Taiwan Swirl


I’ve been on a bit of a self imposed soaping break recently, in preparation for ‘The Big Move’, and it feels like ages since I last made soap.  When Amy of Great Cakes Soapworks posted this month’s soaping challenge – the beautiful Taiwan Swirl – I decided  to sign up just to watch the tutorial and see how it’s done.   Anyhow, watching the video got me itching to make soap again, so, at the eleventh hour, I unpacked all the soaping gear (to raised eyebrows from my other half :-D) and gave it a shot.

The Taiwan Swirl calls for a really really thin soap batter, which I knew would be my first challenge. My usual recipe traces fairly quickly and wouldn’t be any good for this design. Amy suggested 80% Olive oil to 20% Coconut oil, so I ran that through SoapCalc and decided I’d like the final soap to be a bit more bubbly. I plumped for 70% Olive oil, 20% Coconut oil and 10% Castor oil. Some of you will have spotted the obvious mistake already – guess who totally forgot that Castor oil can speed up trace?

I mixed up a blend of Lemon, Clary Sage and Ginger essential oils to fragrance the soap, and chose what I hoped would be complementary green and orange micas for the colours. I dispersed the micas in about 15ml of Olive oil:

photo 1(2)

I had already made up the lye solution and melted/mixed the oils earlier in the day, so I had both at room temperature. I added the lye to the oils and briefly mixed with the stick blender to the point of a very VERY light trace.  Amy, in her video, suggested stopping as soon as the batter was emulsified and just before it traced, but I missed that window and definitely hit trace  🙂  I poured a very small amount (just over 100ml from a 750g batch) of batter into each jug of mica and poured the remaining batter into the mould. I knew I was running out of time as the batter in the mould was thickening so I quickly poured the coloured mixes into the base (from high, to get the colour down through the batter to the base – one down one side, lengthways, and the other down the other side). Both were poured at the same time, which proved challenging!

Then I swirled, using a skewer. The swirling is a bit difficult to explain without a diagram but here goes: Put the skewer into the mould, right down to the base, in one corner of the mould then make tight ‘s’ shapes from one short end of the mould, side to side down the length of the mould to the other short end. Then, keeping the skewer in the mould, make long ‘s’ shapes along the length of the mould – at 90 degrees to the first ‘s’ shapes. I hope that makes sense but if not there are some great YouTube tutorials on my Pinterest board here.

Anyone spot the next obvious mistake? Yup, I forgot to add the essential oil blend. Ah well, too late to do anything about it :-s

photo 2(1)At this stage I was a little bit disappointed with what was in the mould – the swirls weren’t as fine as I’d hoped, and the green colour wasn’t very defined, but by the next morning it was looking better, and by the time I cut it I was pretty happy with the result….

Taiwan Swirl by The Soap Mine

It’s still pretty soft – I’ve never made a soap with such a high percentage of liquid oils before – and I think it’s going to need a good long cure time to get nice and hard. I really should have left it for at least 48 hours before cutting, rather than my normal 24 hours, but I was in a hurry to get this post finished, and a picture uploaded onto to Amy’s challenge web page before the deadline, so that’s what I’m off to do now 😀

Thanks Amy for another great challenge!

Look What I Won…

Back in August, amid all the buzz heralding the release of Soap Crafting by Anne-Marie Faiola (aka The Soap Queen), I entered a prize draw posted by the lovely Cee on her Oil & Butter blog.

A number of soapy bloggers had been asked to review the book and make a soap using one of the recipes/methods therein. They were also given an extra copy of the book to give away to one of their (US based) readers.  As part of her review, Cee made a loaf of Alkanet Root & Fennel soap from the book and all we, the readers, had to do to enter the draw was to comment on the post about essential oil blends and/or natural colourants, and names would be drawn out of a hat (so to speak). Now, not being in the US, I knew I wouldn’t be getting my mits on a copy of that coveted book, but Cee wasn’t about to forget her international readers, oh no :).  As well as giving away a copy of the book, Cee was generously giving away a bar of that very soap to one of her lucky international readers.

And that reader was me! Cee sent me message via Facebook to say I’d won, and I did a happy dance.  On the 5th September Cee sent me another message to say it had been sent.  Oooh I was excited… My husband didn’t quite get it. ‘You’ve won soap? We don’t have enough soap already?’ while pointedly looking at the boxes in the airing cupboard / attic / wardrobe / under the bed… Hahahahah… But yes, I was excited 🙂

The weeks passed, and then some more weeks passed.  Finally, on 5th November (yep, two whole months in transit!!) Cee’s beautiful soap arrived, and here it is in all its gorgeousness:

Alkanet Root & FennelIt’s wonderful to use – silky smooth, abundantly bubbly and smells divine. And just look at that piping on the top *swoon*. It’s fragranced with Fennel, Lavender, Grapefruit and Patchouli essential oils and coloured with Alkanet root. A  full tutorial can be found on Cee’s blog here. (Do also check out her amazing gingerbread house made of soap – stunning stuff!)

Thank you once again Cee for sending it all this way – I love it!

PS – I did finally get my own copy of the book when it was released here in the UK, and it’s great – but that’s another post :0)