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A Quick Catch Up

So my poor blog has been sorely neglected again – six whole weeks since my last post!! I think that’s probably the longest I’ve ever gone without posting, so I’ve had a word with myself, am suitably chastened, and will not be leaving it so long again 😀

Ok, lets get the inevitable out of the way.  No, we’ve still not moved into our new home, and no, the website isn’t ready yet. Both still trundling along though, so I should be able to share good news on both fronts at some point 😉

The great news is that two local retail outlets have now agreed to sell The Soap Mine soaps. Woop!  They’ve each taken a dozen soaps to display in their shops, and if they sell, they’ll take more. Fingers crossed!!

I’ve been busy building up stock levels again – sticking to the plan of ITP Swirls for FO soaps and Drop Swirls for EO soaps I wrote about last time:

Welsh Rose
Welsh Rose (ITP Swirl)

Welsh Rose is actually made with an FO called English Rose, but living in Wales, what else could I call it?!  Coloured with TD and pink mica.

Oatmeal, Milk & Honey ITP Swirl
OMH (ITP Swirl)

OMH (or Oatmeal, Milk & Honey) FO is so popular in the soaping community, but this is the first time I’ve used it. To me it smells very sweet, almost like marzipan, and I LOVE it.  Coloured with TD and three different brown micas.

Wake Up! (Drop Swirl)
Wake Up! (Drop Swirl)

This is a restock of my very popular Wake Up! soap.  Fragranced with Rosemary and Peppermint EOs and coloured with TD and green / blue micas

Parisian Flora
Parisian Flora (Drop Swirl)

Another redesign / restock. Parisian Flora proved very popular in its last incarnation, so although the fragrance is exactly the same (a blend of Lavender, Rose Geranium and Ylang Ylang EOs), as are the colours (TD and three pink micas), it’s now made using the drop swirl technique

Luscious Lavender
Luscious Lavender (Drop Swirl)

Luscious Lavender, simply fragranced wth Lavender EO, is by far my biggest seller. It really surprises me to be honest, but there’s no doubt about it, when I look back over my records, Lavender is definitely the one that I’ve made the most often over the years. This one thickened up on me a little quicker than normal, so the drops aren’t quite as delicate as I would have liked.

I also have a Marshmallow FO soap that was cut this morning, and isn’t yet ready to meet its public 😀 and tonight I made Black Jack – a blend of Aniseed and Spearmint EOs. That one’s still in the mould, so pics to follow sometime soon.

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A Range? Really…?

So, as work continues on my website (I know, I know, that’s another thing I’ve been banging on about for ever) my Web Designer and trusty assistant (aka my husband) has informed me that I need to develop ‘A Range’. Apparently I can’t keep making random batches of whatever I want to, with whatever ingredients / fragrances / colours I fancy trying and using a near infinite variety of design techniques. Nope, I need ‘A Range’…

Now I’ve read enough on Soap Business Best Practice over the last couple of years to know that this is true.  The main reason I guess is that I’ll lose business if I don’t have a range of bestsellers which are always in stock. I also think the website’s going to look a little crazy if there’s too much choice (and of course keeping a website up to date with an unlimited number of different products will be (I was told, sternly) a ‘nightmare’).

So, despite my misgivings, I’ve had to narrow things down a little and make some decisions.  I’m still going to make both Essential Oil soaps and Fragrance Oil soaps, though they’ll have their own separate categories, with no more than eight in each category to begin with.

To simplify things even further, Essential Oil soaps will all be made using the ‘Drop Swirl’ technique:

 

Enigma - Clary Sage, Rose Geranium and Lemon essential oils
Enigma – Clary Sage, Rose Geranium and Lemon Essential Oils

 

Spice Island - Aniseed and Orange Essential Oils
Spice Island – Aniseed and Orange Essential Oils

And Fragrance Oil soaps will be made using the ‘In The Pot’ (ITP) Swirl technique: (this first one is the soap that was in the mould in my last post – my first ‘post-move’ soap!)

Delicious - a dupe of the popular DKNY Be Delicious fragrance
Delicious – a dupe of the popular DKNY Be Delicious fragrance
Lemon Meringue - An intensely lemony yet sweet fragrance.
Lemon Meringue – An intensely lemony yet sweet fragrance.

The two techniques can sometimes look quite similar, and I might decide in time that that’s not such a good idea, but I’ll wait and see.

I’ll should still be able to indulge my creative streak as I’m hoping to make more seasonal soaps – I’ve missed a trick in the past by not making specific (for example) Christmas, Summer or Valentines Day soaps so that’s where I think I’ll be able to try out different fragrances and designs.

What do you think of my plan?

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Anyone for Embeds?

This month’s challenge over at Amy Warden’s Great Cakes Soapworks was to make a soap with embeds, ie soap with different shaped/coloured soap embedded within in it. One of the examples Amy used in her tutorial was this beauty:

Rise-and-Shine-soap

Isn’t it gorgeous?

I wasn’t going to enter the challenge this month as we move next week (are you bored of hearing about it yet? 😉 ) but I do like getting involved so decided to whip up something simple at the last minute, just so that I could take part.  I’ve already taken a peek at some of the other entries and there are some absolutely stunning creations, I’m a little embarrassed to post my little simple soap, but hey ho – I might win the booby prize :0)

Back in 2012 I made a soap that was really popular, called Bubblicious:

Bubblicious

and I thought it would be a quick and easy one to replicate for this challenge.

So I made up two small batches of soap and coloured one pink and one lilac. After about 24 hours I unmoulded them and started to roll different sized balls out of both colours:

Soap balls

This soon became ridiculously laborious and I realised I could probably get exactly the same effect if I rolled lengths of soap like these:

Soap sticks

I then made up a larger batch of soap and added titanium dioxide to make it nice and white. I fragranced it with a lovely floral blend of Rosewood and Ylang Ylang essential oils.

I then simply poured a small amount of soap into the bottom of the mould, laid some balls in and covered them with the white batter, then repeated until the mould was full, making sure I kept enough balls back to decorate the top of the soap. Voila:

Bubbles in the mould

And here are the cut bars:

Bubbles!

Very simple, but a nice effect nevertheless.  There are so many ways to play about with this technique, I’ll definitely be making many more embed soaps in the future.

Thanks, as always, go to Amy Warden for organising the challenge and giving us all an opportunity to drool over each other’s creations :0)

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I missed one…

I don’t know about you, but I go daft for reading Soapy blogs. I use bloglovin, which I love because even though I don’t always get to read posts as soon, and as often, as I would like, it keeps me up to date with all my fellow soapy bloggers and I never miss a thing. In fact, it was fellow soaper’s blog that reminded me last week that I had actually missed something – I’d forgotten to post about my most recent Lavender soap.

Ruth Esteves over at The Sirona Springs Blog posted a great tutorial on creating Mica Oil Swirls on the top of soaps, and invited readers to link their own attempts in the comments section. So I though I would. Only I didn’t have anything to link to, ‘cos I’ve not blogged about it. <Ahem…>

So here it is – a reincarnation of Luscious Lavender, but with a mica oil swirl.  The soap itself is coloured with violet ultramarine, but the closest mica I had was ‘Patagonian Purple’, and it’s not really a good match colour-wise (at all, lol). Never mind – I love the effect anyway (and I’ve just placed an order for ‘Grape’ mica which I’m hoping will be closer to the ultramarine colour and more ‘lavender-like’ for future soaps 🙂

Pure Lavender Essential Oil with a Mica SwirlI didn’t take any photos of the process, but all I did was mix about half a teaspoon of mica in a small container with about a teaspoonful of olive oil, and then used a disposable pipette to drop the mixture all over the soap once it was in the mould. I then used a wooden skewer to create the swirls. Easy peasy 😀

If you have a soapy blog please feel free to share it in the comments below. If I don’t already follow you – I will!

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Taiwan Swirl

I’ve been on a bit of a self imposed soaping break recently, in preparation for ‘The Big Move’, and it feels like ages since I last made soap.  When Amy of Great Cakes Soapworks posted this month’s soaping challenge – the beautiful Taiwan Swirl – I decided  to sign up just to watch the tutorial and see how it’s done.   Anyhow, watching the video got me itching to make soap again, so, at the eleventh hour, I unpacked all the soaping gear (to raised eyebrows from my other half :-D) and gave it a shot.

The Taiwan Swirl calls for a really really thin soap batter, which I knew would be my first challenge. My usual recipe traces fairly quickly and wouldn’t be any good for this design. Amy suggested 80% Olive oil to 20% Coconut oil, so I ran that through SoapCalc and decided I’d like the final soap to be a bit more bubbly. I plumped for 70% Olive oil, 20% Coconut oil and 10% Castor oil. Some of you will have spotted the obvious mistake already – guess who totally forgot that Castor oil can speed up trace?

I mixed up a blend of Lemon, Clary Sage and Ginger essential oils to fragrance the soap, and chose what I hoped would be complementary green and orange micas for the colours. I dispersed the micas in about 15ml of Olive oil:

photo 1(2)

I had already made up the lye solution and melted/mixed the oils earlier in the day, so I had both at room temperature. I added the lye to the oils and briefly mixed with the stick blender to the point of a very VERY light trace.  Amy, in her video, suggested stopping as soon as the batter was emulsified and just before it traced, but I missed that window and definitely hit trace  🙂  I poured a very small amount (just over 100ml from a 750g batch) of batter into each jug of mica and poured the remaining batter into the mould. I knew I was running out of time as the batter in the mould was thickening so I quickly poured the coloured mixes into the base (from high, to get the colour down through the batter to the base – one down one side, lengthways, and the other down the other side). Both were poured at the same time, which proved challenging!

Then I swirled, using a skewer. The swirling is a bit difficult to explain without a diagram but here goes: Put the skewer into the mould, right down to the base, in one corner of the mould then make tight ‘s’ shapes from one short end of the mould, side to side down the length of the mould to the other short end. Then, keeping the skewer in the mould, make long ‘s’ shapes along the length of the mould – at 90 degrees to the first ‘s’ shapes. I hope that makes sense but if not there are some great YouTube tutorials on my Pinterest board here.

Anyone spot the next obvious mistake? Yup, I forgot to add the essential oil blend. Ah well, too late to do anything about it :-s

photo 2(1)At this stage I was a little bit disappointed with what was in the mould – the swirls weren’t as fine as I’d hoped, and the green colour wasn’t very defined, but by the next morning it was looking better, and by the time I cut it I was pretty happy with the result….

Taiwan Swirl by The Soap Mine

It’s still pretty soft – I’ve never made a soap with such a high percentage of liquid oils before – and I think it’s going to need a good long cure time to get nice and hard. I really should have left it for at least 48 hours before cutting, rather than my normal 24 hours, but I was in a hurry to get this post finished, and a picture uploaded onto to Amy’s challenge web page before the deadline, so that’s what I’m off to do now 😀

Thanks Amy for another great challenge!

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Ooops…

I made this soap a couple of months ago and it’s been a surprisingly good seller, despite its rather ‘plain jane’ looks:

CP Soap - Serenity

Ordinarily I love my colours and swirls, and in my head this one was going to be a beautiful drop swirl design in shades of blue, a bit like this green one I made not so long ago…

Green drop

but it wasn’t to be…

I usually soap at room temperature. To that end I generally mix up my lye solution and melt my hard oils and butters during the baby’s midday nap, so that they’ve cooled down nicely by the time both kids are asleep in the evening. I also weigh out my liquid oils and add them to the melted oils as well – this starts the cooling process and also makes the ‘hard’ oils and butters less likely to re-solidify as they cool.

So on this occasion I prepped everything as normal, and once the bedtime routine was finished I eagerly set to work.  I combined the oils with the lye, added the essential oils (a blend of Bergamot, Patchouli, Orange and Ylang Ylang) then portioned out the batter and mixed in the colours (titanium dioxide, denim blue mica and ultramarine blue pigment). It was only after I’d poured all of the white portion into the mould that I realised that, even when I dropped in the two blues, I wouldn’t have anywhere near enough soap to fill the mould.

It only took a second or two for the penny to drop.   For some reason I had skipped a step at lunchtime, and hadn’t added the liquid oils to the melted oils.  My measured out liquid oils were still in a jug, put away safely to one side. Arrrgghhhhh! I couldn’t bear to waste a 3lb batch of soap, so did the only thing I could think of. All the mixed batter went back into a big bowl (oh the colours looked so pretty as I poured them in!) along with the liquid oils and I stick blended like crazy. The batter had originally behaved very well and traced beautifully (I’d had no indication that anything was amiss) so I had no idea whether it would work or not. I fully expected ricing, seizing or something equally frustrating but no, it all combined really well and I was able to pour my (by this stage) very plain, unicolour soap.

Despite everything, I’ve called it Serenity. The colour is very calming, and the fragrance blend is soothing and comforting. It’s funny how things turn out.

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Look What I Won…

Back in August, amid all the buzz heralding the release of Soap Crafting by Anne-Marie Faiola (aka The Soap Queen), I entered a prize draw posted by the lovely Cee on her Oil & Butter blog.

A number of soapy bloggers had been asked to review the book and make a soap using one of the recipes/methods therein. They were also given an extra copy of the book to give away to one of their (US based) readers.  As part of her review, Cee made a loaf of Alkanet Root & Fennel soap from the book and all we, the readers, had to do to enter the draw was to comment on the post about essential oil blends and/or natural colourants, and names would be drawn out of a hat (so to speak). Now, not being in the US, I knew I wouldn’t be getting my mits on a copy of that coveted book, but Cee wasn’t about to forget her international readers, oh no :).  As well as giving away a copy of the book, Cee was generously giving away a bar of that very soap to one of her lucky international readers.

And that reader was me! Cee sent me message via Facebook to say I’d won, and I did a happy dance.  On the 5th September Cee sent me another message to say it had been sent.  Oooh I was excited… My husband didn’t quite get it. ‘You’ve won soap? We don’t have enough soap already?’ while pointedly looking at the boxes in the airing cupboard / attic / wardrobe / under the bed… Hahahahah… But yes, I was excited 🙂

The weeks passed, and then some more weeks passed.  Finally, on 5th November (yep, two whole months in transit!!) Cee’s beautiful soap arrived, and here it is in all its gorgeousness:

Alkanet Root & FennelIt’s wonderful to use – silky smooth, abundantly bubbly and smells divine. And just look at that piping on the top *swoon*. It’s fragranced with Fennel, Lavender, Grapefruit and Patchouli essential oils and coloured with Alkanet root. A  full tutorial can be found on Cee’s blog here. (Do also check out her amazing gingerbread house made of soap – stunning stuff!)

Thank you once again Cee for sending it all this way – I love it!

PS – I did finally get my own copy of the book when it was released here in the UK, and it’s great – but that’s another post :0)

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Yet another confetti soap

I liked my first confetti soap so much that I think I got a little obsessed with making them. This was the second, and here’s the third, and final (for now!) confetti soap:

soap 010

This one was made with brown coloured gratings from amber glow and chocolate vanilla truffle and fragranced with a blend of cinnamon, patchouli and bergamot essential oils. It smells gorgeous 🙂

Here’s the full set of three:

soap 020

Now to crack on with stocking up for the upcoming farmers’ markets – more of which soon!

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Ugly soap come good

Remember the failure (or two!) I had a few weeks back while making the Mantra Swirl soap? I wanted a way to use up some of that not-so-pretty soap and this is what I came up with:

Mandarin & Patchouli 002

First I grated up a whole load of the red and green portions of the ugly soap, then made up some soap batter and fragranced it with a blend of Patchouli and Red Mandarin essential oils. I then split the batter into two equal halves, then split one of those halves in half again to give me three portions of soap – one half and two quarters.  I added all the soap gratings to the larger half portion, mixing it gently but thoroughly to make sure there were no air pockets in there:

photo 2 (8)

Next I poured one of the quarters of soap batter into the mould, then slowly started to add the gratings mix:

photo 3 (8)

Finally I added the last quarter of soap over the top of the grated mix, and gave it some texture:

photo 2 (10)

This is the soap immediately after cutting.  The small bars at the front are the two end pieces cut up for samples:

photo 5 (7)

I’m so pleased with it that I’ve decided to make it the first in a series of three. The second has just been made and will be revealed very soon. The third is still in planning stage but will be made this week.  Keep an eye out for updates!