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.)

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!).

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.

Savon de Marseille

Savon Extra PurHave you ever heard of Savon de Marseille? Blocks of this special soap have been made in the South of France since 1370, when the first soapmaker is documented in Marseille. Louis XIV passed a law in 1688 stipulating that only soaps made in and around Marseille could use the name Savon de Marseille. One of the main qualifications of Savon de Marseilles is that it must be 72% olive oil. True Castile soaps are 100% olive oil (which is why it bothers me that Dr. Bonner’s bills itself as Castile when it’s not even mostly olive oil), but many soapmakers prefer to add additional oils, especially coconut oil, so that the soap will have a bubbly lather. The resulting soap is often called “Bastile.” Olive oil makes for small, flat bubbles, but adding a bit of coconut oil makes for a fairly nice soap.

Savon de Marseille is made with water from the Mediterranean Sea, olive oil, and a mixture of other vegetable oils that varies according to the maker’s preferences. Most often, soapmakers use palm or a mixture of palm and coconut oils. It is traditionally unscented, but you may be able to find some scented versions. It is cut in blocks of about 300 grams and stamped as you see in the example above.

I was recently asked if I made any lavender soap. I haven’t yet. I did add some lavender essential oil to the first batch I made, but I was inexperienced at the time, and I didn’t realize I would have needed to have added quite a lot more lavender oil for the fragrance to survive the saponification process. I have decided to create a Marseille-style soap with French green clay and lavender oil. I won’t have the materials to make it until after the new year begins, most likely, but I’ll keep you posted about how it turns out.

If you are a soapmaker, are there any traditional types of soap you’re anxious to try (Castile, Aleppo, something similar)? If you are a fan of homemade soap, which traditional types of soap do you like best?

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.

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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.

Vanilla Sugar Cane Soap

Vanilla Sugar Cane SoapInspired by Attica Locke’s new novel The Cutting Season, I created a new soap using some ingredients I had been wanting to try for some time.

Ingredients

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

I had never soaped with sweet almond oil and castor oil, and I was really pleased with the consistency of the soap. I used Nature’s Garden’s Warm Vanilla & Sugar fragrance oil. It smells exactly like Bath & Body Works’s Warm Vanilla Sugar fragrance, which happens to be one of my favorites. I layered the top of the soap with raw sugar.

Vanilla Sugar CaneBecause the fragrance oil has vanilla in it, it has discolored the soap, which I expected and did not mind. I am not sure if it will continue to darken as it cures, but I’m not worried. Even if it darkens more, I think it will still be a beautiful soap.

It should be ready to sell in the Etsy store by the last week of November. It smells great. I cannot wait until it’s ready to use.

Vanilla Sugar Cane

Cucumber Yogurt Soap

I’ve been wanting to make a cucumber yogurt bar for a long time. Heidi Corley Barto has a recipe for a soap using a cucumber purée in her book The Natural Soap Chef, and after reading about the testers’ reaction to Anne L. Watson’s Yogurt Parfait soap in Milk Soapmaking, I decided I should try to combine the two. A quick Google search told me I was not the first person to have this idea. After all, it makes sense. Don’t spas give cucumber/yogurt facials, after all? If those two ingredients weren’t wonderful for your face, then the spas wouldn’t be charging the big bucks for facial treatments.

Cucumber Yogurt SoapRecipe

  • 250 g coconut oil
  • 225 g palm oil
  • 120 g shea butter
  • 275 g olive oil
  • 200 g avocado oil
  • 55 g castor oil

155 g lye
186 g cucumber-water purée
187 g plain whole milk yogurt

The Process

First I peeled two small cucumbers and shaved off the seeds with my peeler as well. Barto suggested using English cucumbers because they have fewer seeds, but I either couldn’t find them, or my store didn’t have them, so I just opted for some small pickling cucumbers. I imagine you could just use one big cucumber, but since it was the first time I made this soap, I wanted to go with smaller cucumbers in case one was enough. After I peeled and deseeded the cucumbers, however, I decided two was probably more like it. I added distilled water to the cucumbers and puréed them in my blender. Barto also suggested not peeling the cucumbers so that the peel added pigment, but I wasn’t too sure about that, so I peeled them.

I mixed half cucumber-water purée with half yogurt and froze the mixture in an ice cube tray. When I was ready to make the soap, I mixed the lye with the frozen cucumber-yogurt cubes and melted my shea butter, coconut oil, and palm oil in a large bowl. Then I added olive oil, avocado oil, and castor oil to the melted hard oils. Once the cucumber-yogurt and lye mixture was 90°, I added it to the oils and stick blended it to a light trace. Then I added a tiny bit of green pigment that didn’t really wind up coming through in the soap, and a very nice cucumber melon fragrance oil from Nature’s Garden, a new favorite vendor that has reasonable prices and a wide variety of products.

Cucumber Yogurt SoapCreative Commons License

Cucumber Yogurt Soap 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.

Facial Mask Image via eHow

Fun New Soaps

I’ve been trying some fun things with purées, ideas I learned about in Heidi Corley Barto’s The Natural Soap Chef. The first soap is a banana/coconut milk purée-based soap scented with Bramble Berry’s Monkey Love fragrance oil, a recipe you can find in Barto’s book. She calls it Bananas Foster, but I like Funky Monkey better.

Funky MonkeyYou can see little flecks of banana in the soap. It has a sort of interesting, uneven color that might be the result of a partial gel, but it doesn’t look as dramatic as some of the partial gel images I’ve seen of other soap, so I’m not sure. I decided to try to prevent this soap from gelling and put it in the fridge because my previous milk soaps had not turned out well, and this one seemed to be kind of cranky as I was mixing the lye. I like the way it turned out. It smells great, and I think it is going to be a very nice soap to use.

This next soap has an interesting story. Pumpkin pie soap was one of the first soap ideas I ran across that I told myself I HAD to make, and I believe I first encountered it on the Lovin Soap Blog, but it’s a hot process recipe, and I prefer cold process. However, the Soap Queen also has a great CP pumpkin purée soap tutorial. Heidi Corley Barto also has one in The Natural Soap Chef.

Pumpkin Pie Soap

Meet my Pumpkin Pie Soap! I didn’t come up with the idea, but I used my own recipe and technique for producing it.

Ingredients

  • 35% olive oil
  • 25% coconut oil
  • 25% coconut oil
  • 10% shea butter
  • 5% castor oil

I share the percents because I think it’s easier to make the recipe for your own mold if you know percents. You would then just use a lye calculator to figure out how much lye, water, and pumpkin purée to use.

In my soap, I used One Pie Pumpkin.

One Pie PumpkinOne Pie Pumpkin is very special pumpkin. Yankee Magazine calls it New England’s unofficial brand. It isn’t available widely outside of New England, and some of my research indicates that some areas only sell it seasonally during fall and winter for Thanksgiving and Christmas. I haven’t lived in Worcester, MA long enough to find out if that is the case here, too, but I intend to find out. If it is, this could be one very special soap. I really like that the recipe uses an old New England product that been used for generations. It makes the soap more interesting to me. I halved the amount of water called for by the recipe and mixed my lye with water, then I made up the remaining amount of water with One Pie Pumpkin. My recipe called for 5.61 oz. lye and 13.18 oz. water, so I used 6.59 oz. water and 6.59 oz. pumpkin purée. I added the pumpkin directly to the oils and stick blended the mixture to combine, then I added the lye/water and stick blended to a light trace. It blended fairly quickly.

I used Bramble Berry’s Pumpkin Pie fragrance oil for scent. It smells great. I did notice that it accelerated trace in my own soap, so add it at a fairly light trace. I actually didn’t need to stick blend anymore after I added it. Next time I make it, I might add my pumpkin pie spice to the soap and stick blend it before I add the fragrance oil just so the spice is incorporated fully. I had not intended to gel the soap, but it was gelling in the fridge anyway, and it was starting to develop a crack, which I fixed. Since I figured it would gel anyway, I took it out to prevent a partial gel. I don’t have anything to compare it to, since I haven’t made this soap before, but I think gelling it gave it a really nice, rich pumpkin color. The soap looks great and smells amazing. I love many of the soaps I’ve made, but I think this one might be my favorite, just because it smells so great and was so much fun to make, and it also has this interesting New England connection. I can’t wait to use it.

Amy Lowell’s Lilac Soap

Amy Lowell
Amy Lowell via The Poetry Foundation

Amy Lowell is a Massachusetts poet. She loved the return of lilacs to New England in the spring and wrote a beautiful poem about it. I love lilacs, too. My grandmother had a lilac bush in her back yard. They were beautiful and smelled heavenly.

I tried yet another experiment this weekend: lilac soap. Who better to name a New England lilac soap after than Amy Lowell? I had intended to try swirling two colors for the first time, but things didn’t quite work out as I had planned.

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz. olive oil
  • 8 oz. coconut oil
  • 12 oz. palm oil
  • 12 oz. coconut oil
  • 13.2 oz. distilled water
  • 5.472 oz. lye
  • 4 T lilac fragrance oil
  • 2 T alkanet powder

Right about Tuesday of this week, I measured out two tablespoons of alkanet powder and 4 oz. of olive oil into a plastic container, stirred well, and put a lid on the container. I put the alkanet and olive oil infusion in a dark cabinet. I took it out today to use with my lilac swirl soap, intending to make two small batches of soap in different colors. I mixed the oils for each of the colors at the same time, measuring out half of the required amount. I put the infused olive oil in my colored bowl so I could remember which batch was supposed to be colored. In case you were wondering, yes, the alkanet infusion stained the plastic, but it didn’t bother me much because I wasn’t trying to prevent staining. If you use colorants and don’t want to stain your plastic, just use a glass jar for infusing instead.

Alkanet InfusionIt was a little scary to clean up afterward. Perhaps it might be best after all just to use something you can dispose of, like a pickle jar.

I had problems with my lye being too hot again, and this time, I was just using distilled water. The common denominator seems to be the lye, which is a new brand. I think I just won’t buy it again once I’ve used it up. It’s too much of a hassle to put my lye in an ice bath every single time I want to make soap. I would expect it when I’m making milk-based soaps, but not water. The lye I bought from Bramble Berry the first time I made soap costs about the same amount, even factoring in shipping, so I will just be ordering it from them.

I mixed the batch without the alkanet first so that I wouldn’t mix colorant from the hand blender into the light mix. I poured 2 T of lilac fragrance oil into each small batch of soap. The trace was too thick when I tried to pour the soap. The lilac fragrance oil accelerated the trace. At any rate, it was all I could do to spoon out globs of the soap into my mold before it hardened too much to use. I had no idea what I was going to get when I cut it open, but I think that’s true whether you spoon it out or swirl it, especially the first time. I just smashed it into mold as quickly as I could and hoped when I cut it the next day all would be well.

Well, I can say this: it could have been worse. I at least have usable soap, even though it isn’t very pretty.

Lilac SoapWhere to begin? Well, the light color is really not very pretty at all, and I suspect that its yellowish tinge comes from the shea butter I used. It actually looks prettier in these photos than it does in person. Trust me. It’s kind of a gross yellow.

Given that the color isn’t very pretty, I wish I had just colored the whole batch purple. Live and learn. As a result of trying to do too much (swirl, in this case), I wound up having the soap seize up on me, and I desperately shoved the soap into the mold, but pockets formed where there was no soap, and it was really ugly when I cut the bars.

Lilac Soap
Look at that nasty air pocket!

I suppose everyone has a batch of soap seize up on them at least once, but at least now I know that working with the lilac fragrance oil is going to be tricky, and I will need to bring my temperatures down a little to slow down the time it takes to trace and add the fragrance at a lighter trace. I also learned that swirling is really hard with floral fragrance like lilac, so I may just need to make the soap one solid purple color instead.

Lilac Soap

I also had some problems with soda ash, which is probably because it seized up, and I wasn’t able to put it to bed as soon as I should have. I had to cut the bars down quite a bit to make them somewhat presentable, as most of them had air pockets on the sides where the soap globs didn’t mash together well.

The soap smells heavenly, just like my grandmother’s lilacs, and I tried lathering up with some of the cuttings as a test. The lather is smooth and creamy. The soap has cosmetic issues to be sure, but it is something that could be used, even if I don’t think I could give it away or sell it (unless I discounted it like those outlet stores do with clothes that have something wrong with them).

I’m sorry, Amy! Next time your soap will be worthy of your name!

Creative Commons License

Amy Lowell’s Lilac Soap 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.