Soap Challenge Club: Holly Swirl

Lavender Romance Soap with a Holly swirl. Ingredients: water, olive oil, coconut oil, sustainable palm oil, sodium hydroxide, avocado oil, fragrance, shea butter, cocoa butter, castor oil, kaolin clay, colorant, activated charcoal, yogurt, buttermilk, goat milk, silk.

Lavender Romance Soap

This month’s challenge in the Soap Challenge Club hosted by Amy Warden of Great Cakes Soapworks was to create a soap with a Holly swirl. The Holly swirl is named for its inventor, Holly Bailey, of Missouri River Soap Company. She makes excellent soap and generously shares her techniques on her YouTube channel. You can read her blog here or follow her on Facebook here. The technique is a swirl within a swirl—an in-the-pot swirl of two or more colors coupled with a drop swirl with an additional color. Here is the video Holly made when she tried the swirl for the first time:

Holly mentions in the video that vertical soaps really make this design shine, and it’s true, but I don’t have an appropriate mold for vertical soaps, so I improvised with my standard mold.

Lavender Romance Soap

I used a fragrance that discolors, but I didn’t want it to wreak havoc on my swirls, so I only added it to the black part, colored with activated charcoal. The activated charcoal was a little gray when I first cut the soap, but as the fragrance has darkened, so has the black in my soap. I think it has a sexy look that goes together well with its sexy scent, which is a blend of rustic amber with bold Parisian lavender and a mysterious black myrrh, sweet vanilla tonka bean, and a splash of Egyptian musk rounded out with raw clary sage. I received it as a free sample from Bramble Berry in one of my earliest orders with the company, and I immediately used it to make solid perfume. It smells gorgeous! It’s quite possibly one of my personal favorite fragrances, and I just can’t wait to try this soap!

Lavender Romance Soap

I used ultramarine violet oxide and titanium dioxide to color the swirls, and they turned out well. The fragrance has not migrated very much to the swirled parts of the soap, so they have remained vibrant. The slight discoloration that did occur in some places only adds to the sexy, smoky appeal of the soap (in my opinion, at least).

As you can see, the tops have a mica swirl done with purple and white micas. I did not gel this soap because I didn’t want to risk glycerin rivers in the titanium dioxide. Also, when I work with a new fragrance, I find that not gelling is sometimes smarter because the soap is less likely to do crazy things in the mold.

This soap also taught me to love using activated charcoal in my soap. It is so much fun to see how it looks in the soap batter and the finished soap. It can go gray if you do not use enough, so you need to experiment to determine how much you might need to use.

The Holly swirl technique is fun, and I would definitely recommend trying it, even if you are relatively new to swirling. It was not as complicated as the mantra swirl or the peacock swirl, and I liked the results a lot better, too.

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Soap Challenge 2013: Week One—Tiger Stripe Swirl

I am excited to be participating in Great Cakes Soapworks‘ 2013 Soap Challenge. Each week offers soapers the opportunity to try a different challenge. The challenge for the first week was to create a soap with a tiger stripe swirl. Of the various challenges planned, this particular technique is the only one I’ve tried. I think it is nice to get my feet wet with the familiar.

Spearmint Stripe

I made spearmint-scented soap I am calling Spearmint Stripe. The soap may have been a bit too thin to do a true tiger stripe swirl. Some of the layers broke through a bit, and others seemed a bit wider than I was looking for. However, I am happy with the way it looks, which is exactly like it smells. My inspiration for the colors was the green and white  spearmint candies similar in appearance to peppermints. The colors came out exactly as I wanted, and the soaps smell delicious.

The soap is chock full of goodies for your skin: olive oil, coconut oil, palm oil, sweet almond oil, cocoa butter, and castor oil and a kiss of buttermilk and kaolin clay with a whisper of pure silk.

I just love the way it smells. The spearmint fragrance blends well with other fragrances, but it smells delicious on its own, too. I have noticed, as I said in one of the videos, that this fragrance seems to fade, but it pops back in wet soap, so when you shower with it, you may notice the spearmint scent more than in the dry bar. I am not sure why that is, but as smelling it in the shower is the whole point, I am happy.

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Midsummer Night’s Dream Soap

After I made my Seaside soap, I immediately thought about making a soap mimicking the night sky. I made this soap in the same way as the Seaside soap’s ocean layer.

 

Midsummer Night’s Dream’s title was inspired by William Shakespeare’s play of the same name; it is one of my favorite plays. I love teaching it.

The soap is made with cocoa and shea butters and olive, coconut, sustainable palm, sweet almond, and castor oils and a kiss of kaolin clay and real silk. The fragrance has top notes of mandarin balm, tangelo, and eucalyptus; middle notes of jungle moss, patchouli leaf, and sandal tree; and bottom notes of redwood forest, amber glow, and musk. It should be available April 16.

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Challenge Soap: Avalon

I love challenges, a fact to which my poor neglected book blog can attest. I was thrilled when the Soap Making Forum started monthly challenges. I was eager to participate last month. The theme was Mardi Gras, and I even had an idea, but I didn’t get it off the ground. This month, I was determined. The chosen theme is Mythology, and I mined my favorite myths—the Matter of Britain—for my new soap Avalon. I realize King Arthur is technically more legend than myth, but I wrote what I think was a fairly convincing final exam in Medieval Literature in college about the notion that Arthurian legend was a British attempt at creating a mythology for themselves, especially later as writers like Geoffrey of Monmouth and Sir Thomas Malory wrote down the stories of Arthur.

Avalon

Avalon

Avalon was inspired by the resting place of King Arthur, the Isle of Avalon, or Isle of Apples. Back in the time when King Arthur would possibly have lived, Glastonbury Tor was surrounded by water, becoming a peninsula at low tide, and many believe it is the Isle of Avalon.

The scent I used in this soap evokes apples and roses, and it was described by Shannon of Smellicious Soaps (one of my fellow Soap Making Forum friends) as smelling like “walking through a rose garden while eating a crisp apple.” It truly is divine. The apples evoke the Isle of Apples, Avalon, while I see the roses as symbolic of the Wars of the Roses, during which Sir Thomas Malory wrote perhaps the most famous version of the Arthurian legend, Le Morte D’Arthur. Some scholars believe his treatment of the Matter of Britain was as much a comment on political events during his own times as it was a faithful recounting of the Arthur legend.

The soap is made with cocoa butter and olive, coconut, palm, sweet almond, and castor oils with a kiss of kaolin clay and silk.

 

I hope you like it! It will be available in my Etsy store toward the end of April.

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Seaside: A New Artisan Soap

Seaside

Seaside

I had a lot of fun making this new soap.

The fragrance evokes tender beach floras, lightly misted with the refreshing scent of ocean air, ripe succulent summer melon, and the subtle familiar scent of suntan lotion.

The soap is loaded with tropical butters and oils, including mango and cocoa butters and olive, coconut, palm, avocado, and castor oils. There is also a kiss of silk and smooth kaolin clay.

It smells heavenly. I keep picking it up and touching and smelling it. It should be in the Etsy store in the middle of April. Let me know if you want to reserve a bar now, and I will set it aside for you.

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Sun-Ripened Raspberry Pink Rose Clay Soap

I recently asked fans of my Facebook page which soap they’d like to see me make. Only my cousin Debbie expressed a preference, so her wish was my command. I made Sun-Ripened Raspberry Pink Rose Clay Soap. I think this soap will be a really nice facial soap, but it could be used on the whole body.

  • 40% olive oil
  • 25% coconut oil
  • 15% palm oil
  • 10% shea butter
  • 5% cocoa butter
  • 5% castor oil

I made the soap with aloe vera juice, pink rose clay, and silk.

 

(Videos removed; post remains for those who might like the recipe.)

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Mrs. Darcy

I created the next soap in my Jane Austen series, Mrs. Darcy. It is gorgeous!

Mrs. DarcyThe recipe is similar to Sweet Jane:

  • 30% olive oil
  • 25% coconut oil
  • 25% palm oil
  • 10% sweet almond oil
  • 5% cocoa butter
  • 5% castor oil

I used Nature’s Garden’s Plumeria fragrance and colored it with titanium dioxide and ultramarine violet. I used a goat milk base and added silk to the milk and lye mixture.

I had an unfortunate mishap while making the soap. My hard oils were melting in the microwave and tipped over, spilling all over the place. I mopped up the best I could, then started over with the hard oils again. By that time, the goat milk, while still under 70°, was beginning to saponify. It never turned any darker than a cream color (thank goodness), but it was thick. I mixed it with the oils anyway and discovered that some of my silk did not dissolve. Perhaps it doesn’t when you use milk? Not sure.

Mrs. DarcyThen the soap started to thicken up, and I wanted to do a hanger swirl. As you can see, it turned out just fine, but I was sweating!

Next time, I plan to do something a little different with the hanger swirl. This is pretty, but I was looking for a more striking effect.

So what did I do wrong, folks?

  1. I tried a new fragrance.
  2. I used new colorants.
  3. I tried a new technique.

You should probably not try to take on all of that newness in one batch. I have learned!

One thing I’m learning, too, is that less is often more. An in-the-pot swirl is easier than this hanger swirl, but the effect is much more striking. Next time, I will try Celine Blacow’s trick of taping two wooden skewers to the bottom of the hanger for a more striking hanger swirl.

I sculpted the tops a little more than usual, and they look pretty.

Mrs. DarcyI used an in-the-pot swirl for my next Jane Austen soap, called “Marianne’s Passion.” I had meant to make it a Lydia Bennet soap, but the more I worked with it, the more it whispered “Marianne” to me. It’s perfect for Marianne Dashwood from Sense and Sensibility. I’ll post pictures after I’ve cut it. It’s gorgeous!

I originally intended to limit my Jane Austen series to Pride and Prejudice in honor of its 200th anniversary this month, but the more I think about it, the more I want to expand the series to all of Jane Austen’s oeuvre. You knew I was a huge Jane Austen fan, right?

I would be remiss If I didn’t mention there are three new soaps in the Etsy store: Lilac Goat Milk, Sea Salt and Lotus Blossom Salt bars, and Grubby Girl (with shredded loofah!).

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Sweet Jane Cut

Sweet JaneI cut the Sweet Jane soap this afternoon. The swirls are not terribly defined, which I expected. The yellow really pops after the soap has saponified. It’s lovely and smells great.

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Sweet Jane

I have been watching Celine Blacow’s instructional videos, and I can’t think of anyone else I’ve seen who is half as good at explaining how to swirl. She does many different swirling techniques, including the hanger swirl, which I’m dying to try—unfortunately, I don’t have any hangers. Well, that’s not true. I have a bunch of plastic ones I can’t bend. A co-worker said he’d donate a bunch to me. I’m looking forward to trying it out.

Here is Celine’s tutorial:

I ordered a few new colorants from Bramble Berry and did a successful in-the-pot swirl with three colors (Fizzy Lemonade, Ultramarine Violet Oxide, and Hydrated Chrome Green pigments) in a shampoo bar recipe with tea tree oil. Those bars are still very soft, but I’ll post a picture soon.

After trying it once, I decided to do another, but I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I realized I still had some Lemon Verbena fragrance oil from Bramble Berry, so I decided to do a coconut-milk based soap using the Fizzy Lemonade pigment and Lemon Verbena fragrance. I’m calling it Sweet Jane after Jane Bennet in Pride and Prejudice. Jane Austen’s classic novel celebrates its 200th anniversary on January 28, 2013! Anna Quindlen once describe Jane Bennet as “sugar to Elizabeth’s lemonade.” She always looks for the best in everyone. Here she is as portrayed by Rosamund Pike in the 2005 version of the film (she’s the blond).

The Bennet Sisters

From left to right: Lydia, Kitty, Lizzie, Jane, and Mary

Jane refrains from judgment. She’s quiet and serene. Lemon Verbena is a perfect complement to her sweetness of character. I imagine she smells exactly like Lemon Verbena. And the yellow not only complements the soap fragrance, but also alludes to Jane’s hair color, believed to be blonde. Jane wrote in a letter to her sister Cassandra:

Henry & I went to the Exhibition in Spring Gardens. It is not thought a good collection, but I was very well pleased—particularly (pray tell Fanny) with a small portrait of Mrs. Bingley, excessively like her. I went in hopes of seeing one of her Sister, but there was no Mrs. Darcy;—perhaps however, I may find her in the Great Exhibition which we shall go to, if we have time;—I have no chance of her in the collection of Sir Joshua Reynolds’s Paintings which is now shewing in Pall Mall, & which we are also to visit.—Mrs. Bingley’s is exactly herself, size, shaped face, features & sweetness; there never was a greater likeness. She is dressed in a white gown, with green ornaments, which convinces me of what I had always supposed, that green was a favourite colour with her. I dare say Mrs. D. will be in Yellow.

Martha Rainbolt argues in a 1988 English Language article entitled “The Likeness of Austen’s Jane Bennet: Huet-Villiers’ ‘Portrait of Mrs. Q” that this image may be the one Jane Austen saw:

Portrait of Mrs. QSeems logical to me based on the evidence I’ve seen. She’s a very sweet-faced lady.

Doesn’t she look like she’d wear Lemon Verbena?

I’m not sure what I’m going to get with this soap. My experience with the Fizzy Lemonade colorant is that it doesn’t look like it has changed color at all when you add it to the soap batter, but after it has saponified, it is a very pretty yellow. Right now, it just looks yellow. Who knows what will happen when I cut it? I’ll post the cutting pictures tomorrow.

For the interested, here is the recipe:

  • 30% olive oil
  • 25% coconut oil
  • 25% palm oil
  • 10% sweet almond oil
  • 5% cocoa butter
  • 5% castor oil

By the way, in case you were wondering, yes, I will be making a soap for each of the major characters in Pride and Prejudice this year.

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Swirling Success

I’ve been trying for some time to swirl two colors together with no success, but I finally did it!

Coconut Lime VerbenaI created this soap because I didn’t have enough lemongrass essential oil to make a second batch of Lemongrass Sage today. Lemongrass Sage has turned out to be my most popular soap. I sold out of the supply I brought to a recent craft fair at my school, and I have sold several bars of it over this Thanksgiving weekend. I have to admit, it’s a great soap, and I use it myself on my face.

At a loss as to what type of soap to make, I decided to try something new. I had a coconut lime verbena scent I had been meaning to try, and I had some green colorant left over from making the Cucumber Yogurt batch (as it turns out, I needed to use a lot more colorant to make the soap look greenish), so I decided to try swirling again.

Ingredients:

  • 30% olive oil
  • 25% coconut oil
  • 25% palm oil
  • 10% avocado oil
  • 5% cocoa butter
  • 5% castor oil

Coconut Lime VerbenaI started to use yogurt as a base when it occurred to me I should try coconut milk instead because of the coconut lime verbena scent. I knew I wanted the white part of the soap to be as white as possible without using titanium dioxide (I don’t have any). My shea butter is raw, unrefined shea butter, and it has a yellow cast that makes my white soaps a more yellow shade of cream. The cocoa butter I have is white, and I noticed when I used it to make the Vanilla Sugar Cane soap that the soap batter was much whiter than normal, though because of the vanillin in the fragrance I used, the soap later turned a browner color. So, I decided to use cocoa butter in this recipe when I usually use shea. On a whim, I also decided on avocado oil instead of sweet almond or a full 40% olive oil. No particular reason aside from wanting to experiment. Avocado oil is good for people with sensitive skin, and it has vitamins A, D, and E.

I mixed the oils with the coconut milk and lye, added the fragrance, and divided the batch in half. I colored one half. By the time I had the colored portion ready, the white portion had already reached the consistency of very thick pudding, or perhaps mashed potatoes like I make them (whipped potatoes, really). I started to lament a little bit, thinking of my Amy Lowell Lilac Soap, when I remembered a swirling technique I learned on YouTube:

The swirling technique Celine described saved my soap! I think it turned out gorgeous. It smells heavenly. I can’t wait to try it with another kind of soap. One of the interesting things about swirling is that each time the soap is different. Each individual bar is different. You just don’t know what you will get. I’m very pleased with how the soap turned out.

Coconut Lime VerbenaThe soap is beautiful, and I love the coconut lime scent. I’m also proud of the way the soap itself turned out with the coconut milk base. I admit I was excited about the idea when I remembered I had some frozen coconut milk I could use.

Creative Commons License

Coconut Lime Verbena by Dana Huff is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at Suds Life: About.

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