Monday, December 17, 2012

Birthday Soaps!

Short blog post y'all - I have made some "spa" type soaps for my birthday:

Here's the one I made with a friend yesterday with pistachio and shea butters, avocado, babassu, sunflower, castor, coconut and olive oils (cleaning out the mostly-empty bottles), and silk and scented with my first essential oil blend with eucalyptus, lavender, bergamot, orange, and clove.  It smells divine, and I can't wait to see how this turned out.  I agreed to not cut it until my friend can come over again for New Years...  I hope I can wait that long :)

The one I made today for my birthday is with a FO that smells like Bath & Body Works' Coconut Lime Verbena and is made with silk, mango butter, and avocado, olive, coconut, and castor oils.  I am really excited about this one - it looks so pretty in the mold!

Well, off to continue birthday celebrations with my husband tonight - hope you all have had a great Monday!


Thursday, December 6, 2012

Shaving Soap Recipe

My husband and I gave my dad a shaving set for Christmas last year.  When I started making soaps, I really wanted to learn how to make shaving soaps for him to use with his brush and razor.  These are great holiday gifts for the men (and women!) in your life - using the shaving soap with a brush not only gives a really creamy, stable lather, which is useful for shaving, but the brush makes the hairs stand up (on face, or even on legs) to get a closer shave.  I've made the soap in mugs I found at Goodwill and attached a shaving brush I found at Walgreens for a cute holiday gift for friends and family.

I make my soap in the crockpot, with a mix of sodium and potassium hydroxide.  Here's the recipe I use, found here:

165g Beef Tallow
165g Stearic Acid
100g Coconut Oil
70g Castor Oil

180g Distilled Water
65.6g Potassium Hydroxide
25.2g Sodium Hydroxide

1 Tbsp bentonite clay
1 fl oz FO - My last batch was BB Earl Grey Lemon FO, both men and women like the scent (and even one of my dogs :) )

When the oils are combined and the lye water solution is added, the soap batter gets thick quickly.  I usually use a spatula to mix, rather than my trusty stick blender.  I add the bentonite clay after the batter is thoroughly mixed, because the bentonite clay LOVES water and will thicken the batter up considerably.  Then I dump in a crock pot on low and wait for 1-3 hours until it's fully cooked. Even though these are hot-process, I like to let them cure for at least a week before using.

I have made the soap in BB's column mold, but it's extremely hard to unmold, because the soap is more of a very soft soap, almost a cream soap.  It's firm enough to keep its shape, but the users of the soap may find it easier to use if it's poured directly into a mug or saucer to make using the brush easier.

Since the bentonite clay loves water, you'll have to work a little bit and keep wetting the brush, but the lather is amazing.  Check it out :)  It will stay for a really long time on your face / legs, too!

Even my dad loves the soap:

I've been keeping myself busy the past couple days with the new Soapmaker 3 software I got for an early birthday present.  The CPA in me is really enjoying getting my inventory and recipes documented and figuring out exactly how much each of my soaps is costing me (and my wasted batches, like the lye-heavy batch from the last post).


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Lye crystals vs soda ash

When I first started making soap, one thing I was really unsure about was how to tell the difference between soda ash (which is not harmful, but may affect appearance of the soap) and lye crystals (which are definitely harmful and would indicate the soap is lye-heavy and needs to be properly disposed of).  From what I had read, they were both white and formed kind of crystal-like on the tops of soaps as they cured.  Each time my soaps cured for the first few months, I would approach the soap with a fair amount of trepidation, lick my finger, touch the white crystals, and touch my tongue and wait to see if I got a *ZAP* like a 9-volt battery.

Perhaps these pictures will help others identify what white stuff on soap is safe and cosmetic only vs what is very dangerous.  I was trying to use up some oils that I'd had for a half year or so before they started to spoil, and I had gotten some Moroccan Red Clay in the mail, as well as some silk.  I wanted to make something moisturizing and gently exfoliating for the dry Minnesota winter coming up, and I had the evening by myself, so it was a perfect time to get down in my "lab" and play around.

So, I'm still not 100% sure what went wrong, but I am worried that I mis-measured the lye.  My husband helped me set up a soapy lab downstairs so I don't have to drag everything up to the kitchen each time I want to soap.  However, the light in the basement makes the scale a little tricky to read, so I have a feeling I just misread my digital scale and had way too much lye in this soap.

Here's the soap I made with the lye crystals.  It has also leaked lye-heavy liquid while it was curing, but that seemed to have seeped back into the mold by the time I took this picture.  See how it looks kind of spotty and crystalized?  Some of the whiter areas are where they lye liquid dried.

Here's a photo of some sample soaps I cut of a peppermint EO soap that had some pretty significant soda ash.  See how it looks less like crystals and more of a uniform "ashy" kind of white substance?

Here's a photo of both together (pardon the mess of my soap factory (and the quality of my pictures - taken on my iPhone with the previously-mentioned terrible lighting).

Here are the swirls from my caustic soap.  I'm so bummed I have to trash this batch!  The swirls turned out so pretty :(
At least I know the soap has great bubbles!  Check this out when I was cleaning out the mold!
So, time to toss this batch and try again.  I have wanted to play around with the BB Column Mold since my struggles unmolding my cream shave soap (I ended up hacking off the end with a small axe...).  Maybe this will be the soap for my second go with the column mold?

Happy Repeal Day!  Hope everyone is enjoying a cocktail tonight to celebrate the end of Prohibition :)  I am enjoying a Guinness and watching Bootleggers on TV!


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

I'm back!!!

Hey everyone - I've had a really long hiatus from this blog (and from soaping), but for some good reasons...

I have mentioned before about my upcoming wedding, and I was away for a few weeks for the wedding and honeymoon at the amazing Atlantis in the Bahamas!  It was an absolutely phenomenal time - we couldn't have asked for better weather for us and our guests.  We got there a few days after Sandy blew through, and even though Sandy did some damage on the beach we had chosen, we were able to upgrade to an even better beach to have our ceremony.  My husband's uncle conducted the ceremony, we had steel drums for music on the beach, and we had the most amazing food and music!  I had such a good time, and I know everyone else did, too!

We had some phenomenal vendors for our wedding, including wedding planning by Gretchen Culver at Rocket Science Weddings and Events, hair and makeup for the ladies by Brett Dorrian Artistry Studios, photography by Studio Laguna, amazing flowers by Wildflowers in Nassau, and the best wedding music ever (even though I *may* be biased...) by DJ Jose in Nassau.  It was an amazing time!

Then, my new husband and I returned home for a week before we headed off to Detroit for his birthday and Thanksgiving celebration with his family.

Whew!  That's a whole lot of travel in the past month and a half, and I am ready to get back in the swing of things here.  I am working on some new soap recipes with some new fun ingredients I have gotten recently - including hemp oil, pistachio butter, and silk - and trying out some new techniques.  I cannot wait to get back into soaping!!  Have to get my stock back up for all the holiday gifts coming up :)

Here's one picture from our incredible wedding from Katrina at Studio Laguna:


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Hot Process, part deux

OK.  Yesterday was kind of a stressful day.  Maybe I've just been worrying about my wedding in about 10 days, or because I haven't slept well in a few days (due to poor Hobbes' non-stop intestinal distress), or I just was having a worrying day in general, but I thought making some soap would help calm me down and set me back on track.

So, I decided to make the following soaps:  re-try the hot process recipe from yesterday's post, make a vertical-mold white and blue soap with BB's Fresh Snow fragrance, and try out some natural colorants with BB's Applejack Peel FO.

Let's start with the first soap I made - the hot process soap, part two:

 I made the soap using the same recipe as the first batch, but I resized it to fit my 2 lb loaf mold, rather than put it in the cavity molds like I did last time.  I also used less ultramarine blue to try to get the soap to be more purple-y.  I loved the color in the crock pot!  I also used some sodium lactate to try to get it to harden better.
Hooray!!  It set up overnight!!  I was able to unmold it this morning, and snap this pic with the very early light in the dining room today.  The color lightened up significantly, but I still like it.  And I really like the lavender / bergamot EO scents I used.  The top is kind of rough-looking, but the sides really surprised me with how flat and clean they turned out to be.  I may try to do this more often!

Now for the trouble soaps.  Soap #2 - I wanted to make a Celine swirled soap (see blog of the inventor of this swirl here).  I have some madder root and burdock root that I've been wanting to play with, so I did an infusion of each in olive oil.  2 tbsp of madder root in 1 cup of olive oil and warmed in the microwave, and 4 tbsp of burdock in 1 cup of olive oil and warmed in the microwave.  The burdock root made a light green, so I may have to play around with that some more to see if I can get it to be a more distinctive green, but the madder root was a beautiful color.

I was talking with my fiance and soaping and not really paying a ton of attention to what I was doing, apparently, because after I had swirled and finished the soap, OH CRAP, I forgot to put in the FO.  Ugh.  So, it's now a red, green and white swirled soap that is naturally colored and unscented.  
 Here it is swirled and in the mold.  I think it will look beautiful, and I got to play with colorants, so it's not a wasted soap!
Here's what the colors looked like - I remembered to take a photo only after I had started to pour the soap into the mold.  Madder root on the top right, burdock in the lower middle, and plain uncolored soap on the top left.  Will post pics of the cut soap later.

Soap #3.  I had in mind to make a beautiful swirled soap with BB's Fresh Snow fragrance oil using the vertical mold and slowly twisting the divider as I pulled it out of the mold.  I mixed the oils and put some super pearly white mica in the oils before I added the lye, to see how it would look.  Here is the beautiful pearly oil mix in the pot:
I then added the lye, divided into two parts, and added a tiny bit of ultramarine blue in one part to color it a delicate, shimmery blue.  I stick blended, and got the help of my fiance and  poured into the divided vertical mold. I twisted the divider and felt awesome about how the top looked.

Are you noticing something *missing*?  YES.  THE FRAGRANCE.  AGAIN.  So, instead of having 2 unscented soaps tonight, I scented the leftover soaps that didn't fit in the vertical mold, poured the contents of the mold into the pot and did an in-the-pot swirl.  Poured it back in the vertical mold again and the leftovers into cavity molds.  I am really disappointed.  What was supposed to be sparkly and delicately swirled, like fresh fallen snow, looks muddy.  I like the smell, though, and it was another new recipe, so it will likely be a "tester" batch for my squeaky-clean team of feedback providers.

What a night!  I am glad I have to wait a few days to unmold this one, because I don't think I can look at it right now. Maybe in a few days I will be better able to evaluate this one.  I know we should always have plan B's when soaping, and not to get too attached to a design, and this was a tough lesson for me.

Better luck next time!


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

What did I do wrong? Hot Process Edition

I wanted to try a crock pot Hot Process soap, since I received this lovely beauty from my friend Andrea:

 It's a well-loved crock pot, and it came at a great price - free! 

Hobbes always needs to be involved in my photos.  He's a very curious dog...

Last Wednesday, I did some research online, read the chapter on Hot Process a number of times in my The Everything Soapmaking Book, and decided to have a go.  I tried the recipe on page 149 fr dry skin, since I had all of the ingredients for the soap itself.  I colored it with ultramarine blue and ultramarine purple and scented it with Lavendar and Bergamot EO.

I probably should have tried this when I was less pressed for time - I had to run to a volleyball game and had just enough time for the soap to cook and to get it in a mold.  Since I was running late, I didn't think to take photos of the soap while cooking, but I did stir it a few times as it cooked.

Here's what it looked like when I glopped it in the molds:

Love how it smells, but the color is a little too blue.  I also think it looks a little grainy.  It tested as neutral, I got it pressed down and went to my game (which we ended up losing.  Tough night!).

Today, nearly a week later, the soap is still really soft and I can sculpt it and mold it around.  It won't come out of the molds, so I took a knife to try to loosen the edges.  I can scoop the soap out in scoops:

It still smells great, and I still think it's too blue, but I have no idea what happened...  Did I not wait long enough to unmold?  Does it need to set for longer than a week?  I measured everything in ounces as per the recipe, so I'm sure it wasn't as precise as if the recipe was in grams.

I've never made hot process before, so any thoughts would be appreciated! 


Package in the Mail! Oil and Butter

I am so excited - late last week, I received the following soaps from Cee at Oil and Butter (blog here).  She held a contest a few weeks ago to name her Arctic Bathtime soap, and I came in second with my "Barely Clean" suggestion. Here's the photo from her website:

As a thank you, she sent me a wonderful package with the following soaps - clockwise from top left:  Arctic Bathtime, Christmas Candy, Cherry Blossom:  

Here's a better picture of the really cute tops of Christmas Candy and Cherry Blossom:

Some close-ups of each soap:

 The eyes fell off the poor polar bear when I was unwrapping.  Guess I was a little too excited to see what was in the wrapping!

I love how the Arctic Bathtime smells - a little sweet and flowery and clean.  I also love that it's a Hot Process layered soap.  I am struggling with my HP soaps (post on that to come).  The Cherry Blossom has such a beautiful swirl and embedded top.  I love the colors, and the scent is not too strong or sickeningly floral, which is something my nose is very sensitive to.  The Christmas Candy has beautiful colors and has a nice sweet candy scent, and while I normally don't choose glitter on my soaps, I love this glitter!  It's a perfect touch for this sparkly holiday soap.

Thanks, Cee - your soaps are amazing!


Thursday, October 11, 2012

October Projects

I have more soap downstairs than I know what to do with right now.  Good thing in just 3 short weeks, I'll be getting married on the beach and I can get rid of at least 40 of these bars :)  And by "get rid of", of course I mean, "send these bars to fantastic homes"!

I have been playing around with a couple different projects - take a look at what I've done so far!

 This was an experiment with pumpkin puree and cream and BB's Pumpkin Spice FO.  I knew it'd discolor, so I only added the fragrance to half the soap (the side that turned brown).  I really like how this one smells, and I love how the swirls turned out!
Here is a Gingersnap soap I tried with coconut milk.  It took a good 3 weeks before I could tolerate the smell, though - I think the coconut milk smell is too much for me.  I had also hoped it would turn more brown like the Pumpkin one above, but no such luck.  And unfortunately, I used a slab mold, and these were the biggest bars I've made, and the ones I like the least...  I think after another 3 weeks, I'll love them.
Here's an invigorating soap I made for my guests - it's a blend of anise and peppermint EO.  Will really get you going in the morning!
 I love this one the best.  I am trying out a luxe formula, and this one is made with all kinds of goodies - shea butter and avocado oil, and is scented with NG's Christmas Pine FO - smells really "fir-y" and I love it! 
The pattern turned out so great!  I started out with a funnel pour, but the soap started to thicken too much for the funnel, so I finished with a faux funnel pour.  Love how these colors look and the soap feels great!
 I made some peppermint EO soaps with cream for a friend who loves mint-y soaps.  The top one kind of looks like the soap's wearing a bikini :)
This one is for a friend who cannot tolerate scents or colorants.  She just wanted a relatively plain bar of soap in a fun mold.  I made for her a soap with honey, beeswax, and oatmeal.  It smells great, and I love how it feels.  The mold was only around $6 from BB, which was a bonus!


Monday, October 8, 2012


The first post always seems to be the hardest.  I wanted to start a blog to share my soapy journey, new ideas I have, lessons learned, and, probably most importantly to me, document my skills as a soap maker.  I am excited to be able to look back at these soaps that I've done below, that I'm so proud of, and see what I am creating in future years' time!

I have been a crafty person the majority of my life, but I started buying handmade soaps when I became an adult.  I loved their smells and designs, I loved that they were created locally, they made great reminders for me of places I've traveled.  I wanted to make soaps for my guests at my upcoming wedding, so I decided to learn for myself.

It's been addicting so far, as you can see by some of the projects I have sitting around through September.

 I made this one from Soap Queen's Sunshine Soap recipe here. Love the scent!
 I really love this scent - BB's Earl Grey Lemon FO.  The top soap (swirl of the left overs) is my favorite!
 This is BB's Christmas Spice FO - really accelerated on me, so I kind of slopped it in the mold.  Still looks okay, though, and smells great!
 Hobbes is an adorable model, but he's really hard to work with. I'm going to have to have him watch Top Model with me - learn his angles.
 He does love the soaps I've been making, though!
 Here is one soap I made for my wedding guests - Guinness beer!  Scented and colored only with Guinness (my favorite beer).  Next time I'd add some activated charcoal or something to make the beer part darker...
My shop assistant, Hannah :)