Wednesday, March 31, 2010

New Heavy Duty Tractor Mold

Check out our newest mold design, the tractor! We love the endless color combination possibilities, the separate sections for layering little details, and the perfect 4 oz bar size. Pair it with Grass Stain fragrance oil and throw together a few melt-and-pour Cartoon Cows for a great farm themed Spring soap line.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Swirling Exercise

Saturday was a blast! We had Kim from Pepo Park take some private classes with us before the full liquid soap session at 2pm. She was very energetic and prepared with awesome questions. Being an experienced soap maker for 10 years, we went right into some advanced swirling techniques.

In this cold process batch, we used a blend of Orange Valencia and Lemongrass essential oil. About half of the base was lightened up with a little titanium dioxide, which created the perfect cream color to go with the deep cappuccino mica and yellow oxide swirl. I'm glad we didn't fragrance it with Chipotle Caramel or I would have taken a bite right into it! We used a rubber spatula and reeds to make the swirl pattern and it hardened up enough by the end of the day for her to take it home. Thanks Kim, you did a great job!

For a list of our classes and opportunities for you to create your own day or class with one of our instructor's including Otion and Bramble Berry founder, Anne-Marie from Soap-Queen, please check out this page on our website.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Soap for the Gardener

For some, Spring means more than just longer days. It means getting your hands dirty in the garden! This gave me the idea of putting seeds in a clear melt-and-pour soap base and pairing it with a fun garden inspired fragrance or essential oil, such as tomato leaf, lettuce, rosemary, or gardenia to name a few.

If you want to make a cute gift set out of it, use the seed package to create a unique and colorful card. Simply cut out the front side and glue it to the face of a sturdy blank card (cardboard works perfect for this). If you want to take it further, throw in a fragrance, some reeds and your beautiful custom soap in a large jute bag for an added "earthy" feel.

I really like using a clear soap base because it lets the light shine through, exposing the seeds. I also tried swirling in some opaque soap to achieve a creamy appearance. See below.

I'm definitely going to keep an eye on the soaps over the next week to see if the seeds cause unsightly brown spots that is so common with dried botanicals, such as lavender and rose buds. Even so, if you're giving this soap to a gardener, a little natural browning probably won't be too upsetting for them ;-)

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Great Rebatch Experiment

I'm definitely a sucker for a good deal, and as soon I found an old Crock Pot at Value Village for $10, I new I had to try a rebatch! I started out by grating down a cold process loaf that I thought was pretty boring looking and threw it in the pot with a few splashes of water, cranked it to high (since my old pot only had two settings), stirred it and went back to business around the store.

I must admit, I wasn't very particular about keeping track of exact times, quantities and temperatures. Instead, I pretty much treated it like a carefree concoction and threw a bunch of stuff I had at hand into a pot, checked on it once in a while to stir and add more water over the course of an hour or more. When it came to a translucent phase (as in photo below), I added color and fragrance and some dried chamomile (roughly an ounce of fragrance for this two pound batch, and a couple of teaspoons of mica pigment).

Then I gooped it into my lined mold and sprinkled some lavender buds and more chamomile on the top for a little detail and let it sit overnight.

When I cut it the next day, I was a little underwhelmed by the fragrance. Apparently I'm not a huge fan of the smell of dried chamomile and didn't put enough fragrance oil in to mask it, but I'll keep that in mind for my next batch. It was also pretty soft because I added a little more water than necessary, but it will sit out and cure over the next few days and harden up. Still, I took advantage of the softness and rolled some fun looking balled bars.

The texture of rebatch soap is awesome-- very handmade and rough looking. When making soap from scratch, you need to wait a full month for the lye to neutralize before you can use your soap. The beauty of rebatching is that you are simply changing an existing finished soap so there is virtually no wait time. Either grate down a cold process loaf like I did here, or you can purchase some pre-grated rebatch bases like these. I can't wait to try it again!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Soap Bar Wedding Favors

Yesterday, we had the pleasure of helping out a first-time soap-maker with wedding favor soaps for her sister. We discussed color, theme, scent and quantity and used the soap bar to make a practice batch before she does the rest of her project in Texas. She used the guest botanicals mold, countryside blue dust labcolor and shea melt-and-pour soap base to practice layering. She also tried out swirling with a discontinued leaf mold that we have floating around in the soap bar bins. Bravo!

Here are some tips for making wedding favor soap:

1. Use the colors from the wedding to keep the theme consistent.
2. If the couple is known for something, try to pick a mold that expresses their personalities. Classic and elegant, or humorous and adventurous.
3. Chances are you'll be making a lot of them, so keep it simple! Trust me, you'll be pulling your hair out if you try to put too much detail in each individual bar. Swirling is the easiest and fastest way to add interest.

If you are really crafty, you can take your wedding favors to the next level by customizing them with the couple's initials. Soap Queen has made it easy in this great video:

Soap Queen TV Episode 10: Wedding Favors from Soap Queen on Vimeo.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Perfect Touch

Rubbing in a little mica pigment on the surface of a soap will pop out that gorgeous detail that may normally go unnoticed. This trick is super easy and the results are very dramatic. For this project, I made my melt-and-pour soap like normal, used a clear soap base that I colored with a variety of mica pigments, and scented it with Woodland Elves fragrance oil. But instead of calling it done with the de-molding, I added a special touch to finish my soap. Remember, it's those extra little efforts that will catch the eye!

You will need:

Step One: Pour a variety of colors and swirls for a basic bar. After de-molding your melt-and-pour soap, spray with rubbing alcohol to create a slick surface for rubbing in the pigment.

Step Two: Using a mini-scoop, tap a very small amount of opalescent green mica on a paper towel and then rub all over the surface of your soap. Repeat with the heavy gold mica. The deep parts of the detail in the soap will contrast beautifully against the higher surface that catches the pigment.

Before and After. Less is more! I like to apply the gold in patches on top of the opalescent green mica to create depth.

Try this technique with different colors. The darker your soap is to begin with, the more stunning the detail.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

...and this is why we test...

Ever make a huge batch of cold process soap and find that all of your hard work turns into a clump before you can even pour? Or better yet, you put on a circus act to perform a quadruple swirl pattern only to find out that the entire thing went brown over night? Yup, that's the fragrance, and those results are exactly what we are looking out for in new scents before they hit the shelves so that you don't have to go through the frustration of bad behaving soap.

I've written a post about testing before, but I couldn't resist putting up a photo of these twenty new fragrances that were tested this afternoon. Look at the amazing changes made just by adding scent! It turned out that anything with peach in it separated from the oils and pooled on top. Bamboo, cherry blossom and root beer float all seized horribly (see the one's with the clumpy texture). Vanilla, candied apple, leaf, blueberry, and cotton candy all discolored. In fact, many synthetic fragrances have vanilla in the blend to add a warm note, which means the soap will brown. In my opinion, it's best just to embrace the browning and go with the natural quality of the scent as a theme when coloring your soap. There really isn't much of a fix for browning fragrances in cold process, but you can always leave part of the soap unscented to make a brown and white swirl.

Now I'm super curious as to what these will look like as the weeks go by!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Catching Up with Snapshots

Happy Monday and welcome to a new week! Here's a look at what's been happening at the soap bar:

On Saturday, Jill from Northwest Scents taught a great lotion making class. Everybody left with two 6 oz bottles of lotion that were made in class, personalized with their own choice of fragrance.
Keep an eye on our website for an updated class list and your chance to learn how to make lotion from the best!

Check out this crazy cold process swirled loaf done in a private soaping class with Kat. It looks sort of like Neapolitan ice-cream with the cappuccino mica, coral mica, and titanium dioxide colorants. To divide the loaf like this, put a piece of cardboard in the middle and pour on both sides, then pull out the cardboard and give the mold a shake to push the two sides together.

St. Patty's Day is right around the corner and our awesome Otion staff member, Ashley, has put together some cute shamrock melt-and-pour soaps. For a complete list of St. Patrick's Day soapy supplies, including fragrances, colors, and molds, click here.

One of the best seller's lately has been the reed diffuser bottles. At only $3.30, these classy 8 oz glass bottles are a steal and the recipe for a custom reed diffuser blend is so easy. Simply combine one part DPG (dipropylene glycol) and one part fragrance of your choice. Thin the entire mixture with rubbing alcohol until you reach a watery consistency, add reeds and you're done!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Double Layer Cold Process Loaf

Happy Wednesday everyone! For this fun from-scratch project, grab your 2 pound wooden loaf mold and print out lining instructions here. We're going to make a simple and beautiful double layer cold process soap using the following basic recipe:

4 oz Canola oil (or olive oil)
4 oz Palm oil
4 oz Coconut oil
1.7 oz Sodium Hydroxide
4 oz Distilled water
0.7 oz Fragrance of your choice, I used English Rose for both layers
1/4 teaspoon color of your choice, I used coral mica for the bottom layer

3 Pyrex dishes, two medium and one small
Stick blender
Mug for portioning fragrance
digital scale
fork for stirring lye solution
2 pound wooden mold
freezer paper and tape (Scotch tape works okay, but masking is better)
color and fragrance of your choice
paper towels are very handy
oils, distilled water, sodium hydroxide

This recipe is for one layer. You will be making each layer separately instead of making one big batch and splitting it. By the time you have poured your first layer, washed your dishes and prepared the second batch, the first layer will have set up enough so that the second will sit on top of it instead of pouring right through. Below is an example of a lined mold with freezer paper, shiny side up.

Make sure you have read up on safety precautions when using sodium hydroxide before attempting to make soap from scratch. Sodium hydroxide, or lye, is a caustic chemical that must be handled with caution and in a well-ventilated space. This also means suiting up in rubber gloves and goggles (in addition to your glasses) and wearing long sleeves to protect your arms. Have everything you need set up before you start so that all you have to do is pour and mix.

Measure out your melted oils, the dry sodium hydroxide and fragrance. Use the little Pyrex dish to measure out the sodium hydroxide dry before adding it into the water. If you are weighing out the sodium hydroxide while pouring it into the water on the scale, you might just slip and pour too much or even pour out a big clump that could splash up the water. Always pour sodium hydroxide into the water to avoid a "volcano" situation, and mix while you pour to avoid lye clumping on the bottom of your dish. Above are the oils and below is the lye mixture doing it's thing. It's hard to see, but there's steam rising from the lye water and the temperature started at about 165 degrees F. and dropped fast, which is actually a bit cooler than the 4 pound batches we make in class that get up to about 180 degrees. Oils and water should combine to be about 200 degrees.

I like to mix my color in the oils before I add the lye because I don't have to worry about reaching trace and running out of time just when I'm doing the coloring part and haven't even put fragrance in yet. Below shows the colored oils with about a 1/4 tsp. of coral mica being blended with the lye solution and reaching trace.

When you reach trace, or the point where when you lift your stick blender above the soap, it is thick enough to leave a visible trail on the surface, you can now add your fragrance and keep mixing. Sometimes, the fragrance will thin out the trace a bit, or even speed it up. One you have thoroughly mixed in the fragrance (0.7 oz), pour into the mold and start washing dishes so you can do it all again-- it's worth it!

For a pretty contrast, I left the top layer the natural color, but feel free to mix and match any color in the rainbow. Below shows layer number two being mixed and poured. Don't forget to fragrance this layer, too (another 0.7 oz). It's also really fun to do a different scent in each layer to create a unique blend when smelled together. Well, you know, to an extent... not sure if wasabi and carrot cake would smell so hot ;-)

You can take the soap out of the mold the next day and cut off a piece, but remember to wait the full month before using it so the lye can neutralize. Hey, these might even make a pretty good Easter gift with a bow around the middle of the bar! Have fun, and please let me know if you have any questions.

Monday, March 1, 2010

*Reporting Live from the Soap Bar*

On my way to work this morning, our peaceful little Holly Street in Old Town was hiding behind a giant curtain of smoke. While detouring around the back by the waterfront, I got a clear view of what took place overnight. A fire had destroyed three vacant buildings just down the hill from the soap shop and firefighters are still putting it out as I write this. Bay Street Village (Otion's building) is safe and sound, and right in the middle of the news coverage action. I can see Kiro TV set up across the street in front of Rocket Donuts, and swarms of people are making their way into town for a glimpse of the destruction.

It looks like everything is under control and at this point, just a spectacle. So, back to the soap!

We finished up February with a full cold process soap making class over the weekend, and I was impressed as usual by the beautiful soaps that were created. Everyone jumped into swirling and some even tried fun additives like ground loofah and lava sand. We all loved how strong the contrast turned out with black oxide and opalescent green mica. Remember the cow soap from December's class? There's that black oxide again.

Classes are filling up fast! Please visit our website for a schedule and to sign up. Is there a class you wish we offered? Let us know, we'd love to hear from you!