Sunday, September 8, 2013

NFC North Soaps

Are you ready for some football??  I am!  To celebrate the fall and the first football game (my Vikings vs DH's Lions), I decided to make some NFC North football soaps.  I first made a Lions soap, because my husband is a HUGE Lions fan.

The first soap is nice, but I didn't like two things - first, the blue is really light (see the Lions hat to the left), and second, the fragrance (Beach from WSP) really accelerated on me, so the swirls didn't come out quite as I had pictured.

On my second try, though, I was so happy.  I really love this soap!  It is scented with NG's Green Tweed, and both the colors and design turned out just as I had wanted!!

Look at how well this color matches!  I feel awesome looking at it :)

Next, I moved on to the Green Bay Packers, because I have many Packers fans friends.  It's scented with BB's Coconut Lemongrass FO.

I really love how this mica top turned out - I wish I'd thought of doing it on the Vikings soap instead :/

Here's the finished product - it's a really pretty Packers soap.  (too pretty, my fellow Vikings fans have said...)
And finally, to my pièce de résistance - the Vikings soap!

I used LabColors to make the purple and gold of this soap.  When I first mixed the purple, though, it was this crazy blue color.  I wish I had taken a photo before I put it in the oven, because the blue / purple on the entire top of the soap loaf was really beautiful.  You can see the color on the side of the mold below - it was more of a Lions Blue than a Vikings Purple before I heated it up...

Straight lines are not my specialty, but I really love the effect of the colors and lines - looks like football to me!

This soap makes me feel proud, too!  It's a gorgeous color, and the purple is a nice, deep purple.
But where is the Bears soap, you may ask?  I didn't make one.  Because the Bears still suck :)

Hope you all had a good Sunday, and even though my Vikings didn't win, our household is happy because the Lions did win!


Thursday, August 29, 2013

Fall / Holiday Scents

Fall is my favorite time of the year.  I love that the air gets crisp and cool, I love the smell of the dying leaves, I like that we don't have to mow the lawn so frequently, and the colors we get up north are so beautiful!

I've been testing out some fall fragrances to add this year, and here are some pics!

This is a blend I made using BB's Almond Biscotti FO, some coffee EO I had at home, and a little cocoa powder to make the base of the cupcake a bit more tan.  This fragrance smells ah-mazing!  I even keep one cupcake up in the living room while it cures so I can smell it whenever I want :)  The blend with the coffee EO is so fabulous - I just wish the coffee EO wasn't so expensive.  This is definitely a limited-production blend.  (side note- I think I've finally figured out the right consistency to pipe soap designs.  I am so impatient, I never wait long enough.  I think I finally nailed it on these cupcakes).

Ok, this next one is not a traditional fall scent, but I wanted to show off this cool halo effect the woad powder gave these swirls in this Caribbean Coconut soap.  We got married in the Bahamas last year less than one week after Hurricane Sandy passed through, so these colors and swirls remind me of a Bahamas hurricane.

Last year, I tried to make some Fresh Snow soap, but I ended up forgetting to scent the soap before I poured it in the mold.  This design is just what I was going for, using BB's vertical mold.  I love the scent, I love the colors, I love it all :)

And last, but not least, is my Gingerbread Cookie soap.  This is such a delicious fragrance - it smells just like a gingerbread cookie!  It's a nice, round fragrance that is not too sugar-forward.  The soap batter was not quite thick enough to suspend the gingerbread man embeds, but I feel happy with how this soap looks and smells.  I used a vanilla stabilizer to help prevent the soap from discoloring too dark.

I am looking forward to trying a few more fall fragrances coming up.

Have a great day!


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Playing with LabColors

I have been having so much fun lately with colors.  I had ordered the sample LabColors from BB a few months ago, but I haven't tried to play with them until recently.  I read the instructions on how to use the LabColors, and while using them diluted is preferred, you can also use them undiluted in drop-sized amounts.

I had 2 new BB scents - Berrywine and Spiced Mahogany - that I wanted to try out for my fall soaps.

First, the Berrywine.  I didn't love this scent out of the bottle - it smelled too similar to red wine that has gone stale.  I used the (undiluted) formulation for Wineberry Mist in my packet (1 part red, 1/2 part emerald), squeezed the color drops directly into the soap, and mixed the color in the soap with the tiny blender.  I wanted to try a color gradation, and I'm really like how the layers turned out.

You can see that there are specs of colors in the layers.  This is because I didn't dilute the LabColors and I just added each drop directly to the soap, instead of mixing the color and then adding the entire color to the soap.  The scent also really mellowed over time, and now it smells really nice and bright - no longer like the day after a party.  I will definitely make this soap again!

Next, I tried Spiced Mahogany.  I was super excited about this, because I've always wanted to smell like Ron Burgundy's apartment (Anchorman reference - I love that movie...).  The fragrance has discolored because of the vanilla.  I made one layer using the suggested formula for Oyster (1 part canary, 1 part peach, 1 part royal purple).  Same spotty problem as the berrywine soap above, but I am really loving this scent!  It's a nice masculine scent, but I don't think it's off-putting.

After this initial run, I found my Germall Plus preservative, some 2 oz bottles I had around (I needed 8 oz for the fully diluted 10 ml LabColor bottles, but 2 oz bottles are all I had, so I scaled the water and the LabColors added down to 1/4 of the instructions).  After all my LabColors were diluted, I made this Wish Upon A Star soap with WSP's Beneath The Stars FO.  I really love this scent.  I wanted to make the soap look like nightfall, so I used LabColors, because they will bleed and blend the layers, and this gave me an excuse to use them, now diluted!

I love how this turned out!  The embeds were nice and sharp, and the layers did bleed, which had just the effect I was looking for!  And the scent is really heavenly (see what I did there?  haha!).

Hope everyone is enjoying their day!


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Rebatching Salt Bars - a mostly picture-free tutorial :)

Sometimes when things go wrong, I just don't want to document that I've had a "learning opportunity".  I regret that choice in this case, because I learned a lot through my salt bar mishap.  I will try to paint you pictures with words for this tutorial.

I made a loaf of salt bars one weekend morning.  I knew they'd be ready to cut in 2-5 hours, but I had only 2.5 hours before I had to leave for the weekend.  I was using a Brambleberry 5 lb mold with a sliding bottom and a silicone liner so that I had nice, crisp edges.  I slid the soap and liner out of the mold before I truly realized how soft it was!  I tried to maneuver everything back into the mold, but half of the soap ended up sliding up and out of the mold, creating a really tall mess of soap.

Since we were in a hurry to leave for the weekend, I let the soap blob sit and figured I'd think of something when I got home the following day.  I did a lot of research on rebatching salt bars, but I seemed to only find instructions to crumble up the bars and use them in new soap batches.

I decided to try to rebatch in my crockpot, just to see what would happen.  Since I had tried to rebatch only about 30-35 hours after I made the bars, they were not rock hard yet (my recipe is 80% coconut oil, 15% avocado, 5% castor, and 60% salt to oils - I think this lower percentage of salt kept the bars softer a little longer).  I salvaged the half of the recipe that stayed in the same shape as it was poured.  I painstakingly crumbled up the blob, stuck it in a crockpot on high, and let it sit for a half hour.  I didn't add oil or water, since the bars were so fresh.  Checked after a half hour, and it looked exactly like when I first put it in.  Checked in another half hour.  No change.  Kept checking, and *finally* 3 hours later, the soap had completely melted and was in a perfect consistency to put in a mold.  I made sure to mix up the melted soap again before I stuck it in the mold.  A few hours later, it was ready to be cut.

What's cool is that it's very difficult to tell the rebatched salt bars from the original - the soap melted so well there were no textured pieces remaining to give away the fact that it was rebatched!  I don't plan to rebatch salt bars going forward, but it's nice to know it can be done!  I have only tried with relatively soft, fresh soap - I'm not sure whether this would work for older, more cured bars, though - if anyone has tried, I'd love to hear about it!

The soap on the left is the rebatched salt bar - the one on the right is what I was able to salvage before The Rebatch.
The rebatched bars also seem a little less crumbly than the original bars after they've been curing for a few weeks, but otherwise, I don't notice a difference between the two, which is awesome!


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Rebatch Soaps (and some beer soaps for good measure)

I've been really enjoying hot processing my soap lately, so I wanted to show off some of my most recent creations:
This is a Cucumber Wasabi Cilantro fragrance that I HP'd - I wanted to get the flecks of color in the bars, kind of like granite.  I'm pleased with how the purple and green really did accent these bars.
This is a Pink Himalayan Salt bar that I rebatched (post to follow) . I love the color that the salt adds to the bar.

It's time to think about beer soaps.  I have really enjoyed making them in the past, including the Guinness soap I made last year, because beer makes the lather nice and fluffy and gives the soap a great toasted caramel fragrance.  I added white kaolin clay to these two beer soaps for a little extra exfoliation.

It's been a week since I made the Oatmeal Stout soap, and the scent has finally calmed down - I had to put it in the garage while it's been curing because the entire house has started to smell like this soap.  I like the scent, but it was incredibly overpowering at first!
The one uses BB's Oatmeal Stout FO, and has some swirls of activated charcoal. 

I do really like the soap now that the scent has faded.
I also made a berry beer-y soap :)  This one has some raspberry beer that my parents gave to me for soaping and a berry vanilla FO.  I added some pink kaolin clay for color, and I'm in love with how this soap smells and looks.
Even though the round soaps can be a pain to make, I really like how they fit in my hand!

Until later!


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

New Soaps (and gratuitous dog pictures)

Wow - time really flies!  I can't believe it's been so long since I've sat down and written a blog post.  I always tell myself I want to be more disciplined about this kind of stuff, and of course once I've made a decision to do something regularly, I no longer want to do it :)

I wanted to showcase my new soaps that I've made in the last month or so, but before I do, here are some spontaneous pictures I got of Hannah & Hobbes earlier today when they were investigating soap I was planning to photograph.  I guess they're not the Lead Soap Sniffer and Lead Soap Investigator for nothing!

Hobbes was laying in the sunbeam, looking so adorable, I had to try to get a picture.

Soon, Hannah came over to investigate why I was paying so much attention to Hobbes.

She had to prove she could do model poses, too :)

My two-headed dog monster

I love it when Hobbes does that head tilt thing.  It's like he's saying "Well, Hannah is how she is, what can I do?"

Now that those photos are out of the way, here are some pictures of soap :)

This one is a Black Raspberry Vanilla swirl - I wanted to try the feather mantra swirl - I am pleased with how it turned out!
I tried out two manly fragrances - Barber Shoppe and Santa's Pipe from WSP.  
Barber Shoppe accelerated trace on me a ton, but I was able to tamp the mold many, many times to get the layers to stick together and eliminate as many air bubbles as possible.  They are really only visible on the sides.  

Kris loves this scent, but my favorite is the Santa's Pipe - it's the first time I worked with a vanilla stabilizer, due to the high vanillin content of this fragrance.  This soap makes me happy that I make (and can keep) as much soap as I want - I am absolutely in love with this fragrance, and I may not share with anyone else :)

It's a perfect cherry tobacco scent - comforting, but not smokey.  I'm definitely reordering this fragrance!

Hope everyone is enjoying their Wednesday!


Thursday, June 27, 2013

Lye Safety and New Soaps!

My former set up for soap making was in a room with a cement floor using a relatively flimsy wooden base with a door on top laid flat for the working surface.  It was mostly level and mostly sturdy, and it was nice and wide so I had room for all of the dishes needed for my soap.  I knew I needed a better set up, but I had been dragging my feet on building something different.

I say that in the past tense, because recently I had a pretty scary lye spill that forced me to be more proactive on building a sturdy soap work bench for myself.  I set the container with my lye solution on the part of the table where the hinge of the door was on accident, and it spilled EVERYWHERE!  What's worse is that Hobbes was also with me, and when I yelled at him to get out of the room, he got so scared and curled up into a little ball.  So, I took gloves off and brought him out of the room, and went back to control the damage. As everyone hopefully knows by now, lye solution is very dangerous - the lye solution completely ate the paint on the floor where it spilled!  For anyone who has been feeling lax about lye safety - let this accident be a warning to everyone to continue to exercise good caution around lye and raw soap.

So, luckily I (and Hobbes) were unharmed, and the only real damage was to the floor paint.  I researched and found this work bench plan, and bought the hardware to make it.  I enlisted the help of my husband and dad to build this "two hour" bench.  Probably an experienced carpenter could make this bench in two hours, but not me.  I cannot tell you how many trips I had to make to the hardware stores nearby.  I kept going to different ones so that the employees would't recognize me :)  I powered through, though, and got it done!  I feel so good about myself now that this is built and level!

Here is the final product - I can't wait to start creating again!!  This bench is great - it has a 6" long work surface with 2 shelves, it's really sturdy and can hold a significant amount of weight, and I have a cool hanging light that I was able to attach right to the bench for plenty of light as I'm creating.  Best of all, the design created nearly no waste of wood!

My favorite part is the counter top I found for the workbench surface.  It raises the bench up another inch, which makes it more comfortable for me.  The bench is 30" deep and has 4" wide ledge in the back, but the counter top is only 24" deep and has a ridge in the back.  This makes it a perfect place for me to put the containers with lye or fragrances out of the way so they don't get bumped and spill everywhere.  Love it!

Before The Spill, I was playing around with some more design ideas for the Pinkberry Mimosa FO that I've really loved lately, and here is a Tiger Stripe version with heart embeds:

I'm glad the Tiger Stripe came out well - I want to make a signature soap for Hannah and for Hobbes, and I thought it'd be fun to have something tiger-related (either color or pattern) for him.

Happy Thursday, everyone!


Friday, June 14, 2013

Equality Soap 2.0

I'm sorry it's taken so long to post pictures of my two newest soaps, but I've been working on making my own light box (blog post on that to come...) and simply haven't gotten around to it.

For the Equality Soap, I was disappointed that the green color morphed in the cold process soap.  Even though the site where I purchased the colorant said it was safe in high PH products like cold process soap, it just didn't do what I wanted.  I have had good luck with BB's Green Chrome pigment, and I had previously made a number of small Christmas tree guest soaps using that pigment that were a perfect green for the rainbow color scheme.

I chose my 3 least favorite Equality bars and shredded them down and separated the colors (and excluded the gross maroon color that was supposed to be green.  I'm sure that it will be lovely embedded in a different soap, though!).  I also shredded 2 of the small tree guests soaps for the green color I needed in the rainbow color pattern I wanted.

I really love the confetti look of this soap!  

I scented it with WSP's Pure Rain fragrance oil, because I was looking for a clean, ozone-y scent for this rainbow soap.  I mixed a white batter to a medium trace and poured 1/6 of the white batter with the shredded red color.  I did the same with the other 5 colors, ending up with the violet color on the top.

This made a HUGE bar - it will be over 6 oz when cured!!  Here's another photo:

I also ordered the heart tube mold at WSP, because I was inspired by the adorable soaps that Jennifer has been making with the mold.  I have been really loving the Pinkberry Mimosa fragrance oil from WSP also, and I made this batch with pink kaolin clay for the bottom part (and the top) and BB's Gold Mica for the top portion.  I am so happy with how this turned out! 

I'm sure I say this after most of my soaps, but this may be my new favorite :) I even am loving the halo effect that the cocoa powder is creating around the heart and throughout the pencil line.

{When I was looking at these pictures with my chin in my hand, I swore I could smell the fragrance.  Then I realized I WAS smelling the fragrance - since I just finished photographing these soaps, the smell was still there...  Maybe it's time to call it a night!}

Hope you all enjoy the weekend!  It feels like it's been raining every day since it stopped snowing in May, but tomorrow afternoon is supposed to be gorgeous, so I plan to be outside, celebrating with friends!


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Soap Volcano!!

I took some time this holiday weekend to catch up on some soap ideas I have had drawn out but haven't had time to make.  My first three batches turned out just as I had wanted them to - I'll write a post later when I have time to clean them up and get some good light for photos.  

The troublemaker was the next batch I attempted to make.  My fourth (and last) batch of the night was a remake of a hot process lavender soap with alkanet root.  I make it in my BB vertical mold, because I like that it keeps all of the edges nice and smooth, even though it is hot process.

{warning - this may or may not be a boring post - I didn't think to take any photos of this process, so it's going to be a "pictures with words" post :) }

I had run out of bowls and equipment to infuse my soaping oils with the alkanet root, so I had the brilliant idea to just infuse the alkanet root using my crockpot while I was working on my other soaps.  The infusion went great, although I needed a second pair of hands to help me strain out the alkanet root powder (thanks Kris!).  The oils were super hot, and I put them back in the crock pot to stay warm.  I mixed my essential oil blend and put it the table next to the oils so I didn't forget to put it in the oils.  Two seconds later, I knocked the cup over, and the whole soaping area still smells like lavender.  I suppose it could be worse - it could smell like neem oil!

The oils were HOT, though - around 180 degrees!  Since the soap batter over 200 degrees while it's cooking, I had the brilliant idea to just mix the 170 degree lye mixture with my 180 degree oils to save myself some time.  Luckily, I stayed by the crock pot to clean up after I had stick-blended the lye and oils, because less than 10 minutes later, this mixture of blue-purple beads started to volcano out of the crock pot and spill EVERYWHERE!  So, I yelled for my husband, stirred the soap back down into the crock pot, and took a couple deep breaths.  I also turned the crock pot down to low.

Luckily, the soap in the crock pot kept cooking and went through the normal phases.  It eventually didn't zap, and I got it in the mold without a problem.  I guess all's well that ends well, eh?

I've never seen a soap volcano, though, and I've definitely learned a thing or two from that harrowing experience!  If only I'd had the presence of mind to grab my camera so I could record it for posterity.  Hopefully I don't have another volcano to record...


Saturday, May 18, 2013

Equality Soap!

I am not one to post political stuff on my blog, but I am proud that earlier this week, MN passed a law to legalize marriage equality!

George Takei even posted this pic on his FB page - she is a friend of my hubby.
So, to celebrate, and so that I could practice making layered soap, I decided to make a rainbow equality soap.  I had 2 2-lb loafs, so I figured even if I screwed one up, hopefully the other would still turn out.

I had bought some neons and oil-locking micas from WSP and also have some awesome neons from BB, and mixed my colors for the rainbow:  red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, and some white for hearts on the top.

I haven't used the WSP colors yet, and to my dismay, the oil-locking green turned a gross brown when I mixed it in the soap batter, and when it saponified, it turned this weird light maroon color.  Not quite what I was going for, but now I know not to use this for a green going forward :)

Here are some pics of the soap I took on this cloudy day today:

I'm happy with how the hearts turned out - I was really worried with keeping the top layer at a light enough trace to do this.

The layer between the yellow and blue is supposed to be green.  Disappointing.

I broke through the layers on one loaf, so I made it a spoon swirled rainbow :)

It looks kind of tie-dyed with the way the swirl came out.  I kind of like it!
Way to go MN!  Have a great Saturday, everyone!


Monday, May 13, 2013

Rosemary Oleoresin Extract (ROE)

I like to use some oils that are soft and have a shorter shelf-life in my recipes, like sunflower oil.  In the past, I have used a mixture of Vitamin E (.5-1%) and Vitamin C (.25-.5%) to help retard rancidity in my soaps.  I haven't had many issues with rancidity to date, which has been great!  Due to how quickly I've been using my oils lately, I just add the extract directly to my master batch when the master batches are prepared.

However, when I was digging around on the internet for something else unrelated, I stumbled across this interesting study which seems to indicate that while Vitamin E & C have many great skin benefits and can help defer rancidity in oils in general, Rosemary Oleoresin is a better performer to preserve shelf life of oils in soap.  The article is written by Kevin Dunn (author of Scientific Soapmaking) and is a very interesting read:

Since the ROE rancidity effect appears in this one study (I am trying to find other studies which will confirm these results), I wanted to give it a shot in some soaps to test drive it a bit.

I made a 2-loaf batch of a repeat of the soap I made for the mica swirled top challenge, and added the ROE to the oils at .5% of the oil weight.  However, while I was mixing the oils to trace, the ROE didn't mix in well with the rest of the soap batter.  There was a layer of reddish orange stuff floating on top of the batter, even as I stick-blended it through medium trace.  I didn't think to take a photo while this was going on.  Now that I've re-read the articles, I have definitely over-used the ROE in my soap batter (recommendation of .02-.1%, depending on where you're reading).  I also tried to soap cooler than normal - around 75 degrees, instead of my usual 110 degrees or so. Since these kind of challenges go in threes, I had also forgotten to put in the EO blend I had mixed up for this batch, so I'm going to make another batch tonight WITH the scent this time :)

What's interesting is that when the soap batter was poured, the top of the yellow layer looked pretty green.  However, when I went downstairs tonight to take pictures after it had set up for a couple days, the green layer on top has gone away. It must have re-absorbed into the soap?  Very strange.

Here you can see a very slight variation of color between the top and the side.  However, I had just unmolded the soap, so the color difference could be the more wet soap vs the drier top.

In this picture you can see the color a little, too, but the top doesn't look green like it did when it was soap batter.

Here's a picture of how they turned out cut.  I really like these colors for the scent, even though these ended up unscented :)

Another show-off picture

Here is a good blog post which looks at the anti-microbial claims of ROE and whether it can function as an effective general preservative:  (in short- it is not a sufficient stand-alone preservative system).  For anyone interested in cosmetic chemistry knowledge, Susan's blog is a great resource, and has some excellent starting recipes for lotions, shampoos, etc.

I've been researching what happens if one uses too much ROE in soaps, but I'm not finding a ton of information.  This soap will be relegated to personal use until I can determine whether it is safe to use.

Also, I had a friend over a few weekends ago to help me take some pictures and show me how to use my little old point-and-shoot.  She took some amazing pictures with the natural sunlight, and she showed me some good ways to set up and use my camera, too.  I'm so happy with how the pictures turned out!

Some Chocolate Mint cupcakes - they look like edible cupcakes!

The Challenge #3 soap - mica swirled tops

Yuzu / Orange soap

Soap Challenge #2 - Elemental Swirl

This one I took myself :)  Rosemary Mint.  It looks similar to the ones my friend took with her SLR camera, even though you can tell hers are better.

Have a great Monday!