Soap Challenge Club – Mantra Swirl

Well here we are, on the second challenge hosted by Amy Warden at Great Cakes Soapworks.  This one is called the mantra swirl, and it became famous after Nicole Benitez entered her version of it and won the January 2009 Best Swirl contest sponsored by Saponfier Magazine.

Since then, inspired soapmakers have created variations of this technique.  I’ve been admiring the mantra swirl for several years, so this was a perfect opportunity to try my hand at it.  Plus there’s a $100 gift certificate for the winner of the challenge, courtesy of
Majestic Mountain Sage!

My first batch came out just fine, except for some stearic spots (the little white Mantra WM“bumps” you see scattered throughout). Just a cosmetic issue, but I didn’t think black and white had enough pizzazz to compete, although there’s a certain beauty in simplicity.  And the wispy swirls, which were created with a skewer, should have shown up more.  So making this soap was good practice for what I finally decided to create for the challenge.  By the way, this is Onyx & Alabaster, and it will be available in my Etsy shop at the end of July.

So I started by making a couple of small soaps in pastel colors, with the intent of shredding them and incorporating them in the mantra soap.  Since I had to make two small soaps, it was only a tiny bit of extra work to make twelve – two soaps each of six different colors!  I liked these so much, I made another set of twelve in darker hues. These always come in handy for shredding or cutting into embeds.      

                              Pastel Squares June 2013   Saturated Squares 1 June 2013 WM

I chose one of the vibrant pink soaps on the left and one of the lime green soaps on the right, then used a fine grater to shred them up.  One of these days I’m going to invest in a salad shooter!

Mantra Swirl Challenge Shreds WM

With this part completed, it was time to begin.  First, my silicone mold from Essential Depot (which I won at the recent HSCG conference) needed to be set up.  My very handy husband had made a nice wood holder for the mold so the sides wouldn’t bow when filled with soap batter.

My recipe was a slow mover with one-third olive oil and no water discount because I needed time to work with the swirl without it setting up, and also because the shreds needed to be easily incorporated into the batter without producing air pockets.  

The soft oils were measured out first so a teaspoonful could be added to some violet mica that had just arrived in the day’s mail. Then the hard oils were melted, cooled and added to the soft oils already in the pot.  One of my favorite essential oil blends was added to the pot as well: lavandin (a lavender hybrid) and tea tree, with sweet notes of pink grapefruit, a hint of tart lemongrass, and a bit of light patchouli to anchor the top notes.

Oils WM

Time to add the lye!  A small amount of titanium dioxide had been dissolved in the lye solution to help ensure a creamy-colored soap base.  Once the lye solution was in, the batter was stick blended just to emulsion, then divided into three parts.  The smallest portion went into the cup with the violet mica mixture, a large portion went into a cup with the lime green shreds, and the hot pink shreds were added to the portion remaining in the pot.Batter with Shreds WM

Now for the tricky part:  the violet batter had to be poured into the narrow space between two acrylic dividers (also created by handy hubby), without any slipping underneath into the adjoining section.  This turned out not to be too difficult – holding down the dividers with one hand while pouring slowly with the other, and only about an inch deep.  Then the same process was repeated with the pink shreds batter and then the green shreds batter.  This sort of equalized the pressure on the dividers, making it much easier to pour the rest of the soap.Dividers WM

Then the dividers were removed…Poured WM

and it’s time to do the mantra swirl!Swirled WM

This time I decided to use the handle of a wooden spoon and really get in there with the swirling.  It got in there, alright – these swirls are too thick!  (Do you see the purple flamingos?)  

A couple of days later it was ready to unmold and cut.  To create the original mantra swirl, it can’t be sliced like most soaps.  Instead, it has to be cut horizontally in 1-inch thick strips using a log splitter, then turned on end and sliced into individual bars.  This is the same technique used to cut the peacock swirl soap in the last challenge.  If you missed that post, instructions and photos are available here.

And here’s the cut of Rainbow Sherbet!  Rainbow Sherbet WM

All in all, I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out.  It would have been better with darker green shreds so they’d show up better, and a chopstick would have created a much nicer swirl.  But this is a fun technique, and it’s fun working with shreds, and I’m lovin’ the violet mica (of course, I’m a mica junkie so there’s not many I don’t like).  And it smells delish!  It’s on the curing rack now, and will be available in my Etsy shop in mid-August.

Special thanks to Blossom & Twig fans Katie S. and Laura P. for the color suggestions and for inspiring the name.

What do you think?  Thumbs up or thumbs down?


33 thoughts on “Soap Challenge Club – Mantra Swirl

    • It was just one of those moments when inspiration strikes for no good reason. I was reading a post about finding used salad shooters online, which got me to thinking about shreds. And then I thought, “what if…?” And that’s how the idea of using shreds happened. Glad you like it, and thanks for the compliment! 🙂

    • I like the textured look, too – and even though there are a few air pockets around the shreds, there aren’t many and they are very tiny. I’m gonna have to order a full-size pouch of the violet mica (The Conservatorie). I only got a 1-teaspoon sample. It’s definitely a keeper. Thanks for the compliments, Cris! 🙂

  1. God I love your soap. I’m new to soap making and would love to friend you so I could learn from you if you would share your knowledge. I want to try what you did here, but I don’t completely understand all your steps. Please let me know if you would explain. YOU DID AN AMAZING JOB and DESERVE TO WIN!!!

    • Wow, thanks Andrea! I really don’t expect to win because there are some truly gorgeous entries, but that’s okay. I just love making soap!

      I have lots of FB friends who are soapmakers, so I’d be glad to friend you. Have you “liked” my business page? If not, how about stopping by there at and message me so I can send you a friend request. I’m always happy to answer questions and share some knowledge. Better yet, why don’t you join some of the FB soap forums I belong to? There are hundreds of very active soapers – of all skill levels – who are very helpful and supportive of each other, and you can learn LOTS from all of us. I’m constantly learning lots of cool new tips and tricks, and the photos are so inspiring! My three favorites are Soaper’s Retreat, Soaping101 Study Hall, and I Saponify, No Lye. Just do a FB search for any or all of these (be sure to type the names exactly like I have here) and request to join.

      In the meantime, check out this YouTube video. That’s exactly how I created my swirl.
      Keep in mind there are lots of variations!

      I can’t seem to find a good video showing the cutting method I used, but if I find one I’ll post the link here.

      Thanks again. 🙂

      • Thank you and I’ll be following up on those leads and joining your facebook page. My facebook page is under dj’s creek farm goats milk soap and other products. Be in touch. 🙂

  2. Both soaps are beautiful! I love the black and white together in the first one. And what a great idea to use shredded soap in your second mantra swirl! It gives the soap a really unique touch. Great job!

    • Thank you Jenny! Black and white are so elegant together – too bad there were so darn many stearic spots! Grrr 😉 But if that soap had turned out exactly as planned, I wouldn’t have been motivated enough to make the Rainbow Sherbet soap in time for the soap challenge…so everything happens for a reason!

    • Hi Swanee! I just discovered your comment (it was in my spam folder). Thank you! And congratulations to you also! I voted for your soap, it was so beautiful with such vibrant colors. It was also very gracious of you to step aside so that the 2nd place winner could take advantage of the prize since you’re in Europe. Very classy! 🙂

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