Thursday, October 30, 2014

Open for Business

Well, I took the plunge.  After positive feedback from family and friends, I've decided to put some of my #handmade #soap up for sale.  It's exciting, but I also feel weirdly exposed.  These soaps are something that I made from scratch, using my recipes (except for the odd experiment here and there) and designs.  I just really hope that everyone loves them as much as my family and I do!

My new Etsy shop, Emily's Handmade Soaps can be found here.  I also have a Facebook page that I haven't yet announced to my family and friends about (which I probably should have done before publicizing to the internet - you few blog readers get the exclusive on this one!  LOL).  The Facebook page is here.

Here's to feeling the fear and doing it anyway.  Cheers!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Cold Process Coffee / Cappuccino Soap

Recently I had to reduce my caffeine intake, and I'm really missing the morning coffee ritual.  I still drink decaf, but dammit, it's not the same!  The solution of course, was to make some coffee #soap so that I could enjoy the aroma in the mornings.  As a natural bonus, the coffee grounds make a great exfoliant!

I used this recipe as a model.  I really liked the design element in this one. The layering is really fun, and makes for a playful bar that looks like a solid dose of cappuccino. This recipe relies only on coffee (ground and brewed) and fragrance and essential oils for colorants, yet it still showcases a drastic variety of hues.

You can see in the picture below how the two containers of soap have a subtle variation in color. The darker soap is colored only with brewed coffee and fragrance and essential oils (I left the nutmeg EO out, opting for cinnamon and clove instead).

Soap layered with finely ground coffee.  Check out the natural coloration of the darker soap
using only brewed coffee and fragrance and essential oils!
I sprinkled a little bit more coffee grounds on top of the "cream" layer for embellishment. 

Coffee soap waiting to be unmolded.
I left this one in the mold for two full days, since it was still a little on the moist side after one day. When I unmolded it, the soap was still pliable, similar to the consistency of cutting through a block of cheese.  In four weeks or so, this one should be ready to use!

Coffee soap with a coffee ground accent line.

Coffee soap that looks like a cappuccino cake.  

Friday, October 17, 2014

If At First You Don't Succeed...Rebatch! (And Christmas Soap)

One thing that I've discovered about making soap is that things don't always go as planned.  The next thing I learned was how to make lemonade out of lemons! Thus, the rebatch!

In this example, I only used half of my original batch, which weighed just over one pound.  I used a cheese grater to get the soap into tiny pieces.  I dread this part.  I like to cook well enough, but grating cheese is my very least favorite thing to do in the kitchen.  I hate it.  The first time I did this I was so pleased to discover that the consistency of the soap make grating much easier than I had feared.  I had my four or five bars grated and in the Crock Pot in no time!

Soap is way easier to grate than cheese!
Following the general guidelines on rebatching from this post, I added about 2 ounces of liquid.  I decided to use milk, since it can help to make the rebatched soap a little bit smoother.  The final product definitely turned out smoother than I had anticipated in this case.


I stirred it all up, and set the Crock Pot on low.  An hour later, the mixture was much softer and easy to stir.  After another 45 minutes or so, I checked again to find the mixture to be almost completely gelled.  I added some lovely orchid color and slightly less than 1/4 ounce of jasmine fragrance oil. Jasmine is my absolute favorite scent!

Gelled soap.  Time for color and fragrance!
It was time to mold the soap, and I was a little bit nervous about this part.  Part of what I love about the cold process method is that the soap is so, well, pourable.  I've never done a hot process batch, but smushing the soap into a mold doesn't really appeal to me.  So I decided to get creative and use a Pringles can as a mold!

I cut the bottom off of the can, lined the lidded end with plastic wrap, put the top back on, and secured the plastic wrap with a rubber band.  The top of the container had now become the bottom.  I lined the inside of the can with parchment paper, and cut a few inches off of the can to make it shorter (and easier for the smushing part).  I'm happy to say that this worked really well.  I had read others' horror stories about not lining the can and having the soap react in a weird way to the aluminum-ish lining inside of the can.

After smushing and setting aside to harden for a day, I tore the can right off of the soap.

Unveiling the rebatched soap at the breakfast table.
The finished soap turned out really well, if I do say so myself.  It does have a slightly "rustic" look, since rebatched soap is apparently never as smooth as the first batch (although in this case, I think it was kind of an improvement on how it turned out the first time).

Successful, if rustic, rebatch.
So is rebatching worth the effort?  Yes!  

In other news, I'm starting some holiday soaps that smell delicious!  This one is Kringleberry, and the scent is Christmas morning in a bottle.  I'm really happy with how the swirls turned out in this batch.

Handmade Kringleberry soap.

I used sparkly micas for this one, and learned a valuable lesson about those.  I think next time I would have mixed the sparkly crimson with a little bit of red to make it more vivid.  Also, the lighter color has some iridescent white sparkle mica, but I think next time I'd add some titanium dioxide for a more dramatic color effect.

Kringleberry soap.  I love the sparkles!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Cold Process Pumpkin Roll Soap

It smells like Thanksgiving around here!  I made some Pumpkin Roll #handmade cold process #soap this week so that it would have time enough to cure before Thanksgiving.  I wanted to have some gifts ready for friends and family over the holidays, and this recipe sounded like it fit the bill.

I started out using Bramble Berry's Pumpkin Puree Cold Process Soap recipe.  In fact, I used their recipe exactly, just halfing it so that it would fit into my 3 pound mold.  The recipe worked really well, but I'd caution that the addition of pumpkin puree made for a pretty intense gel phase.  Instead of Bramble Berry's pumpkin spice fragrance oil as recommended, I used Pumpkin Roll fragrance oil from Nature's Garden.  It worked really well, with  no signs of seizing or ricing.

My first of two batches turned out pretty well.

First of two Pumpkin Roll batches.  It almost smells good enough to eat!
I did kind of a layering/drop swirl kind of design, and I'm happy with the results with the exception of the coloring.  I decided at the last minute that my lighter color needed a little more titanium dioxide, and I didn't mix it in well enough (doh!).  You can see the bits of white that didn't fully incorporate into the soap, but I think it adds kind of a cool texture to the finished product.  If I didn't know I'd made a mistake, I might think it looked a little bit artsy.  Maybe?

Colorant faux pas.  I meant to do that...

Having panicked at the last second with the titanium dioxide, I realized when I went to do my second batch that I was out of white colorant.  My options were to wait until my shipment arrived in a week or so, use another color, or just go without.  I really wanted to do this batch of Pumpkin Roll, because I didn't want to move on to another project and leave the Pumpkin Roll fragrance oil sitting around. Let's be honest.  Pumpkin smells amazing, but it's very seasonal, and I didn't want it to be the last scent in my arsenal someday months from now.  So I decided to just go without the white and let the natural color of the soap be my second "color."

Second batch of Pumpkin Roll soap.
While I miss the contrast of the white color, I'm very pleased with how the swirls turned out.  I hope that the colors differentiate a bit more with some curing time.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Green Tea and Lemongrass Soap

This bar has been a real adventure in #soapmaking!  My intent was to make an unscented, vegan bastille #soap (heavy on the olive oil, but with some other oils included) that also excluded palm oil from the ingredient list.  We're not vegan, and I'm still not opposed to using sustainably sourced palm oil, but I wanted to try a recipe combination that might be popular in my local area near Seattle.

First, I infused some olive oil with fresh lemongrass.

Fresh lemongrass and olive oil.

I have a Crock Pot for use exclusively with soap making (I have a couple of soaps that are just begging for a rebatch), so I decided to try the infusion that way.

Lemon grass chunks in olive oil.  My funky Crock Pot makes it look
like I'm soap making in the Serengeti!
Since oil infusion supposedly works much better with dried herbs, I placed some paper towels just under the lid of the Crock Pot to catch any stray condensation.  We wouldn't want water droplets messing up the oil!

The paper towels caught most a lot of condensation that I didn't want in my infused olive oil.
Worked like a charm!
It only took a couple of hours on low, and my olive oil had a lovely, faint smell of lemon.  I refrigerated the oil until the next day.  When I was ready to get down to the soap making, I started by brewing a strong pot of green tea and reserving the spent tea leaves.

Now that's some strong green tea!
I used the green tea in place of water in my soap recipe, and my lemongrass infused olive oil for the olive oil portion of the recipe.  Since this recipe was olive oil heavy at 60% of the recipe, it took a while to get it to trace.  This was perfect, since I also wanted to play with my matte oxide colors that I got in from Bulk Apothecary.

I separated the soap into two containers, and mixed half with a lovely Woodland Green pigment powder.  I loved the color, and it couldn't have been easier to work with.

I had a design envisioned for this project, so I started by pouring some uncolored soap into the bottom of the mold.  I then sprinkled the used tea leaves on top of the layer of soap (after drying them as much as possible to remove any excess liquid).

First layer of soap with tea leaves on top, with Woodland Green lurking in the background.
Next, I carefully spooned the green soap on top of the tea layer.  This went way better than expected! I had saved just a little bit of the uncolored soap, which I drizzled on top of the green layer.  I then swirled away, taking care not to swirl too deeply into the soap so that I wouldn't disturb the tea leaf layer.

The finished product is taking quite a bit longer to dry than some of my others (probably because of the high olive oil content), but I'm really happy with how it turned out.

Tea time, anyone?
My husband specifically requested a non-scented bar, so I was hoping that the lemongrass oil and green tea might add a subtle, natural fragrance.  So far I can't sense even the slightest whiff of lemongrass, but there is a very faint "grassy" scent that I'm attributing to the green tea.  This one will probably take closer to six weeks to cure, but I really feel like my little soap making adventure paid off!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Progress and Cold Processing

It's so gratifying when you can see your progress over time!  Here is an early attempt at a purple and white bar (this one was supposed to have a lavender scent, but I really underestimated how much fragrance oil to use, so it barely had a scent once it was fully cured).


Here is a later, much improved attempt at a purple and white soap.  This one has a better texture, and a nice orchid and vanilla scent (still very lightly scented).


There's undoubtedly room for improvement, and it's gratifying to see the side by side comparison. Today I'm working on a lemongrass and green tea soap.  I infused some fresh lemongrass in olive oil last night, and plan to use green tea in lieu of water in my recipe.  This should be quite an adventure. Stay tuned for pics!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Scent and Seizure

One of my favorite things about making soap is the amazing fragrance.  Unfortunately, I've found that this is the stickiest part of the soap making process for me.  I'm probably not alone in that regard. Before I ever attempted the cold process method of soap making, I did my homework (once a nerd, always a nerd).  When the time came to incorporate my lye water into the measured fats, everything went according to plan.  I held my breath...and added a small amount of lavender fragrance oil that I'd picked up from my local craft store.  My lovely, runny soap mixture immediately turned into what resembled school cafeteria mashed potatoes.  It was my first seize.

You know these things can happen, but you never think they'll happen to you (sniff)...  Okay, I'm being melodramatic, but I was a little bummed.  I quickly spooned the gunk into my mold, tamped it down with the back of a spoon as well as I could, and proceeded as planned.  The next day I cut the soap loaf into individual bars and surveyed the damage.

Rebatch city, here I come!
It had kind of separated, and was a little oily.  I could barely smell the lavender that had wrecked havoc on my project.  But I decided to cure it anyway, so that I can try my hand at rebatching later.

Fast forward to a week or so later, and I'd had a couple of soap successes (soapcesses?  No?) with my Cranberry Fig and my Oatmeal Honey soaps.  I decided to try again with the fragrance oils, thinking that maybe a recipe glitch had been to blame for the lavender debacle.  Using a combination of coconut and pink grapefruit (that smelled way better as a combo than it sounds), I planned my execution.  This time I would keep my lye water and fats at a very low temperature, almost room temperature.  I combined the fragrance oils with olive oil to help eeeeeeeeease it into the soap batter. I barely had the lye water incorporated into the fats when I put the stick blender down (stop mixing, just walk away!).  I added the fragrance oil mixture to my soap and gently, gently stirred...until it seized.  Not as quickly or thickly this time, but enough so that I didn't have time to add any swirls or other designs.  I got the soap into the mold, and at least got to add texture to the top.

The texture on the top turned out pretty cool, even if it is reminiscent of Thanksgiving dinner.
I ended up with some soap that wasn't great to look at, but smelled okay.  Since the soap had been so thick when it went into the mold, the colors didn't incorporate nearly as well as I had planned.

When good soap goes bad.

The silver lining in this process is that I narrowed down the problem; That dastardly fragrance oil from the local craft store.  Even though the package said it was safe for soap, this is clearly not the case for anything other than melt and pour soaps.  Basically, I had spent $50 of unusable, overpriced, low quality fragrance oils, and that is the real crime.  Thank goodness I had by then purchased some fragrance and essential oils on order from a reputable soap supply vendor!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Complexity of Oatmeal and Honey

Having a number of batches of soap under my belt (well, actually curing in my office), I decided to try an oatmeal and honey soap.  This variety is an old standby, and for good reason.  Since one of my kidlets has very sensitive skin and eczema, the thought of turning my hobby into a useful solution that benefits my family was really appealing.  I used this recipe as a guideline, but changed the types and amounts of oils to make my own version.  With colloidal oatmeal, organic honey, and homemade almond milk, it's almost good enough to eat!  Well, if it didn't have extremely caustic lye in it.

First, I had to make the almond milk to use for part of the liquid in the recipe.  I'm a huge fan of almond milk (especially in my morning coffee), but I've never actually made it myself.  Most of the methods I've seen for making almond milk involve soaking almonds overnight, which I have zero patience for.  I thank my lucky stars for Google every day, because a quick web search revealed that you can speed up this process by soaking the almonds in very hot water for an hour or less.  It worked like a charm!

Quick soaking the almonds in hot water made the skins come right off.
I then blended the skinned almonds with filtered water (three parts water to one part skinned almonds) and strained out the chunks.  Apparently the leftover meal can be dried and used for baking, which would be handy if you're doing a paleo or gluten-free diet.

Squeezing the almond milk was kind of fun.

I measured out the organic honey and diluted it in a little bit of filtered water so that it would be easier to stir into the soap.  The next step was to grind up some oats in my coffee grinder.  Grinding up oats into an almost flour-like texture makes it into colloidal oatmeal.  Who knew?  So the next time you see an expensive beauty product that boasts colloidal oatmeal as an ingredient, just know that it's just run of the mill (ha ha, see what I did there?) breakfast oats, but ground up.

Who knew that breakfast could be so good for your skin?
I proceeded with my recipe, poured my soap into the mold, wrapped it for insulation, and waited. And waited.  Okay, I really didn't wait that long, but it felt like a really long time.  After a few hours I peeked in on my soap to find my soap in a really intense gel stage (that means HOT!).


I nervously checked on it every few hours, hoping that the soap would fully gel.  The natural sugars in the honey and almond milk cause the natural chemical reaction to be pretty intense, and that extra generated heat can sometimes lead to disastrous situations (like the ominous soap volcano, which I haven't had the pleasure of experiencing yet).

Luckily, the next morning the soap was a lovely, even texture.  I used my new wavy soap cutter to trim the individual bars, which are now curing nicely in my office.

The finished product.
This batch was intense, not only because of the many steps involved, but also the apprehension that I had miscalculated the more scientific aspects of the recipe.  This soap is a little softer than the others I've made so far, so it might need to cure a little longer (maybe 6 weeks or so).  On to the next recipe!