Saturday, December 13, 2014

Christmas Tree Feather Swirl

Seasons greetings, everyone!

I hope that you all are gearing up for a wonderful holiday season with family and friends. And I also hope that you've got your holiday soaps ready for gifting!

This year, I made only two holiday soaps: Peppermint Wonderland and this Christmas Tree soap. I usually make more, but hubby and I have been anticipating a move, which has kept us both distracted, and I still have plenty of other soaps that I can gift.

But when I saw this Christmas Tree Swirl tutorial on the Soap Queen blog, I just had to make it. It is inspired by the Secret Feather Swirl technique created by Zahida of Handmade in Florida. (Check Zahida out - her soaps are absolutely amazing!)

This soap features a sort of reverse feather swirl. Instead of pushing a hanger swirl tool into the soap after pouring, I poured the soap over the hanger swirl tool and then pulled the tool out to create the Christmas Tree look.

I used my Essential Depot RED silicone mold along with my hanger swirl tool from Great Soap Shop for this project.

For the oils, I used olive oil, vegetable shortening (soybean/cottonseed blend), coconut oil, and rice bran oil. I had some coconut milk in the freezer, so I used it for part of the liquid along with some distilled water to make up the difference.

The scent is "Eucalyptus Cedar" from Elements Bath and Body, and it is a woodsy, outdoorsy scent
that is perfect for a Christmas Tree-themed soap. It appears that Elements no longer carries this scent, which brings a tear to my eye because it is fabulous. Oh, well, life is full of disappointments.

So, here's what I did. After scenting and bringing the soap to light trace, I split off two 8-ounce portions. One portion I colored with hydrated chrome green pigment and the other with gold sparkle mica.

The rest I colored with super pearly white mica, and also some titanium dioxide just to make sure that the soap turned out a vivid white.

The green and gold soap were then poured into squeeze bottles. (Remember to snip the tips!)

My hanger swirl tool fits snugly into my mold, so I placed it at the bottom and then poured a layer of white soap on top to cover it. Then I squeezed a thick line of green on top of the white soap right above where the hanger swirl tool rested beneath. Then another layer of white, followed by a thick line of gold, more white, more green, and so on and so forth, alternating the colors. I ended up making three green lines and two gold with a layer of white in between each.

Tip: It's good to bang the mold on the countertop and give it a gentle shake every now and then to get rid of air bubbles.

Once I had poured the final layer of white, I pulled the hanger swirl tool straight up and out of the mold to create the Christmas trees inside the cut bars. Then I finished the tops off with the remaining green and gold and texturized the soap just below the surface with a spoon, being careful not to disturb the feather pattern underneath. Actually, I think I held back a bit too much green and gold soap and could have gotten by with less.

I wanted my soap to be at a thin trace, but once again I had trouble with the batter thickening up. Fortunately, the soap was still manageable and everything worked out okay.

At any rate, it definitely looks like there are little Christmas trees inside the soap (although some look more like Christmas trees than others), and the fragrance fits the soaps perfectly.

Here's a video I made showing the process:


I hope that you all have a wonderful holiday! As I mentioned earlier, hubby and I are moving to California at the end of December, but we are going to work in a trip home to Florida for Christmas before we go. After Christmas, we'll take a few days to make the cross-country drive. I'm not sure when I'll have the chance to make another batch of soap since we'll be spending a good chunk of January getting settled. But I will make some as soon as I can!

Wherever you are and whatever you celebrate, I wish you and yours a wonderful holiday season and a happy New Year!

Friday, November 14, 2014

The Dreaded Spots of the Orangeness!

Geranium Patchouli soap with DOS
So you've made a beautiful batch of soap and it is hanging out on the curing rack, evaporating out its water and whatnot. Over the next few weeks, you lovingly check on it and marvel at this wonderful thing you made.

And then you see it. An orange-colored spot - or maybe several spots - marring the pretty surface of your soap and seriously harshing your soap buzz.

What is this ugly plague that is plaguing your soap with its plaguey plague?

It's - dah, dah, DAH! - DOS. No, not the ancient computer operating system. 

Dreaded Orange Spots.

You may remember this Geranium Patchouli soap I made about 16 months ago. I still have some bars from that batch hanging around, and I went to grab a bar recently. I usually let the soap bars cure on my curing rack for 6-8 weeks and then store them in paper bags and it seems to work out just fine. This time, though, the bar I pulled out felt wet and beads of glycerin dew glistened on its surface. 

Handmade soap naturally contains glycerin, which attracts moisture from the air. Humidity can increase the likelihood of glycerin dew, and it can get awfully humid here in Louisiana. It was interesting that none of my other batches that were stored similarly developed the same issue. At any rate, I wiped the afflicted bars dry and let them hang out some more on the curing rack. Now the glycerin dew is gone, but the ugly rust-colored spot remains.

So what causes DOS? Oftentimes it is caused when oils are exposed to oxygen and oxidize, resulting in rancidity. Every oil has a shelf life and some oils have shorter shelf lives than others. DOS can appear at many points during a soap's life - during the cure time or months later, as was the case with my soap. Old oils or oils with short shelf lives may contribute to DOS. And it's sometimes difficult to know how long an oil has been sitting on a store shelf before you buy it. Get your oils from quality vendors that replace their oils frequently to ensure that they are as fresh as possible and pay attention to expiration dates. (To see a comprehensive list of oils and their properties - including shelf life - check out this Soap Queen post.) Some oils - such as canola, grapeseed, and sunflower oils - have a reputation for contributing to DOS, although I haven't soaped with any of those oils and therefore can't comment on my own personal experiences with them.

Oil storage is important. Some short-life oils are best kept refrigerated, and it's always good to store any oil in a cool, dark place away from direct sunlight. Another tip is to transfer oils to smaller bottles as you use them up so that there is less contact with oxygen and therefore less risk of oxidation. Some soapmakers also add antioxidants such as rosemary oleoresin extract (ROE) or Vitamin E to fragile oils to extend their shelf lives.

Higher superfat percentages can also contribute to DOS. "Superfat" refers to the amount of oils that do not interact with the lye and remain unsaponified and sorta free-floating in the finished bars. Most soapmakers factor in a small percentage of extra oil in their recipes to create a more nourishing bar of soap. Some soapmakers advise keeping superfat percentages to 5% maximum (with the exception of recipes containing all or nearly-all coconut oil, which need a higher superfat of up to 20%). I usually use a superfat of 7% in a typical recipe with no problems, but could it have been an issue in this batch? Or was it something else? Perhaps I should experiment with a 5% superfat.

Water is also another important soapmaking ingredient. It's a good idea to use distilled water since tap water may contain minerals that could oxidize and cause DOS.

The curing environment is also important. Let your soap fully cure in a cool, dry place with plenty of ventilation. During the curing process, water evaporates from the soap and the moisture needs to be able to escape. Wire racks are great for curing, just make sure that the metal is coated so that it doesn't rust - rust can exacerbate DOS. If your curing area is particularly humid, a dehumidifier may help.

What caused DOS in my case here? Dunno. Could have been the oils, humidity, storage issues, or something else. It seems that so many soapmaking problems remain mysteries even when potential culprits are identified. I can't point with certainty at any one factor or factors. Hopefully, though, I can better avoid DOS in the future by keeping these tips in mind.

So what should you do if your soap gets DOS? Don't panic. The spots are rather ugly and the soap may smell a bit off, but it is merely an aesthetic issue. I wouldn't want to sell or gift these bars with DOS because eww-gross, but they're still fine to use.

At about the same time I was cogitating on this post, Anne-Marie wrote a great one about DOS on the Soap Queen blog. And also check out this helpful post by David Fisher for more info on DOS.

Have you experienced DOS? What are your thoughts on what causes it and how to prevent it?

Sunday, October 12, 2014

A Christmas Disaster Story

Although I must say that for a disaster, this soap actually turned out pretty well. Just about everything went wrong in the soap kitchen, but this was what I ended up with. Coulda been a lot worse.

First off, let me just acknowledge that, yes, I know, I know. I'm a bit late posting.

I have an excuse, though. A good one even!

Hubby and I are moving soon from Louisiana to southern California. He got a new assignment out there and we are looking forward to the new adventure!

Everything has happened pretty quickly and we're starting to kick into high gear now. If you've ever moved, you know how rapidly you can go from oh-we've-got-plenty-of-time-and-there's-not-that-much-to-do-anyway to oh-my-god-we're-never-going-to-get-all-of-this-done-in-time.

A million and one things that need attention RIGHT NOW are starting to bubble to the surface. In the next few weeks, we need to sell my car, clean out the apartment, tie up loose ends, close accounts here and open new accounts there, coordinate with the movers, and we still have to find a place to live.

And, of course, the normal daily hassles of life continue and stuff like this happens:

Oh, good, another flat.

So, please do forgive me if I am highly distracted for the next little bit while we're moving and getting settled. I did make two batches of holiday soap (this one and one other) before things get too hectic so I would at least have something to blog about, providing I can carve out the time to do so.

Now onto the things about the soaps!

Can you believe that it's already time to start thinking about the winter holidays? Well, it is! And I can't not make a pepperminty soap for the holidays.

This soap, which I think I will call Peppermint Wonderland, was supposed to be a Taiwan Swirl. Obviously, it didn't work out.

My recipe was 8% mango butter, 25% olive oil, 25% coconut oil, 30% rice bran oil, and 12% sweet almond oil.

Alas, I did not end up with the thin trace that I was hoping for. I don't think the problem was my fragrance oils because I used both without incident last year. (The scent here was a combo of Nature's Garden's Peppermint and Winter Garden fragrance oils.)

I used the full water amount, too, and soaped at around 100-105 degrees F.

And I also tried really hard, you guys, to make sure that I didn't overmix, that I brought the soap to the lightest trace possible. And still it thickened up like cake frosting.

So, after finding that cussing profusely did not make the trace any lighter, I accepted the fact that a Taiwan Swirl would be impossible and opted to just plop the soap into the mold with a spoon. I finished with a clumsy attempt at a Celine Swirl.


I think, all things considered, it turned out beautifully and the final bars are pretty enough to be Christmas gifts. And the scent combo is wonderful - the Peppermint and Winter Garden together (the Peppermint:Winter Garden combo was a 1.5:1 ratio) smells like a brisk, minty aftershave or shaving cream to me.

Here's a video showing the disaster unfolding, prompting a change of plans. (Make sure you stick around until the end for bloopers galore!):


And that's how we saved Christmas.

I gotta tell you guys, I am having one helluva time lately finding new palm-free recipes that don't accelerate trace. There are a couple of palm-free recipes that I have had success with: the recipes I used for my Orange Basil Swirled Hearts Soap and Fireburst Soap both behaved well. I may stick with one of those when I want to be sure of a thin trace. 

You know what I've noticed, though? The recipes that give me trouble contain rice bran oil. Maybe the rice bran oil isn't the problem. Perhaps it's just a coincidence and it has more to do with my fragrance or essential oils or my method. But I just found it curious that the four or so recipes I've tried with rice bran oil have accelerated.

What are your thoughts? Does rice bran oil behave well in your recipes?

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Avocado-Coconut Milk Soap

So, there I was perusing my copy of Soap Crafting, looking for inspiration, when a project called "Avocado Moisturizing Bars" caught my eye. I've wanted to try avocado in soap for a while and this recipe sounded intriguing.

I wanted a palm-free recipe, though, so I went in search of such on the interwebs. And I found this Sea Clay Avocado Facial Bar recipe on the Soap Queen blog, guest-written by Amanda from Lovin' Soap. Bingo. An avocado theme, lots of avocado oil, and no palm oil. I omitted the sea clay, but otherwise followed her recipe.

And then I remembered that I had bought some coconut milk a few months ago, vowing to use it in a batch of soap. This would be the perfect time to make good on that promise to myself.

Avocado plus coconut milk should equal mad luxury.

So, I ended up sort of combining Amanda's recipe with Anne-Marie's technique, adding my own touches along the way.

Anne-Marie's project in her Soap Crafting book is a gradient soap. I wasn't feeling up to a gradient, so I opted to do a single pour.

But! Wouldn't a droplet swirl be a pretty way to jazz things up? And what if the soap used for the droplets was colored with activated charcoal! The black and green would look stunning together, and the charcoal would up the spa-like factor.

So much luxury. I hope everyone can handle it.

And so, here's how the recipe I ended up with looks:


Of course, if you use this or any recipe you find on the web or in a book, please run it through a lye calculator to double-check it! Typos happen!

You may notice that I have listed the coconut milk and water separately. That's because I replaced two ounces of my coconut milk with water for my avocado puree. (More on that in a sec.) The full liquid amount recommended for the entire recipe is 12.160 ounces (345g).

For the scent, I chose Bramble Berry's Wasabi fragrance oil, which is also the FO Anne-Marie uses for her avocado soap project. I love the Wasabi FO! It smells to me like freshly-cut grass with notes of peppermint and ginger. I thought that the bright, green scent would go perfectly with the avocado theme. The Wasabi FO sticks like crazy, too, and it behaves well in cold process soap.

I also added some sodium lactate at 1.5%, which worked out to about 1 1/2 teaspoons per pound of oils, to help create harder bars.

So how do you get the avocado into the soap? After slicing and measuring out 2 ounces of avocado (that's one ounce per pound of oils), I subtracted 2 ounces of liquid from my coconut milk and replaced it with distilled water so I could make a slurry of pureed avocado, as Anne-Marie suggests in her recipe. I suppose I could have just used 2 ounces of coconut milk pulled from my total, but the coconut milk was frozen. (To keep my temps low and to prevent the lye from scorching the coconut milk, I measured the milk and then froze it ahead of time.)

To make the slurry, I added two ounces of water to the avocado and then pureed it with the stickblender until smooth.

Using fresh fruits and vegetables in soap can potentially affect its shelf-life, so it's important to fully puree fruits and veggies because larger pieces or chunks can go bad and get moldy. It's probably best to use bars containing food ingredients within a year or so for optimal freshness.

Once my oils and lye solution were cooled to around 90-95 degrees F, I added the avocado slurry to the oils and stickblended the mixture to get the avocado really well incorporated. Then I stirred in my fragrance oil and added the coconut milk-lye solution. Once the soap was at a light trace, I separated out about one cup and colored it with activated charcoal. I colored the rest of the soap batter with Green Chrome oxide.

Something I seem afflicted with lately is overmixing my soap batter. It seems that I get to a nice trace and then hit the soap one last time with the stickblender, just for good measure, I guess? I did that with my Honeysuckle Mantra Swirl soap and I did it again here. This time, I had a light trace - which was what I wanted - but then after I added the colorants, I stickblended briefly just to mix them in well. I should have just stuck with the whisk because my soap was a tiny bit thicker than I would have liked. The soap was still very manageable, but I wanted a lighter trace for swirling. I have to learn to stop myself when I get that urge to mix things one more time.

I poured the green soap into the mold and then drizzled the black soap onto the green from up high so it would penetrate into the loaf. Looking back at the video, though, I don't think I poured from high enough. That plus the slightly thick trace made for less dramatic droplet swirls. Oh, well, the soap is still pretty!

After pouring the soap, I stuck it in the freezer overnight to prevent gel phase because there is a risk that the avocado could turn brown if the soap gets too hot. I also used a thin plastic loaf mold - I didn't want anything insulated (like a wooden mold) that would retain heat.

Here's that video I mentioned showing how I made this soap:


I am very pleased with how the soap turned out! The ingredients are luxurious, and the Wasabi scent is amazing! Overall, I like the droplet swirls and the texturing on the tops. I've tested an end piece, and, boy howdy, is it nice.

Have you ever tried avocado in soap? Coconut milk? How did you like it?

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Honeysuckle Modified Mantra Swirl Soap


You may remember a technique called the Mantra Swirl that was popular a while back. There was even some mantra swirl soapmaking challenges on the interwebs. I thought all of that happened just a few months ago, but it was LAST SUMMER, you guys. A whole year. Time is moving faster than a batch of clove soap.

Anyways, I figured it was high time that I gave the mantra swirl a whirl, especially since I got some cool tools to help make things easier.

One of the reasons I put off attempting the mantra swirl is that I'm lazy. And not very handy. And also lazy.

You see, back when the mantra swirl first caught on, most people made themselves dividers out of cardboard. Those cardboard pieces had to be cut just so. And then they had to be held upright in the mold, usually with more cardboard pieces that were cut into brackets. And I suppose that the brackets had to be anchored to the mold somehow, too. I was like, "Pfft! I'm not doing all that! What am I, an engineer?"

But then I heard somewhere about Great Soap Shop on Etsy. Michelle sells lots of nifty soapmaking tools, including HDPE plastic dividers for the Mantra/Taiwan swirl. So now I have no excuse not to try it.

The dividers I bought were specifically designed to fit Essential Depot's RED silicone soap mold. (Great Soap Shop offers tools for other molds, too, so do check it out.)

I decided to try a modified mantra swirl from Anne-Marie Faiola's Soap Crafting book. I did a simple side-by-side two-color batch and then used a squeeze bottle to pour a line of soap down the center. Then I took the stick end of a meat thermometer, put it all the way down to the bottom of the mold, and did a figure-eight pattern all the way across the length of the mold to swirl the tops. (Of course, you don't have to use a meat thermometer. Skewers or chopsticks or any stick-like thing will do.)

Here is my poorly-drawn example of the Mantra Swirl figure-8 pattern.

For the fragrance, I chose Bramble Berry's new Heavenly Honeysuckle scent. I got to try this one out when I was on their S.O.A.P. Panel this past spring and it was my second-favorite scent of the eight samples I received. The colors that came to mind for this scent were orange, yellow, and green. So I decided to do Tangerine Wow and Fizzy Lemonade side-by-side with a line of Hydrated Chrome Green along the top.

I concocted my own recipe of 30% rice bran oil, 25% olive oil, 25% coconut oil, 12% mango butter, 5% sweet almond oil, and 3% castor oil.


After I brought the soap to trace, I colored about a half cup of the batter with the Hydrated Chrome Green and poured it into a plastic squeeze bottle. (It's good to snip the tips of the squeeze bottles so that the soap flows more easily.) Then I split what remained of the batch into two portions and colored one with the Tangerine Wow and the other with the Fizzy Lemonade.

I poured the orange and yellow soap into my mold at the same time so that none of the soap would slip under the divider and onto the other side. Once the two halves were poured, I took out the divider and squirted the green soap along the center line. Then I used my stick to do the mantra swirl on the tops.

My soap did get pretty thick on me and I worried that it would affect my final soap. Everything turned out just fine, though. Bramble Berry notes that the Heavenly Honeysuckle does accelerate a bit, but I didn't have any trouble with it when I tested it for the S.O.A.P. Panel. But then, I wasn't trying to do anything fancy then, either. When I was on the Panel, I added the FO after trace, whisked it in, watched it for a couple of minutes, and then poured it into the mold. I also suspect that my actions may have caused the soap to accelerate. Looking back, I continued to mix it for too long. When I watch the video (hey, there's a video!), I can pinpoint the moment when I should have stopped mixing. And then I watch myself grab a stickblender for one more go. Aargh. Also, this is a new recipe that I just sorta came up with and hadn't yet tested. (As a side note, it seems to make really nice soap!) I need to try this recipe a few more times before I can truly know how it behaves. I did use full water, though, and I soaped fairly cool, right around 100 degrees F. But I do think the soap may have turned out more swirly if I had poured my soap at a thinner trace.

Here's a video I made of the process. I tried something new this time, you guys. I talked my way through this video instead of relying on captions. I was shy about talking before - and I still am - because I tend to babble like a crazy person when I feel pressure to talk. Plus I don't really like my voice. But I thought I'd give this new format a shot. Whaddaya think? Do you like the talky stuff? (Oh, and make sure you stick around for the blooper at the end!)


Overall, I'm pleased with this soap. The colors are pretty and the bars smell uhmazing. I think next time I would like to try the mantra swirl with three colors side-by-side (which I can also do with my plastic dividers!) so that the middle of the bars are more interesting. That way, too, I could cut the soap horizontally and have a nice big swirl on each bar, since the swirl will be on the top and the bottom of the loaf that way. This time, since the mantra swirl was only on the top, I cut the bars in the traditional way so that each one would have a bit of the swirl on it.

I'm already thinking about a mantra swirl for the holidays ...

Have you tried the Mantra Swirl technique? What about the Taiwan Swirl? That one is on my list, too!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

S.O.A.P. Panel Update: Mystery Scents Revealed!


Think back. Way back.

Further.

Think aaaaaaaall the way back to February.

That's when I was testing fragrance oils for Bramble Berry's S.O.A.P. Panel, which gave me the opportunity - along with seven other soapers - to preview, test, and help select some new scents for Bramble Berry to carry. None of us knew what the mystery scents were or how they would behave. Our job was to try out each FO and provide feedback.

You may have been curious all of this time to know what fragrances are what, and which fragrance oils Bramble Berry chose to carry based on feedback from the S.O.A.P. panelists. I've been super curious myself!

Well, be curious no more! Here are the mystery scents revealed!

Scent #1
To me, this scent smelled like Balsam & Citrus with notes of orange and fir. It strikes me as a slightly masculine scent with a hint of sweetness. This FO was revealed to be Autumn Fig Harvest, a scent that combines apple, lemon, and ginger with earthy fig, caramel, and cinnamon. I'm happy to see that Bramble Berry is carrying this FO -  it was my third favorite of the eight S.O.A.P. Panel mystery scents.

Scent #2
Out-of-the-bottle, this scent smelled like watermelon with a hint of apple. After soaping it, I thought it smelled more of watermelon exclusively. The FO is actually Pear & Goji Berries.

Scent #3
This scent smelled like straight-up Honeysuckle to me. It sticks well and behaved beautifully for me. Turns out, it is honeysuckle! (Score one for my nose!) Bramble Berry has decided to carry Heavenly Honeysuckle, which I am thrilled about since it was my second favorite S.O.A.P. Panel scent.

The Mystery Scents
Scent #4
I thought of a green apple Jolly Rancher when I sniffed this scent. It smelled to me like sour apple with perhaps a bit of pineapple or pear. Out-of-the-bottle, it was sweet and sugary, but the sugariness seemed to mellow after soaping, allowing the sour apple to come forward. Another score for my nose, because this FO is called Apple Pickin'.


Scent #5
This scent was the only one of the bunch that I didn't care for. I thought that it was supposed to be some kind of garden scent. It had notes of grassiness and fresh dirt (two things I usually like), but it also smelled damp and musty and it kinda reminded me of canned corn. Turns out, this mystery scent is Yerba Mansa. I didn't know what that is, either. After consulting the Googles, I discovered that Yerba Mansa is an herb native to the southwestern U.S. and northwest Mexico. I tried to find out what Yerba Mansa smells like, and I read descriptors such as "musty," "pungent," "warm," "spicy," and "clean." One site said that it smelled like a combination of wild ginger and eucalyptus. I found this particular FO to be more on the musty, pungent earthy side.

Scent #6
Initially, this fragrance made me think of Sweet Tarts. It smelled sugary with clean, sharp notes of grapefruit. After soaping this FO, I thought that it smelled sweeter and more like pomegranate. If I had to name this one, I would have called it Sweet Pomegranate. It is actually Guava Citrus.

Scent #7
I thought that this scent smelled like delicate Baby Roses. The FO is Cherry Blossom, though.

Scent #8
I loooooooved this scent! It was my most favorite of all of the mystery FOs. It is a sporty, masculine scent that smelled to me like an Abercrombie & Fitch cologne. This scent is called Mahogany, and Bramble Berry has decided to carry it. Yay!

In closing, Bramble Berry is adding what happens to be my top three favorite mystery scents to their lineup - Mahogany, Heavenly Honeysuckle, and Autumn Fig Harvest.

You may remember that Bramble Berry decided to do two S.O.A.P. Panels this spring, so another group of soapers got to try more mystery fragrances. Last week, BB sent me some full-sized samples of the three scents mentioned above as well as Mandarin Oasis and Lavender & Cedar from the other S.O.A.P. Panel, which was a very nice surprise!

Once again, a big thank you to Bramble Berry for allowing me to participate on the Panel! It was lots of fun testing the mystery scents and helping BB choose which scents to include among their products. And another thank you to Bramble Berry for the generous fragrance oil samples! (And I must say an additional thank you to Brittany at BB for all of her help and support!) I am looking forward to soaping with three of my new favorite FOs, and I can't wait to try the other two scents!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Fireburst Soap

If you've been following this blog for a while, you may remember some Candy Cane soaps that I made for the holidays using the Impressionist Swirl technique. To do the Impressionist Swirl, you divide your soap into as many colors as you'd like and then use squeeze bottles to drizzle the soap into the mold.

Typically, the soap is drizzled horizontally into the mold, along the long sides, to create the Impressionist Swirl. A while back, I saw a post by the Otion Soap Blog where they did something similar to an Impressionist Swirl, but instead of squirting the soap horizontally, they squirted it vertically, making S-shapes along the short sides of the mold.

I thought I'd give that a try for this batch.

For a project like this one, you want to pick a well-behaved soap recipe and fragrance oil. For the recipe, I chose David's palm-free recipe using vegetable shortening, olive oil, coconut oil, and castor oil. (Make sure you check the label carefully on the vegetable shortening if you want a palm-free recipe. Some shortenings contain palm oil. The one I used was a blend of soybean and cottonseed oils.) To calculate the recipe, I headed over to SoapCalc to figure out the lye and water amounts. For the vegetable shortening, I selected "Crisco, old" from the Oils, Fats, and Waxes list. (For tips on which shortening to select from SoapCalc's list, see FAQ #9 on their website.)

I have been experimenting with palm-free recipes lately. I haven't settled on a favorite yet, although I have tried many that I enjoyed. I have used David's recipe once before and knew from my notes that the batter stayed nice and loose for me, which is exactly what a project like this one requires.

For the scent, I chose Bramble Berry's Energy fragrance oil. It is one of my favorites, and it has always behaved well for me.

To do the swirls (or whatever you want to call them), I used squirt bottles that I found in the baking/candymaking aisle of the craft store. After I brought the soap to a light trace - the soap needs to be emulsified, but still fluid and loose - and scented it, I divided the soap evenly among four plastic measuring cups prepped with colorant. For my colorants, I chose Bramble Berry's brick red oxide, yellow oxide, titanium dioxide, and orange mica. (BB no longer carries the orange mica, which gives me sad face.) To avoid clumping, I mixed each colorant with some liquid glycerin before adding the soap to it. After I added the soap to the measuring cups, I whisked it to mix the colors in well, and then gave it a quick buzz with the stickblender to make sure that the colors were fully incorporated, being careful not to blend too much in order to keep the soap at a very light trace.

Once the soap was colored, I poured each color into a squeeze bottle. (Tip: Be sure you snip the tips of your bottles to create a bigger opening so the soap flows more easily.)

Then, instead of squirting the soap along the long sides of the mold, I squirted the soap in a S-pattern along the short sides, alternating colors as I went. I tried to hit different spots while drizzling, going in between one color with another and covering different parts of the mold.

After a few sweeps, it's good to rotate the mold so that the colors are more evenly distributed throughout the loaf. Tap it against the countertop, too, to get rid of air bubbles. And if the soap starts to thicken in the bottle, just put your finger over the top (very important!) and give it a good shake.

When squirting the soap, I try to drizzle the same amount each time I sweep through. A good thing to do is to count to three or whatever each time so that roughly the same amount of soap is being used with each squirt.

Even though I try to evenly split the soap, it seems that I somehow always end up with more of some colors than others. And it also seems that no matter how hard I try to drizzle the same amount each time, I end up running out of one or two colors before I'm done with the batch. This time, I ran out of yellow and orange before I was completely finished. Fortunately, I was almost done, and I was able to finish off with the red and white without compromising the effect too much. Once I was done drizzling all of the soap, I took a toothpick and did a sort of herringbone swirl on the tops, dragging the toothpick just below the surface in alternating directions.

Here is a video showing how I made this batch:


I love this effect, and I really like how this batch turned out. Because the scent and colors are so lively, I decided to call this soap "Fireburst." I'm not sure if the soap gelled, as it was still very soft a week later when I cut it even with the sodium lactate that I added to the lye solution at 1.5%. I may experiment with adding some cocoa butter or something like that to the recipe to make a harder batch.

Squirting the soap vertically along the short sides of the mold creates wavy lines in the cut bars, while squirting the soap along the long sides horizontally creates more of a teardrop effect. Here is how the two compare:

Right: Impressionist Swirl (horizontally); Left: Twist on Impressionist Swirl (vertically)

Oh, and here's another tip - after I was done with the squirt bottles, I got as much soap out of them as I could and then added a couple drops of dishwashing detergent to the bottles along with some warm water. I gave each bottle a few shakes, emptied and rinsed it, and repeated until clean.

I've already tried an end piece from this batch, and it is very nice soap with lots of bubbly lather. I can't wait until it fully cures!

Have you used squirt bottles in soapmaking? What are some of your favorite ways to use them?