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Great Cakes Soapworks Challenge June 2017 – Ombre Soap

I haven’t taken part in a challenge since March since my accountancy exams are every 3 months in March, June, September and December. I miss making soap when I’m studying but it’s not forever – only 3 left if I’ve passed this one.

The challenge this month was to create an ombre soap which can either be a light to dark and vice versa or colours in the order of the colour wheel ie violet to green going through blue to get there. My first attempt is the soap I plan on entering for the challenge although I wasn’t totally happy with it when I first cut it, it is the only one I feel happy enough with to enter.

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To be continued – time is running out to enter so I need to add my link – I will be back tomorrow to complete the story!

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Great Cakes Soapworks Challenge March 2017 – Hidden Feather Swirl

A break from exams!

So that means time to soap and better still… time for a challenge!! The first since July 2016!

I’ve done a hidden feather swirl before which had gone really well so figured this would be a breeze! Here’s the first and only other feather I’ve attempted – gonna go ahead and say it was beginners luck!

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So onto this challenge. I used my go to slow moving recipe and used a FO that I’d read behaved – Lavender and Cucumber. Achieving emulsion was easy enough but my soap took forever to get thick enough to pour and I made the mistake of pouring my first layer for the feather when it was still too thin so it just sank right down to the bottom of the soap. I left it to get a little thicker before trying again and the rest of the pour seemed to go ok but I wasn’t in love with the result. Plus because I knew I’d done a much better feather in the past I knew I could do it again.

Here is attempt #1:

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I like the colours but it’s not a feather

So onto attempt #2

I used the same slow moving recipe as the last attempt but used a different FO this time – Black Raspberry Vanilla from Mad Oils which is a beautiful FO! Turns out this also behaves VERY well and meant my soap took forever to get thick enough to pour again. I was a lot more restrained this time though and managed to hold back from pouring until it was ready to go! I used colours I thought would ‘POP’ and went which black (AC), white (TD), neon pink/orange and a very pale orange base using neon orange with a little TD. On my first attempt the dividers I was using for the feather had started to move so I was careful to keep topping up the sides this time to stop the dividers from slipping outwards. I finished pouring and felt it had gone really well but time would tell. Attempt #2 will be my entry for the challenge.

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I’m happy with this one 🙂

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But then I had another plan!

I wanted to try something a little different so thought I would try to create 2 feathers within 1 bar – 1 each way up by pushing my tool down through one feather and up through the other. I fashioned myself a set of dividers out of plastic and cardboard so that they were all one unit – I figured it would make them more stable verses having 4 individual dividers. Used my usual slow moving recipe and selected colours – turns out I don’t actually like the colours I chose which is part of the reason I’m not using it as my entry. I decided to stickblend a little longer this time to try speed up the process but as is usually the case my FO (gin & tonic) decided it was going to do that job for this soap! So I had to move quite quickly this time to pour but thankfully I didn’t have to try and control the dividers. Apart from the soap being thicker than I would have liked it seemed to go to plan but I knew I wasn’t in love with my colours – that will teach me not to plan my colours in advance! And here it is:

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And that’s the end of this month’s challenge and as usually here are a few more images!!

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Great Cakes Soapworks Challenge July 2016 – pipe divider soap

I didn’t have the time to take part in the June challenge (damn you accountancy exams!) but I’m back and ready to go for the July challenge. This month the challenge is to use a variety of pipes to have sections of soap that is a different colour all the way to the bottom of the mould and to then swirl the top however we please. We’re only allowed to use 4 colours this month – two for the base and two for in the pipes.

First task – find suitable pipes! A search online for couplers found my local B&Q had a variety of sizes from 20mm up to 40mm in diameter. I felt the 20mm looked a bit too small so for my first attempt I used 3x 36mm and 3x 43mm. I melted a little cocoa butter to hold the pipes in place and left it to harden back up – this took way longer than I expected it to so I ended up popping it into the freezer to speed things up!

I’m going to show you my 2nd attempt first as I prefer my first attempt for entering into the challenge. For my 2nd attempt I found a different hardware store that had some 50mm couplers as I felt that I needed more pipes. I used 2x 50mm, 3x 43mm and 2x 36mm for this attempt and this is how my mould looked with the pipes held in place with the cocoa butter before I started.

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For this attempt I chose white & neon pink for my base and black & neon purple for in the pipes. I used a favourite recipe of mine which contains castor oil and also shea butter – I think the castor may have caused my soap to thicken up quicker than I would have liked. I used peppermint and lime essential oils in an attempt to create a mojito like smell in the finished soap.

I managed to pour my base colour no problem but the soap for inside the pipes was getting a little too thick and by the time I pulled the pipes out they pulled a fair bit of the soap out with them. As the soap had gotten really thick by this time I couldn’t get the movement I wanted to from my swirling – it had been my intention to try to create butterflies from the soap that was in the pipes. I think I got a couple of smaller butterflies but the bigger sections of soap just look kind of blobby to me now.

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Here’s the bottom of the soap after I unmoulded it:

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Because the soap had gotten so thick during the swirling I decided it needed a very thin layer planing off the top just to smooth it out a little, here’s a few cut pics.

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So that was attempt #2, here is attempt #1 which will be my entry for the challenge this month.

I used a similar recipe as my other try but didn’t include the shea butter in this soap as I was waiting on a delivery. I chose neon pink & white for the base and petrol blue (created using blue oxide, turquoise green  mica and a little activated charcoal) & black for in the pipes. The scent used in this one is a blend of tea tree essential oil and a white jasmine & mint fragrance oil.

This soap stayed a bit more fluid so I was able to swirl the tops a bit more than in the 2nd attempt – but I forgot my goal was butterflies so I just ended up with a pretty swirl instead. Here it is just poured and the day after – check out the ash on there!!

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I steamed the top but to me the colours still looked a bit muted, like there was still ash on top so I planed the top of this one a little too.

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Some more finished soap pics – cos I know we all love to look!!!

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Great Cakes Soapworks Challenge May 2016 – teardrop soap

First challenge in some time.

It’s been a while since I took part in one of the Great Cakes Soapworks challenges so I was really looking forward to this one. I knew as soon as I saw what the challenge was this month that I would be taking part – I do love a good swirl challenge! And the videos I watched made it look easy, right??

Oh dear – it didn’t start well!

I’m going to start with the attempts that didn’t quite go to plan – when I say didn’t go to plan, I mean complete disaster for attempt #1 as you will see in a moment. After trawling the internet and finding as many tutorials as I could (there’s not many out there) I felt ready to have a go. I knew I needed a slow-moving recipe so decided to modify Amy’s slow moving recipe a little for my tastes (I can’t tolerate too much coconut oil). I decided to include avocado oil for the first time so even though it’s not how it was supposed to look, I am at least looking forward to trying the soap after a good cure. I also figured I’d still go ahead and use castor oil since I’ve used it before and didn’t find it sped trace up too much. After combining my lye water with the oils and splitting out small portions for my colours I decided that the base was a little too green – from the avocado I assume? So I added some TD (another no no when needing a slow mover!). Here’s the colour palette I used for inspiration:

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I poured a little of my (still green) base colour into my mould and started pouring the lines of what was to be the teardrop. This part seemed to go ok other than getting a little thicker than I’d like towards the last couple of pours. My remaining base however was definitely way too thick. Went ahead and poured as best I could then decorated the tops – I didn’t expect a perfect teardrop but what I got was way worse than expected! Here’s a picture of the top so you can at least see how my colours turned out.

As you can see, that is most definitely NOT a teardrop!!

On to attempt #2

I decided to use the same recipe but changed out the avocado for sweet almond oil and also took out the castor oil and increased my lard. I did still use a little TD though in my base colour as I wanted a pastel green and it looked too dark without it. The colours stayed a little more fluid this time but my base was still thicker than I would have liked. I think this time though this was probably down to me getting a little too stick blender happy and probably going past light trace in the first place. I knew it wasn’t going to be a perfect teardrop but it was a definite improvement on the above (wouldn’t be hard though!).

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Now for the main event!

Ever the perfectionist I decided attempt #3 was a must. This time there would be no TD, less stick blending, no castor and I intended to pour when instinctively I felt it was still a little runnier than I’d usual go for on the assumption I’m always pouring at slightly too thick trace for this technique. I’ve been using paper cups for my colours so that I can pinch a spout but had found that because there was so little soap batter in there it was hard for gravity to do its job and that the soap didn’t pour out as easily as it would with more soap in there. With this in mind I increased the oil weight in my recipe by 100g so I could use extra for the colours without taking it out of what I needed for the base.

I always go for pinks, blues and greens so decided to try a different colour scheme this time (pink is still in there though). This was my inspiration colour palette and blobs of leftover soap next to it to compare:

Despite everything inside me screaming to ‘just SB a little bit more’, I held off and just went ahead with pouring a small base layer. I waited a little while before pouring my colours cos I felt the soap was a little too thin and that I would just end up with a muddy mess. I did quite a few passes of the colours but stopped about half an inch away from the sides. My base was still really fluid this time and I did end up with more on one side with my initial pass as I was faster with one hand!! I also decided that I wasn’t going to decorate the top this time as I wanted to keep it simple and all about the (elusive) teardrop inside. I also decided to CPOP this one as I really wanted it to gel to make the colours pop. This is the top:

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I felt that if this one hadn’t worked out I really didn’t think I would have ever achieved a teardrop as I thought everything had gone as I wanted it to. I was very impatient with this one so as soon as it was in full gel I took it out of the oven and left it to cool. Once cooled I put it in the freezer so that I could get it out of the mould without damaging the corners. I ended up unmoulding and cutting the same day I made it. I was super happy with what I found inside!

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I was happy with all of the bars and it’s quite possible I did a little dance in the kitchen!!

And some ‘arty’ angled shots just because!

I definitely learnt a lot from this challenge:

  1. Castor oil DOES speed trace – probably not enough to be an issue usually but definitely when time is of the essence.
  2. TD also speeds trace – again probably not enough to be an issue usually.
  3. Avocado oil has a distinctive green tinge.
  4. I need to know when to step away from the SB!

Thank you Amy for yet another VERY challenging challenge!!

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It’s been waaaay too long!!

Catch up time!

The last time I was here was back in September when I posted about my entry for the Great Cakes Soapworks challenge – the Clyde Slide, that was a fun technique.

Fast forward to now and a lot has happened since then:

  1. I’ve finally passed the accountancy exam I’d just sat in September – though I failed that sitting, I passed it when I sat it again in December (that was the 3rd sitting!). Also sat and passed (first time) the next exam so am now exactly halfway through my journey to become a chartered accountant.
  2. I’ve moved house but don’t have the soaping room in the garage, YET! Love our new house! Also just got a new car!
  3. But, most importantly – I’ve made lots of soap!!

September to present day soaps

This is going to be a very quick journey through the soaps I’ve made since my last post along with brief details of each.

First up was the hidden feather swirl for which I did a tutorial for the SMF October challenge. It was my first attempt at this technique so I was very happy it turned out!

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The tutorial for the technique can be found here: SMF October challenge – hidden feather

And that was the last soap I made in 2015 before we moved.

Onto 2016!

The first soap of the new year was my first castile, made on the 3rd Jan with plans to let it cure for 12 months. No colours or fragrances, just water, olive oil and lye.

 

Also in January I took part in the SMF January challenge which was black and white soaps. There was no specific technique to be used for this challenge so I attempted to make some black embeds but my FO caused massive acceleration  and my base colour was so thick I could pour it around them very well – as a result the tops came off on some of them.

I had another go and decided to stick with a simple hanger swirl – I was happy with this result.

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One last soaping adventure in January was the tutorial for the Feb SMF challenge – the spin swirl. I had many issues recording this tutorial ranging from the memory on my phone getting too full halfway through filming (and not realising until I finished!), dropping my phone in the soap and acceleration! As a result I think I ended up making 4 batches = lots of soap to be given away still!

Here are the various batches:

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The tutorial for this one can be found here: SMF Challenge Feb 2016 – spin swirl

Fast forward to March where the SMF challenge was whipped soap, the unique property of this soap is that it floats!! Whilst my soap did fit the brief of the challenge and floated, I didn’t like how it looked so I rebatched and added some as confetti. It still floated in its rebatched form.

The tutorial for this unique soap can be found here: SMF Challenge March 2016 – whipped soap

I have a friend with sensitive skin that can’t really use most of my soaps but after a fair bit of research I formulated a recipe I think she will be ok with, it has 20% neem oil – boy does that stuff stink! She has a horse though and they use neem on the horses apparently so she doesn’t mind the smell! Good job really as the EO blend of lemongrass, cedarwood and tea tree don’t really mask it! Did an ITP swirl for this one.

I can’t actually remember what technique I was going for here, I just know it didn’t work because the FO caused a fair bit of acceleration!!

I really like this next soap, everything about it makes me happy – the swirl went exactly as planned and the FO is sherbet lemons – it smells amazing!!

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My mum came to visit for the weekend in March so we made soap together. the idea had been to do a drop hanger swirl but the soap got a little too thick to really get the movement in the swirl I’d been hoping for. I liked my mum’s colour choices though.

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We’re almost upto date now! Next comes the April SMF challenge which was a specific type of hanger swirl, we called it the Petra hanger swirl after the soaper that inspired it. I had 3 tries at this technique and felt I didn’t truly achieve the look I wanted – I wished my butterfly was a bit more substantial, instead it was quite flat. I still managed to place 3rd!

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The tutorial for this technique can be found here:Part 1 – SMF Challenge April – Petra hanger

Part 2 is here: Part 2 – SMF Challenge April – Petra hanger

And that is me upto date. I have signed up for the Great Cakes Soapworks May challenge which is the teardrop soap. I will be back very soon with the details of how this went for me!

 

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Great Cakes Soapworks Challenge September 2015 – Clyde Slide

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It’s been a while since I posted anything – I’ve been so busy studying for my accountancy exams (not as exciting as soap I know) and also sorting out our move to our brand new house (soap room here I come ie, garage)!! I have made soaps though so will post a catch up next week.

For now though back to the Clyde Slide invented by Clyde at Vibrant Soaps (can be found on Facebook and on You Tube). Let me start by saying how utterly frustrating this technique is! I have had four, yes four attempts at this technique and in the end am using my first attempt as my entry – I think my husband views this the same as dragging him round every shoe shop in town before returning to buy the very first pair you tried on 7 hours ago!

I watched Clyde’s videos over and over until I found which of his pouring methods I liked the resulting soap the most – it was his green tea and pear, I loved the delicate nature of his feathering in the resulting soap.

I decided not to complicate matters with unknown variables so used a recipe I’ve used many times before and one that I know behaves and is pretty slow to trace – it has lard, olive oil, coconut oil, shea butter and castor oil. The fragrance was the only unknown which to be honest is the biggest risk you can take as most problems with fast trace are usually caused by a naughty fragrance oil – this however was a dream to work with. I used Cherry Amaretto and it smells amazing – the whole house smells like cherry bakewells!

The colours I decided on were white (though the FO made this turn creamy), neon pink and black – I’ve seen a few black, white and bright pink soaps whilst trawling the web looking at soap porn and decided it’s one of my favourite combos. After hitting emulsion I split out 2 quite small portions for my coloured elements and added some TD (titanium dioxide) to my base colour the coloured the 2 smaller portions – using a combination of AC (activated charcoal) & black pearl mica for the black and amethyst pink mica & neon pink mica for the pink (love, love, love the pink!!). As I was trying to replicate as best I could the beautiful feathers Clyde produced in his green tea and pear soap I decided to pour my soap the same way.

I poured a third of my cream base into a large plastic mixing bowl with sloping sides then poured half the pink followed by half the black on one side of the bowl. Followed this by another third of my base colour then repeated the colours before adding the final third of base colour. The technique is basically a faux funnel pour combined with an in the pot swirl minus the actual swirl in the pot – usually after pouring into your pot you would use a tool of some kind to give it once or to stirs/swirls but with this technique you go straight to the pour. I poured from one end of my mould to the other with the spout of my mixing bowl centre of the mould – I made a couple of passes up and down to use up all the soap. Sorry I don’t have any pictures after the pour into the pot or the mould – I was keen not to let it get too thick.

As I really wanted the pink to pop I decided to CPOP this soap to force the gel phase (it may well have hit gel from simply being insulated well but I definitely didn’t want to risk a partial gel!). Once it hit gel I took it out of the warm oven (warmed up and turned off before putting the soap in) and left it overnight to set.

As I’d used the CPOP method I found it was ready to cut the following morning. I was pleased with the first bars I looked at as they had some lovely feathering!

yay!! I had feathers!!

yay!! I had feathers!!

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But……

As mentioned previously, I decided I wanted to have another attempt (or three!!), so here they are:

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Ordinarily I would have been super happy with this one but the soap was too thick and the feathers just aren’t wispy enough.

there's that pink again!!

there’s that pink again!!

I don’t think I used enough of my colours with this one so there simply wasn’t enough to produce large feathered areas.

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I was so disappointed I didn’t get feathers with this one as I love the colours (yep, there’s that pink again!!) but I knew when I poured it was just too thick – though this soap is perfect for Halloween!!

So there it is folks, the perfectionist in me isn’t super happy with my entry but I don’t have enough time to have another go not to mention the fact I already have 36 bars of soap to find homes for (it’s Christmas soon!!).

I will post again next week with an update of the other soaps I’ve made in the weeks since my previous updates, see you soon and thanks for reading.

Also, as usual thanks to Amy of Great Cakes Soapworks for another great challenge even if this one has pushed me to the edge!!

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Ebru art soap – Great Cakes Soapworks Challenge – June 2015

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This is the 3rd challenge I’ve taken part in and one that I wasn’t entirely sure I wanted to attempt. The thing I love about soaping is that most swirls don’t require too much precision but this challenge definitely called for it!

Ebru art originates from Turkey and involves dropping oil paint on top of a layer of water then manipulating the paint to form intricate pictures and patterns before laying paper over it so that the paint sticks.

For this challenge we had to show where our inspiration came from. I love, love, love cherry blossom – the scent, the delicate look of it, everything, so it was a no brainer for me when deciding. This isn’t the first time a cherry blossom tree has inspired me to create – last year I made this cherry blossom cake for a cake decorating contest

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I also have my very own cherry blossom tree on my back – I love the delicate lines of my tattoo

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I found a few Ebru Art pictures of cherry blossom trees but this one caught my eye more than the others – I love the background colour against the different pinks – it really sets it off

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So now onto how I went about creating my soap. I knew that the recipe would need to be slow moving for me to have the time to create my Ebru Art so I picked a recipe with quite a high olive oil content and rather than using a water discount I thought full water would be prudent, here’s my recipe

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I always like to soap at room temp so I prepared my lye water and melted my hard oils before adding my soft oils, FO (cherry blossom of course, what else could it be!) and butter. Whilst this was all cooling down I prepared my colours. I used tropical green mica with a little sky blue mica and some TD for my base colour – I was going for turquoise and I’m happy with the outcome. For my two pinks I used rosebud mica for both but lightened one with some more TD. The brown for the tree was achieved using bronze mica mixed with a little black pearl mica – it really shimmers up close.

Once everything had cooled down to around 85 degrees F, I set about mixing my lye water with my oils whilst praying the FO was going to behave – I’ve had bad experiences in the past with florals accelerating on me – thankfully it was a dream to work with. I used my stick blender until I reached emulsion then left it for a few minutes just to let it thicken slightly on it’s own – I didn’t want to keep using the SB in case it got too thick. Now it was time to separate out very small amounts for my picture on top. I used squeezy sauce bottles for dropping the soap on top so I just poured the uncoloured soap into those then added the colours and gave it a little shake. As well as my picture colours I coloured a very small amount of soap white using TD as I wanted to add some movement to my background too. Once I had my smaller portions ready I added my turquoise to the bulk of the soap batter and poured into my waiting slab mould – this would be the first time I used my home made liner, made out of mylar sheets.

I dropped on a few drops of white then used a chopstick (the only tool allowed for this challenge) to swirl the white into the turquoise – I really should have taken pictures of this process but I was worried about everything getting too thick to work with.

Next I created the tree – using the squeezy bottle I put down the basic outline of the trunk and branches then used the chopstick to smooth the edges and to create the thinner, wispy branches at the top of my tree. Then I used the darker pink and randomly squeezed circles on top of and on the edges of my branches – I followed this with the pale pink and finally and drop of white in the centre. At this point it looked like lots of pink and white targets on my tree! Using the chopstick I pulled in from the outside of all the circles to create the petals of my blossoms. To make it look like petals falling I dropped some small drops of the pinks and used the chopstick to pull up the top of the drop to form a petal shape.

Here’s the finished product straight after the pour/design

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In an attempt to avoid ash – I didn’t want my tree to end up muted by it – I gave it a liberal spraying with rubbing alcohol then covered the top with cling film.

I knew it was going to take a while before I could unmould with the high water and soft oils content – plus the fact I poured at light trace.

Here it is once dry and out of the mould

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It took maybe 3 days before I could comfortably unmould it and a further 3 days before I could cut it. It felt wrong somehow to cut it as it was a single piece of art but I think the cut bars are lovely too.

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