Monday, January 27, 2014

Blackberry Vanilla Cobbler

Blackberry Vanilla Cobbler Soap
I have wanted to make some fruity soaps and this is one of the ones that I have been looking forward to.  It has been on my list and I just couldn't wait any longer.  Unfortunately because my soaping space is unheated it requires more forethought and planning.  I have to turn the heaters on a couple of hours beforehand as well as start any oils melting.
Warming my oils and my space

I started by measuring out the water and lye for my batch.  I did not mix them however.  I wanted the lye water to be as hot as possible to help finish melting the oils.  I started by melting my coconut oil in the microwave.  It took 6 minutes before I got enough oil melted for a batch.  I had put the olive oil on top of the heater and enough of it was melted for the batch but not any extra.

I got all of my oils measured out.  I got the lye mixed.  Warning - do NOT mix lye in a small closed space.  It created some really nasty fumes.  I thought that my space was ventilated enough.  IT"S NOT.  Wow, I thought that I was going to choke, before I got the window opened a little bit.  I got it to the point where I could no longer see vapor coming from the container before I poured the lye water into my oils.

All of my colors
In the pot swirl
After getting everything to a medium trace, I poured off about 10 ounces to be colored brown before adding my fragrance oil to the remainder of the batch.  I poured off about 1/3 for white and 1/3 for natural, that I hope will discolor brown from the vanilla.  The final third I colored with alkanet oil.  I used about 30 ml of brown oxide to color the little bit of unscented soap.  You can see all of the colors here.

I molded my samples first like I usually do, before pouring the white and uncolored into the purple.  I went with 12,3,6, and 9 as well as pouring into the middle.  I offset the uncolored from the white, so that I would get a better swirl.  This swirl is called an "in the pot swirl."  I made a couple of passes through the soap with the skewer.  I poured the soap into my lined mold.  Once I had all of the soap into the mold, I used a skewer, my swirling tool of choice, to swirl the top into a pretty design.

Top Swirl ready for  piping
After I got the swirl to my satisfaction I got the  brown ready to go for piping on the top.  I used my stick blender to get the soap to a thicker trace.  I used a disposable piping bag and a flat/basket weave tip without a coupler.  I filled the bag with the tip folded over to keep the soap from flowing out.  I filled the bag with all of the brown soap.  I did have to let it sit for a few minutes, but it definitely could have been thicker.  I ended up being a little bit drippy, but I got the job done.  I used the flat side of the tip to pipe a crosshatch pattern on the top of the mold.

My space works even if it is cold ;)
After I had the soap in the mold done to my satisfaction, I still had brown soap in my piping bag.  Since it is a pretty shade of brown I decided to fill my shell molds.  I we able to put a little bit of white in a few of the cavities for contrast.  I used the skewer to swirl the white a bit as well.

I have now made 2 batches of soap in my new space.  I have to say that while it is cold, it is actually a very workable set-up.  I brought all of the soap into the house.  Since I wanted the soap to gel completely, I put it on a hot rice bag and insulated it well.  I think that it didn't split because the soap was cold from the shed.

All piped and molded
I really like the way that the swirls turned out.  Since the purple part of the soap looked a little grey I was a little concerned about how the colors would turn out.  I am glad that it turned a better purple.  I think that I would actually add a little more alkanet oil to the next batch and make the purple a little more purple and less dusty.

I love the swirls even from the side

I am linking with the following blogs:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Oils - Reaction to Temperature

Oils react very differently to temperatures.  These differences can cause issues in your use of them if you are not aware of what to expect.  Since I have been making soap I have learned a great deal about how oils react in different temperatures.  Some of these findings may surprise you.

Olive oil - solidified

Olive oil - has a fairly high smoke point, but it congeals in the cold.  When olive oil drops below 40* it starts to solidify.  Below 15* olive oil is basically solid.  However when it is exposed to normal room temperatures it melts back into a liquid fairly quickly.

Sunflower oil - no change
Coconut oil - has a very high smoke point, but it also solidifies at a higher temperature.  Most of your coconut oil will have a melting point of 76*.  When it is exposed to cold temperatures it becomes very, very hard.  As in bend a spoon or break it trying to scoop it out of the container.  When it is brought back into room temperature it takes several hours to become 'scoop-able."  It looks pretty much the same after it gets solid, so I did not include a picture.

Sunflower oil - has a fairly low smoke point, but it does not solidify in the cold.  Even when the temperature is in the single digits it stays liquid.

Grapeseed oil - no change

Grapeseed oil - due to the high concentrations of vitamin E in this oil I try not to heat it any more than necessary.  It does stay liquid even at very cold temperatures.

Rice Bran oil - Very thick

Rice Bran oil - this oil is also very high in vitamin E, and therefore an oil that is more beneficial if it is kept cold.  When this oil is exposed to cold temperatures it does thicken a good bit but it does not seem to solidify.  At least it hasn't solidified at any of the temperatures I have stored this oil.

Hazelnut oil - some thickening

Hazelnut oil - Some thickening but still mostly liquid

Castor oil - castor oil is pretty thick to begin with.  I have not noticed any differences at any temperature it has been exposed to so far.

Hemp oil - Hemp oil thickens in the cold but I haven't noticed any solidifying.  Mind you my bottle is colored so it is impossible to actually see the oil so I am working on the fact that it still sloshes when I shake the bottle.  ;)

Avocado oil - solidified

Avocado oil - thickens to the point of solidification.  Avocado oil BTW is a wonderful oil for your skin.

All of these oils are ones that I use for soap making.  Since I have had to move everything out of the house and into our unheated shed, I have had the opportunity to see how cold temperatures effect different oils.  I thought that I should share the information in case there are others that are changing their storage area for their oils.  It really helps to know how to plan for soap making.  For instance yesterday when I made a batch of soap I literally had to bring the coconut oil into the house and melt it in the microwave.  It took 6 minutes in the microwave to get enough oil melted for my batch of soap.  I don't usually melt my oils, but sine they are staying so cold I am not having much of a choice with some of them.

With the olive oil all I had to do was place it over the heater, and I am pretty sure that the avocado and rice bran oils would melt the same way.  The coconut oil spent just as much time over the heater, but it was just starting to get a little bit melted around the very edges.  The nice thing about this cold is that if I make a batch of whipped soap or goats milk soap I won't have any problem keeping things nice and cold.  ;)

Yes I have showed several name brands in these pictures, but I have not been compensated in any way for this post by any company.  These are just the oils that I have on hand for my soap making.

Update: 1/29/14 - With the cold we are having here (11* at 9:30A) it has been interesting to see that even the grapeseed and sunflower oils are starting to look like the hazelnut oil.  ;)  Just FYI.

I am linking with the following blogs:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

My New Soaping Space

The new sink area
Since I have had to move my soap making out of the house I was trying to figure out how to make the space in our shed for my soap making supplies and equipment.  Especially when our shed was already full of stuff.  I needed counter top space as well as shelf space.

Stacked cabinets for tool, mold & misc storage
As you can see a lot of stuff got crowded
Picture from the shed door
Misc storage underneath, but I can still
use the counter space
Of course I had to have help to get everything moved, and my husband has been swamped with plumbing work with all of the cold weather.  I called my brothers and drafted them for help with the heavy lifting.  The older of the two brothers that I called has been helping out a friend with concrete, so I had to get him when he was available.  Of course, this ended up being during the coldest day of the last cold snap.  I know, I know, we live in Tennessee, how cold could it have gotten?  Well, we hit a wind chill of under -7*.  Let me just tell you, when you are working in the wind, that is COLD.
As you can see S really likes the new space

We had to move all of the boxes and totes that were stored in the shed before we could move the furniture around.  All of that went stacked in the yard around the shed door.  Of course, we also had snow.  Since it was cold it wasn't a soggy snow, but it did make things a little slick. They also very sweetly helped me get the insulation that was sitting in the shed up in the walls.  This will make a big difference for me this winter. It will mean that I can actually use the heater to warm this area up with a heater.  Once we got the big stuff re-arranged we started to bring the boxes and totes back into the shed.

After getting things settled, they left and I started to do some figuring.  I had gotten a sink, counter top and cabinets from a demolition job.  I wanted to put them in the shed, but I had to figure out if they would fit with everything else that was already there.

I was able to fit it in, but I had to move things around a little bit more, but it did work.  I carried the counter top and sink to the house, and my brother brought the cabinets to the house.  We literally just set the counter top on top of the cabinet.  I don't have water hooked up to the sink, nor do I have drain hook-up.  However, since I am only rinsing with soapy vinegar water, it will be fine to collect the grey water in a bucket under my sink drain pipe.  Also I am using a bucket with a spigot inserted in the side for water for washing and neutralizing any lye left on the lye water dishes.  Since I don't wash my dishes until after the soap has saponified for ease of work ( I will do these in the house) so I don't have to do a ton of dishes in this space with no running water.  I am not real thrilled with the idea of carrying hot water out of my house every time I soap, but it is not the end of the world.

A little rough on organization, but I know things will
change as I work in the space
 As you can see, it is rather crowded in there, but it does work.  It is a small enough space that I could not take a good picture of the full space.  It would be really crowded for multiple people but it is definitely OK for just me.  I have things somewhat organized already, but I am sure that things will get moved around as I work in the space and figure out what will work the best.

In other exciting news, Frugally Sustainable is hosting a giveaway for free enrollment in the Online Intermediate Herbalist Course!  This is a really great value, and I would love to have the opportunity to take this course.  If I don't win I will have to wait a while to be able to afford to take this course, but it is definitely on my list of things to do as the money becomes available.  To enter follow this link.

I am linking with the following blogs:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Poison Ivy Relief Soap

This is jewelweed also known as touch-me-not
I don't know how much you know about wild flowers or folk lore connected with it, but I have learned a lot about this subject in the last several years.  Along with my interest in improving my families health naturally, I have also become interested in how to use the plants found in the local area.
The original top of the soap

I spent most of the spring and summer looking for jewelweed in my area that I would be able to harvest for making soap.  Jewelweed is a traditional treatment for poison ivy and poison oak.  They are often found in a fairly close proximity.   The part of the plant that is useful is the stem.  The juice in the stem is the effective portion.

Two molds
My mother and I went to the patch that we had found near her house and picked a bunch.  We picked whole plants saving as many seeds as we could so that we can plant a patch at her house.  While we were picking plants we both ended up into poison ivy.  I am extremely allergic to the stuff!  I crushed some stems and rubbed them all over the area that had touched the poison ivy and I never broke out.  We filled a 2 garbage bags with plants.

The original soap color
After we got back to her house we used her Vitamix and chopped up the plants with just enough water added to keep the Vitamix from binding up with the plant matter.  After I had the plants broken down to fairly small pieces, I strained the resulting pulp through cheesecloth.  The juice was not green like I had expected, but was a rusty kind of red.   I put the resulting juice in the refrigerator until I could get all of it frozen.  By the way, FYI, jewelweed juice will stain your ice cube trays a reddish orange.

I used frozen jewelweed extract instead of water for my lye solution.  It took a few minutes to get all of the ice melted with the lye.  After I made sure that all of the lye was dissolved, I started measuring out all of my oils.

Looks like camo right.
I started by blending all of my oils up to make sure that the pieces were small enough to melt.  I added my lye solution to the oils and started blending with my stick blender.  I thought that I got everything to a light trace.  This was what I needed to do the delicate swirl that I wanted to do.  I got everything in the mold except for about 2 cups of the soap mixture.  I colored one cup with activated charcoal and the other I colored with a little zinc oxide.  I made lots of thin lines on the top of the molds with each color.  Next I took a bamboo skewer and drew lines all the way through to the bottom of the mold.  I worked my way across the mold one way and then the other spacing the lines about an inch apart.

Ready for sale
The next day I went to un-mold my beautiful soap only to find that there were pockets of lye water.  Yikes!!  I zinged myself before I figured out what the liquid pockets were.  I wasn't about to let all of my hard work go to waste, and since I had kept the soap so thin I thought that I might have had pockets of lye water that separated out.  I pulled on a pair of gloves and pulled out my soap knife and started cutting it all up into chunks in my soap crock pot.

After cooking the whole batch down, I divided the batch into three parts.  I colored one third black with activated charcoal.  I colored the second third white with zinc oxide.  I remolded the soap into my now clean molds using the ever popular spoon plop technique.  I thought that if I made the soap look like camouflage then maybe the men folks would not be as hesitant to use the soap.  My brothers can be a bit hesitant to use my "voodoo" stuff.

I am linking with the following blogs:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

Monday, January 13, 2014

Rooibos Vanilla Soap

rooibos vanilla homemade natural soap
Rooibos Vanilla
Today I made some new soap.  This soap will be a part of my regular line of soap.  I have been trying to get this soap made for a while now, but I just haven't had enough money for materials.

I started by putting 5 tea bags in a jar with around 10 ounces of hot water to steep for tea.  Once my tea had steeped I added the remainder of liquid for my recipe in ice and water.  Next I measured out my lye and added it to the tea mixture.  As usual it was a little smelly, but the smell settled out pretty quickly.

handmade soap swirls
Not super defined, but I like the swirls anyway 
After my lye water was ready and cooling, I started measuring out my oils.  Since I was coloring with oils I reserved out equal amounts of madder infused olive oil and plain olive oil.  I split the soap in half for coloring so it would not be a problem to add the oils separately.  Since I have had to start storing everything for my soap in the shed this has gotten a little more difficult.  For starters I ended up having to make three trips out to the shed for more oils because I had emptied the bottles in the house.  It has been interesting to see the effect of the cold on the different oils.  But I will go into all of this in a different post.

After warming up the oils enough to scoop or squeeze them into the bowl for weighting, I had to get all of the chunks blended out so that the lye would melt the oils evenly.  Let me just say that coconut oil gets VERY hard in the cold.  I also added about 2 tsp of Vanilla Bean fragrance oil from Brambleberry to my oils at this point.  This is somewhat to make sure that I don't forget too add it later.  After I got everything all smoothed out to my satisfaction, I added the lye water to my oils.  I started blending the mixture with my stick blender until I reached a light trace.  Once I had reached light trace, I split the batch in two equal parts and added the oils to each part.  To the white half I also added about 2 teaspoons of titanium dioxide mixed with about 2 tablespoons of water.  After I had my additions added, I used the stick blender to get my additions incorporated into the batch portions.

closeup handmade soap swirls
The top is mostly a creamy white right now, but there
are a few swirls of the pinky color
Once my colors were sufficiently incorporated I stopped blending.  I had already taken it a little too thick.  Because the soap was so thick it didn't behave like I had hoped it would when I poured the color  into the white.  After I finished with my usual sample mold, I started pouring into my mold.  It turned out that most of the white was on top.  I used a skewer to mix the color portion up into the white.  I ended up with less definition that I had hoped for, but it is still a very nice looking soap.

I am linking with the following blogs:

Saturday, January 11, 2014

White Tea with Peach Soap

white tea with peach handmade soap
White Tea with Peach
soap in the mold
Guest soaps in the mold
I have been totally craving a chance to make some soap.  Trust me is is addictive.  I also found out that Brambleberry is looking for panelists for this years S.O.A.P. panel to test new fragrances.  I love trying out new scents and new soap recipes and would love the opportunity to be a panelist.  I am super sensitive to fragrances, but I have yet to have any problems with the fragrances from Brambleberry.  In fact so far Brambleberry is the only company I will use to order fragrance oils.

So I started pulling out everything that I would need to make this recipe.  Once I had everything together, I started by brewing the tea for the recipe.  I put 5 tea bags on a jar with about 10 ounces of hot water.

After my tea was steeped to my satisfaction, I added it to my pitcher then added ice and water to the full amount needed for this recipe.  I put this in my kitchen sink.  After measuring out my lye I added it to the water and tea mixture in my pitcher.

After getting my lye water ready I measured out my oils.  I reserved 2 ounces of plain olive oil and 2 ounces of paprica infused olive oil from the remainder of my oils for coloring the batch.  After all of my oils except the reserved oils were ready in my pail I gave them a whir with the stick blender.  It did get difficult to break up the coconut oil because it was really cold from being stored in the shed.  Before I added the lye water I added a half a tablespoon of Southern Peach fragrance oil from Brambleberry  link  to the oils.   After I worked out all of the chunks, I added the lye water to the oils.
feathery swirls on top of handmade soap
I swirled the top but I should have saved a little more
of the white for the swirls

Once I had the soap up to a light trace I split the batch in half.  I added paprika oil to the one half.  To the other half I added the plain olive oil and titanium dioxide mixed with water.  I mixed the white half until all of the oil and titanium dioxide were worked into the rest of the soap.  Next I mixed the paprika part until all of the colored oil was mixed in.  I filled my sample mold before adding the white into the colored for an in the pot swirl.

handmade white tea with peach guest size soaps
My cute little guest soaps
Once I had my molds filled I still had more soap in my pail.  I decided to use the little molds I had for guest soaps.  I love the smell of this soap.  It is lightly fruity without being overpowering.  The tea adds a little bit of depth the the fragrance.  The bars are a little taller than my usual bars.  I had some issues when I cut my loaf, but I really think that my customers will enjoy this soap.

Disclaimer:  I was not paid by Brambleberry for this post.  These are simply my own opinions.

I am linking with the following blogs:

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Where I am Headed

peppermint wake-up handmade soap
Coming soon for sale - currently curing
I have about 7 new soaps to add to my regular line-up as well as new seasonal soaps that will be coming very soon.  I have 2 more tea soaps and several bakery style soaps as well as several general use soaps that will be coming out within the next several months.
gingerbread man handmade soap
Gingerbread Man on Clearance

I also have all of my fall and Christmas soaps on clearance as well.  I apparently made more than was needed for the season.

peppermint stripe handmade soap
Peppermint Stripe - on Clearance

I have plans for a Rooibos Vanilla and a White Tea with Peach soaps for my tea soap line.  I also have plans for several bakery soaps: Lemon Poppy Seed, Blackberry Vanilla Cobbler and a Peach Pie soap.  I will also be adding a Goat's Milk soap, a Natural Flea soap, a second men's shaving soap, and possibly a shampoo bar in our general use soaps.

pumpkin bread handmade soap with real pumpkin
Pumpkin Bread - on Clearance

Among other things we may be moving sometime this year.  I look forward to bringing you lots of new and interesting soaps in the coming year.  Get ready for a wild ride folks.  It looks like that is what is in store for this year for my family at least.

I am linking with the following blogs:

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Gumpaste Rose Caketopper

gumpaste rose wedding cake topper
The Cake topper
I was asked to make a cake topper for a wedding this last week.  So I started with a package of prepared gumpaste. You can make your own but in this case I just didn't have time.  I was expecting to have over 20 people come in for this wedding and most of them were staying for Christmas.  So I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off. What with getting 2 houses ready for guests and getting all of my soaping  stuff out of my house I had a ton of stuff to get done.

I had to get the topper done by Friday so I started working on Wednesday night after my kids left for church.  I needed a good stretch of time without kids around to jostle or bump.  For those of you who have never worked with gumpaste, it is extremely fragile once it has dried.  And it dries very quickly.

I started with a plastic rose base.  I inserted a short piece of 20 gauge wire into the base of the rose base.  This is the base for the rose which I then set aside for a while.  Before going any further I made my gumpaste glue from a pinch of dried up gumpaste and water.

Next I took a piece of gumpaste and added some red food coloring to it, kneading it into the mass.  Normally I tried to avoid overuse of food coloring.  However, in this case, since the decorations are not going to be eaten, I am not worried about the food coloring.  I rolled out the gumpaste, folding and rolling until the color was basically even throughout.  You cannot get red from gumpaste without massive amounts of food coloring.  But, by kneading in some color, it is easier to get a better color when you paint it with food coloring.  

Once the gumpaste was colored, I rolled out the gumpaste using corn starch to keep it from sticking, before cutting out a flower with a gumpaste cutter set.  For the center of the roses, I cut the five petals apart.  From there I took the ball tool and rolled the edges of the petal to ruffle them.  After ruffling, the petals I took the glue and adhered one to each center sideways.  This makes the center of the rose and gives the rest of the petals something to adhere to and build your rose.  For storing pieces between cutting and using I pulled out the every useful gallon Ziploc bag.  I kept my cut pieces in this bag with a small bowl of water in the corner to keep everything from drying out before I had a chance to work with it.  
gumpaste rose detail wedding cake topper

From here it gets a little easier.  For the next layer, cut 1 five petal piece from your rolled out gumpaste.  Roll the edges of each petal with your ball tool to ruffle the edges.  After all of your petals are ruffled take your glue and lightly coat the center and the lower part of each of the petals.  Insert the wire into the center of the 5 petal piece and slide it up the wire until it reaches the center.  Align the petals to be off set from the center petal.  Lift and mold one petal at a time in the following order: 1, 3, 2, 4, 5.  This will ensure that your petals fall in a natural fashion.

For the final set of petals, follow the directions in the previous paragraph up to adhering the petals.  Once you have your second set of petals on the wire, place so that petal 1 is positioned in-between the two closest petals.  Wrap the rest of the petals in the same order as before.

After you flowers are put together and have had time to dry, paint them with gel food coloring with just a touch of water added.  You only want just enough water to thin the food coloring to an acrylic paint thickness, and only add water if using a gel food coloring.  I wait until I have all of my large flowers placed before I paint them, but I paint the small flowers and leaves and allow them to dry before placing them in the arrangement.  Be prepared to give them a couple of hours to dry after painting and be aware that they may stay tacky for up to 2 days depending on your humidity levels in your work space.  If you are having trouble getting your flowers to dry you can always place them in a container with some silica gel packets like they put in medications.

I am linking with the following blogs: