Wednesday, December 30, 2015

For the Guys.... and Girls

I've been spending a lot of time over the last two days reading about shaving soap on the Soap Making Forum. There is one very long thread (over 80 pages) about shaving soap. I read every single post on every single page. Last night.

About half way in, I decided to make the first recipe that was presented. It is a hot process soap, something I'd not done before. Hot process soap is usually made in a crock pot; the only crock pot I have is a small appetizer sized one that usually comes free with its full sized sibling. I picked it up years ago at a thrift store and have rarely used it.

The first recipe in the thread was for an 8 oz batch, which fit perfectly into my little crock pot. I followed a two step process; first, the coconut oil and shea butter was melted and saponified with the lye (potassium hydroxide), then the melted stearic acid was added. It went immediately to mashed potato consistency. Afterwards, glycerin and essential oils were added and the whole mixture kneaded together into a log, which I rolled up in parchment paper and allowed to cool.

This morning, I cut the log into 1" pucks. This shave soap doesn't become a  hard bar like those made with sodium hydroxide. It's malleable, almost like Playdoh, which makes it easier to lather up with a brush.

I'm still waiting for John to try it but I can tell you that it sure lathers beautifully.

John really needs a new brush; this one belonged to his father and, you can't see it but it has a large piece broken out of the other side that had been badly glued together. I'll see what I can find on my next trip to the drug store, later this week.

That was last night's batch. After reading the rest of the thread, I found another recipe I really wanted to try, for the sake of comparison. It still has a majority of stearic acid and still has coconut oil but has added tallow, lanolin, and shea butter. From what I've read, it may be a more moisturizing soap. John has fairly sensitive facial skin (he breaks out in a rash every time he shaves) so I'm hoping one of these two soaps will be better for his skin than the shave gel he uses now.

Both batches are scented with a combination of bay rum and lime essential oils. I ran the scent past John first as he's the one who will be using it on his face. It met with his approval.

If you're at all interested in making shaving soap, here's a link to the thread about it on the Soap Making Forum:

If you're interested in making your own soap, of any kind, you really should check out the SMF; it's an incredible resource, highly educational, extremely interesting, and filled with all sorts of friendly soap makers who are more than willing to share their wealth of knowledge with anyone who is willing to learn.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Ooops... Distractions Suck!

Well, that was an exercise in futility if ever there was one. The soap looks lovely but that is only half the story.

You can definitely see the difference between the high water (the lighter parts along the outside) and the low water (the white swirly part in the center). There are a couple of issues, though.

I got distracted when some of my lye decided to make a break for it. I spilled a couple of teaspoons all over my kitchen counter and on to the floor. Everything had to be put to the side and my kitchen cleaned up before I'd even consider moving on.

When I did move on, I made the mistake of putting the low water lye mixture (intended for 300 grams of oil) into the bowl with the 600 grams of oil and the lye mixture intended for the 600 grams of oil into the bowl with the 300 grams of oil. That means that the outer two thirds doesn't have enough lye and the soap is on the soft and spongy side, while the soap in the center has too much lye for the amount of oil and it's still zapping like crazy after a good 24 plus hours.

I posted my results on the SoapMaking Forum and was told that because there's no colourant in my soap, this is a good candidate for rebatching. I ran the numbers through SoapCalc and it looks like that may well be the case. Mixing the two parts together will give me a 40% lye concentration, with a 5% superfat.

It won't all fit in my tiny little appetizer size crock pot so I think it may be the perfect opportunity to pick up a second hand crock pot sometime this week, considering I have this week off (to be used for soap only!).

A closer look at the soap, though, does show the difference between the high and low, subtle as it is.

Against a bright light... can you see the streaks along the left side?
I'll give it another try later this week... it will not beat me!

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Ghost Swirl Attempt

Christmas is now behind us and I'm off until the new year. That gives me plenty of time to play with soap. Well, it gives me time but I'm waiting for an order to arrive from Voyageur. I'm out of palm oil. The order is in Kelowna but I have all my orders delivered to me at work and, being Christmas, we're not open until Tuesday. I've told the guys to text me when it arrives. No, I'm not impatient... not at all. HA!

Even though yesterday was Christmas Day, I decided to pull out my tiny crock pot and rebatch some ends from the beer soap batches I've made. After chopping all the bits up, I threw them into the crock pot, pretty much filling it, added some water and walked away. After a couple of hours, I mixed it all up and poured it into molds. It will take a while to harden enough to remove from the molds but that's no big deal. I don't mind letting it sit until some of the water evaporates.

The rebatch I did on Christmas Eve is out of the molds and when I say it's ugly, believe it. It looks like raw ground pork, frozen into flower shapes, just nasty. However, it will be used as kitchen soap so, as long as it lathers, it should be fine. The original soap was lovely soap, just not pretty.

See what I mean? It wasn't completely smooshed together but I don't think that really matters much. It was pointed out to me that I probably shouldn't have added goat milk to it because it might cause the soap to go rancid more quickly. If so, I'll toss the batch; I really haven't lost much.

Anyway, I digress. Today, being Boxing Day and me not being the type to be drawn in to the Boxing Day shopping fray, I decided it was a good time to try my hand at the Ghost Swirl, made famous by the fabulous Auntie Clara (

Here's how it looked right after getting it into the mold. The lighter parts are the low water parts and the part in the middle is the high water part.

It's in the oven now, and will be for another half hour or so. Then, I'll move the mold to the bedroom with a cover over it because we will need the oven to warm up the left over prime rib we had for our Christmas dinner yesterday (it was amazing!).

I'm curious to see how it will turn out. Incidentally, I scented the low water part with lavender and patchouli, with no scent in the high water part.

The recipe I used is as follows:

40% lard
30% olive oil pomace
25% coconut oil
5% castor oil

I made two batches, one at 600 grams with water as 30% of oil weight (2.1206:1 water:lye ratio) and the other batch at 300 grams with water as 44% of oil weight or a water:lye ratio of 3.1103:1. To the 600 grams, I added 1 tsp. of lavender essential oil and 1/2 tsp. of patchouli essential oil.

The mold had two dividers and the high water batch went down the center while the low water batch was split between the two sides. Once filled, the dividers were removed and I did a Taiwan swirl.

I'll leave it in the mold overnight (if I'm patient enough) and will cut it tomorrow. I'll take pictures and will post the results tomorrow afternoon. I'd post in the morning but my sister and her husband will be in town before heading out to the coast to visit our family there.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas Eve and I'm NOT Making Soap

Christmas Eve really isn't the time to be making a batch of soap even though I really want to. I just don't want the extra dishes, you know?

It is, however, a great time to do a rebatch of a batch that I was really unhappy with. It isn't making soap per se; it's turning a failure into something usable. A couple of months ago, the Soap Making Forum's challenge of the month was the hidden feather swirl. I did three attempts; the first was an abject failure. There was nothing wrong with the soap but it thickened up way too fast to do a proper swirl. The resulting bars were only about an inch in height and, after unmolding and slicing them, I let them cure and threw them in a paper bag to be dealt with at a later date.

Just not pretty!
Well, a post on the SMF today made me realize that I have the time today to deal with that batch and, possibly, turn it into a soap I'll be happy to use.

After doing some reading, I decided the best way for me to do it was to use the double ziplock bag method. That's where you grate up your soap and place it into a gallon sized ziplog bag, them put that bag into a second bag and seal it up. Then, the entire package is placed into a stock pot of boiling water and left to simmer until it's one melted mass, which should take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour.

I did add two cubes (1-2 oz.) of goat milk and, once melted, I'll add some scent (lavender and patchouli) and a bit of tamanu oil. If necessary, I'll add another cube of goat milk. Once thoroughly mixed up, all that's left is to snip a corner of the bag and pipe the mass into molds to harden.

I hate to say it but this looks almost like shredded bacon or something, doesn't it?
Because the soap has already cured, once it's hard, it is ready for use, no need to wait another 4-6 weeks. Once it's out of the molds, I'll post pictures and let you know what I think of the resulting soap.

Monday, December 21, 2015

First Try - Valentine's Soap

It feels a little strange thinking about Valentine's Day when Christmas isn't even here yet. However, when your soap takes 4 - 6 weeks to cure, you have to think that far ahead. I've been trying to come up with something luxurious and almost decadent.

This is what I've come up with:

25% olive oil pomace
25% coconut oil
15% avocado oil
15% rice bran oil
10% palm kernel oil
5% shea butter
5% castor oil

I used 30% lye concentration with a superfat of 5%.

To the batch, I added 2 tsp each of sodium lactate, silk protein, and simple syrup.
At trace, I added about 2 Tbsp of heavy cream and scented the soap with lemongrass and ylang ylang. I used coconut milk instead of water.

I had hoped to do a Taiwan swirl but I forgot to make the dividers until the very last minute, when it was too late, so I ended up layering the two colours and swirling slightly. On the top, I sprinkled some opalescent glitter.

I also cut the Sweater Weather and suddenly my soap supply is looking much more healthy.

Sunday, December 20, 2015


With so much soap having gone out the door these past couple of weeks, John has finally realized that more soap needs to happen. He's also committed himself to learning how it's made.

To that end, we made two batches of the Sweater Weather soap yesterday, partly to replenish my beer soap supply and partly to use up the remainder of the Sweater Weather ale so we can get that jug out of the fridge. With Christmas coming this week, we need all the room we can possibly make in the refrigerator.

I did have to go out to get more olive oil pomace and another bottle of vetiver essesntial oil, even though my least favourite thing to do is go shopping just before Christmas. I hit it right, though. The essential oil was the more difficult of the two items. I had to go to three different places in order to find it, including.......... the mall. Yes, I braved the mall. Needlessly.

After we had finished the first batch of Sweater Weather, John said we might as well make the second batch right away. However, there wasn't enough olive oil for another batch so another trip had to be made. We discovered that the best place to buy it is at the Save On More closest to our home. John suggested trying the Mediterranean Market but they're further away and their prices are about the same.

Interestingly, after I unmolded the soap last night, I tested both for zap. One still zapped but the other didn't. I wanted to illustrate to John what zap was so I rubbed a wet finger on to the zapping soap and put it on his tongue... nothing. No reaction whatsoever. He figures it's because he's a long time smoker and his taste buds have become desensitized. I guess I can't use him to test the soap's zapability; I'll have to rely on my much more sensitive tongue. And he needs to quit smoking.

Making the two batches has depleted my stock of palm oil, so I've put in another order with Voyageur Soap & Candle. I don't anticipate seeing the order until early in the new year so if I want to make soap between now and when the order comes in, it will have to be without palm oil.

With this order, I've also ordered some potassium hydroxide (caustic potash); I'd really like to try making a liquid soap and a true shaving soap. Now, though, my mind has turned to Valentine soaps; I'm trying to come up with a recipe for a soap that would reflect that day and it isn't easy. I want it to be a luxurious blend of oils and scents. I'm not over thinking the aesthetics of the soap; I'm not into making works of art. I do, however, want it to be something lovely.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

It's Still Sweater Weather Time

Even though soaping is still happening, it almost feels like it's been a long time since I did any soaping and yet, it was really only just last weekend. After this past week, though, soap making has become almost necessary.

My inventory of soaps has been seriously depleted this week. After one order of ten bars (to start), someone else ordered ten bars plus three for herself and a friend ordered twenty bars as Christmas presents. I'm pretty sure that with Christmas just around the corner, anything crafty will be put on the back burner. After the new year, though, soap making will be ramping up again.

I did make another batch of the Sweater Weather Oatmeal Stout soap, though. I still have quite a bit of the beer in the fridge and want to use it up. And, for the first time, I had some help. My 11 year old granddaughter asked this morning if she could help make this batch. I was more than happy to walk her through the process, teaching her what's involved with making soap.

After the sales of this past week, John is finally realizing that this really could be something people like. He's even expressed an interest in helping out and learning about the process... and is thinking of ways to turn this two bedroom suite into a production facility. Yeah, I don't think so. He will, however, become my apprentice.

One more thing that I've been working on this past week is making labels for some of my more popular soaps. It may not be the easiest to see in this picture but I'm trying to match the background of the label to the soap it's wrapping. In this case, with the Sweater Weather soap, the background is some knitted fabric, mirroring the name of the beer.

I like the format - simple, clean, relevant to the product. What do you think?

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Chilling and Productive

After the stress and emotional upheaval from the past month, it's been really nice to be able to put it all behind us and move on with the healing process. It sounds simplistic when I write it like that but it's true that the funeral has been a way of putting paid to the entire situation.

This weekend has been spent in pampering myself with hot baths, hair masks, facial treatments, cooking, knitting, and making soap. On Friday, it was the Sweater Weather soap and some much needed lip balm; yesterday, I decided to make some tallow based soap, in addition to some tallow balm.

A couple of months ago, I was able to score two quarts of beef tallow from my (very) local butcher (within walking distance). It's been in my refrigerator, waiting for the perfect time and the perfect recipe. Yesterday was that time.

The recipe I used is a variation of one I found online, using oils and milk I have on hand. I think the original recipe used sunflower oil and water to dissolve the lye. John cleaned out our freezer yesterday and reminded me that I still have coconut, goat, and hemp milk cubes in the freezer. Because of that, I decided to substitute the sunflower oil for hemp oil and use hemp milk instead of water to dissolve the lye.

The recipe:

60% beef tallow
30% olive oil pomace
5% castor oil
5% hemp oil

5% superfat and a lye concentration of 40% (water:lye ratio - 1.5:1)

I did squirt in about 2 tsp. of titanium dioxide (to make the soap less green from the hemp oil) and added 2 tsp. of sodium lactate, and 2 tsp. of simple syrup (1:1 sugar water).

It seems I've been on a bit of a patchouli kick lately; I added about 1 tsp. to this batch, giving it a very light scent.

Looks a bit like slices of vanilla ice cream, doesn't it?
While I was out and about yesterday, I stopped at my favourite kitchen shop and bought a wire cheese cutter. It has definitely made cutting the soap easier; I just need to get used to it. The soap slides a bit on the board and tends to be pushed around by the wire. If anyone has any suggestions for making it more stable, I'm open to them. Just leave me a comment.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Sweater Weather - Cut and Curing

By this morning, the Sweater Weather soap was ready for cutting. I really need to get a proper soap cutter; cutting by hand is NOT the easiest for getting uniform bars. At this point, while the soap is still fairly moist, the scents of the beer and the vetiver are quite strong. That will change as the soap cures; I've found that to be true in all the batches of beer soap I've made so far.

I know that I wrote briefly about the dental soap and the Lavender and Goat Milk soap before we headed out to the coast. Before we left, I unmolded the dental soap; it was just barely firm enough to come out of the mold but I wasn't sure about leaving it to sit for three days. Looking back, I think it would have been fine but I'm not the most patient when it comes to getting my soaps out of the mold.

I'm quite excited to try it, to be honest. I can smell the anise in it but I don't think it will flavour the soap much.

It was really nice walking into the spare bedroom after we arrived home, to be greeted by the scent of the Lavender and Goat Milk soap. Lavender is such a homey scent and the room smelled quite strongly of it. I suppose one of the benefits of making soap is that the house always smells good.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Sweater Weather

A new soap sprang into being today, inspired by the ale my daughter brought me last week. It's another BNA Brewing product; this one is called Sweater Weather, an oatmeal stout. According to their website it's, "jet black with a coffee coloured head. Has aromas of chocolate, espresso and roasted malts".

I've been contemplating what I should do with this one. Because it's a different variety, I didn't want it to look the same as the Blackstrap Ale soap. This is the hard part. Today, it finally came together. I started thinking about sweater weather, when the weather turns cold. That's when the hot cereal comes out, so I decided to add colloidal oatmeal to the soap. Oatmeal is also very good for your skin, mild and emollient.

Skin gets dry in the colder weather and exfoliation is important when the weather turns chilly. Once exfoliated, your skin can more readily absorb a good cream or body lotion. For that purpose, I chose to add some finely ground hops, which also ties in to the whole beer making process. The hops are only in part of the batter, not the entire loaf.

Then came scent. I really like the cedarwood base that I've been using in the Blackstrap Ale soap but I'm out of the cedarwood essential oil, so I chose to go with vetiver instead. It is also, a woodsy, deep scent. To lighten it up a little, I added some lavender essential oil.

Colouring this soap was the next challenge. Again, I didn't want it to be the same as the Blackstrap Ale soap. I decided I would try a reverse swirl, leaving the base of the soap however it came out with just the stout. I think it will be a light tan. To about one third of the batter, I added some cocoa to darken it. I poured it over the top and spoon swirled it into the lower layer, bringing some of the lighter batter to the top and the darker batter to the bottom.  On the top, I sprinkled some oatmeal.

Tomorrow, I will unmold and, likely, cut the soap. Between the scent of the soap (I can really smell the vetiver and the beer) and my dinner (pork chops with sauerkraut and tomatoes, sprinkled with brown sugar), my house smells amazing!