Sunday, December 07, 2014

A Soapy Challenge

I'd noted some time ago that there seem to be a lot of similarities between quilters and soapers.  One of their commonalities is a liking for challenges.  They seem to be a means to learn and stretch creative muscles in both camps.  I finally decided to take the plunge and join Amy Warden's challenge this month.  (A note to my fiber art friends- if soap making bores you silly, better skip this one!)

The technique for this challenge is a spoon swirl, which is fairly simple and lends itself to thicker batter, which I've had no problems achieving.  I'd just gotten a sample pack of micas, and was itching to use them.  I knew I wanted to do something cold and wintry- after all, it is December!

I had my recipe, then got all my ingredients ready to go.  My oils and lye solution. . . 

My two micas, dispersed in a little oil.  I also used titanium dioxide in the main batter.

My fragrance and additive- I really wanted white soap, so I used some kaolin clay.

I blended my batter- so far, so good.  It really stayed fluid- in fact, too fluid for a spoon swirl.  But I pressed on- when has a batter not thickened for me?  The micas mixed beautifully, and I love the metallic sheen they lend.

I poured my main batter into the mold.

Then I added the colors.  First the blue. . . 

then the teal.   Mmmm, that batter is still really fluid, not thickening quickly at all.  Where was this batter when I needed it for my Christmas tree swirl?

I did the spoon swirling- hoping that it would look good even though it seemed too fluid.

I had more white and colored batter left than I'd anticipated, so I did another layer on top and spoon swirled that.  Then I plopped the little bits of leftover batter onto the top.

I couldn't leave it like that, so I swirled the top with a chopstick.

Isn't it gorgeous!  The colors were just what I wanted!  It sat overnight, and then all day Saturday while we did some holiday activities.  I came home late Saturday afternoon, grabbed the knife I use to cut, and headed to the studio.  It looked great, no glycerine rivers, awesome colors and swirls- but it crumbled!  Almost every slice had crumbling.  I googled to try to find out what the issue could be, and then it hit me- I'd left out the shea butter.  A quick check with pH strips confirmed that my gorgeous soap was lye heavy.  Arrrrgh!!

However, I knew exactly what I had done wrong, so I decided to rebatch that night.  Marly was kind enough to grate all the soap, then we threw in the shea butter I'd omitted with a little water.  I turned the crock pot on to high, and we started stirring and watching.  It took a couple of hours, but it melted down so I could get it in the mold.  It wasn't the gorgeous soap I'd planned, but for a rebatch, it wasn't bad at all.  I unmolded it late this morning, and checked it again with the pH strips.  Success!!  It registered right where it needed to.  It cut beautifully, still smells great, and has pretty color.  It kind of reminds me of the formica countertops in homes in the 1960's.

I also made a four bar batch Saturday night, determined to have a soap worthy of entering the challenge.  The swirls may look good, but I managed to forget the fragrance oil in that one.  Good grief!!  I'm waiting til tomorrow to cut that one, it is still on the soft side.

So this morning I made my third batch of soap, hoping to finally get it right.  But that will be another post. . .


Renate said...

Oooo! Can't wait to see the result of your third batch!

What Comes Next? said...

oh that first batch looked beautiful! The rebatching of it turned out really nice, too! Can't wait to see the next batches!

dq said...

Hello Beverly,

This is Deana. You inspire me with all of the interesting things you teach yourself how to do. I owe my dyeing fun to the class you taught at Price Quilt Guild.

Thank you for all the inspiration.
I love your swirly blue soap.