Fall Soaps

New England Handmade Artisan Soaps has a fall seasonal line of soaps, including some returning favorites and some new soaps you’re sure to love.

Apple Butter Soap

Apple Butter is scented with a rich blend of applejack peel—cinnamon, cloves, and red apples—and buttery vanilla. A gorgeous fall treat perfect for apple-picking season! Ingredients: olive oil, water, coconut oil, sustainable palm oil, sodium hydroxide, fragrance, shea butter, castor oil, cream, kaolin clay, colorant, tussah silk. Available now!

Autumn Fig HarvestAutumn Fig Harvest became one of my favorites as soon as I made it. I love the spatter tops of these bars, and the fragrance is one of my favorites—top notes of bright and crisp apple, lemon and ginger with middle notes of fig, caramel, and cinnamon that lead to more earthy base notes of coffee, twigs, and wet forest. Ingredients: olive oil, water, coconut oil, sustainable palm oil, fragrance, shea butter, sweet almond oil, castor oil, cream, kaolin clay, colorants, tussah silk. Available September 13.

Carrot ButtermilkCarrot Buttermilk is a lovely facial soap. Carrots are rich in beta-carotene and Vitamin A and have antioxidant and soothing properties. Buttermilk has alpha-hydroxy acid, which helps rejuvenate skin with gentle exfoliation. Ingredients: olive oil, coconut oil, sustainable palm oil, water, sodium hydroxide, carrot purée, apricot kernel oil, castor oil, buttermilk, kaolin clay, tussah silk. Available September 21.

Johnny AppleseedJohnny Appleseed, born John Chapman, was from nearby Leominster, MA, right here in Worcester County. This soap is named in honor of our native son, and it smells as delicious as the apples he helped spread across America—a crisp mix of red and green apples. Ingredients: olive oil, water, coconut oil, sustainable palm oil, sodium hydroxide, fragrance, shea butter, castor oil, cream, kaolin clay, colorants, cranberry seeds, tussah silk. Available today!

Oatmilk, Milk, & HoneyA great favorite, this soap is made with real raw local honey. I have a beekeeper friend who trades me her honey for soap! It’s also chock full of other great things for your skin, such as finely ground oatmeal and whole oats and goat milk. To top it off, it smells like grandma’s oatmeal cookies! This one will be a favorite with both men and women. Ingredients: olive oil, goat milk, coconut oil, sustainable palm oil, sodium hydroxide, shea butter, fragrance, castor oil, finely ground oatmeal, honey, whole oats. Available now!

Coffee & CreamCoffee & Cream is made with a mix of invigorating coffee and rich cream and scented with a blend of coffee house coffee and Turkish mocha. Smooth and silky! Great for either men or women. Ingredients: olive oil, coffee, coconut oil, sodium hydroxide, sweet almond oil, cream, fragrance, cocoa butter, shea butter, castor oil, kaolin clay, colorant, tussah silk, coffee grounds. Available now!

Pumpkin PiePumpkin Pie is a fall favorite. Made with genuine New England One Pie® pumpkin and scented with a heavenly pumpkin pie fragrance, you don’t want to miss this one. Just like pumpkin spice lattes, they only appear once a year. Ingredients: olive oil, coconut oil, sustainable palm oil, One-Pie® Pumpkin, water, sodium hydroxide, shea butter, fragrance, castor oil, cream, sweet almond oil, colorant, pumpkin pie spice. Available September 14.

Vanilla Chai LatteVanilla Chai Latte is nice combination of warm vanilla and spices like cinnamon and clove. A wonderful fall treat! Another nice fragrance for either men or women. Ingredients: olive oil, water, coconut oil, sustainable palm oil, fragrance, cream, shea butter, castor oil, kaolin clay, colorant, tussah silk. Available September 28.

De-Stress

I’m so in love with this De-Stress Stress Relief creamy white soap! Made with a blend of spearmint and eucalyptus essential oils, believed to be uplifting, soothing, and calming. I certainly can’t stop sniffing them! Perfect for men or women. A note: This soap will be added to my year-round line if customers enjoy it. Ingredients: olive oil, water, coconut oil, sustainable palm oil, sodium hydroxide, castor oil, cream, spearmint essential oil, eucalyptus essential oil, kaolin clay, colorant, jojoba beads. Available October 3.

Keep your eyes peeled on the store so you don’t miss your favorites. I have to confess: fall is my favorite season, and the fall soaps are my favorites, too.

Related posts:

Lye-Heavy Soaps

I think nearly every soapmaker makes a mistake and winds up with lye-heavy soap.Lye Heavy SoapI unmolded these beauties this morning. This soap was supposed to be a really nice lavender goat milk soap. I’m not happy that I used some nice materials with this result, but it does happen.

I knew something was wrong as I was mixing this soap together. It seemed to trace much more quickly than I thought it would, and I wondered if it was false trace, so I kept blending. I am still not sure if it really did get mixed it well.

I check on my soap frequently as it sits to gel, and this one acted up almost immediately. I could see a yellow fluid oozing out of the tops of the bars. And it kept oozing, even after I patted it dry with paper towels. I checked it several more times, and each time, more liquid ooze.

It also seemed to take quite a long time to begin to gel. A few hours passed before I detected the temperature was over 100°F. It also seemed softer than usual. Even if soaps haven’t yet begun to gel, they begin to harden so that you can press lightly on the surface.

Sure enough, when I unmolded the soaps this morning, there was a large amount of that yellow liquid underneath the bars. They were the mottled shade you see in the image rather than a nice uniform lavender shade. I could see the lye much better on the bottoms of the bars, so out of curiosity, I put a pH strip into some of the oozy liquid on the bottom of a bar.

pH TestIf you haven’t used these kinds of test strips before, you might not be familiar with how to read them. Essentially, you hold the strip up to the scale on the package above and compare it to the different sets of colors. I think my test strip looks most like the set labeled 14. If you are not familiar with the pH scale, it works like this:

  • It ranges from 0-14.
  • It measures how acidic or basic (or alkaline) a substance is.
  • Substances with a pH below 7 are acidic.
  • Substances with a pH above 7 are alkaline.
  • Substances with a pH of 7 are neutral and are neither acidic nor alkaline.
  • Each number is ten times greater than the number before. For example, something that is pH 11 is ten times more alkaline than something that is pH 10. Likewise, something that is pH 4 is ten times more acidic than something that is pH 5.
  • 14 is just about as alkaline as you can get. Lye is about 14 on the pH scale.

Yikes! I certainly should not have been handling my soap with bare hands! It was dangerously lye heavy. I immediately washed my hands. The tips of my fingers are a little dry, but other than that, no damage. A quick note: The soap itself was probably not uniformly pH 14. I’m pretty sure the pH strip came in direct contact with a patch of lye in the soap. In any case, I should have been using gloves to unmold. I’m really glad I didn’t try to zap test it.

In the case of this particular batch, I don’t know what I did wrong, so rebatching it in an attempt to fix it is probably not a good idea. If you know exactly what you did wrong to produce lye heavy soap, you can try rebatching it and correcting the problem. For instance, if you know you forgot an oil, or that you used the wrong amount of oil, you can shred the soap with a grater and put it in the crock pot, add the oil, and cook the soap, similar to making hot process soap. I personally hate rebatching. Your rebatched soap is just not going to be as nice as regular cold process or even hot process soap. I have done it once and swore I’d never do it again. However, some soapmakers regularly rebatch their soap and like it just fine.

What can you do if you don’t know what you did wrong? You have two options:

  1. Toss it in the trash.
  2. Use it as laundry soap.

I put on a pair of gloves and shredded the soap. Then I put it in a box in the laundry room. Interestingly enough, the first soaps used were laundry soaps. Ancient Babylonians used soap as early as 2800 BCE. Archaeologists have found evidence of a soap-like residue in containers, and a cuneiform tablet dated from 2200 BCE had a soap recipe on it. The recipe describes the soap’s use for washing clothes. Your grandmother or great-grandmother may even have made soap to use for the laundry. Though lye-heavy soap is too harsh to use on your skin, you can use it to clean your clothes, and that way, at least it doesn’t go to waste. Lye-heavy soap is actually pretty good at whitening whites and cutting grease. It’s best used with some washing soda, Borax, and baking soda to create a nice detergent. The Soap Queen has some laundry soap tips here.

Related posts:

Luxury Goat Milk Soap: Recipe and Tutorial

Cee from Oil & Butter is my favorite soap blogger for many reasons. She is generous with her expertise and her ideas. Her soap looks incredible (and her photographs are beautiful). She is knowledgeable and friendly. She shared a recipe and tutorial for a Luxury Soap two years ago, and it looks so gorgeous that I have been dying to try it. In the spirit of Cee’s original post, I share my recipe, advice, and reflections.

Luxury SoapIngredients

Lye Solution

  • 291 g goat milk
  • 85 g coconut milk
  • 155 g lye

Oils

  • 56 g mango butter
  • 57 g shea butter
  • 225 g coconut oil
  • 200 g palm oil
  • 430 g olive oil
  • 57 g avocado oil
  • 57 g sweet almond oil
  • 56 g castor oil

Additives

  • 1.5 t honey mixed with 1.5 t distilled water
  • 68 g fragrance (I chose Brown Sugar and Fig from Nature’s Garden)
  • 2 t Diamond Dust Mica dispersed in the sweet almond oil
  • 1 T sodium lactate

Equipment

First, a quick note about grams as opposed to ounces. I use grams to measure the weight of my soap ingredients because grams are more precise than ounces, even if you are measuring tenths of an ounce. I always recommend that soapmakers use grams, and whenever I use a recipe someone else has posted, I convert it to grams using SoapCalc.

This recipe was adapted from Cee’s own Luxury Soap recipe. I removed the jojoba oil mainly because it’s terrifically expensive. I don’t have much of it right now, and I prefer to use it for leave-on products like lotions, like other soapmakers. It’s perfectly fine in soap, however, and I didn’t remove it because I thought it shouldn’t be used. Using it would certainly have added a bit of decadence to an already almost sinful soap, but I think the recipe is plenty luxurious without it, too. I didn’t have chamomile extract, so I didn’t use that either. Aside from removing the jojoba and chamomile extract, I tweaked the numbers of the other oils and swapped almond milk for coconut milk. Otherwise, the recipes are quite similar.

I began by preparing the oils. First, I measured out the butters.

Mango ButterMango butter is truly wonderful. It is similar to shea butter in some respects in that it has a significant amount of unsaponifiables, meaning that more of the conditioning and moisturizing qualities of the butter make it through the saponification process. It also contributes to a creamy lather.

Shea Butter I added the shea butter to the mango butter. I use shea butter and/or cocoa butter in almost all of my soaps because I love what it does for skin. It does speed up trace, so be careful.

Coconut OilIn with the coconut oil. It’s so hot here today that it’s completely melted already. Actually the mango butter was kind of soft as well. It’s usually a little harder (and almost brittle) than it was today. Coconut oil is great for bubbles—it contributes to fluffy lather and cleansing as well as bar hardness. I use coconut oil in almost all of my soaps.

Palm OilThe last hard oil is palm oil, which I use because it contributes to bar hardness, stable lather, and conditioning. I use it in a lot of my soaps.

What I like to do is put all my hard oils in the soap bowl together, then melt them in the microwave. It saves time as opposed to melting each separately and adding them together. I warmed these oils for about one minute (try 30-second bursts). At that point, the shea was almost melted, so I stirred it until it was completely melted.

Olive OilA quick word about olive oil: you can use any grade of olive oil in soap, but I always use pure golden olive oil. I don’t think it’s necessary to use extra virgin olive oil in soapmaking. In fact, it’s not different enough from pure golden olive oil to warrant its own category in SoapCalc, though olive oil pomace is. I personally don’t use pomace because pure golden olive oil is available at my local discount membership warehouse for a really good price (and no shipping). I use olive oil in every single soap I make. It’s highly conditioning and contributes to stable lather and bar hardness. I believe it to be the single best soaping oil there is.

Soft Oils

I prepared the soft oils—olive oil, avocado oil, and castor oil—measuring them out one at a time, and then adding them all to the melted hard oils and butters.

Avocado oil contains vitamins A, D, and E, and contributes to the bar’s conditioning properties.

Castor oil is the best source of ricinoleic acid and make the lather much fluffier and more stable. I use castor oil in most of my soaps. Castor oil is also a natural humectant, which means it draws moisture to the skin. I usually only use 5%, except in shampoo bars.

Mica Added

I added my Diamond Dust Mica to the sweet almond oil, mixed it with a small hand mixer, and then added the sweet almond oil to the rest of the oils. Sweet almond oil is another of my favorite oils. It contributes to a stable lather and conditioning bar. It works well as a carrier oil for colorants, too. It’s also great in lotions.

I blended the oils so that the Diamond Dust Mica would disperse. Look at that pearly sheen!

Diamond Dust Mica

I believe this mica is probably similar to Bramble Berry’s Super Pearly White Mica. That lovely, pearl sheen will not completely make it through the soapmaking process, but if you use it in melt-and-pour soap, you should see a nice shimmer in your soap. I do still notice a little bit of shimmer in cold process soap as well, and it definitely adds something that just plain titanium dioxide lacks.

Goat Milk and Coconut Milk

After my oils were prepared, I prepared my milks and lye. Why didn’t I do that before preparing the oils? Well, if I were using water, I would have prepared the lye mixture first because it needs time to cool. However, if I am starting with frozen milk, there is no reason to start with the lye mixture because it doesn’t need to cool. In fact, I find that I can control my milk and lye much better if I prepare it after the oils. I have found that if you prepare the milk and lye before the oils, the fats in the goat milk begin to saponify, and while that’s not necessarily problematic for any reason, I just find I like it better if the milk is still liquid. I used a 6% lye discount in this soap, but you could alter it to your preferred superfat if you like. I find 6% to be my personal sweet spot.

Lye MixtureWorking with milk requires a bit more effort than working with water. I use a stainless steel pot because if I need to quickly cool it down the mixture, stainless steel is a better conductor (hot or cold) than plastic or glass. I also add the lye to the milk just a little at a time and stir until the lye is dissolved. Then I add more. It can take a little while. Once all the lye was added, and I was relatively sure the all of it had dissolved in the milk, I added the sodium lactate to the lye mixture and stirred well to dissolve it.

Lye MixtureI checked the temperature of the lye mixture, and it was about 82°F. Pretty good. I don’t like it to rise above 90°F. If it starts to become too warm, I put the pan in a cool water bath to bring the temperature down.

Another benefit of preparing the oils first and then the lye mixture is that the oils have a little bit more time to cool down as well. I didn’t take their temperature, but my guess is that they were 90-95°F by the time the lye was ready. They would likely have been about 100°F when I began preparing the lye mixture.

Once the lye mixture was ready, I added it to the oils and stirred a little bit. Anne-Marie Faiola of Bramble Berry likes to pour the lye mixture down the barrel of her stick blender to reduce splashing and bubbles. I did that this time, too.

Stick Blending SoapI stick blended until a very light trace, then I added the honey. Honey will accelerate trace, so make sure you add it at a light trace, or you may find you have gone too far with the stick blending. When I use honey in soap, I mix it with an equal amount of distilled water. In this case, I used 1.5 t of honey, so I mixed it with 1.5 t of water. Then I microwave the honey for a very short time—only 5-10 seconds. I stir until it dissolves in the water. I find that I have fewer issues with scorching, overheating, and caverns in soap if I dissolve the honey. I have also learned not to use more honey than I need. I wouldn’t go higher than a tablespoon in a batch of this size, and given I used a log mold instead of a slab mold, even that much might have caused temperature issues. Honey is a natural humectant and contributes to the lather in soap.

I added my fragrance, which was Nature’s Garden’s Brown Sugar and Fig. I wanted a scent that evoked the creaminess of the soap. I chose this fragrance also because I knew that it had a very small amount of vanillin in it, and reviews said that it didn’t discolor. I love the fragrance description:

This magical, complex fragrance oil by Nature’s Garden is composed of top notes of fresh figs, peaches, and passion fruit; followed by middle notes of coconut milk, vanilla orchid, jasmine, muguet, and freesia; well-balanced with base notes of vanilla beans, caramel, maple sugar, fig leaves, and musk.

To be honest, I don’t smell any fruit notes, with the possible exception of the fig. I mostly smell vanilla, sugar, and musk. It smells great, and I think it’s perfect in this soap. I had no issues with acceleration or ricing. I’ll have to wait and see as the soap cures to determine whether the claims that it doesn’t discolor are true.

I should think other good fragrance choices might be Nature’s Garden’s Baby Bee Buttermilk or Oatmeal, Milk, and Honey or Bramble Berry’s Wildflower Honey (which will discolor, but to a nice honey shade).

TraceI blended to a pretty thick trace, then poured the soap into my 10-inch silicone loaf mold, which was the perfect size for this recipe. Bramble Berry recommends using sodium lactate to make it easier to remove soap from this mold, and in any case, sodium lactate adds a nice silky feel to soap.

Soap In the MoldLike Cee, I spooned soap on the top after doing a little bit of sculpting, but I didn’t think my tops were as pretty as hers, so I experimented a bit with a skewer to create a slightly different design.

Swirled Soap TopsI spritzed it with 91% isopropyl alcohol, which might not have been strictly necessary since I didn’t choose to gel the soap, but it can’t hurt anyway. Isopropyl alcohol can help prevent soda ash on the tops of soap, but it’s not 100% effective.

A quick word about gelling milk soaps. You will hear some soapmakers insist that you can’t or shouldn’t gel milk soaps. I don’t see any problem with it. I gel most of my milk soaps. Even the ones with honey in them, too. I have only had a problem with overheating once, and it was because I used way too much honey. My advice is to do what you want. I chose not to gel this one because I didn’t want it to darken as much as I knew it would if I gelled it. You might not need to insulate, or perhaps just to insulate lightly, but your milk soaps will gel just fine if you are mindful of the other additives you use and keep an eye on the temperature.

Cut Luxury SoapThe cut soaps smell wonderful. I am going to let them have a nice long cure and give them to family and friends for Christmas.

Related posts:

The Store is Open!

Romeo and JulietWoo! It’s time to celebrate because the online store is now open. You can access the store at any time by clicking the Shop link in the menu bar at the top of every page on this site.

You may be asking yourself why buy New England Handmade Artisan Soaps here instead of at the Etsy store? Customers who purchase soaps here will have a couple of advantages over customers on Etsy.

First, all new soaps will appear here for a full week before they appear on Etsy, so you can be the first to order new soaps and make sure you don’t miss out if you order via the shop. That also means that if items sell out in this shop, they may never appear on Etsy, so if you really don’t want to miss it, check it out here.

Second, the shipping in the shop has been calculated by weight instead of by item. Etsy will not allow shipping to be calculated by weight, which is how the USPS calculates shipping. As a result, I have to calculate by item, which sometimes results in inaccurate shipping charges. While I do refund shipping overages that amount to more than $1.00, it is much simpler to pay the correct amount in the first place.

A final advantage to customers in this shop is that they will have the opportunity to order more items. I plan to list fewer numbers of soaps on Etsy—in many cases, only a maximum of three bars of the same soap will be listed on Etsy.

With all these reasons to try the new shop, it is my hope that if you have been a loyal customer of my Etsy store, that you will give the new shop a whirl.

Related posts:

Big News for New England Handmade Artisan Soaps

I have some exciting news, and I just didn’t want to wait until September to share it. Starting Monday, August 25, New England Handmade Artisan Soaps will be opening its own independent online store right here on this website! In fact, you may even see the store button on the menu bar above, but at the moment, there are no items for sale.

What will change?

Aside from having a new outlet for purchasing New England Handmade Artisan Soaps, nothing will change. The Etsy store will remain open, and if purchasing via Etsy is preferable for you, you will still be able to purchase soaps via Etsy. You will no longer be able to access the Etsy store using the link above in the menu bar, but the link in the sidebar to right will remain active. Prices will be the same on both sites, but my personal store will make it easier for me to run sales and promotions, so you might want to check into it. You will also still be able to use either credit/debit cards or PayPal in the new store, just as on Etsy, but of course, Etsy gift cards will not work in the new store. Coupon codes shared in the regular monthly newsletter will also work in both stores.

Why the new store?

Well, a couple of reasons. First of all, I have control over more aspects of operating an online store at my own site than I do on Etsy. For instance, Etsy has always made calculating precise shipping difficult because the only method for setting up shipping is per item. USPS works more conveniently when calculated by weight. In my own online store, your shipping price will be based on weight and will automatically configure orders of certain sizes to fit USPS Priority Mail shipping containers. There will be no need to set up custom orders to achieve exact shipping quotes.

Also, it is my hope that customers will find what they are looking for more easily through my online store. Etsy does have a large number of gifted artisans, many of whom are soapmakers, and it is easy to be lost in the shuffle. The chances of someone searching online for a certain kind of soap and finding my Etsy store are slim, but a personal storefront will make it easier for customers using search engines to find what they are looking for at New England Handmade Artisan Soaps. It was also my hope to attract attention to my blog, which many customers on Etsy may not even be aware exists.

Finally, an independent storefront will make it easier for me to set up preorders for soaps that are not yet ready so that you can reserve soaps in advance and not miss out on your favorites. I can also set up backorders for soaps that are out of stock. If these features interest you, please feel free to let me know you’d like to see them implemented in the store.

What else is new?

You may have noticed things look a little different on the blog masthead, the Facebook page, the Etsy store, or even Twitter and the blog. As the new online store opens, I thought the time was right to make a few cosmetic changes. The next time you order soap, you might notice small differences in the packaging. However, you’ll be getting the same great soap.

If you have any questions about the new store, feel free to ask. I’m looking forward to sharing this new venture with all of you!

Related posts:

Soaping on the Color Wheel

Some time back, I blogged about color theory as it related to selecting colors for soapmaking. In that post, I discussed that one way to create an appealing color combination is to use complementary colors, or colors that oppose each other on the color wheel.

Color Wheel

Color Wheel via Wikipedia

You can see that purple and yellow directly oppose each other on the color wheel. However, orange and green also oppose purple on the color wheel and form a triangulation of complementary colors. In between purple and green (the darker green), there are three colors, and in between purple and orange (the lighter orange), there are likewise three colors. There are again three colors between orange and green. These sorts of triangulations are also worth considering when you are thinking about color combinations.

Color Wheel TriangulationThis sounds interesting in theory, but in practice, how do these colors look together in soap?

I recently made a batch of Autumn Fig Harvest, with a new fragrance from Bramble Berry (which I tested as part of the S.O.A.P. Panel). One of the first things I do if I am not sure what kind of color combination I might want to try is look for images using Google Image Search. I simply Googled the fragrance oil name, and this is the set of images that I could see (screen-captured because of the changing nature of the Internet):

Screen Shot of Google Image SearchThe images in the top and middle rows caught my eye. The first two images in row one are straight from Bramble Berry’s site. The third image, however, comes from a cooking blog called Figs, Bay & Wine. Notice the green and purple in the plums. As I said in my earlier post about color theory, turning to nature for color combinations is often a good idea because nature understands color theory. Finding that picture was a lucky accident because I was not searching for plums at all. Skipping over the fourth picture, notice the third image is a pumpkin in a fall setting. My eye was drawn to how these colors looked next to each other: purple, green, and orange. Even though those colors (with the exception perhaps of purple) have little to do with figs, I knew I had found the color combination I wanted to use.

Celine Blacow has said in her soapmaking videos that using white is often what brings a color combination together. I have noticed the difference white makes in pulling together the look of a soap. It’s not always necessary, but it often does make a huge difference in the soap’s design. So, a field of white would be important in pulling together a design with purple, orange, and green. I thought the three colors would have an autumnal look as well.

Purple can be tricky in soap if you just use oxides, but I had recently purchased a set of Vibrance Micas from Nurture Soap Supplies. I used the Vibrance Purple and Green micas, and I probably could have used the Vibrance Orange from this set as well, but elected to use Clementine Pop Mica from Rustic Escentuals. I had used it before, and I knew it would make a nice pumpkin shade in the soap.

Here is what the soap looked like in the mold.

Autumn Fig Harvest in the moldFirst I poured in a layer of white, then I did a drop swirl with each of the other three colors. I decided to try the spatter-top technique (a sort of Jackson Pollock effect). Just like using white, I have found that a bit of glitter also adds something extra special to soap.

Here is what the soap looks like cut:

Autumn Fig HarvestYou will notice I have a bit of titanium dioxide crackle, also known as glycerine rivers, in the soap in the white parts. There are many intriguing theories about what causes them—the most recent interesting one I came across is the amount of water used in the lye solution—but frankly, I haven’t been able to figure out why they happen sometimes and don’t other times. I believe them to be the result of heat because when I do not gel my soaps, I never have them. However, gelling soaps produces more vibrant colors and allows soaps to be cut and eventually used earlier than non-gelled soaps, and when I can, I try to gel them. Actually, the TD crackle is an interesting look. I’m sure other soapmakers see these soaps and think of them as mistakes, but the sort of antique look of TD crackle can lend interest (of course, that’s also just my opinion, and I’ve stopped trying to fight it).

The colors do look nice together. They make a bold statement, perhaps because they are triangulating colors. Try moving the triangle around the color wheel to come up with other bold combinations: red, yellow, and blue; violet-red (cranberry), orange-yellow, and light blue. In each case, the combination is a striking mix of complementary colors.

Another combination of colors to try is the square.

Square PaletteAgain, a striking combination of colors. In the example above, orange, yellow-green (lime), blue, and violet-red (cranberry). Each of the colors is two apart, which sets them off a little more than analogous colors (think red, yellow, and orange as analogous) would do. Try moving the square around the wheel to create other combinations.

Playing with color combinations using the color wheel can help you create appealing soap color combinations. Have you used the color wheel in your soaping creations? What were the results? How do you decide what colors to use? Chime in the comments!

Related posts:

Inspiration Soap Challenge

When I saw Kenna’s Facebook post about her Inspiration Soap Challenge, I pounced quickly, knowing her 15 challenge kits would be snapped up by eager soapmakers. I was lucky enough to be in the first 15 claimants, and I received my kit and challenge in the mail.

Challenge KitHere is what I received:

One ounce each of three fragrances—Save on Scents’ Apricot Honey, Candle Science’s Coconut, and Candle Science’s Black Currant Tea. All three of them smell great.

FragrancesAdditives: kiwi seeds from Lotioncrafter, bentonite clay from Monterey Bay Spice, calendula petals from Monterey Bay Spice, Blaze Orange Day-Glo color from Majestic Mountain Sage, Corona Magenta Day-Glo color from Majestic Mountain Sage, 24-Karat Gold mica from Rustic Escentuals, Caribbean Kiss mica from Rustic Escentuals, and Clementine Pop mica from Rustic Escentuals.

AdditivesMy mission? To craft a soap inspired by Bobby McFerrin’s song “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” using at least four of these ingredients.

Here is Kenna’s note:

LetterThinking of this song, the three Rustic Escentuals micas, the Apricot Honey fragrance, and the calendula petals immediately jumped out at me. The song reminds me of summertime, and those colors and fragrance screamed summer. I decided not to wait and set to work immediately.

I used my one-pound shea butter recipe, which has 40% olive oil, 25% coconut oil, 25% sustainable palm oil, 5% shea butter, and 5% castor oil. I also added cream, kaolin clay, and tussah silk.

Soap BatterI decided I would leave part of the batter uncolored. I would pour the uncolored batter into the mold first. I would use the three mica colors and do an ITP swirl, then pour those into the uncolored batter to do a Holly swirl. It didn’t quite work according to plan.

Part of working with an unknown fragrance is the surprise it might offer—will it discolor? Will it accelerate trace? I had no way of knowing, really, as the reviews on the site didn’t say. I plunged ahead. I suspected it would accelerate mostly because of the fruity (almost floral) nature of the scent, which I LOVE, by the way. I don’t smell the honey as much as the sweet apricot fragrance.

It did accelerate a bit, as it turns out. I was still able to swirl my soap, but I had to move quickly. Everything was going smoothly as I poured the uncolored batter into the mold.

Uncolored BatterI had already prepared my three micas and decided to pour the soap directly into these cups.

Prepared MicasAren’t they beautiful?

The soap was thickening up by the time I was done mixing the colors.

ITP swirlSo, my ITP swirl was not as fluid as I envisioned it. I knew it wouldn’t drop swirl easily into the uncolored batter, either. What to do?

I poured it from high so that it would penetrate, then I spoon-swirled it.

Soap in MoldAnd the pièce de résistance? The calendula petals.

Calendula Petals on TopI put the soap to bed to gel. I checked on it a few times, and I can tell you that it moved fast and became quite hot pretty quickly. It was over 140°F one time when I checked it, and keep in mind this was probably within the first hour after I made it. Just a warning about that fragrance! I hoped that the fragrance would stick OK, but the flashpoint is 200°F, so I crossed my fingers.

As it turned out, the fragrance made it through saponification just fine. After I cut it, I could smell the honey notes much more than I could out-of-the-bottle. It really smells delicious. I’m telling you, you couldn’t worry when you smelled it—it would make you happy! I just hope it’s going to remain strong through the cure.

Don't Worry, Be Happy SoapHere is a close-up of one of the bars so you can really see how the colors came out. The Caribbean Kiss mica is a perfect Caribbean water shade, and the Clementine Pop mica really matches the apricot notes in the fragrance, while the 24-Karat Gold mica ties in the element of honey in the scent. As it turns out, the swirl looks great—perhaps better than it would have looked if I had just done a drop swirl with the swirled colors.

Close UPAs you can see, the natural soap did not discolor either, so while this fragrance accelerates, it does not discolor, which means it is great for whatever colors and design you want to try (given you can work with the acceleration).

I’m really pleased with how the micas turned out as well. I didn’t know if the 24-Karat Gold mica would look like much in CP soap, but it honestly pops pretty nicely—you can see the sparkles throughout. It’s hard to tell from the pictures, but the sparkles really do catch your eye if you can see the soap in person.

A couple of interesting notes about this challenge:

  1. It was fun trying to use the kit to make something based on the challenge idea, and I found the idea came to me immediately. Kudos to Kenna for the great idea.
  2. I really fell in love with the Clementine Pop mica, and I’m going to have to order some more of that. I liked the other two a lot as well. I do not have as much experience with micas, and so I feel shy ordering them (for some reason) because I’m not sure what I’m going to get. I was so happy when I checked Rustic Escentuals’ site and found they were all CP stable.
  3. I really liked all three fragrances. Coconut does scream summer, but even without checking, I figured it would discolor more than the Apricot Honey, so I went with my gut on that one.
  4. Almost all the materials I received were new to me. I have used calendula petals and bentonite clay in soap before, but I had not used anything else. I had never even purchased from any of the companies except Rustic Escentuals and Majestic Mountain Sage. It was fun to learn about some potential vendors and try their products before I buy them.
  5. After watching the music video for “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” again, I discovered the colors I used (or at least similar ones) appeared in the video! I see them mostly in the background. Isn’t that wild? I wonder if my subconscious somehow dredged that up (as many times as I saw that video in the 1980s!), but… nah.

This soap will be ready to use on August 2, 2014. I decided to give one bar away. Here’s the catch: no fair entering the contest from multiple Twitter or Facebook accounts. You can certainly enter more than once using one of each kind of social media account, but if you try to game the system, I will disqualify all your entries. I was disappointed to learn someone tried to do that with my last giveaway. I want someone who really wants this soap to win it, not someone who just enters freebie contests, so please—your social media accounts should contain tweets besides giveaway announcements. Aside from those caveats, go for it!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Related posts:

Making Melt and Pour Base

Update, July 3, 2014: We have had a few hot and humid days lately, and I can confirm this soap sweats. A lot. However, you might try Cee’s suggestion of reducing the glycerin to see if it results in less sweat. If MP sweat is not a concern, read on…

Ever since I read about the process of making melt and pour base on Cee’s blog, I have wanted to try it, but I knew I really needed to set aside the time because it was likely to be quite a process. I was right. If you try this, make sure you try it on a weekend or day off, when you can devote the time you will need. Mine definitely didn’t turn out like Cee’s, but it was still quite usable and worked very well when I melted it down to make MP soap.

The first thing I did was put my palm oil, coconut oil, castor oil, and stearic acid into the crock pot.Oils in the Crock PotI let the oils melt.

Melted OilsI like how you can see my ceiling fan in the oils. Ha!

I added the lye water and stirred a bit. Here the soap is at a thick trace.

Thick TraceI let it cook for a bit. Here it is at “mashed potatoes” stage.

Mashed Potatoes StageA little while longer, and it was starting to gel.

Beginning to GelI stirred it well and cooked it to the applesauce stage. Once it started to get fluffy, I tested it for zap.

Applesauce StageAfter there was no zap, I poured in the glycerin and stirred.
Glycerin AddedThen I let it cook and melt. Finally, this was about as clear as my batch ever got. Cee’s was very clear. Not sure if I did something wrong.

Almost ClearEach time I would go stir, I saw a skin of hard soap on the top. I never could seem to get it to completely melt into a clear liquid. I am wondering if the temp was too low. Perhaps next time, I should try turning the crock pot up on high and see if that helps.
Soap SkinFinally, I stuck it in the microwave and poured it into the mold, hoping for the best.

Microwaved SoapBut it got these sort of scummy looking bubbles on the top. And I could still see some unmelted chunks of soap. Oh well, I poured it into the mold and let it set up.

I unmolded just a few hours later. It was already perfectly hard and came out of the mold quite easily.

Bottom of MP Soap BaseThe bottom was translucent (but not transparent). It looks a lot like a more opaque version of a regular MP soap base to me.

Top of MP BaseThe top had this sort of scummy white layer. I don’t know if it would hurt to use it, but I cut a slice and trimmed that top part off. Then I made these cute little heart-shaped soaps using some rose pearl mica, Pink Sugar fragrance, and Vanilla Stabilizer.

MP HeartsSo, I can report that the no-alcohol technique seems to work just fine!

Cee cautions on her blog that this recipe has a lot of glycerin, and it might sweat if used as embeds, but you can decrease the glycerin and perhaps get good results.

Here is a video I made of the process.

Thanks Cee (and Zacil) who shared this technique on Cee’s wonderful blog.

Related posts:

Thank You, Bramble Berry!

I returned home from a CVS shopping run to find a package from Bramble Berry on my porch. That’s funny, I thought. I didn’t order anything recently [insert little sad little sob over the fact that I haven't ordered anything recently].

I opened it up, and I found these inside.

S. O. A. P. Panel Fragrances

Two ounces each of five fragrances from the S. O. A. P. Panel!

Also enclosed was a very nice (and pretty) handwritten thank you card for my participation on the S. O. A. P. Panel. It was so nice and unexpected. I didn’t realize Bramble Berry would be sending these along, and perhaps it’s spoilery, but I thought I’d let you see this sneak peek at some of the new offerings.

My nose is apparently not so good, so I am not 100% sure I’ve identified these all correctly, but I’m certain that Heavenly Honeysuckle is fragrance #3 that I tested and was actually able to identify as honeysuckle at the time. After living in Georgia for nearly twenty years, I can’t miss that scent. It’s absolutely gorgeous, and I am so glad it made the cut.

I think that Mahogany is fragrance #8 that I said smelled like a sexy man. It does smell good, but I have no idea what mahogany is supposed to smell like. I think it will be a nice addition to Bramble Berry’s masculine line, though.

I’m totally not sure about this one, but I think Autumn Fig Harvest is fragrance #1, which I also liked a lot but totally did not identify with figs. Like I even know what figs are supposed to smell like, I suppose, but I digress. I thought I smelled some sort of juniper or a pine or fir scent, which might be the “harvest” and “autumn” notes. Anyway, even if I’m wrong, Autumn Fig Harvest smells great.

Those were my top three selections from the S. O. A. P. Panel fragrances, so (if my nose is right), I’m thrilled they made it through the process.

As to the other two fragrances, I can’t identify them with the ones I tried, and I wondered if they were perhaps part of the second round of S. O. A. P. Panel fragrances, in which I didn’t participate. Lavender and Cedar is a pretty accurate description of what that fragrance smells like. More cedar, for sure, but with a floral note behind it. It’s quite nice. Mandarin Oasis smells fruity and awesome, but I can’t identify it with the fruity scents I had on my panel, so I’m not really sure.

Thanks again for the nice treat, Bramble Berry!

Related posts:

Sunrise Soap Giveaway Winner

I’m pleased to announce the winner of the Sunrise Soap Giveaway is Liza Jo! Congratulations, Liza Jo!

Finished Soap

Please watch out for future giveaways from New England Handmade Artisan Soaps, and thank you to all the people who participated in the giveaway.

Related posts: