Amazon Prime… you continue to amaze me!

Funny story… only my soap peeps would understand. I was at Sam’s Club this morning, because I needed OO, of course. My phone starts dinging over, and over, and over. Ten times. It’s alerts from Fed Ex for packages delivered. I can’t imagine what it would be… I hadn’t ordered THAT much. I’m feeling a little giddy… like a kid at Christmas… as I drive home. I get here and there are ten boxes, 8′ long each. WTF? Pardon my French. Oh… I know before I open the first box. I had ordered ten 6′ long steel rods to make hanger tools. I finally found a bargain at $3.47 on Amazon Prime, shipping included. So, a $35 order generates ten boxes each with a heavy duty cardboard tube inside that presumably contains ONE steel rod. I can’t figure out how to open the cardboard tube. My hubby might have to use the table saw, I guess. Not sure what Amazon was thinking or how they made any profit on this transaction, but I’ve got cardboard if anyone needs more cardboard… call me. I’ll hook you up.

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Brambleberry Soap Swap March, 2014

Over the last year, I’ve participated in three soap swaps through Brambleberry. There are a few rules for the swap. 1) Only two participants each per Brambleberry Fragrance. 2) Submit twelve bars that are fully labeled and weighing a minimum of four ounces each. 3) Pay $12.60 or something like that to cover the return flat rate postage.

I generally enjoy soap swaps as an opportunity to look at other soaper’s packaging. Each time, I’ve discovered a new fragrance that I’ve ordered for my own use. Generally I find at least one obscure ingredient that is of interest. Unfortunately, with all of the soaps being sent to their warehouse, many will lose their fragrance as they sit next to other soaps of competing fragrances. So, many just come out smelling like “soap,” not the lovely fragrance oil that had been planned.

I’m including pictures of some of my favorites that I received today
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From Keauhou Hawaii, the Hawaii Soap Company submitted a Spa Sea Salt Soap with Relaxation Fragrance Oil that I look forward to trying. And from Wasilla Alaska, the Meadow Creek Boutique submitted Blackberry sage. Both soaps were wrapped nicely in plastic which preserved the fragrances. I am delighted to have received soaps from far away places. I know it is much more expensive for soapers overseas or in remote areas to receive their supplies… particularly lye. So, I’m honored that I’ve received these two soaps.

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Next up, from Beth Case Scenario in Portland Oregon, came a lovely vegan Sandalwood Soap with Calendula petals. I love calendula soaps. And, Sing in the Shower Soaps in Lake Elmo Minnesota, sent a potent Lemongrass Rosemary soap with Rosemary Leaves and made with essential oils. That one smelled the strongest of the bunch and will keep it for my own enjoyment.

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From Bucklepenny in Quincy Washington, submitted a shrink wrapped and band labeled Trinity Soap with Shea Butter fragranced with Coconut Lemongrass. I love Lemongrass and can still smell this one… It’s a keeper! And, the most creative layered soap that I received was from Erin with Raven and Rain Soap in Simi Valley, California. The lovely rainbow design is called Unicorn Poop though I have no idea what the fragrance is.

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There were two other notable entries with goat’s milk. One was from Whitetail Lane Farm (location unknown) featuring a Lavender Rosemary Soap, nicely shrink wrapped and smells good. I personally dislike Lavender, but the combination with Rosemary made this one likeable to me.  So, I learned something from this soap. Thank you Whitetail Lane Farm.  Your hanger swirl was lovely too.  And, Holly’s Goat Milk Soap (again, location unknown) using a fragrance oil combination that she calls Honeycomb with Oatmeal Milk & Honey with Hot Cocoa. It’s a unique fragrance combination that gets my attention. I love the oatmeal additive and will keep this one.

There were some other soaps that seem to have lost their fragrances. One (name withheld) is a very large bar of soap that is quite thin. I’ll probably cut it in half as it will break in the shower being so large while still so thin.  Likewise, in past soap swaps, I’ve received soaps that were so block-like that they were uncomfortable in my hand.  So, I learn something from so many the soaps that I receive… that can be good or just learning from someone else’s “mistakes.”  Of course, it all comes down to personal preference and opinion.  There really is no right or wrong.

There was one last soap in the box from Brambleberry’s Anne-Marie Faiola. Labeled as 3.5 ounces, it only weighs 2.1 ounces. They might need to check their scale. It is fragranced with Sunny Herb Garden (sample included), but I can’t smell it in this soap.  Often it seems that fragrances are lost when soaps are shipped, stored in a box with other competing fragrances and fragrances often return when the soap is wetted in the shower.  I do have this fragrance oil in my inventory and like it very much for a Gardener’s Soap.  AM’s would have been a lovely if it had been large enough to appreciate the talented design.  I’ll look forward to trying the Neon Blue Raspberry mica shortly.  It was a nice size sample and I do appreciate it.
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I’ve only been soaping for a year now, so I’m certainly no expert, but I want to make a few suggestions that may apply to some of the soaps mentioned here or to other soaps not mentioned as pertains to labeling. If you read Marie Gale’s book Soap & Cosmetic Labeling, you will learn that there are very specific requirements for how a soap should be labeled. Many of the soaps did not list the weight of the soap. Many did not include their address, city or phone number.  Some listed a portion but not all of their ingredients.  Remember, if you list one of the ingredients in the name of the soap, then you are required to list ALL of the ingredients.  Though not required, many did not list a website address or Facebook address (opportunities lost for self-promotion).

I hope I haven’t seemed critical of any of the lovely soaps and participants that I’ve mentioned.  My packages aren’t “perfect” according to the regulations.  For my safety, I REFUSE to put my physical address on the label. I don’t operate a physical store and must protect my privacy at home. So, it just ain’t happenin’!  Overall, if you are a newer soaper and have never participated in a soap swap, I would encourage it.  You’ll get some great ideas in looking at other soaper’s products.

Amy Warden’s Great Cakes Soap Challenge: Drop Swirl, March 2014

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This is my second month participating in the Great Cakes Soap Challenge.  I understand that this month has the highest number of participants to date with many more international submissions.  Drop Swirls are an easy technique but difficult to actually duplicate from one batch to the next as the consistency of the soap batter will have such an impact on the final outcome.  In any case, they are each unique and beautiful.

I’ve done several drop swirls in the past.  These are a few:
Desire

mardi gras

I’ve been inspired to use this technique more this week in selecting a submission for this month’s challenge.  This is one of my creations this week using a basic Bastile recipe (Olive Oil, Coconut Oil and Castor) with combination of WSP’s Pinkberry Mimosa with BrambleBerry’s Mangosteen fragrance oils.  I didn’t insulate this soap, but oven processed at 170 for 15 minutes and got the anomaly of Alien Brains… I actually like it when I get the really noodley (as opposed to wrinkley) Alien Brains as it makes a nice texture for scrubbing my feet and resembles Brain Coral.

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This is my one of my previous swirls with noodley Alien Brains:

Bonsai

This week I’ve also made a White Tea & Ginger drop swirl using a harder base soap with a combination of Oils: Olive, Coconut, Palm, Hemp Seed, Castor and Hydrogenated Soybean.  I use various micas for most of my colorants and generally favor a thin consistency for drop swirls.  This makes every bar completely unique:

WHITE TEA WITH GINGERWHITE TEA WITH GINGER

For this month’s soap challenge, Amy has given the guidelines that we could use all cold process or a combination of cold process with Melt & Pour.  I’ve never used MP in a drop swirl but have seen some great examples of this combination.  To this I am using a clear Detergent Free Melt & Pour with a combination of black oxide and gold / yellow micas to celebrate the phenomenal season our local Wichita State Shockers men’s basketball team.  As I was unsure of how the MP and Cold Process base would mix, I brought the CP (white) base to a thicker consistency with concern that the warmer MP might sink right to the bottom. I thought I should change my habit of oven processing and put this soap in the refrigerator to prevent gel in hopes of not disturbing the Melt & Pour swirl as the CP saponified. Since the micas were in MP, not cold process, gelling didn’t seem as important for making the micas “pop.” But, this of course means it takes longer before the soap was ready to cut… and I’m not a woman of patience. It looks a little rough on the edges, but I like the MP as a medium.  Going to try again.  LOL.

SHOCKER NATION:SHOCKER NATION

By now you’ve noticed that I really like to use one particular mold when I’m drop swirling.  This silicone buche mold can be found on BakeDeco.com  I use the larger of the two molds they offer which yields a 3.5 oz soap when cut at 1″.

This is my second Shocker Soap of this week using MP for the swirl into CP.  On this one, I swirled some CP with black and gold mica into the white base and let the base be at a much thinner trace when dropping in the gold and black MP.  The outside of the loaf took on a very weird giraffe pattern.

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So, I think I’ve done enough MP / CP combo now.  I’ll have to wait six weeks to see if I like the texture of the combination (I suspect I won’t) before trying that again.  Thank you to the Soap Club Challenge members for reading my blog.  As I’m writing this, I’m still not sure which soap I’ll submit for the Challenge… I haven’t seen too many drop swirls I didn’t like.  LOL.  But I had a lot of fun experimenting.

Easy Bath Fizzy Press

Well, I’m determined to do something productive with my day for the soaping community. There’s been a lot of discussion lately on how to make, or where to get a Bath Bomb Press. We have made these in the past, but honestly, we’re on to other things now. So, I wanted to take a few minutes to give some easy instructions on how to make your own: cheap, easy and local. You might have noticed that I prefer to use the term Bath Fizzy. Since the Boston Marathon bombing last year, it just seems more politically correct to avoid inflammatory language.

In this picture, you will see four items. On the left are two pieces connected. One is a 2″ PVC pipe cut into a 4″ piece. This is fit into a 2″ plumbing flange of some sort to stabilize the base. In the middle is a silicone Ball Canning Funnel which can be found at your local Wal Mart. On the right is a 2″ dowel rod, cut into a 6″ long piece. I bought mine at Menards. If you don’t find these items in your local stores, everything can be bought on Amazon these days.

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If you attach the canning funnel to the pipe contraption, then you can cleanly pour your fizzy powder into the tube. Then use the 2″ dowel rod to tamp the powder down to a nice tight puck. As you push down on the dowel, GENTLY raise and twist your tube contraption. Of course, you’ll want to do all of this on a piece of freezer or wax paper laid on a baking sheet to catch your crumbs. If one falls apart, simply dump that powder back into the mix and tamp it down again.

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Let me be the first to admit, I don’t sell a lot of bath bombs in this area. My son and family likes them, but I don’t make them very often. So, I’m not expert on recipes. But, here’s what your pucks might look like…

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Thank you for visiting my blog today. I hope this entry has given you some ideas for how to make a easy fizzy press that will really give you good compression on your bath fizzies.

Happy Anniversary Baby!

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It’s hard to believe that only one year ago today I made my first soap.  Over the this time, I’ve made over 150 batches of soap.  I’ve learned a LOT, thanks to the generous teachers who have written books, made videos and answered countless questions online.  This entry is written for the newer soapers. I want to impart to you some random nuggets of wisdom that I’ve learned over this year.

  • Gloves. Goggles.  No Aluminum. And Pour the Lye into the Water, never the other way around.  Once used for soaping, your soaping bowls and utensils should no longer be used for food.  Those are the hard and fast rules of making soap.   After that, all else is a matter of personal preference.
  • In my opinion, there is no miracle oil for soap.  Pick a half dozen quality oils and save the expensive oils for lotions and body butters.  After much trial and error, I favor Coconut Oil, Olive Oil, Palm Oil, REFINED Hemp Oil, Castor Oil, Lard or Tallow.  Avocado Oil, Sweet Almond Oil, Rice Bran and Safflower Oil are also quite nice and affordable.  I could happily never use Shea Butter in my soaps again, but do keep it around for lotions.
  • If you’re having problems with your soap accelerating and seizing, it may be your fragrance oil; the your choice of oils / butters; or the type of liquid you are using with your lye.   Florals and Spicy fragrances will get you every time… Okay, not EVERY time, but you’ll see a trend.   Substantial amounts butters, hard oils, coconut milk and yogurt will thicken considerably as well. Try soaping at lower temperatures… it really is okay!
  • If you are making a fancy swirl, then make sure your FO will not discolor.  It’s a sad thing when you make a spectacular soap and it turns to mud brown in the first two weeks.   Though Vanilla discolors, many fragrances without vanilla will also discolor.  Read the reviews and information from reputable suppliers before choosing your fragrances.
  • Not all Fragrance Suppliers are equal… and I’ll just leave it at that.
  • There can be a big difference in the appearance of soaps cut horizontally vs. the traditional vertical cut.  If you are swirling from the top of your soap log to the base, there might be some really beautiful surprises waiting for you with a horizontal cut.
  • Liquid Colorants will bleed. Color divisions and lines will not be crisp.  Micas and Pigments are more stable for CP.
  • Yes, you can be creative with Hot Process.
  • While there is a smaller margin for error on small batches, I’d suggest keeping your batch size around 2 pounds to start with.  This gives you the opportunity to practice new techniques and recipes without overrunning your shelves with soap.
  • Seriously, don’t plan on selling your first dozen batches.  You’re just learning.  Until you’ve had some time to refine your recipe and techniques, just give the soaps away.  Give them to family, friends, women’s shelters, your kids teachers, etc.
  • You can force gel or prevent gel.  Personally, I like to oven process most of my soaps in a warm oven (170 degrees) for 30-45 minutes then leave the soap in the warm oven (no peeking) overnight to finish gelling.  Of course, milk, honey and spicy fragrances may overheat so preventing gel should be considered for those soaps.
  • Shop hard!  Your favorite fragrance supplier may not offer the best price on oils.  You’ll likely find better pricing on packaging by shopping outside of the soaping industry.   Pricing for similar items vary wildly from one company to the next.
  • Sodium Lactate is your friend and will harden soaps for easier removal form silicone molds.  Stearic Acid will add hardness but accelerate substantially.  I do not recommend using added stearic acid for a beginner.
  • Palm Oil and Palm Kernal Oil are not the same and are not interchangeable.
  • INS numbers really are helpful. If you don’t like the bubble numbers, then add sugar, maple syrup, honey, etc.  If you don’t like the creamy number, then add some coconut milk powder.  Take time to learn how to use SoapCalc and how different fatty acid will effect your soap.  Note to self, High Stearic Acid will accelerate every time.
  • If you want to sell soap, you MUST read Marie Gale’s book, Soap and Cosmetic Labeling. Read it, Absorb it.  It will keep you on the right side of the law.  I’ve read a dozen books on soap making over the last year.  If I were buying only two soap making books, I’d start with Anne-Marie Faiola’s new release, Soap Crafting which is RICH with inspiring pictures of beautiful swirling techniques and Susan Cavitch Miller’s book, The Soapmaker’s Companion, which is thorough in information for beginners as well as a handy reference for the experienced soaper.  A fourth outstanding reference would be The Consumer’s Dictionary of Cosmetic Ingredients by Ruth Winters which gives needed information on all of the ingredients you might use in soap as well as ingredients you will find in commercial soap and cosmetics.
  • And finally, no matter what you’ve read in a book, don’t ever tell someone “It can’t be done.” They might prove you wrong.  Don’t be afraid to experiment and test new boundaries.  But at the same time, don’t jump on the bandwagon of putting “stuff” in your soap just for the challenge of it.  I’ve put chocolate in soap.  Why?  I don’t know.  Label appeal I guess.  Wine is better in my belly than as a soap ingredient… though beer really is friggin’ awesome in soap.  Know why the ingredients are being used.  I used to have this fantasy about using Grape Crush in soap just to see if I could.  Finally, I talked myself out of it as it would serve no useful cosmetic purpose.
  • Be sure to watch a lot of YouTube videos. But, be aware, there are crackpots out there who make exaggerated and untested claims that the essential oil blends in their soaps will treat various medical conditions.   Soap is intended to clean the skin. In my opinion, soap, as a product that washes off the skin, doesn’t add moisture to the skin.  But compared synthetic detergent bars, it is less drying and does not strip the skin of it’s own oils.  Don’t believe everything you see on t.v. (or YouTube).

These have been some hard learned, expensive lessons.  I hope this list helps shorten the learning curve for beginners.  If you have any experience at all, I’m sure you’ve already found things I’ve stated here that you may disagree with.  As I said, everyone has different opinions and there really are few hard and fast rules.

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Experimenting with Embeds

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Experimenting with Embeds

This is my challenge soap for Amy Warden’s Great Cakes Soap Challenge for Feb. 2014. For this month’s challenge, everyone is using embeds. I’ve been inspired by the blogs of soapers in Brazil, France and Spain who are using very creative embed techniques. For this soap, I used a scroll saw to cut the embed from an existing bar of soap. Then laid that embed back into the mold and poured white around it. Then, I used the scroll saw again to cut the exterior design. This challenge has been so much fun!

soap used for embed

Chronicles of a busy month…

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I’ve really neglected my blog over the last month. I’m not sure how many other people actually read this stuff, but it makes a great diary for me to refer back to on my work. So, let’s bring this saga up to date!

Great Soap Shop *Desire* Drop Swirl

Over the last month, I’ve been experimenting with some soaping techniques that are new to me. This soap is Desire, a masculine / unisex fragrance that is molded in a silicone buche mold which I found on a bakery site. This is really a fun technique that I’ll be doing more often.

Over the last month, I’ve been experimenting with some soaping techniques that are new to me. This soap is Desire, a masculine / unisex fragrance that is molded in a silicone buche mold which I found on a bakery site. This is really a fun technique that I’ll be doing more often.

Arabian Spice

Arabian Spice is another great unisex scent… spicy as the name describes but with an underlying sweetness. This soap is made with a wavy soap divider that my husband made for me. I haven’t found any vendors that offer these dividers. We are working very hard to source materials to make these available to fellow soapers. There will definitely be more of this design in my future.

Blackberry Sage

Recently I received a soap from a lady in Germany which used small tapioca pearls for a mild exfoliant. I LOVED it. Since I was running out of her soap, I figured I better make some of my own. In Blackberry Sage, I’ve dyed the tapioca pearls purple and green to add a little punch to this design.

I’ve made two versions of Clean Cut. This is a Brambleberry fragrance called “Haircut and a Shave.” I thought the name was a bit bulky so changed it to Clean Cut. The first Clean Cut is my variation of a straw technique. With this technique, cores of color are removed from the soap and then filled in with brightly colored melt and pour. I’ve modified the technique a bit to make it easier but the end result is the same.

Clean Cut

The second Clean Cut uses indigo powder for natural colorant and blueberry seeds for mild exfoliation. I’m just in love with the wavy design.

Clean Cut2

Holiday Lights is another polka dot soap (a.k.a. straw technique). This is a two day process that I’m still working to improve.

Holiday Lights

Lavender Anise uses 12 colors swirled in a tray mold. This is a technique that I found in Anne-Marie Faiola’s new book, Soap Crafting. It’s an awesome book, rich with pictures. As far as the soap goes, I have to say that I don’t like Lavender at all, but customers request it, so I’m making it. The anise essential oil pairs nicely with Lavender.

Lavender Anise

I’m looking to popular culture for inspiration for some of my colors. In this Mardi Gras soap, I used the traditional gold, green, purple with accents of black and white. This was another drop swirl… I think I’m getting the hang of it!

mardi gras

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How About Honeysuckle?

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How About Honeysuckle?

I don’t do much melt and pour, but it’s fun to try new things. The possibilities for fun embeds are almost endless. I’ve also been doing some research lately and found Detergent Free Melt & Pour soaps that offer much better quality ingredients without all of the chemicals of cosmetic M&Ps.

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VEGAN: Truly Patchouli

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VEGAN: Truly Patchouli

Made at the request of my good friend Sharon Taylor and after several requests from other customers. Not my favorite fragrance, but you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do!

This soap contains Coconut Oil, Rice Bran Oil, Safflower Oil, Hemp Oil, Patchouli Essential Oil, Castor Oil, Cocoa Butter, Mango Seed Butter, Shea Butter, Palm Kernal Oil, Avocado Oil, Almond Oil

This soap is fresh made and will be ready after a six week cure… late September.

New Soaping Tools

Well, clearly I’ve been neglecting my blog lately.  I’m getting geared up for the Craftapalooza show this weekend at Century II in Wichita.  Today I’m Mod Podging shelf liners for my display.  I’ll be taking about 30 different soaps to the show along with new lotions, bath fizzies, bath tea, salts and body butter.

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I bought my husband a table saw for Father’s Day.  Little did he know that I would be putting him to work making molds and soaping tools for me.  I participate in the Soaping 101 Study Hall chat board on Facebook.  Every month or so, they hold a garage sale online.  A couple of weeks ago, we posted dividers for my favorite mold to make fancy Mantra and Taiwan swirls which are typically done with cardboard.  The crowd went wild.  We sold 18 sets in one day and now with the new Soaping 101 Tutorial this week, orders are pouring in again.

To see some of my hubby’s handywork, you’ll have to watch the video