August Soap Challenge Club

This month’s soap challenge was negative space embedding.  The idea is create a soap that will have holes in it (negative space) that are then filled with a different soap.  Typically embeds are made first and inserted into freshly poured soap.

I decided to use my vertical mold because I wanted to be able to cut the soap with my wire soap cutter as I am challenged when it comes to cutting a straight soap.  Also I thought it might be easier to just have one space to fill.  I choose a piece of 2×2 wood that I had and cut it longer than the mold so I could have a good grip when I tried to pull it out of the soap.  Amy had mention that she had trouble getting the pipes that she used out of the soap.  At the last minute I had the brilliant idea (if I must say so myself) to cover the wood with Press’N Seal to help with removal.

_DSC0469The bright orange you see is actually yellow and will turn back to yellow.  I am using a blend of citrus essential oils and plan on call this “Critus Blast”.  This section is green and yellow for lemon, grapefruit and lime.

_DSC0474  The wood was easy to remove, leaving the Press’N Seal behind.  The wrap pealed off in a snap leaving a nice “negative space”.  _DSC0488

The colors I wanted to use were yellow, pink, orange and a little green.  The plan was to pour two colors at a time in to alternate corners.  I had visions of free flowing soap forming beautiful swirls.  Unfortunately my soap got thick and I had to force it in the opening.  I did still try to alternate the colors but…….

_DSC0481 With so little soap in the negative space, the soap did not gel and the colors are not as vibrant as they could have been with gel.  There are also some air bubbles in a few slices but not too bad.  While the design didn’t work out as planned it is still a fun soap and it smells incredible.  In addition to lemon, lime and grapefruit that I mentioned earlier I also used blood orange, sweet orange, and tangerine.


For fun I tried another version of this technique.  This time I used a regular loaf mold and round PVC pipe.

_DSC0476 The fragrance I used was Cashmere and Silk which discolors to tan so the soap used in the negative space was left unscented.  White, teal and pink were used to complement the tan – also they are the colors of a cashmere sweater I once saw and loved (too bad I couldn’t afford it at the time).

_DSC0482  This one required a horizontal cut to see the swirl in the negative space.  You can see the top is already starting to turn.

_DSC0480  A fews days later and it is darker but still not as dark as it will get.  I usually steer away from discoloring fragrances but this one is definitely worth it.

Which one to post as my entry?  Decisions, decisions.  I wish the Cashmere and Silk had time to darken – I know it is going to look great.  But maybe if I thought about it I could have found a way to make sure Citrus Blast gelled.

And my entry is:  _DSC0473


A huge thanks to Amy for organizing these challenges.  This was especially fun since I would not have tried this technique without the challenge.

July 2014 Soap Challenge

It is time again to post our entries in the Soap Challenge Club.  This month is different from past months in that we were not given a specific design to create, rather we were given two color pallets and the choice of using natural colorants or synthetic colors.  We also had the option of doing both pallets but it could not be combined into one soap, i.e., choose the pallet and choose the method of coloring.

I love colorful soap and mostly use micas for my colorants.  I do make several all natural soaps and primarily use clays for color in those.  So my first choice was to go with synthetic colors using the Summer Setting pallet.  I decided to test my colors first (actually I had some new micas I wanted to test also).  So I made test batch of soap and went to work.  Here are some of the trays of test soap – they have the colors that I decided to use for the challenge.

_DSC0437The colors I decided to use are the ones that are popped out of the molds.  In the small sample size they were spot on.  I was thrilled.  To get those colors I used:

SummerSetting colors used

The recipe for the test batch was pretty boring so we used a different recipe but one that still produced a relatively white base and used Vetiver from Brambleberry as the fragrance.  I don’t remember having problems with that one before.  This time the soap moved faster than expected but was still somewhat workable.  The problem was the colors.  The blue was beautiful when I mixed it but it completely faded by the time I was finished pouring.  And the yellow that I used for the base to pour the drop swirl turned bright orange.  It was difficult to tell the difference between the orange and yellow.  I was totally surprised because I had no problems with the test batch colors.  I am not sure whether it was the heat from a larger batch or the fragrance.

So what could I do but put the finished loaf under its blanket and let it become soap.  The next morning I was of course anxious to see what my epic failure was going to look like.  Surprise!  The blue was back but not as dark and the yellow was yellow again.

_DSC0460This is a picture of the top of the soap just after taking it out of the mold.  And here it is cut:


It turned out much better than I was expecting but because I was sure it was not going to work out I decided to do the Autumn pallet in natural colors.

_DSC0470    MineralAutumn colors used


Again I used a recipe that would produce a white soap base.  Since this soap was being colored with natural ingredients I decided to use essential oils as the fragrance and with the darker colors I thought it was a good time to  bring out the patchouli and mixed it with sweet orange and bergamot (it smells great).  I did not add the essential oil blend to the off white part.

I did not test the colors.  I have used all before except for the paprika and that is the only one that I would change if I did it again.  I just mixed the paprika with a touch of clay in my already infused annatto oil when I should have taken the time to infuse it.  The paprika is speckled in the finished soap.  But overall I am pleased with this one:

_DSC0489 Top of the soap.

_DSC0509  Finished soap.

In the past I typically used only one or two natural colorants in a all natural line.  I am very happy that I decided to do both challenges because it has opened my eyes to the possibilities with natural colorants to create beautiful swirls.

Thank you Amy for another fun challenge.


Soap Challenge Club – Hanger Swirl

The hanger swirl can be done many ways.  You use a hanger or other similar device to swirl your soap after it has been poured.  Sometimes you simply move the hanger straight up and down; other times you might go up and down and then across; or you might make figure 8′s , etc.

This month I actually took three attempts at this swirl.  As I type I am still trying to decide which one I want to enter.  The one I thought I would like the best didn’t turn out as well I wanted.  The soap got thick fast even though I had used a fragrance (Black Raspberry Vanilla) and recipe that I thought I could trust.  This is a swirl where less is more but my two contrasting lines got too thick because of the acceleration of the batter.  The result is not as whisky as I wanted but I still like the soap.   Here is the finished photo:


The very first attempt also moved very fast and I did not have time to take photos of the progress.  This one is Aloe Vera and Cucumber – one of my favorite fragrances.  Here we swirled with a combination of an up and down movement followed by some circular movements.  I really do like the outcome when you combine both for your hanger swirl.

_DSC0468 _DSC0472


My final attempt used Pink Berry Mimosa fragrance that I have had for sometime and decided I use it since it is a great fragrance for my summer line.  This soap behaved much better and I was able to get a few photos along the way.  I used a tall skinny mold for this on since is a beverage fragrance.

Colors ready

Colors ready

This is my "hanger" swirl tool.  You can bend it to fit the size of your mold and it is a little thicker than a regular hanger

This is my “hanger” swirl tool. You can bend it to fit the size of your mold and it is a little thicker than a regular hanger

Batter poured and starting to swirl

Batter poured and starting to swirl

Top swirled too

Top swirled too

Freshly cut soap

Freshly cut soap

_DSC0464 _DSC0453

Decision time.  I am going to submit Pink Berry Mimosa for the challenge.

Thank you Amy for all your work coordinating these challenges.  It is always fun.


Mica Swirl Challenge

The challenge for May is to design a soap with a mica swirl.  The mica is to be dispersed in either glycerin or oil (or a combination of the two).  My inspiration was a post on the Etsy Blog that was a tutorial on making a marbled scarf using the same technique as marbling paper.  The complete post may be found at:  But here is the picture that captured my attention:


We have been very busy recently and I did not start my soap for the challenge until I saw the email from Amy saying the link up to post our pictures was open.  So I quickly assembled my supplies and got to work on the my soap.


_DSC0450My mica splotches did not disperser the same way the paint does on the size for the marbling.  But I decided to proceed with the technique any way.

_DSC0457This is after the first lines were drawn freehand.  I should have made them closer together.

_DSC0463For the second set of lines I used my rake that I made for the peacock swirl challenge

_DSC0465The dividers are in the mold and off to sleep we go.

_DSC0467Close up view of wet soap.  Not quite what I wanted but not too bad either.

_DSC0476The sides of the mold have been removed but the soap is too soft to go any further.

_DSC0486     _DSC0454

I have a show on both Saturday and Sunday this week and need to package more soap and make some scrubs today.  So I will not have time to post a picture of the soap out of the mold before the link up closes.  I will post one on our Facebook page ( when I free the soap from the mold.  Thank you for understanding.

Once again Amy has provided a fun challenge – thank you Amy for all your work in coordinating the Soap Challenge Club.


February’s Soap Challenge Club – Embeds

For this month’s challenge Amy asked us to make soap with cold process embeds.  I had a vision of a crescent moon and some stars in the midnight sky.  I was sure I could pull it off.

My first attempt at making the moon was an epic failure.  I decided to use an acetate sheet inserted into a PVC pipe to make the moon.  It seemed easy enough.

Image   But when I started to pour the soap I found that the acetate was too thin and easily bent.  So I had to pour on both sides.

Image   It looked like it was going to work.  And I even got it out of the mold with no problem.

Image   But that is where it ended.  I could not get the soap out of the acetate without breaking or cutting it.  So it was back to the drawing board.  This time I used a sturdier divider by putting a 2 inch PVC pipe inside my 3 inch pipe.

Image  Both pipes were lined with freezer paper and there was no problem getting it out of the mold.

Image   Image

It was out in one piece but definitely needed some clean up.  That was kind of fun – I could see myself sitting on the back porch whittling some wood.

Image  So I poured a layer of dark blue with some white for the first layer.  Then in went the moon.  Only it wouldn’t stay in place.  I figured that once it was surrounded by soap about half way up it would stay put.  So a couple of strategically place skewers did the trick until I could get enough soap in the mold to hold it.

The plan was to pour several gradient layers of dark blue turning to charcoal.  That is where another glitch came in – there wasn’t enough soap to completely cover the moon.  I was so happy that I had master batched some oils and lye and could quickly make some more soap.

Image  I wish soap would look like it was just poured when it cures but…  By the time the soap was poured it was cold and I knew it was not going to gel so into the fridge it went to make sure we didn’t get partial gel.

Image  Here it is waiting to be cut.  As you can see there was some ash to deal with.  (Also confession time – the new batch of soap I made at the end didn’t find it’s way to the middle of the soap and some pieces have a void.)  Fortunately a few turned out.


This was not as easy as I envisioned going into the venture.  Amy once again provided us with a fun challenge.  Thank you Amy.

Alternative Lip Balm Uses!

The following was posted on one of my suppliers’ blog today. I thought it was worth sharing so I am re-posting it here. To see the original you may go to:

Alternative Lip Balm Uses!.

Alternative Lip Balm Uses!
Posted on Tuesday, January 28th, 2014 at 6:38 pm.
How many ways can you use lip balm?

Bet you didn’t know you have a secret weapon in your arsenal. Chances are it’s in your purse right now. That little tube of lip balm contains some pretty incredible ingredients that transform it into multitasking miracle stick when you’re in a pinch. Next time you go digging into the depths of your favorite tote for a Band-Aid or some moisturizer, reach for your lip balm instead!

Here’s a pretty lengthy list of life hacks compliments of that little tube of magic!

1.) Cuticle treatment –Lip balms are made with moisturizing ingredients like shea butter, cocoa butter and coconut oil making it perfect for softening your cuticles. Next time you notice your cuticles looking dry and cracked, grab your tube of lip balm and massage a small amount into the base of the nail.

2.) Brow tamer – Smooth and style your brows with lip balm. This will tame your brows without the stiff finish of brow gels.

3.) Skin moisturizer – Elbows, knuckles and heels are subject to dry, cracked skin. Solution? Massage some lip balm into them! The moisturizing ingredients in lip balm make a wonderful treatment for dry, rough spots.

4.) Cream Blush – Out of your powdered blush? No problem. Grab your tinted lip balm and rub into the apples of your cheeks for a beautiful dewy finish.

5.) Eye primer- Primer is a must when wearing eye shadow if you’re looking for staying power. Try lip balm for a great, moisturizing alternative that will keep your shadow in place all day.

6.) Stop fretting over minor nicks and scrapes. Next time you cut yourself shaving, rub on a little balm. It will stop the bleeding without the Band-Aid!

7.) Help your shoelaces stay secure. Use the balm to coat the strings where you loop and knot. Your laces will stay in place.

8.) Zipper with ease. Rub a small amount of balm on the teeth of a stuck zipper, then zip and unzip a few times.

9.) Soothe a sore nose. When recovering from a cold, apply balm above your upper lip directly to your nose to soothe sore, red skin from too much tissue use after a cold.

10.) Repair a scratched CD. Spread a thin layer over a scratch on your CD and it will stop the skipping. How cool is that?!

11.) Unscrew outdoor light bulbs. Lube up outdoor light bulbs before screwing in to make removal a breeze. When exposed to the elements the threads can become difficult to untwist. A little lip balm helps to prevent the erosion that causes this to happen.

12.) Make drawers glide. Use a little on the edges of your drawers to help ease motion when they get stuck.

13.) Lube up a nail or screw before trying to nail/screw into wood for easy placement.

14.) Apply to your hairline prior to dying (especially when using dark colors) to prevent staining on your skin.

15.) Apply to cheeks to prevent windburn while skiing and snowboarding.

16.) Got a ring stuck on your finger? Lube it up with a little lip balm and it will ease its way off gently.

17.) Remove price sticker residue! Coat the sticker with lip balm and allow to sit for at least 10 minutes. The oils in the balm will cause the sticker to disintegrate. Wipe off with a damp cloth.

18.) Paw protection. When the temperatures drop, your pet’s paws can become compromised due to the irritation of snow and salt. Coat them with lip balm prior to going outdoors. The balm will act as a barrier to keep their paws healthy.

Soap Challenge Club – Taiwan Swirl


I was happy that this month’s challenge is the Taiwan Swirl because I had seen a number of soaps with this design but I have never attempted it before (perhaps because I was not sure how it was accomplished).  As usual Amy provided a video explaining how to do the swirl and I was surprised that such pretty soap was relatively easy.  The trick is in cutting the bars.

For this challenge I decided to use four colors because I had a set of dividers that would work perfectly to assist me with pouring even rows.  I choose White Tea & Ginger for the fragrance since I knew it would give me time to work and used sparkle gold mica, titanium dioxide, cosmos martini purple and a mix of greens.

Here are some photos of making the soap – sorry they are not the best since I used my phone to take the pics.


Soap is about half poured.


First part of the swirl is like a Mantra swirl


Then you make a few horizontal passes with your swirl tool and you have your Taiwan Swirl.


I was thrilled to see that the swirl went all the way through the soap and the bottom looked a lot like the top.


With this design you cannot just cut it in slices as you normally would or the pattern would be lost. First you cut it into sections the width of a bar of soap.


Then you slice it horizontally.

I really like how this turned out.

_DSC0356 _DSC0348

Thanks Amy for another fun challenge.  This is a design that will be making again soon.

Column Pour Challenge

The design Amy presented this month’s Soap Challenge Club is the column pour.  This is where you select as many colors as you would like and then alternate pouring them over a column(s).  The pattern will appear depending on the shape of the column you use.  When all the soap batter is poured you simply remove the column(s) and then decide whether you want to add interest by swirling the pattern.

I chose Kumquat from Brambleberry for my fragrance since it is supposed to behave well in cold process soap (i.e., it does not overly thicken the soap or change the color of your soap).  Plus it smells wonderful.  Since kumquats look a lot like oranges, I decided my colors would be orange (BB’s Tangerine Wow), yellow (BB’s Fizzy Lemonade) and green (Chrominum Oxide Green and Starlight Green mica) with white (BB’s TD) for contrast.  Note to self – the Starlight Green looked great when first mixed but morphed to a split pea soup color so don’t use it in CP.  Here are the pictures of the process and results.

All set up and ready to go.

All set up and ready to go.

Soap batter divided up for colors.
Soap batter divided up for colors.

In the middle of pouring

In the middle of pouring
Poured and swirled

Poured and swirled

Dividers in and ready for to be wrapped up to gel.

Dividers in and ready for to be wrapped up to gel.

24 hours later

24 hours later

Out of the mold and removing from dividers

Out of the mold and being removed from dividers

All lined up like little soldiers

All lined up like little soldiers

This was another fun challenge.  Thanks Amy for all your efforts and Brambleberry for sponsoring this month’s challenge.

Fun with melt and pour

Recently Stephenson Personal Care posted a link on their Facebook page to #AOLetsSoap competition.  Of course I was intrigued – I always love a competition – so I popped over to the AO at Home site ( and signed up to participate.  It was not long until I received a package from Stephenson with a two pound package of  their natural high foaming soap base to use for the project.  Not only that, they also included a mold.


I was so happy about receiving the surprise mold that I decided I would use the cavity that has their logo and try to match their logo colors.  The detail of their logo is indented rather than pushed out so I couldn’t just pour the colors into those sections.  I had to pour the red and blue on the outside of the mold, then remove it and place it in the cavity part of the mold.  To make this part easier, I put the mold in the freezer for a few minutes to harden the soap.


IMG_2508Here I have placed the soap pieces inside the mold.

IMG_2528_DSC0365 And the finished logo soap.

Now for the soap I had planned to make for the competition.  I love the combination of clay and charcoal in soap and I often make charcoal and sea clay (or Dead Sea mud) soap for my facial bar.  I have some rose clay and rose pedal powder that I wanted to try with charcoal.  I also decided to splurge and use my Rose Absolute essential oil.  I think pink and grey is such a pretty color combination.  I gathered my ingredients.

IMG_2493            IMG_2494Soap base on cutting board ready to cut

The first layer is rose clay.  I dispersed it in alcohol to make it easier to mix into the soap base.  Not the shade of pink I was looking for but an interesting color.


After that layer set up, I prepared the next section by dispersing some activated charcoal in a little alcohol and poured that layer.


The final layer is the rose pedal powder.


But as you can see, it looks just like the rose clay.  So to get the contract I wanted, I added some pearly white mica to this part.  It was still a little brown looking.  I added just a little rose mica.  The combination of micas gave that part of the soap a lovely swirled look.

IMG_2537 _DSC0321 _DSC0332 _DSC0333 _DSC0345

While I didn’t get the pink that I expected, I really, really like this look.  The best part is the soap base is wonderful — it is a natural base that is sulfate free and it produces lots of suds and leaves my skin feeling moisturized.  Thank you AO at Home and Stephenson for sponsoring this competition.  I will definitely be ordering more of this base.

Learning to deal with soda ash on my soap

One of the things I enjoy about soap making (and it is the same thing that can be so frustrating at the same time) is that no two batches are the same.  You can use the exact same recipe and measure ever so carefully and the soap will be slightly different.  There are a number of variables of course – the temperature of the room or oils and lye, humidity……

One of the things that can happen to soap is soda ash.  This is a white powdery looking substance that appears on the top of you soap.  There are a number of theories of why this happens.  And a number of things that are suggested to stop it – cover your soap, spray it with alcohol several times during the first few hours, use beeswax in your recipe are a few.  There are draw backs to each of these.  So if you make more than a few batches of soap, you are bound to have soda ash at some point.

What is soda ash and does it matter?  Soda ash is sodium carbonate that formed when sodium hydroxide (lye) in the soap contacted carbon dioxide in the air.  It is completely harmless.  In some cases it adds character  and interest to the soap. Other times it is unacceptable.


This is an example where soda ash added interest to the top.  This is Castile Soap that is slightly yellow from the olive oil and the ash is a nice white.


But soda ash definitely is unacceptable on this soap.  It is just plain unappealing.  So what to do?  I wanted to save this soap and I didn’t want to plane the top of the soap so I searched for answers.  There are several ways suggested besides planing the top:

1.  Steam.  I used my portable clothes steamer

2.  Spray with alcohol

3.  Rinse under cool running water.

4.  Dip in vinegar water

Here are the results:


The best results were obtained by the rinsing the soap under running water followed by steaming it.  Perhaps if the ash was not so thick the other methods would have worked better.  This soap cleaned up nicely but not without a lot of effort.  One important point – be sure you wear gloves when handling your soap avoid finger prints.  Also have a rack to drain and dry the soap ready.

In conclusion, the most difficult method proved the most effective and the easiest way (spraying with alcohol) the least effective.  No surprise there.