Makeovers (4: Delicious)

One of my best sellers is, quite literally, ‘Delicious’.  It’s fragranced with a dupe of the DKNY fragrance ‘Be Delicious’ which has the fresh scent of apples blended with floral / woody fragrances.  To date I’ve always made it with a simple ITP swirl (with apologies for the lighting on the bottom bar):

Delicious - ITP Swirl

      Delicious – ITP Swirl

When I’m against the clock and frantically trying to get my stock levels back up, an ITP swirl is mercifully quick to execute. But, for me at least, they are unpredictable, and the colour distribution isn’t always as I would like. So I decided to try using the same colours but with a drop swirl, and this is how it came out:

Delicious - Drop Swirl by The Soap Mine

           Delicious – Drop Swirl

I LOVE it! So that’s me with one less ‘quickie’ during busy stocking-up soapmaking sessions, but I reckon it’s worth it 🙂

It has though brought to mind an ongoing dilemma I have about what’s most important when it comes to the soaps that I create. I put a lot of thought into what oils and butters go into my bars to give them skin-loving, super-lathering properties, but then I hear people say that they look too pretty to use. It’s a phrase I’ve heard at every single craft fair / Christmas market I’ve ever sold at.  I know people are being complimentary but – Noooooooooooo! Use them! Use them, then buy more 😀

 

 

Christmas 2015 Soaps

Last year I made just one batch of soap specifically for the holiday season.  I swapped the usual raffia for a seasonal ribbon, and it sold out within a couple of days.  I posted at the time that it was a case of bad planning, but by then it was too late to do anything about it, and I vowed to do better this year.

I was super-organised, and ordered my Christmas fragrances in August (!!). I decided to make four different Christmas soaps. Four different designs made with four different fragrances. If I’m totally honest, I have mixed feelings about this lot, but judge for yourselves:

First up was Candy Cane – a mouthwatering fragrance which blends peppermint and vanilla. I liked this one so much I made a second batch, and good thing too, as it’s proving very popular and the first batch is already sold out.

Candy Cane

Candy Cane

Next I had a plan to create a stylised Christmas Tree design, complete with baubles. My main disappointment with this one is that I somehow had a brain freeze while rolling the ‘baubles’ and I made them two small. To me they should be the same diameter as the baubles on the top of the soap. I also tried to get clever and create some variation in the colours/designs of the baubles themselves by rolling different colours together, but it didn’t work as well as I hoped. Perhaps they would have looked better had they been larger. Anyway, they may look a bit quirky, but they certainly smell like a Christmas tree – the fragrance oil has top notes of pine needles and and spicy, woodsy middle and base notes.

Christmas Trees

Christmas Tree

The third fragrance was called ‘Yule Log’ which, predictably, is a sweet chocolate scent, with notes of bitter almonds, cinnamon, ginger and vanilla. I planned to use this fragrance oil to make my ‘Clyde Slide’ entry for the September Greatcakes Soapworks challenge and used colours which are reminiscent of a Christmas Yule Log:

Yule Log

Yule Log

Sadly I was focusing so much on mastering the technique that I forgot to add the fragrance oil – arrrgghhhh! Never mind, I made it again and now have a scented and an unscented version 😀

My final Christmas design for 2015 is a second Clyde Slide – Moonlit Mistletoe – in grey, silver and green. It’s a true unisex fragrance, the top notes are herbal, green and fruity, balanced with spices, amber and patchouli.

Moonlit Mistletoe

Moonlit Mistletoe

Thanks for reading, I’ll be back again soon!

The ‘Tall & Skinny Shimmy’ Challenge Soap

November’s challenge over on Amy Warden’s Great Cakes Soapworks was to (attempt to) recreate what Amy named the ‘Tall & Skinny Shimmy’. This technique is also called the wall pour or segment filling, and has been perfected by Tatiana Serko, an amazing soaper who created the tutorial video for the challenge. I’ve seen this design before and always wondered how it was done, SO there was no doubt in my mind as to whether I’d be giving it a go this month.  Here’s the design she created for the tutorial:

Tatiana's Tall & Skinny Shimmy

Tatiana’s Tall & Skinny Shimmy

I recently bought a shiny new tall & skinny mould, and this challenge marked it’s first outing. This was the first problem. Turned out the mould holds more soap than my regular mold. I kind of thought it would, but checked on the website where I bought it to make sure.  Unfortunately, in my haste, I looked at the wrong listing, and so had the wrong volume in my head. Luckily I’d had a sneaking suspicion that that figure might be incorrect (just by looking at the mould – which is LONG), so I prepped two batches of my masterbatched oils, just in case.

I decided (once again) to use a fragrance I’d not used before. Not as crazy as it sounds – I used a blend of Patchouli & Sweet Orange essential oils, both of which I’ve used separately many times without any problems.

I added the fragrance blend to the oils, then added the lye and mixed gently with a whisk until the soap was fully emulsified, but no more. In her tutorial, Tatiana said that she doesn’t use a stick blender, and simply lightly hand mixes her soap. With some trepidation, I decided to do the same, and split the soap into seven, colouring each portion a different shade, and mixing thoroughly by hand.

Prepped colourant

Prepped colourants

I then set up my mould as per Tatiana’s instruction.  I placed two pencils parallel to each other on my work table, on either side of my mould.  I put one side of the mould onto one of the pencils, so that there was a tilt to the mould, and then poured the first colour down and along the side of mould that was NOT on the pencil.  I then moved the mould so that the other edge was sitting on the other pencil (and the mould was therefore tilted lengthways the other way) and poured down and along the opposite side. I did this with all seven colours, alternating the side each time. The soap was very thin, and had barely reached trace – I think it perhaps could have been just the tiniest bit thicker – note to self for next time…

Anyway, of course, it turned out I didn’t have enough soap made up to fill the mould, so I quickly separated out another three portions of the second batch, added colour, and continued to pour. The pouring was fast and fraught, and I didn’t get the opportunity to take any photographs – sorry!

Once the pour was complete, and the mould was full, I swirled to the top and put it to one side to harden up.

Tall & Skinny Shimmy in the Mould

Tall & Skinny Shimmy in the Mould

As it was poured at such a light trace, it took a while to harden up sufficiently, but three days later I felt confident enough to take it out of the mould:

Tall & Skinny Shimmy in the mould

Ready for cutting

I was REALLY apprehensive about cutting this one, I didn’t have the time (or the ingredients) to make another one, so I was hoping it wasn’t a complete disaster. As it was, it’s not too bad. I did get a little bit of a shimmy, but there’s no doubt that the pouring left a lot to be desired!!

Tall & Skinny Shimmy (kinda)

Tall & Skinny Shimmy (kinda)

I think had I had the correct volume of soap from the beginning, and just had the seven colours to pour, I may have had more luck – it’s clear that my scrabbling for more soap towards the end caused issues with the design at the top.

Another issue I had was that the silicone liner was so tall and long, it didn’t stay flush to the sides of the mould – the sides bent into the middle, and so while pouring down one side, I had to use my other hand to hold the other side of the silicone mold away from the middle, which was a bit awkward.

I’m really happy to have been able to give this one a go, and will probably try it again at some point in the future – thanks Amy!

Thanks for reading – I’ll be back soon with a post on my holiday soaps.

International Soap Swap Part 3 – USA & Canada

My apologies, this post has been much longer coming than I’d hoped (or planned!). Things got very busy preparing for the festive season, but I finally got it finished. Thank you for your patience 🙂

Six of the participants in this summer’s soap swap were from USA or Canada, and this last post will focus on the lovely soaps that came all the way over the Atlantic into my eager little hands.

Just as in the last post, the following are in no particular order… apart from this first one. Once the soap swap had been set up, and we had decided the date by which all soaps should be with me, all there was for me to do was sit back and wait for the soapy parcels to arrive. I can’t tell you how excited I was the first time the postman knocked on the door with a soap filled parcel. That parcel was from Pam Leis of By The Sea Soap.

Pam was extraordinarily generous and sent me not only the full sized bar that each participant received but also FOUR extra treats.  You can see three of them in the picture below – a sample of her Newport Beach Sand soap, a flower shaped Sweetpea & Rhubarb soap, which has some natural sponge embedded in the bottom AND a ‘Black Bamboo – Detox bar, with some amazing white piping on the top.

They are all stunning, but my absolute favourite fragrance is that of the Newport Beach Sand soap.  It’s called Sea Moss by BrambleBerry, and I NEED to find something similar in the UK.  It’s described as  ‘a unique blend of Bergamot, Orchid, Jasmine and Violet with supporting notes of Ozone (air), Sandalwood, Musk and of course, Moss. This fragrance could be described as fresh, green and almost a little kelp-y’. It’s reminiscent of something I’ve come across before, but I just can’t recall it. If anyone has any ideas – please let me know!

By The Sea Soaps

By The Sea Soaps

Pam also sent me some beautiful dried rosebuds, and I’ll be using them on something special soon!

Dried Rose Petals

Dried Rose Petals

Here is Pam’s swap soap, and a closeup of the sparkly top. It’s called ‘A Pink Philosophy’ and I’m afraid the photos don’t do justice to this beautiful bar, but I can assure you it’s lovely!

A Pink Philosophy from By The Sea Soap

A Pink Philosophy from By The Sea Soap

A Pink Philosopy - Top

A Pink Philosophy – Top

You can find more of Pam’s soaps on her Face Book page

If you’re a fan of soapmaking videos, you’re probably familiar with Emily of Shieh Design Studio. She has her own You Tube channel, and I am only one of a great many people who enjoy watching her make soap.  Emily makes her own soap boxes, and they’re a testament to her perfectionism:

Handmade soap box by Shieh Design Studio

Handmade soap box by Shieh Design Studio

It seemed a shame to have to break it open, but, I admit, I didn’t hesitate for long 🙂

The soap I received was called Mayan Gold, and it’s a beautiful riot of colour. The fragrance is a blend of oriental notes and chocolate / vanilla.

Mayan Gold by Shieh Soap Design

Mayan Gold by Shieh Soap Design

The top is decorated with golden chunks of soap

Mayan Gold - top of bar

Mayan Gold – top of bar

Isn’t that just beautiful?

You can read Emily’s blog here or catch up with Shieh Design Studio on Facebook, You Tube, Instagram and Etsy.

Next up was Louise of SoGa Artisan Soaperie in Canada. Louise’s bar was fragranced with the ever popular (and delicious!) Black Raspberry Vanilla fragrance, and featured berry colours and a hanger swirl design. Here it is packaged:

Black Raspberry Vanilla by SoGa Artisan Soaperie

Black Raspberry Vanilla by SoGa Artisan Soaperie

And here it is in all its glory. I love the hanger swirls and the overall design really suits the fragrance I think.

Black Raspberry Vanilla by SoGa Artisan Soaperie

Black Raspberry Vanilla by SoGa Artisan Soaperie

The top of the bar also features some lovely shimmery swirls. I tried and tried to take a good enough picture of this top which adequately showed the beauty of the top but this is the best I could do. I can assure you that it looks much better in real life:

Black Raspberry & Vanilla Top

Black Raspberry & Vanilla Top

Louise can be found on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and also has her own website. Do check them out!

Next up was Barbara of Moon Goddess Garden. She sent this lovely flower shaped bar. It came shrink wrapped which kept it in pristine condition during its travels, and all the company info was on a label on the back:

Moon Goddess Garden

Moon Goddess Garden

Here it is unwrapped.  The petals are decorated with mica and the centre is created from poppy seeds which give a nice bit of exfoliation. It’s called ‘Summertime Taffy’  and the fragrance really is summery – bright and a bit fruity and JUST what I need at this time of year as the rain lashes down outside!!

Moon Goddess Garden

Moon Goddess Garden

Do have a look at Barbara’s Facebook to see more of her beautiful soaps.

Melinda, of Melinda’s Naturals, sent us each a bar of ‘Juliet’s Heart’:

Juliet's Heart by Melinda's Naturals

Juliet’s Heart by Melinda’s Naturals

Here it is unwrapped and you can see the fine swirls that adorn the inside and the top of the bar:

Juliet's Heart by Melinda's Naturals

Juliet’s Heart by Melinda’s Naturals

This soap was a special edition, created just for us, and is scented with a soft, warm floral essential oil blend. It features jojoba oil and illipe butter, and feels very luxurious to use.

You can find Melinda on Facebook, Instagram and on her own website

Finally we have Zahida of Handmade in Florida.  Zahida’s beautiful and hugely popular soaps invariably sell out within hours of their release, and she has a massive following on social media.

Allow me to deviate a little here because the box in which the soaps arrived was so exquisitely packaged I had to take a photograph of every step:

Handmade in Florida Packaging

Handmade in Florida Packaging

Now, given how difficult it is to get your hands on a bar of Zahida’s soap, imagine my delight when I learnt that Zahida had sent me (by way of a thank you for hosting) not one but TWO bars of her soap to try – Amber and Sensual Oudh. Let me tell you, they both smell wonderful, but my favourite is the Sensual Oudh, described as ‘a deep and complex blending of oudh, sandalwood, cedarwood, leather, patchouli, vetiver, amber, tonka, and vanilla’ – amazing!

Amber & Sensual Oudh by Handmade in Florida

Amber & Sensual Oudh by Handmade in Florida

And unboxed:

Amber & Sensual Oudh by Handmade in Florida

Amber & Sensual Oudh by Handmade in Florida

How beautiful are those swirls? In case you don’t know, Zahida is the original creator of the oft imitated butterfly swirl – check out her creations on You Tube, Instagram, Facebook, Website and Blog

And THAT, my friends, brings to an end this year’s International Soap Swap.  Of course, it’s not the end for those of us who participated, as we each have a rather large box of lovely soap to keep us going well into the New Year. Mind you, I have a funny feeling it may well happen again at some time in the future, so watch this space!

Thanks for reading, I’ll be back soon!