Monday, October 28, 2013

Give It A Swirl

I'm always amazed at the beauty of the fall season! Leaves in shades of red, gold, orange, and yellow come together in an explosion of color that is unsurpassed! What a great time of year to not only enjoy the color extravaganza, but to also focus on typical traditions like apple cider sipping, soup suppers, warm sweaters, visits to the pumpkin patch and, of course...fall soap making.

I have made a few batches recently trying a technique new to me... the mica swirl. I thought it was pretty easy and a fun way to add interest to the top of soap! The first soap that I made was fragranced with a harvest-type scent. I added gold and copper micas to sunflower oil keeping them mostly separate, but allowing them to blend just a little where they met in the middle. I used a dropper to disperse the micas over the soap and then used a wooden skewer to feather the color out. The result was an almost leaf-like pattern that was a perfect complement to this fall-fragranced soap!  Due to the vanilla content, it is curing out to a beautiful rich brown which is causing the mica swirl to "pop" out even more.
Inspired by the results, I decided to try it again. I used a familiar and favorite fragrance, Cranberry Fig.  The swirling color of choice was merlot mica dispersed again in sunflower oil.   I wanted to keep the bar simple, adding only a pencil line of merlot mica and a light topping of cranberry seeds.

The merlot mica creates such a beautiful contrast against the creamy color of the soap.  I would give the mica swirl technique a definite 'thumbs up'. It's yet another fun and easy way to get creative with soap!

Friday, August 23, 2013

On the Move

It seems especially true that change is one of those inescapable certainties of life. That's where we've found ourselves over these past several months. It has been quite awhile since I've had a chance to update my blog. Since February!  If I were to give a fast-forward version of life since then, it would go like this:  In December, the company my husband works for was sold and merged with another.  Working out of a new location increased commute time from one hour daily to four. Moving becomes an, moving becomes a necessity! And so, preparations began in March for a move from our foothills setting down into the valley.  First on the list was the unenviable task of sorting and sifting through years of accumulated stuff. Honestly, how much can one basement (and house) hold?? Maintenance projects outside, sprucing up inside...the list has gone on and on.  In the end, it has been an all out effort to get ready to list our house for sale. That happened earlier this summer and we are under contract with an expected moving date of mid-September. The housing market is brisk with limited inventory.  Even so, we have a purchase offer on a home that will coincide with the sale of this one.  I can't wait for life to regain a sense of routine and normalcy. That will certainly include making soap!  Currently, many of my soap supplies are packed away, patiently waiting to be put to good use.
I will really miss soap making here on Blackberry Ridge, but I'm certain that new adventures await! In the meantime, I'm purposely enjoying this lovely Pacific Northwest summer, tucking memories away and anticipating all that the future holds. I've come to the conclusion that change isn't just about endings but about beginnings, too.  Here's to new beginnings and the certainty that, even in the midst of change, God is indeed good and life is good, too!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

First Contact...Coconut Milk!

There's been a lot of 'buzz' lately in the soap making community about the benefit of using coconut milk in making cold process soap. Coconut milk comes from the 'fruit' of the coconut palm (Cocos nucifera) plant and is high in saturated fats that add wonderful moisturizing qualities to soap. In addition, coconut milk contributes to a nice bubbly lather!

With my curiosity piqued, I decided to give coconut milk a try. I purchased organic coconut milk from the refrigerated section of my local grocery store. I had planned to use coconut milk for 100% of my liquid, so with that in mind, I adjusted my lye discount down to between 4 and 5%. 

I froze coconut milk in ice cube trays the night before, then measured out the amount needed for my recipe.  I only discounted my water slightly, soaping at 36% (water to oil weight).  I also soaped at cooler than normal temperatures (below 100 degrees).

 My goal was to keep the lye/milk solution from overheating.  It worked nicely and ended up staying very light in color with minimal odor.  (It's not uncommon for milk soaps to have an ammonia-like odor due to the chemical reaction between the lye and milk. Soaping at lower temperatures can help minimize that.) I added a small amount of honey, colloidal oatmeal at trace, as well as  Oatmeal, Milk & Honey fragrance oil.  A picture is worth a thousand words. I'm in love with this light and lovely soap!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Coffee Crazy

I purchased a pound of coffee butter a few months ago and have been wanting to give it a try ever since. It smells WONDERFUL, and I finally put it to good use yesterday by adding it to a soap recipe. I decided to keep things simple and used distilled water for the entire liquid portion of the batch. I may try using brewed coffee another time, but for now I wanted to keep the variables to a minimum with a new recipe and new (to me) fragrance oil.

I added coffee grounds to the main part of the soap, as well as the topping, and also created a coffee ground 'line' between the topping and the base. I didn't add fragrance to the upper portion in order to keep a nice contrast between the top and bottom layers. Even without fragrance oil added, the coffee butter alone will keep the top layer from being white.  It's more likely to cure out to a creamy tan color which is just fine! This soap smells incredible, and I have a feeling this won't be the last batch of coffee bars coming out of my soap kitchen.  Warning! Coffee craze in progress!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Pretty in...Peach?

Valentine's Day is just around the corner and presents one of the first holiday soap-gifting opportunities of the year. In thinking about a Valentine's Day soap, images of pink, red, and chocolate brown typically come to mind. Perfect colors for a holiday best known for gifts of pink candy hearts and chocolate.

I decided to go for a light to medium shade of pink with dark brown swirls. In the end, the 'pink' ended up being more 'peach', and the brown (cocoa powder) ended up not being a problem. Whew! At least that worked out!  The "berry" fragrance oil, even with titanium dioxide added, did affect the pink.  So, I'll continue to be challenged by trying to achieve perfect colors! Isn't that what soapmakers do? Always learning, refining, perfecting? I love the challenge!

Berries and Chocolate...