Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Carrot, Orange, and Ginger Soup (I Mean, Soap!)

My Carrot, Orange, and Ginger soap
Sometimes I'm in the mood to attempt something very ambitious with my soapmaking. A six-colored swirled soap, maybe, or a layered masterpiece. A funnel swirl or an embed soap. Salt bars. A soap made with goat's milk and beer.

This was not one of those times. This time, all I wanted was a simple, comforting, soul-soothing soap with a leisurely, luxurious trace. A single-pour soap, with an amazing fragrance blend.

I still wanted it to have some personality, though. One day, as I was staring into my fridge (you gotta keep your eye on those things, you know), I realized that I had a bunch of carrot juice that I would never drink. So, I decided to make a soap with carrot juice in place of the water.

What fragrance would go with carrot juice, though?

I have a Tomato Leaf fragrance oil. Carrots and tomatoes? Maybe. The soap will probably turn out bright orange ... ginger! What would go well with ginger? Lemongrass? Yes, lemongrass!

Ginger and lemongrass it was. But something kept nagging at me.
Pouring soap into mold

Carrots and ginger, carrots and ginger ... where have I heard that before?

And then it hit me - I sometimes make a carrot, ginger, and ORANGE soup!

Yes! Carrots, orange, and ginger! In a soap this time instead of a soup!

So, ginger and orange it was.

And to make things interesting, I decided to go with textured tops and a light sprinkling of mica.

I settled on one of my favorite recipes of olive, coconut, sustainable palm, and avocado oils. (I so adore avocado oil in soap!) As I expected, the carrot juice gave the finished soap a gorgeous, rich orange color.

For my fragrance blend, I chose Bramble Berry's Orange essential oil (10x) and Majestic Mountain Sage's Ginger fragrance oil. I used them in almost equal proportions, opting for just a bit more orange than ginger.

After stickblending to a glorious medium-thick trace, I poured the batch into my lined soap mold and then waited a few minutes before manipulating with the tops with a spoon, letting the soap set up some so it would hold the peaks. I just sorta scooped my spoon into the batter a bit and then let the soap plop back down onto the surface. And once I started scooping and plopping, it was difficult to stop. I really think I could have made an afternoon of it. After much fiddling, I was finally happy with the tops, although I wish my peaks had a bit more oomph.

Using spoon to make peaks (l); mica dusting (r)
Then I used my tea strainer to sift some Copper Sparkle mica onto the tops, much like I did with my pencil line soap.

I love how this soap looks, and the scent is amazing. A bit sweet and citrusy, and a bit warm and spicy. Ginger is such a wonderful fragrance - I will have to play with more blends. I still think ginger and lemongrass would be nice together, as would ginger and peppermint.

And I am curious to see how the carrot juice contributes to the soap. I would think that the natural sugars in the carrots should boost the lather. I have to let the soap cure for a few more weeks before I can use it, though!

Have you ever used carrot juice in your soaps, or used a soap that contained carrot juice? What kinds of fruit or vegetable juices do you like in your soaps? How has food inspired your soapmaking?

Monday, June 4, 2012

Cucumber Melon Gradient Soap

My Cucumber Melon gradient layer soap
One soapmaking technique that I've really been wanting to try is making gradient layers. I've also heard them called gradated and graduated layers - I don't know which one is correct. Perhaps they all are. Anyway, the idea is to have a color gradually change from dark to light with each progressive layer. Of course, you can use more than one color for gradient layers, too.

I had seen the technique many times, but never tried it. The first time I saw it was on Anne-Marie's Soap Queen blog. When Anne-Marie posted this tutorial, I had just started my journey into cold-process soapmaking and didn't feel up to the task. I vowed to try gradient layers someday when I had more experience, though.

Sometime later I saw this very helpful YouTube video about making an Ombre layer soap (which is yet another name for this technique) that one of my forum friends, Emily from Shieh Design Studio, created. (I like her method very much and borrowed from it to make my own soap.)

When Amy Warden from Great Cakes Soapworks recently coordinated a weekly soap challenge that included a gradient layer challenge, I decided to finally give it a try. I didn't get my soap done in time to participate, but I followed the weekly challenges closely and was inspired by all of the beautiful soaps created by such talented soapmakers.

For my gradient soap, I decided to use a Cucumber Melon fragrance oil from Elements Bath and Body. (I would link to the fragrance oil, but as of this writing it appears that Elements is no longer carrying Cucumber Melon, which is a shame because it behaves beautifully in CP soap and it smells wonderful.) This fragrance is one of my dad's favorites, so I wanted to make a batch to share with him. (Father's Day is right around the corner!) For my colorants, I chose Bramble Berry's green chrome oxide and gold sparkle mica.

I made my main batch of soap and added the fragrance oil to my base oils before adding the lye solution. Then I portioned the soap off after I brought the main batch to trace. I wanted mostly green layers with a little bit of gold on the top. For my batch size (which was 2 pounds of oils), I started with 2 cups of green soap. I poured one cup of the green soap into my mold and then added another cup of uncolored soap to the remaining green soap, lightening it. I repeated this process two more times, each time getting the soap a lighter shade of green.

For the gold layers, I wanted the opposite effect - I wanted my layers to start out lighter and gradually get darker. So, I poured off a half-cup of soap and colored it white with some titanium dioxide, and then colored the rest of my main batch gold. Then I added a half-cup of gold soap to the white and poured a half-cup from that portion into my mold. Using that process, I made two more gold layers, each one a bit darker than the last.

Here is a video I made of the process:

Overall, I was very pleased with how my soap turned out. I was hoping that my layers would be more distinct and the lines a little straighter. Perhaps my early layers should have been at a thicker trace, and maybe I should have poured with a bit more care. I did pour over the back of a spoon to prevent the soap from breaking through the layer below it, but I still may have been a bit sloppy. I still think it looks cool even if the layers are dipping into each other a bit, though.

I am looking forward to trying this technique again. Next time, I think it might be neat to do a gradient that goes from blue to green to yellow, or red to orange to yellow. And, of course, the single-color layers are gorgeous, too.

What do you think of gradient layers? Do you like the look? Have you made gradient layer soaps? What are your favorite color schemes?