Thursday, December 11, 2014

Third Time's the Charm- Spoon Swirl with the Soap Club Challenge


Artic Waters, by Beverly Hart

I made a third batch of soap Sunday morning, hoping to finally get it all right and end up with a bar of soap I'd be happy to enter in the challenge.

My first decision was to use a different recipe- I wanted one that I knew would get to a thicker trace.  I used a recipe I'd developed and used previously- one that definitely thickened more quickly than the recipe I'd used in the previous two batches.

I got everything together- checking twice to make sure I didn't forget ANYTHING.  My son was kind enough to take pictures of the process, after I'd made the batter.

I added my colorants, using Blue Vibrance and Turquoise micas from Nurture Soap Supplies, and titanium dioxide in the main batter.  I also added kaolin clay for whiteness, and a combination of Fresh and Clean fragrance oil and peppermint essential oil.

I poured most of my main white batter into the mold.  It's already at a medium trace, should be great for a spoon swirl.

Then I started pouring the colors in.  One of the disadvantages of a heavier trace is that the colors are more apt to sit on top, rather than drop to the bottom of the soap.  Even pouring from higher up didn't change that much.

Time to get busy with the spoon.  I was definitely dealing with a thicker batter than in the previous two tries.

And, since this was a spoon swirl challenge, I decided to texture the top with the spoon rather than do swirls with my skewer.  I like the way it turned out.

I did not cover or insulate this- since I was using a wood mold instead of silicone, I did not want to take a chance on glycerin rivers.  I waited until late Monday afternoon to unmold and cut.  Here's the other side of the bar.

One little air bubble, but I like the way the colors move and combine.

So, there you have it- the third time was the charm with this challenge.  I had fun with the process, and certainly learned along the journey!

Sunday, December 07, 2014

A Soapy Challenge

I'd noted some time ago that there seem to be a lot of similarities between quilters and soapers.  One of their commonalities is a liking for challenges.  They seem to be a means to learn and stretch creative muscles in both camps.  I finally decided to take the plunge and join Amy Warden's challenge this month.  (A note to my fiber art friends- if soap making bores you silly, better skip this one!)

The technique for this challenge is a spoon swirl, which is fairly simple and lends itself to thicker batter, which I've had no problems achieving.  I'd just gotten a sample pack of micas, and was itching to use them.  I knew I wanted to do something cold and wintry- after all, it is December!

I had my recipe, then got all my ingredients ready to go.  My oils and lye solution. . . 

My two micas, dispersed in a little oil.  I also used titanium dioxide in the main batter.

My fragrance and additive- I really wanted white soap, so I used some kaolin clay.

I blended my batter- so far, so good.  It really stayed fluid- in fact, too fluid for a spoon swirl.  But I pressed on- when has a batter not thickened for me?  The micas mixed beautifully, and I love the metallic sheen they lend.

I poured my main batter into the mold.

Then I added the colors.  First the blue. . . 

then the teal.   Mmmm, that batter is still really fluid, not thickening quickly at all.  Where was this batter when I needed it for my Christmas tree swirl?

I did the spoon swirling- hoping that it would look good even though it seemed too fluid.

I had more white and colored batter left than I'd anticipated, so I did another layer on top and spoon swirled that.  Then I plopped the little bits of leftover batter onto the top.

I couldn't leave it like that, so I swirled the top with a chopstick.

Isn't it gorgeous!  The colors were just what I wanted!  It sat overnight, and then all day Saturday while we did some holiday activities.  I came home late Saturday afternoon, grabbed the knife I use to cut, and headed to the studio.  It looked great, no glycerine rivers, awesome colors and swirls- but it crumbled!  Almost every slice had crumbling.  I googled to try to find out what the issue could be, and then it hit me- I'd left out the shea butter.  A quick check with pH strips confirmed that my gorgeous soap was lye heavy.  Arrrrgh!!

However, I knew exactly what I had done wrong, so I decided to rebatch that night.  Marly was kind enough to grate all the soap, then we threw in the shea butter I'd omitted with a little water.  I turned the crock pot on to high, and we started stirring and watching.  It took a couple of hours, but it melted down so I could get it in the mold.  It wasn't the gorgeous soap I'd planned, but for a rebatch, it wasn't bad at all.  I unmolded it late this morning, and checked it again with the pH strips.  Success!!  It registered right where it needed to.  It cut beautifully, still smells great, and has pretty color.  It kind of reminds me of the formica countertops in homes in the 1960's.

I also made a four bar batch Saturday night, determined to have a soap worthy of entering the challenge.  The swirls may look good, but I managed to forget the fragrance oil in that one.  Good grief!!  I'm waiting til tomorrow to cut that one, it is still on the soft side.

So this morning I made my third batch of soap, hoping to finally get it right.  But that will be another post. . .