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?

Friday, July 6, 2012

Wasabi Spoon Swirl

My Wasabi spoon swirl soap
There are so many fantastic soapmaking techniques out there. Some of them I have tried, others I have not. One of my favorite techniques is the spoon swirl.

You may remember hearing about it, or, if you are a soapmaker, you may have tried it. I first heard about the spoon swirl last summer when I saw this YouTube video by Ka Fée of Soap Session.

To do a spoon swirl, at least two colors of soap are needed. Basically, soap is drizzled into a mold by the spoonful, alternating colors, until the mold is filled. It can take a good long while to spoon out all of the soap, but the effects are totally worth the effort. It is crucial to know your recipe and fragrance or essential oils well when attempting a spoon swirl. Both the recipe and the fragrance must be well-behaved in order to allow enough time to work. This is the time for tried-and-true soap recipes and fragrance/essential oils that won't accelerate, rice, or seize.

For my spoon swirl soap, I chose a simple recipe of olive, coconut, sustainable palm, and castor oils. I used Bramble Berry's Wasabi fragrance oil, which is one of my favorite fragrances not only because it smells divine, but also because it behaves beautifully in CP soap.

I made my main batch by adding my fragrance oil to my soapmaking oils and then adding my lye solution to my oils. After reaching very light trace (when the oils were just emulsified), I split my batch into two equal portions. I colored one portion with titanium dioxide, and the other with hydrated chrome green oxide. Before adding the colorants to my soap, I mixed each with a bit of liquid glycerin to work out any clumps.

Various stages of soap drizzles
And then I began spooning my soap into my mold. (Here's a tip: If you are using metal spoons, please ensure that they are STAINLESS STEEL. Lye will react very badly with other metals.) I like to stick to a rhythm of four spoonfuls of one color and four spoonfuls of the next, alternating back and forth between the colors.

As the mold fills up, it is helpful to bang it on the countertop and give it a shake every once in a while to get rid of air bubbles.

Here is a video I made of the process:

It is a bit of a project, but a fun one at that. And the effects achieved by the spoon swirl technique are always unique and whimsical.

This is the second time I have done the spoon swirl. The first time I even used the same fragrance and colors. I loved the look and the scent of the soap so much, that I had to make another batch after the first one was gone! Wasabi is one of my all-time favorite fragrance oils, and I knew it would give me a nice, slow trace so I could recreate my first Wasabi spoon swirl, which still remains as one of my soaps that I am most proud of.

My first Wasabi spoon swirl soap (l) made Aug. 2011, and my second Wasabi spoon swirl (r) made June 2012.  I apparently used more of the colorants in the first soap - and better lighting.

Are you a fan of the spoon swirl? Do you like the look? Have you ever tried the technique yourself?