Circling Taiwan Swirl Soap Challenge

What do you do when it’s below zero and snowy outside? I can’t think of anything more fun than making soap! Well, actually, traveling to some exotic and WARM location might be more fun…but if I have to stay home, soap it is!! So this month’s Soap Challenge Club was a welcome activity. I’ve done the Taiwan Swirl many, many times, and the results are always beautiful. (You can see some previous Taiwan swirls here and here.) But I always free-hand pour the soap that I swirl, and I only pour the soap one layer thick in a slab mold. This Circling Taiwan Swirl soap really did present me with challenges!

First of all, I don’t have dividers for my soap molds. I made some dividers out of foam board and covered them with packing tape in hopes that the soap would easily slide off of them. I also made them to fit very tightly in my molds, with hopes that they’d stay put as I poured the soap. I was wrong on both accounts! And furthermore, because I had to cut the edges and tape them up, they weren’t perfectly straight edges that sat flush on the bottom of the mold, so some soap seeped through as I poured. In fact, nothing about the dividers was truly straight! Take a peak:

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Clearly, these dividers are far from perfect!

Overall, the dividers were my nemesis in this challenge! I’m sure that the lovely (and straight!) dividers that you can purchase are probably well worth the cost if for no other reason than to avoid all the frustrations that I had.

My next challenge was the universal soap-making challenge: trace. I was testing out 3 new recipes (which I realize is not the brightest idea when making a challenge soap). I found that my recipes probably contained a bit too many hard oils and butters, and probably too much castor oil, so all 3 recipes set up really quickly. I was scrambling to get the soap colors mixed and poured quickly, and then I fought my silly dividers like crazy! Even with blending the oils and lye at 85 to 90 degrees and only blending to emulsification, the soaps were still thick by the time I finished pouring them.

Soap #1: Lavender Fleur fragrance oil from thesage.com with titanium dioxide, lavender oxide, black oxide, and green mica as colorants. I also added lots of goodies like yogurt, colloidal oatmeal and silk to the batch.

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Yikes! SO THICK!

By the time I poured the soap and fought the dividers, it was difficult to swirl the soap. I started out with a skewer to create the first swirl, but then switched to the handle of my plastic spoon to circle around the outside.

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It was so thick that it didn’t swirl much.

Soap #2: Black Raspberry Vanilla fragrance oil from Nature’s Garden with titanium dioxide, red mica and lavender mica blended, and black oxide, also with yogurt, colloidal oatmeal and silk. This fragrance typically gives me lots of time to work with the soap, but I fought the dividers again and ended up with thick soap. I used my spoon handle to swirl the entire soap this time.

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Another thick soap that didn’t swirl as much as I’d have liked.

Soap #3: Pixie Dust fragrance oil from thesage.com with Mad Oils micas in blue, pink, yellow, and purple. I included milk and yogurt in this batch along with silk and colloidal oatmeal. I added extra liquid to this batch in hopes that it wouldn’t set up as quickly, but it did exactly the same as the first 2 batches.

This soap was thick too, but I liked the swirls more here.

This soap was thick too, but I liked the swirls more here.

After these 3 frustrating batches, I gave up for the day and came back fresh the next. I decided to go with the tried-and-true slow moving recipe that Amy gave us in several of her tutorials throughout the Soap Challenge Club years. It works like a charm every time! And I love the feel of the soap after a good long cure.

Soap #4: Satsuma from Wholesale Supplies Plus with Mad Oils micas in pink, orange, and yellow as well as an uncolored stripe. I included milk and yogurt in this batch with silk and colloidal oatmeal. I still fought my dividers, but this time the soap was nice and fluid the entire time I poured. This fragrance is so incredibly yummy, and I really think it slows down trace. It’s a soaper’s dream! I used a skewer to swirl this one nice and tightly, and I must admit, it was highly satisfying to finally get one “right!”

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Raw Satsuma soap with lovely wispy swirls! Yay!

I was almost dreading cutting into the soaps from the first 3 batches. I expected to find lots of air pockets since the soap had been so thick, and I didn’t know if the divider problems had wreaked havoc on the soap lines. Imagine my surprise when I cut into all the soaps and found very few bubbles and awesome results!

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Lavender Fleur soap. This is the end cut with the lotus flower shape in mirroring bars.

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Lavender Fleur bars from the inside of the log. The dividers did better than I thought they’d done. The stripes are very distinct!

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Black Raspberry Vanilla mirrored end cuts.

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These are cuts from the inside of the log. Love love love these swirls!

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Pixie Dust end cuts.

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The inside bars of Pixie Dust soap. These colors are so vibrant and beautiful, just like the fun and bright fragrance.

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Satsuma soap end cuts. Because this soap was much more fluid, the swirls are more feathery and there are more petals to the flowers.

Even with all of the frustrations, I am so happy with how these soaps turned out. After cutting them, my challenge has been with which one to choose to enter! I’ve settled on this soap:

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Black Raspberry Vanilla Lotus Soap Challenge Club entry!

Black Raspberry Vanilla Soap Challenge Club entry! It came down to the contrast of these soaps.

The contrast of these soaps was my final deciding factor. The colors really pop, and the white flower on the black background is just really pretty. 

Which one is your favorite? I made myself wait to look at everyone else’s soaps until I submitted my entry, so I’m excited to see the beautiful soaps! I’m guessing there will be lots of stunning results. I’ll definitely be making more soaps with this technique (after buying some good dividers, that is)! Thanks to Amy and everyone else who helped with this challenge technique. It was so much fun!!

November Combing Soap Challenge (and a Surprise!)

I haven’t been around a whole lot lately. These five messy babies are really keeping me hopping! But our busy lives couldn’t keep me from this month’s Soap Challenge Club! Amy put together a great tutorial on making a simple comb to use in a slab mold, and she showed both a serpentine swirl and a peacock swirl. I couldn’t wait to break out my mold and get crackin’!

Here’s a preview of the soap (in the raw).

combing technique soap entry

November Soap Challenge Club: Combing Techniques

Combing techniques produce such beautiful swirls, so I wanted to make something very feminine. I settled on the Brambleberry fragrance Relaxation. It’s the perfect sophisticated feminine vanilla scent with lovely floral touches (that don’t sting my sensitive nose). Plus, I could personally use this sweet smell at the end of my very long days. Because….not only do I have FIVE girls running around my feet constantly……SURPRISE!

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My baby bump!

Baby girl #6 (YES…S.I.X... and YES…G.I.R.L.) is due to arrive in a few short months! So that’ll be six girls ages 6 and under in my house. This mama needs some Relaxation soap! 🙂 We’re thrilled about another unexpected gift, feel completely blessed beyond our wildest imagination, and we’re also a bit shocked that it’s yet another girl. (Well, I’m shocked. My hubby isn’t surprised at all. He wondered why we even needed to have a sonogram to find out!) So now you know why I’ve been a bit absent as of late. But, let’s get on with the soap making!

For colorants, I used about a half teaspoon each of electric bubblegum pink, sparkle gold mica, and blue green mica (all mixed with olive oil), as well as one teaspoon each of lavender oxide and titanium dioxide (in water) mixed into half a cup of soap. I also used my homemade slab mold which yields 21 bars that are 3″ x 2.5″ in size. Amy’s slow-moving recipe of 35% olive oil, 30% lard, 25% coconut oil, and 10% avocado oil worked absolutely beautifully! I had tons of time to work with this soap. I blended to emulsification, then poured 4 ounces of soap into each of the 5 colors.

Colors for Relaxation soap.

Colors for Relaxation soap

Amy used squeeze bottles in her examples, but honestly, I think squeeze bottles are my nemesis. I chose to use my long pour spout cups instead.

Next, I added the fragrance only to the remainder of my soap (since it will discolor due to its vanilla content), poured it into the mold, then began pouring each color in an S-shape down the length of the mold.

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First round of pouring colors

I made several passes with each color, and near the end, I tried to make sure the lines were distinct so they wouldn’t get muddy when I began swirling.

Making a soap comb was so simple! Why haven’t I done this before now? I simply cut off a piece of corrugated cardboard about an inch shorter than the width of my mold. Then, I shoved bamboo skewers spaced about an inch apart through the corrugated lines of the cardboard. SO EASY! I drug my simple comb down the length of the mold, moved it over half an inch and drug back in the opposite direction.

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First pass with my simple soap comb

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Second pass after moving half an inch and combing in the opposite direction

Then I took the comb out of the soap, turned it 90 degrees, and drug it through the mold and back again, creating an awesome Taiwan swirl.

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Third pass, combing across the first stripes

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Final pass with the comb!

I was tempted to leave the soap just like that because it was so beautiful! But I also wanted to try the serpentine swirl! What to do? Compromise! I settled on creating the serpentine for just a few strokes down the length of the mold: the best of both worlds!

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Taiwan swirl (AKA linear swirl) AND Serpentine swirl. See the 2 lines of S-shapes on the right side? Very pretty!

After spraying the top with alcohol, I put the soap into a slightly warmed oven and left it overnight. After about 24 hours, the soap was hard enough to unmold and cut.

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Relaxation soap (Taiwan swirl side) fresh off the chopping block

I’ve found that it is still developing soda ash on top even several days later, so this one will need steaming after it’s fully cured. Totally worth it! The results are stunning.

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Relaxation soap with serpentine swirls

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Relaxation soap with Taiwan swirl pattern

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Relaxation soap, various patterns. The turquoise turned to a deeper forest green, and the lavender really turned purple, creating a lovely contrast of colors.

As always, I’m really looking forward to seeing the beautiful soaps created for this challenge. Thank you again, Amy, for such a great tutorial! Be sure to check out Great Cakes Soapworks for luxurious soaps, my all-time favorite lip butter, other lovely bath products, and all of the great tutorials she’s made for these challenges!

August Soap Crafting Club: Linear Swirl with Oxides

It’s the second month of Bramble Berry’s summer Soap Crafting Club, and boy, was this soap fun!!! I know. I say that pretty much every time I make soap. But it was seriously FUN this month! (If you haven’t picked up a copy of Anne-Marie Faiola’s book Soap Crafting, I highly, highly recommend it.)

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August kit contents: premixed base oils, sweet almond oil, White Tea & Ginger fragrance oil, and 4 oxide colors. We’ll be using the same 9-bar birchwood mold and more lye from the July shipment.

Once again, all of the extra information and videos available to the club members online was invaluable. I watched the video a few times and read through posts from other members who had already made the soap. Feeling pretty comfortable with it, I dove right in.

I began by mixing together the lye solution and heating the oils. Next, I mixed each of the oxides into the sweet almond oil and prepped my work space. When my lye and oils were at about 110 degrees, I blended to emulsify them then whisked in White Tea & Ginger fragrance oil. I used my handy dandy long pour-spout measuring cups to divide out the soap into 4 parts and mix in the colors as outlined in the recipe. In my haste to get the soap poured into the mold carefully, I forgot to have my hubby take pictures of the process! But rest assured, I followed the instructions closely and made lots of long s-curves, alternating my 4 colors in a side-by-side pattern. As I neared the last few pours, I tried to make sure that each colored stripe was visible and distinct so that the final swirling would reveal all of those beautiful colors.

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The raw soap before swirling

And I did get a picture of the pouring aftermath!

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Not as messy as I’ve been in the past, but certainly not super clean!

This technique called for the linear swirl, which I’ve done before and referred to as the Taiwan Swirl. (The top of the Tie-Dye soap from this club was also a linear swirl on top.) The final result of this technique is absolutely stunning every single time. The difference with this particular soap is the multiple pours of each color throughout the entire body of the soap. There will be tons and tons of visual interest for the life of this soap, each use revealing a new pattern.

I began by inserting a skewer to the bottom of the mold and dragging it back and forth in a vertical motion across the horizontal stripes.

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The first swirls are already revealing lovely feathering.

Next, I drug across the new vertical stripes in a horizontal motion.

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Now it’s even more beautiful!

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All the swirling complete and dividers in place. It’ll be interesting to see the drag marks down the sides of each bar created by the dividers.

Isn’t this just GORGEOUS!?!? It looks just like the versions in the book and online that I’ve seen. I’m amazed that I could recreate it!

After a few days, the soap slid right out of the silicone liner. I flipped it over, and look!

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Even the bottom of this soap has tons of visual interest!

I had to wrestle it out of the dividers more than last time, but it still came out cleanly. Every bar is beautiful.

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After a week of curing, the colors have muted a bit, especially the gray. But the fine feathering is still quite visible. (Please forgive the messy edges and soda ash. I’ll clean these up a bit after they’ve had proper time to harden.)

The White Tea & Ginger fragrance is bright and clean, and it was extremely workable. This will be a fun and refreshing bar of soap to use.

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The drag marks left from the dividers is a cool effect around each side!

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Another view of the drag marks and feathery details of this White Tea & Ginger Linear Swirl Soap.

These experiences along with the monthly Great Cakes Soapworks Soap Challenge Club have been absolutely invaluable to me as a soap maker. With each new batch and new technique, I learn more and more about workable textures and how temperatures, additives and colors affect soap.  Oh, how far I’ve come since those first few batches!

Only one more month left in the Summer Soap Crafting Club. Drat. I’m wishing this would just keep going and going! But I’m looking forward, as usual, to what will arrive in a few weeks on my doorstep!

Soap Crafting Club Adventure #3: Tie-Dye Soap

I’ve finally finished my Soap Crafting Club Winter Session! (On an 80-degree sunny day, just as school’s getting out…) 🙂 This club has been so much fun! You can check out my first club Funnel Pour adventure here and my Avocado soap adventure here.

This is the kit that arrived for the third month’s Tie-Dye soap:

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Premixed lye solution, premixed oils, Black Cherry Fragrance Oil, and 5 different diluted LabColors.

I was really anxious to make this soap when my kit arrived back in March, but it’s a good thing that I didn’t make it right away! As other members of the club soon found out, there was a manufacturing problem with the Black Cherry fragrance oil that made the soaps seize! OH NO! The Bramble Berry staff let us all know right away not to use the fragrance, and Anne-Marie gave a great tutorial on Hot Process Hero rebatching so those who had already tried the technique could at least salvage their soaps. Then they quickly got to work to correct the problem with the fragrance oil. I received a generous stipend to order a new fragrance of my choice, but I was a bit slow at ordering! When I finally got around to it, I decided on Yuzu for this project as it’s known to keep soap very workable.

Once again, I studied my Soap Crafting book and watched the club tutorial videos as well as a live demonstration that Anne-Marie gave online. The resources have all been so handy. And the kit makes everything so easy, too! It’s amazing how little time it actually takes to make soap when the oils have already been measured out for you, the lye solution has been made, and you don’t have to line your mold! Can I get a soap fairy who would do those things for me every time?

After barely emulsifying my oils and lye, I divided up the soap into my *new* extra-long pour spout measuring cups. Then I added in the premeasured LabColors as well as the fragrance oil, stick blended just a touch more, and began pouring.

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Awesome colors, right?!

These new cups really make it easier to pour precisely. I started by alternating light and dark colors in one straight line pour down the length of the mold, then I began pouring in a U shape. The soap displacement was really cool to watch!

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Tie-dye soap half-poured is already living up to its name!

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Last pour complete!

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Final swirls all done!

After pouring all the soap, I swirled the top in a tight Taiwan swirl pattern, sprayed the soap with alcohol, then put it in a slightly warm oven to ensure full gel. The colors are awesomely bright! I watched the soap closely and took it out of the oven once full gel was reached. I didn’t want it to bubble up and out of the mold!

And the reveal…

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Whoa! Lots of interesting swirls and drops!

Isn’t it so bright and fun!? Every bar is totally different, and the Yuzu fragrance is just as energizing as the colors. Totally psychedelic, dude! (I couldn’t help it. This soap screams out so many cheesy phrases.)

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Freshly sliced Tie-Dye soap

It does have some royal blue spots throughout. I noticed that the royal blue LabColor kind of plopped out of the bottle. Oops. I should have shaken it up well before I put it into the soap, but it was too late at that point! I just stick blended it more than the other colors, but it obviously still didn’t get fully incorporated. Over time, I anticipate that the colors will blend together and the dots will dissipate a bit due to the nature of LabColors. Either way, it’s no matter to me. I like the dots! Like dye splatters on a tie-dye shirt. 🙂

I’m so glad to have participated in the Winter Session of Soap Crafting Club! And did I mention? For Mother’s Day, this lucky mama received a membership to the Summer Session from my five messy babies and their daddy!!! I can’t wait to get my soap on! Though I won’t receive my next kit until July, I’ve already read through the recipes for my upcoming session. I’ll be getting a new 9-bar slab mold with dividers, and the soaps look like they’ll be fun and challenging to make. I can’t wait!

Oil & Glycerin Swirls

I’m back in the saddle, the Soap Challenge Club saddle that is! This month’s challenge (put on by Amy Warden at Great Cakes Soapworks) was to add colored oil and/or glycerin swirls to the top of soap, and…Wait for it…Big surprise coming…

I’ve never done this before!

I know. You’re shocked, right?! Ok, not so much? 😀

I say that nearly every single month! That’s why I love these challenges so much. I’m introduced to or reminded of techniques that I’d like to try, and I learn something (or LOTS of things) every time.

This time around, I needed to restock on Satsuma soap, so that was the scent du jour. It’s an awesome sweet tangerine scent that doesn’t accelerate trace, perfect for any type of design I want to create (which is why I make something different with it every time I use it)! This was also the perfect opportunity to practice some previous skills learned in the club and use my awesome slab mold.

I created a column swirl soap by alternating pours of uncolored soap, neon tangerine soap, and neon mango mixed with a bit of neon pink. Those colors just seem to be the perfect fit for this lovely citrus scent. Since my mold is so big, I used 2 columns, effectively dividing the soap and giving me 2 different areas to play with when it came time to make my swirls on top!

Satsuma Soap column pours

Satsuma Soap being poured over 2 columns

On one half of the poured soap, I created what looked like the spokes of a wagon wheel by alternating stripes of gold mica dispersed in oil and pink mica in oil. Then using a bamboo skewer, I started in the middle and spun around the circle in an outward motion, expanding until I reached the outer edges. Then, I wound my way back toward the center between the lines created in the first round.

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Mica in oil drizzles and dots!

On the other half of the soap, I placed drops of gold and pink randomly about, then I drug my bamboo skewer through the middle of the drops randomly as well.

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Complete with swirls!

I went ahead and oven processed this soap, and I cut it just 24 hours after making it. It was a bit soft, but the oil swirls on top had already completely absorbed into the soap. My only mistake was leaving the soap on the counter to find my camera and get my cutting utensils out. One of the triplets got up on a stool and couldn’t resist touching the beautiful sparkles on top! She smudged it around in a few places before I caught her, and she was oh-so-happy with the beautiful pink and gold glitter sparkles on her finger! NEVER a dull moment around here.

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Satsuma Soap

Overall, I’m pretty pleased with how this soap turned out. I would have been perfectly happy to leave the beautiful column swirled soap alone, but adding the mica/oil swirls on top gives it extra interest (which obviously greatly appealed to my three-year-old). The column pour made some really cool stripes throughout each bar of soap, and the scent is amazing! AND, it’s my mom’s favorite fragrance, made just before Mother’s Day (though she’ll have to wait a bit for curing). 😉

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Lots of interesting things to look at here from the stripes running throughout each bar to the glittery mica swirls on top!

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These Taiwan-esque swirls are curvy and fun thanks to the circular pattern.

Because this was so fun, I just had to make a second soap as well! I wanted to make glycerin swirls, too, and I wanted to try my hand at another Taiwan Swirl soap (also a previous challenge technique). My slab mold was already out, and I was feeling inspired.

This Green Clover & Aloe soap was made using uncolored soap as the base with pours of light green and dark green (made by mixing yellow and blue oxides). After pouring the greens from on high, I used a dropper to add gold mica stripes and white stripes of titanium dioxide in glycerin. The glycerin stripes started to separate and bead up almost immediately, which turned into some really pretty swirls. Here’s what the process looked like.

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I was a bit messy with my pours. Oops!

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The glycerin started beading up immediately!

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Vertical swirls being added now.

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The final raw soap just before putting it to bed. Ooooh! So sparkly!

And the result?

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Green Clover & Aloe Soap with oil and glycerin swirls

So fantastic! I love the way this turned out! AND, it’s my dad’s favorite scent! So, one for mom and one for dad in the same week. 🙂 Though I’m not too sure how my dad is going to respond to the sparkly tops. Hmmm.

I left this soap in the mold for 2 days as it took longer for the glycerin to absorb into the soap. The oil and glycerin swirls left behind some really cool texture on the soap tops, and the swirls are really feathery and beautiful.

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Here you can really see the textured tops. Deep crevices were left behind when the glycerin absorbed into the soap.

Now I’m left wondering which soap to enter into the challenge! I think I’ll go for the first soap since it’s so bright and cheery. Which would you choose?

As always, I’m looking forward to seeing everyone’s awesome creations! Thanks so much, Amy, for putting together such great info and connecting all of us together under the banner of learning more about this artistic and fun craft!

Breaking In My New Mold: Taiwan Swirl Challenge

It’s amazing to me how excited I get when time for the Soap Challenge Club rolls around each month! I rather impatiently awaited the opening of January’s soap challenge, signed up right away, and eagerly planned out my batch using this month’s Taiwan Swirl technique.

My excitement this time around had a lot to do with this:

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My new slab mold!

Thanks to this (and my handy husband):

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My hubby’s newest toy!

Matt’s Christmas gift of a new miter saw really worked out in my favor! (Wink, wink, nod, nod.) He loves his new saw and was honestly excited to make me some new soap molds, and to my specifications. Awesome, right?!

Anyway, on to the challenge!

In hopes of getting a very slow-moving, fluid soap to work with, I used a basic recipe of 68% olive oil, 25% coconut oil, and 7% castor oil with 7% superfat. To make an even more moisturizing soap, I replaced about a third of the water in the lye solution with yogurt and whey (added to the melted oils). I worked with my oils right around 90 degrees and my lye solution at room temperature. Satsuma was my fragrance du jour because it has always behaved very well, and because I completely sold out of that soap just before Christmas. I adore this scent. It’s so fresh and bright and invigorating. I just feel happy when I smell it!

After blending my oils and lye just to emulsification, I split off one cup of soap into neon citrus colorant and another cup into a beautiful blend of neon mango, coral mica, and neon pink. I was going for a gentle shade of orange and a brighter tangerine orange to match the sweet citrus smell of the fragrance.

Much to my disappointment, in the short time it took me to mix the colors, the main batter was already setting up! Should I blame it on the castor oil? Or were my temperatures too high? Could it be the addition of yogurt and whey? Hmmm. I worked as quickly as I could to pour the uncolored batter into the mold. Then I frantically poured alternating stripes down the length of the mold.    

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I had to run my spatula down the stripes to try to get the colored soap all the way to the bottom.

Next came the swirls.

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First, horizontal swirls.

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And then vertical lines back and forth.

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I love the look of this raw soap (despite my inability to make straight lines). The Taiwan Swirl is very pretty!

Then a spritz of alcohol, and the soap was put to bed in a 170 degree oven.

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This is what it looked like in full gel. So cool! See the color change of the darker orange already?

And here it is! The final product!

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Satsuma Soap made with the Taiwan Swirl. As evidenced by the sides and bottom of the soap, several of the colored stripes did make it all the way to through!

Even after much banging and pounding, the soap never did get flat. But I rather like the textured top! It adds a lot of interest to this soap.

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Here’s a good shot of the ridges of the textured tops.

Despite my (once again) quickly tracing soap, I really love my results. I’ll definitely keep this technique in my regular rotation!

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The colors turned out to be a perfect match with the fragrance!

And did I mention that I absolutely LOVE my new slab mold? So many awesome techniques to try now! And Matt even made me some real, legitimate columns to use for more column pour soaps!

I’m really looking forward to seeing all of the beautiful, artistic soaps made for this challenge. Thanks for stopping by for a peak at mine! Happy Soaping! 🙂