Monday, December 14, 2015

2015 Year End Collage

Can't believe another year passed and I'm still making soap!  Here is the highlight of this year's creation.
And wish everyone happy holidays!

Monday, November 30, 2015

Rainbow Soap Balls

Making soap balls for the use of embedding in a log of soap is commonly done.  I've done single color soap balls, complicated layered balls, tiny and large.  This creation is talking about rainbow color soap balls and how I made them.
I started with making a batch of fresh soap mixed with each individual rainbow color.  I usually unmold the soap and wait for 2 days, that's when my soap is still soft enough to knead but not sticky anymore.  Then I kneaded each soap dough into thin long rods.
Combined the rods, cut into sections then twisted them into balls.  It is time consuming but look how pretty those balls are!  Usually if I want to embed big balls into a fresh batch of soap I need to do it within a week, otherwise the balls will get dried and become too hard to cut against soft fresh soap.  Here's the final soap I used these balls in:

Monday, November 16, 2015

Shooting Star

The actual time spent in making soap is pretty short, but that's not to say each batch doesn't take a long time to produce.  Why?!  Because I spend most of my time designing in my head.  This is a short story about the making of my Shooting Star soap. 
 It started with me thinking about my holiday season soap making.  I don't usually re-make soap from the past, if I can, I prefer reinventing the wheel.  Last year the same fragrance soap was made with rainbow colored soap bits embedded in t a white base.  The colors of rainbow always catch people's attention.  And the idea of rainbow led me to the image of shooting star.  The actually star is made ahead of time with transparent melt & pour soap base to embed into the soap log to look like a star on top of a ray of rainbow.
 Well, this is a perfect case of what I see in my head is totally not what happened in the reality...  See my diagram below:
Oh well, there's always the next time!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

300 Blog Post Giveaway Winner

The winner is Gina Sollitt!  I will email you for details, thanks everyone!
If the winner does not respond to my email within 48 hours a new winner will be drawn again right the way.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Modified Spin Swirl

First of all, this is my 300 post!  Wow, I never imagine myself lasting this long!  And, this will be the fits blog post I give out my original recipe, so please watch my video further down the post to find out all the details.  And here's the celebration part, anyone (sorry but USA only) who leaves a comment with email address below will enter into the draw for 3 modified spin swirl soap showed in this post!  This giveaway ends on October 10th, 2015.  I will randomly draw a winner and contact via email.  If you do no leave your email contact you will not be entered.

I first saw spin swirl done was from an YouTube video made by a Taiwanese soap maker with a made up name "Mu Lan", here's the link to her original The First “Spinning Swirl Soap”  I have no idea who actually invented this, it is not the point in the post.  My soaping recipe is usually not fluid enough to flow like the video because I personally do not prefer using high content olive oil.  I had a few tries few months ago and had not much success, see my previous blog post if you want to see my "failed" attempts: Spin or not to Spin?  Since then I've been thinking about how to improve this technique and put a twist to it to make it my own style.

The flaw (if I may say) to this spin swirl is that the slab mold is so wide that the centrifugal (I think I use it correctly) force prevent the center from being moved while all sides are being swirl to a muddy stage.  It might look great as a whole before the soap slab being cut into bars, but this bond to have a couple bars at the center that would not appear as dramatic as the others.  I care less about a whole look.  It would be great if it looks flawless both as a whole and into individual bars.  But individual look always takes president in my soap designs, customers buy soap in individual bars, not a whole slab or loaf.
Anyway, I hope you enjoy this fully explained video (and with recipe!) I made: Making Frosted Forest Soap
 Here's me cutting it open: Cutting Frosted Forest Soap
 Literally every bar is unique:

Here are some other batches I made using the same technique:

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Ultimate Wake Me Up Soap

Do you know that pure caffeine has been used in the bath and body industry forever?  I did exaggerated a little but it is not uncommon to see caffeine as an active ingredient in eye cream or cellulite cream.  Continuous use of caffeine treatment products can help eliminating the excess water retention in tissue and smooth out the unwanted cellulite or stretch lines.
Soap is a wash off product, I can't prove how much caffeine can actually be absorbed into the skin in the shower since soap doesn't stay on our skin for too long.  But I love coffee soap, and I love adding extra caffeine in my coffee soap!
Pure caffeine powder looks like white crystalline sand and it's a bit tricky to use.  It requires hot liquid to melt and dissolve.  I've always been using hot water just to dissolve caffeine powder and use coffee to dissolve lye in the past.  This time I got a little lazy.  I thought, coffee is hot when just brewed, why not just dissolve caffeine powder in hot coffee to save some time?  WRONG...  It went well initially, dissolved well, cooled down perfectly.  But when the lye hit... boy... turned the caffeine boosted cold coffee into a white paste mess!  What a classic case of trying to save a penny end up spending a dime...
I remade the coffee, took a portion out to dissolve caffeine powder and the rest for the lye and the rest, please watch this video:

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Is It Beauty or the Beast?!

This is a story of extreme glycerin river in my soap.  If you are new to glycerin river you might want to take a look at my previous post here first: Where is my Glycerin River?
Here's my short under 3 minutes video of showing you what happened to me few days ago.  Some people think it's a beauty and one of a kind, but I think it's a total beast!  Judge it yourself!

Friday, July 10, 2015

Pipping Flower Soap Video At Last

Last time I promised to show a short video clip of how I pipped those flower soap I used to dress up my soap top like these:
I finally got some extra soap left over from a batch I did and so here's the short 8 minute video of me pipping flower soap:

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Spin or not to Spin?

Recently spin swirl has become the newest trend soapers have been trying to achieve.  What's spin swirl?  Literally it means spinning your soap mold to create a pattern using that centripetal force from spinning.  It might sound simple and easy but guess how many times I failed?  4 times…

1st try, forget it, soap got thick so texture top it is, sigh.

2nd time you would think I learned from the lesson, but no~  I tried a new fragrance and it didn't behave the way I want it… sigh.  At least it smells great!

3rd time is the charm, right?!  You can tell the soap batter did stay more liquid, but not long enough for me to finish the funnel pour and perform the final spinning.

 I should have given up at this point but I got stubborn!  I gave it my final shot!  …well, conclusion is, spin swirl is not cut for me...
The problem is the consistency of the soap batter, I know how to make thinner batter that lasts longer, by using high olive oil recipe and lower lye solution concentration.  Despite the proven fact that high olive oil recipe produces milder soap when cured correctly, It's personal taste that I dislike high olive oil soap, it has this slimy feel when washing and it produces creamy lather rather than fluffy suds.  The only high olive oil soap I make is my facial Dead Sea mud egg soap because fluffy lather is not desired for facial soap, that has 72% olive oil.  If what it takes to achieve this spin swirl is to use high olive oil in my recipe I think I would cross that one out of my list unfortunately.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Color Inspiration - Misbehaving

Misbehaving is a funny name for a fragrance I used to make this fun soap.  Disclaimer, I didn't make up the name!  It is from the supplier I purchased from.  I kind of like it for the reason that it did not behave while I was soaping it, so I decided to keep the name.
The scent strikes me as fun, fruity, zesty with a punch, definitely a party drink type smell.  I then went online in search of a color scheme to fit this fragrance.  The second I saw the photo on the right I knew it is THE one.
In my mind I was not expecting this fragrance to speed trace at all, fruity fragrance oils don't usually misbehave!  Well, I guess this one got her name for a good reason!  I couldn't make even layers, I was sweating to just get all the batter into the mold without bubbles.  This one is definitely having some spoiled princess moment!

Nevertheless, it came out gorgeous except some discoloration from white to beige, no big deal.  Hope you like this one!

Monday, April 6, 2015

Aleppo Soap - Laurel Soap

Aleppo Soap refers to savon d'Alep, or laurel soap, or Syrian soap. It was said to be originated from Southwest Asia Levant region (around Lebanon, Israel, Syria, etc.) then moved into Europe. It was usually done by hot processing 100% olive oil then infused with laurel berry oil at the end before molding into it's final shape.  Aleppo soap needs a long curing time, from 6 month to a year, like aging a good red wine, the older the better.  It usually starts with natural green color and aged into more rustic olive khaki shade.  The percentage of laurel berry oil used in the soap can range from 2-30%.  Obviously the more laurel berry oil content the more expensive the soap would be.  Laurel berry oil is not easy to source here in the US.  I've only got a small jar from one of my soaping friends.  I decided to make my version of Aleppo soap (cold process) using 20% of laurel berry oil and 80% herbal infused olive oil.
 I was afraid I would end up with dull khaki green so I decided to add a pinch of nettle leaf powder and chlorella to help the green color along.
Here are some interesting observations I got from making my very first Aleppo soap.  The first impression of laurel berry oil is that it smells a little like rotting herb, or dirt mixed with garden herb.  I wouldn't say it's a pleasant smell but it does not stink as much as carrot seed oil or neem oil thank goodness!  The smell is so strong it really troubled me on what to add to "compliment" or deter the original scent.  I finally added a little bit of sage and sandalwood fragrance into the batter hoping the rotting herb scent would mellow out a bit.  The 2nd impression is that it sure is a very thick oil, almost like a mixture of paste in oil.  What surprised me the most is when I poured in the lye solution and started stick blending the mixture.  Usually high olive oil recipe takes much longer to reach trace (emulsification between lye & oil).  But this one went kind of fast, within a minute (or less) the mixture is emulsified and started to turn a little gelatin like, shinny and appeared slightly translucent.  I had to hurry and pour into the mold.  I swear I was doing it as fast as a soaper can be but it still solidified faster than I expected, during the pour!  And I was only making 4 cubes!!!  At the end I had to use a spoon to pulp and push it into all corners of the mold trying to avoid any air pocket forming.
 After only a few days of curing I got impatient and took the scrap from the soap pot to do a test run under my kitchen faucet.  I can't say I'm not disappointed that it did not lather much.  It does not feel slimy like most of the high content olive oil soap, it feels very astringent, no wonder this kind of soap usually need to be cure for 6 months to a year.  I will have to stash these away, at somewhere I don't usually visit, or curiosity will kill this cat fast, I won't be able to keep my hands off these cubes!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

I Roll Roll Roll the Soap!

This is for a soap challenge I got myself into.  The mission is to incorporate 3 ingredients into our soap plus one assigned tool to create the look.  In this specific challenge we had to use egg, milk and sugar in making our soap.  That's not hard at all, I've used all 3 so many different times.  The hard part is the tool I was assigned to create my look.  I got a rolling pin...  This is the soap I created with all the circumstances:

I had 7 days to complete my look.  I don't know why on earth I had to make it so complicated.  This took me 9 days! I didn't make my deadline… sigh.
This was a 3 stage process.  The first pour was to make 3 different color soap.  Then I take them out to roll with THE assigned rolling pin when they are only 24 hours fresh.

I had to use lots of saran wrap to prevent fresh soap from sticking to my wooden rolling pin.  A lot of people thought I made the soap roll with melt & pour soap.  But I think fresh cold process soap is actually easier to manipulate, I can mold it to anything I like until I'm satisfied with it.  and yes, I got a little OCD, took me the whole night to roll out 3 identical sheets of soap...
Stage 2 is to insert this rolled soap into a vertical column mold then pour the second batch of soap.
Final stage is to take the soap roll out when it's hard enough (the next day) and whip up a small batch to drizzle on top then sprinkle some sugar pearl together with glitter.
My hard work paid off!  These are literally hand cut, with a kitchen knife because of its round shape and all that random drizzle.  You should see the last piece, so slanted, LOL
They are so totally adorable!  But, I swear, I will never ever do this again!  Forget it!  This really pushed my patience to the tipping point.  Remember my Rainbow Cake Soap from last year?  I don't know which one is worse.  If you wonder what rainbow soap I was talking about see this post: Rainbow Cake Soap Fun

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Cake Soap in a Roll

I don't make cake and cupcake soap as often, probably only by request or during holiday season when people are looking for one of a kind gifting ideas.  Cake or cupcake soap although looking very pretty and eye catching, they are somehow impractical to use as soap.  I love making cake soap only because it can inspire my inner most creativity. This past holiday season I decided to try some new pipping techniques.  Have you heard of scallop technique?  Check out this easy tutorial: Simple Scalloped Birthday Cake 
I didn't want to follow the traditional scallop pipping which usually is horizontal lay out, I decided to use if as drapery, vertically.
And to give the typical scallop pipping technique a twist, I used Wilton's open star pipping tip:
Then smear with a tiny spoon from center up to create that scallop edged dimple then embed a sugar pearl inside.
This second one is not as inventive, but surely as time consuming to make.  The overflow dripping "cream" is the hardest to create for me, I just don't seem to be able to time the right soap consistency.
This 3rd one is my own spontaneous try.  I was hoping to get a ribbon icicle or tassel look:
I used Wilton ribbon tip like this one:
My husband's favorite is when I pipe poppy flowers:
Maybe I will do a short video clip to show how I do them later so be on the watch out if you are interested!

Monday, March 2, 2015

Location Location Location

Last holiday season I signed up for the biggest craft show I've ever been to.  I don't sell in craft shows often, at most maybe one during the holiday season, most of the time I just list my products on Etsy.  First time doing big craft show (over 200 vendors) was nerve racking.  I had no idea how much product to bring and what price point to set in order to off set the costs.  In talking to my family about this my sister in law brain stormed a few ideas with me.  This was one of them, to make soap related to location.

I live in San Francisco Bay area, California, one of the most interesting and diverse cities in the world, not only in geography but also in culture. Speaking of San Francisco one cannot forget to mention the first gay neighborhoods in the United States, it's commonly called The Castro district. It has been one of the most lively and prominent symbols of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender. You would know you just enter the zone the minute you see rainbow flags everywhere.  And that, is my inspiration for my I love SF soap.

Making this soap is not as easy as I thought.  There's a lot of waste of soap as I use a cookie cutter shaped like a map of USA to cut off a larger piece of pre-made soap.  I then hand carved out each heart or star shape approximately over where SF is on the USA map, spray some water and embedded the pre-made tiny heart or star soap into the void.  Till today I still have 1/2 of the left over scraps.  I will need to find a way to use them up.  But I have to say, they are so cute!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Using Texture Mat for Soap Pattern

 Have I mentioned before that making cold process soap is very much like baking and decorating the bakery?  You will be shocked how many soap makers shop at baking goods for tools we can use!
This is about using fondant texture mat to make soap.  There are 2 kinds on the market, plastic sheets which are much cheaper, and the more durable silicone mats but cost far more.  Plastic sheets tend to have simpler patterns while silicone mats can be as intricate as you can ever imagine.  However, the common problem we run into is that it's hard to find fondant sheet big enough for our molds, they are not designed for soap makers for sure!
About 2 years ago I was lucky to saw this listing of a clear plastic texture sheet that has very nice wood grain pattern and the size is bigger than any I've seen out there.  I bought one to try, but that batch of soap failed.  I learned a lot from that experiment.  These grooves are shallow, only about 1/16" deep at most.  To cast a great impression the soap batter needs to be very fluid at pour but harden fast to get a perfect release.  I admit I didn't have the patience to think about all these little details 2 years ago so I simply gave up after one failed try.
Making texture mat soap is somewhat different.  It requires forehand preparation.  Measure twice (sometimes 3 times) and cut once to fit the interior of the mold.  In my case I used a silicone log (loaf) type mold and lined the mold with this plastic texture sheet on 3 sides to form an "U" shape.  Simple clear tape was used to secure the sheets temporary to the mold.  Then all I need is some simple 2 color ITP (in the pot) swirl and pour into the mold.

I really like these simply elegant looking soap bars!