Soap Challenge Club – Peacock Swirl


The recent soap challenges hosted by Amy Warden of Great Cakes Soapworks were such a success that she created a monthly Soap Challenge Club.  In order to participate, soapmakers must become members of the club and pay a nominal fee to enter each challenge.  And the reward?  Well, besides the chance to hone your soapmaking skills and learn new techniques, there’s a prize.  Not just any old prize, though; this month it’s an 18-bar slab mold with silicone liner generously provided by Bramble Berry® Soap Making Supplies!  (Someone’s going to be very happy).

This month’s challenge is the peacock swirl.  I’ve tried this technique only once before, and it didn’t turn out particularly well because the soap batter was too thick to create the fluid lines needed to create the complex design.  So I chose a slow-moving recipe to give myself plenty of time to work, and I designed a midnight black soap with vibrant electric blue and purples, deep rose and pastel pinks, and white swirls.

2-Swirl ToolSince I only wanted to create a small batch – in case of an epic fail – I created a small slab mold from a cut-down cardboard box, and lined it with butcher paper.  The “comb” you see is also homemade, and it’s used to create the first part of the design.

3-ColorantsThen I gathered my materials.  Bamboo charcoal, four micas, and oil-soluble titanium dioxide (a whitener) were mixed with just a bit of the liquid oils from my recipe.  My essential oil blend of sweet peppermint and sharp tea tree stood ready to add a surprisingly pleasant wake-up zing.  My oils were weighed out and ready for the lye solution.

As always, safety first – gloves and safety goggles are a must when working with lye. Ready to begin!


The essential oils were added to the oils and stirred a bit, the lye was slowly added, then stick blended (see the color change)?  I didn’t want the soap too thick, so I only blended until the batter was emulsified.

 9-Lye In10-Stickblending11-Emulsified

Some of the batter was poured into each of the pre-mixed colorants, and the bamboo charcoal was added to the batter remaining in my bowl.  This was my base color, so into the mold it went.

12-Bottom Layer

Now for the fun part!  I gave the colors a quick stir with my mini-frother (love that thing!) and decided at the last minute to pour them into squeeze bottles.  Then alternate stripes of color were added to the width of the mold until all the colors were used up.  

6-Mixed Colors13-Adding Lines of Color115-Adding Lines of Color3

Remember the “comb”?  Dragging it top to bottom through the stripes created a swirl of its own, called a non-pareil swirl.16-NonPareil

It would be pretty if left like this, but the challenge was the peacock swirl, so on to the next step.  For some reason, it helped to think of drawing balloons as I used my chopstick to create a wavy pattern on top of the non-pareil swirl.  Finished!18-Peacock

After setting up for a day, it was time to unmold and cut into bars.  Soaps made in slab molds require a different method of cutting, so out came my adjustable log-splitter.  The first cut split the slab lengthwise into smaller slabs, the log-splitter was adjusted for the next cut, and the smaller slabs were sliced widthwise to create the finished bars.


26-Vertical Cut127-Vertical Cut229-Now the Horizontal Cuts

I decided to name this soap “Aurora.”  My intent was create a soap reminiscent of the Northern Lights (or Southern Lights for our down-under friends).  In that regard, I failed because my colors weren’t vibrant enough. The aroma hits the mark, though, because it’s zingy and refreshing.  And, truth be known, I like the design on the side of the soap better than the peacock swirl.  Next time I use this technique, I might just cut it differently to accentuate that part!31-Would Make An Interesting Technique for a Loaf!

Aurora is on the curing rack and will be listed in my Etsy shop around the middle of July.

Thanks for following me, and please stick around for the next challenge. 🙂


Soap Challenge 2013 – Mica Swirl

The third project for the soap challenge is creating a soap topped with (hopefully) a lovely mica swirl.  I’ve messed around with mica swirls before and they turned out okay, but knowing the correct proportions of mica and oil sure makes a difference in the end result.  Gotta say these swirls please me a lot!

Shimmery gold mica swirl in the mold.

Shimmery gold mica swirl in the mold.

So here’s the scoop:

  • make your soap and pour it into the mold
  • measure 1 tablespoon of oil (I used olive oil) into a small container
  • add 1/2 teaspoon of shimmery mica to the oil and mix well (shimmery, sparkly micas work best)
  • drizzle the mixture over the top of the soap (you can pour long thin lines or a random pattern)
  • use a skewer or chopstick to create swirls throughout the mica; you may also use a spoon to add texture

The hardest part of this technique is resisting the urge to overwork the swirls!  Make a few swirls and stop to evaluate how it looks.  Needs more?  Add another swirl or two and evaluate again.  If you make too many swirls, they’ll all run together and give your beautiful soap top a muddy look.

A close-up of one of the prettier swirls.  See all the "mini patterns" each swirl creates?

A close-up of one of the prettier swirls. See all the “mini patterns” each swirl creates?

As the soap saponifies, it absorbs the excess oil, leaving behind the gorgeous sparkling mica pattern you created.

So are you wondering what’s below that swirly mica top?  Well, this is Morning Star, named after the planet Venus, which in turn was named after the Roman goddess of love and beauty.  Said to be born from sea foam, Venus’ sacred colors include pink, red, violet, gold, silver, aqua, light green, and light blue.  Pearls, also born of the sea, are among her favorite gems, and she is very fond indeed of mint plants. So I designed Morning Star with sea colors and pink, of course, for love.  A smattering of sugar pearls accent the golden mica swirl, and it’s scented with a lovely blend of spearmint and peppermint, rounded out with a soft whiff of lavandin.

Here’s the reveal.  I love how all the colors, even the white, seem to flow and swirl like waves washing up gently on the shore.  My photo doesn’t do justice to the sparkle of the mica swirl, though (still learning how to photograph soap in natural light)!

Morning Star (Venus)

Morning Star is on the curing rack now and will be ready by mid-May in my Etsy shop.

I enjoyed this challenge, but unfortunately I missed the deadline for posting it with the other entries (my bad).  But you can still check out all the other lovely mica swirls over at Great Cakes Soapworks.  

The next challenge is Leopard Spots.  Fun! 

Soap Challenge 2013 – Tiger Stripe

First and foremost, let me offer some big time apologies to you for being MIA during the last 3 months!  Long story short:  darling hubby and I became involved in the home renovation project from hell.  What began as a manageable project rapidly turned into a whole-house upheaval.  How do things get out of hand so quickly?

Anyway, after several months of not making soap, I was determined to participate in this year’s soap challenge sponsored by Amy Warden at Great Cakes Soapworks.  There will be four weekly challenges, and the first is the Tiger Stripe technique, which I had not done before.

The idea is to pour 2 or more high-contrast soap colors down the middle of your mold, one atop the other until the mold is full.   It’s important to emulsify the soap batter, rather than bring it to trace, because you need the extra time to work with the colors.  For the same reason, I also recommend using full water for your recipe instead of taking a water discount.

So what kind of stripes would inspire me?  First I looked at animals, but found mostly black and white, brown and tan, or brown and gold.  Then I looked at fish, and some of the angelfish interested me.  Finally, I looked at flowers, and voila!  There was my muse, right on Flickr.  A gloriously exotic striped Morning Glory of vibrant purple and white interspersed with a few deep pink stripes.

Striped morning glory (Batatilla rayada)

Striped morning glory (Batatilla rayada)

Wet soap!

Wet soap!

So I decided to use a little titanium dioxide for the white, and micas from the Conservatorie  for the purple (cosmo martini) and deep pink (equal parts ruby rose and cosmo martini).  And I created a citrus fruity-floral spring scent using an essential oil blend of 5-fold lemon, may chang, pink grapefruit, ylang ylang, copaiba balsam and patchouli — along with just a titch of peppermint for a little extra pizzazz!

Overall, I’m pleased with my Morning Glory soap.  The technique worked well, and I’ll use it again.  And it smells yumm-o!  My only complaint is that I insulated the soap, which I don’t normally do, and got some crackling from the titanium dioxide getting just a little too hot.  It doesn’t affect the soap at all — it’s just a cosmetic issue — but I was hoping for perfection.  Ah well, maybe next time!

Fourteen of these lovelies will be ready and in my Etsy store by May 1st.  Snag yours now by pre-ordering!