Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Grapefruit Geranium Hanger Swirl

Well, Bramble Berry's S.O.A.P. panel mystery FOs are on their way! They've been shipped and now I just have to wait for them to get here.

In the meantime, I'm finally getting around to trying the hanger swirl! This technique has been around for a while, but I never gave it a try. Honestly, I think what held me back was the idea of having to get out the pliers and alter a coat hanger to fit my mold. I can make soap, but I'm otherwise not very crafty or handy.

 Then I found this hanger swirl tool from Great Soap Shop on Etsy. It fits Essential Depot's RED silicone mold - I have the natural-colored RED mold with the stainless steel basket - and it looks like Michelle offers a hanger swirl tool and straight dividers that fit the RED mold, the Crafter's Choice 1501 or Bramble Berry's 10" silicone molds. (She sells lots of great soaping tools - do check out her shop!)

Celine, the lovely and talented soapmaker behind iamhandmade.com, created a tutorial to demonstrate how to do the hanger swirl and I followed her tips.

For the soap, I used a palm-free recipe from Amanda at Lovin' Soap that includes olive oil, coconut oil, castor oil, cocoa butter, and rice bran oil. (It's Recipe 1.)

To color the soap and to add a touch a luxury, I used activated charcoal and red Moroccan clay. The scent is a combination of grapefruit and geranium rose essential oils at a 4:1 ratio. I added the EOs to the cooled oils before adding the lye, and then split the batch in two after reaching trace. One half was colored with the charcoal (1 tsp per pound of oils) and the other with the clay (1 Tbsp per pound of oils). I mixed each with a little glycerin to avoid clumping. Be careful not to overdo it with the charcoal - too much can make your lather gray and possibly stain your washcloths.

I wanted the soap at about a medium trace so I could layer it. Starting with the black soap, I poured a thin layer maybe a half-inch thick. Then I spooned a pink layer on top of it, being careful not to let it break through the layer beneath. I repeated that process, alternating the colors, until I had built up six layers.

Next came the fun part! I took my very special hanger swirl tool and carefully pushed it into the soap and onto the bottom of the mold along the side farthest away from me. With the tool on the bottom of the mold, I moved it just a tiny bit toward myself. Then I lifted it straight up, moved it a tiny bit toward myself again, and then pushed it straight down to the bottom again. I repeated the movement until I had traveled all the way across the mold. Then I reversed course and did the same, only pushing the tool away from me this time. I also tried to lift and sink my tool in between the lines I had already created, hitting different spots to maximize the effect.

When I had moved all the way to the other side again, I was done. I had reserved some soap, and I drizzled it over the top of the loaf. Using a spoon, I texturized the tops, being careful not to disturb the swirled layers beneath.

Here is a video I made of the process:

I really like the hanger swirl technique! It's a fun, easy way to create a gorgeous and unique soap bar. I'll be revisiting this method, methinks.

And the lather on these bars feels so nice! Activated charcoal and red Moroccan clay are supposed to be wonderful for the skin. These bars should be quite luxurious!

Have you tried the hanger swirl technique? Do you like it?

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Woo-hoo! I Can S.O.A.P.!

Hi, everyone! Just a quick update to pass along that I was selected to be a member of Bramble Berry's S.O.A.P. panel!

Last week, I applied for the panel and I found out yesterday morning that I was one of the lucky few chosen to help Bramble Berry test and select some new fragrance oils for spring 2014. Within the next few weeks, I'll receive eight mystery FOs and try them out in a bath and body product. Then I'll give my feedback about each scent and how it performed. Seven other panel members will do the same, and then Bramble Berry will decide which of the mystery FOs to include in their spring lineup.

I definitely plan to test my FOs in cold process soap, and possibly melt-and-pour soap, too.

A big thank you to Bramble Berry for this awesome opportunity, and congratulations to all of the panel members! I'm so excited to be a part of this process, and I can't wait to get started with the mystery scents! I'm also looking forward to following the other panel members and reading about their impressions and experiments.

More on the S.O.A.P. panel in the weeks to come ...


Saturday, January 11, 2014

Can I S.O.A.P.?

I'm real good at sniffing stuff.
It's that time again! Bramble Berry has announced that they are looking for S.O.A.P. panel members to test some of their new spring fragrances.

S.O.A.P. stands for "Soap Opinion Awesome Panel," and here's how it works: The selected panel members receive eight one-ounce bottles containing mystery fragrances. The scents are unlabeled in order to get an honest, uninfluenced review of the fragrance. Panel members must test each fragrance in a bath and body product (e.g., cold process soap, melt-and-pour soap, lotion, etc.) of their choice. Then members share their results and give feedback to Bramble Berry.

In order to be considered for the panel, applicants must blog, Tweet, Facebook, Pin, or Instagram about their favorite BB product and why they should be chosen for the panel (and leave a link to their post in the comments section of the Soap Queen blog post so Bramble Berry sees it). So that's what I'm doing here.

I got to get a taste of what being on the S.O.A.P. panel would be like about a year and a half ago when I met my soaping friend Laura, who had been picked for the fall/winter panel in 2012. (You can check out more of Laura's soaps here.) She brought the mystery fragrances along to our lunch date to get my impressions of them. It was great fun to try to decode the scents, and it was interesting to see how closely our noses agreed ... or disagreed. After that, I started thinking, Hmm, maybe one of these days I'll toss my name into the hat when another S.O.A.P. panel opportunity comes along. I think that it would be fun to be a part of the process!

Picking just one favorite Bramble Berry product is difficult, though. Several products come to mind when I think of my favorites. I love their 7-lb. bag of coconut oil because I can pop the plastic bag into the microwave to soften the coconut oil. (Same with their 7-lb. bag of palm oil since palm oil needs to be completely melted down and mixed before each use so that the stearic acid doesn't settle at the bottom. The microwaveable bag makes that super easy.)

Bramble Berry's vertical mold
And I also love BB's lye flakes. The flakes don't pick up static electricity and jump around or cling like lye pellets can, and they dissolve well in water, milks, beer, etc.

If I had to pick only one favorite item from Bramble Berry, though, I'd have to go with their vertical mold.  It's so easy to create two-toned bars and creative swirls with this mold. The center divider evenly splits the soap into two halves. Lift the divider straight up and out for a half-and-half look, or twist it on the way up to make all sorts of neat effects. And the mold has plastic liners on all sides, eliminating the need to use freezer paper to line it. Unmolding is a breeze, too - one side of the wooden mold can be removed to allow the soap to be released. Once the soap is firm enough, the plastic sides can be gently slid away.

Here are a few soaps that I have made with the vertical mold:

From left to right:

I still need to try this look, too. I love the half circles that are made by twisting the divider 180 degrees.

Being a  S.O.A.P. panel member sounds like great fun, and I would love to be considered as a participant! I'm keeping my fingers crossed!

And if you would like to apply for the panel, head over to the Soap Queen blog and check out this post. Be quick about it, though - you've got until January 15 to apply!