Monday, August 19, 2013

Soap Challenges

I've been following the Soap Bar's challenge series for awhile now. I read up on everyone's results. It's so fascinating, and I learn so much it's ridiculous. I'm a barely walking--maybe still crawling soap newbie with just about a year of experience. I'd say three batches out of every 10 come out exactly as I planned. Some come out better than I planned, but most of the time I totally miss the mark on creating the elusive vision in my head. My latest quest, an abstract elegant pumpkin soap, came out pretty close to the vision, but now I'm thinking my vision a bit myopic. I did an angled soap, three layered angles, starting with a natural soap at the bottom, a pumpkin layer in the middle (yes, real pumpkin!) and the top a super white creamy top (no, not real cream...just too much titanium dioxide). I topped with a glycerin mica oil swirl of gold and bronze. I just learned that from the Great Cakes gal, so thought I'd give it a shot. My daughter questioned the drizzle over whipped cream, but I said, "Heh...this is abstract elegant pumpkin...imagine it's a caramel glaze!"

Now for the's where I's hard to get a good pumpkin scent using essential oils..sure I can use ginger, clove, and cinnamon, but it's not the same as those pumpkin pie synthetic fragrances. Sure there's real pumpkin, but pumpkin mixing with lye doesn't translate. I don't use fragrance oils, because I feel they somewhat defeat the purpose of handmade soap, but then again, these particular essential oils can be just as irritating in certain amounts as synthetic fragrances. I'm still sitting on the fence about essential vs fragrance oils, but for the time being, I use only essential oils. Another thing that keeps me on essential oils are all the horror soap stories about uncharted fragrance oils causing soap to crawl out of it's mold. Soap making is messy enough...just don't need that that aggravation.

While reading about the Soap Challenges, I've been a little obsessed about the "Holly Swirl" a technique named from the lady at Missouri River Soaps. She's awesome. I stop by frequently to drool over her soaps. I tried it first with my cucumber calendula soap, but  even though it was much too thin and just sunk to the bottom and a total fail on the Holly front, it's still one of my summer favorites. Here it is.

My second attempt at the Holly Swirl is in the oven for the oven part of the CPOP. My plan was to do a white base and my ITP Holly Swirl would be a black-fushia pink combo. I used a different recipe that I knew would be slightly fluid but medium thick. While I've never have destroyed a soap batch, me and colorants have had a long hard painful education...I mess them up a lot. When using activated charcoal, I fear ashy gray and tend to overcompensate with too much which subsequently discolors lather and destroys the household white wash cloths. I read somewhere that grey in the soap phase turns darker later, so that's what I was going with when I added about a half teaspoon to my 12 ounces of soap for the Holly. I put in the pink just like all the You-Tubes and videos advise and plopped it in the white base then swirled with chopsticks. It looked like pink-tinged grey sludge, but I'm really keeping  my fingers crossed. Here's what it looks like just out of the oven...going through its gel phase.
My daughter added the heart line embellishment to the top. She's heavily influenced by somber dirge bands like Black Veil Brides. I'm calling this: Charcoal Bleeding Heart Soap. Can't wait to see the inside. Just like the colors--black, pink, and white, I scented with something equally contrasting... light lavender, lemongrass, and exotic, sultry patchouli. I don't know if this is appropriate for the fall show and Christmas Show, but what the heck. It might just end up being one for the family soap shelf. didn't turn out at all. The pink in the black swirls just faded into the black. Not sure why this happened--not enough pink? too thin? It's enough to drive a soap maker to madness. I haven't even taken a picture of it. It's still beautiful...I'm going to call it Charcoal Bleeding Heart because the inner swirls are dark and somber like a recent breakup.


  1. I love your abstract pumpkin soap, Cindy! The tilted layers look really cool. I usually make a pumpkin soap for the autumn/winter season, too. I like to use a Sweet Pumpkin FO from Elements. My nose has a difficult time picking up spicy scents, and this one is more sweet than spicy. Your cucumber calendula soap is so pretty, too, with the swirls. And I like those hearts on top of the charcoal soap. Can't wait to see it cut!

  2. Thanks Jenny! I'll have to post a picture, but the pink didn't come out at all! I'll post the picture in my next post.

  3. It's too bad that the 2nd attempt at the swirl didn't work out. The color combo definitely looked interesting. But hey, the joy in making homemade soaps is in the experimentation. Sure, some may not turn out the way you want them too but there are good lessons to pick up from it. :) -Melinda @ Newport Sea Foam Trading Co