Monday, October 29, 2012

They're Finally Ready!

Yup, it's true. I love putting together quad paks - they're a theme selected grouping of soaps along with a soap net that are packaged all pretty. I've been working on this pak for quite a while; in fact it was the first one that I planned but for some reason ended up being the third to complete. I searched the world wide web for the perfect organza bag and came up empty, so I started making my own bags as well, and I'm rather pleased with the whole look. Yesterday was a beautiful day here. The warmer temperatures melted most of the snow from the roads and sidewalks, the sky was a perfect blue with a few wisps of white clouds, and there was no wind to infuse the body with chills. I couldn't resist taking these photos outside.
Introducing the Four Seasons Quad Gift Pak
All wrapped up in a sky blue organza bag.

Aerial View - from top clockwise
Apple Pumpkin Spice, Cracklin Birch, Spearmint Avocado, Summerberries

Left to Right
Cracklin Birch, Summerberries, Apple Pumpkin Spice, Spearmint Avocado

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Who Knew??

 Okay, I admit - my living conditions here in Canada are pretty darn good. I live with my family in a warm and comfortable home with plenty of food, lots of work and play opportunities and great health care. Even so it seems much easier to see how much more other people around me have, and to bury my head in the sand when it comes to those who have so much less. 

Imagine the literal jolt I got while reading that "Every year, more than 3.5 million children less than five years of age die from acute lower respiratory-tract infection and diarrheal illness. These two diseases are the 3rd and 5th leading causes of death worldwide and are responsible for more deaths annually than strokes and other cerebrovascular diseases." And the best way to combat these statistics is SOAP. Talk about a wake-up call! As a soap maker I'm swimming in the stuff - and millions of children around the world are dying for lack of it. I'd say it's time to pull my head from the sand.

On Monday, October 15th I'll be humbly boxing up my left over soaps from past seasons and sending them on their way to Clean the World. You can learn more about Global Handwashing Day here.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Making of a Bar of Soap and a Contest!

Have you ever wondered how soap is made? Well follow along while I make a batch and quench your curiosity.

Soap is the result of a chemical reaction between lye and oils. The combination of oils is what predominantly determines the soap characteristics. Additives enhance the final product. For this soap I wanted to make a luxurious, all natural soap. I'll be using my Shea Butter Bar recipe with tussah silk fibres.

First up is the lye/water solution. Everything is carefully weighed and the lye is dissolved in the very cold water.
Once the lye is dissolved in the water I add tussah silk fibres. The silk will contribute a slippery, silky feel to the soap and it's lather. It takes a bit for the silk to dissolve.
The tempurature of the lye water is at 150 degrees F. I like to soap at about 90 degrees, so this needs to cool. While it's cooling it's time to prepare the oils.

Solid oils are weighed first. Here I have coconut oil, palm kernel oil and shea butter. Once these are melted the liquid oils are added; I'll be adding olive oil, high oleic sunflower oil and castor oil.

The oils are melted and combined and the tempurature of the oils and lye water are almost right. It's time to prepare the additives.
I want this bar to be as natural as possible so for colour I am using olive oil that's been infused with alkanet powder (for lavender) and olive oil that's been infused with paprika (for orange). I'm also using essential oils - lavender and 5-fold orange with just a smidge of litsea cubeba to help hold the orange scent.
I've already altered my recipe to allow for the additional olive oil. The essential oils are added to the infused colouring oils.
Back to the oils and lye water. I've just poured the lye/silk/water into the oils through a strainer. Straining the water removes any bits of silk fibre that hasn't dissolved.
Stick blending brings the mixture together. The soap is just about at trace here - it's starting to thicken up and the additives will need to be added soon.
Weighing the soap (minus the weight of the pail) allows me to separate the batch exactly in half. The colourants and essential oils are added.
 Mixing it all in. I love watching the colour change. It smells soooo good. Orange 5-fold essential oil has a sweet citrus smell much like the peel of an orange; lavender essential oil has a strong floral scent. Together they form a fresh, clean, uplifting scent.
Here I'm just randomly pouring while alternating the colours. After getting every last bit out of the pails I'll swirl the top with a chop stick.

Over the next 12 - 24 hours saponification will take place - the chemical reaction that turns the oils into soap. During this process, according to Kevin Dunn, chemistry professor and author of Scientific Soapmaking "Three moles of alkali react with each mole of oil to produce three moles of soap and one mole of glycerol." And so we wait.
 It's been a few days, the soap is ready to cut.
I'm cutting my soap with my new soap cutter that I bought from Randi at Creations from Eden in Edmonton. Her dad makes them, and I love it!
The cut bars.
I like to trim and smooth the edges of my soap bars a day or so after cutting. With that done I can take some nicer pictures of the finished soap. This picture was taken outside where the lighting is so much better. It's time to put these babies on the curing rack where they will sit for 5-6 weeks. During this time the water will evaporate causing the bar to harden.

So there you have it. One problem yet remains - naming the soap. I am not good at naming soap.

 Enter the
Simple Pleasures Handmade Soap Naming Contest.

Are you up for it? All you have to do is suggest a name for this soap in the comment section below or on my facebook page. I will send one of these bars to the person whose name suggestion I go with. In the event that more than one person suggests the same winning name the person who suggested it first will win the bar.

Let the soap naming begin!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Countdown to Christmas!

What a beautiful fall we are having! The days are warm, the evenings are cool and the colours in nature are fabulous!! I'm determined to enjoy every minute of it, especially because when I looked at the calendar today reality hit me - Christmas is in 3 short months! It's a reality we soap makers must embrace because soap needs time to cure and while 4 weeks is the general rule of thumb, I personally prefer a 6 week cure.

Here are some of my Christmas soaps that I've been working on.

Apple Cinnamon
I love the texture in this one, and who doesn't love the smell of apples and cinnamon.

Christmas Memories
I tried this fragrance oil last year and loved it. The middle layer has no colourant at all, and it discoloured to this caramely rose. That would explain why the green and red are a bit darker than I intended. It's a strong scent of pine, cloves, cinnamon and cranberries which sounds kind of odd to me, but somehow it works - very Christmasy.

Cracklin' Birch
The blue is a bit lighter than I expected, but I like it. It smells like a spicy floral. This one and Christmas Memories are both goat milk soaps with mango butter.

Gifts of the Magi
This one is my favorite. I was curious as to what frackincense and myrrh were like, so I ordered some and infused my olive oil with the crushed nuggets for this recipe. Such luxurious gifts need tussah silk as well for some added decadence, and to finish it off, a sprinkling of gold mica. I expected the scent to be musky but it really isn't; the fragrance description reads "A well rounded accord of frankincense and myrrh, vanilla extract, with unique top notes of French jasmine and English Ivy." It just smells wonderful to me!

With my Christmas soaping well under way I still have time to enjoy this exceptional fall weather.  Happy Autumn Everyone!!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Busy in the Soap Room

It's September! The kids are all back in school and it's time to stock the soap shelves. Here's what I've been working on over the past few weeks.

I'm determined to complete one more 'Quad Pak' (a gift pack of 4 soaps), this time a 4 Seasons Pak. These 2 soaps represent spring with the fresh scent of spearmint, and fall with pumpkin spice. Summerberries is already done, now I just need a winter soap to finish off the pack.

Then there's Coconut Lime Verbena. I love the scent in this one and am hoping it doesn't fade too much in the coming weeks.

Coconut Lime Verbena - with coconut milk

This is Green Tweed - one of my favorite scents - made with goat milk. I normally try to avoid the gel phase with my milk soaps, I'm always afraid of them over-heating, and I really do like the muted colours of a non-gelled soap. But with all my partial gels lately I decided to let this go right ahead and gel - and it looks fine. How on earth those soap balls ended up with a partial gel I have no idea!

My essential oils have been sadly neglected lately, so Lavender Lang was created. I used alkanet infused olive oil and annatto infused olive oil. The yellow isn't too yellow, but the purple turned out great.

Lavender Lang - with tussah silk and lavender and ylang ylang essential oils.

There's good ole Ash again! This time I think he's looking quite distinguished.

Street Tones Colour Palette Challenge

The second Colour Palette Challenge from Erica at Bath Alchemy is entitled "Street Tones". I really like these colours.

I used the same recipe and technique for this challenge as I did for the "Just Peachy" challenge. For Peacock Swirl - take II I used chromium green, hydrated chrome green, ultramarine blue and natural soap. For the blue I wanted a very light shade so I used just a smidgen; should have used a smidgen more as it is barely visable.

Wet soap - just swirled.
All was going just fine, I cut the soap into 6 bars and left them to cure for a few days before taking pictures. That's when my good friend (not) Ash appeared. And he laid it on thick, let me tell you!

Ash just had to come mute the colours!

I re-trimmed the edges to get a look at what might have been.

This guy is scented with lavender essential oil and spearmint fragrance oil. Smells gooood.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

"Just Peachy" Color Palette Challenge

It seems the soaping world has been inspired by Amy at Great Cakes Soapworks; while Amy has taken a break during the busy soaping season from issuing her famous soap challenges two other soap challenges have begun: The Melt and Pour Soap challenge issued by Anne-Marie from and The Color Palette Soap Challenge issued by Erica from Bath Alchemy. While I love reading the Soapqueen's blog I don't make melt and pour soap so I haven't jumped on that challenge; however the soaps created by those who are participating are amazing, so be sure to check them out. 
Erica's challenge sounded interesting to me. Participants are encouraged to theme a soap around a colour palette that she posts each week. I decided that this would be the perfect opportunity for me to try out a new technique that I've wanted to do for some time now - the Peacock Swirl. But I don't have a slab mold and didn't want to invest in one at this point; nor did I want to make huge batches of soap at a time for this challenge. As I was taking the recycling out one day I came across a plastic container that held dishwasher tablets - perfect! I watched the tutorial (again) that Amanda did on her Lovin Soap Blog, and set out to do Erica's challenge.
The first week is the 'Just Peachy' palette. I chose a slow moving recipe, and coloured my apricot freesia fragranced soap with chromium green oxide, sunset orange oxide, red oxide and gold mica (gold kinda got lost somehow) and went to work on my very first Peacock Swirl! Alas, the 'tines' on my 'rake' were too short and muddied up the mix, but one of my six bars isn't too bad for a first try.

The second colour palette challenge is entitled 'Street Tones' - check it our here. I hope my Peacock Swirl improves for this one.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Drakkar - Type Goat Milk Soap

A few days ago I made a new loaf of Drakkar - Type Goat Milk soap. I'm quite pleased with the outcome. I especially love how each bar is so different from the rest.