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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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Display Evaluations: One Store Front

Everyone knows that it’s a rough economy.  I can’t afford to pass up on a single potential sale, especially with soap’s small profit margin.  This is why I’ve been tracking my booth layouts to see which system works best.  Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

Booths with One Store Front

This layout puts me right in front of the customers.   They can see everything that I have to offer and they do not have to decide whether or not to enter the booth, which intimidates some people.  The main disadvantage is that this layout has limited space.  On the other hand, this was a great layout when I had low inventory and wanted the tables to look full.  Another advantage is that I can move the tables either closer to the entrance or further into the shade depending on the weather.  This is crucial since the soaps and lotions need to be kept out of the sun and rain.

 

This layout relies on customers’ willingness to enter the booth.  During bad weather (high heat or rain), folks are more than happy to seek shelter inside.  They do not all make purchases, but I do see a lot more foot traffic with this layout if the weather is killer.  On the other hand, if the weather isn’t pushing people into the shelter, then this only works for determined customers.  The bright side here is that if someone enters the booth, I know they are genuinely interested.  This is also a decent layout if there are two storefronts, one in front and one in back.

This layout allows me to separate special products, especially the fragrance free line.  This is nice because it means I’m not accosting people with the scent of the soaps.  Since the kind of people who need fragrance free products are also usually sensitive to air-borne scents, it only makes sense to put their products up front.  It also gives people a chance to see some of the products as they walk past and a chance to come inside for more information if they want.

This layout allows for the most display space, but requires an additional table.  As with the other internal layouts, this requires that customers enter the booth to see the full range of products.  However, once they enter the booth, I have the chance to talk with them, get a sense of their interests, and suggest products that they might appreciate.  Having those one-on-one conversations is really important in a business like mine that deals in intimate issues like skincare.

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Favorite Scent Line Poll

Hello Soap-Fans!  I know which scents I love, but which scents do YOU love?  Cast your vote and see the results!

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)!

First Craft Show – Loch Raven HS Craft Fair

For my first public appearance, I will be selling soaps at the Loch Raven High School Craft Fair in northern Baltimore, MD.  If anyone is interested in seeing, touching, or smelling the soaps in person, come on out and join us! 

Who: YOU!

What: Loch Raven High School Craft Fair

When: Saturday, March 24th from 10 AM – 3 PM

Where: Loch Raven High School, 1212 Cowpens Avenue, Baltimore, MD

Why: You can buy wonderful soap!