Guest post by Amber Beltran of A Squirrel & A Scholar Soap Co.
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SOMETHING OLD, SOMETHING NEW, SOMETHING BORROWED, SOMETHING FUN TO DO!
There’s nothing that gets those inspirational juices flowing quite like a change of scenery! My husband and I flew in from hot, balmy Florida to crisp, rain-soaked Pennsylvania to attend a dear friend’s wedding, and there’s just nothing in this whole world I’m enamored more with than a New England fall! At this very moment, as I type this blog, a nearby church bell tolls, quaintly reminding me of the time, as a passing train rumbles through town, sounding its cautionary horn. The sky is dreary and gray, as a steady drizzle of raindrops fall softly upon one of the oldest cities in America, and every treelined avenue is bedecked in the splendor of fall colors! As I sit at my makeshift desk (An old oak vanity my husband moved in from my Father-In-Law's attic.), sipping on a warm cup of coffee and listening to the soft hum of a portable heater at my feet, I can’t help but feel a whirl of emotions; all of them good!
To me, this is the perfect way to celebrate another magical Halloween- my favorite holiday of the whole year! Being able to visit beloved family in an old townhouse built in 1901, coming back for the first time in ages to a New England Fall, and being able to share in the joy of watching a cherished friend marry the love of her life... What could be better than this? And so, for this week’s blog, I thought I’d honor this marvelous season with something old, something new (Well, to me at least!), something borrowed, and something fun to do!
The “something old” has definitely got to be this city and turn-of-the-century home I’m writing this blog from! Being that at the time of this writing, Halloween (And the Masquerade-themed wedding!) is tomorrow, I was kinda-sorta hoping the house would be a little haunted, but sadly it’s not. I mean, the only thing cooler than staying in an old, creaky home with tons of unique, old-world character would be staying in an old, creaky home with tons of unique, old-world character and a friendly ghost or two! Instead, I slept like an uninterrupted baby last night, and get absolutely no hair-raising vibes from this place, so there goes that idea! The “something borrowed” would for sure have to be all the clothing I’ve borrowed since arriving in Pennsylvania! Thankfully, my Father-In-Law's girlfriend is the one of the kindest people on this planet, so the moment this freezing Floridian showed up on their doorstep, shivering and shuddering in the cold, she didn’t waste any time getting my unprepared and under-packed self properly clothed!
As for the “something new” and “something fun to do” part, that’s when things really start to get soapy! It occurred to me that one of the least attempted design-techniques I do in soap making is in-the-pot swirling. I’m such a huge fan of hanger and drop-swirls, I often overlook this super-fun, beautiful and easy-to-do technique, so I figured now would be as great a time as any to make an in-the-pot swirl design! There are so many different ways to execute an in-the-pot swirl in cold process soap, with each one producing a slightly different, and uniquely lovely effect! Because of the vast number of options and pour-variations available to soap makers within the technique itself, I thought it would be fun to try a style of in-the-pot swirling I hadn’t done before. Enter: The “Zigzag” Swirl! The movement-of-pour for this soap making technique is exactly how it sounds, and for this blog, we’ll be giving it a go in a luscious-smelling batch of handmade soap! Once finished, I’ll share my thoughts on the design-technique, including things I’d do differently, different soap making projects this technique would be great for, and the overall ease of the process itself (For new soap makers interested in trying something fun and different!). So, without getting too lost down “Nostalgia Lane”, let’s make some soap!
HOW ‘BOUT THEM APPLES... AND BERRIES?
Speaking of nostalgia, I just realized that one of the fragrance oils featured in this soap project is actually the very first fragrance oil I ever used when I wrote my very first guest blog for Nurture Soap, just a touch over 11 months ago! WOW! Has it already been almost a year since I’ve had this immense honor? Without a doubt, it must be true... Time really does fly when you’re having fun!
The fun only continues when we take two positively mouthwatering fragrance oils from Nurture Soap and use them to create one truly delectable aromatic affair! The very first guest blog I had the honor of writing featured “Blackberry Bliss” fragrance oil, and what a blissfully sweet and deliciously juicy blackberry it is! Unfortunately, I didn’t have quite enough of it on-hand for a full 32oz batch of soap, so I decided I’d just blend it with another fragrance oil equally as scrumptious... Nurture Soap’s “Apple” fragrance oil stood out to me loud and clear!
With the juiciest, most authentically-crisp apple aroma to have ever graced my nose (No exaggeration!) mixed at equal parts with the most mouthwatering blackberry aroma, we have ourselves a winning combination here! Notes of ripe, plump blackberries are uplifted and complimented so exceptionally well by the sweet tartness of juicy, red apples, an aroma of richly-multifaceted berries emerged, creating an aromatic blend best described as “regal” or “imperial”; a scent-sensation fit for royalty! And so, the idea for “Imperial Berries” Handmade Soap was born!
In my mind, a zig-zaggy soap project fit for a queen or king simply had to feature soap frosting too, so my first order of business was to create some decorative soap embeds to place on top of said frosting! Of course, additional embellishments are always optional, especially for a soap project such as this, where we’ll be focusing on the actual technique, or design-of-pour more, but if you’d like to re-create the decorative melt & pour embellishments I’ve made here, or something similar, you’re always more than welcome to!
Crown embeds in Nurture Soap’s vibrantly playful “Hollywood Pink” mica were dry-painted with a healthy amount of stunning, metallic “Maya Gold” mica, while little berry embeds were created with Nurture Soap’s Low Sweat, Clear Soap base, and colored in more “Hollywood Pink” mica, as well as the aptly-named, beautifully bold “Candy Apple Red” mica!
I was really loving this pink/red combination of colors so much, I decided that for the actual zigzag swirl itself, I’d stick with this simple, yet vibrantly rich and flirty color-duo. Borrowing a bit of my batch oils, I dispersed more “Hollywood Pink” and “Candy Apple Red” micas, as well as some pristinely pretty “Winter White” mica. These three lovely colors would make up the whole of my first attempt at an in-the-pot zigzag swirl!
ZIGGING AND ZAGGING!
Before jumping right into a new design-technique, I always recommend taking some time to read and/or watch how other soap makers do it first. Some people are better kinesthetic learners, catching onto new things faster by simply delving in and doing, while others have more success learning visually; watching videos and/or studying pictures to see the process in action. I think a lot of crafters are bit of both, but it never hurts to see how other crafters do things, and how their unique styles differ from one another to arrive at the same goal. Every single crafter has their own “magical touch”, or way of doing things, and there’s truly no wrong way about it! Being more of a visual learner myself, I decided to watch videos of how other soap makers executed the zigzag swirl first, and loved how each one put their own, unique spin, or rather “zigzag”, on it! From what I gathered from these talented soap makers, each one began the pour itself at the end of their mold, either choosing to begin centered, or at an end-corner. Molds were slightly propped up at the pouring end, allowing the soap batter to easily flow down to the other end during pour. Arrows in the picture here show where you can choose to begin pouring your own zigzag swirl, with each point-of-pour producing equally pretty results!
One thing I noticed unanimously across the board was that each soap maker made sure to keep their soap batter very fluid and workable from start to finish. The reason for this is because the soap batter must travel down the length of the mold as its poured from the opposite end. This creates a lovely effect in the finished soaps, where the design looks wispy and intricately textured. I can imagine this being much more difficult to do with stubbornly thick soap batter... Your poor mold would definitely need to take a beating to get the soap batter evenly distributed throughout, and the finished look wouldn’t be as fine, wispy or textured-looking. In practice, this meant blending my soap batter to emulsion only, then splitting it into three equal portions for the three beautiful colors chosen.
For this technique, it was super helpful that the sensational-smelling “Blackberry Bliss”/ “Apple” fragrance oil blend behaved like a soap maker’s dream in application, but using a slower-moving, more “forgiving” recipe can also make all the difference! Whenever I’m creating a soap design that I’d prefer stay more fluid for longer, I really enjoy using Nurture Soap’s Soap Making Oil Blend, which is a gorgeously well-behaved, easy-to-work-with recipe that makes for an excellent, skin-loving bar of soap! I’ll include that recipe down below, but whichever cold process recipe you’d enjoy using most will work just as great, so long as you work while your soap batter is nice and thin, and at a fluid and workable consistency.
Begin by pouring your soap batter down the side of a large bowl, with the pouring lip being at about a 45-degree angle from where you pour the soap batter. Pour in a repeated pattern, one color right after the next, until all three portions of soap batter have been fully added to the bowl. This may be a slightly different in-the-pot swirl than what you might be used to seeing, but rest assured, the motion-of-pour we’ll be doing will definitely get those colors swirled!
With your soap mold slightly propped up on the end you’ll be pouring from, begin pouring your soap batter from down low, allowing it to gently and fluidly flow down one end of the mold to the other. As you pour, break the fall of the soap batter by pouring it down the side of the mold first, and move the bowl in a quick back-and-forth (Or “zigzag”!) motion as you do so. I found it most helpful to rest the bowl on the end of my mold as I poured, moving the bowl in this back-and-forth motion as I went along. As you pour your soap batter, continue zigging and zagging until the opposite end of the mold is almost completely filled.
Once nearly filled, remove the object you’ve used to prop your mold up and lay it flat. Once again, and in the very same spot, repeat the same back-and-forth, zigzagging motion-of-pour until the mold is completely filled to the top. You may need to stop pouring periodically to give your mold a shake, and convince the soap batter to move on down to the opposite end, but with the right soap recipe, and well-behaving fragrances, it won’t take much coaxing to get the soap batter easily and evenly distributed throughout the entirety of the mold.
A SMALL WORD ON BIG EMBEDS...
Completely unrelated to the in-the-pot zigzag swirl, but no less important to decorative soap making, I wanted to quickly mention, or rather, bring up the topic of working with larger embeds (For those soap makers who enjoy making soap frosting, as well as melt & pour embellishments to go on top of it!). Every once in a while, I’ll create some adorable embeds from a new mold, only to find out the hard way that they’re just too tall/big. When I unmold a new batch of soap and discover it doesn’t quite fit in my soap cutter (Not one of Nurture Soap’s soap cutters, but someday I will own one!), it can be frustrating figuring out how to best cut the loaf, without accidentally breaking off embeds in the process!
The best way to incorporate larger embeds on top of your piped-top soap batches (And have them work for what you’re envisioning!) is an easy, and quite beautiful fix! Take the crown embeds made for this project for instance... Going into it, I knew these lovely embeds were going to be pretty wide, and a bit too tall for my wire soap cutter. The solution: Instead of a taller, more pyramid-shaped frosted-top, create a shorter, more rounded, or arched, top! If you normally pipe the tops of your soap batches to form tall peaks, try stopping at around the halfway point to create a shorter, more rounded-looking top. You should have no problems fitting just about any size embed on top of your soap frosting that way! For this specific project (And these “big-boy” crown embeds of mine!), that’s precisely what I did! Even though this piped-top may be shorter than my “usual”, I absolutely love the more rounded, arched look it creates, as well as the freedom it gives me to use larger, wider and/or taller-sized embeds- without accident or injury to them! Pictured here, I’ve added a stunning shimmer of “Gold Dust” Enviroglitter to soap frosting colored in “Winter White” mica, which makes this shorter, more rounded piped-top absolutely sing!
Finishing touches of little berries, and giant-sized, sparkling crown-embeds brought the “Imperial Berries” theme of this soapy project together beautifully, creating a cute visual for the positively palatable, savory-sweet scent of the fragrance oil blend; juicy, decadent blackberries, given a gloriously crisp boost of freshness from mouthwatering apples! All that remained was to get the batch insulated for the night, then impatiently wait to cut it the following day!
GETTIN’ ZIGGY WITH IT!
I made this batch of soap just before hopping on a plane to beautiful, chilly Pennsylvania (No joke, I cut the batch literally 10 minutes before leaving the house for the airport!), which is great, because it’s given me some time to think about this in-the-pot swirl-technique, and different ways this fun and beginner-friendly design can be utilized in various soap making projects! As promised, here are my personal thoughts on the zigzag swirl...
Things I’d do differently: Because this was my first attempt at this design, I feel there’s always room for improvement! I think the main thing I’d do differently in a subsequent batch would be to limit myself to two colors, instead of three, or choose colors which contrast more. As you can see in the picture of the cut below, the design does look finely-intricate and pretty, but because it must be poured while the soap batter is thinner and more fluid-like; and because the colors I chose don’t contrast enough between each other (other than “Winter White” mica), you can’t really see any defining difference, or separation, between “Hollywood Pink” and “Candy Apple Red” micas. A lovely shade of pink no less, these two colors still became quite mottled together within this soap design. In a future batch, I think either one of these mica colors would look stunning paired with “Winter White” mica, but I’d limit it to just one or the other. I really think this design-technique would look best, and have more visual definition, with just two contrasting colors. I’d also try alternating propping and pouring this design from both ends of the mold, rather than just the one. One end of the batch turned out looking more intricate and detailed (The end I poured from.), while the other end appeared a bit more “feathery” and mottled-looking.
Projects this technique would be great for: Every design-technique has an important place in decorative soap making, and the zigzag swirl is no exception. When I cut this batch, I could immediately see a number of different soap making scenarios this technique would be great for! Landscape themes, in particular, really stood out to me. If you’re a soap maker who enjoys re-creating the beauty of landscape scenes within your soapy creations, the zigzag swirl may be quite useful to you! The design itself lends a lovely textured look to soap, anything from wispy clouds to ripples of water could be created with it! One could even create the look of ocean waves, tree bark, or the fur or feathers of an embedded animal-shape with the zigzag swirl... There’s no limit to the imagination!
Who this technique is best for: ANYONE! I found the zigzag swirl to be fun and very easy to do! Whether you’re fairly new to soap making, or have been crafting for years, any soap maker can utilize and enjoy this technique! For the beginner looking for a new design to try, the zigzag swirl will be right up your alley! Just pick two contrasting colors, a beginner-friendly recipe, and a well-behaving fragrance oil (Or fragrance blend!), and watch unique swirls and designs take shape in your handmade soaps! For intermediate to advanced soap makers, challenge yourself to take it up a notch! You could utilize the technique in a gorgeous landscape scene, as described above, or switch the pour up entirely by alternating where you pour from, the height of pour, and/or the ends or sides of the mold you choose to prop up! Regardless of if you’re at the very beginning, middle, or long-term continuation of your soap making journey, whatever you decide to do, and wherever your imagination takes you, allow yourself to get “ziggy” with it, and you’ll rock it every time!
*This recipe utilizes the exact same base oils and percentages as Nurture Soap’s Soap Making Oil Blend! For all your batch oils conveniently pre-mixed and ready to go in one easy-to-use, no fuss, no muss oil-blend, give Nurture Soap’s Soap Making Oil Blend a try!
- Lye @ 5% Superfat
- Distilled Water @ 33% Lye Concentration
- 40% Olive Oil
- 25% Coconut Oil
- 25% RSPO Palm Oil
- 5% Sweet Almond Oil
- 5% Castor Oil
- 3% “Blackberry Bliss” Fragrance Oil
- 3% “Apple” Fragrance Oil
- 3% Sodium Lactate (*Optional. Added to cooled lye solution.)
- 1tsp/PPO: “Hollywood Pink”, “Candy Apple Red” & “Winter White” Micas
- Lye @ 5% Superfat
- Distilled Water @ 33% Lye Concentration
- 35% Olive Oil
- 30% RSPO Palm Shortening (AKA: “No-Stir Palm”)
- 25% Coconut Oil
- 10% Castor Oil
- 1tsp/PPO “Winter White” Mica
- Gold Dust Enviroglitter
- Decorative Embeds in “Hollywood Pink”, “Maya Gold” & “Candy Apple Red” Micas