Making Soap & Gallery

I have been on the most fun journey to learn to make soap. My first several weeks of soap making yielded 24 batches of different soaps.

This page is set up with ALL the info that I have figured out and all the resources I used.  To make it easy, you can scroll through to see my initial twenty-four soaps (with their recipes and notes) and bullet points (in this order) for:

Resources for Getting Started
Resources for Creating Your Own Oil Formulas
Resources for Tried and True Basic Recipes
Resources for Using a SoapCalc and How to Determine Size
Resources for Trace
Resources for Making Visually Creative Soaps
Resources for Curing and Finishing
Resources for Making Natural Soaps
Supplies and Equipment
Soap Gallery for Soaps after the initial 24 Batches

Soap Making  has been something I have wanted to try for a while.  I joined a couple of soap making Facebook groups and was instantly hooked due to what I saw!  Some of the soaps posted looked like the kind of thing only a water engineer could figure out due to the movement of liquid to make the designs.  It soon became apparent that this was both a science and an art and I was excited for the challenge!  What I was on the path to learn to make was Cold Process Soap.  This is soap that is made as a result of the chemical reaction from the alkali (lye) solution and triglycerides in fixed oils (fat).  The alkali solution breaks down the triglycerides into fatty acid salts (soap and glycerine).  And I had given up on ever using my high school chemistry!  All the links and resources I share here are ones I studied meticulously and took notes on in my soaping notebook.  I hope that sharing this with you will save you some time that I used stumbling around and will give you results quicker.  I am not telling you what to do here; I am simply sharing what I am doing.  We are all responsible for our own attempts and our own safety!

I highly recommend taking notes and keeping a diary to record the date your soaps are made and when curing is expected to be complete.  I also photograph each soap, include my soapcalc printout and all my notes for each soap in my notebook.  No amount of watching videos or reading soap blogs taught me what actually making soap has taught me.  So this is my journey I share with you.  As I get notes from cured soaps, I will add them them and I will add new soaps to the very bottom (under my list of supplies) in a sort of soapy gallery, like I have for my embroidery and paper craft pages.

I started with watching videos and Soap Queen was my first stop.  Anne-Marie Faiola is the Soap Queen and her 4-part video on beginning Cold Process Soap is where I found myself. Her videos are so well edited and thorough and begin with safety.  I started a notebook and took outline notes on all the steps.  I was a little intimidated about the lye.  It is a caustic substance and it made me a little nervous.  All the more reason for good information!  The great thing is that she also has Bramble Berry (soap supplies) so her videos relate to her kits and products she sells.

Soap #1
I started with her Energizing Orange kit because it had all the ingredients (so I knew I would have the right stuff!) and many of the supplies I needed.  It included stuff like safety goggles with a splash-guarding lip and a stick blender. It included a written, color, step-by-step set of instructions and a video link to watch her make this particular soap.  I thought it would be my best insurance for having a successful project.  Well.. I was sort of right.  I soaped too hot and got a huge crack in my soap!

Lesson #1 for me was to wait until the lye was 120 degrees or lower for this particular soap.  I slapped my gloves back on and squished it back together and it did indeed end up being a great soap!  This soap started the lesson on soaping temperatures and on gelling for me.  This is considered a "natural soap" because it uses essential oil for color and fragrance (as opposed to a fragrance oil and man-made pigments) and orange peel for color and exfoliation.

The kit includes their quick mix of oils, lye, sodium lactate, orange 10X essential oil, orange peel powder, and marigold petals.  This is soap #1.  Soap Makers notes for "After the Cure":  At four weeks, I thought it was cured and definitely felt like it.  In the shower though, it dissolved quicker than I am used to with commercially made soaps. This is common with handmade soaps.  The fragrance and appearance looked good through the curing stage.

I was hooked and bought her book, Pure Soapmaking, lots of supplies, but because the kit had the oils pre-mixed, I started investigating oil mixtures and purchased a number of oils with which to experiment.  I didn't want to have to buy someone's premix for my soaps.

Resources for the very start of the very start:

At this point, I think it might be helpful to understand that there are a number of supplies that are needed to make cold process soap that need to be for SOAP MAKING ONLY, despite the fact that these are things you would find in your kitchen.  I actually make the soap in my kitchen since I don't have a room dedicated to making soap, so I have a wooden cart and a work table with storage that holds all my 'soapy stuff' so that no one can get confused and use my supplies while cooking.  It is in a corner away from the rest of the room.  It is also really important to know that there are safety items that simply cannot be overlooked.  The first thing in my notebook was my list of what to look for while I was on-line or out and about as I watched videos and researched.

My soaping table with storage underneath

My curing racks and trays

More storage for oils and chemicals

Additionally, I bought a roll of kraft paper to cover the surface of my counter to make clean up easy and to protect the furniture.  I will include my list of supplies and equipment that I use at the end of this post, just above my Soap Gallery.  A quick note:  lye can react to certain substances like aluminum in dangerous ways and certain plastics in weird ways so for this reason, all my supplies for mixing and measuring and combining are either glass, stainless steel, or silicone except for specialty items that I get from Bramble Berry that are made of non-reactive plastic (like some of my pouring containers).

My first challenge after trying my first soap from a kit that used a pre-mixed oil concoction was to figure out my own formulas for oils.  I loved reading about the different properties of the oils. I learned  that many basic recipes were some form of palm, olive, and coconut oils.  Some traded the palm for lard and many added castor.  I compared recipes I found for basic bars from online sources like Soap Queen, The Spruce, Modern Soapmaking, Kathy Miller, and Nova Studio and found this was, as one blogger referred to it, the Trinity of soap making oils.

Resources for creating your own oil formula for soap:  

Resources for using tried and true basic recipes:

I studied their recipes to get ideas for my own.  Then I figured out two game-changing things:  (1) how to use a soap/lye calculator and (2) how to measure a mold to determine how many ounces of oil would be needed.  Eureka!!  I was in love with the idea of any box, silicone mold, or wood box being used as a soap mold.  That meant that all those tiny shipping boxes I had were soap molds!  I lined them with freezer paper and I had a practically free mold.  I could even make my own by cutting and taping cardboard into any size mold I wanted. So, once I figured out what I was using as a mold, I measured it to get the total volume then multiplied that by .39 to get the ounces of oils I would need.  You have to have that to plug into the soap calc.  Then I could use any recipe, whether it was in % or in ounces, I could know how much lye and water I needed,  I could switch out different oils, and I could make it for the exact size of whatever mold I was using.  Huge, huge advance in this endeavor! I felt like I could do anything!  Ha!

Resources for using the SoapCalc and for determining size of batch:

I made some really basic bars, not any color and fragranced only with some sample fragrance oils from Bramble Berry. 

Soap #2

This is soap #2. Soap Makers notes for "After the Cure":  This is a great bar of soap.  Nice and hard and a great lather.  The fragrance has stayed through the cure. I played around with this, cutting some with a wavy cutter, cutting one in half, beveling, stamping.  

This is the first one I did after understanding the Soapcalc and tried my hand at my own oil mix.  I used a bread crumb container lined with freezer paper for my mold, 31.3% coconut oil, 31.3% lard, 31.3% olive oil, 6.1% castor oil and a free sample of Fruity Fusion I got from Bramble Berry.  5% superfat.  This was 38% water as a percent of oil weight because back then, I didn't understand this so I used the default.  I did use sodium lactate as directed.  Soap Makers notes for "After the Cure": It worked out just fine and even now that it has cured, it is a great soap that really lathers well and feels good.  I didn't use as much fragrance as the Soapcalc and Bramble Berry's fragrance calculator suggested but I only had a sample so that is what I used.  

Soap #3
The next one I tried was made in a small shipping box lined with freezer paper for a mold. (The shiny side of the freezer paper touches the soap).

It was fun to do, but it made a funky bar shape.  This was one where I tweaked the recipe so that once these cured, I could compare the differences I noticed.  This was 27% coconut oil (76 deg), 27% palm oil, 41% olive oil, 5% castor oil with 5% superfat.  I used the default 38% water was percent of oil weight here for the same reason as above.  I used sodium lactate as directed and another sample fragrance oil, Energy from Bramble Berry. During cure, this soap developed soda ash despite my spritzing with 99% rubbing alcohol but I used my steamer to remove it and it worked great.  Now that they have both cured, I kind of prefer the previous soap but they are probably similar in performance. I think it comes down to shape and scent, as weird as that is to admit.

This is soap #3Soap Makers notes for "After the Cure":  Once it was cured, I actually went back and cut these bars in half and beveled the edges.  It has a great lather and it is a nice, hard bar.  The fragrance lasted through the cure.  It cured within 4 weeks instead of six.  I will make this formula again.
Soap #4
Next, I tried using a Pringles can for a mold (also lined in freezer paper) but the paper lining apparently shifted during pouring and some of the soap batter oozed around it.  It resulted in a wonky shape instead of the circle I had expected.  

This is soap #4.  Soap Makers notes for "After the Cure":  I did go back and bevel this to be more comfortable in the hand.  Perfect lather and hardness.  The fragrance has faded a bit and thank goodness as it was not my favorite.  

This was 32% coconut oil, 32% palm, 32% olive, and 4% castor.  I used sodium lactate per bottle instructions and a sample of Bramble Berry's Shave and a Haircut fragrance oil.  I finally got smart and scaled the recipe down to match the quantity of fragrance that I had.  

Soap #5
I made a few more soaps using someone else's recipe to try to follow along and learn things missed before.  Link to this kit refill his here.  

This is the same Bramble Berry kit as the Energizing Orange soap I made above except that I used the Lemongrass refill.  This was their oil mix, along with lemongrass EO, green chrome oxide pigment, and poppy seeds on top.  This is soap #5.  This is also considered a natural soap, like soap #1.  Soap Makers notes for "After the Cure": This kept this fabulous color and strong scent through the cure.
Soap #6
I got a mica sampler in the mail and wanted to try it.  What I ended up with was the sorriest looking soap but it was scented with lemon verbena and I finally had some color of my choosing. 

This is soap #6. Soap Makers notes for "After the Cure": I ended up cutting this in half and beveling the bars.  The fragrance is fantastic even after cure.  No discoloration.  Great lather, hard bars.  
I learned a huge lesson with this soap:  fragrance can accelerate trace!  This was my favorite scent so far but not thinking about the effect of the fragrance was a huge issue, despite my calculation of the saturated versus unsaturated fatty acids and attention to lye concentration as a percent.  I know now that I also over-mixed it as well.  I also was surprised by the mica.  I dispersed it in oil and instead of the pretty blue of the oily mica mixture, I had gray.  In a panic, I added more and more color until I could see it was a blue.  In the end, I got this dark purple.  So different from what I had expected throughout the whole process!  So many great lessons learned on this!  But I was honestly so proud of it because it was my first two-color concoction.  Ha!  This was 40% olive, 30% coconut oil (76 deg), 25% lard, 5% castor.  5% superfat.  I had finally learned about lye concentration and this was 32.3%.  A sample bottle of Bramble Berry Lemon Verbena was used.  Sodium lactate was added per package directions.  Bramble Berry Cellini Blue Mica was used. 

It was time to start looking for a rack to cure my soaps in.
Soap #7
Next, I continued trying to swirl, making quite possibly the ugliest soap ever to be made by a well-intentioned person.  I figured my problem with the Lemon Verbena trial above was the fragrance so I wanted to try again, adding a third color (second mica) and a different, non-accelerating fragrance.  I used a fragrance that had no info on it about acceleration so I assumed that meant it would not.  What a great lesson on that!  I added it only to the uncolored part of the soap and, by the time I had colored the other to parts, it was holding onto that bowl tighter than pudding.  I was able to play a bit with the two un-fragranced colors to get a little movement, but this was further proof that I didn't have a slow moving formula, even without the uncolored layer in play!  It is actually (and surprisingly) a pretty good soap as far as the stuff you can't see!  I cut up one bar in to tiny slivers to see if it would cure faster so I could see if the color would come off in the lather or on a wash cloth. That worked and I was relieved that the color did not!  

This is soap #7.  Soap Makers notes for "After the Cure":  As ugly as this bar is, I cut these in half and beveled and I just love it.  Great lather, nice hard bar, mild scent.  Even my husband ended up really liking this one.

This was 30% palm, 20% coconut oil (76 deg), 20% canola, 10% sunflower, 10% olive, 6% lard, and 4% castor.  As you can see with the addition of new oils that are liquid at room temp, I was really concerned with adding unsaturated fats and my Soapcalc printout showed this was 38 saturated to 59 unsaturated.  It could not overcome my Bulk Apothecary White Citrus Pineapple fragrance oil (as well as I now know was my high soaping temp and over-mixing!!) but I was determined more than ever to figure this out.   I did include sodium lactate to the lye as always and this was Bramble Berry raspberry mica and Caribbean blue mica that had been dispersed in sweet almond oil.  I used the lazy susan method to make the sad little swirl.  As disappointed as I was in this soap, I love it because I was learning so much as a result of trying it!  

Soap #8
At this point, I was unsure about what to do to fix my trace issue so I thought a nice, simple soap with a goal in mind of what I wanted it to look like was in order.  These horribly ugly soaps were great lessons learned but they were not making me happy at the prospect of sharing them!  I decided to use my Bramble Berry yellow mica and Bulk Apothecary Lemon Sugar fragrance oil.  This turned into my biggest disaster of all, but such an important lesson!

Freshly cut, it seemed to be just fine.  Nice, buttery yellow.  This was 32% palm, 20% coconut oil (76 deg), 20% olive, 12% lard, 12% sunflower oil, 4% castor.  Lye concentration 40%.  Superfat 3%.  Bulk Apothecary Lemon Sugar did accelerate but I was happy with that for this bar.  Bramble Berry yellow mica was dispersed in sweet almond oil.  Sodium lactate was used per package instructions.  

In no time at all, the soap started to turn from yellow to brown. This is soap #8 and my first fail!  Soap Makers notes for "After the Cure": This continued to get brown and the pieces I cut to expose the middle are now brown too.  The smell is similar to the bottle but I think the fragrance oil must have been the culprit.  I call this a failure because of the discoloration but otherwise I like it. This is a fragrance I had no info on.  Lesson learned not to do that again!

When I cut it open during curing, I was reminded just how much the color had changed!  I planed off a bar and in no time, that center was also the same brown.  I was unsure what caused it but I now believe it was the fragrance oil.  None of my other soaps did this, so I do not believe it was any bad oil.  I have no reason to believe it was the mica.
Soap #9
I was really ready for color and creativity.  I wanted to make some fun designs and binge-watched soaping videos on Youtube.  That's when my husband knew I had gone over the deep end.  I realized the key was trace and finding a slow moving recipe so I went back to the drawing board on my oil formulas. I learned about using saturated versus unsaturated oils and how to add the acid numbers in the soap calc to determine if it should be slow moving.  I learned that some of the fragrance oils can accelerate so I researched them before adding anything.  

I was due for lessons learned that gave me better results and I finally got a break!  This was my Simple Mermaid soap.  

This is soap #9.  I went back and beveled this soap.  Soap Makers notes for "After the Cure": The scent has faded almost completely.

I had seen a video where they simply added mica to the soap batter, poured, added more mica, poured, and repeated, creating darker and darker batter as they went to create a gradation.  

That is what I did here with mermaid blue mica from Bramble Berry.  I used the hanger tool to get the design inside.  This was made with 25% olive oil, 25% sunflower oil, 25% coconut oil (76 deg), 20% palm oil, 5% castor oil.  8% superfat.  37% lye concentration.  Sodium lactate was used per package directions.  I used a sample of Bramble Berry White Tea and Ginger (which the website says mutate but I only used half of what was suggested since all I had was the sample.  So far, it is just really faint but still pleasing).  

Soap #10
Next,, I tried (a bit unsuccessfully) a Rosewater Lemonade soap recipe I found on Wholesale Supplies Plus in their education section.  I posted it with a note about my wonky "pencil lines" (the charcoal lines that float away) and got a great tip from a member:  after laying the charcoal, spritz with the 99% alcohol to keep it in place.  I tried it on a later soap and it worked perfectly!  This was a great lesson learned; so glad I posted it despite it's imperfections. I had learned about mica painting on the top of the soap and tried it here.  

The yellow top on this soap eventually turned brown.  I believe it was the vanilla in the fragrance.  This is soap #10 Soap Makers notes for "After the Cure": Like #8, this soap browned  as well and especially on the top.  It has a strong vanilla scent after curing  but that is a scent that is strong in the bottle as well.  Will not be making this recipe or using this fragrance oil again.  I also tried a wavy cutter on these.  The soap got uglier as it cured. Even when fresh, there are orange spots.  It made me think this batch had DOS but I think it was something else with the pigment since I see it even on these photos straight out of the mold. I would call this one a failure on multiple levels.  

Soap #11
I had enough pink left over to pour it into my heart embed mold for use on another soap later on.

This is soap #11. Soap Makers notes for "After the Cure": This soap did better than the batch it came from!  I ended up using it for a bar I really liked later on.

Soap #12
While reading in a soap making Facebook group, I saw a post that linked to The Spruce's recipe for a a"rule-breaking" soap that is sometimes called a Mariners or Fishermans Soap because it will lather even in salt water.  It has a 20% superfat to overcome the drying effect of the coconut oil that is caused by using this singular oil with its super cleaning powers in this soap.  The recipe and informative post are here from The Spruce.

I added fragrance once the oils and lye were emulsified.  Then I divided the soap into two of the pouring bowls with long spouts.  I had mixed mica and oil in each.  Once in the individual containers, I stick blended to light trace.  I tried pouring in each side at the same time then turning and pouring and repeating until the mold was full.

This is soap #12. Soap Makers notes for "After the Cure": This soap is rock hard and seemed to cure early, as I have read it may do.  Really surprising with great lather.  Really good bar of soap.  I did go back and bevel it to make it more comfortable in the hand.

I loved this simple recipe and I was getting better at knowing when to add, when to blend, how long to blend.  This was really important and I could tell on this soap that I was getting better at controlling trace.

Soap #13
My daughter had asked for a charcoal soap for her oily skin and I found a tutorial from the Soap Queen.  The recipe and video tutorial are here for this Charcoal and Tea Tree facial soap with tamanu oil.  

This is soap #13.  Soap Makers notes for "After the Cure": The scent is definitely strong and medicinal.  I planed off a few and those slivers cured fast.  My daughter used it and really liked it!  This came out of the mold a bit grayish because the silicone keeps the air away from the bottom of the soap but I turned it upside down after unmolding and it dried to a really nice, dark, charcoal black color.

I was a little worried about this because it looked so ashy but it was made in a 12-cavity silicone mold and all that charcoal really holds onto moisture. As it continues to cure, it is getting darker and no soda ash at all is present.  I did plane off a few to see if those small slivers would cure faster and they did enough for her to try it.  She is anxiously awaiting getting the full bars and had claimed them all.  There is nothing better than a 13-year-old excited about something you make for her!  

Soap #14
Next, I tried a 100% Castile-Brine soap.  The recipe for this includes sea salt and is in the Pure Soapmaking book on page 75.  I used French sea salt and .9 oz Bulk Apothecary White Citrus Pineapple fragrance oil simply because I had it on hand.  I did set it on a heating pad and insulted it with a cardboard tent and an old towel.  Castile soap takes ten months to cure but the salt in the brine changed that.  It took 8 weeks to cure.  

This is soap #14. I knew going in that this would require a longer cure.  I did cut up a bar into skinny slivers to see if they would cure faster.  They will need more time but the lather is faint as I knew it would be. Soap Makers notes for "After the Cure":  I had soda ash on a couple.  I turned them on different sides but didn't know at the time to continue to spritz with rubbing alcohol so that is probably why.  I steamed these to remove ash.  I love this for a face soap.  Very little lather but so gentle.

Soap #15
With some successes, I was ready to get back to trying visually creative soaps again. I tried a true hanger swirl with results I loved so much better than before because the oils were so slow moving that they allowed me to really use the hanger.  I also watched a video and realized that I could do a little more with the tool and not muddy it up.

This is soap #15. The color has stayed vibrant (like all my soaps I did gel it and I am told that will keep a soap's colors strong.  The scent is so much nicer than the way it smells out of the bottle.  I would buy this fragrance again.  Like all the bars, I did bevel it and I love the difference it makes. Too soon to test - still curing.

This was, by far, my most successful soap at the time.  I just loved the color, the results, and the knowledge that I was able to control the trace!  I used a recipe from the Soap Queen for Hanger Swirl Soap, using my own oil mix instead of her pre-mixed Quick Mix.  I used 35% olive oil, 30% lard, 25% coconut oil (76 deg), and 10% avocado oil.  Superfat 5% and lye concentration 31%.  I waited until the lye was 90 degrees to start.  I used a heating pad, cardboard tent, and insulating towel to gel the soap.  I was thrilled that I finally had my own formula to mimic the Swirl Quick Mix pre-mix!  Using my own oil mix meant that I had to definitely use the Soapcalc because it slightly varied the amount of lye water from her original recipe. I also did mica painting on the top!  

I joined the June Soap Challenge, a paid challenge where we are given tips, recipes, and inspiration. That was the golden bit of info:  I had been soaping too hot.  Remember my first soap that cracked because I followed the directions and started at 130 degrees only to learn on one of the Facebook pages that it should be under 120? Well, here it was again but this time the key to really slow trace is to start at about 90 degrees. (And some people soap at 80 degrees or even room temperature but I like 90 degrees and I have found that some of this is about personal preference as much as it is about science.)

Resources for Trace:
Soap #16
With my new found info on trace and a little more confidence, I tried this after seeing a video.  It is supposed to be a tear drop soap but mine is more like a Hershey's Hug.  Ha!

This is soap #16. I beveled but it is still curing so it hasn't been tested.

This was the most technically difficult soap I have have ever made because of the way it is made:  the base is poured in.  Then thin strips of color are laid in, one on top of the other with as little spreading as possible.  The sides are poured at the same time.  Then the top is poured.  I did mica painting on the very top along with the swirling.  The video I watched to learn how to do this is on Youtube.  I used 42% olive oil, 25% coconut (72 deg), 10% sunflower oil, 15% lard, 8% avocado oil.  Superfat 5%.  31% lye concentration. I used sodium lactate. Bramble Berry Spearmint Eucalyptus fragrance oil.  For colorants, I used black oxide, titanium dioxide, cellini blue mica, and lavender mica all from Bramble Berry.  I poured the layers four times for the center.  

Soap #17
My soap stamp arrived from Amazon so I did a fairly plain soap and tried it out.  

This is soap #17. I did bevel this batch.  Too soon to test the bars.
This one of my earlier recipes used for this batch: 31.3% coconut oil (76 deg), 31.3% lard, 31.3% olive oil, 6.1% castor oil.  40% lye concentration.  5% superfat.  Bramble Berry Dogwood and Ginger fragrance oil.  Sodium lactate was added to the lye water.  I used Bramble Berry lavender mica mixed with sweet almond oil.  The mica painting on top is Bramble Berry Rose Pearl mica and sweet almond oil.

Soap #18
I used the heart embed that I made earlier (from soap #15) for my next soap.

This is soap #18. I did go back and bevel these bars.  Too soon to test; still curing.
This became my new favorite once I cut it! I watched a Soapish video on her Lovespell soap for the technique. I started with a recipe I found on the site (the Feiner.Tropfen, or fine drops, recipe) but I switched a couple oils and didn't use the salt or sugar additives she used.  I am not sure of her superfat or lye concentration so I used my own guidance on that. I think the online translator was a bit lacking when it came to the abbreviations she used. This is 30% olive oil, 20% lard, 30% coconut oil (76 deg), 10% rice bran oil, 8% cocoa butter, and 2% castor oil.  33% lye concentration.  5% superfat.  I added sodium lactate to the lye water.  Fragrance is Bramble Berry Spearmint Eucalyptus.  Colors are Bramble Berry titanium dioxide pigment, Caribbean blue, Aqua pearl, lavender, and yellow; Crafter's Choice Neon Pink Pleasures; Mad Micas true red color set.

I added white to the whole batch.  Then I poured out into squeeze bottles the red, yellow, green, blue, purple, and pink.  I used some blue for the base but didn't mix in because I wanted to get "strings" of color.  My oil was 95 degrees; my lye was 107 degrees.  I used a hanger tool and an embed made from a silicone mold for the heart and followed the video instructions from there.

For the top, I had a bit of fun and played around a little with the leftover colors.

Soap #19
Next, I used another heart embed and used layered stripes and charcoal for pencil lines.

This is soap #19. (I used the embed I made that is labeled above as soap #11). I did bevel these. Still curing; too soon to test.
This is the exact same recipe as the soap above (see soap #18).  I used the same Soapcalc printout exactly.  I lightly coated the heart with activated charcoal and I used it on top of the pink layer.  I spritzed it with 99% isopropyl alcholol to keep the charcoal in place, as I learned from an earlier soap. I used a spatula to help keep the layers from breaking through but when it did happen, I still liked the effect.  This is black oxide, titanium dioxide, and Mad Micas true red color set to make pink. The surface was mica painted. I used Sleigh Ride fragrance oil.

Soap #20
I used this same recipe a third time.

This is soap #20. I did not bevel these.  I liked the look of the wavy cut and hard edge.  Too soon to test; still curing.

This is the exact same recipe (see soap #18) but I used my dividers in my 10" loaf mold, pouring layers of black and pink alternately.  Then I pulled up the dividers and used a chopstick to make diagonal lines to create swirls.  Most of the time the colors broke through on the layers.  I used a toothpick to swirl the top.  I used Cranberry Fig fragrance oil, 2 teaspoons of activated charcoal, and Crafter's choice pink mica that was stirred using a spatula that already stirred the black, making it a little darker than it would have been otherwise.

Resources for visually creative soaps:

Soap #21
At the same time that I was reading snarky little comments that my soaps weren't "natural" or "vegan," my husband was complaining that he didn't like the strong smell of fragrance oils as I was using them.  I was also curious what plain soap would be like.  I remember the old lye soap I had seen as a kid.  So I gave it a go.

This is soap #21. The smell of cooked oatmeal is what I get from this unscented bar.  That smell is getting stronger in my opinion.  Too soon to test.

This is 27% coconut oil, 27% lard, 41% olive oil, and 5% castor oil.  5% superfat and 40% lye concentration.  No fragrance or color but I did add in 4 teaspoons of dried orange peel since I had it left over from my very first soap (Energizing Orange kit).  It smells nothing like what I remember. This smells a bit like cooked oatmeal to me.

I liked my simple soap but my husband hated the smell and gave me the go-ahead to get back to adding fragrance and doing what I wanted with my soaps.  Even the ones with lab-created fragrances and colors, because I knew that natural ones were on the back-burner but not for long.

Soap #22
I celebrated one month of soap making with the challenge I did for the Soap Challenge Club. Finding this challenge meant I got the tips I needed do the heart embed soaps and layered swirl soap above (soaps #18, #19, and #20)!  Her information on soaping temperature, along with the other info I knew about oils, acceleration, and mixing (or when to quit mixing) was just what I needed to be successful in getting a slow moving (slow tracing) soap and had been the missing link for me as I tried to do swirls and pours.  This challenge was to do an ombre soap of any kind.  Although this wasn't as amazing as the other entries for sure, I loved being a part of it!  This was my attempt at gradual layers.

This is soap #22. Too soon to test this batch.  
I used the same recipe as soap #18.  I mixed just until trace.  I added 2 teaspoons of titanium dioxide dispersed in 1 tablespoon of sweet almond oil to the whole mixture. I divided the mixture into two long-spout containers.  I added Bramble Berry Sleigh Ride fragrance oil to each.  I dispersed two teaspoons of Bramble Berry Fizzy Lemonade into one tablespoon of sweet almond oil for the yellow. I dispersed two teaspoons of Bramble Berry Neon Blue Raspberry into one tablespoon sweet almond oil for the blue.  I hand-mixed each to trace then added a partial pipette of color in each container, choosing one for blue and the other for the yellow.  I poured down the sides of the silicone loaf mold. I added another partial pipette of color and poured again.  I continued this process, making each container darker and pouring until I was out of soapy batter and oily mica.  I inserted a hanger tool into the center where the colors met and did a simple swirl. I added little bits of what ever was left in the containers by scrapping with my spatula and added any mica that had pooled to the bottom of each of their little cups.  I swirled it with a skewer just to decorate a bit.  

With this batch, once it was gelled, cooled, and cut, I weighed a bar and noted the weight.  I had been wondering about knowing when for sure a soap is cured and the answer is that when it stops loosing weight, it is cured!  So I have picked one bar that will be weighed during the next six weeks or so.

I also at this time, I saw a video on finishing soap with water and beveling the edges so I tried these ideas for this soap (and I went back to other curing and cured soaps and beveled those too as I indicated in the notes).  It really makes the soap more comfortable in the hand!

Soap #23
My next soap was just a bit of an experiment because I wanted to try using Bramble Berry's lemon verbena fragrance oil again so I made a base of charcoal and colored accents with micas.  

Soap #23.  
This is 31% canola oil; 1% castor oil; 3% shea butter; 25% coconut oil (76 deg); 5% hemp oil; 15% olive oil; 20% rice bran oil.  5% superfat and 33% lye concentration.  The base is charcoal dispersed in oil.  The accent colors are from Bramble Berry dispersed in oil: Cellini Blue mica, Ultramarine Blue pigment, and Neon Blue Raspberry colorant.  Fragrance oil is lemon verbena from Bramble Berry.

I tried to drop the colors in to break the surface, but that charcoal was too thick as a result of acceleration.   I ended up using a spoon to fold the colors in!  I am pretty sure I could not repeat these results if I tried.  It looks nothing like I had planned but I really love it.  I now use a little water to clean up the fronts and backs and bevel the edges on the soaps after they are cut.  I love the way they look finished.

Resources for Curing and Finishing Soaps (and for fixing problems):
At this point, I thought it might be helpful to show how I have finally learned to use my bamboo soap cutting box to cut perfectly uniform bars pretty cheap.  I saw a few posts that indicated that people were not having success with these cheap boxes, but the key is the magnet and using the slot next to the magnets in order to align the knife or cutter and hold pressure against the slot in the box.

One of the magnets.
Be sure to move the end held on with butterfly nuts away from the first cutting groove in the thickness you want your bars to be.  For me, it's 1".  I use a ruler that starts flush at 0. Measure on both sides and tighten with a screwdriver because they will slip and soap can act as a lubricator and make it worse, but once it is tight, it stays in place.

This is how I do it.  Apologies for the amateur video but now you know why I don't make videos.  Ha!

Soap #24
On the end of my list of stuff I wanted to try with soap making is natural soap, colored with natural colorants, scented with essential oils.  The very first soap I made above from a kit was a natural soap (soap #1 above).  It is what hooked me in the first place!  But it was a kit and I wanted to have freedom to do what I liked, whatever it was!  This is tough because you can't just go buy a color; a color has to be available in nature!  And sometimes it has to be infused!  This takes time to do.  Cold infusions, according to Jo Haslauer's ebook, take eight weeks.  I started mine using paprika from the grocery and coffee from the coffee maker,

To start immediately, though, I read that cocoa (right out of the cupboard) is a natural colorant.  I added 1 ounce cocoa powder to 4 tablespoons of olive oil and let it set a few hours. I read where it could be added right to the batter or dispersed in oil.  I added it to oil since I was used to doing that with micas. I added 10X orange essential oil from Bramble Berry and created my Chocolate-Orange soap.  It smells heavenly.  

This is 25% palm oil, 25% coconut oil, 25% olive oil, 10% canola oil, 10% sunflower oil, 5% castor oil with 5% superfat and lye concentration of 27%.   I used 1.75 oz of Bramble Berry's 10X Orange essential oil and 1 oz (weight) of cocoa powder right out of my kitchen.  I propped my 10" mold to the side and poured batter without any cocoa down the side.  Then I added a spoon of oily cocoa, stirred, and poured that.  Added another spoon or two of cocoa, stirred, poured, and repeated until the batter was used up.  I carefully unpropped the mold and insulated it on a heating pad.  I did a huge error in this:  I did not adjust for the oil in my cocoa mixture and there was oil beading on the surface of my soap when I was ready to unmold.  I used a paper towel to absorb this oil.  Let it set another couple of hours or so outside the mold, then sliced and beveled.  I think this will take a bit of extra time to cure, but it was a great lesson learned!  

I was hooked on natural soap making!! I am anxious to see how the colors hold out while it cures.  I am also interested to learn if the lather is brown and if it will look brown on the wash cloth!  I will come back to report all after it is cured this soap page.

Resources for making Natural Soaps:
I am looking forward to continuing with natural colorants and essential oils!  I find this to be a challenge so I will probably switch between natural soaps and those with micas and fragrance oils.  I am also having a little sticker shock with regard to some the the essential oil price tags so that will put me on a bit of a leash! 

My soaping goals include learning to master batch, learning to make beach-looking soaps, learning to get big effects from natural colorants, learning to create an oil formula that is animal-free, soy-free, nut oil free, palm-free, and vegan (just to stoke the challenge!)  I want to get more dramatic swirls and I want to get more artisan and artistic-looking handmade soaps.  Hopefully some of these soapy goals will be met and will show up in the gallery under the equipment list below!

If helpful, this is my list of Supplies and Equipment that I acquired for soaping and where I bought mine (fingers crossed that you will find more than I did at thrift stores and yard sales and in your own basement).  The Amazon links are affiliate links that benefit me personally (for the sake of full disclosure). They are the actual product that I use.  Remember that lye does not react well with aluminum and can eat away at some plastics and wood. The best materials for use with lye are stainless steel, silicone, glass, and non-reactive plastics.  For measuring essential oils and fragrance oils, I use glass after learning the hard way.  
  • Notebook!  This has all my web and book notes, all the soaps I have made with their soapcalc printouts, curing weights, results, how-to notes, and photos.  I have price listings for my oils and supplies by the ounce so I know how much a soap is costing me (and so I know when something from a new source is within my price range).  I have a listing of all my batch dates so I know when to expect curing. I have mold sizes and ounces they hold so I don't have to measure each time.  I also have shopping lists so I can remember where I bought certain products and recipes I want to try.  
  • Kraft paper for protecting surfaces (Amazon)
  • Goggles (black ones came in my initial Bramble Berry kit, but I have since found colored ones!)  Here's the link to those.  
  • Latex or nitrile gloves (Walmart)
  • Apron (I know you have tons of these)
  • Dust mask-- this will not protect you from fumes but I use them because of lye dust.  (Walmart) 
  • Digital Scale (came in my kit from Bramble Berry) to weigh fats, lye, water, and fragrance.
  • Glass measuring cups with spouts in various sizes (Walmart) to measure water, lye.
  • Stainless steel measuring cups and spoons (Walmart) - to measure additives, sodium lactate, colorants.
  • 2 quart glass measuring bowl with handle (Amazon) to measure oils and combine.
  • 4 quart bowl (Goodwill).  I use this size for creating ice water baths for lye water.
  • 8 quart bowl (Walmart) for placing my dirty utensils as I go. 
  • Thermometer gun (Amazon)  This is like magic.
  • Heat resistant bowls with spouts - 6 or 7 (Bramble Berry) For mixing and pouring multiple colors.
  • Silicone or stainless steel whisks (Walmart)
  • Silicone spatula (Walmart)
  • Stainless steel spoons (Walmart) - I use two large and one small almost every time.
  • Stick Blender (came in my kit from Bramble Berry)
  • Mini blender for colorants (Bramble Berry)
  • Non-serrated knife for cutting soap (Walmart).  I have also used Wilton stainless steel cake lifters, a wavy cutter, and a wire cake leveler.  
  • Glass shot glasses for mixing colorant and weighing fragrance - 6 or 7 (Walmart)
  • Chopsticks or skewers 
  • Plastic Squirt Bottles - 6 or so (super cheap in the Walmart BBQ area).  These are so handy for laying in tiny lines of color or dots of color.  I have used mine several times with no issue but they do break my rule about only using glass, stainless steel, or silicone.  
  • Small pipettes (Bramble Berry) for adding mica mixed with oil and for blowing activated charcoal.
  • Stainless Steel Fine Mesh Strainer (Walmart)
  • Coffee mill for grinding spices (Goodwill).  This is really just for doing natural colorants.
  • Cheese grater or salad shooter (Thrift store).  This is for grating bad soap for use in confetti soap so be sure it is cheap.
  • Vegetable peeler (Walmart). I use this for beveling soap edges and planing off bad spots that are small.
  • Heating pad for gelling (I had an old one around the house)
  • Old towel for insulating (look in your garage!)
  • Cardboard for making an insulating 'tent' for gelling (those boxes will be coming soon enough!)
  • Mesh tea strainer for charcoal and micas (Amazon)
  • Bamboo Soap Cutter with wavy cutter (Amazon).  I read on some of the Facebook groups that soap makers are not cutting straight even with this.  I am not having that issue.  There are magnets on the end and I use either a knife, a Wilton cake lifter, or prop the bamboo box up on something and use a wire cake leveler to cut with.  
  • Bottle brushes (Target)
  • Scrubbies and Dawn Dish Liquid (Walmart) Remember not to put soaping equipment in the dishwasher.
  • Old towels for drying equipment after clean up (already had those)
  • Silicone loaf and shape molds (the 10" came in my kit and the rest are from Bramble Berry and Wholesale Supplies Plus).  I also used tiny shipping boxes, bread crumb tube containers, and Pringles cans by lining with freezer paper.
  • Freezer paper for lining cardboard molds (already had in my craft room but I get it at Walmart)
  • 99% Isopropyl Rubbing Alcohol (Bramble Berry).  I am also trying 91% Isopropyl Rubbing Alcohol from Target.  So far, I am getting the same results. 
  • Sodium Lactate (Bramble Berry)
  • Sodium Hydroxide Lye (Bramble Berry).  This is the flake kind, which I prefer. I put the bottles, once opened, in big Ziploc bags to keep them sealed.
  • Distilled Water (Walmart)
  • Palm Oil (Bramble Berry).  Just so you know, there is some controversy with this product in the industry (which you can read here if interested).  Bramble Berry says their supplier is a member of the RSPO, an organization that supports sustainable palm oil production.  I loved the way it was sent from Bramble Berry in a microwaveable bag.  The triglycerides are only complete when all is melted and combined, as opposed to other solid fats that can be scooped out and then melted.  
  • Lard (Walmart).  Some people make strictly animal-free or vegan soaps so that is something to consider but I love the soap this makes when in combination with other oils. The article linked here made me feel better about it.  
  • Coconut Oil (Costco).  I have used both refined and unrefined with good results.
  • Olive Oil Pure (Costco).  Be sure to look for the word "pure" because not all are and it is not the same as virgin.
  • Castor Oil (Bramble Berry... and Walmart when I am in a pinch)
  • Canola Oil (Bramble Berry but I may be looking at getting it at Costco.)
  • Sweet Almond Oil (Bramble Berry).  I stopped using this because it was pointed out to me that it can cause problems for people with nut allergies.  I use Canola instead now.
  • Rice Bran Oil, Avocado Oil, Coconut Butter, Shea Butter, Tamanu Oil, Vitamin E oil, Olive Oil Pomace (all from Bramble Berry). This is one of those cases where there are a blue million kinds of oils that I used while trying to figure out my formulas. You could go broke getting them and they all have shelf lives that are to be considered.  
  • Fragrance Oils and Essential Oils (Bramble Berry and Wholesale Supplies Plus) 
  • Natural colorants (Bramble Berry and the grocery!) and micas (Bramble Berry and Mad Micas)
  • Hanger tool (Bramble Berry) and lazy susan (I had an extra already) for swirls.
  • Soap stamp "hand made" (Amazon)
  • Curing carts (I got two from the laundry department at Walmart.  They have wheels and enough space to layer with the small wood crates I got in the craft department at the same store).  
  • Parchment paper (Walmart) I use this to line the racks of my curing space.  My racks are coated metal and the crates I use are wood.  I read that both of those are no good for soap and to just use with parchment.  I change the paper as new soaps are placed.  
  • Wood cart for storing lye, water, and oils (yard sale score!).  Originally, I had planned to put all my soaping supplies in there.  That didn't last long.  Now I store my oils and lye in there.
  • Wood island with storage to use as a work space in a corner of my kitchen (yard sale score!)

Soap Gallery 
As I make new soaps, I will put them there, linked to their post on this blog when applicable.

This soap is not featured in a blog post.  Info on this soap:
30% olive oil, 20% lard, 30% coconut oil (76 deg), 10% rice bran oil, 8% shea butter, 2% castor oil
5% super fat
33% lye concentration
Combined lye water and oils when lye water was 103° and oil mixture was 92°.
Used hanger tool for swirls (my failed attempt at butterfly ended up with this beautiful swirl.
Fragrance oil: Crafter's Choice Abalone and Sea from Wholesale Supplies Plus
Additives:  sodium lactate
Colorants each mixed with 1T canola oil:  From Bramble Berry- Neon blue raspberry colorant, Titanium Dioxoide, ultramarine blue pigment

Natural Soap Additives:  coconut milk, salt, sugar, clay.  Click the photo to get to the blog post for this.
July 21, 2017

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