Saturday, 17 October 2015

Alternative Liquid Soap Club Challenge

I've joined the Soap Challenge Club again, this month is looking at alternative liquids. A couple of years ago I planted some borage (Borage officinalis) which has been gradually taking over the back yard. But its pretty, and the bumblebees like it (we don't get honey bees up where we are on the peninsula). Initially I was trying to see if I could put the flowers in soap and have them stay blue.
Borage is also known as the cucumber herb. Cucumber juice makes nice soap therefore (in my mind) borage should also make nice soap.
Borage is used as a natural insecticide as a companion plant (especially for brassica and tomatoes) and is used in salads and as a tea. Traditionally it was used as a tea to restore energy and morale (this link). I did find one page that states "Externally, it is employed as a poultice for inflammatory swellings" (link here) And so it could be soothing in a soap especially for insect bites. Sweet.
I also make goat milk soap (in fact that is all I make, so a real challenge for me would be to soap with water) so I decided to make it half goat milk soap as well. Goat milk in soap is amazing. Here are a few benefits:
 - it contains lactic acid which acts as a gentle exfoliant 
 - it is packed with vitamins and minerals such a vitamin A which helps rejuvenate skin
 - the pH is very close to that of human skin
 - it makes a mild and creamy soap
There are millions (o.k. lots) of websites explaining the benefits of goats milk in soap but here is a good one : (I love the before and after photos with the disclaimer).
So I actually ended up juicing all the borage, it is really stringy and tough and I'm not sure the juicer attachment on my blender has forgiven me!
Cut borage
Borage juice ready for freezing
And some goat milk (still in the goat - with some baby goats piled in the background)
I use the Anne Watson frozen milk method of soap making and I used that for the borage juice as well. I made one batch of oils and two batches of lye/liquid and then split the oils between the lyes. I used an essential oil blend of lavender, lemongrass, patchouli and peppermint that I got from the LovinSoap Studio Recipe Book by Amanda Gail.
For my design I did a goat milk layer, cocoa powder pencil line, in the pot swirl boarge and goat milk, another pencil line then the rest of the goat milk soap. I always forget to take photos once I start making soap so here we have:
Goat milk portion
First cocoa powder pencil line
Finished Soap
Whoops no photos of the borage portion at all. I also added 1 tablespoon of kaolin clay to the goat milk portion and 1 tablespoon of French green clay and 1/4 teaspoon of chlorophyll to the borage portion. I feel that the borage soap may turn brown and hopefully the clay and chlorphyll will counteract that.
So then the cut soap:
I'm so happy with how it turned out! My in the pot swirls are usually epic fails so I feel like I have finally nailed it!

Thursday, 14 May 2015

May Soap Challenge "Mini Dessert Soaps"

This month is mini dessert month! Four different desserts, using a food item as an ingredient and it has to be a small version of a full size dessert.
For this I figured I'd branch out in all directions! Different food types to match the dessert! Different soaping techniques! I had grand visions of making incredibly cute looking ice cream sundaes in shot glasses! A swiss roll with chocolate and whipped cream (it involved a rolling pin and a pastry filler) Lots of other ideas with exclamation marks!
So I started out strong thinking I have a silicon cup cake mould but can't make cup cakes so what could minature down into a cup cake? I know, pies! So I thought I'd make a banana cream pie (which isn't really a thing in NZ so apologies if what I made bears no resemblance to the actual dessert) and an apple pie. For the food aspect I always make goat milk soap so including milk was hardly a challenge. Instead I made a soap batter, split it in three and added 15 grams of mushed banana to one and 15 grams of apple juice (which I made from the wrinkly apples you find in the bottom of the fruit bowl). The other third was for the pie bases and I added a tablespoon of ground rolled oats to make it look like a crust.
Apple juice, mushed banana and essential oils ready for the soap batter
For the apple pie I thought if I poured the base and then poured the apple soap directly on top some of the base soap would go up the sides and form a crust. It sort of worked. For the banana cream pie I poured a base layer and was going to layer the banana on top but the banana soap thickened up a bit quickly so it didn't layer evenly. Then back to the apple pie and I piped the lattice top on it. They turned out quite well and I used a little bit of clove and cassia essential oil to make it smell like the actual pie. I was quite impressed with the colour of the apple soap, it is kind of pink. The banana soap started off yellow with little banana flecks in it but I added a bit of vanilla to make it smell so it went brown. Left over batter went into large ice cube trays for the mini cakes.
Banana pie of the left, apple pie on the right. I tried to 'weave' the lattice top on one and quickly gave up!
 Next up was whipped soap for the cream pie topping, cake layers and my not actually eventuating ice cream sundae. I used the tutorial off It breezily mentions that whipped soap can seize and 'becomes impossible to pipe'. Mwah ha ha so guess what happens? I had lovely whipped lard/tallow/coconut/cocoa butter and slowly added my lye milk and got some piped and then it just froze. I've never made this before so I'm not sure what happened. I don't have any pictures of the whipped soap process but I'm wondering if the fact I nearly burnt out my super cheap electric beaters might have been something to do with it. They still work but starting making weird noises and smelling like fried electrics! So if the challenge was to create soap that looks like mashed potatoes I would win. Or it could be the fact I was using goat milk? I got the banana pies done, and two mini cakes. I realised the ice cream sundae wasn't going to happen, made some mashed potato balls, kind of iced another ice cube of soap (rustic chic mini wedding cake?) and called it a day.

 I'm not sure if two identical design yet different execution cakes would count as two different desserts so I figured I needed to pretty up my "rustic mini wedding cake". I managed to find some melt and pour soap (coloured purple) left over from some other soapy project. I used the fondant soap recipe but I don't have a microwave so had to melt it over a water bath, then it wouldn't melt properly and I got impatient and just added the cornflour and glycerin, mixed it all up and coloured it pink. With purple bits of unmelted soap. But I cut out some little flowers and blinged up the cake.
So in conclusion? I'm not sure dessert soaps will be something I will pursue long term, I love other people's dessert soap but I don't think I've got the patience! I'm keen to master whipped soap though, it has some cool possibilities. And I'm excited about banana and apple, I can't wait to try these soaps and see what they are like. Also a huge tip: Always make soap while your significant other is around! I couldn't get the lid off my bucket of lye and my husband was at soccer, I had to wait for him to get back to open it for me.
Here are the final soaps:
I can't wait to see what everyone else has done!

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Soap Challenge Club - Spinning Swirls

I finally bit the bullet and joined Amy Warden's Soap Challenge Club. You get to make a soap each month with a theme or technique and when I saw the spinning swirls challenge I thought "Hey I can do that" and signed up. What I can't do is follow deadlines correctly so my soap is not in the challenge as I got the dates wrong for posting my photos. However I'm blogging this anyway!

The idea is to pour soap in a faux funnel, where you alternate pouring different coloured soaps on top of each other and then spin the slab to swirl them together. The other thing to do is pour double thick so you can cut each soap horizontally and get the swirls on the inside. My slab mould is pretty big so I didn't want to try and pour double thick the whole thing so I partitioned off a section and lined it with plastic. And that took ages, seriously is there any good, easy way to line a mould? So here's a photo of the liner, first challenge solved!

Although you can see it's still wrinkly! Need to work on that one. I decided to make a lavender rosemary goat milk soap. Ok all my soaps are goat milk soap, but I have been really into lavender and rosemary and I knew it wouldn't accelerate trace. So I thought I would use green clay, pink clay, charcoal and purple oxide and leave some soap white. Then I decided to chuck in a bit of red and green mica to the clays to see what would happen. And then some titanium dioxide for the white bit so it would stay white. So here are all my colours waiting for the soap batter

So I made the soap and was so terrified of over mixing and ending up with gloopy soap that I hardly stick blended at all and then became convinced it was all going to separate out. I added the soap to the colours and the pink went orange and the purple went grey. But I was soldiering on regardless as adding more colour would end up meaning more mixing and then my soap would be too thick to pour!

So I poured my soap, I didn't really have a colour pour plan and had 5 colours so it had very random orders but it turned out really well.

Then time to spin. I am always worried about over swirling soap so I stopped when it looked like this, not everything had swirled but I thought it looked neat. It took alot of spins to get it moving.

The purple looks purple in the photos but at the time it was still quite grey. I then left the soap to set hoping it wasn't going to end up a pool of caustic oil because of under mixing.

A few days later I cut the soap and this is what I got (plus some small soaps with the left over batter). I need to work on my horizontal soap cutting, it was a bit rough in places but is not as bad as it appears in this photo!

And here is the photo that I was supposed to upload so everyone else in the challenge could see:

Kind of rustic and a little uneven (I will probably trim them up better but they are still kind of soft) but I'm really proud of them! The two on the left are from horizontal (inside) cuts and the one on the right was from the top. So what did I learn? Not to panic about purple going grey, it went purple when it set! The pink clay and mica went back to a reddy pink but still kind of on the orange side. And I probably over mix my soaps, this was a good exercise in stick blender restraint! And I'm really happy that I saw a technique and was able to replicate it and have it work! Now to just pay more attention to the dates for the next challenge!

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

"Royal" Soap Swap

 I recently made soap for a soap swap with other New Zealand soap makers. I’m really excited to see what I get back. Anyway the theme of the swap was “Royal”. That immediately made me think of Lorde’s song Royals and the really dark lipstick she wears and how similar that colour is to the purple robe the Queen wore for her coronation.

I figured I could do a mantra swirl with dark purple on either side and white with poppy seeds (to represent the black bits of fur) in the middle. This is what I was aiming for:

There is a heap of soapmaking info out there, I used the video from Kenna at for the nitty gritty.

I’ve just begun really playing with colours and I am hoping to be able to colour most of my soaps using natural products, e.g. spices, herbs, clays. I’m hoping to blog more about this later. There is a lot of info out there but not much of it has been tested in goat milk soap so it may be slightly different. Anyway I jumped straight in for this one. I found this amazing soap for sale on Etsy. Anyway it was a rosehip soap and it looked like a really dark purple. I just went back and looked at the sellers listings and his rosehip soap now looks more like how mine turned out. But he has changed his ingredients because that was the mystery I’ll come back to.

So going off one photo (and also pictures look different on different computers but I was ignoring that), I rushed out and bought some rosehips. I’m working with already frozen milk as we aren’t milking our goats at the moment, so I couldn’t infuse the rosehips into the goat milk so I made a really concentrated rosehip tea and then froze it and used 50% rosehip tea and 50% goat milk.
I use the frozen milk method written about by Anne Watson in her book Milk Soapmaking. 

I always forget to take photos when I make soap. I also can’t figure out how people take photos of themselves making soap if it’s only them. Maybe they have a tripod and a remote?
So I made the soap and when I was pouring the batter into the divided mould one of the dividers slipped out, and I wasn’t too confident doing my swirls but I was pretty pleased about how it turned out for my first go. But sadly my rosehip didn’t go purple. It went . . . pinky tan. Not exactly Lorde’s lipstick. 

I figure that anything I use to colour goat milk soap will probably turn out paler as the base soap is more white and opaque. However it was a long way from the purple I saw on the internet. Oh and I’d scented it with lavender so the purple was a little bit crucial.

So to everyone who gets my soap in the swap, you have to pretend it is purple!

But back to the mystery as to why RockyTopSoapShop made a purple rosehip soap (which isn’t so purple anymore). I looked at the ingredient list and two things struck me: It said rosehip tea so maybe it had black tea in it as well? And it had apple cider vinegar in it, which might have done something to the colour. That seems like an unusual soap ingredient as its an acid so its going to react with the lye and throw out your superfat calculations and neutralize itself. Although I suppose that there may be other stuff in apple cider vinegar that is beneficial to soap and you could work out how much acid is in the vinegar and add that to your lye calculation.

Anyone out there use apple cider vinegar in their soaps?

Saturday, 19 July 2014

So we got married!

I set up this blog in a huge burst of enthusiasm and then haven’t really done much with it. One of my major excuses is . . . we got married! On the 22nd of March (ok so that was hmm nearly four months ago, maybe not so much of an excuse) at Pukehiki Church on the Otago Peninsula.


Pukehiki Church is now run as a charitable trust for the benefit of the community, but was a Presbyterian Church until 1994. Check out for more info.

Anyway it was an amazing day! The sun shone and the wind blew. A lot. It was a lovely north easterly. For those of you unfamiliar with the Peninsula when the wind blows north east the wind comes up the harbor, hits the Peninsula and is pushed over the top and is trying to “catch up” with the rest of the wind going round. So it is strong and cold.
Group shot after the ceremony

 And we went off to take some photos around the farm:
Here we are feeding the donkeys

And there's the wind!
And here is one of my favourite shots:
Actually that isn't on our farm, it's round the corner
 So it was an amazing amazing day. And we can't thank everyone enough for all the help and support we got putting together our wedding. We did alot of it ourselves which was pretty stressful at times but came together at the end.

For everyone who came: We loved having you there! And when we were cleaning up the next day I found the Minglo cards!