Dinosoap!

I rarely make novelty soaps, but I spotted a great dinosaur mould and thought the kids – my kids that is – might like some dinosaur shaped soap.  They were a HUGE hit so I’ve made a few more batches to sell as stocking fillers at the Christmas fairs. Made with exactly the same base recipe that I use for my regular bars, some are scented with a Christmas Tree FO and others with a Jelly Beans FO which is always popular with children.

Hopefully they’ll go down as well with my customers as they did with my children:

Dinosoaps

                         Dinosoaps

This was Day 16 of Blogtober – hanging on in there  😀

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Wait, March??

Um… Ooops! It would appear that it’s been five months since I last posted here.  I knew it had been a while, but FIVE MONTHS??  In fairness I have been incredibly busy, and posting on the blog was one of things that I kept putting off until I had more time. Well, now I have more time. Today my youngest child started school. Only two hours a day this year, but that still gives me 10 WHOLE HOURS a week to ‘get stuff done’, and high on my list of priorities is to resurrect this blog and start posting much more often.

Since my last post I’ve standardised all of my range, including the seasonal bars.  I may post more about these in the future, but here’s a quick peek:

Love Spell:

Love Spell

Cherry Blossom (Spring Special):

Cherry Blossom

Afternoon at the Races (Summer Special – Strawberries & Champagne fragrance):

Afternoon at the Races

Criccieth Beach (Summer Special – Rockpool fragrance):

Criccieth Beach

And, as there’s always an exception (or two) to the rule, there were also a couple of anomalies – one confetti bar which I made to use up all the bits of soap that I get when I bevel the bars, and one that seized badly when I added the fragrance so I had to simply do what I could with it to get it into the mould, and actually, it turned out ok:

Confetti Soap (Lemon Verbena fragrance):

Lemon Verbena Confetti

Black Rock Sands (Beachy fragrance):

Black Rock Sands

What else?

Well, I’ve gained two more wholesale accounts, bringing the total of retail outlets stocking my soap up to ten, and started supplying one-third sized bars to two businesses offering  guest accommodation.  Much of my time has been spent making, wrapping and labelling soap to keep up with demand. Generally this means working once the kids are in beds, so lots of late night soaping for me!

Every Thursday evening during the holiday season (April – Oct) I’ve been giving a soapmaking presentation to visitors staying in local Holiday Fellowship accommodation.  I LOVE being able to share the process, and it’s always really well received – so much so that I’ve already been asked to go back next year 😀

During May and June I participated in a European soap swap with 20 other soapmakers from all over Europe.  It involved making an all natural soap, without artificial colours or fragrances, and I was waaay out of my comfort zone.  I’ll share more in another post.

We enjoyed a lot of fantastic family time over the school holidays, with long weekends camping, trips to the beach, geocaching and scavenger hunts (despite the weather not always playing ball – I’m fully expecting an Indian summer now that the kids have gone back to school!).

Plans for the near future include getting my bathbomb assessments organised in time for Christmas, making a facial bar, and experimenting further with sugar scrubs and lip balms before I decide on final recipes. Oh, and launch the website, but you’ve heard that one before 😉

Drop Swirls & Standardisation

I’ve been using a partial drop swirl for all my essential oil soaps for a long time but for my fragrance oil bars I’ve been using a mix of styles – In the Pot, Tiger stripe, Drop –  whatever took my fancy at the time of making.  As I’m now selling more wholesale soap than I am retail, I’ve slowly come to the realisation that my FO bars need to be of a uniform design too.

It took me a little while to settle into the idea.  Soapmaking is such a creative process and half the fun is coming up with new designs and trying out new techniques. I reluctantly came to accept that I needed to choose a style and stick with it, making it synonymous with The Soap Mine brand and making my soaps (hopefully!) instantly recognisable.

I wanted to retain a link between my EO soaps and my FO soaps, while ensuring it was easy to tell them apart, so the obvious choice was to make my FO soaps using a full bar drop swirl.

I’ve been making soap with this technique for a long time – this was the first one I ever made (years ago!),  fragranced with coconut FO.

Black & White Drop Swirl

              Black & White Drop Swirl

And these are some more recent makes – this is what my FO soap bars will look like for the foreseeable future.

Delicious (Similar in scent to the DKNY designer fragrance Be Delicious)

Delicious

                    Delicious

Oatmeal Milk & Honey:

Oatmeal, Milk & Honey

        Oatmeal, Milk & Honey

Welsh Rose:

Welsh Rose

          Welsh Rose

Blue Belle (Similar in scent to Jo Malone’s ‘Wild Bluebell’ designer fragrance)

Blue Belle

                        Blue Belle

I guess the next thing to focus on is standardising the photography :-O

Thanks for reading – back soon!

Bath bombs – I dipped a toe…

We’re nearly a quarter of the way through the year (already!!) and I’ve not been making much headway with those goals, so I decided to give bath fizzies, aka bath bombs, a go.  I’ve always called them bath bombs, but apparently Lush have patented the name and now everyone’s scared silly to call them ‘bombs’. I’ll continue to call them bath bombs until I come up with my own clever, witty and amusing name. Obviously…

So, bath bombs.  I have a vague recollection of making mini bath bombs in a craft class I took once many years ago, but this was the first time I’d attempted to make them from scratch at home. I duly did my research, and one book and a bunch of Facebook groups later I was ready to give it a go.  I started with the simplest possible recipe: 1 to 0.5 Bicarbonate of Soda/Citric Acid, water, colour & fragrance:

Bicarb & Citric Acid

Bicarb & Citric Acid

For my first try I added the fragrance oil to the dry ingredients in the bowl, and added the colour to the water:

Water & Colour

Water & Colour

I spritzed and mixed, mixed and spritzed, until I thought I had enough moisture in there, and, of course, I added too much, not that you can tell from this pic:

Ready for moulding

Ready for moulding

I used a spherical mould in two halves and went for it.  It was pretty successful initially:

No 1

No 1!

But as I made more, and left them to stand a while – uh oh!

Expanding bath bombs!

Expanding bath bombs!

For the second batch I added cornflour into the mix. This is supposed to give smoother bath bombs, and also helps keep the mix stable while adding the liquid (ie helps keep the fizz from happening too soon). This time I added the fragrance and the colour directly to the dry mix, and spritzed with water from the bottle. I got a bit of bubbling as they dried out, but these were much more successful:

Bombs with cornflour

Bombs with cornflour

For the third lot I used the same dry ingredients – bicarb, citric acid and cornflour, but tried spritzing witch hazel (with a little added yellow colouring) rather than water.

I crumbled up the first, failed, lot, added a little cornflour and remoulded them, which seemed to work just fine.

By carefully making sure all the flawed sides were facing back or down, I managed to get a half decent picture of all them together 😀 😀

My first Bath Bombs!

My first Bath Bombs!

Now, I’m not generally a huge bath bomb user, so I handed some out to friends to get some opinions, and I’m happy to say they’ve gone down well. I personally couldn’t see much difference between the second (cornflour / water) and third (cornflour / witch hazel), so I’m not sure yet which is the best.

I can’t start selling yet though.  In the UK (and the whole of the EU) each bath & beauty product that we sell must be covered by a full Safety Assessment, issued by a qualified chemist. Assessments aren’t cheap, but they are a legal requirement and are there to ensure that members of the public can rest assured that the products they buy and use are safe. So, there’s more experimentation on the horizon (I’d like to incorporate a little skin loving cocoa butter next) and once I’m happy with the recipe I’ll get my Safety Assessment done so that I can start adding them to the range – woop!

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 ‘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!

Taming the Vanilla

I’m going to quickly gloss over how long it’s been since I last posted and share a soapy pic – ‘cos that’s what you’re here for right? 😉

Soap fragrance oils containing vanilla are often considered tiresome because of their propensity to discolour and potentially ruin a carefully designed soap. But they smell so good! I absolutely love the smell of ‘Pink Kisses’ from Gracefruit, but my first attempt at using it was a complete disaster. It was early on in my soaping career, and discolouration wasn’t even on my radar.  I used a selection of pretty pink colours and was so excited to see what it would look like, so imagine my disappointment…

Looks ain't everything!

              Looks ain’t everything!

Every failure’s a learning opportunity eh? 😀

Four (!!) years on and I decided to give it another go – this time I was a little more careful with my design. Splitting the batter into two, I coloured one half with Orchid Pink Mica, and added the fragrance oil to the other other portion only, adding a little Titanium Dioxide to mitigate the effect of the vanilla. This was the result:

First Kiss Cold Process Soap

                 First Kiss

Needless to say I’m so much happier with this one. I think the browning effect of the vanilla actually improves the look of the bar and gives it some depth and interest.

I hope you’ll agree that my photography skills have improved a little too 😀 😀 😀

 

Spinning Swirl Challenge Soap

Despite signing up for them at every opportunity, it’s been an awfully long time since I’ve managed to get round to make a soap for Amy Warden’s monthly Soap Challenge Club over at Great Cakes Soapworks.  This month’s challenge really piqued my interest though, and I was determined to give it a go.  The challenge was to create a soap using the Spinning Swirl technique (which I hadn’t come across before) and, after months of making nothing but restocks, I was keen to try something a bit different. This technique involves pouring very fluid soap batter into a slab mould and then spinning the mould itself. Amy provided a great video tutorial, and this one of the soaps that she made to illustrate the technique:

Amy's Spinning Swirl Soap

Amy’s Spinning Swirl Soap

One of the stipulations of the challenge was that the soap had to made in a slab mould, which I don’t own. So my first challenge was to improvise a slab mold. A shoe box did the trick:

Improvised Shoe Box Mould

Improvised Shoe Box Mould

I prepared my colourants. The fragrance oil is described as a creamy, powdery, honey fragrance, and I wanted warm colours to reflect that.  I used Radiant Gold mica, Sicilian Orange mica and Red iron oxide and mixed them with a little of the oils (to which I’d already added the fragrance).

Micas mixed with a little oil from the main batch

Colourants mixed with a little oil from the main batch

I added the lye to my usual oils and butters, and then poured the batter equally into the three jugs, stirred well then stick blended very VERY briefly (as I needed it to stay fluid for as long as possible):

Soap ready to pour

Soap ready to pour

I poured the soap into the mould, alternating colours in a faux-funnel type pour:

Soap mid-pour

Soap mid-pour

Once the soap was all poured, I gritted my teeth, gripped the mould with both hands, and started to rotate the mould as quickly and as firmly as I dared while praying that it wouldn’t all slosh out onto my table. After making probably about 20 full rotations, I swirled the top with a skewer and put it aside to firm up. A couple of days later I unmolded and found this left behind in the diy mould:

Leaked soap!

Leaked soap!

THAT is why I love my silicone moulds so much 😀 Anyway – the unmolded soap didn’t look too promising:

Unmoulded Spinning Swirl

Unmoulded Spinning Swirl

Not only do I not have a slab mould, I also don’t have a cutter that can cope with a big ole slab of soap, so I had to make the first cuts with a Very Big Knife. Needless to say, I wasn’t particularly accurate:

First cuts - spinning swirl

First cuts – Spinning Swirl

And THAT is why I love my single wire Bud cutter 😀 Anyway, I was able to use my beloved cutter for the rest of the cuts:

Final cuts - Spinning Swirl

Final cuts – Spinning Swirl

And, after a little love and attention, I’m really happy with the result:

Spinning Swirl Soap

Spinning Swirl Soap

Many thanks Amy for organising the challenge! It was a real pleasure to try something new and I’m looking forward to seeing what the other entrants come up with.

And the winner is….

Thank you so much to everyone who came up with wonderfully inventive names for my new soap, both here and on my Facebook page. It’s taken me a couple of hours of deliberation, but we have a winner. Now this is a little convoluted, so bear with me!

I was looking for a name that reflected both the fragrance (pink grapefruit, kumquat, orange and cranberry mingled with gardenia, jasmine, and freesia) AND the design, and I wasn’t entirely sure that any of the suggested names quite hit the mark.  However, three people made suggestions that led me to come up with the name I’ve finally gone with. Firstly, two people (Soap N’ StilettosEwenique) suggested names that included the word ‘Sunrise’ which I  think nicely reflects the design.  I also wanted to convey something of the fragrance, albeit indirectly, and Gunilla Stoll (who suggested Tuscan Summergarden) gave me the idea of including a place known the world over for growing citrus fruit (especially grapefruit and kumquat – happy days!) Florida.

I used Random.org to choose a winner from the three entrants above – numbering them 1 – 3 in the order in which they posted on the blog post, and the winner was… *drumroll* Soaps ‘N Stilettos!  Congratulations!! DM your postal address to my FB page here and I’ll send your soap out asap!

And finally, introducing: Florida Sunrise. Available now!

Florida Sunrise

Florida Sunrise

Thank you once again to everyone who took the time to enter – I really do appreciate it! Keep an eye out for more giveaways coming soon.