Guest post by Amber Beltran of A Squirrel & A Scholar Soap Co.
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SERENDIPITY IN SOAP MAKING!
The wheels in my head are constantly turning and churning-up new ideas for blog topics I can share; topics I hope my fellow crafters will find value in. Currently, I’ve been working on one project in particular (or rather, an experiment) that by the time I’m finished, I will have worked over 30 days on! I’m so excited to bring the findings and results of this experiment to you, my soapy companions, as I really feel it will answer one of the most commonly asked questions in beginner soap making, once and for all! With so much going on behind the sudsy scenes recently, I’ve been thinking of ways I can share wonderful soap making projects and ideas with you, which are lighthearted and fun! Projects which are easy to fit into any hectic schedule, while still fully enjoying the artistic process, and presenting opportunities for any busy crafter to take a moment to stop and smell the soapy roses! This is precisely one of those projects!
I started out with the idea that I would share another great blending idea, which would feature fantastic Nurture Soap fragrances smelling equally as fantastic in a blend. What the project naturally transformed itself into however, came as a complete and pleasant surprise! Admittedly, I am a self-proclaimed soap making nerd! I have stacks upon stacks of notebooks filled from cover-to-cover with notes, recipes, custom fragrance blends, color blends, and miscellaneous soap making musings (Because who needs a computer when you can create unnecessary clutter in real life, am I right?). I pulled out my notebook marked “Fragrance Blends”, and quickly found myself feeling overwhelmed with options, and completely unable to make a decision! “No worries!”, I thought. “...I’ll just create an entirely new blend!”. From my fragrance oil cupboard, I grabbed a little bit of this, and a little bit of that and began tinkering away!
When I decide I want to create a new fragrance blend, I always grab a small baggie, a handful of cotton swabs and a marker. This allows me to blend fragrances without worry of wasting precious oils, as I can simply dip a cotton swab into each fragrance oil I want to include in my blend, then add them to the baggie to get an idea of what the blend will smell like. If I feel the blend could use a little less or a little more of a particular fragrance, I just adjust it by adding more cotton swabs, then use my trusty marker to keep a tally of how many swabs of which fragrance I added to the baggie. When I feel I’ve gotten my blend exactly where I want it, these little “tally marks” tell me exactly how many parts of each fragrance oil will make up the whole of my blend. With this information, I can easily create the actual blend, in the amount needed for my recipe. All it takes is some simple math.
The math remains the same for any number of cotton swabs you might’ve added to your baggie. For example, let’s say you’ve created a lovely fragrance blend, and you need a total of 6 ounces of it for your recipe. In your baggie, you have 8 cotton swabs in total and 3 different fragrance oils in the blend. 4 of these cotton swabs are scented in fragrance oil “A”, 3 cotton swabs are scented in fragrance oil “B”, and 1 is scented in fragrance oil “C”. To determine how much of each is needed to create 6 ounces in total, just divide 100 (as in 100%) by the total amount of cotton swabs in your baggie. In this scenario, that would be 100 divided by 8 total cotton swabs. The dividend will determine exactly what the percentage is of one part of the whole blend. 100 divided by 8 is 12.5. This means that just one part of your entire blend is equal to 12.5%.
Now that you know what one part of the whole is, you can use this information to determine the percentage of each fragrance oil needed within the blend. Fragrance oil “A” has 4 cotton swabs, or four parts. Multiply this by the percentage of 1-part. 4 multiplied by 12.5 equals 50. This means that fragrance oil “A” makes up 50% of the total blend. Repeat this for each fragrance oil in your blend... Fragrance oil “B” has 3 cotton swabs (or 3 parts). 3 x 12.5 = 37.5. Fragrance oil “B” makes up 37.5% of your total blend. Lastly, fragrance oil “C” has 1 cotton swab. 1 x 12.5 = 12.5. Fragrance oil “C” makes up 12.5% of the total blend.
The very last step is to convert these percentages into the unit of measurement you wish to use in your recipe. For this example, we want to make a total of 6 ounces of our custom blend. Fragrance oil “A” is 50% of the blend. 50% of 6 is 3. This means you’ll need to add 3 ounces of fragrance oil “A” to the blend. Fragrance oil “B” is 37.5% of the total blend. 37.5% of 6 is 2.25. You’ll add 2.25 ounces of fragrance oil “B” to the blend. Fragrance oil “C” is 12.5% of the total blend. 12.5% of 6 is 0.75. To complete the blend, you’ll incorporate 0.75 ounces of fragrance oil “C” to the blend. UGH! Math... I know! But trust me, it’ll come in handy, especially if you love creating your very own fragrance blends!
In my own blend, I really had no clue what to expect, or what I was even trying to achieve! I just grabbed bottles of fragrance oils I thought would smell nice together and blindly began adding cotton swabs to my baggie! When I reached that moment of “blending nirvana”; that magical moment when you smell your aromatic concoction and think, “This is IT! It’s perfect!”, something totally unexpected happened! Not only did the blend itself smell utterly fabulous, but I knew this scent from somewhere! The aroma was hitting me right in the “memory spot”! When it finally hit me what it reminded me of, I realized I had just experienced blending serendipity!
Serendipity is the experience of searching for something, yet finding something entirely different in the process that makes you just as happy! My serendipitous moment happened when it occurred to me that my blend smelled exactly like the ripest, sweetest, most juicy fig, with just the slightest, yet oh-so-delectable hint of creaminess at its base! I couldn’t believe it, but there it was; an essence of mouthwatering fig with a kiss of sweet cream! You never know for certain what you’re going to end up with when it comes to fragrance blends. Some can be absolute hits, while others can turn out being disappointing misses. This was a definite HIT, and I’m so excited to share this accidental aromatic hit with you! It’s a fragrance blend I’ve lovingly named “Sweet Cream & Fig”, and you can make this mouthwatering treat by creating a blend made up of 40% “Devious” fragrance oil, 20% “Cottongrass” fragrance oil, 20% “Juicy Apricot” fragrance oil and 20% “Blackberry Bliss” fragrance oil... All available at Nurture Soap, of course!
THINGS YOU MUST KNOW ABOUT FIGS!
With this accidental “figs & cream” scent thrown in my lucky lap, it became entirely settled that I wasn’t just going to make and share a custom fragrance blend for this blog’s topic; everything was going to be a blend! With the exception of “Winter White” mica, every single color used in the batch would be a blend too! I began searching for pictures of figs online for color inspiration, and ultimately found a fig-inspired color palette that spoke to me! Other facts about figs spoke to me too, including some things I had no idea about! It might not be soap-related, but the figgy information I stumbled upon had me feeling so fascinated, I simply had share it! Oh! And by the way, figs are currently in season, now through October, so if you’ve never tasted a fresh fig before (They taste nothing like Fig Newtons!), I highly recommend going to your local Whole Foods market and picking some up! A ripe, ready-to-savor fig will have soft “give” on the outside, and may even show signs of cracking, with some of its sweet, syrupy juices escaping!
Did you know that figs have a simply fascinating symbiotic relationship with wasps, and that they’re not even a fruit? Well, it’s true! Figs are actually inside-out (or inverted) flowers! On each plant, there are 2 types of figs; inedible male figs (also known as caprifigs), and the sweet, delicious female figs. Certain types of figs have a complete symbiotic relationship with fig wasps. They both depend on each other for reproduction. Being inverted flowers though, figs can’t be pollinated in the traditional way, as the flower actually blooms within the pod. The male figs have the pollen the female figs desperately need to ripen, and fig wasps are up for the challenge! It’s the fig wasp that enters a small opening in the fig, called an ostiole, to complete a cycle of life vitally important to both the fig and the wasp!
Female fig wasps must crawl inside a fig in order to lay her eggs, and in an attempt to do just that, she’ll crawl into both male and female figs. The male figs might be inedible to humans, but they’re especially important to the female fig wasp. If a female fig wasp enters a male fig, she has chosen wisely, as its ideal environment allows her to lay her eggs before dying. Her eggs hatch, beginning with the blind, flightless males, and the hatchlings then mate to ensure the survival of the next generation. Once impregnated with eggs, the female fig wasps then fly out of the caprifig through tunnels the males have burrowed out for them. When they leave their fig birthplace, they aren’t just carrying eggs though, they’re carrying precious pollen too!
The life cycle begins anew, and each pregnant wasp leaves to find a new fig to lay her eggs in. If the female wasp enters a female fig however, it spells doom (for her at least)! The inhospitable environment of the female fig makes the wasp unable to lay her eggs, and eventually she dies of starvation. Her death is not in vain though! The pollen she carried with her has successfully pollinated the female fig, and now it can begin to quickly ripen, and eventually become a delectable treat!
But wait a minute! Wouldn’t that mean there’s dead wasps inside the figs we eat? The relieving answer to this question is: NO! Sure, a wasp (or several) died within the fig, but nature is a marvelous thing! Along with this beautiful relationship between fig and wasp, nature also plays a part in ensuring we get to enjoy the fruits (or rather, flowers) of the fig wasp’s ultimate sacrifice. Female figs produce an enzyme called ficin. This enzyme completely breaks the insect’s body down into proteins, which are fully absorbed by the plant itself! Mama wasp didn’t die in vain when she picked the wrong fig, as a healthy plant means a healthy and delicious harvest! Pretty dang fascinating if you ask me!
FIG-INSPIRED COLOR BLENDS!
With some self-education out of the way, it was time for me to mix up my color-blends to match that fig-inspired color palette I’d picked. As usual, I wanted this batch to have soap frosting on top, so I began by making some decorative embeds first. This step is completely optional, but feel absolutely free to re-create the color-blends themselves in your own soapy creations! I especially love the purple blend I mixed up to create fig-shaped embeds, but this particular blend might not be as stable in cold process application. Without a doubt, it looks positively stunning in melt & pour soap base though, and it’s a color blend I’ve named “Figaro”. You can make this blend by mixing 2 parts “Blackberry Mica” with 1-part “Purple Vibrance” mica! On a side note, I kinda have a thing for giving each new mica blend its own name, as it helps me remember and envision the color better when I want to use it again in a future project. After the fig embeds came the leaves, and while I’ll save this mica blend’s name for a bit later, it was created by mixing 2 parts “Enchantment” mica with 1-part “Cabin Fever” mica.
Mixing up 5 different color-blends that I chose to use within my soap batch was probably the most fun I’ve ever had when it comes to mixing colors! Going off the color palette I borrowed inspiration from during my online search, I grabbed dang near every purple mica I own, as well as quite a few other colors too, and went to blending town! Mixed in their dry state, they looked beautiful, and I couldn’t wait to get them into a batch of soap, scented in that most delectable of fragrance blends!
As I prepared my soapy project at hand, I went ahead and dispersed each mica blend in a bit of batch oils. That’s when I really fell in love with these colors! They looked so pretty, I thought I’d take a moment to introduce you to each one...
The first mica-blend is a color I aptly named “Aubergine”. For this shade, the goal was to create a purple so intensely and richly dark, it was almost black. I couldn’t have been more thrilled with how this color turned out! After cutting the soaps and seeing this color in action, I officially want to use it in every batch of soap I make now! “Aubergine” is what our British friends across the pond call eggplant (Why do Brits always get the good words? “Aubergine” sounds way cooler than “Eggplant” any day!). You can make it by blending “Purple Vibrance”, “Fantasia” and “Black Pearl” micas at equal parts.
The second mica-blend is a color I decided to call “Purple Fog”. The purpose of this blend was to create a soft, dusky shade of purple. By blending 2 parts (each) of “Iris Purple” and “Winter White” micas with 1-part (each) of “Neutral Gray” and “Silver Mist” micas, it turned out exactly as I hoped it would! Its name, “Purple Fog”, comes from my days of living in New York, waiting for the train to work to arrive in the brutally frigid, early-morning, winter hours. It was so cold, as the sun began to rise, it would illuminate the fog with a dreary, purple haze. Although the memory sounds miserable, it was really quite beautiful, and this color reminds me of that memory!
For our third mica-blend, “Plumbago Periwinkle” was the name this color was born to have! I wanted the perfect shade of soft periwinkle, and this is as perfectly periwinkle as they come! Here in Florida, Blue Plumbago flowers grow in abundance, and I have three large bushes in my own yard that I absolutely love! They’re called “Blue” Plumbago, but they’re actually the prettiest shade of periwinkle. This mica-blend is a dead-ringer for those flowers, and you can create it by mixing “Iris Purple”, “Sky Blue” and “Winter White” micas at equal parts.
“Princess Pea” is our fourth mica-blend, and you may recognize it from the melt & pour leaf embeds pictured above! For this color, I wanted a shade of green that was decidedly pea-green, but just a bit brighter than traditional pea-green tones. “Enchantment” mica was exactly what this blend needed to achieve the perfect hue, and you can make this shade by mixing 2 parts of “Enchantment” mica with 1-part “Cabin Fever” mica. This specific green reminded me of one of my all-time-favorite childhood fairytales, “The Princess and the Pea”! As a kid, I used to think I was her, and was 100% sure I’d be able to feel a pea under my mattress too! Unfortunately, no one ever told me it wouldn’t work with canned peas, so to this very day, I still think I’m owed re-do! Canned peas or not though, this mica-blend conjures up images of what that fateful pea must’ve looked like, so the name “Princess Pea” seemed only right!
For the fifth, and final, color-blend, I wanted the truest, deepest, richest, shade of teal I could possibly create! It took me a couple tries to get it just right, but eventually, I was able to achieve that richly-pigmented, deeply-saturated color I was aiming for, by mixing 2 parts “Synergy” mica with 1-part “High Society” mica. My first attempt at creating this color turned out having just a touch too much blue in the mix, but “Synergy” and “High Society” micas together created the truest of teals! After dispersing this blend in a bit of batch oils, I had Disney songs stuck in my head, and it slowly occurred to me I was absentmindedly humming along without initially realizing it! The association was definitely sparked by a certain, red-headed, singing mermaid us kiddos of the 90’s all knew and loved; and it was the color of her scaley tail which this blend reminded me of! Naturally, “Mermaid Serenade” seemed the perfect fit for this gorgeous, aquatic blend!
RUNNING WILD WITH ARTISTIC DESIGN!
The sensational fragrance oil blend and the gorgeous mica blends featured in this blog can be interpreted and utilized in so many different ways, mediums. applications, and designs, it was important to me to focus more on the blends themselves, rather than the soap design I made. If you’d like to re-create the soap design pictured below in your own soap making ventures at home though, you are absolutely more than welcome to! Just use your favorite cold process soap recipe, and let that inner soap artist out! If you don’t have a “go to” or favorite soap recipe quite yet, please feel free to use any recipe I’ve included in many of my previous blogs, which are usually located at the bottom of each post. This information also includes my favorite soap frosting recipe, for anyone interested in turning their soap batches into a fun “high-top” design!
The design I chose to make within my batch of soap is one of my personal favorites, and includes pouring a tiger-swirl down the middle of the mold, then finishing by pulling a hanger tool through the soap in large, gradually-descending loops until the tool hits the bottom of the mold. Pulling the hanger tool out by moving it up one side of the mold is all it takes to create a swirly and colorful design! There’s really no right or wrong way when it comes to swirling soap batches though... Any movement of a hanger tool that you decide to do within your batch of soap is going to yield a plethora of pretty swirls throughout the bars no matter what!
Now, keep in mind that when it comes to the positively decadent fragrance oil blend shared in this week’s blog, “Devious” fragrance oil on its own does discolor to a medium tan in cold process soap. Also, if you have the old formula on-hand, before it was reformulated to be phthalate-free, as well as better behaving in cold process application, it may speed up trace in your recipe as well. With that being said though, the only portion of soap batter which I left unscented in my own batch was the portion colored in “Winter White” mica. I added this magnificent, fig-fresh, syrupy-sweet, slightly “green”, creamy-like blend to every other portion of my soap batter and haven’t seen any noticeable discoloration, darkening, or morphing of my mica colors! What’s more, this fragrance oil blend soaped beautifully in my recipe, with only very mild acceleration noticed toward the very end of pour. This is no way hindered me from successfully executing my chosen design, but If you’re worried about possible acceleration in your own soap batch, there are ways to give acceleration a run for its money! This includes soaping at cooler temperatures, omitting or reducing additives and/or ingredients known to speed up trace, increasing the amount of water/liquid in your recipe, increasing the percentage of soft oils within your recipe while lowering your hard oil percentages, or all of the above!
For the soap frosting portion of my soap project, I chose Nurture Soap’s positively stunning and royal-looking “Imperial Purple” Enviroglitter to complement all the lovely purples within the batch itself, add a dusting of jaw dropping shimmer to the top of the loaf, as well as add a whimsical touch of sparkle to the decorative fig and leaf embeds too!
SHOW YOUR TRUE COLORS!
And now, the moment of truth has arrived...It’s time for the “big reveal” of our mica color blends in action! I really wish there was such a thing as a “scratch n’ sniff” app for your phone, since it’s the fragrance oil blend that makes up a huge part of the total soapy experience! As for the color blends though, I’m thoroughly infatuated with how they turned out in the finished soaps! I have to say, “Aubergine” has my heart, but every single blend came out strikingly gorgeous and beautifully pigmented in application!
This was one of those rare projects which began with one idea, and evolved into something entirely different by sheer happenstance! The inspiration from one “happy accident” became the fuel for new ideas; ideas which ultimately grew into even bigger inspirations which helped to create, not just an amazing aroma, but a fully-custom batch of soap (I like to think using “Winter White” mica doesn’t count... There’s just no way to blend white!). From the aroma gracing its bubbly presence, to the colors which accentuate the aroma’s profound loveliness, some might even say there’s a symbiotic relationship between this soap’s scent and its colors... Just like the fig and the fig wasp! Okay, okay, that might be a bit of a stretch there, but one thing’s for sure, it really is a unique, one-of-a-kind batch of soap! The absolute best part about this soap’s “uniqueness” though is that even if a fellow crafter utilizes this custom fragrance blend to create their own batch of soap, or colors a batch with some, or all, of these mica blends, the result will always be a unique batch of soap! Why is that? Because handmade soap is precisely that! No one has YOUR two hands or YOUR imagination... What your hands make, and what your imagination dreams up is entirely unique to wonderful, one-of-a-kind YOU!
QUICK BLENDING CHART
- “SWEET CREAM & FIG” FRAGRANCE OIL BLEND - 40% “Devious” Fragrance Oil 20% “Blackberry Bliss” Fragrance Oil, 20% “Cottongrass” Fragrance Oil, 20% “Juicy Apricot” Fragrance Oil
- “FIGARO” MICA BLEND - 2 Parts “Blackberry Mica” to 1-Part “Purple Vibrance” Mica (*May Not Be Stable in CP. Test First!)
- “AUBRGINE” MICA BLEND - Equal Parts: “Black Pearl” Mica, “Fantasia” Mica & “Purple Vibrance” Mica
- “PURPLE FOG” MICA BLEND - 2 parts (Each) “Iris Purple” Mica & “Winter White” Mica to 1-Part (Each) “Neutral Gray” Mica & “Silver Mist” Mica
- “PLUMBAGO PERIWINKLE” MICA BLEND - Equal Parts: “Iris Purple Mica”, “Sky Blue” Mica & “Winter White” Mica
- “PRINCESS PEA” MICA BLEND - 2 Parts “Enchantment” Mica to 1-Part “Cabin Fever” Mica
- “MERMAID SERENADE” MICA BLEND - 2 Parts “Synergy” Mica to 1-Part “High Society” Mica