Winter is here, at least where I am. The nights have grown long, and dark, and cold. The first flurry of snow fell, just barely enough to cover the grass. The house smells like the furnace and wet boots. The coldest nights lie ahead, but the soaping room is warm and soft with the scents of Spring. Sun-drenched blooms, gentle rain, warm woods waft into the hallway. Though Valentine’s Day comes before the true beginning of Spring, it is the first holiday that brings us gifts of fresh flowers. This soap is a pleasure to have curing for now and will be a pretty and fragrant soap when its season comes back to us.
Shades of Spring
To begin, I mixed a batch of soap big enough to fill my loaf mold. The recipe I like, with goat milk and plenty of olive oil, is here, but there are others here, if you prefer different ingredients, or want to work toward gel phase and even stronger colors. It’s important to choose a recipe that will give you a very white soap. If yours needs a boost, titanium dioxide will provide it. Half this soap stays white. The other half was divided into three other bowls and a single small cup. In the first, I mixed Neon Red Fluorescent Pigment. I have to confess to having developed a little crush on the Neon Fluorescent Pigments; they’re bright and fierce, not colors to be trifled with. In the second, I used Neon Orange Fluorescent Pigment. I added a little extra Neon Red to deepen it. In the third, I used Purple Vibrance Mica, with a little Midnight Blue Mica. In the little cup, just the Midnight Blue makes a very clear, deep blue shade.
Scents of Spring
Botanical Bliss Fragrance Oil is light and sweet and floral. It could stand alone, if you desired a pure floral scent. Since I like to experiment, I worked with others. After a few tries, I created a blend of fragrance oils with a woody heart and hints of smoke over the sweetness of the flowers. With 40% Botanical Bliss, I mixed 10% Crisp Juniper Fragrance Oil, 25% Grim Reaper Fragrance Oil, and 25% Afternoon Tea Fragrance Oil. They all play well in soap, and with each other, without discoloring or accelerating, so they could be mixed together, and divided more or less evenly among all the colors. I stir even well-behaved fragrances in by hand, just in case they decide to act up. These did not.
Shapes of Spring
Half the mold was filled with white. Holding each bowl high, I dropped single straight layers down the center of the mold, one directly on top of the other. Most disappear beneath the white, though a little remains on the top. The thinnest layers are the two blue ones, but there may be more of the others. This soap stays very fluid, and thinner layers are prettier in this soap. When all the soap is layered into the center, you’ll have something like this.
Let it sit, just a half hour or so, depending on your recipe, so that the last of the white will sit neatly on top and cover the loaf. I used my spatula to break the fall, to ensure a very smooth, light, pour. To achieve the shape, I pressed the hanging swirl tool straight down in the middle, through the top, all the way to the bottom, one time, then lift it straight back up, slowly. When it was done, I mixed some Neon Red into a very small amount of oil and trickled that across the top, parallel with the long edge. Then swirl to your heart’s content.
Then wait. With milk soap, which is just a personal preference, it needs to wait in the fridge. But you can intensify these colors further by letting it get hot, to encourage gel phase. Either way, when it was finished, I had this.
Ordinarily, I need a couple of tries to get something I’m pleased with. But this is (almost) exactly what I was after. My intent was to bring the swirling tool along the bottom of the mold and bring it up the side so that the upstroke wouldn’t show. If you would like to reproduce this exactly, you’ll need a dog in the other room to startle you by barking at nothing, so you can hit your elbow on the table, and swirl it through the middle instead. Feel free to curse a bit, if that helps.
If you celebrate this time of year, I wish you a very Happy Holiday. If not, may the New Year bring you much joy.