Thursday, April 30, 2015

Spin or not to Spin?

Recently spin swirl has become the newest trend soapers have been trying to achieve.  What's spin swirl?  Literally it means spinning your soap mold to create a pattern using that centripetal force from spinning.  It might sound simple and easy but guess how many times I failed?  4 times…

1st try, forget it, soap got thick so texture top it is, sigh.

2nd time you would think I learned from the lesson, but no~  I tried a new fragrance and it didn't behave the way I want it… sigh.  At least it smells great!

3rd time is the charm, right?!  You can tell the soap batter did stay more liquid, but not long enough for me to finish the funnel pour and perform the final spinning.

 I should have given up at this point but I got stubborn!  I gave it my final shot!  …well, conclusion is, spin swirl is not cut for me...
The problem is the consistency of the soap batter, I know how to make thinner batter that lasts longer, by using high olive oil recipe and lower lye solution concentration.  Despite the proven fact that high olive oil recipe produces milder soap when cured correctly, It's personal taste that I dislike high olive oil soap, it has this slimy feel when washing and it produces creamy lather rather than fluffy suds.  The only high olive oil soap I make is my facial Dead Sea mud egg soap because fluffy lather is not desired for facial soap, that has 72% olive oil.  If what it takes to achieve this spin swirl is to use high olive oil in my recipe I think I would cross that one out of my list unfortunately.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Color Inspiration - Misbehaving

Misbehaving is a funny name for a fragrance I used to make this fun soap.  Disclaimer, I didn't make up the name!  It is from the supplier I purchased from.  I kind of like it for the reason that it did not behave while I was soaping it, so I decided to keep the name.
The scent strikes me as fun, fruity, zesty with a punch, definitely a party drink type smell.  I then went online in search of a color scheme to fit this fragrance.  The second I saw the photo on the right I knew it is THE one.
In my mind I was not expecting this fragrance to speed trace at all, fruity fragrance oils don't usually misbehave!  Well, I guess this one got her name for a good reason!  I couldn't make even layers, I was sweating to just get all the batter into the mold without bubbles.  This one is definitely having some spoiled princess moment!

Nevertheless, it came out gorgeous except some discoloration from white to beige, no big deal.  Hope you like this one!

Monday, April 6, 2015

Aleppo Soap - Laurel Soap

Aleppo Soap refers to savon d'Alep, or laurel soap, or Syrian soap. It was said to be originated from Southwest Asia Levant region (around Lebanon, Israel, Syria, etc.) then moved into Europe. It was usually done by hot processing 100% olive oil then infused with laurel berry oil at the end before molding into it's final shape.  Aleppo soap needs a long curing time, from 6 month to a year, like aging a good red wine, the older the better.  It usually starts with natural green color and aged into more rustic olive khaki shade.  The percentage of laurel berry oil used in the soap can range from 2-30%.  Obviously the more laurel berry oil content the more expensive the soap would be.  Laurel berry oil is not easy to source here in the US.  I've only got a small jar from one of my soaping friends.  I decided to make my version of Aleppo soap (cold process) using 20% of laurel berry oil and 80% herbal infused olive oil.
 I was afraid I would end up with dull khaki green so I decided to add a pinch of nettle leaf powder and chlorella to help the green color along.
Here are some interesting observations I got from making my very first Aleppo soap.  The first impression of laurel berry oil is that it smells a little like rotting herb, or dirt mixed with garden herb.  I wouldn't say it's a pleasant smell but it does not stink as much as carrot seed oil or neem oil thank goodness!  The smell is so strong it really troubled me on what to add to "compliment" or deter the original scent.  I finally added a little bit of sage and sandalwood fragrance into the batter hoping the rotting herb scent would mellow out a bit.  The 2nd impression is that it sure is a very thick oil, almost like a mixture of paste in oil.  What surprised me the most is when I poured in the lye solution and started stick blending the mixture.  Usually high olive oil recipe takes much longer to reach trace (emulsification between lye & oil).  But this one went kind of fast, within a minute (or less) the mixture is emulsified and started to turn a little gelatin like, shinny and appeared slightly translucent.  I had to hurry and pour into the mold.  I swear I was doing it as fast as a soaper can be but it still solidified faster than I expected, during the pour!  And I was only making 4 cubes!!!  At the end I had to use a spoon to pulp and push it into all corners of the mold trying to avoid any air pocket forming.
 After only a few days of curing I got impatient and took the scrap from the soap pot to do a test run under my kitchen faucet.  I can't say I'm not disappointed that it did not lather much.  It does not feel slimy like most of the high content olive oil soap, it feels very astringent, no wonder this kind of soap usually need to be cure for 6 months to a year.  I will have to stash these away, at somewhere I don't usually visit, or curiosity will kill this cat fast, I won't be able to keep my hands off these cubes!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

I Roll Roll Roll the Soap!

This is for a soap challenge I got myself into.  The mission is to incorporate 3 ingredients into our soap plus one assigned tool to create the look.  In this specific challenge we had to use egg, milk and sugar in making our soap.  That's not hard at all, I've used all 3 so many different times.  The hard part is the tool I was assigned to create my look.  I got a rolling pin...  This is the soap I created with all the circumstances:

I had 7 days to complete my look.  I don't know why on earth I had to make it so complicated.  This took me 9 days! I didn't make my deadline… sigh.
This was a 3 stage process.  The first pour was to make 3 different color soap.  Then I take them out to roll with THE assigned rolling pin when they are only 24 hours fresh.

I had to use lots of saran wrap to prevent fresh soap from sticking to my wooden rolling pin.  A lot of people thought I made the soap roll with melt & pour soap.  But I think fresh cold process soap is actually easier to manipulate, I can mold it to anything I like until I'm satisfied with it.  and yes, I got a little OCD, took me the whole night to roll out 3 identical sheets of soap...
Stage 2 is to insert this rolled soap into a vertical column mold then pour the second batch of soap.
Final stage is to take the soap roll out when it's hard enough (the next day) and whip up a small batch to drizzle on top then sprinkle some sugar pearl together with glitter.
My hard work paid off!  These are literally hand cut, with a kitchen knife because of its round shape and all that random drizzle.  You should see the last piece, so slanted, LOL
They are so totally adorable!  But, I swear, I will never ever do this again!  Forget it!  This really pushed my patience to the tipping point.  Remember my Rainbow Cake Soap from last year?  I don't know which one is worse.  If you wonder what rainbow soap I was talking about see this post: Rainbow Cake Soap Fun

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Cake Soap in a Roll

I don't make cake and cupcake soap as often, probably only by request or during holiday season when people are looking for one of a kind gifting ideas.  Cake or cupcake soap although looking very pretty and eye catching, they are somehow impractical to use as soap.  I love making cake soap only because it can inspire my inner most creativity. This past holiday season I decided to try some new pipping techniques.  Have you heard of scallop technique?  Check out this easy tutorial: Simple Scalloped Birthday Cake 
I didn't want to follow the traditional scallop pipping which usually is horizontal lay out, I decided to use if as drapery, vertically.
And to give the typical scallop pipping technique a twist, I used Wilton's open star pipping tip:
Then smear with a tiny spoon from center up to create that scallop edged dimple then embed a sugar pearl inside.
This second one is not as inventive, but surely as time consuming to make.  The overflow dripping "cream" is the hardest to create for me, I just don't seem to be able to time the right soap consistency.
This 3rd one is my own spontaneous try.  I was hoping to get a ribbon icicle or tassel look:
I used Wilton ribbon tip like this one:
My husband's favorite is when I pipe poppy flowers:
Maybe I will do a short video clip to show how I do them later so be on the watch out if you are interested!

Monday, March 2, 2015

Location Location Location

Last holiday season I signed up for the biggest craft show I've ever been to.  I don't sell in craft shows often, at most maybe one during the holiday season, most of the time I just list my products on Etsy.  First time doing big craft show (over 200 vendors) was nerve racking.  I had no idea how much product to bring and what price point to set in order to off set the costs.  In talking to my family about this my sister in law brain stormed a few ideas with me.  This was one of them, to make soap related to location.

I live in San Francisco Bay area, California, one of the most interesting and diverse cities in the world, not only in geography but also in culture. Speaking of San Francisco one cannot forget to mention the first gay neighborhoods in the United States, it's commonly called The Castro district. It has been one of the most lively and prominent symbols of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender. You would know you just enter the zone the minute you see rainbow flags everywhere.  And that, is my inspiration for my I love SF soap.

Making this soap is not as easy as I thought.  There's a lot of waste of soap as I use a cookie cutter shaped like a map of USA to cut off a larger piece of pre-made soap.  I then hand carved out each heart or star shape approximately over where SF is on the USA map, spray some water and embedded the pre-made tiny heart or star soap into the void.  Till today I still have 1/2 of the left over scraps.  I will need to find a way to use them up.  But I have to say, they are so cute!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Using Texture Mat for Soap Pattern

 Have I mentioned before that making cold process soap is very much like baking and decorating the bakery?  You will be shocked how many soap makers shop at baking goods for tools we can use!
This is about using fondant texture mat to make soap.  There are 2 kinds on the market, plastic sheets which are much cheaper, and the more durable silicone mats but cost far more.  Plastic sheets tend to have simpler patterns while silicone mats can be as intricate as you can ever imagine.  However, the common problem we run into is that it's hard to find fondant sheet big enough for our molds, they are not designed for soap makers for sure!
About 2 years ago I was lucky to saw this listing of a clear plastic texture sheet that has very nice wood grain pattern and the size is bigger than any I've seen out there.  I bought one to try, but that batch of soap failed.  I learned a lot from that experiment.  These grooves are shallow, only about 1/16" deep at most.  To cast a great impression the soap batter needs to be very fluid at pour but harden fast to get a perfect release.  I admit I didn't have the patience to think about all these little details 2 years ago so I simply gave up after one failed try.
Making texture mat soap is somewhat different.  It requires forehand preparation.  Measure twice (sometimes 3 times) and cut once to fit the interior of the mold.  In my case I used a silicone log (loaf) type mold and lined the mold with this plastic texture sheet on 3 sides to form an "U" shape.  Simple clear tape was used to secure the sheets temporary to the mold.  Then all I need is some simple 2 color ITP (in the pot) swirl and pour into the mold.

I really like these simply elegant looking soap bars!