Sunday, December 30, 2012

Flashback 2012

I hope all of you had a wonderful holiday! My husband and I went home to Florida for Christmas and spent time with family and friends. We visited some of our favorite hangouts, caught up with people we haven't seen in a while, and just enjoyed some down time. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were full of gifts, soap, and food. And I ate. A lot.

And I got an early Christmas surprise from Bramble Berry - my Christmas Cheer soap was selected as a winner in their Make-It-Monday: Christmas Schwag challenge! I am thrilled that my soap was included among so many other gorgeous soapy creations. Thank you to Bramble Berry for choosing and featuring my soap!

It's hard to believe that 2012 is almost gone. As New Year's Day approaches, I find myself reflecting on the past year. In a lot of ways, things haven't changed much. In other ways, things have changed very much.

It's also hard to believe that I have been writing this little blog for almost a year now. I published my first post last January, hoping to share my little corner of the interwebs with other soaping enthusiasts. I am so grateful for all of the support from all of you who read this blog and follow my adventures on Facebook, Google+, and my YouTube channel.

As the year draws to a close and a new year approaches, I thought it would be fun to look back at all of the soaps that I have made and blogged about over the past year.

Left to right, from top to bottom:

Left to right, from top to bottom:


Thank you again to all of you for coming along on this adventure with me. I am so happy with how this little blog has grown, and how it has allowed me to meet so many new soapy friends. I am looking forward to seeing what the coming year will bring!

Happy New Year, everyone! Have a wonderful 2013! And happy soaping to you all ...

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Christmas Cheer Soap

Whew, the past couple of weeks have been so hectic! I've been out of town a lot lately and trying to get ready for the holidays. Over the last few days, I've been making my list and checking it twice ... to make sure that I get everything on it done before Christmas!

Every year, it seems like the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas just flies right by despite my efforts to slow it down. Sometimes I can almost hear a swooshing sound as the time rushes past me. The holidays really snuck up on me this year, though. I usually like to start shopping in October or November, and then have all of my presents wrapped as soon after Thanksgiving as I can. I put up our tree the day after Thanksgiving while my husband washes and waxes our cars (it's our goofy little tradition), and I enjoy seeing it decked out with gifts for as long as possible.

Our little Christmas tree
That didn't happen this year. The part about getting the gifts wrapped and under the tree early, I mean.

I just got most of the presents wrapped a couple of days ago, and I've still got all of my soapy gift bags to put together. I haven't even labeled the soaps yet, and you all know how long that can take. The best thing about being able to make my own soaps, though, is that it makes gifting easy. Soap for everybody, yay!

And I think everybody on my list will like this soap. I call it "Christmas Cheer," and it is scented with Rocky Mountain Christmas fragrance oil, which smells like a freshly-cut tree.

I started out by adding my fragrance oil to my cooled oils and then stickblending in the lye solution. Once I reached a light trace, I portioned off one cup of soap into three plastic measuring cups, which I had prepped by mixing my colorants with a bit of liquid glycerin. To my main batch, I added some titanium dioxide to whiten the soap. The fragrance oil has a bit of a yellowish tinge, so my soap turned out more of a creamy white than a bright white. For my other colorants, I used Bramble Berry's Gold Sparkle mica, Brick Red oxide, and Green Chrome oxide.

I poured my main white batch into my mold and then added the gold, red, and green soap. To get the teardrop effect, I poured the colored soap from high up, which allows the soap to sink well into the main base. I started by pouring some of the gold, and then the green, and then the red. Then I repeated the pattern again, alternating the colors. For the tops, I scooped out the remaining soap in alternating colors.

Here is a video showing how I made my Christmas Cheer soap:

My soap got a bit thicker than I would have liked, but it seems that the design did not suffer for it. My pours penetrated the surface of the soap nicely, and the thickness of the soap allowed me to play with texturizing the tops (which is not my strong suit). I wasn't quite sure what to expect when I cut into the soap, but I was very pleasantly surprised to see how beautiful it was inside! I am very proud of this soap and thrilled with how it turned out.

The only thing I was worried about was that maybe I had used a bit too much red oxide. When I cut into the loaf, the red dragged through the bars a bit. I cut the soap on its side to minimize the drag, but it made me think that I had overdone it with the red. After a few weeks of curing time, I tried a bar. The lather has a slightly pink tinge to it, but nothing major. I'll just have to warn everyone not to use their Dolce & Gabbana washcloths with this soap.

I'm looking forward to heading home next week and relaxing a bit before Christmas. What are you all doing for the holidays? Wherever you are and whatever you are doing, I hope that you have a wonderful time with family and friends. Merry Christmas and happy holidays, everyone!

(Oh, and remember my posts about Bramble Berry's "Givember" event thoroughout November? Well, Bramble Berry has announced the winners of the gift certificates! Congratulations to the winners!)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Fresh Snow Gradient Layer Soap

Winter is almost officially here. When I think of winter, I think of clear big-blue-sky days and clean, chilly air. I also think of snow, but mostly in a romanticized kind of way. Having lived my whole life in either Florida or Louisiana (or Hawaii, if my four-month stint there counts), I don't have much experience with snow. Sure, we get flurries from time to time and it's a super-huge deal. I've been in snow before, though. When my husband and I visited New York City in March 2007, we arrived just in time for a freak snowstorm. And we experienced more snow in Boise, ID in December 2010.

Snow can be magnificent when it first falls - powdery flakes floating all around, covering everything with a blanket of shimmering white. Colors pop like never before all around you, and the air feels crisp and clean. Those first few hours of snowfall make you grab your camera and brave the cold. Over the next couple of days, though, the snow turns gray and slushy. Walking becomes difficult as you trudge through dirty snow puddles, and driving becomes dangerous. That's when you start thinking that maybe the snow isn't so great.

Downtown Boise, ID after a snowfall, Dec. 2010
In my imagination, snowfalls are always beautiful, and the sky is always a flawless bright blue. I wanted to create a soap that captures my idea of a perfect snow day. And so I chose to do a blue-to-white gradient layer soap scented with Bramble Berry's Fresh Snow fragrance oil. (This fragrance oil soaps like a dream and behaves absolutely beautifully in cold process soap. It has a nice, slow trace that allows for plenty of time to work, and it doesn't discolor at all. It also smells fantastic, its scent reminiscent of a cold wintery day.)

The gradient layer technique is also known as the gradated, graduated, or Ombre layer technique. The goal is to create layers that become progressively lighter in color as you move from the bottom to the top of the soap. Gradient layers can be made using a single color or several colors.

If you've been following this blog for a while, you may remember my first attempt at creating gradient layers - a green-to-gold Cucumber Melon soap. Overall, I was pleased with the soap, although I wished that my layers were a bit more uniform. I had poured my layers over the back of a spoon to prevent the soap from breaking through the previous layer, but I had some break through anyway. I decided that the next time I did a gradient layer soap, I would spoon the soap batter instead of pouring it.

That's what I did for my Fresh Snow soap, and the layers did turn out much more distinct. For this soap, I used olive oil, coconut oil, sustainable palm oil, castor oil, and shea butter.

Fresh Snow soap, sprinkled with sparkly glitter
My recipe makes about 44 ounces of soap batter, so I decided to have six 6-ounce layers of blue and one 8-ounce layer of white. I added my FO to my cooled oils before adding the lye solution. Once I added the lye and stickblended the batch to a light trace, I portioned off 12 ounces of soap into a plastic measuring cup. To whiten the rest of the batch, I added some titanium dioxide (mixed with liquid glycerin), reserving some for later.

I added some ultramarine blue oxide (again, mixed with a bit of liquid glycerin) to the 12-ounce portion and then poured half of the blue soap into my mold. Then I mixed 6 ounces of the white soap into the remaining blue soap, and spooned half of that portion for my second layer. Because I added some white soap to the blue, the second layer was a shade lighter. I repeated this pattern for the first five layers, making each layer progressively lighter.

For the sixth blue layer, I added a bit of the reserved titanium dioxide to lighten the soap instead of adding more white soap. I spooned the remaining blue soap (which was very light blue by this point) into the mold and then spooned the remaining white soap on top of it. A mini whisk helped me create some texture on top of my loaf, and I finished the soap off with a sprinkling of shredded iridescent glitter to mimic freshly-fallen snow glinting in the sunlight.

Here is a video I made of the process:

When making gradient layers, it is important that the previous layer is set up enough to support the next layer. It helps to bring your soap to a medium trace and to test the previous layer by drizzling a bit of soap on top of it to make sure it doesn't sink.

I am very happy with how this soap turned out, and I like how distinct each layer is. Spooning the soap definitely worked out better than pouring over the back of a spoon this time. I think these will make beautiful Christmas gifts! (Although I may have to keep a bar for myself!)

One more thing - last call for Bramble Berry's "Givember" event, which continues through the end of November! A few weeks ago, the lovely folks at Bramble Berry sent me some supplies to try (you can read more about that here) and offered a very special treat to my blog readers. Here's how it works: Any Bramble Berry order placed during the month of November that includes the code GIVEMBER50 will get you entered into a drawing for a $50 Bramble Berry gift certificate. This code only applies to orders placed during November - don't forget to include the code during checkout! Happy shopping, and best of luck to you all in the drawing!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Sweet Pumpkin Soap (With Pumpkin Puree and Goat's Milk)

Some pumpkins I spotted in Gatlinburg, TN
When autumn arrives, it seems like I've always got pumpkin on the brain. I want to bake pumpkin pie, pumpkin cake, pumpkin cookies. I want pumpkin bisque, pumpkin-scented lotions, pumpkin lip balm.

Pumpkin soap.

With the holidays approaching, I need some soap to gift. Everyone needs soap. Everyone loves soap. Not everyone loves pumpkin, but the good thing about soap is that you don't have to eat it. In fact, you definitely should not eat it. So, even if you don't like to eat pumpkin, you'll probably like pumpkin just fine in soap.

Hopefully, you'll like it better than fine. The natural sugars in pumpkin can help boost the lather, creating a luxurious bar. And if you also add something like goat's milk (which I did in this batch), the luxury factor goes into overdrive.

To make this soap, I used olive oil, coconut oil, sustainable palm oil, shea butter, and castor oil. For my liquid, I used part goat's milk (168g) - which I measured off and froze ahead of time - and part distilled water (121g). The original recipe called for 345g of liquid (for a full water amount), but you'll notice that my liquid adds up to 289g. Because I also added 56g of pumpkin puree, I subtracted that amount from my liquids. (I used the pumpkin puree at a rate of 1 ounce, or 28g, per pound of oils.)

I used canned pumpkin for my puree. (Make sure you read the ingredients label - you want 100% pure pumpkin, not pumpkin pie filling, which has added spices and sugar.) Because I was using only 2 ounces total, I had some left over. Unless you're making a fifteen-pound batch (or using a lot more pumpkin than I did), you'll probably have some extra, too. You can freeze the leftover pumpkin for later. Or you can make Pumpkin Molasses Cookies, which is what I did.

Goat's milk is a wonderful additive in soap - it feels so creamy and the sugars in it also boost the lather. It's a good idea to freeze the goat's milk ahead of time and to soap cool so that the sugars in the milk don't scorch. I like to stir my lye solution in an ice bath to keep the temps low. The thing about goat's milk is that it can smell a little funky when the lye hits it. I've heard it described as an ammonia-type smell, but I think it sorta smells like goat cheese. Many folks find the smell unpleasant (I didn't mind too much since I absolutely adore goat's cheese), but not to worry - the smell disappears within a few days and shouldn't affect the scent of the final soap.

For the scent, I used a Sweet Pumpkin fragrance oil from Elements Bath and Body. This is my favorite pumpkin scent out of all of the pumpkin FOs I have tried so far. It is more sweet than spicy, which is why I like it so much. See, my nose is weird. I have a difficult time detecting spice notes like cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, etc. A lot of times I can't really smell pumpkin-scented candles. I once had a pumpkin and spice FO that I couldn't smell at all. Thinking that maybe the fragrance was defective, I had my friend sniff the bottle and he said, "What?! You can't smell that? It's so strong!" Funny thing is, my dad is kinda the same way. I dragged him into a Yankee Candle once and made him smell everything and he and I had trouble with a lot of the same scents. Genetics, I guess. DNA is weird wacky stuff.

Anyway, I really like this fragrance oil and everyone else seemed to like it, too, when I used it last year. The vanilla in the fragrance oil does discolor the soap, though, so it is necessary to plan accordingly. My soap went from a carrot-orange color to a dark but lovely brown.

Somewhere along the line, I saw this blog post by Amy from Great Cakes Soapworks. She uses a rubber stamp dipped in mica to embellish her soap bars. I loved this idea, and thought it was an easy way to add some pizzazz to my bars. Amy even made a YouTube video showing how she stamps the soap, and I used her method. (A big thank you to Amy for sharing her technique!) I didn't realize until I watched the video again that she and I had made very similar soaps. We both used pumpkin puree and goat's milk in our batches. When I went to make my pumpkin soap, I remembered that I had some goat's milk in the freezer and thought, Wouldn't that make this soap even nicer?

The soap about halfway through gel phase
Whether or not to gel soap is a personal choice. Lots of soapers choose to avoid gel phase so that the color remains lighter and the texture is a bit creamier. To avoid gel phase, pop the soap into the fridge or even the freezer (particularly if you're working with super-heater ingredients like milk, beer, honey, etc.). I decided to gel my soap because I like gelling my soaps. Plus, since the fragrance oil discolors the soap dark brown, I wasn't concerned about trying to keep the colors lighter.

I used my wooden log mold for this soap, and it turns out that I really didn't need to insulate this batch. With the combination of pumpkin puree, goat's milk, and the spice notes in the fragrance oil, the soap went into gel phase almost immediately. Fortunately, I was peeking at my soap and saw it going into gel phase, so I was able to take the top of the mold and the towels off before the soap overheated or cracked. (My textured tops kinda flopped, though.)

When it was time to cut the soap a couple of days later, I dipped my pumpkin stamp into some of Bramble Berry's Gold Sparkle Mica and then pressed it lightly but firmly into my fresh-cut soap. (It's important that the soap has been cut just before you do the stamping so that the mica will stick to it.)

I had some Goldilocks moments: The first try, I didn't use enough mica. The second try, I used too much. But the third try was juuuuuuust right. I discovered that it is best to get a bunch of mica onto the stamp and then tap the stamp against the countertop to get rid of the excess mica. After I cracked that code, stamping was much smoother and more uniform.

Here is a video showing how I made and stamped my Sweet Pumpkin soap:

How to clean the stamp when you're done? Get a toothbrush (new and unused, of course) and scrub the stamp under running water.

I bought a bunch of stamps. There was nothing I could do to stop this.
The stamping looks great, and I'm so glad to have a fun, easy way to adorn my soaps. I was so inspired, I raided the stamps in the dollar bin at my local craft store and bought a bunch. At that price, I couldn't afford not to! My Christmas soaps are made for this year, but next year I will have some cute holiday options!

Oh, and hey, don't forget - it's still November, so that means that it is Givember time at Bramble Berry! A few weeks ago, the lovely folks at Bramble Berry sent me some supplies to try (you can read more about that here) and offered a very special treat to my blog readers. Here's how it works: Any Bramble Berry order placed during the month of November that includes the code GIVEMBER50 will get you entered into a drawing for a $50 Bramble Berry gift certificate. This code only applies to orders placed during November - don't forget to include the code during checkout! Happy shopping, and best of luck to you all in the drawing!

Also, Thanksgiving is next Thursday and I want to wish all of you who are celebrating the holiday a very happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Black and Tan Beer Soap ... and a Surprise from Bramble Berry!

My Black and Tan Beer soap
One of my favorite soapmaking suppliers is Bramble Berry - they have just about everything a soapmaker could ever need, want, or hope to have. Although I do purchase supplies from several sources, I turn to Bramble Berry again and again as my main go-to vendor because I know I can count on great service and convenient one-stop shopping. And Anne-Marie and her team are committed to helping soap and toiletry makers not only through their products, but also through the Soap Queen blog, Soap Queen TV, Teach Soap, and the Teach Soap forum.

A couple of months ago, I got a lovely message from Kristen at Bramble Berry, telling me how much Team Bramble Berry enjoys my blog and YouTube channel. (Little ol' me? Aww, shucks!) Kristen asked me if I would be willing to pick out some Bramble Berry products gratis, give them a try, and then blog about it.
My "Givember" haul from BB

What did I say? Um ... heck yes!

I took a look at BB's Cold Process Kits and carefully considered my options. It was difficult to choose, but I settled on the Black and Tan Beer Soap Kit. It looked like a cool project, and I adore beer soap. (And I had also been coveting BB's vertical mold, which is included in the kit.)

A couple of weeks ago, I received my box of goodies. Opening the package was like opening a present. Pretty pink tissue paper and a note from Team Bramble Berry greeted me when I pulled open the box flaps. (And Bramble Berry has also offered a special treat to you, dear readers! More on that in a moment, so keep reading.)

After inspecting my new toys and sniffing my new fragrance oils, I put them away until the next opportunity to make soap.

On a quiet Sunday afternoon, I got busy on my project. I decided to follow Anne-Marie's Black and Tan Beer Soap tutorial so that my soap would turn out as fabulously as hers did. After all, I want to make Bramble Berry proud!

Black and Tan beer made with Bass and Guinness

The day before making the soap, I boiled two bottles of dark beer to cook off the alcohol (so the soap wouldn't seize), and then chilled the beer overnight in the fridge. (Some of the beer evaporates when it boils, so that is why I used two bottles. Mine were 11.2-oz. bottles.) I was able to replace nearly all of my water with beer, but I did use a little bit of distilled water to make up the difference. Using beer in a soap recipe requires a little bit of preparation in advance, but it is worth it. I love beer in soap - the natural sugars in the beer increase the lather and create a bubbly, luxurious bar.

The idea behind this soap was to create bars that resemble Black and Tan beer. You may be familiar with Black and Tans -  they are traditionally a mix of a pale ale or lager (like Bass or Harp) with a dark porter or stout (often Guinness). The stout is carefully poured over the ale. Because the stout is less dense, it floats on top of the ale. Thus, the drink is called a "Black and Tan" due to the two distinct layers of beer.

For the scent, I used Oatmeal Stout and Almond Biscotti fragrance oils, both provided by Bramble Berry. For my four-pound batch, I mixed three ounces of Oatmeal Stout with one ounce of Almond Biscotti. The scent combo smelled to me like Little Debbie Oatmeal Creme Pies. Yum! (Of course, I wanted Oatmeal Creme Pies for the rest of the day, and I still kinda want one now.)

A view inside BB's vertical mold
The vertical mold is a beautiful piece of craftsmanship. Sturdy plastic lines the inside of the wooden mold (and the plastic sides pull apart easily, as does the side of the wooden mold, for easy unmolding), and a removable plastic divider evenly splits one side from the other. The plan for this project was to pour a lighter colored soap into one side (for the tan), and a darker soap into the other (for the black).

To make my lye-beer solution, I slowly added my lye flakes to my beer, stirring constantly. Then I placed my lye pitcher in an ice bath to keep things from overheating. (The natural sugars in the beer can heat up, causing problems like scorching or lye volcanoes.) When the lye was about 105 degrees Fahrenheit, I added it to my oils, which were approximately the same temperature.

After I stickblended my soap to a light trace, I split the batch into two equal parts. To one portion, I added a heaping Tablespoon of Super Pearly White mica (which Bramble Berry also provided) and only one ounce of my fragrance oil combination to keep the soap a lighter tan color. To the other portion, I added the remaining three ounces of the fragrance combo, which will cause the soap to discolor to a dark brown.

Once I brought my soap to a medium trace, I poured the "tan" soap into one side of the vertical mold, and the "black" soap into the other. (I think next time I will try to pour both sides simultaneously because a little bit of my tan soap crept into the black soap's side near the bottom of the divider.) Once both soaps were poured, I carefully pulled the divider up out of its nook at the bottom of the mold, and then twisted it at a 25-degree angle while pulling it up and out, creating a slant through the middle of the bars.

Check out this video I made of the process:

I left the soap in the mold for about four days before unmolding it. I did use sodium lactate at about 1% (1 teaspoon per pound of oils) in this batch to not only help with unmolding, but also to create a harder and longer-lasting bar. I think the sodium lactate helped because the plastic sides pulled away from the soap very easily. It also looks like Anne-Marie's recipe creates a hard bar, too.

Sodium lactate is not an ingredient in the original recipe in the tutorial, but I like to add it to all of my batches now. The only other thing I did differently from Anne-Marie is that I used the full water amount - it looks like she did a little bit of a water discount.

When I cut the bars, one side was darker than the other. Over the next couple of days, the colors of the soap deepened, and soon one side was a medium tan and the other became a very dark brown. As of this writing, the soap is just over a week old, and I think it might darken even more as it cures.

I think that my soap turned out a lot like Anne-Marie's did, don't you? I love how it looks (and smells), and I can't wait to use a bar!

Okay, so now here's the treat for you that I alluded to earlier: During the month of November, Bramble Berry is doing a little something called "Givember" to thank their customers for their support. Included in my box of goodies was a special offer and coupon code for me to pass on to you, my wonderful blog readers! Any Bramble Berry order placed during the month of November that includes the code GIVEMBER50 will get you entered in a drawing for a $50 Bramble Berry gift certificate. This code only applies to orders placed during November - don't forget to include the code during checkout!

I want to say a big thank you again to Bramble Berry for the free goodies and for sponsoring Givember! I love the vertical mold, and see the two of us having a very happy life together. Have fun shopping, everyone, and best of luck in the drawing!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Peppermint Funnel Swirl

Peppermint is synonymous with winter and the holiday season for me. When I was a kid, my grandmother would hang candy canes on the Christmas tree. My cousin and I would scope out all of the gifts under the tree, always with candy canes hanging out of our mouths.

Another memory: When we lived near Clearwater, FL, my parents and I went to the town's Christmas parade one fiercely cold Saturday morning. We must have looked particularly miserable standing around in the freezing temperature, waiting for the parade to start, because a policeman on a motorcycle stopped and gave us a handful of round Starlight mints, saying that the peppermint would warm us up.

Both of these strong childhood memories have things in common: cold weather, Christmas, and peppermint. Nowadays, Christmas has to include not only ginger cookies but also something peppermint-y. Sometimes I make peppermint bark, peppermint cookies, peppermint cake, or peppermint brownies. I'm happy with any dessert-based medium as long as it includes peppermint.

Don't get me wrong - peppermint is also a perennial favorite. I will love peppermint anytime you put it in front of me, whether it's December or June. Peppermint is warm and soothing in the winter, and brisk and refreshing in the summer. And it's pretty darn good in the spring and autumn, too.

I love desserts and I love soap. And the two intersect quite a lot for me during the holidays. Such is the case with peppermint. No Christmas is complete without peppermint baked goods and peppermint soap.

For my peppermint soap, I wanted to do a variation of the funnel swirl. I thought it would be fun to do the funnel swirl in a round mold, so I tried out my new column mold from Bramble Berry for the first time. This mold comes with a custom liner so that unmolding the soap is a breeze. (I got my inspiration from Bramble Berry's Anne-Marie, who did a twist on the faux funnel pour technique to make her Circle Swirled Soap with the column mold.)

NOTE: If you purchase this mold, please do yourself a favor and read Bramble Berry's helpful usage tips near the end of the product description. I am embarrassed to admit that I dorked things up the first time I used the mold. Evidently, I had the liner in backwards - the edges overlapped (so I taped them together), and my liner ended up being too short for the mold (something I somehow paid attention to only after making the soap). I know, I know. You would think that either one of those things would have been a clue that I was doing something wrong. What can I say? My brain don't work too good sometimes, and Scooby-Doo isn't always around when you need him. I went back and looked at BB's description and noticed a new tip saying that the edges of the liner shouldn't overlap - if they do, flip the liner around. So I flipped it around the other way, and now the edges meet to make a perfect circle inside of the mold, and the liner sticks up out of the top a bit now. So, there is no need for tape nor is it possible to overshoot the top if the liner is placed correctly. I like to think that I would have eventually figured this out on my own, but who knows? My face is very red as I type this, but I share this with you so that you don't make the same mistake. (And also because you'll watch the video below and think, "What's the deal with the liner?") The good news is that my soap still turned out fine. But next time will be even better! Now that I know how to properly use the liner, I see myself falling in love with this mold. (Brain, you're on notice. Seriously, get it together.)

Despite having a malfunctioning noggin, I somehow managed to properly place my funnel over the top of the mold and actually make soap. (I did forget to add my sodium lactate, though, so my soap was a bit sticky. Strike two, brain.) After I made my main batch of soap - scented with Bramble Berry's Peppermint essential oil - I split the batch into three equal portions and colored one portion with brick red oxide, another with Merlot Sparkle mica, and another with titanium dioxide. Then I poured each color for a count of three through the funnel - alternating between red, white, and pink - until the soap was gone.

Here is a video I made of the process:

This pour produces bars with pretty rings of color emanating from the center, almost like a cut tree trunk. I like that no two bars look exactly the same.

Since this is my first go at round soaps, this is also my first time packaging round soaps. My bars are usually rectangular, and I just put a cigar band label around them. Cigar bands don't work so well with round soaps, so I needed to come up with something else. I had heard of soapmakers using coffee filters to wrap their round soaps in, so I gave that a shot. It worked beautifully.

Using coffee filters to package round soaps
I used regular 8-12 cup filters, and they fit around the soap perfectly. I chose white, but you could also go with the brown filters for a more earthy look.

Wrapping round bars with coffee filters is very easy: Place the soap in the middle of the filter. Pull the edge of the filter close to the bar and fold it toward the center. Keep folding the edges in, working all the way around the soap and keeping the folds taut. Once you get all of the edges folded in, secure the center with a piece of tape and carefully place your label.

I picked up some 2.5" round white labels, which also fit the soaps perfectly. (I've seen the labels in the clear and brown kraft variety, too.) I used two labels per bar, but you may be able to get all of your info on one.

I am very pleased with my Peppermint bars, and I think the packaging is cute. These will make great Christmas gifts!

How many of you are peppermint fans? What sorts of peppermint goodies (soap or otherwise) are you planning on enjoying this holiday season?

Another note: I am publishing this blog post a bit early this time because I am heading out of town for a little while. I'm not sure what kind of internet connection I'll have while I'm gone, so I may be away from Blogland for a few days. I will do my best to respond to all of your lovely comments promptly, but if I am slower than usual checking in, that's why. Thanks so much for reading, and I will pop in as often as I can during the next week and a half!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Gingersnap Swirl Soap

My Gingersnap soap
September is already almost gone, and the holidays will be here before we know it! I've been busy making some Christmas soaps for family and friends. (I hope everybody likes soap because that's what they're getting.)

It just isn't the holidays without gingerbread. Every Christmas, I insist on making ginger cookies for the family gathering and then eating almost all of them myself. I can't imagine Christmas without my ginger cookies. 

I also can't imagine Christmas without my Gingersnap soaps. Neither can my mom, who is especially fond of them. I always make sure I include them in my round-up of holiday soaps not only for her, but also because everyone seems to love gingerbread-type scents, particularly around Christmastime.

For my soap, I used Bramble Berry's Gingersnap fragrance oil. It has lots of nice spice notes, like caraway, cinnamon, and cardamom - I loooove cardamom! - with vanilla for some warmth and sweetness. It smells a lot like gingerbread to me. My nose sometimes has trouble picking up spicy fragrances (I can almost never detect pumpkin spice-type scents), but I can smell this one pretty well. My mom says that it is super-yummy, strong, and true-to-scent, so I defer to her nose's judgment. I guess my nose is just silly.

Last year's Gingersnap soap. Meh.

I admit that I am not super-thrilled with how this soap turned out. It was much prettier in my mind's eye. I think it is an improvement over last year's Gingersnap soap, though, and I hope next year's will be even better.

Last year, I attempted to dollop some gold soap on top to make swirly peaks. The peaks didn't quite work out, though, and the gold didn't really come through. (I still have the hardest time with texturized peaks. It seems like they should be easy to make, but I can never seem to do it.)

This year, I decided to use my slab mold and to swirl some gold soap on top of my bars. I think I held back too much soap for the swirling, though. I'm always afraid of not holding back enough, so I end up with too much. And I poured the gold soap in too-thick lines. I think a squeeze bottle would have been cleaner and given me much more control. And I think white would have been a better choice for the swirls - white would have provided greater contrast than gold.

But other than all of that, the soaps turned out fine!

Here is a video of me making my Gingersnap soap:

Next year, I may just make a loaf soap with a couple of gold or white mica pencil lines running through it. Or I could use cookie cut-outs to make little gingerbread men. Or I could make some embeds for my soap, although I usually shy away from embeds because of the extra work involved.

The vanilla in the fragrance oil discolors the soap, so I left my swirling soap unscented. It was neat to watch the soap change from a golden color to a dark brown over the next couple of weeks.

Gingersnap and gingerbread scents seem to be really popular around the holidays. (No doubt why - they're yummy!) How many of you are planning to make, buy, or hopefully receive gingerbread-type soaps and toiletries this holiday season?

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Hot Cocoa Swirl Soap

My Hot Cocoa soap
Autumn is almost here. Soon the mercilessly hot days of summer will turn cooler, and the outdoors will once again become a place that I actually want to go to. A crispness will float in the breeze, leaves will change color, and windows will be flung open.

I have always relished that first day after a long, oppressive summer when it is cool enough to open up the house. I can still remember one particular afternoon when I was about ten years old and doing my homework at the kitchen counter next to the open windows, feeling the cool October air on my skin. The wind chimes outside clinked in the breeze. The air felt different, charged. It even smelled different, sweet and slightly spicy. That day sticks with me because the sensations were so rich and intense. It was a perfect autumn day, and I never wanted it to end.

Those are the kind of days that make me want to cozy up under a blanket with a cup of hot chocolate. They signal that the holidays are coming soon with their pumpkin pies, gingerbread cookies, candy canes, and fresh-cut Christmas trees. Even the air carries a cold, clean, energizing scent.

Ah, autumn! I took this photo at Blue Ridge, GA in Oct. 2009
And these are the experiences that now inspire my soapmaking. Every August, I look forward to the end of summer and the beginning of the approaching season. And I start to think about the holidays and what kinds of soaps I want to make for gifts. I try to get going on the holidays by late summer so I have plenty of time to make all of my different soaps and allow them a nice, long cure.

Everyone in my family knows that they are getting a bunch of soap from me for Christmas. Each year, I have some perennial favorites - like Sweet Pumpkin, Gingersnap, and Peppermint - that I usually make. And I also try to work in a couple of new scents to keep things interesting for everyone. This year I'm planning to make a Fresh Snow soap.

And I just made a Hot Cocoa soap. After all, who doesn't love a steaming mug of hot cocoa with a dollop of whipped cream on a cold wintery night?

For the scent, I used Bramble Berry's Hot Cocoa fragrance oil. It smells just like the real thing! The whole house smelled like hot chocolate for days, which is not a bad thing at all.

Here is a video of the making of my Hot Cocoa soap:

This is also the first batch that I made using sodium lactate, which I added to the cooled lye solution at 1% (roughly 1 teaspoon per pound of oils). Sodium lactate is a liquid salt of lactic acid, and it helps harden soap so that it lasts longer. It also is a natural humectant.

To make the soap, I brought my batch to a thin trace and then separated out a little bit of soap into another container. (I poured off about a cup and a half from a batch made with two pounds of oils.) I colored this small portion of soap with titanium dioxide and left it unscented since the fragrance oil discolors dark brown. Then I whisked the fragrance oil into the rest of the soap. (I used .8 ounces of fragrance per pound of oils and the scent was plenty strong.) I didn't bother with coloring the scented portion since the fragrance oil naturally goes brown due to the vanilla.

My pink Hot Cocoa soap. Don't worry, it quickly goes brown!
Here's something interesting - when I whisked the fragrance oil into the soap, it began to darken immediately. I was expecting it to turn brown, but it turned a dusky pink instead! I was a bit worried at first, but by the next day the pink had given way to a caramel-brown color. The day after that, the soap was well on its way to a gorgeous chocolate brown.

I poured a bit of my white soap into my scented soap and gave it a quick stir to make an in-the-pot swirl. I should have made my swirl at a thinner trace, but I nearly plumb forgot to do the swirl at all! I managed the swirl even though my soap was at medium trace, and I ended up with pretty little wisps of white in the chocolate-colored portion.

I texturized the top of the scented layer and then spooned a layer of white on top of it. Then I created some texture on top of the white layer to mimic peaks of whipped cream. I topped the whole thing off with a sprinkling of cocoa powder.

I must say that I am very happy with how these soaps turned out! These will make lovely holiday gifts. (And I'll be making more holiday soaps over the next few weeks, too, so stay tuned.)

What types of soaps are you all making or buying for the holiday season? What scents do you like during autumn and winter?

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Meeting a Soapy Friend

Rainbow Sherbet and Raspberry Violet by Glad Heart Soaps

Isn't technology great? Through the magic of The Online, I have met many new soapmaker friends via forums and Facebook. Most of my soapy friends are virtual friends that I may never actually meet face-to face. But it can be a small world out there sometimes, and you may find that your virtual friends are closer than you realize.

And that is how, a couple of days ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Laura from Glad Heart Soaps in person. We first met online at the Teach Soap forum. Then I followed Laura's Facebook Page, and she followed mine. After chatting with each other a bit on our Pages, we became official Facebook friends.

It turns out, Laura and I live about 100 miles away from each other. Recently, she was planning a visit to my neck of the woods and contacted me to arrange a rendezvous. Last Friday, we met up for lunch to talk soap (and other things). We also swapped some soapy gifts. Laura brought me bars of her Rainbow Sherbet and Raspberry Violet soaps, as well as samples of Iced Tea, Peach Smoothie, Mojito, and Raspberry Lemonade. She also gave me samples from several of her other soaps and a gorgeous washcloth that her mother knitted. Her soaps look as beautiful as they smell, and I am sure that they will be a treat to use! I gave Laura a couple of bars of my Wasabi and Carrot, Orange, and Ginger soaps. I wish that I had brought more for her!

Soapy samples: Laura's Raspberry Lemonade, Peach Smoothie, Mojito, and Iced Tea
As you may know, Laura was selected to be a tester for Bramble Berry's S.O.A.P. Panel mystery fragrances. As a panel member, she received ten unidentified fragrance oils from Bramble Berry and was asked to soap with the scents, document her experience, and provide feedback on how the fragrances smell and behave. Laura brought the mystery fragrances to lunch, along with some samples of the soaps she had made so far. I had the opportunity to sniff each fragrance out of the bottle as well as in the soap.

So there we sat in our little booth at a crowded restaurant, sniffing from mysterious-looking amber glass bottles and taking notes. That's not weird at all, right?

It's very interesting to smell fragrances when you don't know what said fragrance is supposed to be. When you get a fragrance oil that is labeled "Brown Sugar & Fig," for example, you sniff it and think, "Ah, of course that's brown sugar and figs." But when you don't know what you're supposed to be smelling, your brain tosses a bunch of strange ideas around, leaving you confused.

Me and Laura
There were many scents that we sorta agreed on, but it seemed like we rarely both interpreted a fragrance in quite the same way. A couple of times we both had very different first impressions of the same scent. For example, there was one scent that Laura described in her notes as being holiday-like with notes of menthol and evergreen. I took a whiff and confidently proclaimed, "Pink bubblegum"! Another one I smelled as a citrusy, orange-tangerine fragrance; Laura thought it was more of a green or Fresh Snow-type scent. We both agreed that one smelled like a pear tart, though. To see more of both my and Laura's first impressions of the S.O.A.P. panel fragrances, head over to Laura's blog and read about our fun afternoon together!

And while you're at it, please check out Laura's Etsy shop, and follow the Glad Heart Soaps blog and Facebook Page!

Thank you again to Laura for a wonderful afternoon and the soapy gifts! I love trying out other people's soaps, and I can't wait to try hers. And I am also anxiously awaiting Bramble Berry's official unveiling of the S.O.A.P. Panel fragrances, especially after having the rare opportunity to sniff them myself!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

How to Line a Wooden Soap Mold

Wooden molds are great. They're sturdy, they insulate the soap so it goes through gel phase, and they allow you to make uniform, perfectly shaped bars in volume.

What's not to like?

Lining them, that's what.

See, if you pour soap into a wooden mold without lining it, the soap can leak everywhere. And what doesn't leak out will be stuck like cement in the mold. And the lye will eat away at the wood, destroying the mold. And then you will go insane.

And so, to avoid going insane, it is necessary to line your mold with something. Most soapmakers go with freezer paper.

Freezer paper has a lot going for it: It is also sturdy, it's cheap, and it makes unmolding a breeze. Soap doesn't stick to freezer paper because the paper is coated on one side with plastic. (So make sure the freezer paper is shiny-side-up in your mold.) When it comes time to unmold the soap, just lift or slide it out of the mold, peel the paper away, and start cutting. (If you use a slab mold with dividers, you won't even need to cut the soap!)

What's not to like?

Making the liner, that's what.

The good news is that once you get the hang of making liners, it doesn't take that much extra time. And you can even make a bunch of liners ahead of time, like when you're sitting on the couch watching "Hell's Kitchen."

Here's even better news: It is possible to make a liner with one sheet of freezer paper. And the liner is totally leak-proof.

Sound good?

Here's how I do it. I found this technique in the book Basic Soapmaking: All the Skills and Tools You Need to Get Started by Elizabeth Letcavage and Patsy Buck. As I've mentioned, this is one of my favorite soapmaking books. It is full of color photos guiding the reader step-by-step through the soapmaking process and I highly recommend it, especially for folks who are just starting out with cold process soapmaking.

Basically, you need to find out both the length and the width of the bottom of your mold, and the height of the sides.Then you can measure out a sheet of freezer paper based on those dimensions. After that, you can figure out where you need to make your folds on your liner so that it fits perfectly inside the mold. It's not as difficult as it sounds. Trust me, if I can do it, you can do it, too.

It is far easier to show how to make a liner than it is to tell, so I made a video of the process. And you will finally get to hear me speak, if you've been waiting for that sort of thing. I normally don't talk in my videos because video editing is easier if I don't have to worry about maintaining a narrative. I can just chop up the video and add captions. Also, I don't really like the sound of my voice. Plus, I tend to babble like a psycho. Anyway, here's the video:

Here's a tip: Once you make a liner that fits, save it as a template. That way, when it comes time to make another liner, all you have to do is tear off a piece of freezer paper, lay it on top of your template, and trace the lines without having to figure everything out again. Big time saver.

Of course, there are ways around the freezer paper liner. I have heard of soapmakers making their own silicone liners for their molds so that they never have to make a liner again, but I am just not that handy. And I suppose you can buy silicone liners for specific molds or have one custom-made.

And if you don't want to mess around with liners at all, you can try an acrylic mold. I have an acrylic slab mold from Soap Making Resource that I love. And you don't have to line it, for reals. (Soap Making Resource also has acrylic log molds.)

Silicone molds are also great for soapmaking and they don't need liners either.

What do you all use? Have you made a silicone liner, or had one made for you? Or do you just use freezer paper? Do you line your mold with something else? Or have you made the switch to acrylic or silicone molds?

Monday, August 6, 2012

Tomato Leaf Soap

As I've mentioned before, I have too many fragrance and essential oils. But I keep buying more. You know how it is - you need some lye and maybe some soapmaking oils and you think, "Well, since I'm putting in an order, I may as well get some more of Fragrance X and ooh, look, I've been wanting to try Fragrance Y, and one of my buddies said that Fragrance Z was uhmazing ..."

And the next thing you know, you have half a dozen fragrance oils in your shopping cart, and that's if you're displaying any kind of restraint.

And that is how I came to acquire some of Bramble Berry's Tomato Leaf fragrance oil a couple of months ago. (Along with a few other fragrance oils, too, of course.) I had heard so many great things about it, and with spring nearly gone and summer approaching, I was in the mood to try something garden-y. And I figured I had better get around to soaping with it soon before autumn and Christmas make me forget all about Tomato Leaf until next year.

Mind you, I am not a gardener, but the idea of having a garden appeals to me very much. I might consider having a garden if I didn't have an enormous talent for immediately killing any and all forms of plant life. I am truly impressive when it comes to swiftly murdering plants. Gifted, really. I'm not bragging. I always feel terrible whenever a plant expires under my "care," and it always does, even when I try really hard to keep it alive. I even somehow managed to dispatch not one but two cactus plants to their untimely deaths.

Really. I don't know how either.

With that kind of track record, I don't think I can be trusted with even a window box herb garden. The poor thing would be doomed.

Also, I would have to get over my inability to tolerate heat in order to be a gardener. I hate being hot. And I would also need a yard for a proper garden, and I don't like yard work.

A garden actually sounds like a terrible idea for someone like me. I think I'll stick to soap.

Burgundy and green oxides, mixed with a bit of glycerin
When I first sniffed the Tomato Leaf fragrance oil, I was transported back to my grandmother's little tomato and green bean garden that ran alongside her house. The fragrance oil smelled just like I remember the tops of the tomatoes smelling right after we snapped them from the vine. Very green and herbaceous. I immediately thought that I wanted to do a red and green layered soap with a gold mica line running between the two layers.

For the red portion of my soap, I opted for Bramble Berry's burgundy oxide, and their green chrome oxide for the green. I also used their Gold Sparkle mica for the mica line.

I added my fragrance oil to the cooled base oils before adding the lye solution and then split the batch after reaching trace. I poured off one-third of the batter into another bowl, leaving two-thirds behind in my original bowl. Then I added the burgundy oxide to the two-thirds portion, and the green to the bowl with one-third of the soap. The goal was to make the soap look sorta like a tomato - well, a rectangular tomato, I guess - with most of it being red with a bit of green on top to represent the leaves. I figured the mica line would add some interest and contrast.

To build the layers, I poured the burgundy soap at a medium-thick trace, dusted the red layer with the gold mica (using a tea strainer), and then poured the green soap at thick trace over the back of a spoon to cover the mica line. (Tip: Wipe your mold clean after pouring the first layer of soap, and wipe it clean again after dusting the mica line so you don't have any errant soap or mica all over the sides of your bars.)

Here's a video I made of the process. I also share a little trick for cutting the soap so that the mica line doesn't drag down through the bars - cut the soap on its side! (This trick also works great if you have herbs, oats, seeds, or any other sort of additives on the tops of your bars):

Overall, I am very pleased with how this soap turned out. I was trying to get some texture on top of the red layer so that my mica line would be a bit uneven. I like how the line is a little crooked, but I think I could have gotten a more interesting line if my soap had been brought to a thicker trace. I like the texture that my mini whisk gave the top of the green layer - it looks almost like the veins that run through leaves!

In the finished bars, the Tomato Leaf fragrance is a soft, delicate leafy scent with a touch of sweetness. It would be lovely in a gardener's cornmeal scrub soap, too. Or maybe a soap made with tomato juice or puree.

What are some of your favorite spring and summer soap scents?

Monday, July 23, 2012

Favorite Soapmaking Books ... and More

Whether you're a brand-new soapmaker or a seasoned pro, it's likely that one thing you can't get enough of is soaping books.

As an excited newbie soapmaker, I went in search of every soaping book in existence. (And I bought most of them, too.) Now that I'm nearly four years into my soapmaking journey, I've amassed quite a stash of books. And when I hear about a new soap book, I have to check it out. The great thing about this hobby is that I feel like I am constantly learning and getting new ideas. There is never a shortage of information or inspiration in the soapmaking community.

A lot of my soapmaking knowledge comes from books, but books are just the tip of the iceberg. There are so many other helpful resources - websites, blogs, YouTube channels, and online forums - that I have found along the way, and I keep finding new ones all the time.

So, here a few of my favorite books that soapmakers of all levels will enjoy:

by Marie Browning 
This was the very first soapmaking book I ever purchased. A conversation with a friend who was reminiscing about a bar of glycerin soap he had bought for me for Christmas years earlier got me curious about making soap at home. I went to my local bookstore and was lucky enough to find this book on the shelf. Gorgeous color photos adorn nearly every page, and Browning gives great overviews of the craft and various techniques of melt-and-pour soapmaking.

Soapylove: Squeaky-Clean Projects Using Melt and Pour Soap
by Debbie Chialtas
Most folks in the soaping community know Debbie Chialtas - she is a rock star in the world of glycerin soaping and she runs the very successful Soapylove enterprise. This book is super user-friendly, and it is also a treat for the eyes. Chialtas walks readers through 25 melt-and-pour projects, and each tutorial is accompanied by plenty of color photos so that even the newest soap crafter feels empowered to give it a go. Every project is bright, fun, and a work of art.

The Everything Soapmaking Book
by Alicia Grosso
This book provides a great overview of various soapmaking techniques, including cold process, hot process, melt-and-pour (or soap-casting), handmilling, and making liquid, transparent, and cream soaps. Grosso provides several recipes for each method, and she also covers basics like equipment, additives, fragrance and essential oils, and color. She also briefly touches on packaging and starting a soap business.

The Soapmaker's Companion
by Susan Miller Cavitch
The subtitle of this book is "A Comprehensive Guide with Recipes, Techniques, & Know-How," and it certainly is that. Cavitch's book delves deeply into the cold process soapmaking method. In Part I, readers are treated to more than 30 recipes as well as an in-depth view of the basics. Cavitch provides step-by-step soapmaking instructions and explores oils and their properties, natural colorants, and fragrance; she also gives troubleshooting tips and answers to more than forty common soapmaking questions. Part II explores the science and chemistry of soapmaking, explaining everything from SAP values to saponification at the atomic level. Finally, Part III offers advice on starting a soap business and connecting with the soapmaking community.

Smart Soapmaking
by Anne L. Watson
Before I made my first batch of cold-process soap, I read through a bunch of books, blogs, and websites, and, quite frankly, my head was spinning. And then I found this handy little book. In it, Watson demystifies soapmaking, boiling the process down to the key need-to-know facts, which was reassuring and empowering. Instead of feeling overwhelmed with information, I felt like I had a solid road map to see me through my first batch. In simple but precise terms, Watson explains what soap is and how to make it. She offers clear step-by-step instructions and some of her favorite recipes, and she also answers some frequently asked questions and dispels some common soapmaking myths. If you are interested in making milk soaps, I recommend checking out Watson's Milk Soapmaking, which is laid out in a similar format.

Basic Soapmaking: All the Skills and Tools You Need to Get Started
by Elizabeth Letcavage and Patsy Buck
I love this book because it offers clear, simple instructions for the cold process method of soapmaking, and it also has tons of color photos. I am very much a visual learner and I found it so helpful to have a photograph of each step of the process. This book covers basic equipment and ingredients, making cold process soap, additives, rebatching, and packaging. There is even a section devoted to making your own soap molds, liners, and cutters.

Essentially Soap: The Elegant Art of Handmade Soap
by Dr. Robert S. McDaniel
This is one of soapmaking's quintessential books. Dr. McDaniel has his PhD in organic chemistry, and for many years he worked in the field of emulsifiers and detergents. He eventually took up soapmaking and, after much experimentation and conversation with other soapmakers, the book "Essentially Soap" was born. McDaniel explores the chemistry of saponification and includes discussions about INS calculations and SAP values. He also gives instructions for making soap, troubleshooting, and using fragrance and essential oils. More than 25 recipes are also included, and the book is full of color photos. It appears that my copy of "Essentially Soap" is no longer in print - I bought my 2000 edition used online. However, Soap Maker's Workshop by Robert S. and Katherine J. McDaniel was published in 2010 and it appears to be an updated version of "Essentially Soap." (And it comes with a 30-minute instructional DVD, too!)

The Directory of Essential Oils 
by Wanda Sellar
Although this book is not specifically geared toward soapmaking, it does give an excellent overview of more than 80 essential oils. Entries are arranged alphabetically, and each entry offers information about the aroma, properties, and precautions of the essential oil. Sellar also provides insight into the history and folklore of each oil as well as scent blend suggestions. This is a wonderful resource for learning more about essential oils and for getting new ideas about how to use them.

The Art of Soap
Edited by Debbie Chialtas
If you want to drool over some gorgeous soaps made by gifted artisans, spend some time with this book. Debbie Chialtas (the aforementioned owner of Soapylove) edited and published this book, and Erin Pikor (owner of Naiad Soap Arts) took its stunning photos. "The Art of Soap" features the work of 24 soapmakers from around the globe, and each profile includes personal stories and color photos. (If you keep up with the soaping world, you will probably recognize some of the featured soapmakers.) This book is breath-takingly inspiring and a must-read for any soap enthusiast.

Of course, the World Wide Interwebs offers lots of information, too. I would be remiss if I did not mention some of my favorite online resources:

Teach Soap
This website is owned by Bramble Berry and offers tips and tutorials for making soaps and other toiletries. Make sure you also check out the Teach Soap forum to connect with other soapmakers around the world. (And don't forget to visit Bramble Berry's website for tons of fun supplies!)

Soap Queen TV
Anne-Marie from Bramble Berry hosts these fun and informative videos about making soap and other bath-and-body items. (Check out Anne-Marie's Soap Queen blog, too.)

Talk Soap Forum
Steve from Soap Making Resource created this forum to allow soapmakers from all over to connect with each other. (Also drop by Soap Making Resource's website for some great supplies, tutorials, and recipes.)

The Soap Scent Review Board
Ever wish you could research a fragrance or essential oil before using it to see if it has any "issues"? Then get yourself registered here at this board! Members offer reviews based on their experiences with fragrance/essential oils from various vendors, whether they be good or bad.

And, of course, I follow a long list of blogs created by fellow soapmakers. Blogs are wonderful for meeting other soapers, learning new techniques, and gaining inspiration. Check out the sidebar of my blog to see more of my favorite soapy blogs, links, and suppliers.

These are just a few of my favorite soapmaking books and resources. What are some of yours?