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:  http://www.soapqueen.com/bath-and-body-tutorials/tips-and-tricks/olive-oils-created-equally/




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:  https://blog.etsy.com/en/2013/how-to-marbled-scarf/?ref=fp_blog_title.  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 (www.Facebook.com/TheVillageSoapsmith) 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.