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!