Mastering…er….Attempting the Butterfly Swirl

It’s that time again: Soap Challenge Club! The January 2015 club brings about a new technique to many of us soapers, and I must say, WOW! This one is difficult, yet so much fun!!! Around the middle of last year, Zahida of Handmade in Florida began sharing her “butterfly swirl” soaps and even a few videos of their makings. Her creativity is astounding, and the resulting swirls are just gorgeous. I’ve been admiring her work from afar, watching her videos, and dreaming of trying it, and this challenge was my push to finally do it! Once again, Amy Warden of Great Cakes Soapworks has given us an excellent tutorial on how to create this Butterfly Swirl. But because of the nature of dropping in soap and all the variables that go with it (texture, trace, fragrance, colorants, type of mold, etc.), I can only imagine the beautiful different results that await our viewing. And over 150 soapers joining in on this one?! Incredible!

Because this is such a new (and most would say DIFFICULT) technique, I decided to get started super early this time around! (Plus…I kind of have some extra motivation to get things done seeing as I’m mere weeks away from the due date of baby girl #6!) I’ve been soaping up a storm this month, and I managed to crank out 5 batches of butterfly swirl attempts in the last two weeks (along with 9 other batches of restocks and new spring soaps)! It was fun to try a batch, cut it, make a few observations and modifications, and try, try again.

I used my favorite 8-oil soap recipe since I am familiar with how much time it gives me. For the first few batches, I used fragrances that I have already used, knowing that they wouldn’t speed up trace. As I got more comfortable with the technique, I did try a few new scents, but I read reviews from many soapers who said they were very workable. For molds, I simply used the same loaf molds that I typically use, and they are all wider, shorter “traditional” loaf molds. I don’t have a tall skinny mold, but I’ve made a honey-do list for my hubby with dimensions so he can make me one. 😉

Furthermore, I didn’t even have a hanger swirl tool! Can you believe it? I’ve done tons of swirls in soaps, but I always use a spoon or a skewer, even for the hanger-type look. So for the challenge, I found a few wire hangers, used needlenose pliers to untwist and straighten them out, strung a few drinking straws in the middle, and used the pliers to bend the hangers in a U-shape to the correct length to fit my molds. It was much easier than I anticipated…I don’t know why I hadn’t done it before now. The challenge club really does motivate me to get things done!

On to the soap! [If you don’t want to read through the LONG list of all of my trials and experiments, just scroll to the bottom to see my final pick for the challenge!]

Batch #1: Pears & Berries

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Pears & Berries Soap. First attempt at the butterfly swirl technique!

I used 24K gold sparkle mica, red sparkle mica, green mica, and berry bunch neon purple with a bit of red mica for the drop swirls added to white base soap. I poured off just over half a cup of soap into each of the 4 colors and did very thin layers of drop colors down the length of my 17-inch long mold. The result was very thin and wispy swirls without much defined color. Perhaps I poured at too thin a trace as well. I also think that I used the hanger tool to swirl more in the dead white space of soap than in the colors. But I did get a few pretty butterflies! Here’s another good one:

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Kind of looks like a butterfly, yes?

Note to self: reach deeper into where I poured the drops of color! I don’t see much of a butterfly in many other bars, but I do love the beautiful swirls anyway! Lots of good observations and take-aways from this batch.

Batch #2: Sweet Pea

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Sweet Pea Soap. Second attempt at the butterfly swirl! This one has a butterfly right in the middle with long wispy swirls surrounding it. Not really what I was going for, but still very pretty!

The colors here are green mica, sparkle pink mica, lavender oxide, and titanium dioxide in a base of lighter green soap. I used 3/4 cup of soap for each of the colors and tried to pour at a slightly thicker trace. I also peaked the top of this soap, so it looks pretty cool when I turn the soaps on their side for the mirror images. The space made on top looks like the shape of the inner wings.

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Turned on their sides, these create the outer shape of a butterfly (kinda), but there isn’t much detail inside those wings.

Verdict: still not enough colored soap for my liking. I want more color in those wings. I do like the wispy swirls again, though! Very pretty, and a lovely spring fragrance!

Batch #3: Bedtime Bath

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Bedtime Bath Soap. Third attempt at the butterfly swirl.

With the strong notes of lavender in the scent, I tried for purples and blues in this soap. (And due to the slight vanilla content, I only added fragrance oil to the main uncolored soap batter, not to the colors). I poured off just under one cup of soap into lavender oxide, blue oxide with a bit of pink mica, a blend of blue and black oxide for a nice navy color, and titanium dioxide for white. I again tried to pour at a slightly thicker trace, and I made sure to reach all the way to the bottom of the mold, deep into the colors. I even tried doing a few figure-8 patterns with my hanger tool to add some more detail to what I hoped would be the wings of the butterflies.

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Bedtime Bath butterfly swirl soap

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Same soap as above, just outside moved to the inside! So cool, right?!

Result: I love this soap! The trace seemed to be spot on. It is a bit difficult to differentiate between the blue colors, but there is a slight variation, and the swirls are ever-so-whimsical. There are several different beautiful butterflies throughout the batch.

Batch #4: Jasper (a discontinued fragrance from the Twilight Series at thesage.com)

This time I wasn’t going for anything better, per se, than the previous batch. Just wanted to play some more!!! At this point, I am LOVING this swirl technique. Every bar is just so beautiful and unique! I used just under a cup of soap for each color: electric bubble gum pink, lavender oxide, bright blue mica, and yellow oxide with gold mica. I used a bit of green mica to color the base soap a pale green. Here’s a look at the raw soap:

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Raw soap scented with Jasper. Note the beautiful turquoise blue color.

I was really surprised when I cut into this batch.

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I see a butterfly, but where did the beautiful turquoise blue go?! It was supposed to be between those pink and yellow lines on the bottom wings. And what about the pale green base color?! Big changes from raw to hard soap!

The colors faded and morphed a lot! Both the bright turquoise-blue color and the pale green are almost completely gone! I clearly needed to use more mica to color the soap (and this shows why I need to get Kenna’s More Swatch Mania! book before the end of the month!). The swirls are very pretty.

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Here’s one pair turned on its side to achieve the butterfly. So pretty!

I did make a few nice deep swirls to form the bottom wings of the butterflies, but I see fewer butterflies in this batch. I did find some fun pictures like these:

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Looks like kissing fish to me!

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Put together on opposite sides, and it looks like an alien or a very funky Mardi Gras mask!

This scent: AMAZING! It smells fruity and fresh and deep and ripe. There are some tropical fruit notes and some fresh green meadow notes, and maybe even a hint of floral, as well as some water. It’s so hard to define! I need help renaming this soap. Any ideas? I’d love to hear your suggestions!

Batch #5: Blackberry Sage

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Blackberry Sage butterfly swirl soap. Now THIS looks like a butterfly!

This time, I went for thicker trace and more colored soap, and boy, do I love the results! I poured off 1.5 cups of soap into 1.5 tsp red sparkle mica, 1.5 cups soap into 1tsp lavender oxide with .5 tsp red mica, and just over a cup of soap into .75 tsp green mica. The rest of the base is uncolored with a darker yellow hue thanks to the addition of milk and subsequent heat-up of the sugars. I poured each color twice down the length of the mold, and I really concentrated while using the hanger, trying to carefully place it in the shape of each wing. It was pure bliss to cut into this loaf of soap! Every single mirrored image looks like a butterfly, all 18 bars! Here are a few of my very favorites.

IMG_6036 (2) IMG_6038 (2) IMG_6044 (2) IMG_6045 (2)So this is the one I’ve chosen to enter into the challenge, this Blackberry Sage batch.

Blackberry Sage SCC entry

My January 2015 Soap Challenge Club Entry: Blackberry Sage butterfly soap

It’s hard to choose just one, but this one seems to be the most butterfly-like of them all. Which is your favorite batch?

As always, I’m so excited to see what everyone else has come up with. I anticipate so many gorgeous soaps with different color schemes and intricate swirl designs. Thank you a million times over, Amy, for putting this together and teaching so well! I think this has been the most fun challenge to date, and y’all know how much I LOVE the challenges! [And thanks for sticking with me to the end of this incredibly long post!!!]

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8 thoughts on “Mastering…er….Attempting the Butterfly Swirl

    • Hahahaha! I seriously laughed out loud when I read your comment, Amy! I am soooo not the master yet, but this has been so much fun! 😀 I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this challenge, and I’m already itching for Matt to make me a tall skinny mold so I can try some more.
      And yes, my intention is to be all stocked up so when the baby gets here I can take a break for a bit. I’m running out of curing space, though!!

  1. Katy, I loved reading about all of your trials and tribulations. I also admire your tenacity–all of those batches in your 3rd trimester! One great thing about the butterfly swirl is even if you don’t always get butterflies, the swirling motions make for some very pretty bars of soap. I loved your last batch the most. Beautiful! I hope you have an easy labor and healthy easy-going baby. (Seems like the younger of many siblings are often easy-going.) And my best wishes on raising all of those little girls. Your poor husband may never get to use a bathroom when they’re teens! 😉

    • Thanks, Janie! I appreciate your comments, and I agree that the swirls are always pretty even if no butterfly is to be found. 🙂 And yes, my husband already has trouble with the bathroom situation, and they’re only 4 and 6! Seems as though someone always needs to go!! Thanks for the well wishes!

  2. Each of your attempts are so pretty. You did a great job on all of them. I would have had a hard time choosing which one to enter because they are all so beautiful. Nice job!

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