Sunday, August 9, 2015

Lemon-Lime Spinning Swirl Fail

So, it's been forever since I've blogged. And it's been forever since I've made any soap. I made this batch in May and that's been it. Part of it is because I've still got soap bars that are a year or two old that I need to use up before I make more. Although if I'm going to make any soaps for the holidays it's about time to get going.

Truth is, I just haven't been interested in blogging lately.

For the past few months I have been distracted by other things, other interests. I just haven't been able to get myself in gear to write a blog post. I would sit down at the computer to do it and then be all like BLURGH. It has taken me months of doing a little here and a little there to get this post done.

My lack of enthusiasm isn't helped when projects go wrong. I'm still struggling with soap batter that is chronically thick. I think I am overmixing, even when I try not to. I see it when I play back the videos. The soap is emulsified and loose and then I watch in horror as I pick up the stickblender one more time and buzz away. In my head I scream, "PUT THAT THING DOWN YOU CRAZY PERSON!" I think I'm afraid of not mixing enough, of getting a false trace, and so I hit it one more time just to be sure. When I feel that urge to stickblend one more time, I need to recognize it and stop myself.

So, as a result of my hyper-diligence, my soap got too thick. Again.

The plan was to create a spinning swirl (or spin swirl, I've heard both and I'm not sure which is correct), a technique that has been very popular lately among soapmakers. I don't know where the spinning swirl originated, but here is a short and beautiful video showing how the spinning swirl is supposed to work. (If anyone knows who came up with the spinning swirl technique, please let me know in the comments so I can credit the creator!)

Here is a video of my spinning swirl fail. Of course, it's not a useful tool for properly illustrating the technique, but it will give you an idea of how this project went for me:

To do the spinning swirl, you basically do a faux funnel pour in each corner of your mold (a slab mold works best for this). In the demonstrations I've seen, the soapmaker alternates colors in two diagonal corners and, after several passes, pours from the other two corners as well. Then the mold is spun on the countertop to make the swirls.

You need to have a very fluid, thinly-traced soap for this to work. I have used this recipe before and it behaved beautifully for me in the past. A while back, I made an Orange Basil Swirled Hearts Soap using the same recipe from The Nova Studio Blog that I used here. (It's the second recipe: 41% olive oil, 25% coconut oil, 25% mango butter, 6% avocado oil, and 3% shea butter.) This recipe traced slowly when I made my Orange Basil soap and I was hoping for a repeat performance this time, but my soap was too thick and I was unable to achieve the spinning effect. So, instead of spinning the mold, I used a skewer to draw a circular pattern through my soap. It's still pretty, but not what I was going for.

And I don't think my fragrance oils (Lemon Sugar and Lime Crystal Kisses, both by Elements Bath and Body) were to blame for the acceleration. The vendor notes and reviews don't mention any problems with acceleration. Most likely I just overmixed my soap. And it probably would have helped to soap a bit cooler, maybe around 90 degrees F instead of 100-105 F.

On the bright side, for a fail this soap turned out pretty well! Looking at the photos, I thought, "That's a nice-looking soap. Not too shabby there, Captain Stickblender." I love how the swirls are throughout the entire bar. These should be really pretty to use, revealing new swirls with each wash.

So things could have gone worse. The soap is still beautiful and it smells nice. The lather feels very luxurious, too.

Yay for happy endings! Now if I could just get my mojo back.