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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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Upcycled Soap Boxes

Soap is pretty indestructible, but even the hardest soap can get damaged during transport.  Since my soaps are definitely not the hardest on the market, I’m always looking for new ways to protect them.  After looking into pre-made soap boxes, I realized that the cost of boxes was a little high for my finances.

Being the self-sufficient crafter I am, I’ve decided to make my own and rather than buying new card stock, I realized that I could re-use card stock from packaging!  DIY + sustainability = yippee!  In a fabulous excuse to get in touch with all of the people I never have time to see anymore, I sent out requests for old cereal, microwave popcorn, or granola bar boxes.  Dozens of boxes later, I finally got a chance to make my beautiful soap box!  Below you’ll find directions on how to make your own.

Materials:

  • Cereal Box
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Black Marker

Step 1: Prepare the Box and Gather Supplies

You will need to flatten the box and open the glued portions so that it is a single layer.  You’ll also want to gather scissors, glue, and a black marker.

Step 2: Outline the Soap

Working vertically, outline around the long, skinny length of your soap bar (in my case 4″ x 1″).  Do this twice; this will become the flap that closes your box.  Then set the bar down on its biggest side and outline it.  Do another skinny end, then another big side.  Finally, you will want to create side flaps, approximately 1″ around the outside of your initial outline.

Make sure you are working on the side of the box that has the design.  You want the outside of the new box to be the inside of the old box.

Step 3: Cut the Box

Once you’ve outlined the box, you can cut along the outside lines.  Then, you can begin cutting out some of the flaps.  Check twice; cut once.  Don’t cut until you are sure that you are cutting the correct section of the box.

Step 4: Score the Cardstock

Now that you’ve cut all the sections of the box that you need to, use your scissors to score the fold-lines.  Start out scoring lightly; you just want to be able to fold along these lines.

Step 5: Fold the Box

Fold the boxes along the scored fold-lines.  Make sure you fold towards the side with the design (what used to be the outside of the old cereal box).

Step 6: Glue the Box

Now that you’ve folded the box and feel comfortable with the shape you’ve made, glue each side.  Depending on the glue you are using, you may need to use either a paperclip or binder clip to hold the parts together while they dry.  I usually find that the Elmer’s glue I use dries quickly enough that I can just hold it for a few minutes.

Step 7: Put the Soap Inside and Enjoy!

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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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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.

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Testing the Neem Shampoo: Day One

Day One: Today we tried the Neem Shampoo.  Justin says that he got lots of great lather from the bar, even at this early stage.  Admittedly, he rubbed the bar directly onto his short hair.  With my longer hair, I had to rub my hands together and only got a small amount of lather.  Chances are he also used up all the nicely cured outer layer and I got left with the younger innards.  As soap ages and cures, the lather increases.

On the bright side, the smell was fine.  I couldn’t smell the neem at all.  All I could smell was the rosemary and the mint, which was wonderful.  This morning my hair feels really soft, much softer than I expected given that I only used shampoo this morning.  I ran out of conditioner and haven’t had a chance to make a batch of my own yet.  Today seemed like a good day to really test out the shampoo and see its effects.  My scalp barely itches today (a miracle) and the hair is soft and shiny.  What little scratching I’ve done today I’ve done out of habit more than anything else.

Normally, my scalp itches uncontrollably and flakes.  There are days I wear gloves in the house just to keep myself from scratching.  Some nights (mostly in the winter), I wear a beanie to bed so I won’t scratch in my sleep!  I’ve been to see the dermatologist, but nothing he suggested really worked and the oil treatment he prescribed left my hair stringy and gross.  Every time I used it, my hair was left greasy.  If this neem shampoo continues to work as well as it did this morning, I’m a convert!  Nice smell, soft hair, calm scalp … HOORAY!

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!