Mantra Marbles Soap Challenge

When I heard the name of this month’s soap challenge I couldn’t imagine what the design would be.  Turns out it is a combination of two designs – the mantra swirl and Ebru marbling techniques and the soap had to be made in a slab mold.  It will be much easier to show some pictures than try to explain the process.

IMG_3264The fragrance I decided to use for this challenge was Arizona Sunrise.  It is well behaved in soap and smells very fresh and uplifting (mainly citrus).  A quick Google search yielded this picture for color inspiration.

IMG_3265I reached for my smallest slab mold since I wasn’t at all sure about this design.  This mold will yield 8 to 9 bars depending on how it is cut.  The dividers were required for the design so I made them out of cardboard that I covered with packaging tape.

IMG_3268So the blue is the sky with the red yellow and orange the reflection of the rising sun.  I poured the sun colors in horizontal lines in an attempt to get streaks of color across the sky for the Marble part.  Now to remove the dividers and on to the Mantra swirl.

IMG_3270Yes I made a huge mess.  I think the cardboard dividers intimidated me.  There are some drops in the blue but I have learned that they will not make a difference after the soap is swirled.  When I first started soaping I would have been horrified that I colored outside the lines.

IMG_3271The first side is finished with the Mantra swirl which is simply making figure “8”s down the length.

IMG_3283I used the same instrument to make the figure “8”s on the second side but had an entirely different result.  My guess is that I must have held it at a different angle.  It is in the back of my mind to experiment with this later to see if I can determine the difference.

At that point I was not very happy with my soap.  But after cutting it I think it is a very interesting design and I am happy that the orange and red are distinguishable (wasn’t sure they would be as I was pouring the stripes).

_DSC2327     _DSC2332      _DSC2317


Thanks Amy!  Another one that made me go outside my comfort zone.

Embracing Opposites Soap Challenge

Hot cold, big small, tall short, happy sad, vibrant dull,  opposites all – in just a few minutes one can come up with so many.  This month’s soap challenge is embracing opposites – the idea was to portray your chosen opposites in soap using a loaf mold.

The first idea I had was to see how many opposites I could get into one design.  What came to mind was horizontal and vertical, cool and warm colors and then I wondered if there was such a thing as opposite fragrances.  A quick Google search came up with a fragrance wheel – much like a color wheel the opposite fragrance are supposed to blend.  I am posting a copy below in case there are others like me who didn’t know this existed.  Also including a warm/cool color chart here and will explain why.

main-qimg-60a2ea589ce40ec65034b46389c305e7                  warm-cool-colors1


When I showed my finished product to my son who is an accomplished artist he commented that my green was really yellow green so it is really a part of the warm side.  What- green is green – isn’t it?   Okay that didn’t quite work out for colors.  But happily the fragrance combination did – soft oriental and citrus using Sandalwo0d and Blood Orange.  It is a lovely scent that seems to be improving.  Here my first try:


So with the green being off and the horizontal stripe needing some improvement it was off to another design.  This time I settled on winter and summer.  For winter I wanted a pine tree in a snow storm (a rather simple design) and for summer the idea was to create a wild flower meadow with a blue sky and wispy clouds (a complex design).  I used is Peppermint essential oil for the cold winter and although I wanted to use a real flowery scent I decided to go with just Lavender essential oil to allow time to pour.


Just cut








These challenges are always learning experiences for me.  If I had time to do the summer/winter soap again I would definitely use squeeze bottles for the flowers and pine tree.  My squeeze bottles are huge (probably 32 oz) and since I only needed a small amount of soap batter in these design features I decided to try it free hand and use a spoon to dribble the soap.  Had I used the squeeze bottle I think the lines that formed the pine tree would have been a more consistent thickness and the colors of the flower field would have been more distinct.  Also I thought I was being very careful in removing the divider but I must have tilted it a little at the top.

Nevertheless I am still pretty pleased with the way the summer/winter soap turned out and that will be my enter this month.

I love the way these challenges push me outside the box.  This month was particularly fun – thank you Amy!

Making soap using the Turkish art of Ebru – June Soap Challenge Club

It has been a couple months since I participated in Amy Warden’s soap challenge club.  This month when she announced the challenge was using Ebru designs in soap, I decided to join in the fun.  Ebru is actually painting on water and then transferring the design to paper.  I have made soap before using Ebru designs without knowing it was Ebru – a good example is the peacock swirl.

Our challenge was to find an inspiration and execute it in soap.  Many Ebru patterns employ a “rake” or other special tools to achieve the look, however, our instructions stated that we must draw the design free hand using a pick or chop stick.  I choose a picture from the website  I recommend visiting the site – he has so many different design – I would love to try more.

cable and curl ebru red

It took me a while to figure out how to do this on soap.  I watched a number of YouTube videos and finally decided how I would try to get this patter.

_DSC1997Colors ready – teal green, peacock blue, black oxide, cosmo martini, and titanium dioxide to go with the Ed Hardy for Men fragrance I choose.

first pass with the colors

first pass with the colors


the colors are ready for the swirls


in the process of drawing up and down lines fairly close together vertically and then horizontally.



the next step was to draw lines to make squares

To finish I drew curls in each of the square.


wet soap immediately after finishing.



close up of the design

I tried a couple other designs but they will have to wait for another day and another post.  The deadline to submit our entries is tomorrow afternoon but I will be at the farmers market so my personal deadline is now.  This was so much fun and I am sure I will be re-visiting many of the Ebru sites – it is absolutely fascinating to watch those artist create their beautiful paper.

Thank you Amy!  Can’t wait to see what you have in store for July.



Landscape Soap Challenge

Sometime ago while looking through one of my suppliers’ sites I came across Tahitian Black Sand and I just had to buy it.  Every time I see it I wonder what I am going to do with it.  So when Amy announced this month’s challenge was to recreate a landscape scene I immediately thought of doing a black sand beach.  I Googled Tahitian black sand beaches and quite frankly the results were not very inspirational – they just were not very pretty.   I keep putting off making the soap and then I got busy preparing for the first big craft show of my season which was last Saturday.  So Amy’s email saying it was time to post came as a surprise.

I thought about skipping this month but I really wanted to use that darn sand.  Another search and I came up with a picture that I thought might be workable and have a little bit of interest to it.  I studied the picture quickly and made a drawing of how I thought I could pour the soap.



Ideally I should have allowed at least two days to complete the layers but I knew the fragrance (Crafters Choice Beach) is a fast mover.  I decided that I would mix my colors and add the fragrance to each color just prior to pouring and hoped the layer would set up while I was preparing the next one.  It did work but not as well as I had hoped – there is some minor mixing of the colors.  When I got to the sky, I realized that I had not left enough white for the clouds.  I used what I had and then called on my cache of melt and pour soap for the balance.

IMG_3084  It is in the mold.  Nothing to do now except wait and hope.

Since the soap was in a silicon mold I was afraid I might have to wait an extra day or two to remove it – talk about last minute.  But I gently pulled one side and it released easily. The soap popped right out.  Here are the result:

_DSC0040                  east-tiarei





Overall I am pretty pleased with the way it turned out and am really happy that I didn’t take the easy way out and just skip this one.  Now I am looking forward to trying soap with sand as an exfoliant.

Thanks Amy this was another fun challenge.



February 2015 soap challenge – DNA/Helix swirl

This month’s challenge was the DNA/Helix swirl.  To accomplish this you lay down alternating lines of several different colors.  You then use a chop stick, skewer or instrument of your choice to make a back and forth motion that produces a Chevron pattern.  This is what my soap looked like at this point:

_DSC0892  I must admit that I was tempted to leave it like this.

The next step is to make “s” curves (like you would in the peacock swirl) also using your chop stick.  The result is supposed to look like the DNA Helix.  My curves may be a little too big but it is still a very pretty design (IMHO).  To compliment the green and blue, I scented this with Nature’s Garden Aqua Di Gio type.  Now I am wishing I had used a large slab mold – I sued my little nine bar mold.


It was fun trying this one especially since I was not familiar with this design technique.  I will definitely be doing this again.  Thanks Amy.


Butterfly Swirl Soap Challenge

This month’s challenge was by far the most challenging in my opinion.  The butterfly swirl technique requires that you pour two or more contrasting colors in your base soap and then use a hanger tool to try to create something that looks like a butterfly when the soap is cut.  Keep in mind that you cannot see what is happening in the soap batter as you move the hanger about.  There is a very talented soaper, Zahida of Handmade in Florida, who has perfected this technique – she creates such jaw dropping beautiful soap.  Her videos make it look easy but believe me it is not.

Okay my first try didn’t turn out as well as planned.  The contrasting colors are poured a little at a time and alternated with the base color until you use most of the colored soap.  I used a fragrance called champagne pear and my idea on the colors was that the base would be champagne color (used a mica called honey) but it turned out much darker than anticipated.  I know I should test my colors before using.  The contrast idea was yellow, green and red for various colors of pears.  I mixed a couple of colors to get the red and it is what I wanted.  The yellow and the green would probably have been okay except the red over powered them after the first pour (not to mention the first pour was a little thick).  Anyway here it is:



For the second attempt I decided to use Crisp Apple Rose fragrance and keep the base white.  For colors, a red juicy apple and pink roses came to mind with some green for the leaves.  It seemed that using a little less color might produce better results but it is so difficult to hold back and this still has just a bit more than planned.  The soap performed well and gave me lots of time to work.  Did I mention this fragrance smells wonderful?  I can see a butterfly – can you?


butterfly swirl final


I am definitely not through with this technique – it will be on my list to try again soon.  Even when you don’t get a perfect butterfly the swirls are still so pretty.  Thank you Amy.  This was really fun.


Spoon/Chopstick Swirl Challenge

This is going to be a quick post this month.  I am down to the wire on getting this posted on time.  This months challenge involves using a spoon or chopstick to make your swirl after you get your base and colors in the mold.  It is a relatively easy process and you almost always get good results.

The first step for me was choosing my fragrance – I went with Sweet Orange Chilli Pepper.  Pretty easy to select the colors on this one:

IMG_3026  Red, yellow, orange and green.  No surprises there.

I poured my mold about half full with white base then used a drop pour for the colors and a chopstick to swirl.   I was really excited to be using my new mold I ordered from Japan for the very first time.



After 24 hours the soap was still to soft to try to get out.  And oh by the way I had no idea how to get the soap out as I didn’t line the mold except for the very bottom to keep it from leaking (you are not supposed to have to).  My other clear molds are easy to disassemble and remove the soap but this one only the bottom is removable.  Another 24 hours and the soap was still somewhat soft to the touch.   So I decided the only way I could get the soap out in time was to put it in the freezer.  It appeared I would be able to get the soap out now but just trying to use my fingers was not working.  I found two pieces of scrap wood about the same size in my garage and used several rubber bands to hold them together.  It took some effort but the soap came out perfectly.



_DSC0975   _DSC0984    _DSC0988  _DSC0972


Thank you Amy for hosting this fun challenge.

November Soap Challenge Club – Combing Technique

For this month’s Soap Challenge Club the only criteria was to use a comb in the design of our swirls. The most well known in this category is probably the peacock swirl which is a beautiful design. In fact, the peacock swirl was the first challenge I entered so I decided to do something a little different – the french curl.

I rounded up the comb that I made for that first challenge and since I was using a new fragrance from Mad Oils called Smoke and Mirrors I wanted my colors to be on the dark side and my base to be natural.

Here are the five squeeze bottles (note the well-worn handmade comb in the background).


We are about half way through squirting the colors:

This shows how the soap looked immediately after running the comb through the lines of color (the orange is really yellow and will return to yellow after saponification):

For the french twist swirl you simply make a series of curlicues starting at the top and working your way across then down to the next line and then across again and so on until you are finished.

The soap is then sprayed with alcohol to prevent soda ash and wrapped up for the night. The next day I was happy that there were no signs of ash and the orange was indeed yellow again. And I am very pleased with the way this design turned out.





This was another fun challenge. Thanks Amy.

In the Pot Swirl Challenge

This month’s challenge is the in the pot swirl (ITP) and in theory should have been easy since it is one of the first swirls that most soapers learn.  Considering that I made five soaps trying to get one that I really really like to enter, this was anything but easy.  I encountered problems with all of them.   I personally like them all but for the challenge I was looking for something that really jumped out and say vote for me.

The first two soaps were based on the same color scheme from a picture that was posted on one of the Facebook groups that I belong to.  Here is a picture showing the colors selected for the swirl.


These soaps were scented with Brambleberry’s Energy.  I think that fragrance actually slows trace.  The first try my batter was a little thin.  On the second try I thought I had a nice consistency but when I added the colors it seemed to thin up.  As you can see the results were very similar.

_DSC0476 the first one made in a regular loaf mold   _DSC0480 the second try made in my tall skinny mold

Even though the soap batter was thin and the colors blended in some areas you can still pick out all the colors.

For the next try I decided to make a soap I had been planning for the winter season which is a tribute to the movie Frozen.  I scented this one with Fresh Snow and used four different colors of blue as well as titanium dioxide.

_DSC0494 The blues are Almost Ice, Turquoise, Coral Reef Blue and Royal Blue

_DSC0489  _DSC0477  I thought I had tried all of these colors previously but apparently I had not used the Royal Blue mica.  I couldn’t believe when I cut the soap I could only find three blues.  Notice the soap as areas that look like natural uncolored soap.  That is where the Royal Blue was.  I used plastic cups to mix my colored soap and was able to retrieve them from the trash.  Yeap the one that was used to mix the Royal Blue contained uncolored soap.  This particular mica loses it color in cold process soap.  In the picture the three blues that survived may not be clearly visible but in person they are.

On to the fourth try.  No pictures here.  I planned nice fall colors to go with the Home for the Holidays fragrance I was using.  Everything I read about this fragrance said it soaped beautifully so I did not hesitate to add it to my soap batter before separating out the portions.  Oh no – soap on a stick!!!  So out came the crock pot and now we have a rebatched white soap that smells wonderful – apples, mulled apple cider, apple pie – yum.  But very plain.  So I plan to borrow one of Amy’s techniques of stamping with a rubber stamp and mica.

Final try.  I used a fragrance from last year that I knew would not cause too much trouble – Twigs and Berries – and the same fall color scheme I had already planned.  I mixed my colors but forgot to take a picture which is just as well because I had to add more color to get the look I was hoping for.   I used brick red oxide but it looked too brown so I added some liquid red and crimson sparkle mica, brown oxide with brown sparkle mica, yellow oxide with liquid yellow added,  chromium green oxide, and rainbow orange mixed with vibrance red and some bright orange liquid color.  With all the mixing and fussing with the colors the base did get thicker than I like but it was still workable.

_DSC0494  _DSC0496  All the colors in this one are clearly identifiable.


My favorite of these is Frozen but I will not enter it since one of the colors is missing.  The first two are nice but should have had more of the blue and the colors melded in a few areas.  So that leaves Twigs and Berries for my entry.

I definitely learned a few things from this challenge.   Such as 1) make sure you are at medium trace; 2) know your fragrance (don’t believe everything you read); 3) test your colors and 4) never assume it is going to be easy.  Thank you Amy once again you have sponsored a fun challenge  And once again I am reminded of why this is called a “challenge”.



Interesting information re olive oil in soap

I love making Castile soap.  Mainly because it is believed to be the root of all soap making and it is the mildest of all soaps.  To be considered real Castile the soap must contain only olive oil, water and lye – and that is how I make it.  I use extra virgin certified organic olive oil.  The people who purchase Castile soap want it because it is so mild and free from any additives – no colorants or fragrances.  Because Castile contains no hard oils, it must be allowed to cure a longer period of time.  My regular soap is ready in about 4 weeks.  Castile on the other hand is cured for a minimum of three months but more often I hold it back six months.

I have recently been toying with the idea of offering a Castile soap made from just regular olive oil.  So when Anne-Marie of Brambleberry (aka The Soap Queen) recently posted the results of a study she did using various olive oils purchased from local stores I was more than interested.   She wanted to see if locally sourced, small quantity olive oil was reliable in soap making.  The verdict was – not really.  It is usable but the results varied greatly.

Her post can be viewed at: