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 (http://blog.ao.com/how-to-make-soap-and-win-prizes) 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.

Squeeze Bottle Design Challenge

I missed posting the last two design challenges.  The gradient challenge just plain did not work for me my colors came out muddy every time.  And the last one – the Dandelion Swirl – is one of my favorites.  I made two nice soaps but missed the deadline for posting because my schedule was so hectic that week.

So now we have the squeeze bottle design challenge.  Basically this is drawing (rather tracing) a design in your soap mold and then pouring the remaining soap over it.  When you unfold the bottom with the design is to become the top.  This one proved quite a challenge.  The first two designs I tried were way to small to work with the squeeze bottle.  I finally found one that I thought would work but after my first two attempts failed, I decided I didn’t want another soap that I couldn’t use.  So, I cheated, or at least that is how it felt, and also swirled the top.  That way if the bottom was not what I wanted I could just plain it off and still have a nice soap.  Here is what I came up with:

IMG_2408This is the pattern I chose

IMG_2416Soap removed from the mold

IMG_2430Cut pieces

The weight of the soap batter smushed the design and it is not exactly what I was looking for.

Here is the second thought design that I put on top of the soap.

IMG_2407This is more the look I expect in my soap.

Thank you Amy for sponsoring another challenge.  Regardless of the outcome I always enjoy it and learn from each experience.


Why use hand crafted soap?

I recent ran across blog post on the five reasons hand made soap is better than commercial.  In exploring the blog further, I discovered that Jean of Garden of Beauty retired her blog in July 2013.  I didn’t want to lose the post so I decided to repost it here.  Hope you enjoy.


5 Reasons Why Natural Handmade Soaps are Better than Commercial

Posted on 03 February 2012 by Garden of Beauty




So, what exactly is “soap”? After all, we’ve heard of large corporations try to downplay their effectiveness, saying their “beauty bars”, “body bars” and “bath bars” are far superior. They claim that their formulas are super moisturizing, gentle for your skin and aren’t ‘drying’ like soap.

The official definition of soap is “a substance used for washing and cleansing purposes, usually made by treating a fat with an alkali, as sodium or potassium hydroxide, and consisting chiefly of
the sodium or potassium salts of the acids contained in the fat.” The chemical reaction of these ingredients mixing and forming soap and glycerin itself is called saponification. When this happens correctly, no lye (sodium hydroxide) remains.

Soap’s been made this way for centuries.  There are soaps for the face, body, hair, pets, household purposes- you name it! But are all soaps created equally? No, and neither are they “bad” or excessively drying – if you chose the right kind.

Commercial soaps, like Dove, Dial, Irish Spring, Caress, Lever 2000, or Ivory are available everywhere for very low prices. Some of them were marketed as deodorant soaps, and these could be especially drying to your skin. Soaps like these are better classified as detergents. You know, the stuff you use to wash your clothes and dishes.  They can also include tons of preservatives, cheap synthetic fillers, and fragrances that can flare up allergies and sensitivities in some people.

The alternative? Using handmade soap, or soaps with pure ingredients. Not only are they gentler than those harsh detergent bars, but they are usually much more moisturizing, come in a variety of scents, and last much longer than the average drugstore bar. Below, I’ll briefly discuss 5 reasons why these soaps are just all-around better than the commercial stuff.




Fresh, high-quality, specialty ingredients

Handmade soap from talented artisans always use fresh, high-quality ingredients such as essential oils, shea butter, coconut oil, oatmeal, or goat’s milk. Natural handmade soap do not have added synthetic preservatives. Some essential oils, such as tea tree, can serve as a natural preservative.

Commercial soaps add tons of extra preservatives so they can sit on the shelves longer and keep costs down. Irritating surfectants, detergents and dyes round off the not-so-wholesome list.

Let’s compare, shall we?

  • Original Dove Beauty Bar: Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate, Stearic Acid, Sodium Tallowate, Water, Sodium Isethionate, Coconut Acid, Sodium Stearate, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Sodium Cocoate or Sodium Palm Kernelate, Fragrance, Sodium Chloride, Titanium Dioxide, Tetrasodium EDTA, Trisodium
  • A Wild Soap Bar Cedarwood Soap: Premium saponified vegetable oils (organic extra virgin olive, organic coconut, organic palm, organic sunflower, organic castor), distilled water, essential oils (fir needle, cedarwood, bay, orange), moroccan red clay, calcium bentonite clay, organic paprika, sea salt, wild cedar wood

In the Dove bar, tetrasodium EDTA is a preservative, known to cause irritation among some individuals. Sodium cocoyl isethionate and sodium isethionate are surfectants, like sodium lauryl and laureth sulfate. In comparison, A Wild Soap Bar uses organic coconut and castor oil for lather, and cedarwood and orange essential oils serve as natural preservatives.

Looking at this list of ingredients, which soap would you rather have on your skin every day?


Supporting small, independent, and local businesses

Many of these handmade soaps are created by artisans in their own homes. These largely one-person entrepreneurs are made with the personal care and touch you don’t find in a bar of Irish Spring. Go to your local farmer’s market and note the extra attention and customer service you receive from a small business owner, ready to educate you about their wonderful handmade soaps. Their transparency is refreshing!

Small businesses make the world go ’round. They’re everywhere, and they keep the economy going. Why give your dollars to a multi-million dollar corporation when you can support your neighbor who is giving back to the community, or your business driven cousin with a passion for soap and aromatherapy? Your money’s going directly to the source, the very person making these products, instead of a team of advertisers, marketers, sweatshop workers and other nameless corporate. You can’t beat all of this, and a better shopping experience!


Natural glycerin remains in-tact 

While there are more and more commercial soaps that include glycerin, they also pour on the synthetics, cheap preservatives, detergents and dyes. The amount of glycerin remaining is rather miniscule compared to handmade soaps, where every bit of this super moisturizing by-product remains to soften your skin. This glycerin is also added into the commercial soap, not a result of being left in like handmade soap.

What is glycerin? It’s a natural humectant, and attracts and retains moisture. This comes from the saponification process and is a by-product of soap making. Most large soap manufacturers remove the glycerin and sell it separately since it’s very valuable and profitable. They replace the glycerin in their soaps with synthetics that just don’t feel the same. Glycerin is a big factor in why handmade soaps are so beneficial to your skin’s texture.

So, if you spot it in the ingredient list for some of the newer commercial soaps (like Dial NutriSkin), remember that it’s not worth paying a dollar less for all those extra irritating ingredients and agents when you can spring for a nice, big bar of handmade soap with a lot more glycerin and a lot less bull. For more information on glycerin in handmade soap, click here.




Customization to scents or formulas available at your request 

Say you love a certain handmade soap, but want a different essential oil added, or maybe want to substitute one ingredient for another because your child prefers it. Think you can ask Unilever to add shea butter to a specific brand of their soap? Fat chance of that happening. However, it’s very likely you can request  a custom made soap with the scents and ingredients you want by a handmade soap artisan, no questions asked. If they don’t have a particular fragrance available, they can get it for you as long as there’s a mutual understanding between lead time, cost and delivery.

Accepting a special request, assuming they’re reasonable, makes for great customer service. You don’t get this sort of extra attention when buying an 8 pack of beauty bars from CVS. You never have to wonder if the scent you’re looking for, or the particular ingredient you want, is not available somewhere. If artisan A doesn’t or can’t meet your request, there’s someone who can. Never settle for the stuff at the drugstore if that’s not what you really want!


Better for the environment

Large soap manufacturers make their soap bars in mass. They use big soap making machines that produce waste and can harm the environment. Ingredients and by-products like petrochemicals can result, and the machines themselves aren’t exactly helping Mother Nature, are they? Think of all the extra fuel that has to be used for those factories, as well as the delivery trucks holding the soap for distribution. Don’t forget the tons of paper used for packaging purposes, many of them not earth-friendly.

In comparison, handmade soaps are created using minimal ingredients and there is no harmful waste. Most handmade artisans are also environmentally conscious and use biodegradable labels, reusable packaging, or no labels at all! The ingredients leave no residue on you or your bathroom, and require less cleaning with even more harmful chemicals.

More and more of these handmade soap companies also raise their own goats for their milk, grow their own herbs, and only purchase high-grade organic essential oils. Going organic is even better, as you’re ensuring your soaps are only made with the finest ingredients grown or raised without extra harsh pesticides, fertilizers, genetically modified organisms or hormones.


Ready to experience the difference?

There are TONS of handmade and natural soapmakers out there. Start with the list at Beauty by the Batch, Etsy, or the Soapmakers Guild. Trust me, there is no comparison – natural soaps feel great, rinse clean and leave your skin soft and silky. It’s wonderful, and I could never go back to using the old commercial stuff, ever!


There are some other interesting posts on  http://www.gardenofbeauty.net   if you are interested you might want to take a look before the site disappears.  I have not idea when that will be but I recently tried to access a blog that I had booked marked only to find that it had been taken down.


Remember:  Bathe responsibly – use hand crafted soap.

Third Challenge – The Holly Swirl

This month Amy Warden of Great Cakes Soapworks challenged us to the Holly Swirl (named after Holly of Missouri River Soaps who designed it).  Anyway, it is a swirl within a swirl and was a lot of fun to do.  AND this was the first of the challenges that I got right on my first try.  Yea.  That is a good thing because I got started late this month and didn’t have time for a remake.  Otherwise I probably would have tried again just to see if I could do better.

My design was inspired by a new fragrance I got while at the Lights and Lather meeting in Winchester. Kelley from Soapies Supplies did a demo using this and I loved the smell. It is called Arizona Sunrise. After looking at pictures of actual sunrises in Arizona I decided to use a white base on the bottom to show off the red, orange pink and yellow colors reflected by the sun. For the top part I selected a sky blue mixed in a darker blue with white for clouds.

I posted pictures on my Facebook page already because I was not sure I would have time to post here.  So the pictures included here are the same ones as on Facebook.






Colors selected


IMG_2163 IMG_2165

IMG_2176 IMG_2179

IMG_2185 IMG_2188 IMG_2189


I tried to put the captions in that I included in Facebook but either WordPress or my computer is being very stubborn and will not let me.

Thanks Amy for putting this together.  This is my favorite challenge so far mostly because it was a totally new swirl to me.  I enjoyed it and will be definitely be trying this one again.


Second Challenge – Mantra Swirl

For the second challenge we were assigned the mantra swirl.  There are several ways of doing this swirl with the modified version being the easiest to cut so I chose to try that one.  The challenge proved to be even more difficult for me than the peacock swirl however I am not going to post all my failures.  The problem was mostly that my soap became too thick too quickly.  I finally got one to allow me enough time to work by adding a little more water to my recipe.  The colors I chose were based on a Design Seed pallet with a cute green and orange frog.  I used Crafter’s Choice Ginger Orange FO from Wholesale Supplies Plus.  I think I will name the soap Kermit.

Colors selected

Colors selected

The mold is ready and soap batter mixed with the colors

The mold is ready and soap batter mixed with the colors

Ready to cure

Poured and ready to cure

Cured and cut

Cured and cut

The swirl on the inside of the soap didn’t turn out quite like I envisioned but on a positive note I did get the colors I wanted.

Once again I had a lot of fun trying something that I had not done before.  I used different colors for each of the failed soaps so I got to try out a lot of the samples I ordered from TKB and The Conservatory.

And thank you Amy for putting together another “challenge”.

OBTW: I know you are not supposed to have to line silicone molds but this particular one gives me fits so I line it.  I used this mold because the little side flaps made it easier to anchor the dividers.