February Challenge Club Winners Announced!

For February, the Soap Challenge Club technique was the DNA/helix swirl. This swirl was originally created in a log mold by Sabine of Soap Star, with design credit for the slab mold version by Challenge Club member Amy B. in Wisconsin who used the technique for the combing swirl challenge last November. We are so grateful to Nature’s Garden for sponsoring this month’s challenge! The grand prize winner will receive a $50 gift certificate!! Nature’s Garden has also chosen a Sponsor’s Choice winner who will receive a $25 gift certificate!

We had so many amazing entries this month, but our first place winner was above and beyond all the other winners with a total of 46 votes. Congratulations goes to Melinda Wolff of Melinda’s Naturals in Joshua, Texas, for her stunning Double Helix Swirl Design in a log mold:

Double Helix Swirl by Melinda's Naturals

Double Helix Swirl by Melinda’s Naturals

As a side note, I’m so excited that I get to meet Melinda at the Central Soaper’s Workshop in just a few weeks!! Registration for this event closes FRIDAY, and there are virtual registration spots open as well, so if you don’t live in the Midwest, you can still attend in your jammies!

In second place, we have a new winner – this was just her second time participating in the Challenge Club! Congratulations to Algeana of Back2Eden Natural Bath & Body in Savannah, Georgia, with her super colorful DNA/Helix swirl in a slab mold:

DNA/Helix swirl by Back2Eden Natural Bath & Body

DNA/Helix swirl by Back2Eden Natural Bath & Body

Third place goes to long-time member of the Challenge Club, Eileen of Simple Pleasures Handmade Soap in Alberta, Canada with her rainbow DNA/Helix swirl in a log mold, using the slab mold technique!

DNA/Helix swirl by Simple Pleasures Handmade Soap

DNA/Helix swirl by Simple Pleasures Handmade Soap

Second and third place winners receive free registration to next month’s Challenge Club!!

Finally, Nature’s Garden has chosen Stacey of Yellow Cottage Soapery in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina to receive their Sponsor’s Choice prize!! Stacey’s soap is a beautiful twist on the DNA swirl to create this floral look:

Floral/DNA swirl by Yellow Cottage Soapery

Floral/DNA swirl by Yellow Cottage Soapery

Isn’t it amazing how each of these soaps is so different from one another? This is the creativity that I love to see come out of the Club. I’m sure you’d like to see the rest of the entries as well, right? You can check them out HERE.

And if you would like to join us for the March Challenge Club, we will be doing landscape designs! Here is the soap I created for the video tutorial:

Landscape soap by Great Cakes Soapworks

Landscape soap by Great Cakes Soapworks

We have a new sponsor for March: TKB Trading! They are providing a $100 gift certificate to the grand prize winner, and their EZ Eyeshadow Kit for their Sponsor’s Choice prize. Registration for this technique will open this Monday, March 2nd. You can sign up to receive a notification so you don’t miss it:

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Re-formulating My Cold-Process Recipe, part 3

If you missed part 1 and 2, they are located HERE and HERE.

I’ve done six variations of recipes with lard and/or tallow since Part 2. So far, I still like the way the tallow performs in the soap and I believe it will be in my final formulation – so far. What I wasn’t sure about just yet was how to get the soap to be hard AND long-lasting. I received a tip from Sarah Chapin of Whimsical Soap Works that kokum butter was the answer to long-lasting soap for her formulation, so I ordered some to try it out. Sarah says that she preferred kokum butter over cocoa butter because she could use less kokum butter and the soap felt less drying than soap made with cocoa butter.

Since I was needing to re-stock some coffee soap, I went ahead and made a couple batches with cocoa butter and a couple batches with kokum butter. I wanted to differentiate between the different batches, so the first cocoa butter recipe is just a plain coffee soap (with orange and spicy essential oils – totally yum!), the second cocoa butter recipe has a cocoa powder swirl, the first kokum butter recipe has a red clay swirl, and the second kokum butter recipe has a yellow clay swirl.

Moroccan Spice Coffee Soaps by Great Cakes Soapworks

Moroccan Spice Coffee Soaps by Great Cakes Soapworks

I was surprised that the first cocoa butter recipe actually performed the best out of the four, as far as taking the most time to trace, hardness and lather!! It only has 5% cocoa butter, and I also left 30% tallow in the mix, and some sodium lactate with 6% superfat, and a 33% lye solution. They are all quite hard bars, and it’s been 5-8 days since they were all made. They all lathered well, with just a few minor differences. Here are the results:

First batch of coffee soap with cocoa butter

First batch of coffee soap with cocoa butter

The second recipe I just swapped the amounts of tallow and coconut to see if there was a difference, and the only difference I noted was the size of the bubbles – they were larger and less dense.

Second batch of coffee soap with cocoa butter

Second batch of coffee soap with cocoa butter

For the kokum butter test recipes, I just used 3% kokum and increased the amount of olive. These batches are fresher than the cocoa butter ones, so they didn’t feel as hard even without adding water, and they also didn’t lather as quickly as the cocoa butter bars.

First batch coffee soap with kokum butter

First batch coffee soap with kokum butter

I also tried one with some avocado oil in it, so it had less shea butter. Fairly similar results to the other kokum butter bar:

Second batch of coffee soap with kokum butter

Second batch of coffee soap with kokum butter

I did have overheating issues with all of these coffee soaps, but it could have been the spicy essential oils.

Forgot to take a photo of the first cocoa butter batch, but it had a small crack down the center also.

Forgot to take a photo of the first cocoa butter batch, but it had a small crack down the center also.

So my next test will be to make a batch of my best selling Stress Relief soap with my (so far) favorite cocoa butter recipe and compare the results with the original recipe. I will also continue to monitor these soaps as they cure!

Lovin’ Soap Project Valentines Auction Starts NOW!

Just over two years ago soapmaker Amanda Griffin traveled to Haiti with Marla Bosworth to teach a single soapmaking workshop to a group of women in Port au Prince. She was compelled to continue the work they started not only in Haiti, but in other third world areas as well, and the Lovin’ Soap Project was born. She was joined by Benjamin Aaron in June 2013, and together they have mentored women in Haiti and Uganda, with plans to expand to other areas this year. They are supported by donations, and especially by those who subscribe to their monthly Soap Collaborative e-magazine.

Another amazing fundraiser for this team is what has become the Annual Valentines Auction. This auction has items from all sorts of soap supply vendors and teachers, as well as actual handmade items, and even membership with insurance from the Handcrafted Soap & Cosmetic Guild! Great Cakes Soapworks is donating a complete set of tutorials from the Soap Challenge Club. The auctions starts NOW, and ends on February 15. Click the banner to go take a look and get started bidding!

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Re-formulating My Cold-Process Soap Recipe, part 2

If you missed part 1, you can read it HERE.

After hearing back from my readers, my thoughts about lard and tallow are definitely being challenged! I have been learning about the benefits of both from Katrina Kimball of Sego Lily Soap and Erin Burke of Modern Girl Beauty. Anita Faulkner from Sadie’s Mission Soaps said the majority of her customers have no issues with (beef) tallow, and suggested that I substitute tallow for lard in my previous recipe. So, after the input from these fine ladies, I decided to decided to go ahead and try beef tallow for my next test recipe!

The recipe is nearly the same as the last one, but I went ahead and increased the tallow to 30%, decreasing the shea butter and castor oil. This is the recipe I used for Bergamot Mandarin:

30% tallow
25% olive
25% coconut
10% shea butter
5% castor
5% avocado
(0.8 oz. fragrance per pound of oils)

6.5% superfat
33% lye solution
(meant to add sodium lactate, but forgot!)

Bergamot Mandarin soap by Great Cakes Soapworks

Bergamot Mandarin soap by Great Cakes Soapworks

Observations:
1. The soap took awhile to trace, but once it did, it set fast! At first I thought maybe it was the fragrance that I had never used before, but then I tried a similar recipe with essential oils that I knew wouldn’t speed trace and the same thing happened again. I think I just overblended – both times.
2. The texture of the soap batter was a little weird, for lack of a better word. It was almost as if it was coated in oil. I don’t know how else to describe it. By the time I was getting the colors mixed and poured into the mold, the soap was setting up pretty quickly and I was spooning most of it – especially on top. The batter would just slide right off the spoon. Like I said, a bit WEIRD.
3. After six days, the lather is amazingly dense and creamy:

Bergamot Mandarin - 6 day lather test

Bergamot Mandarin – 6 day lather test

Soap Qualities:

Hardness: 47 (recommended range 29-54)
Cleansing: 19 (range 12-22)
Conditioning: 49 (range 44-69)
Bubbly: 24 (range 14-46)
Creamy: 32 (range 16-48)
Iodine: 52 (range 41-70) – lower = harder bar
INS: 156 (range 136-165) – higher = harder bar

So how does it compare to Formal Affair (recipe #1)?
According to SoapCalc, the tallow recipe should be a harder bar. But I used sodium lactate in Formal Affair that won’t reflect the hardness in SoapCalc. The lather in Formal Affair is getting more dense and creamy as time passes. Here is an updated lather test, showing the improvement:

Formal Affair - lather test comparison

Formal Affair – lather test comparison

I still have more work to do! I’m open to suggestions, and I will keep you posted on my results.

Butterfly Swirl Winners Announced!

The butterfly swirl challenge was pretty incredible! We had 154 members from all over the world this month, and many of them created several batches of soap to get the best possible butterfly swirl. Everyone’s hard work paid off, because I’ve never seen so many beautiful butterflies!! Even though not everyone chose to enter their soap, it was still a difficult task to choose who to vote for, as there were 90 total entries! I say that, but I never actually do the voting, so in an attempt to make it a little easier on everyone, I gave all the members five votes instead of the usual three.

I am so grateful to Nurture Soap Supplies for sponsoring the challenge this month! They are providing 65 different mica samples (or $100 gift certificate) to our grand prize winner, as well as their basic 2.5 lb. soap mold with silicone liner to the Sponsor’s Choice winner. I am also grateful to Zahida of Handmade in Florida for sharing this incredible technique with all of us!

And now, for the announcements you’ve been waiting for!

The grand prize winner created this absolutely stunning butterfly swirl soap:

Butterfly Swirl soap

Butterfly Swirl soap

It’s so unique with the black lines and almost watercolor-like effect; nothing like any of the other entries! Also unique to this soap is the creator who wishes to remain anonymous. So congratulations, and thank you so much for sharing your beautiful soap!

In second place, we have Maria from Sabun Market in Guatemala who entered this amazing butterfly swirl soap:

Midnight Pomegranate butterfly swirl by Sabun Market

Midnight Pomegranate butterfly swirl by Sabun Market

The black background really sets off the swirls beautifully and you can see the micas really sparkle. The butterfly seems to “pop” out of the soap!

Third place goes to Melinda in Joshua, Texas with her spectacular four-bar butterfly swirl soap:

Spearmint & Eucalyptus Butterfly swirl by Melinda

Spearmint & Eucalyptus Butterfly swirl by Melinda

You can click on her photo to read a lovely description of how she came up with her design and her personal thoughts behind the Challenge Club and why she chooses to participate. My favorite part about her soap is how the colors all marble together so beautifully!

Huge congrats to the second and third place winners!! They will both receive free registration to next month’s Challenge Club! (More info about that below.)

Finally, the Sponsor’s Choice prize goes to Claudia in Los Altos, California with her Butterfly Flambe soap:

Butterfly Flambe by Claudia

Butterfly Flambe by Claudia

Claudia was inspired by a t-shirt design with a wolf and flames on it. The colors pretty well capture the colors in the t-shirt as well as the flames! You can click the photo to read more about her inspiration and see more photos of her soaps. Congratulations, Claudia! You did an incredible job with this one!

If you would like to see the other 86 entries, please visit THIS LINK.

For next month, we are doing the DNA/helix swirl! I first saw this technique demonstrated in a log mold by Sabine of Soap Star, and recently one of our Challenge Club members re-created the technique in a slab mold. For the video tutorial, I will demonstrate the technique in the slab mold, but will leave each member to come up with their own take on this design. Here is the soap I made for the tutorial:

DNA/helix swirl by Great Cakes Soapworks

DNA/helix swirl by Great Cakes Soapworks

Nature’s Garden will be our sponsor for February. Grand prize is a $50 gift certificate, and the sponsor’s choice prize is a $25 gift certificate.

Many of the current members purchased the three-month registration that will be good through March. For those who didn’t, registration for this technique will open on Monday. If you’d like to be notified, just click the button below:

notify-me

Formulating New Shampoo Bars

Before I started thinking about reformulating my regular cold-process soap recipe, I was playing with a new formula for a shampoo bar. The Beer & Seaweed shampoo bars that I currently offer are already my second best selling soap. They work really great for normal hair and balancing the oils in the scalp. The scent is what I call Deep Patchouli – an amazing blend of patchouli, cedarwood and lemongrass that clings to the hair. Not everyone is enamored with the earthy scents though, and I figured I might as well branch out a bit and try something a little different.

For my first test batch, I used the same basic recipe as the Beer & Seaweed, but this one is Coconut Honey. I used coconut milk for the lye solution and just a bit of honey instead of seaweed. It was scented with a synthetic honey fragrance that’s quite yummy!

Coconut Honey shampoo bars - first test batch

Coconut Honey shampoo bars – first test batch

I asked 12 of my customers who were either currently using or had used the Beer & Seaweed shampoo bar to try this new formula and give me their feedback.

Since it can take up to two weeks for someone’s hair to adjust to a shampoo bar after using commercial shampoos, I wanted to find out what state each person’s hair was in when they started the trial. The majority were already using a shampoo bar so their hair was adjusted to it.

CH-shampoo1

I also wanted to make sure I had people with a variety of different hair types testing the bar and see how each one responded.

CH-shampoo2

I was happy with the representation – pretty much everything except for straight hair!

Now it’s time to see how the Coconut Honey shampoo bar performs compared to the Beer & Seaweed one:

CH-shampoo3

This actually surprised me! I didn’t expect the coconut milk to lather as well or better than beer! I’m just guessing the added sugars from the milk and honey are what boosted the lather to compete with the Beer & Seaweed bar.

Next, I wanted to find out what differences the Coconut Honey bar made in each person’s hair or scalp.

CH-shampoo5

The results are somewhat inconclusive, but it would seem that it is a more moisturizing bar than the Beer & Seaweed. Of those who said it made their hair feel “heavy” or even greasy, two out of three had not been using a shampoo bar when they started the trial which could contribute to that feeling as the hair was transitioning from commercial shampoo.

Finally, I wanted to know how the testers would rate the Coconut Honey bar and whether they thought it was ready for market or if it needed any changes.

CH-shampoo4

Half of the testers gave the Coconut Honey bar a “10” which was pretty impressive! Of the ones who rated it lower, scent was the main thing they would change. One requested that it be reformulated to make the “residue lighter”.

CH-shampoo6

I believe a natural scent is the one thing that I would like to change about the Coconut Honey shampoo bar before I’m ready to sell it. One of my testers wasn’t even able to use the shampoo bar past the second day because of the synthetic scent. I received some great tips from my friend Michele about how much honey you need to add for the natural honey scent to come through in the soap. I’d like to attempt to increase the honey to that rate in this shampoo bar and have it re-tested. My only fear is that the honey is a natural humectant, which means it draws moisture to itself, and since this shampoo bar is already more moisturizing to the point of being too heavy for some, I’m worried that the added honey will make it even more so.

I’m certainly open to suggestions for a natural scent that would go with the Coconut Honey. I think it needs to be more on the sweet side, not herbal or earthy, which is a pretty tall order for natural essential oils. There aren’t many essential oil scents that actually cling to the hair, which was another request from the testers, but may not be possible.

Re-formulating My Cold-Process Soap Recipe, Part 1

I’ve been using the same basic recipe for four years now. I added some stearic acid after a review from a highly respected soapmaker felt that my fully cured soap melted away too quickly. It helped some, but I think I could do better. Here are the qualities of my current soap recipe, according to SoapCalc:

Hardness: 47 (recommended range 29-54)
Cleansing: 27 (range 12-22)
Conditioning: 48 (range 44-69)
Bubbly: 31 (range 14-46)
Creamy: 25 (range 16-48)
Iodine: 53 (range 41-70)
INS: 162 (range 136-165)

(You can read more about what these qualities and ranges mean HERE.)

I honestly didn’t even realize that my cleansing number was above the recommended range! I figure it’s time to re-visit my formula at the very least, and I am contemplating whether it’s time to go palm free now as well. The question is whether or not I want to use lard instead. I have no issues with it, but a lot of people do. I realize you can’t please everyone all the time, but if it’s in my ability to make a nice, hard bar of soap with all the conditioning qualities and avoid using palm or lard, I will attempt to do so.

But first, I wanted to experiment with replacing palm with lard and see how the soap performs. This is the recipe I used for Formal Affair:

25% olive
25% coconut
20% lard
15% shea butter
10% castor
5% avocado
(0.8 oz. fragrance per pound of oils)

6.5% superfat
33% lye solution
1 tsp. sodium lactate per pound of oils in the lye solution

Formal Affair soap by Great Cakes Soapworks

Formal Affair soap by Great Cakes Soapworks

Observations:
1. The soap took a long time to trace. I had plenty of time to work with the soap as I was creating it.
2. After 24 hours, the soap was still a bit soft.
3. Discoloration issues: after unmolding the soap, the white parts had turned pinkish tan on the outside. The fragrance I used was non-discoloring, so something in my formula caused a strange reaction. Several days after cutting the soap, the white parts seem slightly grayish, but no more pinkish tan.
4. After just one week, the lather is pretty great! Very foamy, but also very stable.

Formal Affair - one week lather test

Formal Affair – one week lather test

5. Feels very conditioning on the skin, not drying at all.

Soap Qualities:

Hardness: 41 (range 29-54)
Cleansing: 17 (range 12-22)
Conditioning: 54 (range 44-69)
Bubbly: 21 (range 14-46)
Creamy: 29 (range 16-48)
Iodine: 57 (range 41-70)
INS: 151 (range 136-165)

I’ve lost some hardness, but this formula doesn’t take into account the added sodium lactate which should add some hardness back into the bar. The cleansing number is down within the recommended range. I will have to see how this one performs when it is fully cured. I found that changing the superfat doesn’t seem to change the soap quality numbers, but it sure does change the hardness and feel of the soap in reality. Bottom line: there are factors other than the numbers derived from your soap formula in SoapCalc that will affect your recipe so don’t get too caught up in the those numbers!

My next experiment will be a recipe without palm or lard. Stay tuned!

More Swatch Mania! Winners

Yes, that’s right – WINNERS with an “S”! Since we had 77 entries, Kenna said I could go ahead and choose two winners of her ebook, More Swatch Mania!!

Those who entered the giveaway were asked what their favorite colorant is for cold-process soap and why. It was really fun reading through all your comments!! Most of you had a difficult time choosing just one!

Our first winner is comment #18:

Congratulations to Leslie!!

Congratulations to Leslie!!

Leslie said, “I like using clays for color. I’ve been afraid to try micas because I’m mostly a hobby soaper, with a limited soaping budget, and there are about a million beautiful colors I’d like to try! Haven’t been able to decide where to start!”

And our second winner is comment #51:

Congratulations to Mariselys!!

Congratulations to Mariselys!!

Mariselys said, “It’s hard to choose a favorite colorant but if I had to choose only one it would be micas. So many diffferent colors! Clays and neon colorants are also awesome.”

Hope you both enjoy your copies of More Swatch Mania! I know you will put them to good use. Thank you to everyone who entered and participated!! And huge thanks to Kenna for the giveaway!! If you didn’t win and would like to get a copy of this handy resource, remember it is only available to the public until the end of the month. You can get your copy HERE.

How I Saved This Soap

I had a near disaster a couple days ago when I was attempting to re-make the butterfly swirl soap I created for the January Soap Challenge Club. I decided it turned out so beautifully that I would need to have more on hand. Never mind that I thought I’d nearly ruined the first beautiful batch with the portion that I had mixed in titanium dioxide. The added water in such a small amount of soap nearly caused it to separate. You can see a few glycerin rivers in the white parts, but everything managed to hold together:

Original Exotic Pear soap by Great Cakes Soapworks

Original Exotic Pear soap by Great Cakes Soapworks

I remembered that I was going to use super white pearly mica instead of titanium dioxide in the re-make, but I forgot why. I had some raspberry red mica mixed with olive oil left over from the first batch that I wanted to use – which was great! Then I started prepping the rest of the micas and decided I would mix them with WATER. Let me tell you why I like mixing micas with water. Easy clean-up!! So with this in mind, I proceeded to mix the blue, yellow, white and black micas with water. The blue, yellow and white were going to be mixed with just half a cup of soap, and the black was going to be mixed with just a quarter cup of soap. It really wasn’t a lot of water mixed with the mica, but because I was mixing it with such a small amount of soap, it started interfering with saponification almost immediately. I realized my mistake, but it was too late!

I could just barely immerse my stick blender in the half cup of soap. As it started ricing (majorly separating!!), I had to stick blend each one for at least 5-10 minutes before it would hold together. I had already added my fragrance to the entire batch up front, so I was worried that it would start setting up – especially the main soap base that didn’t have any extra water added to it. Fortunately, the fragrance behaved beautifully and I was able to continue to stir the base soap periodically as I was beating the small cups of soap into submission.

The black soap was a lost cause, however. A quarter cup of soap was just too little to be mixed with a blender:

Separated black soap

Separated black soap

So I mixed up a little bit of black mica with some oil and decided to create a little bit of veining instead. I was really worried by now that I wouldn’t be able to do any drop swirling with the main soap base since it was setting up faster than the smaller cups of soap which were at a light trace. Boy was I surprised!! The difference in texture did affect the way the swirls turned out, but I was just happy I got the soap into the mold at this point!

Top of the second Exotic Pear soap

Top of the second Exotic Pear soap

Today I was able to take the soap out of the mold and cut it. I had no idea how it was going to turn out! You can see the freezer paper I used to line the mold is damp from the extra water:

Damp freezer paper

Damp freezer paper

But the soap actually held together quite nicely!!

Exotic Pear soap remake by Great Cakes Soapworks

Exotic Pear soap remake by Great Cakes Soapworks

It’s not quite as fancy as the first batch, but it’s definitely a close second:

Exotic Pear comparison

Exotic Pear comparison

These soaps will be available at Greatcakessoapworks.com on February 4, 2015.

More Swatch Mania! Review and Giveaway

Me and Kenna

Me and Kenna

Many of you know my good friend Kenna from Modern Soapmaking. She likes to call other people rock stars, but she’s about as rock star as they come! She’s super smart, a talented soapmaker and formulator, as well as a savvy business owner. Fortunately she likes to share all that talent and knowledge as often as she can. Even if you just join her Modern Soapmaking newsletter list you’ll gain a ton of great information. I’ll give you a chance to do that here in a minute. First, I need to tell you about her latest resource, More Swatch Mania! that she just released earlier today.

Kenna has gotten her hands on literally hundreds of different colorants for cold-process soap and tested them so the rest of us don’t have to! Her pre-cursor to More Swatch Mania! was the original Swatch Mania! which includes: 52 swatches and examples of various micas, 12 swatches and examples of various pigments, 16 swatches and examples of various clays, 7 swatches and examples of various seeds, 48 swatches and examples of various natural colorants, plus a full swatch making tutorial with instructions and formula used in swatching all of these colorants. These colorants come from suppliers such as The Conservatorie, Brambleberry, Nurture Soap Supplies, and New Directions Aromatics.

For More Swatch Mania! she has tested an additional 71 swatches of various micas, 24 swatches of synthetic colorants, 38 swatches of natural colorants, plus a brief overview of each colorant type and how to use them in soapmaking. New colorants from suppliers such as Mad Oils and Aroma Haven/Rustic Escentuals plus many others are included in this publication.

Here’s a little example for you:

Sneak Peek!

Sneak Peek!

What I love about More Swatch Mania! is that I get to see how so many colorants will behave before I invest my money. Not every supplier can show you exactly how each of their colorants will look in cold-process soap. Especially all the seeds and botanicals! As the trend to go natural continues, I am continually looking for new ways to color my soap naturally. Honestly, I haven’t ventured very far because I know how fragile most of the natural colorants can be and I want colors that will hold up over time. After checking out More Swatch Mania! the creative juices are definitely flowing…

I’m sure you would like an opportunity to acquire this handy-dandy resource as well. It will be available to the public for purchase just until the end of the month (January 31, 2015) HERE. After that, it will only be available to Soap Mastery Club Members or those with an All Access Pass to Modern Soapmaking.

HOWEVER, Kenna is also graciously providing one of my readers with their very own copy! Want to enter to win the giveaway? Leave a comment below letting me know what your current favorite soap colorants are and why. Enter by January 15, 2015 at 10pm CST. One entry per person.

Comments are now closed. Thanks to everyone who participated!!