Who thought this was a good idea!?

Okay so this is going to be one of the quickest posts ever.  The deadline for this month’s soap challenge is ticking away and my soaps have barely set!!

I didn’t think this challenge would be so difficult – talk about deluded.  In fact this is the state of my kitchen at the moment … I’ve just walked away and left it so I could get this post up before I ran out of time.


And it all started out so well.  The jelly soap base didn’t melt down as well as I had expected and was full of tiny bubbles despite me being really careful not to over-stir.  However, once it was poured into the moulds and began to cool it cleared up nicely.


So good so far.   The set soaps sat in the kitchen for a good couple of weeks (things were just too hectic to return to the project) so it wasn’t until this afternoon that I finally got round to doing the injecting.

It had all seemed so easy in the demo, and I had bought the special gelatin are tools aswell – so what could go wrong?  As it turned out just about everything!  I used the formula recommended in the tutorial and had this idea about doing pale pink peonies with petals tipped in pink. I though I could fill the syringe with the paler colour then dip the tip of the tool into a stronger pink just before injecting.  Didn’t quite work out that way.

My batter seemed thin enough, but it wouldn’t flow into the ‘cut’ made by the injecting tool; just seemed to back up on the surface.  I tried thinning the batter with more water, which did help, but the petals looked so pale.  After ramping up the mica colourant, and a little wiggling of the tool in the jelly, I managed to produce something reasonably flower like, although a bit more carnation than peony :-).

By this point the clock was ticking, so no time for faffing about with fragrance.  It was on to the melt and pour bases.  Panic was setting in so I was getting sloppy and let it boil over in the microwave :o)  I would have liked the base to be black, but didn’t have any suitable colourant, so went with gold instead.  The slightly lighter one is gold mica with gold glitter, and the darker two are again gold mica but I added black glitter.

Anyway here are the ones which turned out best …


My preference is for the bright pink one, but in the interests of full disclosure it was created with just mica as by that time I’d messed about so much my soap has started to set up and I couldn’t inject it anymore.  The bottom pick is the one I’m going to enter as it was actually made with CP soap.

Will I try this technique again?  Probably not, although it is does look really cool when it works.  However, I might try it with actually edible jelly.  How impressed would dinner party guests be with that dessert!

Anyway better upload my entry then tackle the tidying up … and thoroughly clean those gelatin art tools 😉


February Challenge (and moving into the big leagues!)

This month’s challenge was to create a soap using both cold process and melt and pour soap.  Beyond that it was really up to us as to what design and technique we wanted to go with.  So, I decided to create a seascape with the idea of using the translucent quality of melt and pour to represent the water … plus I had a silicon shell mould that I hadn’t had a chance to use yet.

Above are my inspiration images, and here is the final soap …

I used a simple basic formula of 30% coconut oil; 30% palm oil; 30% olive oil; 10% almond oil – all organics.  It was fragranced with a mixed of sweet orange oil and a natural fragrance blend called Calypso containing essential oils of orange, lime, grapefruit, cinnamon leaf, basil, mandarin, lavendin, cedarwood and patchouli.  It was the first time using this but as I wanted to sculpt it and wanted a sandy colour, I wasn’t too concerned about acceleration or discolouration.  That said, it behaved well.

Step one was to make the shells.  A little left over soap from a previous batch and a silicon mold, and I soon had a selection of shells.  Felt they looked a little plain, so popped them in a bag with some sparkling gold mica and after a quick shake I had golden sea shells.

Next I lined my mold (a nice sturdy box courtesy of my new iPad!) and created a card template to sculpt the sea bed.  This was my first attempt at using sculpted layers and I think it is a technique I’ll definitely try again.  It’s nice to make soap where you actually want it to thicken.

The last few dollops I splatted on to the base to add some texture to the sea bed (ok … it was really ’cause I couldn’t bear to waste the last bits of soap!).  I then created my golden beach using salt mixed with some of the gold mica, and added my golden seashells.

So far so good, now for the sea.  This was the first time I had used M&P soap.  I used Crystal SLS and SLES Free Clear Melt and Pour Soap Base from The Soap Kitchen Ltd.  First challenge was getting it out of the tub – it was not for shifting!  It melted down easily enough, but it didn’t get as liquid as I thought it would.  I decided to go for an ombre effect using Blue Electra mica for the base layer and Blue Ice for the upper layers.  I was quite pleased with the overall effect although the soap was not as translucent as I had hoped for; I had hoped it would be possible to see the ‘sea bed’ through the soap.

I also found I got quite a few bubbles in the mix, but found that if I poured the final layer careful I could get them to gather near the ‘beach’ which looked a bit like sea foam.  To emphasise this I dusted a little titanium oxide on to the edges.

Overall I’m quite pleased with this soap (it smells lovely and looks more or less as I had imagined), and don’t feel too embarrassed to enter it :-).  Especially since I’m now playing in the big leagues.  I checked back through my folder of invoices and recipes and discovered I made my first batch of soap in January 2015.  That means I now qualify to enter the experienced category of the Soap Challenge Club.

Help!  I don’t feel very experienced!!!




January Soap Challenge

Me (left) and Amanda (right).  We realised we hadn’t taken a picture of us together so took this quick selfie once we’d finished to prove we were both there 🙂

I was really excited about this month’s Soap Club Challenge, as the theme was collaboration which meant you had to soap with someone who had never made soap before.  I knew that I wanted to soap with my closest friend Amanda, who has been there for me during some pretty difficult times lately, and is also a fan of my soap!  Despite the fact that Christmas and New Year are out of the way January has been quiet a busy month so far, so we finally got together on Thursday evening.  The deadline for submissions is today but thankfully the soap was ready to cut (talk about leaving it to the last minute!).

One of Amanda’s favourite soaps is my Calendula & Orange, so we decided to work with that basic recipe:  15% castor oil; 25% coconut oil; 40% sunflower oil infused with calendula petals; 20% rapeseed oil.  For colour we use a selection of micas:  Blueberry Blast; Blue Ice; and Dark Cerise, with some titanium dioxide in main section.  Other additives included milk and silk, of course, and also colloidal oatmeal for its skin soothing properties.   Instead of orange oil we fragranced with Enchantment fragrance oil from Gracefruit Ltd.  It’s a lovely soft floral which suited the colour scheme, and is also very well behaved in CP soap.

20170119_205615Amanda was a natural (helps that she’s a superb baker and knows her way around a set of scales!).  She did virtually the whole thing herself, although I did help mix up a couple of the colours simply cause I was itching to get my hands on some soap batter!  We loved the way the colours turned out, really vibrant with no morphing at all.

As you can see we only made a half batch.  Not that I didn’t trust Amanda to make a great batch of soap … I had almost run out of sodium hydroxide and forgotten to order more.  Ooops!  Guess what I’ll be doing today?

Amanda ran a hanger through it do add a little bit of a swirl, then drizzle some mica in oil on the top and gave it a final swirl before  wrapping it up to help it gel.

As you can see below the colours have stayed really vibrant.  I had been worried that because we were working at relatively low temperatures that it might not gel at all or we would get a partial gel, but it seems to be ok.  The hanger swirls didn’t feature very much but I think that is because it is a really thin, dry clearner’s hanger.  Think I will get some tubing to encase it in for future attempts.

It could probably have done with a little more curing time, and is still quite soft so you can see some slight drag marks where it has been cut, but not too worry.  Smells fantastic and I think it will be lovely to use once fully cured.


Not sure we have a prize winning soap here, but we had a really fun evening soaping together and that’s what counts.

PS  And no soda ash! … yet 😉

First soap of the year

So, for the first time I’ve actually made a soap because I needed it.  For the past year or so I have replaced my morning rinse-off cleanser with my own Lavender Facial Soap.  Now I’m not saying it’s any better than my expensive French skin care, but it certainly isn’t any worse.  It does just as good a job at cleansing, in fact I find it more effective at removing my mascara (oops!  I may just have let slip that I sometimes sleep in my makeup … time for a New Year Resolution me thinks).  My skin doesn’t feel any tighter or drier using soap instead of cleanser.  And, it’s a lot cheaper.  So I’m a definite convert to good old soap and water.

However, I was down to my last bar so it was time to make some more.  My original recipe was 90% olive oil and 10% rosehip oil with, as always, Tussah silk and goats’ milk powder plus some pink clay and a little bit of lavender essential oil.  For this batch I decided to make the Oatmeal Soap for Babies from Soap Queen, Anne-Marie Faiola’s fantastic new book Pure Soapmaking. This had more olive oil than my original recipe (92%) but also 5% shea butter and 3% castor oil, as well as bentonite clay and colloidal oatmeal.  I’ve made soap with oatmeal before and it is so soothing, and I had hoped that including castor oil would help to boost the lather a little.  Of course, I had to add some milk and silk and this time I also added 28g (1 oz) of honey.  After all, what’s not to like about milk, honey and oats.  I also hoped that the addition of a little natural sugar might boost the lather as well.

I made the soap in my trusty cylinder mould (aka Pringles tube) lined with a silicon 20170121_134003mat for a little interest since it was colour free.  It was also fragrance free and I have to say it still smells rather nice.  However, today I tried actually using a bar and I’m not blown away by the lather.  In fact there is none.  It creates something more like a lotion, and a slightly slimy one at that.   It’s certainly feels gentle on the skin, and rinses away cleanly, so I’ll be happy enough to use it.  However, I might reformulate and return to my original formula, but infuse the olive oil and add a little oatmeal as per Anne-Marie’s recipe.  Not sure about the honey – could that have caused the tackiness in the lather?  If you’re a more experienced soapmaker I’d welcome your thoughts.

Happy soaping in 2017!!

Farewell 2016

Well that’s 2016 nearly over.  It’s been a difficult year for our family on a personal level, (sadly too many bereavements) but creating soap has provided small distractions along the way.

The monthly soap challenges have been a particularly fun distraction.   There have been highs and lows.  My personal high point was creating my Enchanted Garden soap for the piped soap challenge, and winning the sponsor’s prize for my efforts.  The low(er) points have been the various soaps I made but which failed to turn out quite the way I had hoped.  My wood grain soap accelerated badly and was shoved rather than poured into the mould.  Funnily enough, two people (completed unrelated) told me it looked just like slate.  Maybe stone effect soap could be a future challenge?  With my luck I’ll end up creating soap that looks like wood 🙂

My recent attempt at tiger stripes was similarly unsuccessful, although it did turn out a pretty shade once all the colours were tipped out of the squeeze bottles and mixed together.

Never mind, I’ve had lots of fun trying out the various techniques and being inspired by the beautiful entries others submitted.   I have also ended up with lots of nicely fragrant and skin loving (if not so attractive) bars of soap.  To clear way for next year’s challenges, I recently gave most of it away at my school and at a recent Rotary Club evening.  People were generally surprised and intrigued that you could make soap at home, and loved the fact that it was completely natural and made with mainly organic ingredients.  I don’t sell my soap, but as many people wanted to give me some money for it, we set up a donations box.  It was nice to feel that, a) people liked what I had made, and b) that it could help others.

I hope that however you are spending Christmas and New Year that you have a wonderful time.  And here’s to a 2017 free of accelerating fragrances, morphing colours and soda ash!

Wood Grain Challange

Attempt One

So, the October soap challenge is to create a wood grain effect. For my first attempt I took my inspiration from weathered wood and drift wood.  Partly because I have a fragrance called Driftwood which I have yet to try in anything, and because I love the washed out grey tones.

I decided to try the spin swirl technique, and to capture the colours I used various concentrations of black iron oxide with a smidgen (technical term 😉 ) of violet ultramarine.

I went with a simply recipe of organic oils – 30% coconut oil; 30% palm oil; 30% olive oil; 8% castor oil; with 2% of slightly more exotic tamanu oil.   I originally got the tamanu oil to use in whipped body butter, but it has a very pronounced smell (quite earthy, musky and almost curry like) and dark colour.  Don’t mind the colour so much but the smell doesn’t do it for me.  So thought, waste not want not … let’s chuck it in the soap!

Fragrance wise, I used a fragrance oil from Sensory Perfection called Driftwood which they describe as “A light exotic driftwood fragrance with hints of sea salt, clean air and sunshine”.   I would also say it has a touch of eucalyptus.

As I was unsure of how the fragrance oil would behave, I added it to my oils before the lye, and hand stirred initially.  All seemed well so went in with my blender.  At light trace I poured into my squeeze bottles but by this time things were accelerating fast.  It was way too thick to flow in circles but I persevered.  I also didn’t create sufficient variations 20161006_172445between my shades of grey.  To try and get some really dark accents, I decided to dribble in a little black iron oxide in oil.  Not very pretty really but we’ll see what it looks like tomorrow out of the mould.

PS  To add insult to injury, I think I got a tiny bit of batter on my arm when I was clearing up!

So excited!!

Fantastic news!  I’ve just found out that my ‘Garden of Enchantment’ soap has won the Sponsor’s Choice prize in this month’s Soap Challenge Club.  I’m absoluted thrilled!

My soap was selected by Erica Pence of Bath Alchemy Lab who sponsored the newbie category.  She very kindly said of my soap, “It is with great difficulty that I am choosing Garden of Enchantment for the Sponsor’s Choice. While I struggled to choose, I decided on this soap because it featured a variety of flowers and leaves using different tips. I am aware of the challenges that one faces to juggle colors, tips, and time limits of soapmaking and felt that this soap displayed excellent skill.”  I’m not surprised Erica found it a difficult choice, as there were some amazing entries; I think us newbies gave the experienced soapers a run for their money!

For my prize I have received a $25 voucher to spend at Bath Alchemy Lab.  I already have my eye on their Scenting in Soapmaking E-book.  I have recently enrolled on an online course for creating fragrances for use in cosmetic products (more about this later) and this should tie in nicely.

Next month the challenge is wood grain soap.  Can’t wait!

Pamper Party

My nieces, Catherine and Gillian, loved my Wild Fig and Seville Orange luxury whipped body butter, and were keen to learn how to make it. So a couple of weeks ago, on a sunny Saturday afternoon, I pitched up at Catherine’s gorgeous Glasgow flat laden with bags full of butters, oils and fragrances.

Joining in were their flatmates and friends and the girls had soon christened it a ‘pamper’ party.  So, of course, prosecco and nibbles were never far away!

The girls wanted to make my luxury body butter, with a blend of four butters and fifteen skin loving oils (it really is rather decadent!).  But, because there is a bit of delay in the process of making whipped body butter, we also made lip balms and scented candles.   Catherine’s flat was soon smelling amazing.

They are such lovely girls and I had a great time being creative with them.  Everyone left with some beautiful products to pamper themselves with, and lots of enthusiasm to make more.  I believe Gill, who is getting married next year, is now planning to make candles for her wedding favours.  I’m sure her guests will love them!

Piped Soap Challenge 2


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So excited!!  Here it is my finished entry for the September Soap Challenge … Garden of Enchantment.   Though I say so myself, it turned out better than expected and I’m actually quite chuffed with this one.

My inspiration came from bridal boquets.  I love the soft, vintage pink of the roses, and the creamy white tinged with green.  My colours are perhaps not quite as subtle, but I think I’ve captured the sense of a full bouquet of roses.

I used a very simple soap formula (equal quantities of castor oil, olive oil, palm oil, and coconut oil superfatted at 5%) and didn’t use any fragrance in my batter for piping.  But I did want the base soap to have a soft, feminine, floral scent.  Because I wasn’t going for fancy swirls in the base, I figured I could get away with something that might have slight acceleration.  So I headed over to Gracefruit (as they always give details as to how their fragrances behave in CP) and ordered myself some Enchantment allergen free fragrance oil (now you know how I came up with the name 😉 ).  They describe it as: “a crisp, sweet and delicately fruity floral with light citrus top notes of lemon and orange, leading on to a heart of peony, freesia, Casablancan lily, jasmin, rose, orris, frangipani and violet leaves. All resting on a sumptuous base of musk, woods, cassis, orchid and plum”.  How luscious does that sound!  It certainly lived up to its description.

I wondered long and hard about what shape to make the base soap.  I kept visualising a soap loaf, but then worried that when cut you would lose a lot of the impact of the floral top.  Then I thought about going for a round soap cake.  It could certainly look very pretty,  (I think I was heavily influenced by all the fantastic cakes I watched being iced on You Tube 😉 ) but I find wedge shaped soap really awkward to use.  So I decided to go with my slab mould as it would give me a larger top area on each bar to show off the flowers.

As I was going to enter into the competition and wanted it to have as great a visual impact as possible, I decided to decorate the entire slab and cut later, rather than using the dividers to make individual bars. Before placing the flowers I scored the top of the slab to indicate where it would be cut, and tried to place the flowers so that once cut each bar would have a pretty, feature flower.  Each bar should stand alone as a pretty design, but now that it’s made I don’t think I can bring myself to cut it!

It is decorated with a mix of pre-made flowers (see my previous post) and some iced directly onto the base.piping-soap-2

Yes, I know I should be wearing gloves, but they were such a pfaff when trying to do delicate work that I decided to risk it.   I kept a vinegar soaked cloth to hand and wiped my hands with it if I got any little bits of raw soap on my fingers.  Pleased to say my skin is still intact.

All the piped elements, apart from the leaves, were piped with two colours in the one piping bag.  The pinks were just too close in tone to do anything but give 2016-09-16-16-23-56a bit of variation between blooms.  The cream roses came out better.  I was aiming for the effect of soft creamy blooms with just a hint of green.  Still subtle but a little more obvious.  Finally I made some with a mix of white and a blue-purple.  I was sure they would give a distinct colour contrast, but again it was quite random as to how the soap came out the bag.  Still, I really like the more subtle colouring.

I loved this challenge and it is a technique I will definitely be doing again … and again … and again.  Think I’ve found my soaping happy place!

Piped Soap Challenge

Okay, so undaunted here I am preparing for the September Soap Challenge.  In the past 6 months, despite enrolling for all of them, I’ve only actually created an entry worthy soap twice!  But, hey, it’s been fun trying out the new techniques.

This month it is all about piped soap.  Yet again, as a new soaper, this isn’t something I’ve tried but I’ve seen some amazing creations by other soapmakers so I’m really excited to give it a go.

First thing was to order up some cake decorating equipment.  I don’t really own any as I don’20160901_120812t even ice cakes (doesn’t bode well, does it?), but inspired by Amy Warden’s challenge tutorial and a bit of research online, I got myself a dinky little set of Russian tips (no, I’d never heard of them either) and a set of Wilton petal, flower and leaf nozzles.  How cute is that tin?!

This month Amy has provided an extensive set of guidance notes with hints and tips from other soapers.  Checking out the notes, I decided to go with the recipe suggested by Kyme Garcia.  A simple blend of equal parts castor oil, coconut oil, palm oil, and olive oil.  All of which I had to hand and, if it all went pear shaped, it wouldn’t be an expensive disaster.  I also added some beeswax (to reduce soda ash) and sodium lactate (to help them firm up).  I decided to only use fragrance in the base loaf (which I’ll make over the weekend) so I didn’t need to worry about acceleration or discolouration.  Kyme recommended only making 8oz/200ml of soap at a time, and I must say it was quite nice making a smaller batch as there was much less time waiting around for the oils and lye to reach the correct temperature.

I split the batch and coloured one dark pink and the other a lighter pink.  One was a mica which I added directly to the batter, and one an ultramarine which I mixed with a little water first.  Even this small amount of water loosened the batter slightly so getting them to the same consistency was a bit of a challenge.  Lesson learned – next time stick to the same type of pigment for all batches.  Also, use more contrast as my colours were just a little too subtle.

I could probably have benefited from waiting a little longer, but after about 30 mins I decided to pipe.  I used a Wilton 104 tip and here’s what I got …

One the left is the first and on the right my second one.  I think the mixture was still a little too soft so, even though I didn’t think they were too awful, I scooped them up and popped them back in the bag.  You can’t do that with a swirl you don’t like!

I continued to make a batch of roses, although some looked more like ranunculas or peonies.  But still,  I think they’ll look okay once arranged on top of the soap with a few leaves added.

For a first attempt, I was not too disappointed.  I then changed bags and tried one of the Russian tips.20160831_172539  My batter had reached a better consistency now and Amy Warden got amazing results with these, so I had high hopes.

Hmm,  back to the drawing board I think.  However, I kept them in the hope that they could perhaps be used as fillers in among larger (and prettier!) flowers.  After all, not every flower in nature is perfect  🙂