I’m pleased to announce the winner of the Sunrise Soap Giveaway is Liza Jo! Congratulations, Liza Jo!
Please watch out for future giveaways from New England Handmade Artisan Soaps, and thank you to all the people who participated in the giveaway.
I have very little experience with hot process soap, but I really wanted to give it a try. I think the rustic look of some hot process soaps is quite pretty. I had an idea for a soap, and I thought it might look better if it were hot process rather than cold process, so I decided to give it go.
First, my recipe:
This is my “test” recipe, which also has the advantage of being a good basic recipe.
I made up the lye mixture with full water and set it aside. Then I added the oils to the crock pot.
I grew really impatient waiting for them to melt. They probably took about 15 minutes to melt on high heat.
Then I added my lye. I thought I was being really smart lining my crock pot. I forgot about the stick blender blades. Still, very little of the soap leaked into the crock pot itself. Next time, I just won’t bother. After all, with hot process, the soap is fully saponified, so the lye is not going to be a problem. I didn’t add my fragrance to the soap while it was in the crock pot, so there was no danger of fragrance leeching into my food later.
I blended to light trace. It took maybe a few seconds. You can barely see the soap trails on the top.
Next, I stirred it a bit before letting it sit to cook. At this point, I turned the crock pot to low. Notice you can see a bit of the separation you are supposed to look for.
I let it cook for a bit, perhaps 10 minutes, and when I came to check on it, it was thickening up quite a bit. At this state, it was maybe the texture of thick pudding or mashed potatoes.
I actually checked on it quite often. I was nervous about leaving it alone. I should have paid better attention to timing here, but since I was checking it so frequently, I really looked more for “signs” instead of watching the clock. I started to notice it was gelling near the edges, like it was supposed to do.
So, I stirred it up, and the gelled soap combined with the soap in the middle looked more like applesauce.
I cooked it a bit longer, looking for signs it was turning fluffy. Sure enough, I started to see the fluffy stage.
I scooped the soap out of the crock pot and put it into a bowl. This is where I think I could use some advice from more experienced hot process soapmakers. I wanted to let the soap cool a bit so it didn’t burn off the delicate orange essential oil I wanted to use (though, to be fair, it was 10x orange oil).
I think I let it cool too much. I read at TeachSoap that it’s a good idea to add a bit of sunflower oil (or, I suppose another carrier oil) to help cool the soap and make it more pliable as I mix the fragrance. Do any of you do this? Does it work? Because I tried to wait until my soap was right around the flashpoint for orange essential oil, and I think it was too cool. I had some trouble getting it into the mold, which I understand is just part of the nature of hot process soap, but I am wondering if the oil would have helped. Any advice is appreciated.
I added the orange essential oil, and it was very hard to mix. My soap is going to have a really cool mottled look because I couldn’t get the oil to mix as thoroughly as I had planned.
Here is another view of the soap in the mold.
Eventually, I quit fussing with it and let it set up. I unmolded it and decided to let it harden a bit more before I cut it. You can tell I fussed with it too much because I got soap all over my oranges. Boo! I decided to clean them off after I cut the soap. The pictures are a little darker because the light wasn’t as good by the evening when I took them.
Here is another view of the soap loaf with the manhandled (womanhandled?) oranges in clear view.
I am really digging the mottled look. It made me wonder if this is how Gossage’s soap got its famous “mottled” look. I know they experimented with adding colorants, but I couldn’t find out if their manufacturing process was hot process or not. I can’t find a picture of Gossage’s soap (just the packaging), so I’m not really sure what it looked like.
After the soap was cooled, I cut it as I normally do with my soap log cutter. Here are the results.
I am thinking of calling it Sunrise. I am not sure if I will sell it or if I will just give these away. However, I am giving one bar away here. Just follow the instructions to enter. Good luck!
Cee of Oil & Butter has nominated me for a Versatile Blogger Award. I love Cee! Her blog is awesome, and her soaps are gorgeous! Thank you, Cee.
Here are the rules for the award:
VBA RULES (Copied from versatilebloggeraward.wordpress.com):
If you are nominated, you’ve been awarded the Versatile Blogger award.
So, to be honest, I have been out of pocket where blogging is concerned as I’ve had a busy time at work over the month of February. Seems to be calming down a bit now. I don’t know whether these folks have been nominated or not, as such, so forgive duplications.
7 Things about Me
Participating in the S.O.A.P. Panel was a lot of fun for me. It was interesting also to have a glimpse at some fragrances Bramble Berry is considering for their product line. The opportunity to have some influence over those decisions or at least report my experiences with the fragrances was also powerful, and I took it very seriously. I tested using a recipe that I didn’t expect would accelerate trace on its own. I used no colors so I could judge each fragrance’s effect on the soap’s color. I soaped at temperatures close to 100 degrees. I didn’t discount water. I gelled each soap so that I could see whether the fragrance would come through saponification, even if exposed to the higher temperatures of gelling. In short, I tried, as much as possible, to use testing conditions that would ensure the soaps I made were all the same, with the exception of the fragrance.
In the table below, I have listed the fragrances by number and linked them to their individual test blog posts. Then, I have ranked them from 1-8 in order of my own preferences (1 was my favorite, 8 was my least favorite). Finally, I have some thoughts and some recommendations for Bramble Berry, as well as any other soapers who might one day use the fragrances, should Bramble Berry sell them.
|Fragrance Number||My Rank||Recommendations|
|Scent 1||2||I didn’t care for this one out of the bottle as much as I liked it after soaping with it. It is nice and strong after a cure, too. I really like its fresh scent. I can’t figure out what the scent is, but it smells great, and I would totally buy this one. It smells green or blue to me, and I think it would be nice with a green, blue, and white swirl of some kind. I really hope BB decides to carry this one.|
|Scent 2||6||The only reason this fragrance ranks so low is that it completely disappeared in my CP soap. It might be great in other products, such as candles or lotion. I sort of hope that some of the other testers decided to use it in one of those types of products to see how it performs. It smelled great and behaved well, too. It’s just gone. Notice it’s not ranked #8 though! Even with no scent left!|
|Scent 3||1||This was my favorite mainly because I identified it as honeysuckle, which is one of my all-time favorite scents. I love the way honeysuckle smells in bloom, and I have used many honeysuckle fragrances in the past. This fragrance smells true and is strong, even after a cure. It would be beautiful with a white, cream, and yellow swirl to mimic the honeysuckle blooms. For a floral, it behaves well, too. I would most definitely buy this one, and I hope BB decides to carry it.|
|Scent 4||4||This one smells really good, and I would buy it. It is strong after a cure. I think it would go well with greens, yellows, and whites, as I think I detect a tart pear fragrance. It smells really good on its own, and I think it might blend well with other fragrances, too. I hope BB also carries this one. It was close between this one and the ones I ranked #2 and 3. I did like all of them.|
|Scent 5||7||This one smells like dirt or grass. It might be fun for a novelty soap for golfers or gardeners, but otherwise, I wouldn’t want to use it. Of course, I have never romanticized the smell of fresh cut grass the way some other folks do, so that is something to bear in mind. It would be great with a green colorant (I’m thinking a swirl of mostly chromium green oxide with a little bit of brown oxide and titanium dioxide woven through). It might be fun for some people, but I wouldn’t buy it unless a customer especially requested a grass fragrance.|
|Scent 6||8||I liked this one the least. It misbehaved a bit in soaping, and it doesn’t smell good to me, even after mellowing a bit in a cure. I can’t identify the scent, and I have no real recommendations for colorants to use as a result. I would recommend that BB not sell this one. I don’t think it would be terribly successful.|
|Scent 7||5||This one didn’t stand out in any strong way to me. It didn’t smell bad, but it didn’t wow me either. It’s a sort of fruity floral. My husband thinks he smells rose, but it smells more like carnation to me. I am not sure if I would buy it or not. I think it would go well with pinks, creams, or whites. I am on the fence about my recommendation. I hope to peek in and see what the other panelists think of this one. It smells pretty, but I liked many of the other fragrances better. However, I should note I am a sort of “fruity” fragrance person. My husband likes florals (for women) much better, and is more disposed to those scents. I think if you like florals, you’d probably like this one, and BB may find there is a good market for it.|
|Scent 8||3||This one smells great. I would totally recommend that BB carry it. I would definitely buy it. It does discolor, but not badly. I would recommend trying colors like blue, white, and a light brown together to create a sort of manly looking soap, as this fragrance smells masculine to me. I really liked this one almost as much as #1 and 2. It was a close contest.|
I hope this helps Bramble Berry and the soaping community. Please look for an update in a couple of weeks on how these soaps perform after a good cure (the last two were made too recently for me to tell). I will also include photos of each so you can see whether the soap has discolored or ashed. I did forget to spray #5 with alcohol, so it may have a disadvantage there.
Initially, I thought this fragrance smelled like a “sexy man,” and for once, I didn’t change my mind. It still smelled like a sexy man out of the bottle and in the soap. I liked this one. As you can see, it’s a little yellow out of the bottle.
As I did with the other seven fragrances, I used a recipe of 45% olive oil, 25% coconut oil, 25% sustainable palm oil, and 5% castor oil in this recipe. I soaped with full water (38%) and a 6% lye discount. The oils and lye water were 95 degrees when I combined them. I blended to a light trace. This picture is a little dark.
After I added the fragrance, I stirred a bit with the spatula, but I saw no signs of ricing. I stick blended a bit. No acceleration or immediate discoloration, as you can see in this picture I took after the fragrance was blended.
I unmolded and cut the soap the next day. As you may be able to see from the photo, this fragrance does discolor slightly. There is a faint brownish frame around the edges of the soap. I expect the rest of the soap to turn the same shade. It is not the deep brown you get from fragrances with a lot of vanillin, but I am wondering if this fragrance has a little bit of vanillin in it, which might explain both the discoloration and the pattern of discoloration—in my experience, fragrances with vanillin take some time to completely change the color of the soap, and what you often have is this “frame.”
In an upcoming post, I will recap my reviews, ranking the fragrance in order of my own preference along with any recommendations I can think of. In a few weeks’ time, I will update everyone on how these soaps performed after a good cure.
Thanks again to Bramble Berry for the opportunity to be on the S.O.A.P. Panel. It was a lot of fun!
It’s been a while since I’ve been able to test the S.O.A.P. Panel fragrances. Work has kept me busy. Now that I’m on spring break, I can make a bunch of soap!
Fragrance #7 has a floral note. My husband Steve remarked that it smelled a bit like rose. It might also be carnation. There is another note I can’t identify, and there is a vaguely fruity note as well.
As you can see, it is fairly clear out of the bottle. I used 24 grams in my recipe, which was the entire contents of the bottle. My recipe, as before, was 45% olive oil, 25% coconut oil, 25% sustainable palm oil, and 5% castor oil. I used full water (38%) and a lye discount of 6%. The oils were about 105 degrees and the lye mixture was about 95 degrees when I combined the two. I blended to a very light trace before adding the fragrance.
Right after I added the fragrance, it riced a little bit and separated. I would not have been able to incorporate it without blending, as just stirring with the spatula wasn’t working. This separation could be a problem with some recipes or complicated swirls, especially if you don’t want to stick blend after adding the fragrance. I stick blended a little bit more, but there was no acceleration, so I went ahead and gave it a good blend. After that, the fragrance incorporated well and caused no more problems. It didn’t discolor the soap batter at all, though initially I thought it might turn the batter yellowish, as right after I poured it, the fragrance looked yellow in the soap.
I poured the soap at a light-medium trace and drew a bit of a feathery design on the top, as the soap had definitely started to thicken by the time all of it was in the mold. I put the soap away to gel over night.
I cut the soap the next day. It does appear to have very slight yellowish discoloration, but certainly nothing bad and nothing that would cause problems with any colors you might want to use. I think reds, pinks, whites, and greens might go nicely with this scent. After this soap saponified, I could smell mainly the floral scent, but I really can’t decide if it’s more of a rose or a carnation. I don’t smell any fruity notes anymore, but there is something else there besides the floral that I can’t identify. It doesn’t smell like typical rose, if so. I find rose scents are sometimes cloying, but this smells nice. It doesn’t knock my socks off, but it’s nice. I’m not sure I’d go out of my way to buy it, but I don’t dislike it, either.
The March/April 2014 edition of Saponifier Magazine focuses on business advice. I cannot claim to have a lot to offer on this front because in many ways, I’m the wrong person to ask. I enjoy making soap, and I sell it on Etsy mainly so I can get it out of the house (and into the hands of people who will like it) so I can make more. I have no great plans to build a huge soaping business and quit my day job. I actually love my day job (which is teaching English, by the way). However, I do have one bit of advice I would like to offer new soapmakers or those wishing to break into the soaping business: Don’t give your soap away for free.
I don’t mean don’t give your soap as gifts. One of the best perks of being a soapmaker is that you have ready-made gifts on hand that people actually really love because they are handmade, by you, and are also great to use, a real indulgence.
I’m also not talking about donating your soap to a good cause, such as Clean the World or auctions. If you believe in the cause and don’t mind donating your soap, then donating your soap is a positive way to support the cause. However, in such cases, you are not exchanging your soap for promises of “exposure” which might lead to future sales, and there is a difference between supporting a cause and giving your soap away to an organization that plans to make money from selling it without compensating you.
What I mean when I say don’t give your soap away for free is be wary of accepting offers to donate your soap for the purposes of “exposure.” Such schemes might work, but if they don’t, you have given away a lot of your time and hard work, not to mention the money the materials cost. If people truly value the time, work, and money you put into your soap, they will compensate you for it with something less nebulous than “exposure.”
I have been approached on a few occasions to donate my soap to companies that sell bath and beauty baskets. These baskets are either given away or sold to subscribers, but those who contribute will see their products get into the hands of people who might otherwise not have seen them. The thought is that those people will then go on to buy your products. I’m not convinced that giving your soap away to companies like this will lead to large amounts of sales, but I do find other methods of exposure do seem to work.
Social networking sites, such as YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and Instagram do seem to allow soapmakers to share their soap with a wider audience. Etsy is a little bit glutted with soapmakers, but I think selling on a site like Etsy might generate a little more exposure than a standalone website, unless you are also quite active in social networking and work a circuit of farmers’ markets and craft fairs. Etsy also allows you to purchase ads for a reasonable fee, which will increase the chances your items will appear at the forefront in search results.
If companies truly want to help you grow your business and offer you exposure, they will negotiate a fair wholesale price for your soap. That way, you are are compensated for your time, work, and costs, and they are still able to make a profit. Otherwise, they are looking to take advantage of you and keep all the profits.
Image credit: Liz West
My nose was so wrong on this one. Initially, I said this was citrusy with a floral note and smelled summery. Yeesh. I am detecting a vague fruity smell, but I can’t pinpoint what it is. Behind that is a sort of masculine, woodsy scent. It smells like it might be a dupe of some cologne, but I can’t be sure which one, since I am terrible about keeping up with that sort of thing. If you’d have asked me in the 1980′s, I would have known, but I had a cologne-obsessed boyfriend at the time, so I didn’t have to work at it. My husband says it smells like a melon soaked in industrial cleaning fluid. After he made that comment, I sniffed again, and I can smell some sort of melon in there. I initially thought I liked this one, but the more I smelled it, the less I liked it, and by the time I was done soaping with it, I really disliked it.
As before, I used a recipe with full water, 45% olive oil, 25% coconut oil, 25% sustainable palm oil, and 5% castor oil. I soaped with oils that were about 93 degrees and a lye solution that was about 96 degrees. I used the full bottle of fragrance, which was 25 grams.
I stick blended to a light trace, and then I added the fragrance.
The fragrance acted kind of funky in the soap. At first, it seemed to reverse trace, and it didn’t seem to want to incorporate well. Then, the soap didn’t rice exactly, but the consistency was strange. I stick blended it thoroughly, but it never seemed to get thicker than a thin trace.
So, I decided it pour it into the mold and put it away.
It looked fine. I sprayed it with alcohol about 30 minutes later, and it felt really hot and kind of squishy, but gelling a soap can sometimes resolve problems, so I left it alone for another 30 minutes. When I checked it again to spray it with alcohol one last time, it was in full gel, and the fragrance was weeping a bit from the sides of the mold.
It also has a little bit of cracking on the top, but I think that was more from me squeezing the mold a bit when I handled it. Still, that is really fast for a full gel to be going on, and I didn’t like the look of that weeping fragrance oil.
That was nothing. I tested it, and it was pretty much ready to unmold only hours later. This fragrance must have some crazy catalytic ingredients! It gave the surface of the soap a sort of “brainy” appearance that I’ve seen before when soap overheats in the mold. Remember my process was the same for making this soap as it was all the others. When I did shimmy it out of the mold, this is what I found.
The fragrance was weeping all around the parts of the soap that the mold touched. I wiped it off and let the soap dry a bit. Weeping fragrances are not necessarily terrible, and even essential oils will do it; however, it’s worth noting that I didn’t have this problem with fragrances #1-5.
Anyway, I cut it after a little while. It boggles my mind that the soap completely gelled and was ready cut in the spaces of less than 6 hours or so. Usually I have to wait at least 12 hours to cut.
As you can see, the soap is discolored yellow. I will monitor it to see if it continues to discolor. For the sake of comparison, here is a photo of this soap next to one made with fragrance #5, which did not discolor.
I can imagine that if this fragrance was used with a faster tracing recipe (butters, less olive, more palm), it might cause some real problems. The fragrance mellowed a bit after saponification, but I still cannot say I like the scent. It reminds me of something, but I can’t think of what. It isn’t pleasant, however, and I wouldn’t want to use it. Sorry, Bramble Berry, this one gets two big thumbs down—doesn’t smell good and is difficult to work with. I wouldn’t recommend it for your product line.
When selecting colors for soapmaking, consideration of color theory as it applies to design might help you achieve the design results you want. Color theory is the notion that certain colors complement one another and make for a more pleasing design. A practical example of complementary colors can be seen in Vincent Van Gogh’s famous painting, The Starry Night. The cool blues complement the warm yellows of the stars, but the fresh greens also look beautiful with the cool blues. Van Gogh wrote to Anthon van Rappard:
[T]he great question occupied me—colour. I mean the breaking of the colours, red with green, blue with orange, yellow with violet. Always how the complementary colours go together, their influence on each other. Of which nature is as full as of light and shade.
Yet another letter to his brother Theo dated October 20, 1885 shows how deeply Van Gogh was thinking about color. That whole letter is worth reading if you are interested in color theory. We are drawn to color schemes based on how well the colors work with one another. In the color wheel below, warmer colors, like reds, oranges, and yellows, appear on the top, while cool colors like greens, blues, and purples appear on the bottom.
Complementary colors oppose each other on the color wheel. For example, notice that red and green oppose each other on the color wheel. They are often thrown together, particularly as Christmas colors. Blue and orange also oppose one another, as do yellow and purple. Let’s take one of these pairs and look at it in nature:
Nature seems to know well which colors will complement one another. Can’t you picture the yellow, purple, and green, perhaps with some white added in for contrast, in a gorgeous soap? In fact, one thing I often do when designing a soap is turn to nature photographs for inspiration. Another color scheme that often works well is to use analogous colors together. Analogous colors are those colors that are adjacent to each other on the color wheel. For example, red, orange, and yellow are analogous warm colors. Combining these colors together might evoke images such as fire or even summer fruits. However, colors look very different when they are placed next to other neutral colors, such as black or white. What might that fiery combination of red, orange, and yellow look like with a swirl of black woven through it? What about white? Here is a soap in which I tried a combination of the warm colors of red and orange with white.
One soapmaker who really gets this concept is Celine Blacow of iamhandmade.com. I have watched her videos for over a year now, and I have never seen her pick colors that do not go well together. Any soapmaker who is interested in learning to use colors well should definitely check out her work. Celine often uses a bit of white to great effect in her soaps. She said recently, and I confess I can’t recall in which video, that she adds white to set off the colors. Even a little pop of white can make a huge difference in the look of the soap. In his letter to Theo (linked above), Vincent Van Gogh said:
No—black and white, they have their reason and significance, and anyone who suppresses them won’t get it right. The most logical, certainly, is to regard them both as—neutral.
I recently made Mango Papaya Soap, and in selecting the colors, I turned to photographs of mangoes and papayas.
The colors that jumped out me were the oranges, yellows, and greens of the leaves. While there is no white in the fruits themselves, notice that the backgrounds include white, so I decided that when I colored my soap, I’d use white to make these other colors pop. Here is the soap that resulted. The colors hearken back to the nature photos of mangoes and papayas. If I make it again, I’ll use less green and more orange, but I’m happy with the results, and the colors work well with the mango papaya fragrance I used. I am not sure this soap would be as nice without the white. Colors used in this soap are titanium dioxide, Bramble Berry’s Fizzy Lemonade and Tangerine Wow pigments, and TKB’s Reformulated Neon Green.
Scent #5 was my least favorite of the S.O.A.P. Panel fragrances out of the bottle. My initial impression was that it smelled a bit like neem oil. Later, I thought I detected some grass notes and a sort of earthiness. After I poured the fragrance out and let it “breathe” for a few minutes, the strongest note I could detect was a grass note, followed by a sort of earthy dirt scent.
As I did with fragrances 1-4, I used a recipe of 45% olive, 25% coconut, 25% palm, and 5% castor oils. The oils were about 90 degrees and the lye mixture was about 100 degrees when I combined them. I used full water in the lye mixture. I used the full bottle of fragrance, which was 26 grams.
I blended to a very light trace.
Then I added the fragrance oil. There were no issues with acceleration, discoloration, or ricing. Indeed, I can’t tell the difference between the soap before and after the fragrance and had to double-check the time on the picture to be sure.
I expected this fragrance to misbehave, but it soaped beautifully. I poured it into the mold and put it away to gel. It actually took quite a long time to gel, so this fragrance should give anyone time to play.
There is a little bit of soda ash on the top, as I neglected to spray the tops with alcohol. The scent is still quite strong, but the earthy dirt notes have retreated a bit. It really smells exactly like grass after saponification, and it’s scent remains very true—no morphing at all. It would go well with a nice grass green color. It might be fun as a novelty soap, perhaps for a golfer, but I am just not loving it. I’m giving it a thumbs up for its behavior in the soap, but a big thumbs down on the scent. I think, however, that some folks who really love the scent of fresh cut grass would enjoy it.