By now, you're probably sitting on the edge of your seat, just dying to know what the mistakes I made were! Dear lord, you're saying, tell us! Or not, I don't expect anything of you. You might even be bored (though if you are, you might ought to go read something more interesting. I'd hate to bore ya!).
First, I will start off by saying my #1 mistake was not having a freaking checklist. Why does this matter? It matters a lot, for reasons that will soon be apparent. I started my soap just like any other time I've made it - adding lye water to oils, bring to extra thin trace, blah blah. Normal stuff. Falter number one was: I stupidly added the FO blend to the entire batch BEFORE splitting it up. Why did I do this? I saw Clyde do it, and thought it was a good idea. Whoops! Now I know why Soap Queen splits her batches up and adds FO last. As you may know, florals tend to accelerate trace. And as I mentioned in my previous post, I also had a FO in my blend that can cause ricing. So here I am - adding accelerating and ricing fragrances to my main batch before even splitting it. Dear lord, what was I thinking?
I lightly stick blended it and started to split up the batter, but I could see it starting to thicken, and some ricing was happening in my yellow color. Shit! Oh god! How do you fix ricing? You have to blend it out with the stick blender. Know what also accelerates trace? Freaking stick blending! There I am, stick blending the hell out of an already accelerating soap batter, desperately hoping for a drop swirl/hanger swirl! IDJIT! I quickly realized what I was doing, set the stick blender aside, and grabbed my whisk. I am not a praying person, but I was there in the kitchen trying to negotiate with the soap gods to - for the love of all that's holy - spare this lovely soap batter from becoming ploppy gloppy horribleness!
Obviously, someone heard me (I don't dare believe I have any kind of skill at this yet), and I was able to fix the ricing, and keep the various colors relatively liquid enough to start pouring into the mold. I worked as quickly as possible, swirling and layering as quickly as I could. I noticed that once the mold was filled, it wasn't quite to the top where I'd expected it to be - but maybe that was just because there was so much gloppy batter left behind. I scooped out as much as I could from the measuring cups, and set about doing a hanger swirl.
Shit! Oh god, my hanger! Where is it?!?! I had forgotten to grab it! What's worse is that it was a regular ol' closet hanger - you know, the old school type from the 90s that all the cool kids were using before plastic hangers became the thing. I tore upstairs where I'd left the hanger, meekly bent it into a somewhat acceptable shape (went at it with the wire cutters, but am not strong enough. Thankfully, Hercules husband saved the day later that evening), and shoved it into my mold, trying to remember the technique I'd seen on YouTube.
I could feel the batter getting thick and resisting the hanger, and was starting to get really discouraged. But, I went with it anyway and tried my best. I did, in fact, go with a somewhat textured top, though I am not really happy about it, and the colors kinda mushed together, so in the end it was not my favorite. Know what I am good at? Mica swirls. I might just stick to those for now.
So, here is a picture of the soap when I was finished with it. As you can see, it's pretty low in the mold. But!! I got it in there! I was sooo proud! I didn't mess up too much, and even with a misbehaved batter, I still managed to get everything into the mold AND do a swirl! Huzzah! Only, not so fast....Wanna know why the soap is so low in the mold? Fast forward to me cleaning up, when I go downstairs to put away my supplies and open the cabinet where I store my oils to find - one of the oils I'd forgotten to put in the recipe. Ten...freaking...percent of my oils right there, staring me in the face. I just stand there in disbelief, while my soap is upstairs gelling on a heating pad, knowing that it is going to be lye heavy and I'm going to have to rebatch. I was heartbroken.
I trudged back upstairs frowning, cursing the shitty Monday for being so awful, and pouted the entire time I did the dishes. My husband came home and gave me a hug and I just sobbed about how terrible my day had been and that look, I made this beautiful soap and I'll have to melt it down! Ugh!! My first hanger swirl! UGH!!! Stupid kid and his stupid chihuahua and my stupid workday and now my stupid soap!! Yes. I did throw an inner tantrum as if I were a five year old. No matter how adult I may pretend to be, I'm definitely not above some self-indulgent whining every now and then. It was just one of those days, you know?
The next day, I came home and cut my soap. Oh gosh, it was so pretty! I loved it! You could see that it was definitely "off," but I loved it nonetheless. I was so worried that my swirl hadn't really worked, so I was pleasantly surprised to find that it (mostly) had! I am still proud that I achieved that, even if it's not the greatest thing ever. Unfortunately, I combat soda ash pretty poorly, and am still trying to find the best solution to prevent it, so the top looked ugly. But the soap itself turned out better than I'd expected given the circumstances. In case you are wondering, I did end up rebatching it, and that in and of itself was its own disaster (tried to turn it a single color, overcooked it while mixing said color - whatever, this soap obviously wasn't meant to be). Regardless, though, it IS usable now, and has tested safe with a pH test. As long as it's safe, it can be as ugly and crumbly as it wants.
So what did I learn from this experience?
As some wise internet meme once said, "Mistakes are meant for learning, not repeating." I certainly learned a great deal from this soapy disaster, and have learned how to avoid the problems next time. I am looking very forward to that next time!
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.