Guest post by Amber Beltran of A Squirrel & A Scholar Soap Co.
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NEW DIVIDES FOR NEW DESIGNS
Back in February, I wrote a guest blog entitled, “United we Stand. Divided we Swirl”. In that blog, I shared how to use a simple mold divider cut from cardboard to create a two-toned batch of soap. It was swirled with pretty purples and earthy greens, then scented in Nurture Soap’s superbly herbal “Lavender & Sage” fragrance oil! Within that blog I had expressed my desire to one day own real mold dividers, and even mentioned the idea of revisiting the topic when I did. As a soap maker on a budget, if there’s a tool I’d like to use in a soapy project that I can make myself, that’s normally what I do! I firmly believe this wonderful craft can be tailored to fit any budget, and anyone who wants to make soap absolutely can!
As a long-term user of handmade dividers though, I really wanted to treat myself to one of Nurture Soap’s mold dividers, so eventually, I did! I was curious to see how my new mold divider (made specifically to fit Nurture Soap’s 2.5LB loaf molds) compared to my handmade, cardboard counterparts, and admittedly, the advantages and ease of use blew me away! The sheer amount of design possibilities available to me (and how much easier they were to execute!) had me regretting that I hadn’t treated myself to this incredibly handy tool so much sooner! In full honesty, I can sincerely say that Nurture Soap’s mold divider was worth every penny, and it’s been no comparison for me... I LOVE it!
Please know though that in no way, shape, or form do I say these things to make anyone feel as if they’re lacking, “missing out”, or need to buy a mold divider too. Your purchasing decisions are 100% personal and completely unique to you. If you’ve never had the need or desire to purchase a mold divider, that’s absolutely A-Okay! If you’re perfectly happy making your own mold dividers, that’s wonderful too! For my personal soap making wants and needs, it just worked out better for me to “upgrade” to one of Nurture Soap’s mold dividers. I will say that if you’ve been genuinely interested in purchasing one, I really think you’ll love it; and if you already have one, I truly hope you’ve had just as much fun using it in your soap making designs as I have with mine!
There are so many reasons why I love Nurture Soap’s mold divider, and so many different ways to use it, but one of my most favorite things is how easy it is to customize! With a single divider, I have the option of dividing my mold into 2, 3 or 4 different sections! For this specific blog post, I wanted to share a design technique I’ve had stuck in my head for weeks! This batch was my first time actually attempting it, and although I have some improvements I’d like to make the next time I attempt this technique, I’m still very pleased with the results of this soapy “first draft”!
It’s a technique I’ve dubbed “The Whirl Swirl”, and for this specific design, I’ll be using Nurture Soap’s mold divider to divide the batch into four sections. Please feel free to give this design a try (and learn from my mistakes!) in your own soap making adventures at home! The mold divider makes this design super easy to execute, but it certainly isn’t a deal breaker if you don’t have one. Handmade mold dividers will do the job just fine too; you just might need to borrow an extra hand if doing so, so that someone can help keep your dividers steady while you pour the soap. At the end of the day though, isn’t that what husbands, wives, roommates, friends or teenage children are for anyway?!
Because this was the first attempt of a design technique I’d never tried before, I wanted to keep things going as smoothly as possible so there wouldn’t be too many hidden surprises along the way. A fragrance oil I loved, had worked with before, and knew would behave like a perfect angel in cold process soap was an ideal choice. Lucky for me, Nurture Soap carries many fragrances which preform wonderfully in soap, and as I got to sniffing my collection of fantastic fragrances, my nose stopped at an absolute classic! You know a fragrance oil is downright amazing when the moment you pour it from the bottle, it fills your whole world with the most addictively uplifting aroma, and no matter how many times you’ve smelled it before, you never, ever, ever grow tired of it! That fragrance oil, my crafty friends, is none other than Nurture Soap’s “Awaken” fragrance oil! Many suppliers carry this duplication fragrance, but it’s this soap maker’s sincerest opinion that only one carries the ABSOLUTE BEST version of it!
My first goal in seeing this project through to the end was to get some melt and pour soap embeds made, which would decorate soap frosting I’d pipe onto the very top of the loaf (This step being optional, of course!). To my nose “Awaken” fragrance oil is one of the happiest scents on earth! It’s cheerful, bright and deliciously fresh, carrying more dominate notes of citrusy-herbal lemongrass, with enlivening hints of juicy-crisp lime! Grassy, garden-inspired embeds would be the perfect visual accompaniments to the authentic “vibe” of this fragrance, but I really didn’t have anything like that. What I did have though was an embed mold of fruits and veggies, and an overactive imagination! I made one set of embeds in the shape of carrots, and colored those in Nurture Soap’s deeply lush “Jade Green” mica. The second set of embeds were made in the shape of pineapples, and for those, I used the lighthearted shade of “Hello Spring!” mica. For the third, and final, set of embeds, I used Nurture Soap’s all-time-classic “Lime Appeal” mica to make little soaps in the shape of onions.
But what the heck does carrots, pineapples and onions have to do with “Awaken” fragrance oil? In all truthfulness, absolutely nothing! BUT... Their leafy, grass-shaped tops sure played well into the theme of the aroma! And so, once I had completed my embed-making, I took a smooth-edged knife and cut the tops off each embed variety! And there it was... A green, grassy, herb garden collection of embeds, perfect for complimenting the revitalizing scent of “Awaken” fragrance oil!
Since the main batch of soap would feature 4 divided sections, deciding on the perfect color-combo for the project was a leafy breeze! Once again, I’d include our lovely greens (“Jade Green”, “Hello Spring!” and “Lime Appeal” micas), but add a complimenting shade of yellow too, to give those gorgeous greens a touch of eye-catching “POP”! A bright, happy yellow seemed just right, so of course, I simply had to include some “Rise and Shine’ mica too!
GOTTA KEEP ‘EM SEPARATED!
I know I’ve mentioned it before in previous blogs, but I feel it bears repeating, especially if you’re new to soap making. It’s one of those situations where if you’re not prepared for it, the first time it happens, it can come as quite a shock! What I’m referring to is that very common, very natural occurrence of green and yellow micas temporarily changing color, or “morphing”, when first incorporated into fresh soap batter. This certainly doesn’t occur with every green and yellow mica, but if it happens in your own cold process soap recipe, there’s no need for alarm, I promise! Some green and yellow micas just have a tendency to temporarily morph, either in shade or color, when first added to raw soap batter, but the key word to remember here is “temporarily”. When first incorporated into soap batter, some green micas can take on more of an olive tone, or pea-green shade, while some yellow micas (usually the softer shades), can turn orange.
Whether you’ve been making soap for 20 days or 20 years, soap making will always find new and clever ways to keep you on your toes... Temporary color changes are just one of those many ways! As soon as saponification is complete (That fascinating process when a lye molecule bonds to a fat molecule and undergoes a complete molecular change! The lye is no longer lye, and the fat is no longer fat...Together they bond and become soap!), your beautiful green and/or yellow micas will return to their original and true colors... Scouts honor!
As I proceeded to get my own batch of soap underway, it was time to get it poured into each divided section. It’s easier if you use a bowl or cup that you can pinch while you’re pouring, or a soap pitcher with a long, narrow spout. Try to stay within the “lanes” of the mold divider as much as possible when pouring your soap, but at the same time, don’t sweat the small stuff either. If you get a little dribble of soap batter in the wrong divided section of the loaf, that’s no biggie at all! We’ll using a hanger tool to swirl the colors together anyway!
Once you’ve filled each divided section of the mold with as much soap batter as it can possibly fit, go ahead and carefully remove each divider, and the divider end-pieces, by steadily pulling them straight up and out, one at a time. At this point, I like to take a spatula and scape any excess soap off my divider pieces and back into the mold so that none of that precious soap batter goes to waste. Once you’ve removed all the divider pieces, you’ll notice your soap batter will go down in volume within the mold. This is a great opportunity to spoon remaining soap batter on top of the loaf. Use each section of soap as a guide for where to pour or spoon your remaining soap batter.
WHAT’S A “WHIRL SWIRL”?
I got the idea in my head for a round, “whirlpool-type” swirl within a batch of soap, and have been itching to give it a try! I was curious to see if what I was picturing in my mind could be clearly seen once the bars were cut. The actual movement of the hanger tool is quite simple actually! Starting in the very center of the mold, I began by making the smallest of loops, then continued to increase the size of each loop as I went around and around with my hanger tool. Once my hanger tool reached the bottom of the mold, I moved the tool over to the side of my mold, then pulled it straight up and out. But was it really going to work? There was only one way to find out! Although my drawing skills are pretty rudimentary, here’s a diagram of “The Whirl Swirl”, which shows the movement of the hanger tool through the soap:
As soon as I completed my so-called “Whirl Swirl”, I grabbed my trusty spatula and scraped every last bit of soap remaining in each cup, then dabbled it across the top of the loaf. This was my first little “mistake”. Although I’m a total sucker for swirling the tops of my soap batches when I’m all finished (There’s something oddly relaxing about using a bamboo skewer to make swirls across the top of soap!), the next time I attempt this design, I’ll add every last drop of soap to my mold before completing the hanger swirl. That way, every bit of soap has a chance to get swirled into the actual design itself. In either case, the top of the batch still looked pretty to me, but it was time to move on to piping the top of the loaf!
INCREDIBLE YELLOWS AND WHAT I’D DO DIFFERENTLY
For the soap frosting portion of this project, I had it in my mind from the very beginning that I wanted the top of this soap to be super-bright yellow. Of course, the brightest yellow known to humankind is, without a doubt, Nurture Soap’s exclusive ‘Full Throttle” mica pigment! Now, normally, for the sake of time (I’m not known for being able to sum things up in a few, short sentences. Character-limits and I are mortal enemies!), I usually skip over the “nitty gritty” of the soap frosting portion of my projects and jump straight to sharing a picture of what the soap looks like once the piping is complete, the embeds are placed, and it’s time to put the batch to bed for the night.
This time however, there was NO WAY I wasn’t going to share this picture! Normally with yellow micas, I bump my usage rate up just a little, especially if I’m going for a brighter, more intense shade of yellow, but “Full Throttle” mica pigment at 1tsp per pound of oils in my soap frosting recipe had me looking for my jaw after it hit the floor! The sheer intensity of this color is simply unbelievable! I was in total awe, and after snapping this picture, I decided to only lightly dust the top of the soap frosting with some eco-friendly shimmer. Using a pinch of “Gold Enigma” mica, I applied just enough to bring out a bit of sheen and accentuate the yellow awesomeness that is “Full Throttle” mica pigment! Other than that, this color truly needed nothing more to be absolutely amazing!
As soon as I’d gathered my wits about me again, I went ahead and placed each makeshift, garden-inspired embed on top of the batch and called it a day! It was time to get the batch insulated for the night, then impatiently wait until it was ready to be unmolded and cut. If something even remotely resembled a swirly whirlpool once the batch was cut, I’d be happy with that!
Now I must admit the second mistake I made when creating this soap design. I’m really excited to take these little “oopses” and make improvements with the next batch I make though! And, of course, if sharing my mistakes helps my fellow crafters have the best experiences possible while creating this design as well, it makes it all the more worth it! As many of you may already know, “Awaken” fragrance oil behaves exceptionally well in cold process soap. It behaves so well in fact, it actually decelerates trace in my own soap recipes! Normally, this is a soap maker’s dream-come-true, since a decelerating fragrance oil means plenty of time for multiple colors, intricate designs, and easy-breezy soap making. However, I looked at this deceleration as something to worry about.
Because I’d never attempted this technique before (Well, beyond having it play on repeat inside my head!), I worried about my colors becoming mottled if the batter was too thin, but in all actuality, I should’ve known better. Instead, I over-complicated things, and decided to blend each soap portion to a thicker trace before pouring it. It wasn’t until I cut the loaf that I realized this particular design actually needs to be poured at a very fluid trace. When I cut the loaf into bars, I was thrilled to discover I really could see a “whirly” design in each bar, but because I had poured and swirled the batch at a slightly more medium trace, I didn’t get swirls throughout the entirety of each bar. The different colors didn’t swirl into one another as I had hoped they would because the batter was just too thick. For this particular design, you really do want to work at a very thin, fluid trace so that all the colors swirl in-between each other in a circular pattern that includes the entire bar of soap.
In any regard, for a first attempt, I’m very pleased with the results and feel excited to give it another shot (or rather, another “whirl”)! If you’d like to try this swirly-whirly design in your own crafty creations at home, my best advice would be to get every last drop of soap into your mold before swirling the batch with the hanger tool, and keep the soap batter very fluid while you work. If you don’t quite end up achieving exactly what you had in mind though, don’t give up! Just take a few rejuvenating sniffs of “Awaken” fragrance oil and give it another try... You’ve got this!
SOAP RECIPE (SLOW-TO-TRACE):
- Sodium Hydroxide (Lye) @ 5% Superfat
- Distilled Water @ 33% (2:1/Water: Lye)
- 42% Refined Olive Oil
- 27% Coconut Oil
- 23% RSPO Palm Oil
- 8% Castor Oil
- 6% “Awaken” Fragrance Oil
- 1TSP/PPO: “Jade Green” Mica, “Hello Spring!” Mica, “Lime Appeal” Mica & “Rise & Shine” Mica
FROSTING RECIPE (AMBER’S FAVORITE!):
- Sodium Hydroxide (Lye) @ 5% Superfat
- Distilled Water @ 33% (2:1/Water: Lye)
- 35% Refined Olive Oil
- 28% RSPO Palm Shortening
- 27% Coconut Oil
- 10% Castor Oil
- 6% “Awaken” Fragrance Oil (Optional)
- 1TSP/PPO “Full Throttle” Mica Pigment
- “Gold Enigma” Mica (Dusted on Top)
- Melt & Pour Embeds: “Jade Green”, “Hello Spring!” & “Lime Appeal” Micas
- ATECO #172 “Drop Flower” Piping Tip