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!

30 comments:

  1. It came out just great! The layers are distinct, but you did enough layers that it's a gradual change, too. I think the technique is beautiful and fun (but only with tried and tested fragrance!). Isn't that fragrance incredible?

    I've spent nearly my whole life in snowy parts of the country and I hope I always will. It can be messy, but it's still prettier than winter brown to me. Hope you're having a good winter so far!

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    1. Thank you, Amy! The gradient layer is a fun technique. It is important to use a well-behaved fragrance oil, though! BB's Fresh Snow is a dream FO - it was perfect for this sort of project. I would kind of like to live somewhere where it snows. I'd have to adjust to the challenges that snow sometimes brings, but I think it would be a nice change of pace. It would be nice to have a white Christmas. Sometimes in the South it's muggy and warm at Christmastime, and I don't like that. Plus, I would gladly trade our oppressive summers for snowy winters!

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  2. I grew up in Michigan with lots and lots of snow, and now living in Washington, I miss it! This soap makes me nostalgic. You really nailed it!

    I also love that your layers aren't pin-perfect straight. They look like softly wind-blown snowbanks.

    -Elizabeth

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    1. Thanks for your comments, Elizabeth! I'm glad that you like the soap. You're right - the layers look a lot like snowbanks. I've never lived in snow, I've experienced it only briefly. I'd kind of like to live somewhere where it snows. It would be neat to experience something new, and I'd like to get a break from our hot summers in the South!

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  3. Snowfall at the Ocean! That's how I see this soap,that's what first came into my mind! And considering that it happens really rarely,makes this soap more special.
    Fresh,chilly,clean, as if you were using the first snow to wash up!

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    1. Thanks, Diva Soap! I hadn't thought of it, but snow falling at the ocean is a beautiful visual, too. Or maybe snow falling on a lake. Thank you for the kind words!

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    2. It's Maja, Jenny,you can call me my real name,but lately I've been replying from my blog's account.
      Glad you liked my idea!

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    3. Oh, hi, Maja! I didn't realize that was you. I will try to remember in the future. Thanks! :D

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  4. Yes, like Elizabeth said. Looks like snow drifts. The kind that used to keep me home from my night shift as a nurse but now doesn't since I work at home full time on our farm. There is no escape. Back to your soap. Vundabar!

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    1. Hi, Donna! Thanks for your comments. It does look like snow drifts. I imagine running a farm and making soap keeps you very busy. Sounds like it is rewarding work, though!

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  5. Very pretty -- just looks cool, crisp, and clean. (The glitter is a nice touch, too!)

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    1. Thanks, Mom! The fragrance is very crisp and clean, and I think the colors and theme go well with it. I like the glitter, too - it's like snowflakes glistening in the sun.

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  6. That's so pretty Jenny, that must have been so fun to cut and see the inside! I love the sprinkling of glitter on top, it's the perfect touch :)

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    1. Thank you, Cee Gee! It's always so much fun to cut into a loaf. I still get a little nervous sometimes when I make that first cut. Sometimes I'm surprised by how well things turn out. I was afraid that I had messed this one up by fiddling with the top white layer too much. I was trying to get some peaks, but settled on just dotting the top with the whisk. I was afraid I had dipped into the blue layers below, but it turned out fine!

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  7. Really beautiful soap, you did a grate job!

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  8. Love that purple-blue colour, Jenny! This technique is one of my favourites, I love to see the colour changing! And the glitter on top...so snowy!

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    1. Thanks, Natalia! I really like how the blue oxide turns out, too. The layering went better this time spooning instead of pouring. I'm really happy with how this soap looks!

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  9. That's a really lovely soap, and I love the BB fresh snow fragrance. I just used it in a soap that didn't turn out how I planned, but I think I like it maybe even a little better than my original idea.

    You have great ideas and gorgeous soaps!

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    1. Thank you so much, Chrissy! I love BB's Fresh Snow FO - it smells great, doesn't discolor, and behaves beautifully in CP soap. And isn't it a wonderful surprise when things work out better than you had originally planned? I've had times when I thought, "Well, I don't know if that worked..." and then I cut into the soap to find something beautiful! Definitely a good feeling. I can't wait to see your Fresh Snow soap!

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  10. Jenny I love how your gradients turned. Very pretty and almost delicate :)
    It so reminds me of a watercolor paiting I saw once. Great job!

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    1. Thanks, Roxana! I love the gradient layer technique, too. I have a painting of the beach and the sky kinda looks like the gradient in the soap, going from blue to white. Thanks for the kind words!

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  11. It's gorgeous, Jenny! It reminds me of a wintery day here in the Pacific Northwest when we get real snow!

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    1. Thank you, Anne-Marie! I'll bet Washington is gorgeous when it gets snow - I love the Pacific Northwest! I have visited Boise several times, but I would like to explore more of that region.

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  12. Jenny, I love yoir soaps.
    Congratulations

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  13. beautiful, Jenny...love it! I've been seeing Fresh Snow mentioned a lot lately...might have to put that one on the list too :)

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    1. Thanks, Kalla! I love BB's Fresh Snow FO - it smells great and it is so easy to work with. I think you'll like it!

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  14. That looks amazing. Like layers of snow or a snow capped mountain range! Very inspiring! Oh gosh can't wait til vacation so I can make soap, soap and more soap.

    Kate

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    1. Hi, Kate! Thanks for your kind words! I am very happy with how this soap looks, too. I hope that you have a lovely vacation and a wonderful time making lots of soap!

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