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 😀

 

The Week in Soap: 26th March ’17 – BATHBOMBS!!!

Yesterday (Saturday) brought the first craft fair of the year, and a lot of last week was spent wrapping and labelling in preparation.  It also saw the first outing for my bathbombs, which are FINALLY available for sale. I’ve been so busy dispatching wholesale orders and restocking the curing shelves that creating labels for my bathbombs was never a priority – until the night before the craft fair 😮  I took just four varieties – Clarity, Serenity, Lavender and Bewitched (was LoveSpell):

Bathbombs, all wrapped up

Bathbombs, all wrapped up

I was busy Mon, Tues, Wed evenings this week, so couldn’t make soap until Thursday night, and then realised that I was so low on Olive Oil I could only make a two batches of Boho Baby (fragranced with Patchouli & Orange essential oils):

Boho Baby (Patchouli & Orange)

Boho Baby

Friday evening was spent wrapping bathbombs for the fair on Saturday, so I wasn’t able to make more until this evening, but I made up with it with two double batches of Serenity (Patchouli, Ylang Ylang, Orange & Lemon essential oils) and Botanica (Lavender, Lemon & Lime essential oils):

Serenity (left) & Botanica

Serenity (left) & Botanica

I now officially a yellow belt kickboxer!  I went through my first ever grading on Monday evening. I had no idea what to expect and it was intense – I arrived home bruised, exhausted and ravenous, but I absolutely loved it, and I’m ridiculously proud of my yellow belt:

Kickboxing Yellow Belt

Kickboxing Yellow Belt

Orange belt, I’m coming for ya!!

 

 

 

Castile, a quick update

I made the first batch of Castile soap back in mid January and, while convention dictates that it should cure for at least 6 months before use, the devil on my shoulder insisted that I try it out this week, a mere 10 weeks later.

I helped myself to the thickest of the end pieces, and snapped a quick photo:

Castile 10 weeks in...

Castile 10 weeks in…

It’s already a very hard bar, easily as hard as my regular bars after their full 6 week cure. This surprised me somewhat as I’d read that one of the reasons for curing for so long is because it needs longer to harden up.

Detractors of Castile soap often use the word ‘slimy’ to describe it, so I wasn’t expecting too much when I lathered up.  I ran a little warm water and started turning the bar over and over in my hands.  After a few initial biggish bubbles, the lather soon settled into a creamy lather with very small bubbles, an almost lotion type texture. I would definitely describe the feel of the bar as ‘silky’ rather than the ‘slimy’! I would have got a photo or a quick video but there were no spare hands around 😀 After rinsing and drying my hands felt soft and smooth, and I can see why Castile soap is recommended for dry or sensitive skin.

I’ve spoken to other soapmakers who say that they’re more than happy to use their Castile soap before the traditional 6 month cure is up. Others tell me that there’s a distinct difference in the texture of the lather if the soap is left for the full 6 months (or longer). I’m going to enroll an extra pair of hands to help and get a couple of photos or a video of the lather as it is now, and again in two and four months time. I should then have a better idea of the beneficial effect (or otherwise!) of the extended cure time.

If you have any thoughts about Castile soap, be they be for or against, please post below – I’d love to hear from you.

 

The Week in Soap: 5th March ’17

I got back into the swing of making soap this week. Having realised that I need to be making far more to keep up with demand, a new process was required.    Previously I would usually make three different batches during an evening’s soaping, once a week, but the new routine is four batches a night, twice a week. By doubling up the batches – ie making two lots of two fragrances, rather than three lots of one, I find I can make the four batches as quickly as three, if not faster.

Wednesday was the first day of the new regime – two lots of Welsh Rose and two lots of Bewitched on the cards.  But, wouldn’t you know it, I ran out of lye. Arghhhh – I felt sure I had a second tub but nope…  Nevermind, I had enough for three batches: two Bewitched and one Welsh Rose:

2 Bewitched, 1 Welsh Rose

Two Bewitched, One Welsh Rose

More lye was ordered and arrived within 48 hours, so I was able to make more today – two lots of Oatmeal, Milk & Honey and two of Blodau (Flowers):

2 OMH & 2 Blodau

Two OMH & Two Blodau (Flowers)

I clearly need to have a better handle on inventory.  I do have have the Soapmaker 3 program, which comes highly recommended, but haven’t got round to using it yet. :-/ Maybe that should be one of April’s goals.

This week I also delivered another couple of batches of ‘Ar Lan y Mor’ (By the Sea) and Potters’ Soap – exclusive fragrances/designs for Glosters in Porthmadog:

Ar Lan y Mor / Potters' Soap

Ar Lan y Mor / Potters’ Soap

I also finished off wrapping and packaging the mini guest bars for Plas Colwyn Guest House right here in the village – these are just a small selection of them:

Mini Guest Bars

Mini Guest Bars

We celebrated St David’s Day on Wednesday, and as is traditional, I made up a big batch of Teisen Gri (Welsh Cakes) for the village school show.

Welsh Cakes

Welsh Cakes

I’ve been asked again to share the recipe, so I’m planning on getting that written up this week and posted here on the blog.

This is my little three year old in her traditional ‘welsh lady’ costume, singing her heart out at the front of the stage. She’s normally pretty shy, so it was wonderful to see her enjoying her moment in the limelight…

Little Welsh Lady

Little Welsh Lady

 

I also managed to get out for ONE run this week – 5km on Friday morning. If you saw the post about my goals for March, you’ll know that I want to run at least 30km this month. Easily doable, IF I can get my running mojo back where it was in January. Throw some motivation my way?

 

The Week in Soap: 12th Feb ’17

I’m tired tonight.  It feels like it’s been a long and busy week, and now, not even 9pm on Sunday night, I feel ready for bed.  So I’m going to make this brief, and then tackle the ironing pile before bed.  Oh, the glamour!!

I made four batches of soap this week, all restocks again.  I’m struggling to get my stock back up to a level where I’m not anxious about whether I have enough, but I wasn’t able to make any for most of the week as my Shea Butter didn’t arrive until Thursday – arrgghhh!  So Friday night saw me soaping all evening, and I made, from top to bottom, Blodau (Flowers), Luscious Lavender, Botanica & Clarity:

Soap in the Mould

Soap in the Mould

Ordinarily I would have cut them this evening, but it’ll have to wait until tomorrow, so I’ll share some photos in next Sunday’s update.  But here’s some close-ups to mitigate your disappointment 😀

Blodau in the Mould

Blodau in the Mould

Luscious Lavender in the Mould

Luscious Lavender in the Mould

Botanica in the Mould

Botanica in the Mould

I also made some more bathbombs  – these are blue (although they don’t look so blue here) and fragranced with the same essential oil blend as I use for Serenity soap.  A few people now have said that the Serenity blend smells like being at a spa, so the name is apt I think.  (The scale here isn’t quite right, the bombs aren’t as big as they appear to be compared to the bars of soap – I need to keep that in mind the next time I take photos!)

Serenity Bathbombs & Soap

Serenity Bathbombs & Soap

I also spent a bit of time working on the packaging and labels for the bombs.  I think I have a solution, though I’m not quite ready to share photos yet. Maybe next week.

I’m very happy to announce that as of March I’ll be supplying a brand new retailer, Sunnah Skincare who have a store at 88 School Lane, Didsbury, Manchester.  This Skincare Co-operative was set up, and is run, by women in the local community, and their aim is  to trade as fairly, responsibly and ethically as possible. Check out their Facebook and Instagram accounts.

Oh, more exciting news – I entered a competition on LJ Naturals’ Facebook page to win some of her gorgeous skincare products, and won!  The prize was four items – a full sized bottle of OMG Facial Serum, and three mini products – Organic Scratchy Balm, Balancing Organic Moisturiser & Organic Deep Cleansing Balm. They’ve arrived already and they feel wonderful on the skin and smell truly amazing.  I’ll be writing a review soon, once I’ve been using them for a little while, but here’s a quick peek at what they look like:

LJ Naturals Skincare Products

LJ Naturals Skincare Products

The weather’s not been the best for most of the week, but Tuesday dawned clear and sunny, so a little local walk was in order and I managed to snap this photo. This is Hebog. I suppose you’d call it the village mountain 😀  The path up to the top starts in the village, and I’ve been up to the summit many times, but not this week. Not, in fact, since before we had the children.  Soon, soon…

Hebog

Hebog

Wednesday found me making Teisen Gri (or Welsh Cakes). They’re a bit like a flattened scone, cooked on a griddle on the hob.  They’re utterly delicious, and there’ll be a blog post with the recipe coming soon:

Teisen Gri

Teisen Gri

Well, that was longer than I’d planned for it to be.  If you got this far, thanks for reading. Back soon!

 

The Whats and The Whys…

…that is, what goes into my soap, and why. I’m often asked what my soaps are made from. Well, the ingredients in my soaps are no secret – they’re clearly labelled on each and every bar that’s sold, so here goes 😀

Fact is, you only need THREE ingredients to make soap.  A vegetable or animal fat of some kind, sodium hydroxide (NaOH) (aka Lye) and water.  The sodium hydroxide is combined with the water to create a lye solution, which is then mixed with the oils or butters.  The sodium hydroxide combines and reacts with the fatty acids in the oils and/or butters and hey presto, you get soap, (plus, by the way, glycerine. I’ll come to that later).

Clarity

Clarity

Take, for example, a bar of my Clarity essential oil soap (above). The ingredients, as they appear on the label, are as follows:

Sodium Olivate, Sodium Cocoate, Sodium Shea Butterate, Sodium Avocadoate, Sodium Cocoa Butterate, Sodium Castorate, Glycerine, Aqua, Salvia sclarea (Clary) Oil (Sage essential oil), Cymbopogon schoenanthus Oil (Lemongrass essential oil), Activated Charcoal, Titanium Dioxide (Ci 77891) & Micas *linalool *citral (*naturally present in essential oils).

Let me clarify:

All my bars contain six different oils and butters: Olive Oil, Coconut Oil, Shea Butter, Avocado Oil, Cocoa Butter and Castor Oil. Bear with me here – small chemistry lesson coming up.  If the soap is made properly, there will never ever be any sodium hydroxide present in the final bar, and so it isn’t necessary to put it on the ingredients label. However, the sodium hydroxide has caused the oils and butters to change – into soap – or, chemically speaking, into ‘salts’.  This is why the first six items on the ingredients list are all ‘Sodium (insert name of oil)ate’  ie, they are all salts formed from the original six oils/butters combined with sodium hydroxide.

So why those particular six oils and butters?  I use coconut for it’s ability to give soap a great, abundant lather, but it can be drying to some people’s skins and so I temper it with plenty of olive oil which produces a mild, gentle soap. Cocoa butter contributes to the hardness of the bar, whilst also being moisturising.  Avocado oil and shea butter are considered to be luxury additives – they don’t contribute to the lather or the hardness of the bar, but they are extremely moisturing.  They’re probably the reason my customers say they don’t need hand cream after washing with my soap!

I decided long ago not to use animal fats in my soap. I don’t have a problem with animal fats per se – I’m not vegetarian, and I know from my early days of soapmaking and experimentation that lard makes wonderful soap. It was just a decision I made early on in my recipe development, and I’ve stuck with it.  Similarly with palm oil, I used it in my early soapmaking, but haven’t done for years. I have no problem with other producers using palm oil – each to their own – but it’s not for me.

Next on the list you’ll see glycerine.  Glycerine is a by-product of that chemical reaction between the NaOH and the oils/butters.  It’s often extracted during the commercial soapmaking process, as it’s a valuable commodity and can be sold on to other manufacturers. In handmade soaps though, it goes nowhere. It stays within the soap and acts as a humectant, drawing moisture to the skin and helping skin retain moisture.  (Note, it is NOT a moisturiser, as I’ve seen claimed elsewhere)

Next comes Aqua (water).  Water is needed to create a solution of the NaOH. That’s its only purpose.  Once the soap is made, we soapmakers leave the soap to cure for weeks on end, drying out the soap and trying to get rid of as much of the moisture as possible.

The next two items on the list are simply the fragrance – Sage essential oil and Lemongrass essential oil.  Some soapmakers claim that essential oils added to soaps have therapeutic properties above and beyond the fragrance, but there is some doubt as to where these properties survive the chemical process. Anyway, without extensive and expensive laboratory testing, making such claims is misleading.

The next three ingredients – Activated Charcoal, Titanium Dioxide (Ci 77891) & Micas – are colourants.  The first two are natural, the mica has colour added to it in a lab, so can’t be considered natural.

Finally we come to the last two starred items: *linalool *citral (*naturally present in essential oils).  The EU Cosmetic Regulation 1223/2009 lists the 26 most allergenic (ie most likely to cause an allergic reaction) substances and states that if your soap (or other wash off product) contains more than 0.01% of that substance then it needs to be declared.  Many essential oils contain one or more of these substances, and it’s very rare that they cause any problem whatsoever. But rules is rules :-)!

Thanks for reading, I’ll be back soon! If you have any questions about my ingredients, or anything else for that matter, please comment below.

The Week in Soap: 5th Feb ’17

Happy Sunday everyone!  It’s been a busy week, so I’ll crack right on…

More Luscious Lavender and Welsh Rose were made this week. They’re very popular, and I always like to have plenty in stock:

Luscious Lavender / Welsh Rose

Luscious Lavender / Welsh Rose

Both were cut, but I only got round to photographing the Lavender:

Luscious Lavender, just cut

Luscious Lavender, just cut

I also photographed the two custom batches I made last week. This pic, of Potters’ Soap, proved to be my most liked ever on Instagram – so far! 😀

Potters' Soap

Potters’ Soap

And this one is called Ar Lan y Môr (By the Sea):

Ar Lan Y Mor

Ar Lan Y Mor

I’ve spent quite a bit of time this week bevelling, packaging and labelling soap. It’s almost half term and before I know it the tourist season will be upon us, so I’m getting ahead of the game:

Bevelling Soap

Bevelling Soap

This evening I had planned to masterbatch a load of oils for the next couple weeks of soapmaking but discovered at the last minute that I’d run out of Shea Butter. Arrghhh!!  I’m usually really careful to reorder as soon as I’m getting low of something so crucial. I didn’t because I was sure I had more, but nope, it’s nowhere to be found. So, first off I ordered more Shea, and then changed tack and made some Bath Bombs (or Bath Fizzies, or whatever it is I’m eventually going to call them – decisions decisions!!)

Before Christmas I got my assessment documentation through for 8 varieties of Bath Bomb (in the UK/EU it’s illegal to sell any bath & body product without first paying to get your recipe assessed and approved by a qualified chemist), and tonight I made three of them – Welsh Rose, Clarity & First Kiss:

Welsh Rose, Clarity & First Kiss Bath Bombs

Welsh Rose, Clarity & First Kiss Bath Bombs

They’re not ‘perfect’ looking, but they do what they’re supposed to – gorgeously!!

Eventually I want to be able to provide matching Bath Bombs for each soap in my core range, but at the moment I can only sell the three above, plus Boho Baby (patchouli & orange),  Lavender, Bewitched (was Love Spell), Serenity and Oatmeal Milk & Honey.  I’m waiting on more colourants to arrive then I’ll be making more (woo hoo!)

I had a bit of an interesting experience with Facebook this week.  I’ve neglected my page somewhat recently as, if I’m honest, it sometimes feels like a waste of time. The Facebook algorithm means that very few of my ‘likers’ actually see my posts, and consequently there is very little engagement.  Regardless, I decided that I should give it a go again, and wrote a post explaining why I hadn’t posted for a while and that I would be grateful if people could occasionally like, comment or even (gasp!) share a post. Then I added the photo that had been so popular on Instagram  Well my friends, that post has gone bonkers!  165 likes, 54 comments and, and 47 shares at time of writing…

Soo…. I wonder if the same thing would work here?  May I ask you to click that little like button below?  Would you be amenable to writing a word or two to let me know you’ve been here?  Lol, I can but ask, hey??!  Thanks for reading, back soon.