International Soap Swap Part 2 – Europe

In my last post I gave a little hint of what was to come in the two subsequent posts, so here, without further ado, is (the first half of) what was shared in the 2015 International Soap Swap.

Six out of the twelve participants are based in Europe, and they are the ones I’m showcasing in this post. We had one soapmaker from Ireland, one from Austria, one from Germany and three (including myself) from the UK.

First up were these bars from Celine of  i am handmade  If you’re a soapmaker, or a fan of handmade soaps, you may well be familiar with her gorgeous work.  I was incredibly lucky that Celine sent an extra bar as a little thank you to me for hosting, and these were the two that I ended up with:

I am Handmade

I am Handmade Love + Kisses and Cottontail

And here they are unboxed:

Love + Kisses / Cottontail

Love + Kisses / Cottontail

I chose not to use a single bar until I knew all the participants had received their soapy packages, but as soon as that happy moment arrived, the first one I opened was Celine’s Love + Kisses:

Love + Kisses in use

Love + Kisses in use

I didn’t think I was making a conscious decision when I picked up one of Celine’s first, but I’ve been a fan of hers for a long time – more or less since I first started to make soap – so perhaps subconsciously I was draw to them.

Love + Kisses is divine to use. It’s super hard, creates a lusciously abundant lather, and the fruity fragrance lingers softly on the skin. I can’t wait to start the second bar 😀

You can buy Celine’s via her website or checkout her FB page If you enjoy watching soapmaking videos (and there are an awful lot of us that do :-)) then you should definitely check out Celine’s Youtube channel.

Next up is this beauty from Vinvela, of Dandelion Seifee:

Amber-Lemon by Dandelion Seifee

Amber-Lemon by Dandelion Seifee

Vinvela really is an absolute master of swirls, and creates beautiful, fine patterns that I can only dream of.  This bar is scented with a blend of amber and lemon which give a deep and complex fragrance which is also refreshing and bright. It’s SO lovely.

She also creates her own packaging – how cute is this? The soap nestles perfectly within the box, and the box is surrounded by the colourful outer band which details the fragrance, ingredients etc.

Dandelion Seifee packaging

Dandelion Seifee packaging

If you’d like to see more of  Vinvela’s skillful soapmaking, just take a look at her blog here

The third soap I received from my European colleagues was ‘Bite Me’ from Wendy of Heavenly Bubbles in the UK.

Heavenly Bubbles

Heavenly Bubbles

I just love this packaging. There’s often a compromise between protecting the soap while ensuring that the design can be seen and the fragrance experienced, but Wendy appears to have achieved the perfect balance here.

Bite Me - Heavenly Bubbles

Bite Me – Heavenly Bubbles

Bite Me is part of the Heavenly Bubbles luxury silk collection, and the fragrance is delicious. It’s described as citrus, berries and cherries on a vanilla base and to me it’s a  sophisticated, grown up twist on cherryade.  Finding a true red colour for soap is a bit of a holy grail for soapmakers, but Wendy has cracked it in this bar. Topped with a fine sprinkling of glitter and a perfect little cherry on each bar, it’s clear that a lot of thought has gone into the design of Bite Me. I love it!

Take a look at Wendy’s website here or follow Heavenly Bubbles on Facebook, on Twitter and on Instagram

Coincidentally, our second British soapmaker is also a Wendy. Wendy Jones runs Soapy Jones, a handmade soap company based in the Midlands. She created this fabulously appropriate packaging for our international soap swap:

Soapy Jones

Soapy Jones

It’s just perfect, even down to that postage stamp on there!

The soap inside continued the theme – take a look at this amazing landscape (or, more correctly I think, seascape soap)

Soapy Jones Seascape

Soapy Jones Seascape

I LOVE the creativity that’s gone into the design. Unless you’ve ever tried to create a landscape soap you probably don’t know how difficult it is to do, and how much skill is involved it getting it just right like this. The fragrance, a fresh green scent called Earl Grey & Cucumber, is the perfect complement to the design.

You can find Soapy Jones on Facebook, follow her on Twitter and Instagram, and take a peek at more of her beautiful creations on her website

The fifth European participant was Zacil of Soap & Soap based in Germany.  Zacil doesn’t currently sell her bars so I consider myself very lucky to have had this opportunity to try her soap. And not just one bar.  Oh no.  Zacil was incredibly generous and sent me FOUR to try. This was the bar that all participants received:

Soap & Soap

Soap & Soap

Each bar’s packaging was handcrafted and personalised with each participant’s name, and was really well designed to protect the soap whilst allowing a tantalising glimpse of what was within.  Here it is unwrapped:

Soap & Soap

Soap & Soap

Just look at those amazing colours and swirls!  This bar was made with some really interesting ingredients including Babassu, Argan and Cottonseed oils which I’ve not used in soapmaking. There were also one ingredient of which I’ve never even HEARD before – Konjak flour. Turns out it’s a starchy flour popular in Asia. I can’t wait to try this bar out for myself!

The three other bars which Zacil sent me are pictured below, named, from left to right, Midori cocktail, a fruity melony fragrance (with a dinky little soap fruit on top), Juicy Hearts (the colours are amazing) and Century, which has white wine listed as an additive.

Soap & Soap Sample Bars

Soap & Soap Extra bars

You can see more of Zacil’s work on here on her Facebook page

The last participant from Europe was of course myself. Now, I’ve wittered on enough on this blog about my own soaps, so I’ll keep it very brief here – these were the two bars that I sent out for the swap – each participant received one or the other of these:

Luscious Lavender / Orange Bliss

Luscious Lavender / Orange Bliss

You can see more of my soaps on Facebook or follow me on Instagram and Twitter

Thanks for reading. I’ll be back to share the north American participants soon!

International Soap Swap Part 1

This Summer I was lucky enough to host an international soap swap between myself and eleven amazingly talented soaping friends from Europe, America & Canada. There was only rule: Each participant was to send me eleven full sized bar of their soap by 31st July, together with their postal address for the return package.

Once I had received all eleven packages (and boy was that like Christmas!!) I created twelve piles of soap – one for each participant including myself – consisting of one soap from each package (omitting each participants OWN soap of course) and one of mine. I then boxed up all the piles of soapy goodness and sent them back out to their rightful owners.

Given all the things that could have gone wrong, it all went remarkably smoothly.  We had a bit of a delay as one box was a few weeks late arriving (despite being posted in PLENTY of time by the participant – it took almost 8 weeks to get from North America to the UK!) but the return packages all (bar one) arrived at their various destinations in good time, and even the last one arrived within 10 days.

The only down side really was the postage costs. The parcels weighed approximately 1.7kg each, so international postage both ways was never going to be cheap. Once I’d packaged up the individual boxes I weighed them at home,  and used the Royal Mail website to try to ascertain what the cost was going to be to send out each parcel.  Each participant then paid me via Paypal what I had estimated the cost to be.  As it turned out, each and every parcel turned out to be marginally cheaper to post than the website quoted, but it was a simple task to refund each participant the difference.

And now to the fun bit. There were 6 participants from Europe (including myself) and 6 from the USA and Canada. Rather than have one crazy long post, I’m going to post a few pictures here of MY Christmas in July – when the soapy packages arrived. In Post 2 I’ll share my European haul in much more detail, and in Post 3 I’ll do the same with the loveliness from our friends over the pond.

In case you missed my earlier teaser, here’s the full line up in all its glory:

International Soap Swap Soap Haul

International Soap Swap 2015

If you are remotely a fan of handmade soap, or even just like surprises, you’ll have some idea of the excitement I felt each time the postman handed me one of these parcels.  Do bear in mind these are just teasers for the main events coming in the next two posts!

First to arrive was this package from Pam of By The Sea Soaps in the US:

http://bytheseasoap.com/

By The Sea Soaps

and she was so kind to put together a special goody bag for me as a thank you for hosting the swap:

Goody Bag from Pam

Goody Bag from Pam

After that I’ve kind of lost track of what arrived when, so these next nine packages are in no particular order:

From Vinvela Ebony of dandelion SeiFee in  Austria:

 

dandelion SeiFee

dandelion SeiFee

From Wendy of Soapy Jones, UK:

Soapy Jones

Soapy Jones

From Barbara of Moon Goddess Garden, US:

Moon Goddess Garden

Moon Goddess Garden

From Melinda of Melinda’s Naturals, US:

Melinda's Naturals

Melinda’s Naturals

From Celine of i am handmade, Ireland:

i am handmade

i am handmade

From Wendy of Heavenly Bubbles, UK:

Heavenly Bubbles

Heavenly Bubbles

From Zacil of Soap & Soap in Germany:

Soap & Soap

Soap & Soap

From Emily of Shieh Design Studio, US:

Shieh Design Studio

Shieh Design Studio

From Zahida of Handmade in Florida, US:

Handmade in Florida

Handmade in Florida

And finally, an admission and apology – there was one parcel that, in my HUGE excitement, I forgot to photograph whilst still in its outer box. So, even more of a tease here from Louise, of Soga Artisan Soaperie, in Canada:   (There will, of course, be pictures when I cover them individually in Post 3, and you can find them here if you can’t wait that long)

Soga Artisan Soaperie

Soga Artisan Soaperie

Don’t, whatever you do, miss the next two posts. There will be naked bars 😀

Thanks for reading, back soon!

The ‘Clyde Slide’ Challenge Soap

This month’s challenge for Amy Warden’s monthly Soap Challenge Club over at Great Cakes Soapworks is to create a soap using the  ‘Clyde Slide’ technique.  The Clyde Slide is named after Clyde of Vibrant Soaps, who uses this technique to create beautiful (and exquisitely coloured) soaps –  do check out his videos on YouTube if you get the opportunity.

As I’ve just started production of this year’s Christmas soaps, I decided to design my challenge soap around a fragrance oil called ‘Yule Log’. It’s a chocolately, almondy,  cakey fragrance, with notes of cinnamon, ginger, vanilla and musk and is delicious out of the bottle.  How does it smell in soap? I’d love to tell you but, um, well, I forgot to add it. Oh well, sensitive noses deserve pretty soap too don’t they?

I used a light brown mica as the base colour, to represent the sponge, and dark brown mica, titanium dioxide (white) and red liquid colourant for the cream, chocolate and holly berries elements. I did consider using a little green too for the holly leaves, but in the end I’m glad I didn’t.

I prepped the soap batter and added the colours, making sure I kept the batter at a light trace:

Coloured soap

Coloured soap

Then I poured the white, red and dark brown soap batters into the bowl containing the lighter brown soap.  I completely forgot to take a photo of this stage, but I used exactly this pattern (this was my second attempt):

Clyde Slide in the Pot

Clyde Slide in the Pot

Usually, when I use the ‘In the Pot’ technique, I would now give the pot a quick stir, just once or twice, but I always stir before pouring.  For a Clyde Slide, you DO NOT stir. I can’t tell you how much I wanted to stir!!

Here it is mid-pour:

Clyde Slide mid-pour

Clyde Slide mid-pour

Then I swirled the top:

Clyde Slide top swirl

Clyde Slide top swirl

And two days later, Ta Da!!  My unscented Yule Log Clyde Slide:

Clyde Slide, The Cut

Clyde Slide, The Cut

And here’s a close up to show the trademark ‘Clyde Slide’ feathering – it’s not a blurred photo, honest :-D:

Clyde Slide Close Up

Clyde Slide Close Up

Many thanks to Amy for her major feat of organisation (apparently there are over 180 entrants this month!), I’m really looking forward to seeing all the other entries. Good luck if you’ve entered!