Tuesday, February 25, 2014


We've had one sickness after another here lately. First, we all shared a head/chest cold that had us barking like seals. My nose has almost stopped running from that but now we are in the middle of a yucky stomach bug. I can't say that it's horrible because it's really a mild one, but someone in this house has been throwing up just about every other day for the past two weeks. It's just really slow moving and seems to be taking it's time going through the family. Cleaning up after someone's been sick is not my thing, but I really do think somehow it's different when it's your own kids. I have been reading soap blogs, but there hasn't been much time to make soap or blog about making soap. The one good thing is that our grocery shopping is really simple these days. We've pretty much been eating toast, saltines, bananas, and gatorade :).

I did have to share this one. I made it several weeks ago, but never got around to blogging about it. It is scented with White Ginger and Amber, and I'm happy with how it turned out. Somehow the soap batter was too thin when I started to pour, so I didn't think it was going to turn out. I've never had a soap move so slowly, but it was a lot more relaxing and fun then having to stress and hurry hoping that it won't get too thick too fast. The colors aren't very creative, but I do love the pink with the black and white, so I don't mind :). I think the stripes made it so my camera had a really hard time focusing.

Hopefully tonight, barring anybody throwing up, I will get a chance to make a batch. I have a couple scents and new ingredients that I've really been wanting to try!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Need for Speed

This soap moved crazy fast! Following my first experiment with yogurt I decided to do it again. I loved how smooth and almost silky it made my soap feel. Since I was using a very high percentage of olive oil, I decided to try a very slight water discount in my recipe. I wanted to be able to unmold the soap and not have it be sticky for weeks. A water discount is something I had been reading about and was very curious to try. I also tried to mix a bright purple. As you can see, it turned out more of a pink. I was scared that too much blue would make it too dark, but I think I should try more blue next time.

Everything was going okay. The soap traced quickly, but I was prepared for that and the batter seemed manageable. I divided the batches colored them and added the fragrance oil. I used Kentish Rains which smells so nice and fresh and light. As soon as I added it, the batter started to thicken. Oh no! I should have checked on it before I decided on a water discount. Okay work fast, I thought. My intention was to pour layers with black mica separating them and then putting a spoon all the way to the bottom and bringing it up all throughout the soap. Well, I knew I was in trouble by the second layer. I don't even know how to describe the texture. It was stiff and waxy! I went for it with the spoon, anyway. I'm a little bit stubborn. But when I scooped no new soap filled in to take the place and I couldn't even banging the mold on the table to get the soap flattened out. I tried to smoosh it back down with the back of my spoon, but even that didn't work perfectly. As a result, there are some pretty big holes in the finished soap, especially at the edges and top. And it wasn't very swirly in the end. A little disappointing for sure. There was no way to stop this one from gelling, so I just went with it :).

I love how the mica line separates the layers, though. I brushed some pearly white mica on top. I figured what did I have to lose? It looks a little gaudy to me, but not too bad. I unmolded and cut the soap after just twelve hours. It was already so hard that I had trouble getting the knife through it, but the texture is really nice and smooth. All in all, it turned out better than I thought it would with the problems that I encountered, and I'm excited to use it. My take away lesson is always double check the fragrance oil comments before you use it, and don't try too many new things at once :).

Monday, February 10, 2014

Power Circles

A little over a week ago my lye finally arrived and I was itching to get soaping. I love baking, but since my oldest son was diagnosed with celiac disease the fun of baking has kind of disappeared. Baking is either expensive or a real frustration when things don't turn out as planned. I think that's one of the reasons I have grown to love making soap. It involves all of your senses like baking ( except taste of course) and you don't get the extra calories ;). I also love the scientific side of soap making! I love learning about the properties of different oils and how to combine them to form the perfect bar of soap. I guess it uses parts of my brain that hasn't been used much since high school chemistry :).

With that said, I had formulated a recipe using soapcalc.net that I thought sounded good. I measured out my oils and butters ahead of time and decided at the last minute to add yogurt to my recipe. I had some homemade yogurt sitting in my fridge that no one was eating. Instead of letting it go bad, I had the bright idea of experimenting. Up to this point, the only liquid I had used for my soap was water. I decided to use yogurt for half of the water in the recipe. I read that instead of freezing the yogurt and putting it with the lye and water, I could add it to the oils, so that's what I decided to try. Everything went fairly smoothly from what I could tell. I colored the soap with rose clay and activated charcoal and scented it with black raspberry vanilla. I heard rave reviews about that particular fragrance and was excited to try it. I am so sad to say, I really don't care for it. To me it seems very perfumey and heavy. It's not terrible, and thakfully I went for a light scent, so I don't think I will mind too much using it. I think when guests come over to our house I'll have them sniff it to get their opinions :).

From my reading, I seemed to remember something about not letting soap with milks in it gel and to keep them cool, so I decided to play it safe and pop the finished soap in the freezer. The next day, I pulled it out and unmolded it. I let is sit the rest of the day and cut it the next day. Let me tell you, getting nice straight layers is harder than it looks, and apparently I need lots more practice as this was not the look I was going for at all! I think next time I may need to let the bottom layers set up for a little bit before adding more on top??? I don't know. Oh well! I'll have to show you the most interesting thing I saw when I cut into the soap.

Do you see it?? There is a circle in the middle. I had read about power circles and it was neat in a strange way to see one in person. I don't care for the look, but it was neat none-the-less. A power circle is when the middle of the soap heats up and gels, but the rest does not. So not my most successful soap, but interesting anyway, and at least it's still a usable soap if not very pretty. And hopefully the clay, charcoal, and yogurt will be nice on the skin :).

Sunday, February 9, 2014


What is saponification??? Since I have started to make soap, my poor husband, mom. and sister have had to endure my talking about soap endlessly. They are very patient with me, but whether or not they understand (or even care) about my ramblings, I'm not sure :). I'm talking to my poor husband about trace, saponification, superfatting, and water discounts, and I get a blank stare :). So for my family and friends, I present to you the process of making cold process soap! I'm sure you are thrilled beyond measure. (And for those who care, saponification is simply the process of adding a base (sodium hydroxide) to an acid (oils and fats) to get soap and glycerin!)

So, I like to make sure that I have all of my ingredients weighed out and ready for action. Making soap is fairly simple process, but it does require precision in measurements. Too much lye, and you could end up with a harsh, brittle bar of soap that is not even able to be used. I have yet to have a soap that is lye heavy, knock-on-wood. I've heard that one way to be sure is the "zap test". The soaper will touch their tongue to a bar of soap. If your tongue feels like you licked a battery, your soap is lye heavy. Crazy right!

Once everything is ready. I suit up in my gloves and safety goggles (sorry no picture), and I add my lye to my water. The first time I mixed my lye water I was pleasantly surprised that my kitchen didn't explode :). The lye reacts with the water and gets very hot. Now comes the part of waiting for the lye to cool down. I'm still learning what temperatures I prefer to soap at. Once the lye is cool enough (so far I try to keep it between 95-105), I add the lye water to my oils. I get out my stick blender and start to pulse it.

This is the cool part. I love watching the oils come to trace. The mixture changes from a separated mixture to a more uniform mixture and starts to thicken. Trace can be from light to heavy. Anywhere from the consistency of a melted milk shake to thick pudding. Once trace is reached, your soap (because that's what it is now) is ready to be colored and scented.

This is when things get fun. Sometimes at this point funky things happen, like the fragrance oil can make your soap set up too much to even pour (that's a story for another post). If your soap behaves, there are countless designs you could make. The sky's the limit. So you grab your mold and pour and swirl and have a good time.

Once the mold is filled you can either cover it and insulate it, or you can choose to leave it uncovered, or even throw it in the fridge depending on if you want your soap to gel. Now gelling is when the soap continues to heat up in the mold and turns almost transparent and more liquid for a little while before it finally sets. To me, gelled soap seems harder and smoother and shinier. Gelling soap usually results in more intense colors as well. Ungelled soap seems creamier and takes longer to set up and get out of the mold. Like I've said before, I lean towards to texture of gelled soap, but I like the softer colors of ungelled. Your soap can be unmolded and cut within a couple of days. The soap needs to cure for 4-6 weeks. Curing helps the excess water to evaporate and produces a nice mild bar of soap. So that is my "dummies guide to soap making"! Thanks for bearing with me :). And thank you, Rich for taking pictures. I'm not talented enough to do both at once!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Crossing My Fingers!

Waiting not so patiently to get this soap out of the mold. I was going for a Tiger Stripe. We'll see if I actually got there :). The mold is teasing me. I can kind of see through to the edge of the soap, but I want to see the middle!

Sherbert Soap

This soap is probably my favorite so far. I am a sucker for the bright colors and the smell is awesome. My son, Asher, called it sherbert soap. It is scented with Pink Grapefruit. This soap smells so nice and tart. Just smelling it puts me in a better mood. I tried to get a little bit of a hanger swirl in it, but the hanger I used was a little thing, so the swirl is not very dramatic.

Swirly Sandalwood

A couple of months ago I got a pair of boots for the winter with a gift card. While I love my boots, I was even more excited to have a big rectangular shoe box! A shoe box in our house is rare. When we do buy shoes, they're usually the kind on the little hangers at Walmart. Needless to say, I was thrilled with my new slab mold ;). I decided to try a swirl. I lined the shoe box with a garbage bag to prevent soap batter leaking out of the corners. I thought it was nice and smooth. After I had unmolded the soap, though, I saw that it had left imprints of creases on the underside, so that was a little dissapointing. Live and learn I guess.

I colored the soap with black, a winey red, yellow, and gold mica. I normally gravitate towards bright pinks, yellows, and greens; but this color combination is nice. This is a very moisturizing bar with Avocado oil and Avocado butter. So the lather is more creamy, but it is nice since the heat is on almost non-stop these days.

I am in love with this smell! When I was younger, my mom would let my sister and me pick out some Bath and Body scents a couple times a year. When I got married, there was no room in the budget for things like that, so I'm not very knowledgeable about smells. I had not clue what Sandalwood smelled like. When I smelled it straight out of the bottle, I thought that i had made a mistake! I hated it; but after soaping with it, it is one of my favorites. It's so warm and not too heavy. It's so nice in the shower.

Again, I had a hard time cutting even regular shaped pieces. The more I tried to straighten edges, the more they needed straightened :). I ended up with pretty small bars and a bunch of scraps, but overall I was happy with my first swirled soap!

Monday, February 3, 2014

This Was Supposed to be a Column Pour

I've only made nine batches of soap so far. Although not all of them have turned out how I pictured them, nothing so far has gone drastically wrong. So even though I can't call this soap a complete disaster, it really deviated from my plan.

With my two youngest boys rivaling Curious George in their mischief, I am only comfortable soaping at night. I do not feel comfortable at all having lye water sitting anywhere around the house with the boys awake, no matter how high. With this soap, I mixed the lye water and got a little impatient for it to cool down because it was getting late. Couple that with the fact that I get a little stick blender-happy meant that by the time I went to pour the soap, it pretty much just glopped on top of my column without running down the sides. I ended up spooning it in the mold. The soap gelled completely very quickly, and I was standing there staring at it wondering whether or not I should stick it into the fridge. In the end, I let things take their course, and nothing disastrous happened :).

Even though the perfectionist in me is a little bothered that the soap doesn't look all that great, this soap smells good enough to eat. It is scented with red apple, kumquat, and what my husband thought smelled like Mountain Dew. It is a crisp fruity smell instead of really sweet. I'm excited to be able to use it in about two more weeks.

In other news, my lye finally came today! Looking forward to a nice quiet soaping session tonight.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Mantra Swirl (Well Kind of)

Back in October, I got the book Soap Crafting by Anne-Marie Faiola, otherwise known as The Soap Queen. The book is wonderful. It's worth buying for the beautiful pictures alone! The book's instructions are simple and well-written and very accesible for a beginner like me. I decided to try several projects from the book to get my feet wet in playing with colors. One of the soaps that I tried was the mantra swirl.

The recipe was a mix of palm, coconut, rice bran, olive, and canola oils, with palm kernal flakes and shea butter. As it has cured it has gotten super hard and shiny, which I love. I have not tried it yet, so I'm excited to see how it lathers. I decided to gel this soap. I love the texture of gelled soap, but I prefer the colors of ungelled. I am torn!

The soap is scented with Rise and Shine fragrance oil from Brambleberry. It is citrus with a hint of apple, grapefruit, and peach. I loved that it was fruity, but not too sweet. The fragrance, however, seems to have faded a bit as it has cured. Maybe I will add a bit more next time I use it.

The top of the soap with the white on it looks a little funky. My batter thickened pretty quickly and by the time I squirted it kind of just sat on the top. I also notice now that my titanium dioxide was not mixed in well enough. I think next time I will probably divide my mold into three so that the design goes all the way through the bars. It drives me crazy that I have some bars with the white and some without. And I almost like the ones without better becaues of the problems I had with it. As you can see, I need to work on my soap cutting skills! I can't get even sized bars to save my life. Maybe someday I will be able to get a fancy wire cutter :).