Soap Challenge Club: Butterfly Swirl

Butterfly Swirl Entry

I haven’t participated in the Soap Challenge Club in a long time. I really wanted a chance to try out the Butterfly Swirl, perfected (maybe invented?) by Zahida of Handmade in Florida. I don’t have a deep mold like Zahida, but the beauty of the Butterfly Swirl is that you can get pretty decent results even with a regular mold like mine.

When I participated in the S.O.A.P. Panel last year, I tested a fragrance called Mahogany. I said at the time that it reminded me of a sexy man. You can read my thoughts about that fragrance here and here. I loved the way it smelled. I have been wanting to make a soap with a color palette similar to this:

I knew I wanted to use Nurture mica. I have the Vibrance mica set and the Pastels mica set. I previously used the 24 Karat Gold mica from Rustic Escentuals in my Inspiration Soap Challenge. Even in cold process soap, it retains a lot of its sparkle. I hadn’t tried Bramble Berry’s Copper Sparkle mica, but after a quick check to see that it was safe for use in cold process, I decided to try it. I ordered it some time ago as part of a sample pack. I have used Bramble Berry’s Cappuccino mica in several soaps in the past. I love the rich brown shade. My palette hasn’t captured the exact tones of the micas, but it’s close.

I recall hearing Celine say in one of her videos that one color that really pulls a soap together is white. I think she’s right about that. Even if it’s just a little bit of white, it really seems to bring out the design. So, in addition to the four mica colors, I also used a little bit of titanium dioxide to produce a cream color in my soap.

I decided to call the soap “Sexy Man Soap” after my first reaction to smelling the fragrance. Here is a video of the making of the soap:

I really enjoyed the entire process of making this soap. The colors are a lot of fun to work with, and the fragrance is delicious. I’m going to have to order more of it.

The more I work with micas, the more I fall in love with them. I used mainly oxides and ultramarines in the past, but micas have such beautiful hues, and even if their sparkle doesn’t always come through in cold process soap, they’re still lovely to work with.

This technique is interesting because it’s hard to tell if what you’re doing will result in a butterfly shape in the soap. I knew that working with a flatter mold like mine would give me less room to get the shape I wanted, and I was quite pleasantly surprised when I cut the soap and found several bars did indeed have a butterfly shape.

Butterfly Swirl

This first set has a lighter top, but I can make out the shape of wings.

Butterfly Swirl

This second set has a nice shape, and more of the gold and brown show through. The blue is the outline of the wings.

Butterfly Swirl

I thought this third set of soaps made the best butterfly. The brown accents look like the edges of wings, and the blue where the soaps join looks like a butterfly body. The splatter tops look like the tops of butterfly wings. It is this last picture that I will enter for the challenge contest. Don’t you just love that Blue Vibrance mica?

I’m happy with how these came out. I made them for my husband Steve, and he’s claiming three, but he says I can sell the rest of them in the shop. Look for them in time for Valentine’s Day, in case you want to get some for your own sexy man.

You know what? It felt pretty good to make a video again after a long hiatus, too.

Soap Challenge Club: Dandelion Zebra Swirl

This month’s Soap Challenge Club challenge soap is the Dandelion Zebra Swirl created by Vinvela Ebony and described on her blog Dandelion Seifee. Here is my contribution to the challenge:

Dandelion Zebra Swirl

The recipe I used to create the soap is a slow-moving recipe modified from one recommended by Amy Warden of Great Cake Soapworks:

  • 60% olive oil
  • 25% coconut oil
  • 10% sunflower oil
  • 5% castor oil

The resulting soap should be extremely conditioning and great for sensitive skin. I used a Bramble Berry fragrance called Kumquat to scent the soap, and it smells absolutely divine—very fruity and fresh.

I left my soap base uncolored. The sunflower oil does contribute some sort of lightening effect to the soap base. I have noticed when I’ve used it before that the resulting soap has a lighter color than if I didn’t use it at all. However, because sunflower oil makes for a softer soap, it is best not to use too much in a recipe—perhaps no more than 20-25%. Sunflower oil also contributes to a nice, creamy lather.

Typically, I use kaolin clay in my soap, but I am not sure what effect clay might have on speeding up trace, and because I wanted a nice fluid soap for this technique, I left it out.

I mixed my oils and lye at a low temperature—below 90°F. I pulsed my stick blender a few times, mixing just until my oils and lye were emulsified. The colorants I used were neon pigments rather than oxides, as I just recently learned oxides can also speed up trace. I used two pigments from Brambleberry: Tangerine Wow and Fizzy Lemonade. The other two pigments were from TKB: Reformulated Neon Green and Reformulated Neon Blue.

As you can see, the colors are nice and bold, and though the soap base isn’t white, it’s a very pretty light natural shade.

Dandelion Zebra Swirl

Because of the high amount of soft oils, the soap is definitely softer than my typical soaps; however, I know from experience that high olive oil soaps can become quite hard with a longer cure time.

It’s such an interesting technique. I think I would do it again with some different colors.

Trying this technique gave me some ideas should I decide I want to try the Peacock Swirl again, too. I was able to maintain soap of the consistency I think might be required for the Peacock Swirl when I made this Dandelion Zebra Swirl soap. I think the trick might be to avoid oxides (if I can) for the Peacock Swirl, as it seemed to work great for this soap. Thanks to Amy Warden for teaching me something I didn’t know about oxides!

Here is a last look at the soap from a different angle. I am happy with the swirl on the top, too!

Dandelion Zebra Swirl

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.

Peacock Swirl

I joined Amy Warden‘s Soap Challenge Club because I so enjoyed learning some new swirling techniques through participating in her Soap Challenge 2013. In fact, I even designed a soap that is shaping up to be a real keeper in my regular sales line.

I’ve watched tutorials on how to do the peacock swirl, but I had never tried it. I made three soaps in an attempt to learn how to do this swirl. While I’m not 100% happy with the look of any of them, I do think it was a valuable learning experience, and I would not rule out trying this kind of swirl again some time.

The first one I made had a gorgeous blue and green paired with black and white and was scented with Celestial Waters by Bramble Berry. It smells absolutely divine, but my black soap ran a little and the resulting soap looks a little smeary to me: more like streaks of gray instead of defined black and white.

2013-06-10 19.02.05Still, even though it didn’t turn out with the perfectly defined swirls I have seen other soapers produce, the results are nice. I am in LOVE with the Celestial Waters fragrance, too. It smells absolutely gorgeous.

I decided to try again to see if I could produce more defined swirls. I chose some brighter colors this time.

2013-06-09 16.58.14The swirls are still not as defined as I had hoped.

2013-06-10 19.17.59I scented this one with a scent described as “base notes of raspberry, cantaloupe, and watermelon, middle notes of jasmine and violet, and fresh top notes of grapefruit and kumquat.” It smells amazing, and the colors are a perfect match for the scent. I’m going to call this one Yummy.

I put the glitter on it because my daughter Maggie happened to comment when she saw it that she liked when I put glitter on soaps. I think the glitter kind of “makes” this one. But like I said, it still wasn’t quite right. So, I thought maybe I could try again and get it perfect.

2013-06-10 21.00.20Well… not so much. I even tried a different recipe. No luck. The soap just seems to want to run together too much. And it was at a fairly decent trace before I dragged the comb through.

2013-06-10 21.00.34You can see it sort of starts out defined.

It smells AMAZING, by the way. I used 10X orange essential oil for the base layer, and I used litsea cubeba essential oil for the orange and yellow parts and peppermint essential oil and spearmint fragrance for the green and white parts. It actually smells really, really fantastic, and I like the colors for this soap. Maybe with a different design next time.

2013-06-10 21.00.46And there are spots where it stays defined. I’m liking the look of this bar after a little while in the fridge.

2013-06-10 22.52.17In fact, this whole half is not too bad.

2013-06-10 22.52.07But the swirls are not defined throughout like the others I’ve seen.

2013-06-10 22.52.30I admit I’m stumped.

So, I feel frustrated at this point because I feel like there is something obvious I am just not getting. It took me quite a while to learn to swirl my soap, and someone pointed out to me that I shouldn’t discount the water if I want to swirl. Voilà, I was able to swirl just fine. Now I very rarely have any trouble swirling.

But I am stumped. I watched about three tutorials. I soaped cool. I chose tried and true recipes that have worked for other soapers using this swirl. I used colorants that other soapers have tried and that have worked for me before. Perhaps I need to let the soap sit and get to a thicker trace.

Pros Cons
Even if you don’t get a defined swirl, it still looks pretty cool. It seems to be pretty hard to get a defined swirl, and a defined peacock swirl definitely looks better.
I tried out some really interesting scents that I would use again. All of them. I can’t help but feel that if I had used a tried and true design, the overall effect of the soap would have been nicer, and I would have been happier with the results.
This was great swirling practice, and I always like learning something new. This technique was really, super hard to clean up because of the bottles with yorker caps. The soap was really hard to get out of them completely.

So what’s the verdict?

I don’t think that this technique is worth the trouble for the effect. It is really gorgeous, but so are other types of swirls. I am not saying this just because I wasn’t happy with my results. I think I’d be saying it anyway for cleanup alone.

I plan to submit my Citrus Mint batch, the third batch, for the contest because I think it turned out the best, at least on half of the bars.

I really wish you could smell that Citrus Mint. Oh, it’s incredible. Mmmm! That mix of essential oils and fragrances is a keeper, for sure, but I think a different design next time.

Ooooh, I so had my eyes on that 18-bar birch mold! Oh, well. There is always the next challenge. Bring it on!