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Beautiful blue failure

We admit it. We’re guilty of staring at beautiful soap pictures posted online by other soapers. We’ve wasted precious time wandering social media and pintrest admiring bright colors, gorgeous decorations, amazing designs and more from soap makers around the globe. We’ve gotten side tracked for a half hour in a conversation about what colors you get from infusing herbs into oils, how to mix them for pretty natural soaps, and longed to be the one with the amazing soaps everyone admires. But one day while working with a tempermental new fragrance, we realized how long it had been since we saw anyone spotlight the failed soaps. We’re going to fix that.

It’s no secret that all soap makers have failed batches. When we test new combinations of essential oils, fragrance or color samples, or an infusion we made of herbs & oils, we sometimes don’t get that wonderful bar of soap we imagined. I was testing a few new scents and colors this summer for a customer request and managed to get pictures of most of the process to share with you. What I didn’t know then was that I was documenting a really cool failure in the making. As you can see, I started with one of our tried and true recipes. All the oils were measured, melted, and combined as needed. Lye solution behaved as normal and everything mixed smoothly. I poured off a bit of straight soap base into the mold for a plain bottom and split the rest of the base into thirds. Everything was normal in my soapy world.

Adding blue and green colorants to separated soap bases

I whisked in a bit of green and blue colorants into two of the soap portions and then finished blending them in with a spatula. The kid in me still loves to swirl the colorant into the white and watch it disappear. These pictures were taken somewhere in the middle of me playing around. I took the uncolored reserved soap base, split it in two, and added the fragrances I was testing. They didn’t play very nicely once they were put into the soap base and I had to quickly get the soap into the mold. (I wasn’t really surprised that they seized up on me as the reviews on the fragrance had warned me.) I then turned back to the colored soap portions and started layering them over the uncolored soap layers in the mold. The plan was to get some sort of lightly swirled layer on the top of a white base with some parts dipping into the white. Unfortunately, I seemed to not have gotten the colored portions thick enough to get what I wanted and they flattened a bit.

Unmolding the next day was an interesting reveal. As you can see, the very bottom had a really neat unintentional swirl pattern in it. The seized scented portion was clean looking and a creamy color. The swirled area had green, light blue, and a touch of the darker blue scattered. The scent was non-existant in one log while the other was not pleasant and the entire batch had slight weeping in the bars. Visually, I had a soap that reminded me of a beach and was an unexpected happy sight. There was just no saving those scents at all and the weeping wasn’t helping. So I made my notes on the recipe log and set it aside to see if we could recover them. They eventually found their way to being rebatched. These pics below are from when I chopped them up and was putting the chunks into the crock. On a good side, I have great notes on working with those new colors and can get a beachy looking soap made. This wasn’t too bad of a failure.

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Happy Washing!
Dorothy

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Unpredictable but pretty

There are many methods for making soap and we have played with almost all of them at this point in our soap life. If you’ve ever considered making soap or listened to a soaper geek out, you’ve probably heard of at least one or two ways we cook. Hot process, cold process, melt and pour, castile, room temp, pioneer, polished or natural, vegan, cruelty free, silk infused, organic, traditional, the list of possibilities goes on and on. Some people will only play with cold processed soaps, others preferring to avoid lye use melt and pour bases, and there are those who literally swoon over the rustic look of hot process soaps. (Yes, we’ve really seen that happen in the booth.) We here have our personal preferences too but have always made it a rule that we will do whatever we can to make someone’s soapy idea come to life. One of the benefits of this rule is that we get to experiment on a regular basis and embrace the variety of results we get. This time we’re looking at hot process soaps and occasionally unpredictable visual effects.

Freshly cut hot process St Arnold beer soap

Hot process soaps are on our “instant gratification” list of soap making. (Hot process simply means heat is applied to the soap base after the lye has been incorporated. It is also used in rebatching soaps.) It can be made and completely cleaned up after in one day, results are useable as soon as they’re cool enough to touch, and it doesn’t seem to burn off essential oils as much in our experience. As a bonus, you get great unique looks with hot process soaps. This picture is from a log we finished last week in a tall mold. The rough, rustic look to the exterior is very common to a hot process log but it’s the interior that made Dorothy smile.

Oversized bar of St Arnold hot process soap and side view of log

The swirls and loops that you see in this picture were not entirely created by our hands. We took a completed but off-sized log of our St Arnold soap, chopped it up, added a bit more of a new base, and cooked it up together. The St. Arnold recipe we use can behave a bit unpredictably at times when we cook it this way so we never seem to get any two batches that look exactly the same when we cut them open. It will pour almost like a thick cold process batter or it may seize up and have to be forced into the mold. Cooking time variances of about ten minutes will give us some fun effects too. It can something as simple as the change of humidity in the soap room on the day we made it that will make a change in the appearance. Sometimes, like the picture below, we even manage to get some wide variety of swirling width within the same batch of soap or individual bar. It’s unpredictable but can be very pretty in the end.

Closer view of rustic looking top and crazy swirled pattern

The glassy smooth exterior of this batch reminds us of obsidian in some of the Hawaiian pictures. The interior colors will darken a bit more before these guys will be ready to go home with anyone but it should still keep the similar look of varying browns. The guys in the soap room say it reminds them of a stone or petrified wood. What do you think of the pattern? We’ll keep debating it here until they go into the booth in October. You’ll be able to find them for sale on the website with the other beer soaps.

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Floral Soaps

Three new floral scents for your pleasure: Midnight Jasmine, Fresh Cut Roses, and English Tea Rose.
Three new floral scents for your pleasure: Midnight Jasmine, Fresh Cut Roses, and English Tea Rose.
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Now, most people who know me personally would tell you that pretty floral scents aren’t my usual train of thought. I’m not what you’d call a girly girl and my preferences are to avoid overly sweet smells. I absolutely love our flowers out in the garden, have been inspired by many beautiful blooms, eventually took on that requested honeysuckle scent, and we have added many, many more real flowers to our green thumb experience. But to find me humming happily up to my elbows in all those long-awaited floral scents? Only if it’s something like “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” or hubby would be checking my temperature again. But that was before a really cool and creative lady lit a fire under me lately….

Honeysuckle has been a running favorite for us for quite a while but I kept receiving requests for other fun floral scents. They were added to our idea list for me to play with when I got some down time or enough requests for that one scent for there to be a real demand. And yes, we got some seriously off the wall ideas from customers in addition to the more normal thoughts. Roses have always been popular but creating the “perfect” rose scent is a true challenge. There are so many components that make up a rose scent and everyone perceives smell a little differently. I also had to decide between keeping it completely natural, trying to work with only essential or fragrance oils, or whether we wanted to completely create our own from scratch scent. This made the floral soaps a little daunting until the perfect project came along that allowed me to go wild with that floral wish list. I owe so many thanks to our little pink haired friend who keeps that fire lit under me!

English Tea Rose and Fresh Cut Roses soaps
English Tea Rose and Fresh Cut Roses soaps

After much researching, trial and error, laughter and frustration, we have started bringing out the results to share with everyone. Please welcome to the website the first three of the additions to our shop: English Tea Rose, Fresh Cut Roses, and Midnight Jasmine. Each of these whisks me away to the garden when I sniff them- the soap room smells like a wonderful wild garden in full bloom! These two rose fragrance oils were voted the most true-to-life in our researching and I’m still in love with how this version of them looks (pink circle and rustic cut white one above.) The Midnight Jasmine has a hint of dew winding thru the background of a not too sweet jasmine and lily fragrance blend. The off white round shape was fun for this one but I really wanted to add some color when I remade this so the next batch was a little different. I will have an updated picture for your viewing pleasure very soon in the catalog. What do you think of the newbies? We would love to hear your feedback and if you have more ideas for our list. These are being added to our catalog as I type but this first release is very limited. Please be patient if you miss these here on the site as I will have them restocked here and in the booth in time for Fenske’s Market September 7th. Preorders will reserve your bars as usual and you are not billed for them until they are ready to ship.

I must now get back to the soap room and get to work again. Please stay tuned for more pictures and updates as I play catch up here on the website!

Happy Washing!
Dorothy