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Last week I got a big box o’ goodies in the mail from Mountain Rose Herbs, so I decided to do some experimenting with some of them this week.  I ordered some brightly colored herb powders to try in my cold process soap, and also had a few other things already on hand that I had just not gotten around to trying out yet.  Well today was the day, so thought I would share my initial results.  This picture was taken right after mixing in the colors, so the soap is still raw.  I also decided to test 2 essential oils I haven’t used yet – anise and a root beer type blend. I’ll update in a few days once it’s hardened – can’t wait to see how these progress!

top row (from left):  beet root powder, ground tumeric, sandalwood red powder, bayberry root powder
middle row: spinach powder, alkanet root powder, calendula pedals, ground anatto seed
bottom row: yucca root powder, anise essential oil, root beer essential oil blend

I made a 1 pound batch of basic soap and split it into 11 different cups that were pre-measured with my herbs.  I mixed each one in and made sure to label the cups.  Just after mixing the colors in I was already surprised by a couple of them.  I ordered the beet root powder because of its super bright pink color (and didn’t bother to do any research to see what others have said about using it in soap), thinking it would make the perfect pink soap.  We’ll see what it does after it cures, but as of now it’s brown.  The red sandalwood, on the other hand, is a beautiful shade of burgundy, but the powder is orange.  I’m expecting them all to change once they’ve set for a while, so we’ll see how they turn out.  Stay tuned for part 2!

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So I think I’m finally getting the hang of this ‘swirl in the pot’ soap swirling thing.  I even managed to swirl 2 colors this time (this is where you ‘ohhh’ and ‘ahhh’).  This soap was actually inspired by a crafty friend, Stephanie of Robot Pop.  She has become one of my ‘testers’ and has given me several great ideas for new scents.  This is one that she suggested to me, down to the swirl.  I’m saving a bar for Stephanie for the great idea on this one – it smells fantastic!

chocolate cherry almond cold process soap, swirled with cocoa powder and rose clay

I’m going to make a bigger batch this week so it will be ready in October…I hope the swirls come out this nice on my big batch!

I’ve been trying (unsuccessfully) to get a swirled soap that I think looks good for a while.  Every time I do a test batch, something seems to go wrong and it doesn’t swirl.  It either traces too quickly and is too thick to swirl, or doesn’t get quite thick enough and just blends together.  I even made the mistake of trying to swirl a light color into a dark and the light just disappeared into the soap.  Oops.

Well here it is folks – my first successful swirl.  I like it – what do you think?

pine orange scented soap colored with Spirulina

This is a new soap I’m testing out that I may do for the holidays.  It’s scented with pine and orange, and colored with Spirulina powder.  When I first cut it, it was this beautiful bright green color.  After curing for about 3 weeks, it’s faded quite a bit to a brownish green.  I think the color works for a pine soap, but I’ll have to try something else for a true green.

Here are a few new soaps I’m testing out right now.  I’m working on my fall and holiday scents, and have more ideas than I’ll be able to do, so only the best will make the cut.  Let’s start with the soaps I don’t have pics of yet (either because I just haven’t taken them, or I’m not quite happy with how it’s looking so am not going to show you 🙂

Last week I made a spiced cider soap, with apple cider instead of water mixed with the lye, and orange, cinnamon and clove essential oils.  I also added some brown sugar, which gave it a weird texture.  Not sure I’ll keep the brown sugar, but it does smell really good.

Earlier this week I made my second batch of a chai tea soap.  It has black tea as a base instead of water, half and half, honey, and an essential oil blend of cinnamon, cardamom, clove, ginger and black pepper.  Smells pretty good to me.

And here are my 2 favs so far:  triple mint and Mexican hot cocoa.  I made these on the same day, and the smells mixed together and made the most heavenly mint chocolate smell ever.  I’m already thinking of how to combine them.

Mexican hot cocoa soap

triple mint soap = peppermint, spearmint and wintergreen. Spirulina used for the green bottom.

Next up in the test kitchen:  an orange pine blend and a white chocolate almond soap.  Too many ideas!!

2 weeks ago I attended the Lonestar Soap and Toiletries Soapmakers Seminar in Austin – it was great!  It was a full day of talking about soap, which I don’t get to do very often with other people who actually LIKE to talk about soap.  Lots of great info shared, including an experiment that I participated in about natural colorants.  Thought I would share my contributions to the experiment here, as well as a link to the entire collection. 

I made 2 batches for the experiment (all that participated made a 1 pound batch with the same recipe and no extra additives besides the selected colorants).  I have had success in the past with lemon and orange juices in my soaps, so decided for this experiment I would try pomegranate and fresh squeezed OJ. 

used fresh squeezed orange juice instead of water mixed with the lye

pomegranate juice (POM brand) mixed with the lye instead of water. This one reacted violently - won't be trying this one again 🙂

David Fisher, writer for About.com’s Soap and Candle section, took all of our soaps with him and made this wonderful gallery of all 34 soaps that were made by different Texas Soapmakers.  I bookmarked this page immediately, and have already started more experimenting!

Everyone has a favorite place for a good margarita.  My favorite local Mexican restaurant, Frescos, has a really tasty rita called the true agave.  Paired with their fajitas, it is just about the perfect meal.  My mouth is starting to water just thinking about it.  Fajitas and margaritas say summer to me.  So in honor of the rising mercury and Cinco de Mayo, I’m sharing my favorite margarita recipes – one in drink form and the other in soap.  

First, the drink (priorities)  

on the rocks - no salt for me, please

 

Ultimate Margarita  

2 oz. tequila  

6 oz.  limeade – I like the simply limeade  

2 oz. orange juice – whatever you have, but my favorite is the simply orange with pineapple – extra tropical!  

splash of triple sec  

the lineup of ingredients in my margarita

 

shake ingredients vigorously in a shaker, pour in your favorite glass, squeeze a wedge of lime if you have it (I didn’t) and enjoy!   

Now for the soap  

first batch of margarita soap colored with parsley

 

I’ve made 2 test batches of margarita soap so far, and they both smell fabulous.  They are not looking as fab as they smell, so will work some more to get these looking beautiful.  The first batch has ground parsley for the yellow/green color, unscented soap chunks as ice and salt on top.  I wasn’t completely satisfied with the parsley, so tried something different next batch.  

second batch of margarita soap colored with lime juice and green clay

 

For the second batch, I still used key lime and lemon oils, but also added some litsea to help those citrus scents stick around.  I used fresh lime juice and french green clay, as well as the unscented soap chunks, for the color.  Not crazy about this color either, although it is pretty darn close to the color of my actual margarita.  

I see another test batch in my near future, and lots of sampling ahead.  I better mix up another margarita for inspiration.   

Cheers!

Today I made my first batch of beer soap, and man, did it stink when I mixed the beer with the lye.  Note to self to only mix beer with lye outside from now on.  Even with the windows open, and my lye bowl right next to a window, it still filled the entire house. 

This batch was a beer shampoo bar – my first attempt at a shampoo bar as well.  I have read that beer is supposed to be good for hair, and I had been wanting to use some of Joey’s homebrew in some soap, so seemed like a match made in soap heaven.  So this batch has homebrewed Bavarian wheat beer – yummy!

I mixed in 3 essential oils also good for healthy hair, and it smelled quite lovely when I poured it…not like the stinky, beer/lye mixture that I started with.  Now I have to wait to see how it turns out….that’s always the hardest part!

I’m excited about my newest soap that is freshly cut and just out of the mold today – lemon poppy seed.  It’s doing time on the soap rack for at least 4 weeks, but I can’t wait to use it. 

lemon poppyseed soap loaf, just out of the mold. This makes 5 bars.

This was my first successful attempt to use something natural (not a colored oxide) to color my soap.  No artificial colors for me, as pretty as they may be, I don’t want them in my soap.  I’m only using plant-based materials to color and scent my soaps.  All previous attempts ended up various shades of the same color – brown.  But this soap turned out a lovely, creamy yellow – just what I was hoping for.  I squeezed 3 lemons and used the fresh juice mixed with water for my lye mixture, and, wa-la – yellow soap.  And it smells de-li-cious – just like fresh lemons (go figure!).

creamy yellow lemon poppyseed soap, colored with freshly squeezed lemon juice

This will become one of my regulars – going to make a large batch stat.  Hmm, now that I think about it, to make a big batch with the same proportions as this tiny batch, I’ll need a bunch more lemons.  30 actually.  That’s a lot of lemon juicing.  I’m going to need a lemon tree and one of those automatic juicers.  Or maybe my pathetic excuse for arm muscles will be my juicin’ tool.  Then I could say I’m juiced.  Ok, I’m done 🙂

I’ve always loved how artistic soap can look, and have been trying to successfully execute the swirl lately.  I’ve seen demos, watched YouTube videos on swirling and read countless articles online about the many different ways people swirl, but still I have yet to get it right.  I tried a batch on Friday (smelled really yummy – a blend of palmarosa and lavender) that I swirled with rose clay.  This was my second attempt to swirl this soap with rose clay, and I still don’t quite have it down. 

My first batch I measured out part of the soap and mixed in the clay separately, but then it started to thicken so quickly I was really rushed on the important part – swirling.  I poured the soap with clay back into the pot with the white soap and then poured into the mold.  It actually came out ok, but my clay was not mixed in well enough.

The second batch from Friday I decided I would pour half the batch into the mold with no color, and then pour the colored soap into the mold and swirl with a stick.  I thought I would have lovely swirls throughout, but no such luck.  I either didn’t swirl enough, or maybe this method is more difficult to obtain swirls with.  Not quite sure, but back to the drawing board on this one.  Sigh.  Apparently I am not blessed with the gift of swirl.  More testing, here I come!

I found part of this list on an old soap makers post, and it just hit too close to home.  I can relate to all of these.

You might be a soap addict if:

  • You disdain any soap you didn’t make yourself.
  • You have more essential oils than you do spices.
  • The fridge is full of vegetable oils to be used for soapmaking.
  • You use the stockpot to make soap.
  • You have more “soap” utensils than you do “cooking” ones!
  • You own a stick blender, and use it.
  • You keep coconut oil in the freezer.
  • Your mate has learned NOT to taste that interesting stuff in the casserole dish!
  • You get excited when lye goes on sale.
  • You’ve bought olive oil in the one gallon container.
  • You’re on a first-name basis with the UPS guy.
  • Your house always smells like you’ve swiped the inventory from “The Body Shop”.
  • You carry free samples of soap in your purse, your briefcase and your car, just in case.
  • You try writing off your “work cupboard” as a home business tax expense.
  • You denude your lavender bushes before they’re ready so that your lavender soap looks right.
  • Your husband trips over all of the soap molds hastily stacked in the kitchen.
  • Kitchen? what kitchen? YOU have a test laboratory.
  • You know the difference between M&P and CP.
  • You don’t have friends, you have test markets.
  • You see products in stores and recognize which companies sold the molds.
  • The UPS guy rolls his eyes every time he lugs a box to your house.

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