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?!

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Makeovers (6. Clarity)

Blogtober Day 10.  Day 10 folks!! A third of the way through, nearly…

Anyway, this the sixth in an occasional series on the evolution of Soap Mine soap designs. Previously I’ve covered Serenity, Wake Up! (discontinued), Tutti Frutti,Delicious and Luscious Lavender, and this time it’s the turn of ‘Clarity’, fragranced with a gorgeous fresh blend of Lemongrass and Clary Sage Essential Oils.

This one has proved to be one of my bestsellers over the years, and I’ve been making it for a long time, so please forgive the quality of some of the photographs. I’ve said it before but soap photography is as steep a learning curve as soap making!

First came the two color version – a cool grey base with lime green drops:

Clarity v.1

Clarity v.1

I wasn’t overly enamoured with with the grey, so soon after it became a three colour bar, with a green base and white and black drops.

Clarity v.2

Clarity v.2

Clarity v.3

Clarity v.3

When I started adding texture to the tops, Clarity was included of course:

Clarity v.4

Clarity v.4

And so it was, for many, many batches. But then one day, very recently, I decided to ring the changes and, drum roll please…Ta da! This is the new look for Clarity:

Clarity v.5

Clarity v.5

The black base of the bar is coloured with activated charcoal, purported to be excellent for your skin. I found this post recently which talks about the benefits of activated charcoal in soap, but of course, I make no medical claims for my soap whatsoever! 😉

Makeovers (5. Lavender)

New Year is generally a time for looking forward for me (I’m still working on those 2016 business goals I touched on in my last post) but last week I was browsing and sorting (supposedly – I’m easily distracted 😉 ) through my HUGE collection of soapy photographs and I came across some from the early days.  I can remember being SO proud of this one – my first every straight lavender essential oil soap:

Luscious Lavender

Luscious Lavender #1

Note the rounded corners – I hadn’t yet discovered the joys of silicone liners lol… You can also see the signs of a partial gel here too.

It wasn’t long before I began standardising (and simplifying) the swirls, and this was the next incarnation – an In The Pot (ITP) swirl:

Luscious Lavender

Luscious Lavender #2

I went through a phase of experimenting with mica in oil swirls on the top of the bars – though I’m not sure why I thought this was a complementary colour for the top-swirl…

Luscious Lavender #3

Luscious Lavender #3

When it came to developing a cohesive range I decided to make all my essential oil soaps with a drop swirl, and so came up with this two colour lavender drop in a white base:

Luscious Lavender #3

Luscious Lavender #4

The colours have remained the same ever since – I use titanium dioxide for the base and two micas called ‘grape’ and ‘lilac beauty’ for the drops:

Luscious Lavender #4

Luscious Lavender #5

Luscious Lavender #5

Luscious Lavender #6

Thanks for checking in – I really do hope to be back soon with those 2016 goals!

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!

Two months later…

Yep, it really has been almost 2 months since my last post.  The summer season has been incredibly busy, and it’s been as much as I can do to keep up with demand on the soaping front.  Days have been spent keeping the children occupied during what seems to have been the wettest summer on record, and evenings have been spent making, wrapping and labelling soaps to supply the eleven local retailers that now stock The Soap Mine soaps.  Since April I’ve also been doing twice monthly soapy talks for a local holiday company, and have done a couple of soapmaking demonstrations for the Women’s Institute – something I’d really like to do more of.

Needless to say there isn’t much innovation or new designs to share from the last couple of months, but I do have one new one to share.  Now I do love my colours and swirls, but my mum has long expressed a preference for a plain, white, citrussy bar, and I finally got round to making one for her.  The only colourant is a touch of titanium dioxide, and it’s fragranced with a smidgen of lemon & grapefruit essential oils. (The prototype was fragranced with lemon & lime, but I much prefer lemon & grapefruit combo).

I’ve named it ‘Peace’ and it’s proved a hit with customers as well as mum, so I’ve added it to the regular line-up.

Peace

                    Peace

There was one other exciting soap related event over the summer. I was honoured  to be able to host an international soap swap between myself and 11 other amazing soapmakers from the US, Canada and Europe. I’ve got a couple of posts coming up soon just about the soap swap, but here, to whet your appetite, is a little teaser of my haul,   If you’re a fan of handmade artisan soaps you may well recognise some of these brands…

International Soap Swap Soap Haul

     International Soap Swap Soap Haul

Thanks for reading, I’ll be back soon 🙂

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 😀 😀 😀

 

Parisian Flora

The last few weeks have been full-on soapmaking to restock the shelves depleted by the pre-Christmas rush. I only have two loaf moulds, and can only soap in the evenings once the little Miners are asleep, so it’s a fairly long drawn out process involving nightly soapmaking (what a shame :-D!) but I’m getting there.

This is Parisian Flora. A drop swirl fragranced with a blend of Lavender, Ylang Ylang and Rose Geranium essential oils, and coloured with titanium dioxide and micas.

Parisian Flora in the mould

                 Parisian Flora in the mould

Parisian Fora

                    Parisian Flora

Makeovers (1: Serenity)

Quite a few of my soaps have had a makeover recently. No matter that I have (more or less) a set range of fragrances & designs, there’s always room to improve and to flex those creative muscles.

One of the most popular essential oil soaps that I sell is Serenity. The fragrance is a blend of Bergamot, Patchouli, Orange and Ylang Ylang essential oils.  The very first time I made a full batch of this one I carefully weighed out the appropriate amount of essential oil blend for the amount of soaping oils used, then put it to one side.  I then split my batter into three, coloured one white and two different shades of blue, then poured the soap into the mold, creating what I fully expected to be an awesome drop swirl. Except I’d forgotten to the add the fragrance. Argghhhh! There was nothing to do but scoop it all out, thoroughly mix in the essential oils, and put the whole lot back into the mould. Of course I ended up with a very plain, pale blue bar of soap which smelled amazing but looked nothing like my original plan:

Serenity Take 1

First incarnation of Serenity

The next few times I made Serenity, I decided to go with a single colour drop in a paler background.  Most of my drop swirls up to this point had been a white soap with coloured drops, but I wanted to try something a little different.  Here I used Icelandic Blue mica for the base colour and Denim Blue mica for the drop:

The second incarnation of Serenity

Second incarnation of Serenity

I used that design for a while, and it sold well enough, but it didn’t wow me, and last year I decided it needed updating.  The current Serenity has a base of Icelandic Blue mica, and drops coloured with Titanium Dioxide and Blue Dragon mica. I think it’s rather pretty and goes well with the name, so this design will be staying (for now anyway :-D)

Third incarnation of Serenity

Third incarnation of Serenity

 

 

 

 

…and two months later…

Wow, I realised on Monday that it was exactly two months since I last posted on here.  TWO MONTHS!! I knew I’d take a bit of time out while we packed up our home and made the move to Wales, but I didn’t realise I would neglect the blog so thoroughly – so sorry!

Anyway, we’ve left the big city and are now settling into a much more rural way of life. This is the amazing view from my bedroom window:

photo 1

Not bad eh? We’re still staying with my mum, who has kindly allowed her peaceful home to be invaded by our family of four (thanks mum!) but we’re in the process of buying our new home – in the same village – yippee!

Needless to say the majority of our belongings are still boxed up and in storage and I’ve not been able to make soap BUT I decided last night that enough was enough – I had to get back to it. Mainly because a) I miss it, hugely and b)The Soap Mine is getting seriously low on stock…

So, I dug out all my soaping gear, whisked up a simple 3 colour ITP (in the pot) swirl (and oh oh oh loved every minute of it :-D):

photo 2(1)

  Delicious is scented with a dupe of DKNY’s Be Delicious fragrance, and smells utterly gorgeous. Coloured with two shades of green mica and titanium dioxide. Cut pics to follow soon.

Anyone for Embeds?

This month’s challenge over at Amy Warden’s Great Cakes Soapworks was to make a soap with embeds, ie soap with different shaped/coloured soap embedded within in it. One of the examples Amy used in her tutorial was this beauty:

Rise-and-Shine-soap

Isn’t it gorgeous?

I wasn’t going to enter the challenge this month as we move next week (are you bored of hearing about it yet? 😉 ) but I do like getting involved so decided to whip up something simple at the last minute, just so that I could take part.  I’ve already taken a peek at some of the other entries and there are some absolutely stunning creations, I’m a little embarrassed to post my little simple soap, but hey ho – I might win the booby prize :0)

Back in 2012 I made a soap that was really popular, called Bubblicious:

Bubblicious

and I thought it would be a quick and easy one to replicate for this challenge.

So I made up two small batches of soap and coloured one pink and one lilac. After about 24 hours I unmoulded them and started to roll different sized balls out of both colours:

Soap balls

This soon became ridiculously laborious and I realised I could probably get exactly the same effect if I rolled lengths of soap like these:

Soap sticks

I then made up a larger batch of soap and added titanium dioxide to make it nice and white. I fragranced it with a lovely floral blend of Rosewood and Ylang Ylang essential oils.

I then simply poured a small amount of soap into the bottom of the mould, laid some balls in and covered them with the white batter, then repeated until the mould was full, making sure I kept enough balls back to decorate the top of the soap. Voila:

Bubbles in the mould

And here are the cut bars:

Bubbles!

Very simple, but a nice effect nevertheless.  There are so many ways to play about with this technique, I’ll definitely be making many more embed soaps in the future.

Thanks, as always, go to Amy Warden for organising the challenge and giving us all an opportunity to drool over each other’s creations :0)