Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Honeysuckle Modified Mantra Swirl Soap

You may remember a technique called the Mantra Swirl that was popular a while back. There was even some mantra swirl soapmaking challenges on the interwebs. I thought all of that happened just a few months ago, but it was LAST SUMMER, you guys. A whole year. Time is moving faster than a batch of clove soap.

Anyways, I figured it was high time that I gave the mantra swirl a whirl, especially since I got some cool tools to help make things easier.

One of the reasons I put off attempting the mantra swirl is that I'm lazy. And not very handy. And also lazy.

You see, back when the mantra swirl first caught on, most people made themselves dividers out of cardboard. Those cardboard pieces had to be cut just so. And then they had to be held upright in the mold, usually with more cardboard pieces that were cut into brackets. And I suppose that the brackets had to be anchored to the mold somehow, too. I was like, "Pfft! I'm not doing all that! What am I, an engineer?"

But then I heard somewhere about Great Soap Shop on Etsy. Michelle sells lots of nifty soapmaking tools, including HDPE plastic dividers for the Mantra/Taiwan swirl. So now I have no excuse not to try it.

The dividers I bought were specifically designed to fit Essential Depot's RED silicone soap mold. (Great Soap Shop offers tools for other molds, too, so do check it out.)

I decided to try a modified mantra swirl from Anne-Marie Faiola's Soap Crafting book. I did a simple side-by-side two-color batch and then used a squeeze bottle to pour a line of soap down the center. Then I took the stick end of a meat thermometer, put it all the way down to the bottom of the mold, and did a figure-eight pattern all the way across the length of the mold to swirl the tops. (Of course, you don't have to use a meat thermometer. Skewers or chopsticks or any stick-like thing will do.)

Here is my poorly-drawn example of the Mantra Swirl figure-8 pattern.

For the fragrance, I chose Bramble Berry's new Heavenly Honeysuckle scent. I got to try this one out when I was on their S.O.A.P. Panel this past spring and it was my second-favorite scent of the eight samples I received. The colors that came to mind for this scent were orange, yellow, and green. So I decided to do Tangerine Wow and Fizzy Lemonade side-by-side with a line of Hydrated Chrome Green along the top.

I concocted my own recipe of 30% rice bran oil, 25% olive oil, 25% coconut oil, 12% mango butter, 5% sweet almond oil, and 3% castor oil.

After I brought the soap to trace, I colored about a half cup of the batter with the Hydrated Chrome Green and poured it into a plastic squeeze bottle. (It's good to snip the tips of the squeeze bottles so that the soap flows more easily.) Then I split what remained of the batch into two portions and colored one with the Tangerine Wow and the other with the Fizzy Lemonade.

I poured the orange and yellow soap into my mold at the same time so that none of the soap would slip under the divider and onto the other side. Once the two halves were poured, I took out the divider and squirted the green soap along the center line. Then I used my stick to do the mantra swirl on the tops.

My soap did get pretty thick on me and I worried that it would affect my final soap. Everything turned out just fine, though. Bramble Berry notes that the Heavenly Honeysuckle does accelerate a bit, but I didn't have any trouble with it when I tested it for the S.O.A.P. Panel. But then, I wasn't trying to do anything fancy then, either. When I was on the Panel, I added the FO after trace, whisked it in, watched it for a couple of minutes, and then poured it into the mold. I also suspect that my actions may have caused the soap to accelerate. Looking back, I continued to mix it for too long. When I watch the video (hey, there's a video!), I can pinpoint the moment when I should have stopped mixing. And then I watch myself grab a stickblender for one more go. Aargh. Also, this is a new recipe that I just sorta came up with and hadn't yet tested. (As a side note, it seems to make really nice soap!) I need to try this recipe a few more times before I can truly know how it behaves. I did use full water, though, and I soaped fairly cool, right around 100 degrees F. But I do think the soap may have turned out more swirly if I had poured my soap at a thinner trace.

Here's a video I made of the process. I tried something new this time, you guys. I talked my way through this video instead of relying on captions. I was shy about talking before - and I still am - because I tend to babble like a crazy person when I feel pressure to talk. Plus I don't really like my voice. But I thought I'd give this new format a shot. Whaddaya think? Do you like the talky stuff? (Oh, and make sure you stick around for the blooper at the end!)

Overall, I'm pleased with this soap. The colors are pretty and the bars smell uhmazing. I think next time I would like to try the mantra swirl with three colors side-by-side (which I can also do with my plastic dividers!) so that the middle of the bars are more interesting. That way, too, I could cut the soap horizontally and have a nice big swirl on each bar, since the swirl will be on the top and the bottom of the loaf that way. This time, since the mantra swirl was only on the top, I cut the bars in the traditional way so that each one would have a bit of the swirl on it.

I'm already thinking about a mantra swirl for the holidays ...

Have you tried the Mantra Swirl technique? What about the Taiwan Swirl? That one is on my list, too!