Good News, Everyone!
I have made for you: beer soap. What, you say? Soap with beer!?! Indeed. It's true: soap with beer. Unfortunately, though, the alcohol has been boiled out. Sorry, you won't get drunk through your pores on this soap.
Beer soap is an interesting beast. The beer contains a great amount of sugars, and thusly it can be difficult to work with. Many natural sugars react with the soap batter and cause it to overheat - this is especially true if the proportion of those sugars is large (eg: all of your water has been replaced with beer). In addition, anything carbonated (looking at you, beer) can cause caustic bubbles due to the carbon dioxide reacting with lye. Does not sound like fun, right? Right.
As such, beer soap is one of those things that you probably shouldn't try to make without feeling comfortable with the CP soap making process and several batches confidently under your belt. I am pretty confident, and even I had a tough time with this one - be prepared, beer moves FAST. And it gets HOT. Have your freezer ready to go.
I made Soap Queen's Black and Tan beer soap recipe with a bit of modification because I don't have the exact mold she does. My beer soap got very hot and very hard very quickly, and I almost didn't get my dividers out of the mold. (Make sure you soap at room temperature or damn near it! I made the mistake of soaping too hot - lesson learned.) In the end, though, it all worked out, and I got some pretty awesome beer soap. Mine isn't black and tan like hers - it's more just tan and darker tan. I think this is because of the beer I used - DuClaw's "Rye One On" rye IPA. I did not have a dark lager to use (well, I had one...but it was destined for Irish beef stew), but I did have an abundance of rye beer. Our landlord came over to help us out with HOA Inspections and showed up with two six packs like, "Here, have this beer we got at DuClaw." Thanks, landlord and landlord girlfriend! Landlord's girlfriend pointedly said, "Make some beer soap" when they handed it over. Girlboo - I've got a couple bars set aside for you. ;)
So what did I learn while making beer soap? Well first, I learned that, as I previously mentioned, carbonation = bad. Because of this, it's imperative to flatten the beer somehow before venturing forth into soap making territory. Many people have different methods they use to flatten the beer. I used Soap Queen's suggested method of boiling the beer, however I think for my next beer soap, I may open it and let it flatten in the fridge for several days before boiling - just to be sure. Some people only let it flatten, others just let it boil, others do some combination. Choose what you think works best for you.
In addition, since beer undoubtedly has sugars in it, you will need to get it cold before you add lye to it. How cold is up to you - I've seen some people only refrigerate it, and others who freeze it. I chose to freeze the beer. Some people use an ice bath for the beer pitcher when adding lye to keep the temperature down, however I did not do this because my beer was frozen. It's up to you how you choose to do so - just keep in mind that you'll need to keep your beer cool and work fast. Again, I can't stress it enough: soap at low temps. I didn't do this, and I believe it's part of why my soap ran off so quickly without me.
When I got my soap into the mold it started to harden pretty damn immediately, especially the part of the soap with the majority of the fragrance in it (as an aside, I used Bramble Berry's "Honey Ale" fragrance, not the recommended fragrance in the recipe, because my beer was lighter with different notes). I could see it starting to get very hot, and since I was nervous about it cracking or even exploding, I dropped it into my chest freezer and left it there overnight. I came home from work the next day, took it out, unmolded it, and let it warm up on a well ventilated shelf until the next day when I cut it. It isn't the most beautiful thing you've ever seen, but it smells awesome and it's really cool to know that I used beer to make it.
I am really looking forward to using this soap - it will be ready in a week or so for pH testing and general giving away - just in time for 4th of July! I have read that beer soap has a bunch of good, skin-loving things in it, as well as a creamy lather, so it should be a hit to anyone who loves beer and personal hygiene! Or just beer!
Bring on the next batch!
Hello, hello, everyone!
My apologies to all of thee for going a bit MIA the last few weeks. As you know, I am a student and work full time, so my schedule is a bit full at times. Not to worry, though, I've been able to slow down enough lately to make more soapy cupcakes and some regular ol' bars. Just not enough to sit down and write this stuff out! If you follow my Instagram or Twitter, though, you will definitely see a lot of what I've been up to. :) I am also trying to work on my photography skills a bit. They're pretty lacking, but I will learn!
The soapy cupcakes that I've made for my Sister In Law's baby shower have been a huge hit with the family. I hope they are an equal hit with the guests. I've finally had a chance to sit down and start wrapping them, and I gotta say - I'm proud of my handiwork. :) And as an aside - tying bows is basically the most annoying crafty thing I can possibly think of, apart from trying to use glitter in any meaningful way without making a mess. Still - it's totally worth it. I love how they came out!
In other news, these little guys have totally inspired me to make more cupcakes! I got a new bottle of Blueberry Jam fragrance oil from Bramble Berry and I decided to go ahead and try my hand at blueberry cupcakes. I used my normal recipe (which I'm still working on perfecting) for the base of the cupcakes, and did Soap Queen's cupcake frosting recipe for the top. I fragranced the bottom with Bramble Berry's "Blueberry Delight" (which I bought a huge bottle of because I absolutely love it and they're discontinuing it), and the top with blueberry jam, which I colored a nice light blue color. Then I topped the cupcakes with jojoba bead "sprinkles." They came out adorably, I love them. The bottom part is discoloring, but I planned for that. Light blue and amber brown look nice together, and they just smell fantastic. I also made orange cupcakes that same week, with Bramble Berry's "Turkish Mocha" for the base and "Orange 10x" for the icing. I also topped those with jojoba bead "sprinkles" but my orange beads were much smaller than my blue ones, and it's tough to even see them on top of the orange icing. Next time I think I'll nix the beads. You can see pictures of my recent projects, including the cupcakes in the gallery below.
I am starting to mess with melt and pour embeds - I like the notion of melt and pour, though glycerin soap and I are not friends. It dries out my skin and leaves it wanting. It's not my jam, but I can't help but loooooooove the way embeds look on/in a lot of soaps. What's more, I had surgery this past Monday (6/13), and have been laid up in my bed for most of the week. What's a girl to do when she's laying in bed (and not in a Percocet induced coma)? Watch soaping YouTube videos, of course!
I have recently found Stacey (I think is her name?) at Yellow Cottage Soapery, based somewhere near Myrtle Beach, SC. I adore her work so much, and I have been binge watching her channel all week. She is super creative with her soaps, there is so much detail that goes into them and I love how she mixes her own colors and all of her cute creative little piping. By the way, this is totally not paid/promoted, I just found her channel last week and have been watching it and catching up on everything ever since. I love her work and she has inspired me to try embeds and piping on my regular soap bars. Between her and Katie at Royalty Soaps, I am really inspired (and totally intimidated!) to take my soaps to the next level. I am still trying to work out the "kinks" in my "Master Batch" recipe, but I really like it. The biggest challenge for me right now is finding the best temperature to soap at. I am planning to give room temperature a go for my next batch.
My upcoming batch is going to try a new fragrance oil from Nature's Garden - I have only ordered two fragrances from them and never used them, so I am looking forward to trying them out. I know a lot of people have NG fragrances (Clyde has pretty much exclusively NG fragrances), but I've never tried them. I did spend a lot of time this week pinning a whole metric butt ton of them that I want to eventually order. I think I'm going to need more cabinet space soon. Guess my goal of cleaning out the house some this summer is going to be for a good cause. :) Woot!
So, that is it for now - stay tuned, I've got a few other soaps I want to write about making, and a small announcement or two for you guys. In the mean time, enjoy my most recent creations, and have a wonderful soapy day!
Good morning, everyone! :) And happy Memorial Day Weekend!
First off, I'd like to take the time to thank our servicemen and women for their service. We couldn't be 'Merica and have the freedoms we do without them. <3
Moving along, I'm guessing you can tell by the title of this post that the topic is going to be soapy cupcakes! Wheeeee!! If you're anything like me, you have likely binge watched many a YouTube soap channel, and thus have likely seen soap cupcakes. They are so freakin' CUTE I can't even handle it!! I really wanted to learn to make them myself. The biggest thing for me was the piping. Oh my lord, the piping looked sooo intimidating!
I watched Royalty Soaps' videos and got SUPER intimidated because she uses actual powdered sugar and all these other things, and whoa. That said, if there is anyone at all in the soap piping world to admire and idolize, it's flippin' Katie at Royalty Soaps. Anyway, after watching her, I decided to look on the Soap Queen blog. I remembered pinning a champagne something-or-other cupcake soap a couple of months ago, and thought I'd look there at what her piping recipe is.
Lo' and behold: a piping recipe I actually felt comfy with! It's made of coconut oil, olive oil, shea butter and cocoa butter. For the cupcake base, however, I did not use Soap Queen's recipe. I instead used my own. Thanks to my friend D, I've been looking at a "master batch" recipe and trying to formulate one I really like. So far, I've come up with one that I like the properties of, and am just tweaking percentages here and there to make the soap more fluid for longer so I can do swirls and the like.
When I pinned the Sparkling Champagne cupcake recipe a couple months ago, my sister-in-law messaged me on Pinterest and basically freaked out about how awesome they looked and "OMG YES!!" Not too long after, I noticed that she was pinning a metric butt ton of "bee" themed baby shower crap on Pinterest (yep, SIL is preggo). Suddenly I thought: why not make soapy cupcake baby shower favors? Bingo!! The perfect excuse to make soap cupcakes!
I picked up a 12 cupcake silicon cupcake mold at Bed Bath & Beyond, and away I went! Prepped the oils & lye water for the piping (which was labeled out the butt so nobody thought to drink it!) the night before, and the next day, I came home from work and soaped it up!
My first batch, I accidentally messed up a bit and left the "icing" oils out on the counter and they came to ~70 degrees during the day while I was at work. The second time, I left them in the fridge and microwaved them as Soap Queen does in her video. My first batch of soapy cupcakes was a test batch. I just wanted to see if I could do it, or if I'd totally mess up and be ashamed of my lack of skills. I'm still new at this - I mess up a lot. That's why when people are like, "Omg you should sell!" I'm like "Nope." Have you seen Zahida from Handmade in Florida's soaps? Spicy Pinecone's? Royalty Soaps'??? I aspire to be that level of talent someday, but all of those ladies have literal years under their belts of soapmaking, and I've got a whopping 5 months. Thanks, but I'll give myself 19 more months at the least!!
Anyway, off that tangent and back on topic! I fragranced these cupcakes with Bramble Berry's "Vanilla Select" for the cupcake base, and "Pure Honey" for the piping. I decided I wanted to do a gold mica drizzle on the "frosting" to look like a honey drizzle, and give it a touch of bling without GLITTERZZZZZZZZZ. I don't really like glitter. It's like that meme going around the internet that you only mail glitter to your enemies. It's just not my jam. And I think my husband would literally cry if I brought glitter into our house. So mica drizzle it was.
The first batch of soapy cupcakes came out beautifully, and despite my piping being relatively warm, it came out really well!! My husband was SUPER upset when he saw the cupcakes in the refrigerator and was informed that they were not, in fact, actually edible. Sorry, husband. I'll make you real cupcakes to compensate someday. I promise.
I pitched the idea to SIL to make the cupcakes for her baby shower favors and she LOVED it! So, a few weeks later, I made a second batch. This time, instead of allowing the vanilla FO to brown the cupcakes naturally, I used a little bit of brown oxide to give the base a rich, warm brown color. The piping was colored with Titanium Dioxide both times. The second batch of soapy cupcakes also had wee little bees on it!! I got them on Amazon from Wilton, they are tiny sugar bees. One of the reviews said they were hard as a rock and too hard to eat, which made me think - PERFECT! Nobody should be eating these anyhow!! With luck, the sugar should dissolve in the shower, and so all is well! I thought about making bee embeds, but that takes time and work, and I am a full time employee and part time college student. Ain't nobody got time fo' that.
The final product little bee cupcakes turned out even better than the first! :) I have not yet taken pictures of the cupcakes now that they've been unmolded for a few days (they have substantially darkened and look really rich and creamy!). But behold below: bee cupcakes! You can see in one of the photos below that one of the cupcakes is in a small yellow cupcake ...erm..cup? That is the final packaging SIL's cupcakes will go into once they are cured, and I've got a really great little wrapping idea all ready to go for her (it's a surprise in case she reads this blog. Can't tell her everything!). I really really hope that they survive the cross-country mailing trip!! Fingers and toes crossed!!
Making these soaps has totally inspired me to create even more cupcakes! I think my next batch will be Blueberry something or other. Bramble Berry is discontinuing their Blueberry Delight fragrance oil, much to my dismay, for I loooooooooove it! It smells just like warm blueberry pie. Unf! I love it. So I bought two huge bottles of it, along with a bottle of blueberry jam FO. I think that will be my next project, because even my coworkers were crazy about the pictures of my cupcakes. I think they will be in high demand!!
So for those of you out there wanting to try something new and different: GO FOR IT!! The worst that happens is you mess up, hot process, and try again! :) Step outside of your comfort zone and do something you will love!!
Good morning, folks!
Sorry for the lapse in my posting - I was busy with finals! Nothing says love like doing calculus exams! Thankfully, that is all over now, and I was able to catch up on some chores and make some more soap this week!
I recently received a package from Brambleberry, and one of the methods I use to try to motivate myself is to not allow myself to open any packages I receive until I finish my homework. Otherwise I'll just ignore homework and play with my soapy things! In my package was a good number of fragrance oils, as well as soaping oils and some colorants. I knew I wanted to soap in the short week break I get between classes (my classes are condensed 8 week classes with one week in between) and hopefully use up a bunch of my BB sample fragrances to free up space in my cabinet for my larger bottles! :D When I first started soaping, I had no idea what I'd like or not like, so I decided to order pretty much every BB fragrance sampler there is. Now I have a pretty crazy collection of fragrance oil bottles and about a zillion tiny sample jars. Plus, BB sends you new samples every time you order something, so I tend to collect samples pretty often.
I made three different soaps this past week, the other two of which I will be posting about shortly. Today, though, as you can see - I am talking about my honey bee soap! :) This soap was inspired by my dog, Pepper, who I call my "honey bee." She's super sweet, zooms around, and she was a bee for Halloween (yes, I'm that pet parent). She is the first dog I've had in my adult life, and I just adore her! She is a wee Pomeranian - a breed I didn't think I'd ever like after a childhood friend's Pom was such a jerk, but I am so in love with my little dog! She prances, bunny hops, gives good cuddles, and is all around adorable. I mean, hello, look at that face!
I decided I wanted to make a honey bee soap to dedicate to my dog, and wanted to make it striped like a bee. I fragranced the soap with Bramble Berry's "Pure Honey" fragrance oil, and used Yellow and Black Oxides to color the soap. I originally wanted to do a tiger stripe method but that SO didn't work - I soaped too cool (whoops!) and my oils started to thicken up on me. I ended up having to just plop the colors in the mold and I desperately tried to drag a hanger through - it didn't work too well, but I did still get somewhat of a swirl. The top was actually a lot better than the inside! I also learned that my master batch recipe (something I've been working on as my "base recipe" for almost all of my soaps) had too high of a solid oil percentage in it. I've since corrected that, and when I made my other two soaps, it performed beautifully. So this week I learned - 40% solids, and 125 degrees is where it's at for what I wanna do with most of my soap (this will of course change depending on whether or not I use milk, what fragrances I use, or if I want to make more luxury bars with more exotic ingredients, etc.).
I have also decided to move my superfatting percentage up to 8%, because the standard 5% that Soap Queen's recipes are is just way too drying for my skin. I have skin like the friggin' Sahara Desert, and it sucks. I am hoping that with all these corrections, I can totally create something worthwhile and moisturizing.
So far, everyone that has seen/smelled my honey soap has absolutely loved it. When I told Pepper that my soap is dedicated to her, she just looked at me like I was nuts, and then sat down expecting a cookie. Typical dog - can't appreciate it! But that's okay. She's still my little honey bee! :D
The Soap Bug hath bitten me once again, and this time, it was my undying devotion to one Joss Whedon that hath inspired me to create. Some of you may be familiar with the works of Whedon, but in case you are not, here is a short list of the most amazing and noteworthy things that are worth your time to watch on TV (or Netflix and Hulu if you're like me and cut the cable cord):
One binge watch through Netflix later, and I found myself on the other side of Firefly, being angry at 20th Century Fox yet again for being jerkholes and canceling the show (serious douche move: Firefly was signed for 3 seasons and they shit canned the show before the first season even finished AND they aired them out of order because reasons?). Serenity, the movie that was supposed to wrap up the show, leaves a lot to be desired, in my opinion. SPOILER ALERT (though I shouldn't have to give you this since Serenity came out 11 years ago), I am SO pissed that they basically just kill everyone off instead of giving a good story. Shep? Wash? Oh, fuck that shit. Injustice! Plus, the movie was designed to be for people who hadn't seen the TV series, as well as those who had, and it just...didn't work. Not for me, at least.
That aside, I figured: why not create a Firefly inspired soap? So I did! The soap is three layers and colored with yellow oxide, Tangerine Wow! pigment, and brick red oxide. The entire soap is fragranced with Tobacco & Bay Leaf from Bramble Berry. Overall, the colors and fragrance oil were super well behaved, and I am incredibly pleased with the way the bars turned out, given that it was my first time ever working with horizontal layers. :) The soap was inspired by the hat that Jayne gets from his mother in the episode "The Message." Pretty cunning, don't you think? And with a fragrance like that, any man who walks down the street after using a soap like that, people will know he's not afraid of anything!
Unfortunately for me (but fortunately for 20th Century Fox), I can never sell this cunning soap, as I'm not one to stomp all over the whole Intellectual Property thing. Some of you may remember a few years ago when Fox sent a Cease and Desist letter to an Etsy seller by the name of Ma Cobb for knitting "Jayne Hats," which stirred controversy among fans of the show. Because Fox elected to cancel the show when it was originally aired, there was never a lot of Firefly merchandise available. The show later gained a cult following, and many fans took it upon themselves to create and sell Firefly-related merchandise. Many were even (wrongly) under the impression that with the way 20th Century Fox treated the show, they didn't care about it. Given the C&D, this is obviously not true.
It does, however, raise an interesting conversation about the concept of intellectual property and copyright issues alongside of fans who make items relating to that IP, especially with the rise of sites like Etsy, and the advent of the internet, which allows fans to connect in ways they never would have been able to before. While I understand, acknowledge, and completely support the right of companies, authors, creators, etc., to protect their intellectual property and copyrights, I also feel sort of torn about the idea that fans are unable to create things (or sell otherwise unavailable merchandise) that honor their fandom due to that. Most recently, even a Pokemon fan was sent a C&D by Nintendo, claiming he was profiting off of their creation (technically he was - he threw a Pokemon party and sold tickets for an entrance fee). The line between copyright infringement and fan inspired works is generally to NOT profit on your creation, however, some creators tend to be a little more aggressive than others when it comes to protecting their works.
In addition to all of the above, another interesting (or confusing) aspect of copyright and intellectual property is that while technically companies are required to protect their creations, not many of them have lawyers who troll through Etsy, Look Human, Tee Fury, Society 6, and other related fan-based creation sites all day, writing up Cease and Desist letters. Most of the time, companies aren't even aware that these items exist until someone turns the seller in for infringement. Personally, I believe that this is confusing for fans who wish to sell fandom-related items, but are concerned about copyright infringement. While I don't know for certain, I very much doubt that everyone over at Tee Fury, Tee Turtle, et. al., have acquired licenses for everything they sell (I could be wrong, but it's more likely that they are just running with it until they get a C&D, given that it's not really worth the time/money to many corporations to try to sue them). To me, things such as that make the waters very murky and confusing for many fans who want to make or sell their own works inspired by/honoring a particular fandom.
And as if all of that isn't enough - one could reasonably argue that other people creating fan art, jewelry, knitted hats, or what-have-you that reaches other fans and brings people to the fan base are basically giving that company/creator free advertising, which essentially earns them MORE money over time. This is especially true at events such as conventions where there are tons of artists and other crafters who set up booths and sell items of their choice - have all of them acquired license to make their jewelry or sell their art? Probably not (though I wonder if the con's license itself covers these people?). Regardless, literal thousands of people go to cons, and the exposure for many companies and creators is huge at such events. They may reach an audience that would otherwise have never known they existed, all thanks to a talented artisan. The counter argument to this, however, is that some creators may see such things as lost profits as opposed to free advertising.
When it gets right down to it, from a legal perspective: profiting off of the work of another's copyrighted material is illegal, according to United States copyright law. Also, it is likely not protected under the fair use policy, so it's probably best not to put all of your eggs in that particular basket. So, alas - while my Unlikely Hero soap is cool to look at and was a fun adventure in layers, I can never, and will never, sell it to anyone. It will simply be given away to my other Firefly fandom friends who can appreciate it and want to smell cunning. And just as a CMA: I do not own nor claim any rights to Firefly or related material. All material is owned by 20th Century Fox.
For more information on Copyright infringement, check out these links below:
Ahhh, cherry blossoms - that's how you know Spring has officially sprung! Or, well...sort of. Here in the Washington, D.C. area, we tend to have bipolar weather. As one of my former customers (back when I worked in the food industry) told me, "Mother Nature is going through menopause! All these chills and hot flashes! Yikes!"
This year, we had a warm spike, and then it snowed the following weekend. The poor cherry blossoms started to bloom and then got frozen! Thankfully, they still managed to bloom and peak well into their traditional month of April, and they were spectacular! I live north of DC, which is colder by several degrees, so I got to witness their blooms for a long time this season! They are truly beautiful and have a lovely, delicate scent. When they start to shed their petals, it's almost like watching a beautiful, floral snow coat the ground as they gracefully float through the air. Cherry blossom time is my favorite hallmark of Spring! (Way better than pollen!)
As you may or may not know, the Cherry Blossom Festival held in DC every year signifies, "the gift of the cherry blossom trees, and the enduring friendship between the people of the United States and Japan." People come out in droves to view the sakura (cherry blossom in Japanese) all along the mall and tidal basin. There are food trucks, street vendors, lots of swag, and even a parade! The Cherry Blossom Festival is one of my favorite things to go to DC for, and it's such a fun atmosphere to be a part of. The food is delicious, the festival is colorful and fun, and there is a LOT to do in the area!
As it happened, I have a bottle of Cherry Blossom fragrance oil from Bramble Berry! So why not turn this local favorite into a soap to commemorate the event? That's exactly what I did! And I decided to call it, "Sakura Festival."
I started out formulating the recipe with oils that I knew would be nourishing, conditioning, but also offer me the whitest bar I could make. I wanted my colors to be white with a light pink drop swirl, and maybe a lighter swirl on top. After working everything out, running it through a lye calculator, and buying myself a new (more accurate) scale, I set to making my soap!
The fragrance oil performed beautifully in this soap, and I had a great amount of time to work! My top swirl turned out great, though I think from now on I am going to go with a light pink sparkle mica instead of fuschia. I really want this soap to be delicate like the flowers it's made after, so I think lighter, more delicate colors would be a wise choice. I learned that I really DO need to micronize my Titanium Dioxide (ugh, I only have one coffee grinder and it's for coffee, dammit! I ordered another one, though. I was trying to hold out, but no longer!), and that I should probably add some sodium lactate to my soap (and increase the percentage of my hard oils). After 3 days it was still incredibly soft, and I couldn't get it out of the mold. I froze it, got it out, cut it (love itttttt!), and set it downstairs to start its cure. Alas, it was ever so slightly weepy today with some of the excess moisture from the oils, so a recipe reformulation is in order (I also decided it's that time of the year to turn on the dehumidifier in the basement).
Other than that, though, this soap turned out just gorgeous and I am so in love with it. The only down side is that as I was outside taking pictures, the wind blew the soap out of the tree I set it in, and alas, it got smooshed. Not just a little bit smooshed - SUPER smooshed. So, the pictures are lovely, but you can definitely see a little bit of dirt from the ground in the soap. That will just have to be my personal bar!
Now these lovelies are downstairs curing, and I am super inspired to perfect this recipe to be the best it can be. I absolutely love it!
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!
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.