Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Flashback 2013

Where has the year gone? And where have the past six weeks in particular gone? I think I heard a whoosh as they rushed by. Things get so hectic around Thanksgiving time, and it continues through the holidays. But in a fun way. And you know what they say - time flies when you're having fun.

I hope that everyone had a wonderful holiday! My husband and I went home to Northwest Florida for Christmas and we had a great time hanging out with family and friends. The time went by too fast, as it always does, but we packed as much fun as we could into the time that we had.

It's hard to believe that 2013 is almost over. I like to take a look back at the year as it draws to a close. I made quite a few soaps this year, and I am looking forward to making some more in the upcoming year!

Let's revisit 2013, shall we?


Clockwise from upper-left:
Blue Man Shaving Soap (January 2013)
Roses & Champagne Valentine's Day Soap (February 2013)
Honeycomb Soap (March 2013)
 Bacon Soap (April 2013)


Clockwise from upper-left:


Clockwise from upper-left:
Candy Cane Soy Candles (September 2013)
Dolphin Soap, Miami-Style (September 2013)
Snow Day Soap (October 2013)
 Pumpkin Gingersnap Soap (October 2013)
Yuletide Cheer Soap (November 2013)


It's hard to pick a favorite from all of the soaps I made this year, but the Orange Basil Swirled Hearts and Snow Day make the short list. As do the Honeycomb soap (which is a favorite in my house) and the Geranium Patchouli (it smells great, and the Red Moroccan Clay is such a nice ingredient). And I discovered salt bars this year, which I especially love for my face! Which reminds me - I need to make more salt bars.

Goals for the New Year? I plan to finally make some wine soap. And I got some new soaping tools that I'm looking forward to trying out. The hanger, mantra, and peacock swirl techniques are still on my to-do list, and I'm particularly eager to experiment with them.

The New Year also means that this little blog is nearly two years old now! I published my first post here on January 15, 2012. Since then, this blog has grown and I have met some wonderful new friends in the process.  I have discovered many new blogs and I enjoy interacting with you all here and on your sites. Thank you to each and every one of you for following me here at my blog as well as on Facebook, YouTube, and Google+. Thanks for coming on this journey with me. You make my soaping adventures even more fun!

Have a safe and happy New Year's Eve, everyone! And I wish you all a fantastic 2014!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Christmas Packaging


Soaps and candles, packaged up and ready to go under the tree!
The holidays are almost here! Is everybody ready?

I made it home to Florida earlier this week, and I finished Christmas shopping a couple of days ago. I've got everything wrapped, except for a couple more packages I'm waiting on.

And, of course, everyone on my list is getting a special something handmade by me. The nice thing about being able to make soap and candles is that your shopping list gets shorter, and everyone likes receiving what you've made! (At least, I think that they do.)

I started making my holiday soaps in August and had them finished by October. With all of the hustle and bustle from Thanksgiving on, it was a relief to know that a lot of my Christmas gifts were ready to go. There was still labeling and packaging to consider, though, and it seems that no matter how early I get the soaps done, I still end up doing the labels and packaging at the last frantic minute. (But you know what they say - if you wait until the last minute, it takes only a minute.)

The labels for my soap were made with Microsoft Word. (This tutorial helped me immensely.) As you can see below, the front of the label has a graphic and the name of the soap. The back lists the ingredients and my blog address.

For the candles, I used 2.5" round white labels and designed them using a Word template. The stickers fit perfectly on the wide-mouth pint mason jar lids. (The bottom of the jar has a caution label - CYA!)
 
I wanted to package things up nice and pretty for the holidays. In the past, I've tied bars together with ribbon and then put them in a gift bag. That works fine, but I wanted to do something different this year.



























This Christmas, I went with large red Chinese take out boxes and gable gift boxes, stuffed with Eco Fill Christmas Blend filler paper. It's pretty, festive, and the contents are protected. Easy to carry, too.

The take out boxes are perfect for little presents, like hostess gifts or for when you want to give someone a little something. And the gable boxes can hold several soap bars and a candle.This year, the gift boxes include Pumpkin Gingersnap, Snow Day, Yuletide Cheer, and Candy Cane Swirl soaps. And everyone gets a soy candle, too - either Cinnabun Type or Peppermint Patty. Yum!

I hope that everyone on my shopping list likes the soap and candles! And I hope that all of you are enjoying the holiday season.

This will probably be my last post until just before the New Year, so I want to wish you all a merry Christmas and a happy holiday!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Candy Cane Impressionist Swirl Soap

I'm a big fan of anything minty. And at Christmastime, mint shows up everywhere. It's fitting for the season - it's tingly and invigorating, but it also warms you on a cold day. Mint is not just for the winter holidays, though. It's a perennial favorite anytime of year. A bar of peppermint soap on a hot summer day is perfectly refreshing. (Crafty one, that mint. Like a Thermos. How does it know when to be cool and when to be warm?)

And if you pair mint with chocolate, it's even better. But then, chocolate always makes things better.

And so every Christmas, I must have not only minty foodstuffs, but also minty soap. And that means candy cane soap.

Christmas + Mint = Candy Canes

Candy canes are The Christmas Candy. When I was a kid, I'd go to the mall to see Santa Claus and tell him what I wanted for Christmas. I wasn't sure that I believed in the whole Santa thing - how's one guy going to deliver all of those presents to all of those kids in one night? - but I figured that it couldn't hurt to hedge my bets. And after I gave Santa my list of demands, he'd give me a candy cane.

Also, when I was little, my grandma would hang candy canes on the Christmas tree and my cousin and I would eat them on Christmas Eve as we not-so-patiently waited until it was time to open presents. The adults would play spades while we consumed an obscene amount of pepperminty sugar and inspected our gifts over and over again. The spades game was over once a team scored 500,000 bazillion points and only then were we allowed to open presents.

I don't visit Santa Claus anymore (I guess he just refers to my Amazon wish list these days), and my cousin and I no longer gorge on candy canes on Christmas Eve. But we still need a candy cane theme for the holidays, and soap is the perfect medium.

For this project, I decided to give the Impressionist Swirl a try. This technique uses squeeze bottles to squirt the soap into the mold in alternating colors, creating a swirl that resembles the short brushstrokes of the Impressionist artists from the 19th century.

Candy Cane Impressionist Swirl Soap
It's important to choose a well-behaved recipe and fragrance oil when using this technique. You want a thin trace, and it is necessary for the soap to remain liquid throughout the process.

For the scent, I chose Nature's Garden's Peppermint fragrance oil, which soaped like a dream. I mixed the FO into my cooled oils and then added the lye solution. Once I reached a light trace, I divided the soap batter into three equal portions and colored one with titanium dioxide, another with Bramble Berry's brick red oxide, and another with BB's green chrome oxide. (I mixed each colorant with a bit of liquid glycerin to work out the clumps and help minimize streaking.)

I transferred the colored soaps into three separate squeeze bottles and then squirted the colors into the mold horizontally in a S-shaped pattern, alternating between the white, green, and red. I repeated that process until the soap was gone. (I turned the mold every so often to keep the sides even, as the Soap Queen tutorial above recommends.) Once the soap was all used up, I used a skewer to swirl just the very top layer.

Here's a video I made of the process:


These soaps turned out really cool! I really enjoyed this technique, and I will have to revisit it in the future. I love how each bar is unique, and how you don't know what you're getting until you cut into the soap loaf.

Are you a big mint fan? Which scents and flavors do you associate with the holidays?

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Yuletide Cheer Soap

A few snapshots from our Boise trip

It's that time of year! The holidays are almost here. Thanksgiving is less than two weeks away, and then Christmas will be here before we know it. I've got lots to do between now and then, as I'm sure all of you do, too.

But being busy didn't stop my husband and I from taking a break and visiting one of our favorite cities - Boise, Idaho. My first trip there was in 2008, and we've been back five times since. We love the downtown area, what with its myriad restaurants, pubs, shops, and events. We ate well (maybe a little too well, according to my scale), sampled some delicious Pacific Northwest beers (my favorite this trip was Sockeye's "Sprucin the Trail" ale, brewed with spruce tips), and visited the farmer's market and the Boise co-op. Boise State University also provided us with ample opportunities to get us some culture (goodness knows we need it) - we caught the symphony and an interpretive dance performance by the Idaho Dance Theatre. We dropped by Zoo Boise, where the meerkats in particular were hamming it up for the camera. The Idaho Steelheads were in town, so we caught a hockey game. (The Steelheads have never won when we are present. We are bad luck. But we did get to hang out with their mascot, Blue the bear!) And there was plenty of jogging to be done along the Boise River's Greenbelt. We try to go every autumn, and I am already looking forward to visiting again next year.

Now onto the things about the soap!

Say hello to "Yuletide Cheer," a holiday soap scented with a combo of Bramble Berry's Christmas Tree Cybilla and Elements Bath and Body's Rocky Mountain Christmas fragrance oils. (I had one ounce of the Christmas Tree FO and used another 0.6 oz. of the Rocky Mountain Christmas to make up the difference for two pounds of oils.) I love the droplet (or teardrop) effect, so I decided to make some green and gold swirls, since those colors make me think of Christmas trees. For the green, I used a hydrated chrome green pigment, mixed with some liquid glycerin to avoid clumping. For the gold, I chose gold sparkle mica. And I also added some titanium dioxide to the base to whiten it.

For this project, I wanted the soap at a thin trace so that the green and gold soap would penetrate the white layer and create pretty droplet swirls. It's important to choose a well-behaved recipe and fragrance oil for this technique.

After bringing the soap batter to a thin trace (I added the fragrance to the cooled oils before mixing in the lye solution), I portioned off 8 ounces each into two measuring cups. I colored one 8-ounce portion green and the other gold. Then I added the titanium dioxide to the remaining soap. I poured all of the white soap into the mold, and then poured the green soap from up high so that it would sink into the white layer. Then I did the same with the gold, drizzling it in a random pattern into the mold. A bit of green and gold soap was leftover in the measuring cups after pouring, so I used what was left to drizzle onto the tops. Then I used a spoon to swirl and push the soap on the very top layer around, giving it some interest and texture.

Here is a video I made showing the process and the cutting of this batch:


The droplet swirl is one of my favorite techniques because it creates such a beautiful effect. And no two bars are alike.

The Christmas tree-like scent is also fabulous! I wanted something that smells like balsam or fir or cedarwood or holly berry, or a combination of those fragrances. These two scents are balanced nicely on their own, and work well together, too. Not too pine-y, and definitely reminiscent of the holidays. I've never had a live Christmas tree, but I imagine that it might smell like this.

I've got one more holiday soap up my sleeve and I'll share it next time. (It's pepperminty!)

How are your holiday plans going? Got any fun trips planned over the next couple of months?

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Snow Day Soap


Goodness, where does the time go? Is October really almost over?

I meant to have a blog post up a bit sooner, but it's been a busy month. My family came to visit last week and we had a great time hanging out! And I've been making holiday soaps so that they will have plenty of time to cure before Christmas.

Since September, I've made four batches of holiday soaps. My Pumpkin Gingersnap soap was the first of the four.

And I am proud to present holiday soap batch number two - Snow Day!

To create the ribbons of blue and gold through the middle of the bars, I used the tilted tiger stripe technique. It is similar to the tiger stripe - which I used to make this Bacon soap - except that the mold is tilted instead of flat when the soap is poured.

I hadn't heard about the tilted tiger stripe until recently. Milla, a fellow soap blogger, posted a few weeks ago about practicing some soaping techniques, and her gorgeous tilted tiger stripe soap near the bottom of her post caught my eye. I did a little more research on the world wide interwebs and found this YouTube video by Soaping101, demonstrating how to do the tilted tiger stripe.

For the scent, I chose a combination of Bramble Berry's Fresh Snow and Nature's Garden's Winter Garden fragrance oils. I had a little less than an ounce-and-a-half of Fresh Snow, and I used about a third of an ounce of Winter Garden to make up the difference. With this method, it's important to choose fragrances that do not accelerate trace, and it is also necessary to use a slow-moving recipe. 

To do the tilted tiger stripe, prop up your mold so that it is tilted at an angle. (I tied two packs of playing cards together and used them as a block, which I slid under the edge of my mold.) Pour some of your base soap into the mold, and then alternate different colors of soap, pouring a line of each along the side of the mold that is tilted toward you. I chose a white base with blue and gold stripes. Once most of the blue and gold soap was used up, I poured the remaining white soap over the top, being careful not to break through the layers below. Then I used the remaining blue and gold soap to create a faux mantra swirl on the tops, pouring a thick line of each and then moving a skewer back and forth just below the surface of the soap.

Here is a video I made of the process:


The tilted tiger stripe is a fun technique, and it creates a stunning design in the soap! I pretty much followed Soaping101's video, but I may try some variations in the future. I think it would be neat to tilt the mold one way, do some stripes, and then tilt the mold the other way to make contrasting stripes.

While I was looking up the tilted tiger stripe, I found a similar technique called the Dandelion Zebra Swirl, which was created by Vinvela Ebony of Dandelion SeiFee. (You may have also seen the Dandelion Zebra Swirl on Amy's Great Cakes Soapworks blog - it was chosen as October's soap challenge technique.) Instead of tilting the mold, a flexible plastic divider is inserted into the base soap and then alternating colors are poured or spooned down the side of the divider, creating ribbons of color. I will have to give the Dandelion Zebra a try someday, too!

Have you tried any new techniques lately? Which are your favorites? And how are your holiday soaps coming along? (Say, that reminds me - have a safe and happy Halloween, everyone!)

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Pumpkin Gingersnap Soap


It is officially autumn now! Which means that we survived summer. I wasn't sure if I was going to make it this year. But then, I think that every summer. And every year, summer comes and goes and I am still alive. So far, anyway.

When autumn rolls around, I start thinking about cooler weather and how maybe soon I will actually want to go outside again. And I think about the upcoming holidays, and how I need to make some soaps for gifts. But what kind of soaps? What scents? What colors? Which techniques have I been wanting to try out?

Last year, I made a Pumpkin soap and a Gingersnap soap. This year I thought, "Why not combine the two and make a Pumpkin Gingersnap soap?"

And I have been wanting to try the Celine Swirl for a while and decided to give it a go. The Celine Swirl is named for its inventor - the talented and inspiring Celine Blacow of i am handmade, a Dublin-based artisan bath and body product company.

To do the Celine Swirl, you basically layer two or more colors in the mold and then use a spoon to scoop the soap from the bottom to the top, twisting your wrist as you go.

To make my 3-pound batch, I brought the soap to trace and then portioned off about 12 ounces of soap. For the colors, I chose Cappuccino Mica and Gold Sparkle Mica, both mixed with a bit of liquid glycerin to work out any clumps.  I added the gold mica to the 12-ounce portion of soap, and the cappuccino mica to the remaining soap.

Because both the Sweet Pumpkin and the Gingersnap fragrance oils discolor soap brown, I left the12-ounce gold portion unscented. I added the fragrance oils only to the cappuccino-colored soap.

Once the soap was at a medium thick trace, I poured about half of the brown soap into the mold. Then I spooned most of the gold soap on top of it, being careful not to break through the layer below. I layered the rest of the brown soap over the gold and banged the mold on the counter a few times to release any air bubbles.

Then I grabbed a spoon, pushed it into the bottom of the mold, and scooped the soap up toward the surface, twisting my wrist as I scooped. I did this along both sides of the mold and once down the center. Be careful not to swirl too much!

I had reserved a bit of gold soap and drizzled it over the surface once I was done swirling. After the soap set up some, I used my spoon to push the soap around on top, giving it some texture.

Here is a video of the process:


The Celine Swirl turned out pretty cool! And it definitely smells like the holidays! Gingersnap and pumpkin scents are always a hit at Christmastime, and this soap combines both beautifully. Just need to make sure that no one tries to eat it!

What scents are you all using in your holiday soaps this year? What are some of your favorite autumn and winter fragrances?

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Dolphin Soap, Miami-Style



My husband, Ken, is a lifelong Miami Dolphins fan. Being from Florida, his penchant for the Dolphins began in childhood. He fondly recalls how they had a perfect season in 1972, going undefeated and winning the Super Bowl. And he suffered through their nearly winless 1-15 season in 2007. He is loyal through both good times and bad, his affection and devotion to his beloved Fins evident with the start of each new football season.

And the new football season has now begun. I am not a sports fan myself, but I thought it would be fun to combine my passion for soap with his passion for football. Specifically Miami Dolphins football. Actually, Ken suggested that I make a Dolphins soap a while back, but I didn't think of it again until the season started.

So here it is! A Dolphins soap using Miami's team colors: aqua, orange, white, and navy.

And the scent? Energy, of course. It's fresh, clean, and sporty. Perfect for sports-themed soaps. Because the word "sport" is right there in "sporty." Can't have the sporty without the sport.

I envisioned a white soap with orange and aqua swirls and a navy blue dolphin embed in the middle. As I've mentioned, I'm pretty lazy when it comes to making cold process embeds. So, I decided to do a cold process soap with melt-and-pour dolphin embeds.

Making the melt-and-pour dolphin embeds.

I bought this silicone dolphin ice cube tray several years ago - I don't even remember where I got it. Each dolphin weighs about a half-ounce, making it a perfectly sized embed. I chopped up some clear melt-and-pour soap base, melted it in 30-second bursts in the microwave, and colored the soap with a few drops of ultramarine blue liquid colorant. Then I poured the soap into the mold cavities and placed them in the fridge to set up while I got the rest of my soap ready. (I was a little sloppy with a couple of the pours, but no worries. I just used an X-Acto knife to tidy things up after unmolding the embeds.)

Preparing cold process soap.

For the cold process soap, I used a slow-tracing recipe of olive, coconut, palm, and avocado oils so I could make swirls. And Bramble Berry's Energy fragrance oil behaves beautifully and doesn't accelerate trace at all. I mixed it into my cooled oils before adding the lye solution. Once I reached light trace, I poured two 8-ounce portions of soap into separate plastic measuring cups.

Colorants mixed with glycerin.

For the swirls, I used hydrated chrome green pigment with just a few drops of the liquid blue and a bit of titanium dioxide to get an aqua color. For the orange, I used orange mica with a bit of titanium dioxide to soften the color and make it a bit more coral. I added the aqua color to one of the eight-ounce portions, and the orange to the other. The base is colored with titanium dioxide to whiten the soap.

Coloring the soap and making swirls.

I poured the base of white soap into my slab mold, and then poured the orange and aqua from up high to make sure it penetrated through, reserving some for the swirls on top. I poured the remaining aqua and orange close to the surface so it would stay on top, and then dragged my skewer (my thermometer stick worked perfectly) through the soap vertically and then horizontally. After I placed the dividers and let the soap set up a bit, I gently pressed the embeds into the center of each bar. I decided that I liked the bottom of the embeds better than the tops. The bottom had more of a dolphin shape, I thought, and I could make the dolphins lay flush with the tops of the bars by embedding them bottom-side-up.

Swirling and adding embeds.

Then the mold went into the freezer overnight so that the soap wouldn't gel and melt the embeds.

I'm pretty pleased with this soap, but I think I can improve upon it. Mainly, I wish that I had held back less soap for the swirls. I always hold back too much. I should have either used maybe five ounces of soap each for the aqua and orange, or reserved less soap for the surface swirls. I was going for something a bit more subtle, although I think the end result is still pretty good.

And the scent is fabulous - lots of citrus with a bit of effervescence from the champagne notes.

I think it's a fun soap, sure to please any Dolphins fan. Or at least my husband.

It's only the beginning of the season, but so far so good for the Fins! I hope that they have a good season. No matter what happens on the field, though, at least we know that we'll have good soap.

Any Dolphins fans out there? Sports fans in general? Have you made or bought any sports-themed soaps?

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Adventures in Candlemaking

Yes, my friends, it appears that I may have picked up a new hobby. And while this isn't soap-related, it kinda is. I mean, I know that many soapmakers make candles. And it seems that people who like soap also usually enjoy candles, too. I guess we tend to like pretty things that smell good, especially if we can either rub those pretty smell-good things all over our bodies or set them on fire.

And I found candlemaking to be rather similar to melt-and-pour soapmaking. You start with a base, melt it down, add color and fragrance, and pour it into a container.

I've always loved candles. I can go into a candle shop and easily spend half an hour sniffing everything. Which is why no one wants to go to a candle shop with me. And also because I constantly shove candles in their face and say, "Ooh, smell this one."

I don't love paying twenty bucks for a candle, though. So, once I had burned down all of my expensive candles, I started thinking about making my own. I researched candlemaking on the interwebs to find out what I would need to get started.

I decided to start with container candles. I figured that mason jars might make good containers. They're cheap, widely available at local stores (no shipping costs), and they have lids. I opted for wide-mouth Ball mason pint jars, which I found at Target. They are pretty little containers, and I'm planning to reuse the jars that I use for my own personal candles to reduce waste and save money.

I found a couple of nifty resources online: this video by Melissa from Homemade Candle Creations, and this photo-packed tutorial from Something Turquoise. Both feature mason jar candles. Hooray!

While I was searching around online for supplies, I stumbled across Lone Star Candle Supply and discovered that they had everything that I needed. One-stop shopping is always a bonus!
Candy Cane candles

I was particularly interested in soy waxes, and, after doing some reading, I chose to use EcoSoya CB-Advanced because I had heard good things about it from other candlemakers online. It reportedly has good scent throw and a nice smooth pour, and it resists frosting and retains color well.

I also bought a few liquid dyes to color my candles. I went with primary colors (red, yellow, and blue), figuring that I could mix them to create other colors, and brown and black. That should get me pretty far.

Other stuff I bought: five bow tie wick bars (which can accommodate 1-3 wicks per candle), wick stickers (to secure the wick to the bottom of the container), a pouring pot, warning labels (CYA!), and Candy Cane fragrance oil. (I also bought some Cinnamon Buns fragrance oil, too, but I haven't used it yet. It smells yummy, though!)

It seems that the toughest part of candlemaking is choosing a wick. First, you have to settle on a wick type. And there are all kinds: zinc core; paper core; cotton core; square braided; flat braided; wooden wicks; RRD, CD, TL, ECO, LX and HTP series ... oh, my gracious, it just goes on and on and on. I did some research online and decided to try the CD series wicks first. CD wicks are flat braided with a paper core woven into the wick. It seems that many candlemakers especially like the CD wicks for soy candles because they burn nice and hot and resist mushrooming.

So, after deciding on a wick type, I needed to settle on a wick size. The CD wicks come in a range of sizes - anywhere from a 4 for small containers to a 22 for large containers. The diameter of your container is what matters when choosing a wick size. My wide-mouth mason jars have a diameter of about 3.25 inches. According to Lone Star's chart, I would need to start with at least a CD-12. Bramble Berry recommends at least a CD-16, and CD-20 for a container of that size using EcoSoya Advanced soy wax. Melissa from the Homemade Candle Creations' video above likes CD-18 wicks for her mason jar soy candles. But which one should I use? If a wick is too small, the wax won't create an even burn pool and the melted wax will tunnel through the middle of the candle. Also, a too-small wick may not create enough heat for a good scent throw, especially in soy candles. I figured that I should try a few different wick sizes to see what I liked, so I bought a CD series wick sampler kit so I could try a few sizes. For this batch of candles, I decided to test the CD-16, CD-18, and CD-20 wicks.

Clockwise from top left: measuring wax, melting wax, wicking jars, prepping with bow tie wick bars.



Once I had all of my supplies, I got busy making candles. First, I measured out my wax with my scale. The wax is supposed to be in flake-form, but it was, like, 100 degrees out when I ordered my supplies, and the wax melted a bit in transit and solidified into a block. Not a problem, and I totally expected the wax to melt in the back of a hot delivery truck anyway, but things would be easier if the wax was in flakes instead. I'll have to remember to stock up on candle wax during the cooler months in the future. I was making three candles, with each container holding 16 ounces. But I needed to account for the fragrance oil and leave enough room at the top for the wick and the lid. So, I went with 14 ounces of wax per candle, but I probably should have used 13 ounces to give myself a little more room at the top. The fragrance load for this particular wax is 6-10%. I used approximately one ounce per 14 ounces of wax, which works out to be a little more than one ounce per pound.

I opted to melt the wax in a double boiler so I could keep a close eye on the temperature. I filled a saucepan with a bit of water and brought it to a simmer, and then put my pouring pot in the water and melted the wax in it. I clipped a candy thermometer to the pot so I could monitor the temperature, but I think I will just use my infrared laser thermometer in the future. It's less messy and seems more accurate.

While my wax melted, I attached the wicks to the jars using wick stickers, which are double-sided sticky dots. One side sticks to the bottom of the wick tab and the other affixes to the inside of the jar. It's important to use your fingers or something sturdy to really press it into the container to make sure it's secure. Try to get it as centered as possible. You can even buy cool contraptions to help with this step.

Then I placed a bow tie wick bar across the mouth of each jar, carefully pulled the wick taut, and then slipped it into the middle slot to hold the wick upright. Pencils, chopsticks, chip clips, clothespins, or something like that can be used to hold the wick upright and taut as well.

Top:Freshly poured candles. Bottom: After 24 hours.
Someone suggested in a review of the wax I was using to heat it to 150 degrees F, add the fragrance, and then pour at 110 F. That was my plan, but I think my candy thermometer may have been a little off. I accidentally heated it a little higher to 160 F according to my candy thermometer, but my laser thermometer said it was 170 F. No worries, though. My laser thermometer is probably a bit more reliable, so I went with it for the rest of my measurements. When the wax was at about 155 F, I added the Candy Cane fragrance oil and then poured the wax into my jars after it had cooled to about 110 F. After adding the fragrance, I stirred and stirred and stirred to make sure it was well-incorporated. (I had read that stirring was very important to make sure the wax and scent bind. Stir for longer than you think you need to, at least two minutes. I stirred pretty much continuously while I waited for it to cool to 110, so it got mixed in plenty well.)

By the way, there seems to be some debate about at what temperature the fragrance oil should be added to this particular wax. Some say to heat the wax to 185 F and add the FO. Others say to add the FO at a cooler temp of no less than 135 F. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this!

If I were coloring the candle, I would have added the dye before I added the fragrance. I decided to keep things simple my first time out, though, and not color the wax. White works nicely for a peppermint scent anyway.

After pouring the candles, I set them aside to a place where they would be undisturbed for at least 24 hours to allow them to set. The next day, I noticed that there was some cracking on the tops near the base of the wicks. My first thought was, "Oh, noes," but then I remembered reading somewhere that a blowdryer or a heat gun can fix blemishes on the tops. I had a heat gun from my melt-and-pour shrink wrapping days, so I used it to remelt the surface of the candles. Once they had set again, the cracks were gone!

All that was left to do was to trim the wicks down to about 1/4 of an inch. Scissors work well for the initial trimming, and I like to use nail clippers to trim the wick before each burning.

Remelting cracked surface with heating gun and trimming wicks.


Like soap, candles also need to cure. During the curing period, the wax and the fragrance oil bind together. Ideally, candles should be allowed to sit and cure for at least a few days, and it's even better to let soy candles cure for at least a week before lighting them. I let mine sit for four days because I was a bit impatient and wanted to get started with testing so I could report my findings here in this blog post. Otherwise, I would have waited a week or two.

So how did they do? I was very happy with how my candles turned out. I burned them each for about four hours the first night so that they would have ample time to burn evenly across the container, creating a uniform wax pool. Nearly every night, I burned them for about 3-4 hours each time. It wasn't long before I noticed that the candle with the CD-20 wick had the most even burn pool, reaching all the way across the container. The CD-20 candle burned slightly faster than the other two, but not by much. As you can see below, the CD-16 and CD-18 wicks performed well, but the CD-20 has an even burn pool across the width of the candle's surface. The burn pools for the CD-18 and CD-16 wicks didn't quite reach all the way across, leaving some unmelted wax on the side of the container. I kept a running tally of the hours burned and got about 75 hours worth of burn time for the CD-20 wick. (The CD-18 and CD-16 candles maybe could have burned for another hour or so, but they were getting pretty near the bottom of the jar, too.)

Top: Candles lit for first time. Middle (left-right): CD-20, 18, and 16 after four hours. Bottom: After 75 hours.

And after the candle was done with its last burn, I wiped the warm wax out with paper towels and pried the wick tab away from the bottom of the jar. Then I soaked the jars in warm soapy water, wiped them out with paper towels again, and then washed them with dish detergent. Now I can reuse my glass jars!

So, I think for this container, I like the CD-20 wicks. They burn cleanly, and didn't smoke or mushroom. I'm happy with the wax, too! No frosting that I could tell, although I didn't color the wax. It adhered nicely to the container, too. Another bonus is that the containers do not have to be preheated before pouring the wax into them, according to Bramble Berry's tips. I poured my wax into room-temperature jars and did not have any problems. The candles looked beautiful, and the scent throw was good!

Do any of you make candles? What kind of wax, wicks, and containers do you like to use? Do you have a favorite candlemaking supplier? I enjoyed my purchases from Lone Star, and I know that Bramble Berry and Nature's Garden are great places to shop, too. If you buy or make candles, what are some of your favorite scents?

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Gumball Soap


So, a few months ago I picked up a bunch of one-ounce sampler fragrance oils from Nature's Garden. One of the scents I bought was their Bubble Luscious FO. Out of the bottle, it smells to me just like pink bubble gum, and the scent stays true in soap, too.

Sometimes you can smell a scent and know right away how you want to soap it. Other times, you have to think on the design for a bit. And sometimes you know what you want your soap to look like and you have to find a scent to go along with your plan.

With this fragrance, I saw colorful gumballs embedded in a white soap. A few years ago, I picked up this ice cube mold at a kitchen store and had yet to use it. This mold makes cylinders of ice for water bottles, but it's great for soap, too! I figured I would use it to make cylinders of melt-and-pour soap and embed them in my cold process soap. When cut, the soap tubes will look round, like gumballs!

Soap balls would have also worked great for this project, but I didn't have the energy to make a batch of CP soap and roll it into soap balls. I thought about using my silicone ball molds (Bramble Berry carries them in small, medium, and large sizes), but since I had only two of them I decided to use the ice cube mold instead.

Melt-and-pour embeds
I confess that I am lazy when it comes to making CP embeds. Oftentimes I don't feel like making a batch just for embeds, requiring two days of soaping to complete one project. And other times I just fail to plan ahead. I tell myself that one day I should just make an extra pound of soap when I'm already soaping, separate it out, color and scent it, and make some embeds for a future project and also gee whiz was that so hard? Trouble is that I never remember to do that, or I don't have enough time, or I don't know what kind of embeds I want for what kind of project, blah, blah, blah. So CP embeds just never seem to happen for me. At least, not so far.

But melt-and-pour soap offers flexibility, and embeds can be made quickly and easily with it. So, M&P was my go-to for embeds once I planned this gumball soap out in my head.

For my embeds, I chose clear M&P base and Fizzy Lemonade, Tangerine Wow, and Electric Bubble Gum neon colorants from Bramble Berry. (Tip: These pigments are best mixed with glycerin to work out the clumps before adding them to the soap. Don't disperse them in rubbing alcohol - it doesn't work.)

I chopped up the M&P, covered my container with plastic wrap to prevent the moisture from evaporating, and nuked it in the microwave for 30-second bursts until melted. Then I added my colorant and poured the soap into the ice cube mold. Because I had only one ounce of the fragrance oil, I didn't scent my M&P embeds. But I totally would have if I had had more FO. (Another tip: There is one cylinder in the center of the mold that does not have an open bottom. It's got this crisscross design instead, making it impossible to get the soap out. Avoid that particular cylinder. I had to soak my mold in water for, like, an entire day before the soap disintegrated enough for me to remove it. I don't know why it's like that or what it contributes to the mold - stability, maybe? - but there must be a reason for it. Just wanted to give you a heads-up.)

Ideally, I would have made my embeds the day before and allowed the soap to cool overnight. Of course, I didn't do that, so I was pressed for time. After pouring the M&P, I put the mold in the freezer for about 30 minutes or so to make the soap harden faster.

After I put the M&P in the freezer, I made my CP soap. I opted for a one-pound batch using a palm-free recipe from The Nova Studio Blog. I used the first recipe listed, which uses 40% vegetable shortening, 30% olive oil, 28% coconut oil, and 2% castor oil. If you give this recipe a go, make sure you read the vegetable shortening label carefully! Some shortening contains palm oil, which would totally defeat the purpose if you're trying to go palm-free. Look for a soybean/cottonseed blend. (SoapCalc has "Crisco, old" on their list of oils, and I used that to run the recipe using soybean/cottonseed shortening through their lye calculator.)

I added the FO to the cooled base oils, along with some titanium dioxide dispersed in glycerin to whiten the soap.

By the time my CP soap was ready, the M&P was due to come out of the freezer. Once the soap was hard, I partially pushed it out with my thumb and gripped it with a paper towel to pull it the rest of the way out. I also used said paper towel to dab away the condensation on the surface of the soap.

When the CP and M&P soaps were both ready to go, I poured enough CP soap into my loaf mold to create a base to nestle a few cylinders of M&P end-to-end. I covered the embeds with more CP, and then laid some more embeds. I did three layers of embeds total, and topped the loaf off with the end pieces I had trimmed from the M&P cylinders.

Here is a video of the process:


I placed the soap in the freezer overnight to avoid gel phase because I feared that the M&P soap might melt if it gelled. I also soaped cool - around 95 degrees F.

The fragrance oil and the recipe behaved beautifully. The trace was nice and slow, and the scent is strong. And I'm happy to report that this FO does not discolor. Sweet scents often contain vanilla, which can cause the soap to discolor brown. But this FO has a 0% vanillin content, and it stayed nice and white!

And I love Bramble Berry's neon colorants! The colors are so bold and bright, and they really pop against the white.

The soap held up fairly well in the shower. I worried that skipping gel phase might cause the embeds to not adhere as well. Once the soap got worn down and became thinner and more pliable, a couple of embeds came loose near the end of the bar's life. No biggie for me, though.

Have you combined melt-and-pour with cold process soap before? How did you like it?

Friday, August 2, 2013

Geranium Patchouli Soap


Patchouli. Some people love it, some people hate it. I am a big fan. One of these days, I need to make a straight patchouli soap. A while back, though, someone suggested that I try a geranium/patchouli essential oil blend, and I decided to give that a try since I had both on my fragrance shelf.

Since patchouli is so strong - and not everyone loves it - I decided to go with a blend that was 30% patchouli and 70% geranium. The geranium is not pure grade because, gawd, have you seen how much that stuff costs?! The scent is mostly rose with a nice earthy base. Kinda like a rose garden after a ground-soaking rain.

Not that I've ever been in a rose garden after a ground-soaking rain. But it's how I imagine a rose garden would smell after a ground-soaking rain.






I recently got some Red Moroccan Clay and figured it would make a deep rosy pink color. I used about one Tablespoon of clay per pound of oils, and once I mixed it with some glycerin to work out the clumps, I was afraid that it was going to turn out rather brown. As you can see in the finished soap, the color ended up being a dusty rose, so, yay!

I hear so many wonderful things about clays, and I want to experiment with them some more in soap. I'm thinking that this should make a lovely facial soap because of the clay.

Another concern was the tint of the essential oil blend. In the middle photo of the collage to the right, you'll see a bowl of orangish liquid toward the rear. That's the EO blend, and I worried that the patchouli would impart an orange tinge to the soap. All was well, though. The portion I colored white stayed white, and the pink stayed true, too.

For the oils, I tried a palm-free recipe from Amanda at Lovin' Soap. (I went with the first recipe listed: olive oil, coconut oil, castor oil, cocoa butter, and rice bran oil.) This is my first time using rice bran oil. I see a lot of palm-free recipes calling for it, and it's supposed to have great moisturizing qualities. I tested an end piece from this batch, and although it has been curing for only about two weeks, it is very nice! (Thanks for sharing your recipe, Amanda!)


To make the soap, I added the essential oil blend to my cooled oils. I soaped at around 105 degrees F, but I probably could have gone a bit cooler. Then I added my lye solution and stickblended to trace. The soap traced quickly - I poured about half of the batch into a separate measuring cup, and by the time I whisked the Red Moroccan clay into one half and the titanium dioxide into the other half, the batter was thick like cake frosting.


I had read that geranium could be tricky to work with, so I planned my batch accordingly. The plan was to do a layered soap, so the trace acceleration actually worked in my favor. It's important to bring the soap to a thick trace when doing layers so that each layer sits on top of the previous one instead of sinking. The thick trace also helped me to achieve pretty textured tops, which is often my Achilles heel! After layering the pink and white soap, I drizzled some reserved pink soap on top and then swirled it and pushed it around with the back of a spoon.

This should be such a lovely soap! It seems wonderful already, but it will be even better after it cures for a few more weeks.

And the scent combo is fantastic. I'll bet that even my mom - who is a patchouli-hater - will love this one!

What are some of your favorite blends with patchouli? Do you like patchouli, or do you straight up hate it? How about geranium? Have you tried them together? Did you like it? Do you want me to stop asking so many questions?

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Mediterranean Garden Spa Shaving Soap


Time to make more shaving soap for the hubby! I found David Fisher's shaving soap recipe on About.com and thought that it sounded nice.

The recipe calls for coconut and palm oils for a stable, creamy lather. Olive oil, sweet almond oil, and cocoa butter condition the skin and provide lots of luxury. Castor oil, which I usually use at around 3%-5% of the total oils, is bumped up to 10% for an extra boost of lather. And bentonite clay (about 1 Tablespoon per pound of oils) gives the soap some extra slip for shaving with the added benefit of being oh-so-good for skin.

(Tip: Mix the bentonite clay with a little bit of liquid glycerin before adding it to the soap to prevent clumping.)

Here's the recipe I used:

~ Coconut oil - 30% ~
~ Palm oil - 30% ~
~Castor oil - 10% ~
~ Sweet almond oil - 15% ~
~ Olive oil - 10% ~
~ Cocoa butter - 5% ~

I did tweak David's recipe a bit. His calls for sunflower oil, but I didn't have any so I substituted sweet almond oil in its place. (And I ran the new recipe through a lye calculator, of course!)

The first thing I noticed about this recipe is that 65% of the oils are hard oils. Olive oil accounts for only 10% of the total oils. Most of my soap recipes are fairly heavy on olive oil with it being about 40%-50% of the total oils. The last shaving soap I made was 45% olive oil. Also, 72% of the oils were soft oils in the last recipe, and palm was a mere 8% of the total oils. This new shaving soap recipe is kinda the opposite of the previous one, so I was very curious to try it.

Once I had settled on a recipe, it was off to the fragrance cabinet to find a clean, masculine scent. I had a one-ounce bottle of Mediterranean Garden Spa fragrance oil, which was perfect since I was using one pound of oils for my recipe.The scent smells very green, herbaceous, and outdoorsy to me. The colors blue and green came to mind, and I decided to do an in-the-pot swirl.

Soon after adding the fragrance oil, bentonite clay, and lye solution to the oils and stickblending for a bit, the soap batter thickened to a pudding-like consistency. I'm not sure what caused this, considering that many factors can contribute to trace acceleration. The batter was workable, though, so I continued on with my plan to swirl. I managed to get the soap colored and then swirled the colors together, but it just didn't pour fluidly, which is what you really need for a successful ITP swirl. I knew that the soap batter didn't have the right consistency for an ITP swirl, but I pig-headedly carried on. Perhaps I would have had better luck with an in-the-shaving-bowl swirl.

Here's a video of me making this soap:


The soap still turned out lovely manly, and I kinda like the textured look in the bowls. And as the soap gets used, the swirls start to reveal themselves more.

It has been a few months since I made this shaving soap, and my hubby has been using it for a while now. He says that it's his favorite shaving soap so far, and he really likes the recipe. Sounds like it's a keeper! I may go in search of a palm-free shaving soap recipe, too, and see how he likes that.

The soap seems to be lasting him a good while, too - I think we're working on month three now - and the soap stays nice and hard and dry in between uses, not gummy at all.

I'll bet this would make an awesome body bar, too! I usually use regular soap to shave with in the shower, but I should make a bigger batch of this and make bars out of it. Then I could enjoy this shaving soap recipe, too!

Do you like shaving soaps? Got a favorite recipe?

Monday, July 1, 2013

Orange Basil Swirled Hearts Soap



This project included a few firsts for me: a new technique, a new recipe genre, and a new butter.

I decided to try out the Swirled Heart technique. This method has been on my must-do list for a while, and I finally got around to it. (My must-do list is about as long as my arm and it just keeps growing. It is going to take a while to get through it, methinks.) I remember seeing Anne-Marie and Kristy demonstrate the Swirled Heart technique quite a while back, but you know how it goes. You see a new thing and think, "Oh, cool, I'm totally gonna get right on that!" Maybe you even print out the tutorial and file it away in your soaping folder. And then you get distracted with other projects and maybe forget about it for a while. And then one day you're going through your bookmarks or your folder and think, "Whatever happened to ...?" And then you commit to the project and wonder why you didn't do it sooner. The Swirled Heart technique is a fun method, and I definitely plan to utilize it again. (It would be especially great for Valentine's Day!)

Something else that was new for me was not using palm oil. With the exception of my Castile soap and salt bars, my recipes have usually included it. I'm nearly out of palm oil now, so I decided to seek out some palm-free recipes to see if I could do without it. I went poking around the interwebs and found a few that I liked the looks of. The Nova Studio shared three palm-free recipes on their blog. One of the recipes calls for mango butter, which appealed to me because I recently bought some mango butter and was looking for a reason to use it. I've never used mango butter before, but I've heard so many wonderful things about it. Mango butter reportedly has natural emollient and moisturizing properties. Sounds like it should make a pretty luxurious soap!

 Here is the recipe I used, from the Nova Studio's blog post:

~ Olive Oil - 41% ~
~ Coconut Oil - 25% ~
~ Mango Butter - 25% ~
~ Avocado Oil - 6% ~
~ Shea Butter - 3% ~

I was a little bit worried that such a high percentage of mango butter might accelerate trace, but this recipe had a nice, slow trace for me. (A slow trace is important for this type of project, so choose a well-behaved recipe and fragrance oil.) I soaped at around 104 degrees F and had plenty of time to work with the batter. The soap is about a week and a half old now. I tested a bar and the lather is wonderfully soft and fluffy. The soap performs well already, but after about five more weeks of curing time it should be even more amazing!

Orange Basil Swirled Hearts soap
For the fragrance, I chose a 10x Orange and Sweet Basil essential oil blend. (The 10x Orange is nice because it is more concentrated than regular orange EO and therefore sticks better in CP soap.) Choosing a scent is sometimes difficult when I'm gazing into a drawer full of a bajillion fragrance and essential oils. I was trying to decide on both a fragrance and color scheme. I remembered that I had some orange mica from Bramble Berry. I really love the carrot-orange color of this mica, but it appears that Bramble Berry no longer carries it, which gives me a sad. Once I settled on the orange mica, I started thinking about the scent. Orange essential oil is an obvious choice. It turns the soap a light orange, though, and I wanted to do a white layer for my hearts. So, what would go well with orange and not discolor? Basil essential oil. Which means green. Funny how sometimes the fragrance dictates the colors, and other times the colors dictate the fragrance.

Dotting the surface
The bottom layer is an orange and green in-the-pot swirl. I thought about just doing straight-up orange for the bottom layer, but decided that a swirl would be more interesting. After the swirly layer had set up a bit, I drizzled some white soap on top to check it. Then I spooned the white layer on to prevent break-through into the previous layer. The Swirled Heart technique requires plastic squeeze bottles, which I found at my local craft store in the baking/candymaking aisle. I snipped the tips of the squeeze bottles so the soap would come out easier and give me good dime-sized dollops. To make the swirled hearts, I filled one squeeze bottle with about 2-3 ounces of orange soap, and filled another bottle with green soap. I dotted the surface with alternating rows of green and orange, and then dragged a toothpick through the dots to make hearts. 

(Tip: To clean out the bottles, I filled them with warm water right after I was done soaping, gave each one a good shake, and then squeezed the soapy water out. I had to fill and shake the bottles a few times to get all of the soap and residue out.)

The orange soap is scented with the Orange 10x essential oil, and the white is scented with the basil essential oil. For simplicity's sake, I left the small amount of green soap unscented.

Here's a video of the process:


I'm super happy with how this soap turned out! Orange and basil is a fantastic scent combo, and the hearts are so cute. The recipe and the essential oils behaved exceptionally well. 

I'll be trying some more palm-free recipes in the future, but I think that this one is definitely a keeper!

What do you think of the Swirled Heart technique? Have you tried it yourself?

Friday, June 14, 2013

Soap Seize: Keep Calm and Panic On

You know how it goes. Some days you're making soap and everything is just clicking along perfectly. Every part of the process goes according exactly to plan and your soap even turns out just the way you wanted it to.

And other days you find that you have slipped into the Ninth Circle of Soaping Hell. Having your soap seize is the quickest way to get there.

So what is seizing? Seizing is a result of trace acceleration, meaning that the soap batter rapidly thickens, moving from trace to beyond very quickly. (Trace occurs when the soap batter is fully emulsified and will not separate.) Sometimes acceleration causes the batter to get thick like pudding or mashed potatoes, making it impossible to pour. Other times trace accelerates so rapidly that the soap "seizes" in the pot and becomes a hard mass. This is also known as soap-on-a-stick.

Yikes, amirite?

So, what causes trace acceleration and seizing? Many factors can play a role:

Fragrance and Essential Oils
Certain fragrance oils can cause acceleration and seizing, particularly floral or spice scents. Some essential oils - spice ones like clove or cinnamon - may sometimes cause issues. I'm not a chemistry whiz, but from what I understand, the components and compounds in some fragrance oils can speed trace along. (Something about eugenol.) Sometimes it helps to add your fragrance oil to the base oils instead of adding it at trace. And if you know that the fragrance or essential oil will act up, try using a whisk instead of a stickblender. Also, fragrances containing alcohol can cause acceleration and seizing. I've never tried it myself, but I hear that using perfume or cologne to scent soap is a great way to get soap-on-a-stick due to the alcohol content.

Alcohol
Which leads to another factor: Alcohol. Using a scent that contains alcohol is not a good idea. Using alcoholic beverages in soap can also cause seizing. But, wait, what about beer soap, or wine soap? How do soapmakers successfully replace the water in a soap recipe with beer or wine? The trick is to boil off the alcohol. When I use beer in soap, I bring it to a boil and let it simmer for about 10 minutes. Then I pop it in the fridge overnight to let it get nice and cold. I've made several beer batches and not had any problems when I boil it first. (Some of the beer does evaporate, so I either simmer more than I need or simply use distilled water to make up the difference.) I haven't made wine soap yet, but from what I've read I would expect that it could be treated like beer.

Temperature
Soaping temperatures can also play a role. The warmer your lye solution and oils are, the faster your soap batter will accelerate. Conversely, cooler temperatures can help slow trace. I usually soap at about 100-110 degrees F. But if I am using a finicky fragrance oil or certain ingredients that contain sugars that may cause the soap to overheat (like milk, beer, honey, etc.), I'll soap cooler, maybe around 80-90 degrees F.

Recipe Formulation
Sometimes the recipe itself can cause acceleration. Recipes containing a high percentage of soft oils (like olive and avocado) tend to trace more slowly than recipes calling for a higher percentage of hard oils. For instance, Castile soap, which is made exclusively with olive oil, is notorious for taking a long time to trace. Using lots of hard oils - like coconut or palm, for example - may cause the soap to trace faster. I have heard that using too much of certain ingredients - like castor oil, jojoba oil, or beeswax - may contribute to seizes, but I cannot attest to this myself. I've never used jojoba oil or beeswax, but I have made two batches of shaving soap using 10%-20% castor oil without problems.

Another thing to consider when formulating your recipe is the amount of liquid used. You may hear soapmakers talk about a "water discount," which means that they use less water than the recipe calls for. If you use "full water," that means that your lye concentration is about 27% (meaning that 27% of your lye solution is sodium hydroxide and 73% of it is water), with water being 38% of the total oil weight. (I prefer to think in terms of lye concentration instead of percentage of oil weight because it's less confusing for me. Thinking in terms of water discounts is confusing for me, too. If someone says that they use a 20% water discount, I may not really know how much water that translates into if I don't know the water amount that the recipe started off with. And then there's the math. And sometimes I wonder if someone means that they used water as 20% of the oil weight instead, which confuses me even more. It's much easier for me to just think in terms of lye concentration because it seems more solid and easier for me to understand.) The less water you use, the stronger your lye solution will be. Soapmakers often use full water to minimize acceleration. Full water is a good idea if you are doing swirls or something that requires a light trace. Discounting water is a good idea if you want to speed along a slow-tracing recipe, like Castile. Recipes calling for lots of soft oils typically handle steeper water discounts better than those with lots of hard oils. And definitely use full water if you are using a problematic fragrance or essential oil.

Paranormal Activity
And sometimes the soap gremlins are just bored and mischievous. Try bribing them with cookies and beer. Don't know if that works on them, but it would work on me if I were a soap gremlin. (Make it good beer, though. Something classy. Any kind of cookie is fine.)

***

Wanna see an epic seize? I was filming when one of my batches went from normal to - BAM! - soap-on-a-stick within moments. Not 100% certain what happened here, so I don't want to attribute the seize to any one thing. It could have been one or more of the aforementioned factors. Enjoy:




Pretty cool (and terrifying), huh?

So now you know some of the causes of seizing, what a seize looks like, and how to avoid it. But sometimes bad things happen to good soapers. What can you do if your soap does seize?

If you are confident that your soap batter was blended well before it seized, you might be able to mash it up and glop it into your mold like I did in the video above. Or you can wait for the soap to gel in the bowl so that it is softer and more pliable. Once the soap has gelled  from one side of the bowl to the other (insulate if necessary and peek at it after about 20 minutes), scoop it into your mold. Be extremely careful if you do this! The soap will be very hot and caustic. Wear your safety gear (goggles, gloves, long sleeves and pants, etc.)!

If the soap is too hard to mash up, or if you don't think you got everything mixed before it turned into cement, you still have a couple of options.

Grab your crock pot or stainless steel pot and get the soap into it. Heat the soap and stir it until it has the consistency of oatmeal or applesauce. All of your lye and oils are in the soap, assuming that your measurements are correct, but they're just aren't mixed enough. Heating the soap will liquefy it (although it most likely won't become smooth and pourable), allowing you to finish mixing. Monitor the heat, though, and be careful not to scorch the soap. You may want to use a double boiler if you are using the stovetop. Once the soap reaches the right consistency, glop it into your mold and let it sit for 24-48 hours before cutting. This is also known as the "hot process" method. Although hot process soap is technically ready to use as soon as it is unmolded - since the soap has been cooked down to a pH of about 9 - it is best to let it cure for at least a week or two. It's even better to let it cure for the full 4-6 weeks to allow the water to evaporate for harder, longer-lasting bars. Check out Soap Queen's Hot Process Hero and Crock Pot Camo tutorials for more info on hot process soapmaking.

Or you can wait until the next day to rebatch the soap. Chop or grate the soap (if it's solid enough), put it into a stainless steel pot or crock pot, and add a little bit of distilled water, starting with a couple of Tablespoons and adding more as necessary to get the right consistency. Then proceed as described above.

A seized batch is definitely a bummer, but it doesn't mean that the soap has to be a total loss. Seizing risks can be minimized, and the soap can usually be saved even if those precautions fail.

Soapmakers, have you had a batch seize on you? What has been your biggest soap fail so far?

Updated to clarify info about water discounts and recipe formulations.