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:




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.