Introducing… Sugar Drops

One of my soaps used to make me a little sad. It smelled divine (no, I know I say that about all of them, but trust me on this one…) but it just didn’t sell well.  It’s fragranced with a dupe of Aquolina’s Pink Sugar perfume: think candy floss, caramel, vanilla blended with strawberry jam and musk with top notes of lemon drops and brown sugar. It really is lovely.

The high vanilla content in the fragrance oil means that it will naturally turn the soap brown, so while I use my regular drop swirl design, I only add FO to two thirds of the soap batter (one third with Titanium Dioxide, one third with no colour) and leave the pink portion fragrance free:

I became convinced that the reason it wasn’t selling was because of its name: First Kiss (so called because it’s so sweet, *groan*)  It was cheesy, and the feedback was that it wasn’t something that older people would want to buy as a gift, even if they liked the scent.

I needed some help to come up with something better, so I asked the good folk of Instagram, and was lucky enough to be given load of great suggestions.  The one I went with was Sugar Drops, suggested by @nightwingbeth.  I liked that it still implied sweetness, and also referenced the Drop Swirl design.

So there we go – First Kiss has been relegated to history, step forward Sugar Drops.

Thanks for reading, back soon!

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When Fragrance Oils Go Rogue

My hands-down-most-popular summer special last year was my Lemon Verbena Confetti, so obviously I had to make it again this year.  It has a white base colour, is crammed with multi-coloured soap shavings and is fragranced with an amazing smelling Lemon Verbena fragrance oil.  I LOVE lemon verbena – it’s fresh, crisp and citrussy with herbaceous notes, but sadly, this particular lemon verbena fragrance does NOT behave itself in cold process soap.

I knew from my experience using last year that it was a fast mover, so I thought I was well prepared this time. The soap shavings were ready to go, the oils and lye were at room temperature, I didn’t discount the water, and was prepared to work quickly. It wasn’t enough…

Soap shaving ready to be added...

Soap shaving ready to be added…

I added my titanium dioxide AND the Lemon Verbena FO to to my oils, added the lye water and KAPOW!  it solidified immediately. I refused to be beaten.  I splodged the stick blender in and loosened it up a bit before adding all the soap shavings. How much soap shavings you use is entirely up to you – I don’t measure it out, I just mix in more and more until it looks like enough <not helpful sorry>:

Soap shavings added

Soap shavings added

I mixed as far as I could with a spoon but in the end I had to plunge in my (gloved!!) hands to give it a thorough mix. It was the only way to get everything properly combined without breaking up all the soap shreds with the blender.  I also used my hands to get the whole lot into the the moulds (one benefit of making confetti soap – two batches with added confetti makes enough soap to fill three moulds – yey!)

Moulds filled with confetti soap

Moulds filled with confetti soap

It was only then that I realised that one of my gloves had split and I had the beginnings of a lye burn on the end of one of my fingers – ouch 😦

Two days later I unmoulded and cut, and the result wasn’t too shabby:

Confetti soap, the cut

Confetti soap, the cut

It has a few small air holes here and there, trapped during the mould filling, but it’s pretty good, considering!

Incidentally, the company from whom I bought this FO claim on their website that it causes no acceleration in CP soap, but when I asked in a FB group whether anyone else had had an issue with this particular FO, it seems to be fairly common. Ah well, forewarned is forearmed eh?!

Rainbow Drop Swirl – A tutorial in pictures

Tutti Frutti

Tutti Frutti

There’s been a lot of interest in my rainbow drop swirl (Tutti Frutti) soap recently, so I thought I’d put together a little pictorial tutorial for anyone who’s interested in how it’s done (I really, REALLY should start making videos shouldn’t I?).

Many of you will already know how big a fan I am of the drop swirl technique. Almost all of my core range is made using either a full or partial drop swirl, and Tutti Frutti is no exception.  I made another couple of batches recently, and took some photographs along the way…

**Please make sure you’re familiar with the basics of soapmaking before you try any advanced swirls (Soap Queen is a good place to start) and always wear protective clothing / gloves / goggles.  Safety first!!**

I generally make soap at room temperature, so I’ll mix up the lye solution in advance and put it to one side to cool down (I don’t discount the water for this one). I’ll also melt the hard oils and butters and combine them with the liquid oils and butters and allow them to cool down to room temp.

Next I measure out the seven different micas straight into the pouring jugs (actually here you’ll see six different micas and one liquid colourant.  It’s notoriously difficult to get a good red in CP soap, but I use a liquid colour from Gracefruit which is rather good.  They appear to be out of stock of the red at the moment, but hopefully it’ll be back in soon.)

colourants ready for mixing into the soap batter

colourants ready for mixing into the soap batter

Next I add my fragrance oil to the room temp oils and butters.  Many people add their fragrance AFTER adding the lye and tracing the soap, but my preference is to add it before.

I then add a couple of teaspoons of the fragranced oils to each jug of mica and get them well blended.  I know it’s common practice to skip this stage and simply add the traced lye batter directly onto the powdered mica (or add the powdered mica directly to jugs of traced batter), but I don’t always use a stick blender and this way I know I can get the colour incorporated well just by giving it a good mix with a spatula.

Pre-mixed colourants, oils and a jug of lye water

Pre-mixed colourants, oils and a jug of lye water

I get my moulds ready – notice my high-tech method of stopping the mould sides from bowing inwards 😀

Moulds prepared...

Moulds prepared…

And then we’re ready to go…  I mix the lye water into the tub of (already fragranced!) oils and butters, and share the soap batter out equally into the seven prepared jugs.  It would appear I forgot to get a photo of that stage – sorry!   What we’re looking for is a really light trace as the soap will thicken up during the pouring process. Personally I don’t stick-blend this soap AT ALL.  I find that by the time I’ve mixed up all the colours thoroughly it’s already at a light trace, but this will very much depend on how quickly your particular soap recipe traces and which fragrance you’re using. I’ve even found that certain micas can inhibit trace, so there are many different factors involved. It’s a case of using your judgement and, to be honest, trial and error.

Next comes the pour.  First in this time was yellow:

First pour - yellow

First pour – yellow

What’s crucial for a nice drop is the height from which you pour the soap in to the mould. At the early stages my jug is quite close to the bottom of the mould as I pour a line of soap along the length of it. Here’s the next couple of pours:

Red and orange poured next

Red and orange poured next

Once the bottom of the mould has been covered with soap, I start to raise the jugs a little higher as I pour, so that the soap drops into the previous layer, rather than sit on the top of it.  It’s very hard to give a precise height as it very much depends on how thick your soap batter is (the thicker it is, the higher you’ll need to drop it from)

More colours poured

More colours poured

I try to make sure I pour from the jugs in the same order on each round of pouring, and also try to make sure I’m not pouring a colour on top of the same colour in the mould.

I keep pouring until the moulds are full:

Filling up the mould

Filling up the mould

Almost full...

Almost full…

Full!

Full!

By this stage the batter is quite a bit thicker than when I started to pour, and looks none too tidy, but it doesn’t really matter once I start adding texture to the top:

Mid-texturing the top

Starting to tidy up the top

And the finished item:

Tutti Frutti ready to set up

Tutti Frutti in the mould

I generally leave soap in the mould for 48 hours before I unmould and cut:

Rainbow Drop Swirl mid-cut

Rainbow Drop Swirl mid-cut

And that’s it.  It’s cured for 4 weeks, bevelled and tidied up, cured for another 2 weeks then released for sale.

Some time ago I started using the Instagram hashtag #dropsaretops for some of my photos – please use the tag to share your own drop swirls and make this drop swirl junkie very happy 😀

 

Luscious Lavender Restocked – with a Twist

I found that photograph that I thought I’d deleted yesterday. Actually, I had deleted it, but discovered that my phone keeps a copy of recently deleted photos – who knew? (Many people, clearly, but not me 😉

So, just popping in and out quickly to finally share the third of last weeks batches:

Here it is in the mould:

Luscious Lavender in the Mould

Luscious Lavender in the Mould

And here it is freshly cut (and a little rough and ready). The twist (such as it is) is a slightly different shade of the darker purple – I’d run out of the regular mica so had to improvise:

Lavender freshly cut

Lavender freshly cut

That’s all for today folks!

Designing, designing…

As winter inexorably approaches, the tourist season here has more or less come to an end for the year.  The only visitors we’ll see for the next few months will be hardy, well wrapped walker and mountain climbers, and many of the gift shops have closed or drastically reduced their opening hours while the owners take a well earned rest.  A good time, then, for me to take stock and consider what sold well during this last year.  It’s clear to me (and it’s no real surprise) that the bars which sold the best here in the village were those with a Welsh element to their name (eg Welsh Rose and Blodau (Flowers)) or a link to the local area (eg Black Rock Sands and Traeth Criccieth (Criccieth Beach)).

I’ve decided that there needs to be a few additions to the regular range – soaps which reference the local area – and the first of those will be Yr Wyddfa, our name for Snowdon, the highest mountain in England & Wales.  Yr Wyddfa has always been close to my heart. As I child I lived literally at the foot of this majestic mountain, and now I live just 10 minutes away from the bottom of 4 different routes up (depending on which direction I drive). I’ve walked (and run, with a team of women, carrying (an occupied!) wheelchair – but that’s another story :-D) to the top many times, but I’ve never taken the train up… Anyway, I digress…

On Tuesday night I made my first attempt.  Even while it was still in the mould I knew that there were things I would do differently next time:

Yr Wyddfa in the mould

Yr Wyddfa in the mould

See that blue on the top? That’s supposed to represent the sky, but sadly it’s the wrong shade of blue. Easily fixed – next time…

And the cut:

Yr Wyddfa, cut

Yr Wyddfa, cut

Clearly I’ve not gone with one of my regular drop swirls here –  I’ve gone a little more literal, with greenery (two colours of green), rock, snowy mountain top and sky.  I need to alter the colours of the rock and the sky, and perhaps have a little more greenery than rock, but I’m really happy with it as a first attempt.

And Relax…

Relaxing. It’s not something I’d normally be doing much of in the run up to the holiday period. This is usually my busiest time of year – the two months during which I attend innumerable Christmas fairs and sell shedloads of soap. But not this year. The building work on the house as made soapmaking difficult, and I realised at the beginning of October that there was no way I would be able to keep stock levels anywhere near as high as they needed to be for the Christmas rush. I made the difficult decision to cancel all my seasonal fairs, and will only be attending my usual monthly craft fair in Porthmadog on the 26th November and 17th December.

I’m still working though. I still have my wholesale customers to keep stocked, and my wonderful local customers who’ll be knocking on my door looking for last minute gifts (if last year is anything to go by :-D) and so the soapmaking continues, just on a much smaller scale.

This are last week’s makes:

Sandalwood & Serenity

Sandalwood & Serenity

I’ve been asked a few times now for a sandalwood soap, so I finally made one (on the left) and the one on the right is a restock of Serenity (fragranced with patchouli, ylang ylang, orange and lemon essential oils).

The sandalwood moved REALLY quickly and nixed my regular drop swirl.  I was pretty sure I’d created something pretty fugly, but you know, it’s ok:

Sandalwood Soap

Sandalwood Soap

Here it is just cut, still needing to be bevelled and cleaned up. It’s really not so bad and I’m happy.

So apart from wrapping and labelling my holiday bars and gift sets and some gentle soapmaking I’m really not that busy at the moment.  It’s rather nice 🙂

Soap tops revisited

As I was putting together yesterday’s ‘Wet Soap Wednesday on a Friday’ post, I was thinking about how much I like soap tops, and remembered that I’d done a post a while back about them.  When I went looking, I was surprised to find it had been almost two years ago: Soap Tops from November 2014. I was also struck by how different those tops were to the way I do things now. So today’s post is a quick round up of my favourite soap tops from more recent times.

First up is a dupe of the DKNY fragrance, Be Delicious – appley, cucumbery and absolutely….Delicious:

Delicious

Delicious

Then there’s a recent batch of Clarity which turned out just beautifully (last night’s batch didn’t look quite as good as this in the mould!)

Clarity

Clarity

The top of this Oatmeal, Milk & Honey batch swirled really nicely:

Oatmeal, Milk & Honey

Oatmeal, Milk & Honey

And this batch of Florida Sunrise (now discontinued) looked gorgeous as it started to gel:

Florida Sunrise

Florida Sunrise

Another recently discontinued fragrance – a custom blend called Enigma, looked luscious freshly swirled:

Enigma

Enigma

Finally I just LOVE how this batch of Serenity looked in the mould:

Serenity

Serenity

I’d be lying if I said every single batch looks like these, but I do tend to add a lot more texture to the tops than I used to, and I think I prefer them that way. I guess it’s about time I revised my header photo!!