Wood Grain Soap Technique

Howdy, soapy friends! It’s been a while since I last participated in the Soap Challenge Club (and I have a good reason, I promise!), but I couldn’t resist participating this month! The wood grain technique in soapmaking is just so cool! Soap that looks like wood!?! And multiple ways to make it look real!?! Amy shared a pretty simple technique in her tutorial this month, and she also compiled several YouTube videos of other soapmakers’ different techniques. I chose to try out Amy’s squeeze bottle technique for the challenge, but I’m looking forward to trying out several of the other techniques in the near future as well.

I recently had a friend ask me to make Sandalwood soap with activated charcoal, and this provided me with the perfect opportunity to create! I used a very sexy Sandalwood fragrance oil, along with cocoa powder and activated charcoal as colorants in a very slow-moving recipe that Amy shared a few years ago inside the club: 35% olive oil, 30% lard, 25% coconut oil, and 10% rice bran oil.  I also added silk, goat milk and colloidal oatmeal to this luxurious soap. Working at room temperature with this recipe gives me the most time; my soap batter was fluid throughout the squeezing! SCORE! (I’m a bit overly excited because I have never had much luck with squeeze bottles.) I blended the oils and lye just to emulsification, and then I divided the soap evenly into 5 squeeze bottles. I added different ratios of cocoa powder to 2 bottles, charcoal to one bottle, a combination of cocoa and charcoal to one bottle, and I left one bottle uncolored.


Squeeze bottles shaken, not stirred. 😉


The Bramble Berry 9-bar slab mold was the perfect choice for this technique. I was able to squeeze lines of each color over and over again down the length of the mold to create that wood grain look.


My squeezing got a bit messy towards the end!

When all of the soap was squeezed in, I used a skewer to follow those lines, then I swirled at least one “knot” where each bar would be.


I might have gotten a little over-zealous with the knots… but it’s just so fun to play with soap!!

I added in the handy dividers that came with the mold and sprayed the top with 91% alcohol.


Dividers in and ready for bed!


I am so excited about this soap!



Even the backs/bottoms and sides of the soap look cool! These bars will have a new design with every use!


The wood grain technique is awesome!

It looks amazing and smells amazing.


I’m certain the men in my life are going to love the looks (and smell) of this new soap.


I’m going to try out a few of the other techniques as well, like making soap in a log mold with a “bark” edge! How fun, especially for the upcoming winter season! I’m thinking maybe a crackling birch fragrance, or a lovely evergreen scent.

I am continually impressed and inspired by all of the fabulous, creative soap makers out there. This is such a fun craft!! Thanks, Amy, for another great tutorial, and thanks to Kenna of Modern Soapmaking and Anne-Marie of Bramble Berry for sponsoring this month’s challenge.

And because I just can’t resist, I’ll let you know what’s up in my life that’s been keeping me from posting this summer…I’m PREGNANT…AGAIN!!! We’re only days away from becoming a family of SEVEN MESSY BABIES!!! And you’ll never guess…20160520_182208

Our girls are ecstatic! God is GOOD! Have a blessed day, friends!

Spinning Swirl Soap Challenge

Where does the time go?

Oh, I know. To crying babies and messy toddlers and mounds of laundry and mouths that always seem to need to eat…! So, I skipped out on last month’s landscape Soap Challenge. The reality of sleep deprivation had set in hard core, and mama needed a break! But all the soaps were soooo awesome! I’m inspired to try a soapscape. Someday. It’s on my [neverending] list.

Now that sweet Violet is 2 months old, we’ve settled into a good routine. (She’s even already sleeping 8-10 hours a night!!! WAHOO!) And I simply could not miss this month’s Spinning Swirl Soap Challenge Club. These soaps look so cool, and I love learning new-to-me techniques. With this one, you make soap using at least a few colors, leave it in a nice fluid state, pour it in the mold, and then spin the mold. Sounds easy enough I suppose. I had no idea that you just spun the mold! No idea! How have I missed out on this technique? So clever and seemingly so simple.

The real challenge for me was the soap consistency. Let’s be completely honest here: soap consistency is always the biggest challenge, no matter what the design is. For me, at least. How about you, my fellow soapers? Getting the perfect trace for the perfect design, that’s the hardest part! Soap is so fickle. Temperatures, additives, fragrances, and oils all make such a huge difference in how quickly soap sets and changes.

I decided to use the slow-moving recipe that Amy has kindly shared for several of our challenges, one that I’ve used for several soaps now, like this one and this one. The recipe is 35% olive oil, 30% lard, 25% coconut oil, and 10% rice bran oil (or another light vegetable oil like avocado). It’s a lovely recipe, and I like to boost it’s bubbliness by adding 1 teaspoon of sugar per pound oils to my lye water, as well as 1 teaspoon of sodium lactate per pound oils to make a harder bar. To this batch, I also added some powdered goat’s milk, silk, and colloidal oatmeal. I also used a fragrance oil that I’m familiar with that doesn’t speed trace, one that just makes me laugh: Bite Me from Nature’s Garden. It’s fruity and fun, and it really does make you want to bite the soap! It kind of smells like citrusy chewy candy with a hint of strawberry and other yummy goodness. You know that smell that hits you when you walk into a candy store? Kind of like that. It’s playful and lends itself to using lots of bright colors.

Prep was really important for this technique as well. I had all of the colors, whisks and spatulas ready and waiting before I began making the soap. {For the other soapmakers out there: I used Bramble Berry’s 9-bar slab mold without its dividers since I wanted to cut the soap both vertically and horizontally. It took 46oz oils to make the soap 2 inches deep, and I actually cut it into 14 bars, 12 cut horizontally and 2 big end chunks.} I stole the lazy susan that I use for my spices from my cabinet, and I set my mold right on top of that.

With my workstation ready, I very carefully blended my lye and oils at low temperatures (around 80 degrees), and I slowly pulsed and stirred them to ensure a loose batter that was right at emulsification. I quickly divided the batter into 7 separate containers of about 3/4 cup soap each: blue mica, green mica, gold mica, coral mica, stained glass red pigment, lavender oxide, and titanium dioxide. Almost a rainbow!


Nice fluid soap ready to pour!

I quickly poured different colors in 6 different spots in my mold using a faux-funnel technique. To get very thin lines of color, I only dropped in a very small amount with each pour, which took quite a bit of time. By the last few pours, the soap was starting to set up. I whisked each color before pouring it to try to keep it fluid, and I was working furiously fast to try to get it all in and spin it!


Those last few pours were very messy!

I pounded the mold a few times to get out the air bubbles and settle the soap flat. Then I began spinning! So. much. fun! But to my great surprise, I realized that the spinning wasn’t really what made the soap move. It was the stopping. Duh. Abrupt stops. That’s the key! I spun several times and paused for a photo.


Half way through spinning!

Then I kept spinning and stopping some more. I was pleasantly surprised at how fluid the soap still was in the mold. When the lines were very thin, swirled, and starting to look kind of like a crazy-colored marble, I decided to stop. No sense in making a muddy mess of those pretty colors. But I tell ya, I could have kept spinning! It really was fun.


Spinning complete!


Especially around the edges, you can see the marbling effect. I was worried if I went any further, those fine lines would start to get muddy, so I made myself stop. Just pretend there are no air bubbles…

After impatiently waiting for a day (I looked at the clock constantly and forced myself to wait 24 hours), I unmolded. The glory of unmolding and cutting fresh soap!

This is the first vertical cut.

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Look at the pretty swirls!!! I’m smiling (even though I messed up my cut a bit)!

And here are the horizontal cuts.

Bite Me Soap

Bite Me soap made with the spinning swirl technique.

Bite Me soap

Does the spinning make you dizzy? 😀

I’m surprised that the soap didn’t swirl more in circles since I poured in 6 different places in the mold. I expected a few more swirls. But I love the thin lines throughout each bar. So much visual interest all around. And the smell. Yum!

Bite Me soap

So much visual interest all around every bar!


Once again, Soap Challenge Club success! Learned a new technique. Had fun. Met more awesome soapy friends. I’m a happy girl! Thanks, Amy! 😀

In-the-Pot Swirls

I always love to take part in the Soap Challenge Club put on by Amy of Great Cakes Soapworks. I’ve missed a few months this summer, but now that school’s back in swing, so am I! And this month’s challenge was one that I’ve actually done before: in-the pot swirls. Woohoo! (If you’re interested, here’s an Oatmeal, Milk & Honey soap with a simple single-color in-the-pot swirl that I do quite frequently.) I love to learn new techniques, but it was a lot of fun pushing myself to do more with something I’ve already practiced a lot.

Thanks to this club and the Bramble Berry Soap Crafting Club, I’ve finally figured out that I need to use as many familiar variables as possible when trying something new. (I know, I know. It’s not rocket science.) With that in mind, I used a fragrance that I’m familiar with, my typical 8-oil recipe with goat milk added to the oils, and soaped at around 90 degrees. To make this a challenge for myself, I decided to use more colors than I’ve ever done with this technique, a total of 6: pink, orange, yellow, light aqua blue, dark blue, and purple. To achieve the colors I wanted, I blended lots of micas, oxides, and neons.

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Nearly a rainbow!


Now as soap! I still had to tweak that orange a bit. It was just too brown, so I added a bit of red and yellow and pink. I had no idea how it would actually turn out in the end!

And along with using more colors, I did a double pot swirl. Just keep reading if you’re confused! 🙂

As I was planning it out, I decided it would be fun to try 2 separate in-the-pot swirls layered into the same soap to create a cool sunset effect. I split up the blues into 2 larger bowls to be the “main” or “base” colors. Into the lighter blue, I poured yellow, orange, and pink, then swirled around the pot in a spiral motion very lightly.


I left lots of yellow close to the top so that it would be poured closest to the bottom of the mold.

My soap was at a medium trace when I poured that first pot into the bottom of my mold. I was hoping for a sunset look with lots of bright yellow streaks across the “sky.”

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The colored stripes were so beautiful that I hated to cover them up with the second layer of swirls!

Into the darker blue pot, I poured the remainder of the orange and pink soaps along with some purple. I was hoping to mimic the ombre effect of the night sky, moving from the lighter blue on the horizon into the darker blue above, while keeping the pink and orange swirls throughout the soap. I also added just a touch of yellow to the dark blue pot. By the time I got to the last few in-the-pot pours, the soap was really beginning to set up. I swirled it together lightly again, this time folding some of the dark blue soap from the bottom to the top of the pot.

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I left lots of pink on top to blend into the layer already poured into the mold, leaving lots of dark blue on the bottom to be poured last.

I poured this second pot over the first layer of soap in a back and forth motion across the length of my mold. I was excited to see many streaks of color rather than a muddy mess! And the dark blue finished out the night sky just as I’d planned!

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Does it remind you of the night sky???

I finished the soap off by dotting the top with more pink, purple, orange and a touch of yellow, lightly swirling it and adding some glitter. (Pixie Dust was the fragrance I used, and it would be sacrilege NOT to include some glitter!!!)

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The raw soap was really gorgeous!

Into the warm oven it went to ensure gel phase, a.k.a. bright colors.

It was thrilling to cut into this soap the next day!


The first glimpse!

All of the colors are distinct yet well-incorporated throughout each bar, and the yellow really pops!

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I love the bright yellow, orange and pink swirls. Lots of contrast, while the top blue and purple blend well to create the sky effect I was going for.

The light aqua blue color morphed slightly into a blue-gray, and the orange turned reddish, and I love the results. I keep going back and forth about whether this reminds me of a crazy bright sunrise or a wild sunset, so I’m calling it Sunrise Sunset! It seems a bit reminiscent of Van Gogh, too. No?

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Every bar is completely unique, as expected with an in-the-pot swirl.

This soap was SO. MUCH. FUN. to create! It took me a while (translation: nearly 3 hours) to plan and make it, but it was entirely satisfying to complete this one. Worth every minute.

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Sunrise Sunset Soap made with goat milk

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Check out this cool sun spot! Only two bars got this awesome sun!

I’ll most certainly be playing around more with in-the-pot swirls very soon. I’ve dreamed up all sorts of ways to use an ITP swirl in conjunction with lots and lots of other techniques that I’ve learned through the club! Now to find the time to actually make all of my ideas…

July Soap Crafting Club: Oatmeal Layers

After my first awesome experiences in the Bramble Berry Winter Soap Crafting Club, you can only imagine my thrill at receiving a Summer club subscription for Mother’s Day! You can check out my first club soaps here, here and here. They all turned out pretty great, and I couldn’t wait for my next kit shipment to arrive in July.

Here’s what came in my first summer kit:


9-bar birchwood mold with silicone liner, divider insert, and lid, premixed base oils, Oatmeal Cookie fragrance oil, Almond fragrance oil, and oat extract. (Also included was a bottle of lye and a shiny new scale for measuring it out to make each lye solution.)

All I had to supply was the mixing equipment, the Soap Crafting book, and some water and oatmeal! Easy peasy.

O Soap Crafting Club, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

  1. Base oils come pre-measured and pre-mixed. Joyful joyful.
  2. Silicone-lined mold included. Need I say more?
  3. Awesome instructions in the book and online, plus videos, and a live demo session. Whoa!
  4. Online community in which Anne-Marie and Bramble Berry staff interact frequently. Soapers Unite!
  5. A chance to learn new techniques and simply make awesome soap.
  6. For three straight months, it’s so fun to receive a new shipment of materials for each soap!
  7. Different soap recipes with new oils and/or butters, new fragrances, and new colorants and/or additives to try. Such a great way to try out ingredients using someone else’s published tried-and-true recipes and techniques.

I’m certain there are more reasons, but I digress. On with the soaping.

After reading all of my materials and prepping my space, I began making my soap. First, I made my lye solution and heated up my oils. While those were cooling, I blended up some oatmeal to make oat flour. I also added a bit of goat’s milk to the oils for some extra skin-nourishing goodness. When my lye water and oils were both at about 120 degrees, I mixed them, added the oat extract and divided off half the soap. To one half, I added whole oats and oatmeal cookie fragrance and whisked it all together, then I poured it into the mold. Next, I added the almond fragrance oil and oat flour to the other half of the soap and blended. I poured this mixture over my spatula and into the mold, creating a new layer of soap on top of the first.

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Pouring the top layer

Finally, I inserted the dividers into the soap and sprinkled a few oats over each bar. I spritzed with alcohol, put the lid on, and popped the mold into a barely warm oven.


Raw soap with oats on top

To my surprise, after just a day, the soap seemed hard enough to attempt to unmold. Yay! It slipped right out of the silicone liner, and I had no trouble at all pushing each bar out of the dividers. I was also surprised to find that the bottom layer had already begun turning brown thanks to the vanilla content in the fragrance oil.

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Just one day after making it, here’s the soap fresh out of the mold. The layers are pretty darn straight and even. Yippee!

It was fun to see how the outside was brown, but the inside (the part not yet exposed to the air) was still all the same color.

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Pretty cool, right?!

It’s fun to watch the bars cure. Over time, the vanilla on bottom has caused the soap to turn a very deep shade of brown. After just 2 weeks of curing, here’s another look.

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The layers are quite distinct now, and you can see the bits of oatmeal suspended throughout the soap. It has developed a bit of soda ash all around, but that’s an easy enough fix (or it’ll be gone after just one use anyway). 😉

These bars are really simple and beautiful. And they smell AMAZING! Love the fragrance blend. Plus, they’ll be super skin-nourishing as well as exfoliating. This was a fun, relatively simple and fast soap to create with great results.

I can’t wait to see what arrives in the August kit!

My First Goat Milk Soap

I’ve finally done it: goat milk soap!

Bergamot & Chamomile Goat Milk Soap

Bergamot & Chamomile Goat Milk Soap

I’ve been looking for a local source of fresh goat milk for over a year now, but I don’t think I know the right people. I can’t locate anyone, but I’m certain that there are people around here who must have goats! I drive past pig farms and multitudes of cows every time I go to the grocery store. Surely someone has goats! I’m fairly close to Amish country, so I may have to go that route to find what I’m looking for. Once I do find it, I’m wondering if I can afford it! This stuff is expensive! I finally gave in and coughed up the money for a can of concentrated goat milk at the store.

For this batch, I used the same half and half method that I used to make yogurt soap. I began with a 1:1 lye solution (which takes an incredibly long time to cool down), then I added concentrated goat milk to my oils and butters. I also added some colloidal oatmeal at the same time and blended it all until it was nice and creamy. I really like this method of milk soaping; it’s much easier than freezing the milk and making the lye solution in slow motion! I planned not to add any color to this batch, but I just couldn’t help myself. At the last moment, I colored some soap purple, put a simple layer on top, then added some swirls down each side. I like the looks of it. Simple, with a touch of color to give it some interest.

Bergamot & Chamomile Goat's Milk Soap Loaf

Loaf of Bergamot & Chamomile Goat Milk Soap.
I love to unwrap a loaf of soap from it’s mold. It’s like Christmas morning every time!

I used a lovely blend of bergamot and chamomile to give this soap a light and calming scent. I must say I’ve noticed every goat milk soap has a distinct smell that’s somewhat pungent to my nose, and the soap I made is no different. It’s not overwhelming, but I do notice that particular goat’s milk scent. I wonder what’s in there to make it do that? I find scents absolutely fascinating!

Bergamot & Chamomile Goat Milk Soap

Bergamot & Chamomile Goat Milk Soap

Now that I’ve made soap using almond milk, cow’s milk, breast milk, yogurt, and goat’s milk, I’m feeling rather like a pro! I know it’s only a few batches of each, but milk soap isn’t nearly as daunting to me now as it was a year and a half ago. I’ve got several other recipes in the works with new milks and combinations of milks, creams, and yogurt. The more soap I make, the more soap I want to make! The sky’s the limit with ingredients, techniques, scents and colors. This is so much fun!