with family and friends. And I also hope that you've got your holiday soaps ready for gifting!

This year, I made only two holiday soaps: Peppermint Wonderland and this Christmas Tree soap. I usually make more, but hubby and I have been anticipating a move, which has kept us both distracted, and I still have plenty of other soaps that I can gift.

But when I saw this Christmas Tree Swirl tutorial on the Soap Queen blog, I just had to make it. It is inspired by the Secret Feather Swirl technique created by Zahida of Handmade in Florida. (Check Zahida out - her soaps are absolutely amazing!)

This soap features a sort of reverse feather swirl. Instead of pushing a hanger swirl tool into the soap after pouring, I poured the soap over the hanger swirl tool and then pulled the tool out to create the Christmas Tree look.

I used my Essential Depot RED silicone mold along with my hanger swirl tool from Great Soap Shop for this project.

For the oils, I used olive oil, vegetable shortening (soybean/cottonseed blend), coconut oil, and rice bran oil. I had some coconut milk in the freezer, so I used it for part of the liquid along with some distilled water to make up the difference.

The scent is "Eucalyptus Cedar" from Elements Bath and Body, and it is a woodsy, outdoorsy scent
that is perfect for a Christmas Tree-themed soap. It appears that Elements no longer carries this scent, which brings a tear to my eye because it is fabulous. Oh, well, life is full of disappointments.

So, here's what I did. After scenting and bringing the soap to light trace, I split off two 8-ounce portions. One portion I colored with hydrated chrome green pigment and the other with gold sparkle mica.

The rest I colored with super pearly white mica, and also some titanium dioxide just to make sure that the soap turned out a vivid white.

The green and gold soap were then poured into squeeze bottles. (Remember to snip the tips!)

My hanger swirl tool fits snugly into my mold, so I placed it at the bottom and then poured a layer of white soap on top to cover it. Then I squeezed a thick line of green on top of the white soap right above where the hanger swirl tool rested beneath. Then another layer of white, followed by a thick line of gold, more white, more green, and so on and so forth, alternating the colors. I ended up making three green lines and two gold with a layer of white in between each.

Tip: It's good to bang the mold on the countertop and give it a gentle shake every now and then to get rid of air bubbles.

Once I had poured the final layer of white, I pulled the hanger swirl tool straight up and out of the mold to create the Christmas trees inside the cut bars. Then I finished the tops off with the remaining green and gold and texturized the soap just below the surface with a spoon, being careful not to disturb the feather pattern underneath. Actually, I think I held back a bit too much green and gold soap and could have gotten by with less.

I wanted my soap to be at a thin trace, but once again I had trouble with the batter thickening up. Fortunately, the soap was still manageable and everything worked out okay.

At any rate, it definitely looks like there are little Christmas trees inside the soap (although some look more like Christmas trees than others), and the fragrance fits the soaps perfectly.

Here's a video I made showing the process:

I hope that you all have a wonderful holiday! As I mentioned earlier, hubby and I are moving to California at the end of December, but we are going to work in a trip home to Florida for Christmas before we go. After Christmas, we'll take a few days to make the cross-country drive. I'm not sure when I'll have the chance to make another batch of soap since we'll be spending a good chunk of January getting settled. But I will make some as soon as I can!

Wherever you are and whatever you celebrate, I wish you and yours a wonderful holiday season and a happy New Year!