Even when it looks fine to start!

I had one of my first total failures with cold process soap making over the weekend, and the batch initially looked great!  I had some friends over to show them the very basics of cold process soaping, and we had a wonderful time.  After they left, I still had everything I needed already out, so I decided to make a batch for myself.  I used Bramble Berry’s basic quick mix oils, and a sample of their “Relaxing” fragrance.  To color it, I did a three color swirl, with black, blue and purple.  I thought it would look and smell wonderful.  In the mold it looked great!  The purple faded almost immediately, but I think I know what went wrong there, and I was okay with it being pretty much blue and black colors with the white background.  I took the slab out of its mold on Monday afternoon, and cut it into chunks.  Still looked pretty good!  I checked on it this morning and OH NO!  My creamy white background was turning brown!  The blue was darkened, and the black had faded to more of a dark gray.  WEIRD!  I turned the soap over, and discovered why the black had faded; it was currently sitting in big dots all over the bottom of the soap!  I had no idea what happened.  I was soooo sad!

Did some research, and the “Relaxing” fragrance oil is known to discolor soaps, so you have to take that into consideration when choosing colors and such.  My own fault for not researching correctly.  Still very sad.  On a positive note, the coffee soap that my friends and I made appears to have turned out wonderfully, and waiting the four weeks until it cures is going to be hard!  My workroom smells like a mocha!

Everyone oohed and aahed over how it turned out

Everyone oohed and aahed over how it turned out

So pretty!

So pretty!

Now it looks like this...

Now it looks like this…

and this...

and this…

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Be careful how you lye!

I know, it’s a terrible play on words.  Truly though, that’s how I was feeling after this weekend, and my issues with making a batch of soap!  I’m usually really really careful when I’m making cold process soap.  I wear all sorts of safety gear (dust mask, protective goggles, gloves, long sleeves, long pants, closed toe shoes – you get the idea), and I don’t let anything distract me while I’m measuring or pouring lye.  I don’t know what happened this past Saturday – maybe the soap gremlins were out to get me!

Here’s how it went down:

I got out my new loaf mold (eeee!  So cool!) and set it up with a small area for a little 1.5 lb batch, and the bigger area for my 5 lb batch.  I was planning to soap two different fragrances, and was going to try a new technique for my big batch.  So my plan was to make a 6.5 lb batch of basic soap batter, and then split it up for each try.  I measured most of my oils out and set them to heat up and melt.  I measured out my lye, and my water.  I planned to measure and melt my cocoa butter while the lye water cooled down.  As I picked up my container of lye, my hand wobbled and I ended up spilling the lye granules all over the table, and the carpet.  Just to make it better, I wasn’t wearing shoes or socks, so I freaked out that I was going to get lye all over my bare feet.  I leaped back from the table (somehow not spilling any more lye).  Put the lye down, found a piece of cardboard for me to stand on, and continued with my soap.  In my own personal chaos, I somehow forgot to measure and melt my cocoa butter.  So I added an unknown amount of lye to the right amount of water, and then added that to about 90% of the oils I planned.

Not realizing the problem, I continued with my batches.  My first batch turned out (I thought) great.  Smelled great, looked pretty, everything was great!  Making the second batch was another challenge.  I split my soap into the three colors I wanted, and realized after I did the split that I hadn’t added my fragrance!  So I added the fragrance to the colored soap individually.  About 10 seconds later, I realized that I should have tested the fragrance before making a huge batch.  It was accelerating trace and I needed to get it in the mold NOW!  No time to do fancy designs, or make sure I’d remembered to pour in the correct sequence of colors (I hadn’t, for the record).  Just get it in there!

Sigh.  My soap *looks* fine right now, but looks can be deceiving.  There’s always the possibility that I have lye pockets somewhere, which would be BAD.  I’m still going to cure it, and check every so often to see if there’s any problems.  And from now on, I’m getting a bigger container for my lye, so I can’t have a random hand wobble that results in a huge mess!

My new loaf mold

My husband is a wonderful, fantastic man, and agreed to try and make me a loaf mold for expanding my soap making possibilities.  Using silicone molds is fantastic, but the old-fashioned wooden loaf molds appeal to me on an aesthetic level.  The idea of using the same type of tool that’s been in use by generations of soap makers really makes me feel connected to the people who have gone before me.

So we looked up some plans for building a mold on the Internet, and went to Home Depot to look at lumber.  We discovered a wonderful product that they carry, where the pieces of wood are already cut down to smaller pieces.  My loaf mold ended up with dimensions of 22.5 inches long by 4 inches wide by 3.5 inches tall.  That means it can hold about 7.5 pounds of soap, if I filled it totally full.  Because it’s so big, I’ve added clear acrylic dividers so I can make multiple batches in the same mold.  We’re also considering making a second mold with permanent dividers included, as a permanent tester mold.  I am excited to work on my first batches!

DSCF1063 DSCF1064 DSCF1062

Contests?! Who doesn’t love a contest?!

In starting my journey with cold process soaping, I’ve run across a fantastic website for any crafter: http://www.brambleberry.com.  They have materials for soap making, candle making, lotion making, mineral makeup, and I’m sure there’s more that I just haven’t found yet!  Best of all, it’s linked with the Soap Queen Blog, where Soap Queen provides tutorials on how to make all of this!  The combination of great products and a forum to learn how to use them makes this site wonderful!  My favorite product, by far, from there is the Lots of Lather Quick Mix for cold process soapmaking: http://www.brambleberry.com/Lots-of-Lather-Quick-Mix-P5524.aspx.  Mixing and measuring oils is very time consuming in making soap, and so having them already measured and premixed is so fantastic.  It really saves me time and energy to focus on things like colorants and scents – the art on top of the science!

Currently Bramble Berry is running a contest to help determine their new fragrances for spring, and I’m trying to apply.  I think I’d be great in their SOAP panel.  I love fragrances, and I’m very good at deciding which fragrances go well together.  I’ve got a particularly sensitive nose, so I can often detect things that others might not.  In addition, since I’m just starting out crafting, I’m already making smaller batches, which would be perfect for testing a new fragrance.  I wouldn’t have to make any changes to account for the smaller batches!

What I’ve done so far…

I started Cinnamon Ridge Fragrance in October of 2011, but really didn’t do much with the business until late in 2012.  I started a store on Etsy: http://www.etsy.com/shop/cinnamonridge, and have added some of my items to it.  I made a couple of sales!  It was great, and encouraged me to look more into what handcrafted items I could make and sell.  From that, I found cold process soap.  What I’d been making was melt and pour soap – still handcrafted, but easier in terms of what the soap was going to turn out like.  There were fewer variables.  I was fascinated by the art of cold process soap, and how it overlaid the science of making soap “from scratch”.  I’ve added a few pictures to show you what I have for sale right now:

Honeycomb soap, with milk and honey scent

Honeycomb soap, with milk and honey scent

From bottom left to bottom right: primrose vanilla, mango coconut, juniper and vanilla pomegranate

From bottom left to bottom right: primrose vanilla, mango coconut, juniper and vanilla pomegranate

My bodywash!  From left to right, juniper, primrose vanilla, mango coconut and orange ginger

My bodywash! From left to right, juniper, primrose vanilla, mango coconut and orange ginger