The Week in Soap: 8th Oct ’17 (Blogtober 9)

It’s been a quieter week on the soaping front.  I was grateful for that to be honest – we had family visiting for the first half of the week, and I’ve been getting into the swing of Blogtober.  Day 9 today, almost a third of the way through the month already!!

On Monday I made two double batches, both restocks, of Welsh Rose and Blodau:

Welsh Rose & Blodau (Flowers) in the mould

Welsh Rose & Blodau (Flowers) in the mould

The Welsh Rose wasn’t my best – it accelerated a little and the colours weren’t as bright as they usually are, but it’ll be fine.  The Blodau on the other hand, turned out great  – this is a closeup of it in the mould which proved to be really popular on Instagram:

Close up of Blodau in the mould

Close up of Blodau in the mould

On Tuesday I made more restocks – double batches of Clarity and Traeth Craig Du (Black Rock Sands):

Clarity & Traeth Craig Du in the Mould

Clarity & Traeth Craig Du in the Mould

The new wire for my cutter arrived on Tuesday, and it would appear I ordered the wrong one again. AARRGGHHH  It was a coiled string (?) and slightly thicker than I expected it to be.  Well, we fitted it onto the cutter anyway (taking a bit of a risk but by Wednesday morning I had 12kg of soap to cut and I couldn’t risk it getting too hard) and although it IS a little too thick, it did the trick.  I did a bit of research and discovered that I probably need 20 gauge wire, so I’ve ordered some and it should be here soon.  What a flippin’ palaver!

On Wednesday evening I gave my regular weekly soapmaking presentation.  I can’t tell you how much I enjoy giving these. It often turns into a bit of a conversation rather than a ‘talk’ and I get to indulge in waffling on about my favourite subject to a captive audience. AND then I get to sell them soap too!  I’ve only got another two or three weeks to go before they stop for the winter, but the manager has already asked me to go back next season – hurrah!

Thursday was another completely soap free day, and Friday was spent in the office, cutting soap, labelling soap, wrapping soap, photographing soap etc etc….

I took some better pictures of my Christmas specials, which I’ll be sharing with you this week, and of the mountain soap (from yesterday’s post) and this one – the Blodau from earlier this week:

Blodau - just cut

Blodau – just cut

I realised that the reason I don’t get round to sharing cut pictures as much as the ones in the mould is that I don’t usually tidy them up until they’ve been curing for a couple of weeks, so I made and effort to try to tidy up the freshly cut bar and take a picture, and it worked ok I think:

Blodau, tidied up

Blodau, tidied up

Towards Friday evening I started to develop a sore throat which worsened as the evening went on and meant I got very little sleep on Friday night. Saturday was spent feeling ill, lethargic, weak and sorry for myself generally, and Sunday was mostly spent in bed, trying desperately to kick whatever it was that was making me feel so rubbish…

I’ll be back tomorrow, come what may, hopefully with a clearer head and body that’s more willing to co-operate!!

Vickx

 

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The Week in Soap: 24th Sept, ’17

Just a quick catch up this week. Posts have been fairly few and fair between over the last couple of weeks because I’m gearing up for Blogtober – every time I think ‘Ooh, that might make a good blog post’ I decide to save it for next month…

I was waiting for supplies to arrive last week so I only made one main batch of soap – a remake of ‘Yr Wyddfa’ (Snowdon):

Yr Wyddfa in the Mould

Yr Wyddfa in the Mould

I’ve been trying to find a better way to create this design – this was the previous version which, while it sold really well, has, to me, more than a passing resemblance to *ahem* dog mess :-/

Yr Wyddfa

Yr Wyddfa

and when I saw the lovely designs created and document by Danica on her blog Seife und anderes, I realised that the sculpted layers technique might just be the way forward. There’s a great description of the technique on Danica’s blog, so I won’t go into details here (and anyway, I forgot to take any photos of the process, I was so anxious to get on with it – next time I will definitely document it better) so here’s the final result:

Yr Wyddfa / Snowdon

Yr Wyddfa / Snowdon

The colours aren’t quite right this time – the mountain needs to be more grey, and the greenery needs to be more, well, green… but I’m getting there.  It’s fragranced with a blend of essential oils including rosemary, peppermint, eucalyptus, lemon and patchouli.

I also made another batch of dinosaurs and more stars for the next batches of Frosted Christmas Tree (which I still need to photograph to show you – oops!)

Star Embeds

Star Embeds

A couple of weeks ago I ordered a selection of green mica samples from U-Makeitup and this week they arrived – a lovely collection:

Green Mica Samples

Green Mica Samples

Green Mica Samples - labelled

Green Mica Samples – labelled

Oh, and the Christmas ribbons have started to arrive – I know it probably still feels a bit early but I’ve already had a wholesale order for my Christmas range for delivery by 22nd October, so there’s no time to be to complacent…

Christmas Ribbons

Christmas Ribbons

Thanks for reading – my next post will be the first of this year’s Blogtober posts on the 1st of the month (next Sunday – eek!)

 

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!

A Soapy Disaster – The Week in Soap: 3rd Sept, 2017

The last week of the school holidays didn’t give me much time to devote to the business.  I made some soap, wrapped a few bars and uploaded a few items to the pending website and had one, massive, disaster. But more of that later.

I didn’t make a lot of soap this week but I did make a double batch of Tutti Frutti. Here it’s in the mould, before and after the top swirl:

Tutti Frutti Pre & Post Top Swirl

Tutti Frutti Pre & Post Top Swirl

And the cut.  I think I tried to be a bit too clever this time. I wanted the colours to more strictly follow the order of the colours of the rainbow (so how did I get red next to green lol?) but to do that I had to be a little more ordered in the pouring. I think I prefer the more randomly poured swirl so. Apologies for the rubbish photograph…

Tutti Frutti just cut

Tutti Frutti just cut

I also learnt my lesson and made a TEST batch using a new fragrance. Warm Gingerbread FO is one I’m hoping to use for Christmas, and I planned small batch with a simple design just to see how it handles.  I’m glad I did – the website testing notes said it would accelerate, and accelerate it did.  This pic is immediately after the cut – the two bottom layers should turn a lot darker over the next few weeks because of the vanilla in the fragrance oil.  I left the top layer fragrance free:

Warm Gingerbread Test Batch

Warm Gingerbread Test Batch

It smells delicious, and I really want to use this FO to make a drop swirl bar for Christmas, so I’m going to have to use all the acceleration-reducing tools in my arsenal – and keep my fingers crossed!!

As I’d already made a start on the Christmas bars during the previous week, Candy Cane, Star embeds for the Christmas Tree bars, and a couple of batches of Dinosoaps, I’m confident that I’m on track time-wise.

And that disaster. Urgh… I was making more of the Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon) soap.  The last version was ok, but the bars weren’t uniform enough and the mountain itself didn’t really reflect reality.  I intended to use the sculping soap technique (I was recently reminded of it by the incredibly creative Danica of Seife und anderes – if you like soap blogs you really should check it out), but the soap batter riced on me in seconds. I’ve used this fragrance before (and besides, the testing notes say no acceleration) so I REALLY wasn’t being reckless.

Anyway, just for the giggles :-/ I decided to try to squish it into the mould anyway. I actually had to get my hands in there to mix in the colours and colour squishing IS now a technical term.  Was there the slightest possibility that it would come out acceptably rustic looking? NO. No, no no NOPE!!  The soapy gremlins were well and truly esconced in my kitchen that day lol:

A soapy disaster

A soapy disaster

No, I didn’t rebatch it. Yes, I trashed it.  I know, I know, one of these days I’ll have to give rebatching a go but I don’t currently have spare a slow cooker that I could do it in, and, really, I just don’t feel the rebatching love…

Thanks for reading, back very soon!

 

 

 

I seem to have lost a month…

I had an inkling August would be busy. I hadn’t planned on posting often on the blog, but abandoning it for a whole month really wasn’t on the agenda either. The kids have been on holiday of course, but the soap business doesn’t stop for the summer (if anything it is busier than any other time, bar Christmas) and I’ve been frantically juggling childcare and keeping on top of the business for the last month.

I won’t dwell on it here, but the weather during August was utter pants.  Seriously, it was rubbish.  I had so many plans for picnics by the river, and lazy days on the beach, but it just wasn’t going to happen.  We took walks in the rain, visited castles in the drizzle, and went geocaching under stormy clouds. The kids even climbed their first (small!) mountain, and loved it. Ha! Take that, weather! We had fun anyway…

As well as keeping retailers stocked up, I’ve made 330 bars of soap during August. Not as many as I would have liked, but with BOTH (finally!!) kids back at school all day as of next Tuesday, I’ll able to get back on track fairly quickly.  I’m not making any Halloween bars, so it’s restocks and Christmas soaps all the way… Candy Cane proved very popular last year, so that’s what I started with:

Candy Cane, freshly cut

Candy Cane, freshly cut

I’ve also started on the star embeds for the Christmas Tree bars:

Star Embeds

Star Embeds

And Dinosoaps are back!

Dinosoaps

Dinosoaps

It really doesn’t seem right thinking about Christmas in August but last year I got caught out when retailers wanted Christmas stock in store right after Halloween (eek!) so this year I’ll be better prepared.

Oh, and do you remember that marmalade I made back in January? I entered it into our village show a couple of weeks ago, and it only went and won first prize!  I knew it tasted good but absolutely didn’t expect to win anything.  These aren’t the best photos but I also won firsts for my Viennese fingers, Melting Moments and Swiss Roll plus second prizes for my Victoria Sponge and Coconut & Lime Loaf:

Village Show Successes

Village Show fun!

These are the Viennese Fingers, which get their own photo because, frankly, they were bloomin’ delicious. Excuse the wonky one – only three were entered – that wasn’t one of them! If anyone wants the recipe let me know and I’ll post it – it’ll give me a great excuse to make more!!

Viennese Fingers

Viennese Fingers

It’s been a great month, but things will be getting back to normal here over the next few days and I’ll be glad to get back into a routine – the blogging schedule will be back on track – I promise!

Thanks for reading – all being well I’ll be back tomorrow with my goals for September.

 

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 😀

 

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!!