Friday, May 13, 2016

Soap Challenge May 2016 - Teardrop

I am excited to see the entries to this month's Soap Challenge. Honestly, I am in awe of those who have already posted who can do so well with this technique. It is such a simple, yet elegant design. Its mastery eludes me.

This was a tricky challenge for me. I watched a few different YouTube videos on this technique along with the tutorial. They all made creating a teardrop in soap batter look effortless. This one was my best result.

This soap was created using a variation of the recipe Amy provided and scented with Winter Gardenia, a personal favorite of mine. While the color choices were perhaps not ideal, it was the best example of a drop I could do.

Good luck to everyone in the challenge!

The Rest of the Story...

That was my short description for the Soap Challenge. Here's what else happened...

This was my first try. In my mind this soap was going to be impressive. In real life, what's most impressive are the glycerine rivers big enough for a steamboat cruise! And, after a week's cure, I noticed the color toward the middle morphed to a yellow hue. Honestly...I have used and gelled these colors before and never had a problem. These soaps just turned out strange.

Then, there was the matter of the teardrop. They look like something plucked from a Dr. Seuss book. I pondered what I did wrong and then prepared for my next try.

This batch turned out quite interesting. The colors were supposed to be dark blue, pink and turquoise. The dark blue morphed into purple. Then, there was the matter of the "teardrops." I found smoldering rainbow volcanoes.

And a pregnant dolphin.

And at least one sail fish.

But not a teardrop.

This was my third attempt. I scented it with "Blueberry Jam" which smells just like blueberry pie filling. Yummy! Notice that there is no hint of a teardrop.

I knew before I even finished pouring that the teardrop wouldn't turn out. Instead of ending up with another soap that featured a steaming pile of unicorn poo smoldering volcano, I just took a spoon and swirled it all together. Now I have 3 pie scented soaps; one features a creepy smiley face, another has dancing stick figure, and the third shows a caterpillar ready to spin its cocoon.

At least they smell yummy.

My fourth attempt is the soap you see at the top. By this time I had decided that I was doing a couple things wrong:  my batter was too thick and I wasn't letting the first teardrop layer penetrate the top layer. I think that was what was giving me the flat bottoms on the teardrops.

I ended up changing a couple things in the recipe I was using. It seemed to work well as I ended up with the design I entered into the Challenge. But, the true test is if you can duplicate what you did. So, excited to make one even better, I ventured forth to accomplish an even better teardrop.

Yeah...that didn't happen.

This one was a crazy disaster. My mind wasn't on what I was doing and there was no way this was going to turn out well. A spoon, skewer, and even a drinking straw all contributed to this mess. I like the scent. Even the ending look isn't bad. Those clumps of titanium dioxide spread throughout the soap sure didn't improve anything, though.

I like to scent my soaps. But, I was running out of scents that didn't discolor or accelerate. Yet, I had a drive to get another teardrop right.

Seriously?! Gaaaaaa!!!
This accelerated to the point where I was plopping the batter into the mold. I'm not unhappy with it, its just not what I planned darnit! I'm not loving the air pockets. But, its soap. It'll clean. Moving on.

I will say that I did love the tops on these. I guess there's one good thing about thick batter!

 I was just so done with this challenge by this time. But, stubborn as I am, I thought I'd give it one last try.

This was it. This one was going to go down in the hall of soapy fame as the most wonderful teardrop soap EVER!! I changed up the recipe, again, and this time it really was very looooong to trace. I used only activated charcoal and titanium dioxide (strained of any clumps), and no scent.

This was going to be fabulous. I could feel it in my bones...


I laughed. My beautiful, symmetrical, smooth teardrops look more like sad deflated balloons. Oh well. I did like the tops.

I can honestly say I gave it a shot. I think at the end I came close and a try or two more and I may have it. It just won't be now.

The good thing about soap making is that the design "flops" are still usable as fabulous hand crafted soap. These will bless my friends and church family once they are done curing.

With my stick blender in hand and a respectful awe, I salute those of you who came away with soaps that clearly show a teardrop (and not just something a well-meaning husband will humm and say, "Yeah...I guess I can see it.")

Thank you again, Amy Warden, for the fun of a challenge!


Thursday, May 5, 2016

Why I Don't Sell My Soaps

I think with any hobby, part of the fun is creating something wonderful. And, when that happens, sharing it with others. There have been a few times that I have shared pictures of my soaps on Face Book or with the Soap Challenge and then been contacted afterward asking if I would sell my soaps. I am flattered and honored that anyone would think what I created would be worth purchasing.

I truly and honestly hope I don't offend anyone with my answer, but I do not sell my soaps at this time.
Here's why.

1. I'm too busy. This was the year I just couldn't say no to requests for volunteers and help. I have been overwhelmed with keeping up with my oldest child's extra curricular schedule, homeschooling my two younger children, taking care of a home that is determined to fall apart, being a loving and supportive wife and family member, and taking on leadership positions in two different organizations. Starting a soap business just isn't in me. It likely won't be for a while. For now, I am quite content making my small batches of soap and experimenting on my own time without making commitments of production or marketing or trying to manage a business and keep it afloat. 

2. I'm cautious. There's a long background story here. I'll just say I have my reasons for not wanting to sell without keeping everything above board, following all the rules, and possessing insurance. Friends and family have enjoyed my soapy creations. But, I'm leery of giving or selling soaps to strangers. What can I say? I'm a rule-follower.

3. I have a lot to learn. Who doesn't dream of being a successful soap peddler when they first learn the craft? After all, its a consumable product that everyone uses (or should, anyway). But, I once read that if this was a dream of yours, to wait a year. After all, you want to put forth your best product and rarely are beginners creating the best products to represent their craft. I tend to agree. I am still working on creating a signature recipe and learning lots about what makes great soap. Plus, selling soap requires knowledge about laws and regulations, etc. Did I mention I'm busy?

4. I want to enjoy my hobby. I gladly give away soaps to friends and family - soaps I know they will enjoy. Its the whole pleasure -of -giving- a- handcrafted- item- to- someone -you- love thing. Trying to produce a product that will please a stranger? Stressful. At least that's my mindset right now. I would rather just play with soap making right now and not worry about producing something sell-able. There's just something about having to do something that takes some of the joy out of it. Remember how busy I am? I really need my hobby to be my escape, not my prison.

Please understand that whenever I am asked about selling my soaps, it brings me joy! Just think - someone would actually pay money for something I made! I find that to be a great complement. So, it pains me to say no. Its just the answer I feel is right.

Perhaps in the future I will say yes. It just won't be anytime soon.


Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Soap Challenge April 2016 - Location Theme

This month's challenge from Great Cakes Soapworks was a location theme. My soap design, therefore, was an attempt to  reflect our current home of Dayton, Ohio, USA. The Dayton area has a history rich in aviation. It was the home of Wilbur and Orville Wright, pioneers of aviation, and is the current home of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and the National Museum of the United States Air Force. Therefore, I wanted to incorporate an aviation theme into my design.

After a failed attempt at a more elaborate design, I ended up with a simple design of blue and white swirls to represent the sky and cold process airplane embeds made with a mini cookie/ fondant cutter. My household and I really like this soap not only because it smells great (scented with an essential oil blend of lemongrass, eucalyptus, and spearmint) but because the design is simple yet interesting and imperfect yet pleasing.

My entry soap was plan B.

After unmolding and a little rough. The planes were made with cold process soap cut with a mini cookie cutter.

They cleaned up well - subtle and a little imperfect, but interesting.

The Rest of the Story

The above is my short description for the contest. Here's what else happened...

This was my original plan.
Plan A.

I had wanted the plane in a sky of swirling clouds above a field of green with a river running through it. When we moved to Ohio we were impressed with how green everything was. Maybe everything looks green after living in the desert (we had previously lived in Arizona). Still, we were in awe. The river would have represented the Great Miami River which runs through Dayton.

I tried to accomplish my design in a loaf. From the top it looked more like an ocean full of sharks than a sky full of planes.

Naturally, since I didn't try to make my soap till the week of posting, it didn't work out the way I planned.

Cracks! This soap turned out lye-heavy and I miscalculated the fragrance. Double whammy!

Luckily I had enough embeds left to try again the day before pictures were to start being posted. My husband likes the airplanes and the scent so this is a win in my book. Plus, anything used to better my skills and knowledge is a good thing.

P.S. A big thanks to Amy Warden of Great Cakes Soapworks for organizing the challenge.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Soap Challenge - March 2016 Rimmed Soap

In celebration of one year of soapy happiness, I have entered the March 2016 Great Cakes Soapworks Soap Challenge. The technique of this challenge is a rimmed soap where the outer layer is created first, rolled, then filled with a soap that forms the core. The technique for this challenge was taught by the uber talented Tatsiana Serko in a series of very clear videos, followed by Amy Warden's helpful hints and encouragement.

The Design

For my soap, I wanted a design that was somewhat original yet not too complicated. I also wanted to be able to use what supplies I had on hand (meaning I didn't want to have to order more colors or whatnot to complete the challenge). Discovering I had some leftover Watermelon Lemonade fragrance oil (Wholesale Supplies Plus), I decided to try to make my soap look like watermelon. Or...something resembling a watermelon. Given the difficulty of the technique I was honestly just hoping for something watermelon-ish.

Making the Rim

For the rim I used the following recipe:
40% Olive oil
30% Lard
20% Coconut oil
10% Castor oil
distilled water

I have found this recipe to produce a batter that stays fluid for a decent amount of time - perfect for swirls and designs. Plus, its easy to remember (4-3-2-1) and easy on the budget. I used three different colors of green to produce what I hoped would be a good representation of the colors of a watermelon rind. The colors, all from Nurture Soap Supplies, were Kombu Green, Alpine Green, and Mantis Green.

Try #1 of the rim ended up being an oily, gloppy mess. I tried so hard to not mix beyond emulsion that I didn't mix enough. Try #1 got rebatched.

Try #2 went perfectly. I poured the colors of soap in consecutive lines - like the lines on a sheet of paper. Once all the soap was poured, I used a bamboo skewer and made little zig-zags between the colors so the color differences wouldn't be so defined. I honestly didn't think this did much good, but the result on the cut was very nice.

I placed the soap in the oven at 170 F. After 45 minutes I checked and saw that the soap was overheated and ready to crawl out of the mold! The top did have an alien brain appearance, but it would be trimmed away so I wasn't too worried.

Cutting the rim was a challenge. The cardboard I placed under the soap was a little springy. If I tried to cut thin I risked not being able to cut a whole layer. Cutting too thick would make the layer hard to roll and prone to cracking. I was able to get three rims from my slab. One rim was rather messy looking. One was a bit thick, but OK. The third, unplanned, leftover thin layer from the bottom ended up being the best one of them all. Thinner was definitely better.

Making the Core

I used a different recipe for the core of the soap because...why not?
28% Olive oil
20% Coconut
10% Rice Bran oil
15% Lard
15% Tallow
7% Apricot Kernel oil
5% Castor Oil

I also added sugar and salt to the soap. For the liquid I used half distilled water and half milk kefir.

For the core I used the mica color Raspberry Red from Nurture Soap Supply and added poppy seeds to mimic watermelon seeds. I have used the Watermelon Lemonade fragrance oil before and found it to be temperamental - prone to ricing and separating. This time around I didn't have any issues. I didn't have enough fragrance or supplies to fill all three rims so I chose the two best, filled them, and then put the remaining batter in the third rim.



I was pleasantly surprised. These soaps turned out better than I expected.

Completely unexpected was the color of the core morphing with gel. While this would normally disappoint me, in this instance it produced a really cool, realistic shaded effect.

I think I had a lot of luck on my side on this one. I noticed that with gel, once the core cooled there was left a pretty deep crater and it appeared to be pulling away from the rim. I wish I could have gotten a good picture of it. Thankfully, once the ends were trimmed off, there was no more signs of separation.


I am so glad I had the opportunity to participate in this month's Soap Challenge. The rimmed soap technique is one that I had seen but was too chicken to try. The tutorial was very well done and helped me conquer my fear of more complicated soap designs.

To continue to make this type of soap, I would like to find a more efficient and consistent way of trimming the layers from the slab. I am a bit uncomfortable with the amount of waste I produced. I have plenty of soap for future embeds!  That said, I really would like to work with this technique more. I like the round shape of the soap and the sky's the limit as far as creativity is concerned.