One of the things you will learn when you make soap is that there will inevitably, at some point, be a disaster. It's not really a matter of if, so much as it is a matter of when. This past Monday was my when. Sure, I've messed up before - I overcooked my first batch of hot process soap and had to shred it down, add more oil and try again. I've used accelerating fragrances and colors, and ended up with lumpy blumpies all in the middle of my soap...But those weren't really a disaster, so much as they were oopses.
Monday, though....Monday was a disaster (at least my unluckiest day so far). Could it have been worse? Yes! At least I didn't add too much sugar and end up with a caustic volcano (I am aware that I'm completely jinxing myself right now, and that at some point a caustic volcano of death will heave itself onto my kitchen counter). So what DID happen, you say? Well, pull up a seat and grab a cup of tea, I am here to tell you - And teach you what not to do to repeat my mistake should you attempt something similar!
This story begins, as many do, when I was a child. I think I was about 4 or 5 when my PopPop died and left my MawMaw behind. What does this have to do with soap? Just stay with me. Anyway, after my PopPop died, my MawMaw frequented the Senior Center in town to play cards, sing music in chorale, play board games, and generally socialize. It was there that she met Marvin - I believe while playing bridge. They fast fell for each other, and soon they were inseparable. Marvin courted MawMaw until the day she died.
Every day during that courtship, Marvin brought my MawMaw freshly cut roses from the amazing rose garden he grew in his back yard. He had all different colors, varieties, scents - you name it - Marvin had it. He loved his garden like he loved my MawMaw, and the freshly cut roses on her kitchen table every day were a beautiful reminder of that. Sadly, my MawMaw died when I was 11 years old, and Marvin was with her at the time. He was so heartbroken by it all that we never really saw him after that - it was too painful for him (Marvin was a widower himself when he met MawMaw). I imagine by now, he has passed away. I saw him once when I was 18 at a local event, but that was the last time (and it was a decade ago).
So, how does this translate into soap?
Last weekend, I was organizing my soap supplies, and was going through some of my sample fragrances (I may have ordered about a million fragrance samplers when I first started so I wouldn't have to commit to one bottle at a time) - three of which were White Rose. I'm not a big floral person, but I thought to myself - you know, a rose garden type bar of soap could be really nice for some people, and hey, it's spring time. Then it hit me - all the memories of Marvin and his garden, and I realized I wanted to make a special soap to pay homage to that childhood memory of such an amazing man who treated my grandmother so wonderfully in her last years of life.
All day Sunday, I worked on the recipe - the oils, the colors, the swirl method, the fragrances (I didn't want it to smell pungent, or like, well, a grandma), the proportions, you name it. I went back and forth with a lot of things, did a bunch of calculations, and finally came up with my recipe (props to my girls D an N, who tolerated my day-long brainstorm and added valuable input to the process). By the time I was finished, it was time to go to bed. So I vowed to myself that on Monday, I would definitely come home and make the soap! I was so excited! And it would be my first time actually executing a recipe I made on my own! Woohoo!
Monday afternoon, I got home and went to make my soap as planned. I had had a rough day at work and a scare on the way home (almost ran over some kid's dog - it was a chihuahua and it ran up the side of my car from behind to my front tire. Thankfully, I stopped and the kid was able to get the dog, but it scared the crap out of me and I felt horrible!), so I was looking forward to making something right.
For this soap, I decided on white, pink, red, and yellow as my colors, with some green mixed in (gardens are mostly green, after all) - these colors were meant to represent the colors of roses that are most common, with some earthy green elements mixed in. My fragrance blend was white rose, crisp apple rose, summer fling, apple, and black tea (everything but Summer Fling was a sample size, so I felt the need to have more fruit notes than just a half ounce sample size - hence its inclusion). A nice, grounded mixture that wasn't too flowery, wasn't too sweet, and had some nice base notes to balance it out. I won't tell you my oils recipe, because nyeh nyeh, that's something I plan to keep to myself. ;) My design method was to be a hanger swirl, and I might even be brave and try a textured top.
I set about dispersing my colorants in oil, melting my oils, and making my lye water. I had my mold standing close by, along with my notebook to make any notes. Before starting, I decided to have a look at the FOs one more time (I am paranoid about discoloring, accelerants, ricing, etc.), and found that Summer Fling can cause ricing. Shit. Okay, well - I can deal with it. I'll encounter it sooner or later, right? I knew that florals were accelerants, and was just hoping that since I was using a relatively little amount, I'd still have time to work. And that's where the mistakes started.
Stay tuned for Part 2!
Elizabeth is a new to soap making, and wishes to share her journey in learning to make cold process soap with the hope that it will help other newbies who may stumble upon this site as a resource. From swirl techniques, choosing colors, combining fragrances, embeds, toppers, and textures, she chronicles her lessons and stories here.