New Soap Names!

One of my goals for this year is to unify my branding a bit more.  Last year was a bit chaotic and, while I liked the old names, that’s all they were: things I liked.  This year, I wanted my product lines to have a bit more internal logic.  Therefore, the new theme for the soap names is ………………………….drumroll please

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Literary References!  After lots of feedback from customers, I’ve come to the realization that the whimsical literary names were the hands down favorite.  It also doesn’t hurt that I teach English during the week and have lots and lots of favorite poems, novels, short stories, plays, and authors to draw from.  You’ll still only see “Things I Like,” but there will be a bit more consistency there.

So, for those of you who just want to find your favorite soap and couldn’t care less about its name, here’s a handy chart:

Signature Scents

Functional and Fragrance Free

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Disaster, almost

Day 354 as a professional soap maker and I’ve had my first real lye burn.  Before you panic, let me be clear: I did not have to go to the hospital or seek medical help, but I cried — OUCH!  Honestly, I probably cried more for the lost product than I did for the injury.

To begin at the beginning:

I’ve been trying to catch up on some low stock, so I was multi-tasking.  Bad call.  While making a big batch of the Trousseau  and Hon(ey) Soap, I also decided to work on some lip balms and bag a bunch of orders from my office.  In doing so, I forgot to put together my soap molds until I had already mixed the lye solution and the oils!

Frantically, I screwed together the molds and poured in the unscented Hon(ey) soap.  I quickly realized that the soap was leaking out of the side; something was wrong and I couldn’t figure out what in time to save that batch.  I will need to investigate that mold before I try again to figure out why it didn’t seal properly.  I dumped the whole thing in the sink, apparently getting some on my sleeve in the process.

Cranky about the first wasted batch, I mixed in the essential oils for the Trousseau Soap and started pouring into the other two molds.  The first mold went fine and I put it on the shelf to cure.  The second mold, however, was a complete disaster.  In my panic over the first mold, I must have forgotten to insert the second bottom liner of the acrylic mold, meaning that there were two huge holes in the bottom of the mold!  By the time I realized what was going on, half of the soap had gone straight through the holes into the burner compartments of my range, filling two of the burner areas!

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As I tried to get that mold into the sink as well, some of the soap splashed onto my face.  I tried to wipe it off with my sleeve, but only managed to get more on my lips.  My poor, stupid instincts kicked in and, before I could stop myself, I’d licked some of it off.  Now my cheek, lips, AND tongue were burning from the soap and the water from my tongue was making the lye in the soap burn even more.  I couldn’t get to the vinegar fast enough, and, even then, it burned.

I’m fine; my lips are now only a little swollen and my tongue is alright.  You can’t even tell that my cheeks were touched at all.  Mostly the right half of my lips feels red and angry.  Just in time for Thanksgiving lol.

All in all, it could have been worse.  It also could have been much, much better.  Out of the 50 bars of soap I was supposed to create tonight, I probably can salvage  20 (from the mold where everything went fine).  The rest of the soap will either be totally unusable (if it’s filled with junk from the range), good enough for me to use in my own shower (if it’s maybe a little junky, but safe), or turned into soap balls (if it’s fine but oddly shaped).

Lesson: Focus.  No multi-tasking!

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Dawson’s Market Grand Opening!

Baltimore Bumble Crafts’ products will now be sold at Dawson’s Market in Rockville!  The Grand Opening is today and there will be free samples available all day!  The shop is in Rockville Town Square and has plenty of parking nearby.  As of today, the following products are available at Dawson’s:

Look at that beautiful inventory!

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Swirl – VICTORY!

Those who follow the blog closely will know that I have struggled with swirls since the beginning!  They would either blend too much or not blend at all (poor poor Plucky Peppermint …. you never swirl quite right).

BUT, I have done it.  I have made a swirl, a proper swirl!  The Poe-tchouli Soap is everything a swirl should be.  The first  test batch was too blended, but the normal-sized batch got it just right.

I’m using three colors here: brown, yellow, and white.  To create the colors I’m using black walnut hull powder, turmeric powder, and the soap’s natural off-white base.  Mixing them separately did take time, but I actually think that the extra time at trace made them more stable and less likely to blend.

I began by pouring a couple dollops of the brown, then a bit of the white, then a couple dollops of the yellow.  Then I added a lot of the white from a greater height, then topped it off with more of the brown and yellow, poured from various heights. Until it cures completely, the yellow will be that dark orange-y color, but once it’s done, it will be a much lighter semi-yellow.  HOORAY!

Check out the results!

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Introducing Bumble Balms!

After listening to YOUR feedback, I’ve finally launched my line of lip balms: Bumble Balm’s!  These no-frills lip balms are as simple and pure as possible.  Sticking with my mission to produce high-quality all-natural skincare, the Bumble Balms contain only organic shea or cocoa butter, organic beeswax, organic olive oil, and essential oils.  You will never find synthetic flavor oils in these balms!

I thoroughly research the safety of the essential oils that I’ve used in these balms.  Only lip-safe EOs are in the Bumble Balms.  This limits the range of scents I offer, but you can rest assured that these products will be safe!  I’ve also chosen not to add any sweeteners to the balms to help you protect your lips.  Sweet balms tend to encourage us to lick our lips, which actually dries them out!  Here, you’ll get all the great scent and none of the temptation to lick your lips dry!

You can find these great balms at my Etsy store.

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Almost completely melted back to a pourable state!

Rebatching Success

Anyone who’s ever tried to make their own soap is familiar with the capriciousness of soap.  We might call it a science (and there’s plenty that’s scientific about saponification), but sometimes the soap has a mind of its own.  You can do everything right and still end up with a weird batch.  Perhaps it’s a new brand of some ingredient or perhaps it’s just a different temperature in your house … you can’t control everything.

Well, I made a batch of Rose Garden soap awhile back and it was UGLY.  Crumbly and moist and just plain horrible.  The smell was wonderful, but the texture was all off.  Now I’m all for letting natural soaps be natural, but these were gross:

Really Ugly Soap

I’d never really had great luck “saving” soap before.  It’s called rebatching, and while some people use it as their primary method of making soap with fancy ingredients, most of us dread having to do it because it means something went horribly wrong.  I’ve tried several techniques that promised to take the guesswork out of it (boil in a bag, crockpot, etc.) and, of course, none of them ever worked.

This was a big enough batch of ruined soap that I figured it would be worth the extra effort to try rebatching it the traditional way.  How?  By chopping it into tiny pieces (not hard because it was already crumbling):

Small Soap Chunks

And even more soap chunks …

The goal is to expose as much of the surface of the soap as possible so that it will melt evenly.  Some people use a grater, but I think that is excessively messy.  I just chopped and diced like I was cutting herbs.

Next, I placed the chunks in my makeshift double boiler (a mixing bowl on top of a pot):

Double Boiler

Since my soap was so new and fresh, it was still pretty moist.  That meant I didn’t need to add much to help it re-liquify. I added about 1 T of soybean oil and, since I didn’t like the original color, 1 T of madder root powder to make it red.  Some people swear by adding milk to the mix, others use just water or oil.  I stuck with oil this time.

As you can see, it started to melt after the first 15 minutes:

Partially melted …

And then after another 10 minutes of stirring, it really got melty:

Almost completely melted back to a pourable state!

Since I was already experimenting, and since my mixing bowl could only hold about a third of the soap crumbles at a time, I decided to try playing around with color layers.  The first batch got 1 T of madder root powder.  The second batch got 1/2 T of matter root powder.  The final batch didn’t get any madder root powder.  I poured each newly melted batch on top of the previous one.

I don’t know how easy it is to distinguish the top two layers in this pictures, but here’s an idea of the finished product:

Layered Soap with Chunks

As you can see, I left some of the crumbles whole in the melted second and third batches for even more variety.  I think, in part, this was all inspired by my recent trip to the Grand Canyon.  To me, the layers in the soap make me think of the different layers of rocks and geological time that you can see along the canyon walls … they’re even the same colors!

All in all, a very successful rebatch!  The soaps always smelled great and now they look great too!  I’m definitely going to try this layering technique again … oooooh the possibilities!

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Honey Soap

Now that I’ve switched from using some artificial fragrances to entirely essential oils, I’m beginning to use real organic honey in the soap.  The Miel Citron soap is pretty popular, but I didn’t want to keep selling it with the synthetic fragrance.  Today, I decided to make my first batch of the new recipe.

Normally, the lemongrass essential oil gives the soap a pleasant yellow color.  I found out, however, that honey gives soap a slightly orange tint.  I don’t know if it will last once the gel stage is over, but right now, the soap is a beautiful deep orange:

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We’ll see how it looks when I slice it.  Who knows, it could be the prettiest soap yet!

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Peppermint Swirl: Take II

After the last attempt at a peppermint swirl left me with pink soap.  While cute, it was not my intended effect.  Today, I tried a new technique and I think it will work out much better.  Rather than the pink marbling I got from mixing the swirl in the pot, I hope I can get a real red stripe.

This time, I separated some of the soap at trace and added 2 T of Madder Root Powder to the separated amount.  Then, rather than return it to the pot, I poured the uncolored base into the mold first.  Once that was done, I poured the colored soap into the mold and used a bamboo skewer to swirl.  From the outside, it looks good:

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We’ll wait and see how it looks once I slice it.

Scent Stones

I keep hearing from customers and friends that they wish they could just leave my soaps out to scent the rooms in their house.  Since I’d rather they continue to use and buy the soap, I’ve come up with an alternative product: Scent Stones.  These hard little stones have all the same essential oils as my soaps, but they are much more versatile.

Part of that versatility is the storage.  I’m putting a bunch of the little pebbles into 4 oz. ball jars and then using fabric lids to help release the scent without releasing the stones.  When they’re up for sale, the lids will be closed, displaying the label information, but once they’re purchased, the customer takes off the flat part of the lid, opening up the smell. They can leave them on their desk at work or put them in a dresser to scent their lingerie.  The possibilities are really endless!

At this point, the best prices I’ve found for Ball Quilted Jelly Canning Jar 4 Oz., Case of 12 are on Amazon.  I think the quilting gives them a prettier touch than the regular Ball jars, but those little quilted ones are hard to find! Besides, I want people to focus on my logo, not the jar’s logo.

To make the fabric circles perfect, I’ve been using the OLFA 1057028 CMP-3 Rotary Circle Cutter.  I am horrible at cutting circles on my own and they never look quite right.  At first, I thought I wanted to use pinking shears to make the edges, but I like the look of the perfect circle more than the imperfect circle with pretty edges.

PICTURES TO FOLLOW SOON

I’ve got one in my own lingerie dresser right now.  I want to test to see how long to scent lasts before I put them on the market, but so far, so good!  It’s been in there for almost a month and the smell is still going strong.  Getting dressed is a lot sexier now (which is funny because normally getting undressed is the sexy part)!

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Testing the Neem Shampoo: Day Two

Day Two: This morning I broke down and rubbed the shampoo bar on my head.  Holy Lather!  It was the most wonderful creamy lather and I could feel it just bubbling and soaking all over my scalp.  I am completely out of conditioner, and my hair is still soft and shiny.  It is not oily, but not really dry either.  I had my product tester, Erin, feel my hair and she assures me that it is not too dry.  Apparently, it’s just dry enough without looking unhealthy.  When I told her that I hadn’t used any conditioner, she barely believed me!

In the shower, it was squeaky clean.  I literally could hear my hair squeaking!  I was really worried that it would be a dry mess today, but even without any product, my hair feels fine.  Normally, I use at least a glossing straightener gel, but today I wanted to experiment with just the shampoo.  As I write this, I’m feeling my hair and this might honestly be the healthiest my hair has felt in a long time!  It’s light and bouncy, but not frizzy.

More importantly, I haven’t scratched but once or twice today.  Even then, my scratching has been mild and not the intense, O.M.G., I-want-to-rip-off-my-scalp scratching that I normally do.  I haven’t seen any flakes and the itch is way down.  I’m still holding out final judgement, though.  Normally, my hair loves every new thing for a few days and then reacts with a vengeance.  In a few more days, I’ll know for sure.