Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Great Cakes Soap Works Challenge--The Wall Pour

I must have read Amy's mind, because a week or so before I received the October Challenge technique, I had been messing around with wall-pour soaps. I've been doing these quite sometime, but mostly using a regular mold. Vinvela Ebony who created the lovely Dandelion technique had a series of tutorials I found somewhere where she featured this technique. I do all kinds of things with it.
Sandalwood & Patchouli
In the example on the left, I did alternating pours with the red and white with thin traced soap, then dumped in the mustard yellow. Each bar is so cool--never know what you're going to get!  This is my standard go-to technique for Sandalwood Patchouli soap. Here's one I did using a skinny mold before Amy announced the challenge.
Cherry Almond
This scent makes my mouth water. It's been wildly popular at the craft show--black cherry almond. I wish I could enter this one, but alas, I can't, but I didn't  mind having to make another one because it really is a fun technique and always lovely.

I chose Wholesale Supplies Plus, Black Amber Musk, because it smells divine and sells well as a uni-sex scent. It's hard to describe, but it's soft and sexy. For most scents, it's fairly easy to come up with a color scheme, but this one confused me. I've grappled with blues and greens, another time turquoise blue and navy. Well, amber is amber, but what color is musk? If you Google what is musk, you get this: "A strong-smelling reddish-brown substance that is secreted by the male musk deer for scent-marking and is an important ingredient in perfumery." Now, I  generally like to match my colors with my scents, but in some cases, a literal interpretation might not be the best. But, if you do a Google Image search for the "color of musk" you get this:  I like purple, so that's what it's going to be.

Black Amber Musk
All my colorants for this soap came from Nuture Soaps. I chose 5...dark purple, light purple, white, grey, and black which would appeal to my male buyers.
I poured every color down one side, then switched down the other, repeating till I was done. I tilted my mold using a "Better Homes & Garden Cookbook." which gave it a pretty good tilt--much more than the demo. My batter was a little thicker than anticipated. Black Amber Musk has never accelerated on me before. Frankly, I think I just over mixed a bit; however, it stayed pourable the whole time. I oven processed these in a 170 degree for about 30 minutes--just enough to get the gelling process going and then took it out to do it's thing.

I wanted the black to be minimal, but it ended up being black spots down the sides. Not bad, really, but not what I wanted. I liked the S curves though. I think this technique works best with 4 colors for this particular look. I am so stinking excited to see what everybody comes up with!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Helix Swirl Great Cakes Challenge

It's been ages since I've used my square mold, so I was pretty excited to break it out and try the helix swirl. As a soap maker, I'm drawn more to the mystery of soap designs made inside the soap. The agony and ecstasy of the anticipated unmolding and slicing appeals to me more for some reason, but it was nice, for once, to not have to wait. What you see is what you get. Not that there wasn't any agonizing preparing for this soap. First it was going to be a Black Amber Musk soap with blues and purples, but I had more than enough blue soap on the rack.

What I really needed to round out the stock was an Oat Milk and Honey soap. It sells well all year and with little flourish. This is one of my plain Jane soaps that people LOVE. I make with actual oat milk (yes, I milk my own oats), real honey, no color other than what the fragrance and oat milk impart. I wonder if it'll sell just the same with helix fancy top? For the challenge, I went with my super-stay fluid go to recipe for swirly designs...high percentage of olive oil and sunflower oil. For my colors, I thought Nuture Soap Mocha Brown, Morrocan Red Clay which is orangey-red, and white would look good together against the tannish base. I wasn't going to milk the oats for this one since I knew it would thicken up my recipe, but last minute, I said what the heck and milked the oats anyway. I had some leftover coconut milk, too, so I threw them both in, at trace, using only half the normal water called for. I think its called milk-in-oil method and it works great. you detect a theme of liking to frustrate myself? I knew the milks would thicken it up. Would it stay fluid enough with this recipe?

Full steam ahead, sure enough, just a few spins with the stick blender and it was thickening up, but behaving nonetheless.I put a few ounces of the three colors into three squirt bottles and went to town. This was the fun part, but I was sweating bullets trying to go fast before it really thickened up, but surprising stayed pretty good. Now for the "S" curves to create the helix. I am "S" curve challenged. I even printed out Amy's "S" curve cheat sheet and between sweating bullets  and being dazzled by those pretty colors, I  didn't know where one s started and the other quit. I think it looks pretty chaotic. You can see the drag lines made with the chopstick, but I really like how it gives extra texture to the soap.

I really wanted to make sure this soap gelled, so I put it into warm 170 degree oven for 15 minutes.
I usually don't do that with my milk soaps, but I didn't think 15 minutes would cause any cracking. It definitely would have if I added honey, but left it out of this one. In my experience, I think gelled soaps are much less prone to developing ash and there is nothing worse than ash on this type of design. It worked great! Here's the bars after about a week. I love it! Thanks Amy! As always, another fun technique/challenge. I can't wait to see all the pretty color schemes people come up with.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Great Cakes Works Butterfly Swirl Challenge

Yeah!! Boy, was I excited to hear that January's soap challenge would be on the Butterfly Swirl, created, I think, by the infamous Zahilda of Handmade in Florida. Didn't she win, like, seven challenges in a row? I've stalked her you tube videos quite a bit. I've been trying the technique since last summer with inconsistent results. Every once in awhile, I get those perfect butterfly loops, but not often. I couldn't figure out what I was doing wrong! How exciting for Amy to show us, step-by-step each nugget of wisdom for coaxing the elusive butterfly out of its soapy cocoon. Thanks Amy--you're the best!

Since I'm re-stocking the soap shelves for spring, I did a practice batch with my Triple Butter Lavender soap in my new tall skinny mold from Nuture Soaps using their Purple Orchid Vibrance mica and Super White titanium dioxide. Each bar of my 11 bar batch was lovely, but only one mirror image set really looked like a butterfly when set side by side. Here it is:

For my actual challenge soap, I was decided on a Gingery Orange soap using Fandago Pink mica, Orange Vibrance mica, Turquoise Vibrance mica, and Super White Titanium Dioxide from Nuture Soaps for my swirl in a base of Cafe Latte Sparkle mica from Wholesale Supplies Plus. I used mostly White Tea Ginger from WSP and just a touch of Brambleberry's White Tea Ginger that I had leftover in a sample bottle which I had never actually used in cold process soap, but I figured it had to be similar. The two scents are so alike; however the devil on my shoulder said, "You know, you shouldn't use a new fragrance oil especially on a soap challenge, but it's just a tiny bit, it couldn't hurt a thing!" Wrong! I used a recipe I've used dozens of times and was surprised it was tracing pretty fast. The portions I had separated out for my colors were really thickening up. I plopped the colors in fast as I could and swirled using the exact motion Amy demonstrated in her video, but I knew this wasn't going to work--it was just too thick! Yikes!

I knew the swirls weren't going to work, but what surprised me the most about this batch was the colors! They totally morphed. Fandango Pink turned orange, Turquoise turned greenish, and Orange Vibrance turned yellow! I was stumped, until I pondered that tiny bit of Brambleberry White Tea Ginger I threw in. Don't get me wrong, Brambleberry has excellent products, but even on their website they warned this scent  could morph in cold-process and that it did. My bad for not checking! The soap, is still lovely and smells amazing--I think it'll sell very well this spring, but I was going to have to try one more time for the challenge.

For me, this technique is very hard to achieve consistently. I tried once again, and apparently, my soap was not thick enough and the swirls were thin, wispy and lovely, but not like my first attempt, so I'm going with my Triple Butter Lavender attempt for the contest. Can't wait to see what everyone comes up with!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Sizzling Citrus

Trying to sell a bunch of these little lovlies at the farmer's market. It's scented with orange, grapefruit, and patchouli. I used carrot puree in my base and shored it up with chamomile and calendula infused oils to help summer skin recover from fun in the sun.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Hanger Swirl Challenge: Joseph and the Technicolor Dream Soap

Oh boy, oh boy, oh I love this technique. I was so happy to hear Amy was going with this super simple technique, because once you get the right recipe down, it creates an infinite number of variations to keep the stick blender purring happily. I'd say probably 80% of my soaps use this technique in some capacity. Traditionally, it's done with a clothes hanger bent to conform with your mold, then stuff wrapped around the middle to make it a little thicker. I tried duct tape wrapped around 30 times, but near poked my eye out and felt the resulting swirl a little anemic, not to mention the unpleasantness of cleaning raw soap off the tool later. There had to be a better way. I knew there were swirling tools especially made to fit certain molds, but I wanted something cheap and flexible to use with different sized molds. I love reading soap maker's blogs and one day stumbled across a soap maker talking about how she swirls soaps. She uses a Gear Tie. It marketed more to dudes in the employment of organizing tools and rigging up stuff. You bend this baby any way you want and it's easy to clean! Unlike a thin coat wire, or even one pathetically wrapped with duct tape, this is just the right thickness to move thin to moderately traced soap. I bought mine on clearance at Target for around $3.00 and remains in active duty.

Another thing that's really important with the hanger swirl, is that your soap batter be Momma Bear just right. If the soap is too thick, the gear won't drag the soap in that fluid manner that gives your swirls life and motion. Too thin, and the colors meld and don't drag the soap. After tweaking recipes forever I came upon a good recipe that's approximately 43% saturated Oils to 57 % unsaturated. Include a little sunflower into your recipe and it works great! I incorporate my lye at 32%, which is just a slight discount, but enough to harden up my soap faster than otherwise. I change up the oils occasionally, but stick to this ratio. I'm really horrible about putting colors together, so I turn to Design Seeds a lot, or look to clothing, curtains, fabric...anything for ideas! My family just bought a hammock and the colors are fabulous..very summer-like and semi-patriotic without being exactly red, white and blue. When my husband and son were putting the hammock together, my son, goofing around, wrapped the hammock around him and said, "Look...I'm Joseph and the Technicolor Dream Coat!"
I headed to my soaping lab (my dining room table) to see if I could duplicate these colors into a Dream Soap!

To scent my soap, I went with my Love, Peace, and Happiness essential oil blend of sandalwood FO, patchouli, lavender, and a wee bit of orange. This is the most popular scent blend  I sell. Seems like young, old, male and female love it! Even self proclaimed patchouli haters like it once they smell it, and it sells year round. It's truly love, peace, and happiness consolidated down into a soapy little bundle of wonder.

The cool thing about the hangar swirl is you can swirl in any direction you like, up and down, side to side, or a combination, and as many times as you like. Since my hammock was my inspiration, I didn't want to do an aggressive swirl, but rather a simple rolling-type wave. I layered my colors near the center of the soap in a base of matte yellow, Dandelion-type style, against a flexible divider, then made a few brief passes with my hanger. That's it! So simple. I was very pleased that the actual soap matched the vision in my head. This hardly ever happens and makes me giggle like 5 year old as I cut my soap. Again, I have to thank Amy for putting on the challenges. I consider it my professional development, even if I never win, and going through the resulting soap, soap maker entertainment of the highest order!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Great Cakes Soap Works Challenge-Glycerin Mica Swirls

I was very excited that we were going to be doing glycerin mica swirls for this month's challenge. I did this technique once before on a pumpkin soap and while it was really cool and elegant, I don't think a pumpkin soap was the right vehicle to carry off the glam imparted by this technique.
I wanted to do a soap that was dark, exotic and sexy, so I decided on a sandalwood patchouli soap. Is there anything sexier than patchouli and sandalwood? I'm a sucker for real patchouli so I used the real deal along with a FO sandalwood. I was having a hard time coming up with a color scheme, so I turned to design seeds for inspiration and came across this swatch called "creature tones" Now, this was a sexy color scheme. Reminds me of my brief stint as a divorcee dating younger men and wouldn't it go great with sandalwood patchouli? I don't think non-soap makers realize the dozens of little decisions that occur even before the first oil is pulled off the shelf.
 Now, what to do with these colors? I decided on a modified dandelion technique using wide bands of my colors separated by the neutral base and then swirled lightly with a hangar. I used a recipe that included sunflower that would give me plenty of time to play. For the purple, I was excited to try out a new order of Purple Brazilian clay. The black was made with activated charcoal and the burgundy, a mix of merlot sparkle mica and red oxide. For the top swirls, I went with white sparkle mica mixed with oil and 24K gold mica with glycerin. I thought they'd make a nice contrast with base colors.

Day After
Thinking back to the time I used glycerin on my pumpkin soap, I was astounded at the cavern carving capacity of the glycerin...carved a little Grand Canyon river system on my soap top! For my challenge soap, I didn't want the river system, so I planned to go much lighter this time. Here's how it looks right after I swirled. The white mica shows as the white swirled through the black. The gold mica glycerin pools up as little beads. The next morning it looked like this: 

One of the profound joys of being a soap maker is waking up the next morning and unmolding soap. I get a little flutter of excitement just like I'm eight years old again waking up Christmas morning. Will these "creature" colors really work? Did my swirl work? Ahh...the sound of my soap cutter gliding through 11 perfect bars of sandalwood patchouli! I was very happy with the results...ended up more tiger-striped than I thought, but it certainly works with my cougar, sultan sexy theme and that's what I'll call it...Sultan's Sandalwood & Patchouli. Thanks Amy for putting on these challenges. It's soap maker paradise going through everyone's posts about their soaps. 

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Spring & Summer Soaps

It's sad how little I've posted and there's absolutely no reason since I went part-time at my day job, but I've been making and selling soap like a maniac. It never ends, does it, all the different things to be tried with soap? I thought I'd share a few soaps I've made over the last week. Today I did a men's soap using indigo powder. I really felt like my colors have been anemic lately, so I took care to use a lot and ended with black which works, I guess, since the fragrance oil I used was one of WSP's top-rated man smells, Black Tie Fragrance. I was going informal blue jeans and ended up with formal black tie, but hey...great thing about soap...sometimes all you have to do is change the name. Next time, I'll remember to go lighter on the indigo.

The soap on the top left is actually a Christmas soap I've toned down for May. I've been doing home parties and my next hostess, Sue, requested this soap as her complimentary loaf. It's done in a square mold, alternating four bulls-eyes of pink rose clay, darker rose clay, and white kaolin clay. I run a chop stick though the circles drawing abstract poinsettia leaves with mica-in-oil swirled in for glam. She loves it for the scent, which I realized was an unusual blend I concocted last fall with lavendin, blood orange, clove and marjoram. The marjoram is a bit pricey, but it adds so much to the blend and Sue is worth every penny...she's one of my best and most vocal customers. One of the reasons she sings the praises of homemade soap, in addition to the usual, is that she feels it creates less, or virtually no soap scum, and matter of fact, I've noticed the same thing in my shower. Hmm...never really read much about that particular effect, but if Sue says it's true, it must be! Her home is immaculately kept, while mine...not so much these days!

The soap on the top right is my classic lemongrass lavender I made as a birthday present for Sue's husband. Per request, this batch, while not visible in the picture, includes the little lavender buds on top, grown organically last year in my little herb patch. He insists on them...he said the soap just isn't the same without them. I tried to make the last batch more contemporary sans the buds, but there was push back.  I sprinkled them on gingerly this year, with a tear in my eye, since my lavender plants didn't survive the heinous polar vortex that cloaked the whole northeast. I've had those bushes for more than a decade! Waa! But....I will plant again!

The soap on the bottom right of the top picture is Love, Peace, & Happiness--60's vogue version. I love the scent blend..patchouli, orange, and lavendin essential oils with a liberal dose of sandalwood FO. I can't get enough of this scent. Since Love, Peace, and Happiness takes many forms, I change up the design every time I make it, but the name, and the scent, remain the same. Here's what it looked like in the two previous batches. The one on the left developed a horrible layer of ash which I steamed off twice, but kept returning. It didn't seem to deter customers though, as it's always a good seller, no matter what form it takes. This one was made with natural clay colorants droplet style with a hangar to lightly swirl. Now, back to Love, Peace, and Happiness--60's vogue you see the little flaw on the bottom of the soap? This happens to me more than I care to admit and it's born of pure unadulterated impatience. It's the equivalent of turning an insufficiently cooled scratch cake upside down to remove it from the pan, and little pieces stick to the pan! I unmolded the soap when it was still too warm. I use a water discount, a higher percentage of hard oil, and sometimes sodium lactate, so I'm used to unmolding on the same day, but I push the envelope sometimes, and get this...flawed bars. With time, I hope to get a better grip on my impatience. Happy Soaping!