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Test batch #12: LLC 2

Hooray, soap! :p Not entirely exciting, although I did get to play with a new natural colorant this weekend. That was a little *too* exciting (woo, indelible stains! 8D)...

Name-wise, I'm still muddling around for the lemon-lavender-chamomile blend here. The scent blend is supposed to be primarily soothing, with an element of mood-brightening from the lemon. I'm pondering something like "reprieve", "respite"... I kinda like "alleviate" but I think that's too long ;) And "allay" seems like it needs a noun after it. "Balm" gives the right intent, I think, but calling a soap "Balm" just seems like a bad idea. XD "Heart's Ease" has a nice ring to it, but that's an actual plant, the wild pansy. Although the colors are ideal... But anyway, if you have any thoughts on names, I'm happy to hear them. ;D

(I'll say it now: This is going to be a long entry. XD; This is one of those times where I'm documenting for my own purposes as much as anything else, but if you enjoy hearing about the process, here you go. ;D or you can just skip to the pictures XD)

So, two (or three...) different experiments going on in this batch. I'm using a new mold, a sturdy silicone mold which should, in theory, give nice uniform bars and is sturdier than my homemade craft-foam-and-duct-tape molds. The homemade ones are fine for testers, but sometimes when the soap overheats, the sides of the soap get funny-looking... XD; Silicone will hopefully prevent that, though at the moment, overheating is the least of my problems... more on that later. Back to the mold, one of the cooler things about the ones I've got is that they're translucent, almost transparent, so I can actually see any designs I'm trying to make inside the bar... to some degree. Unfortunately, seeing them won't help me fix them if I screw up... XD The mold did nicely in terms of delivering a smooth, straight log o' soap; I had a lot of trouble unmolding it, but I think some of that was to do with the soap being a bit too soft still (I'm so impatient...). There's also an element of vacuum; I loosened the sides of the mold from the log, but the bottom stayed stuck for quite a good while as I wiggled the mold around. Again, I wonder if that would be less of a problem if the soap were harder... I suppose I'll find out eventually. ;D

I also got to play with a new colorant, as mentioned above, and an attempt at a slightly different design technique. So -- time for pictures! ;D

My original intent was to make something like this:

with the purple as a sort of indicator of the lavender content. To get purple, I used alkanet root infused in olive oil. This oil became a dark wine sort of color, reddish purple, but alkanet changes according to pH, so it's often expected to become more blue-ish, even gray, in cold process soap.

Note to self: this infused oil stains like a bitch. XD The mats in my sink have a bit of reddish-purple spatter on them, I ruined a (admittedly cheap) rubber spatula, and stained a t-shirt. This was all during the infusion, before I was even making soap (when I'm usually wearing an apron). XD; I also stained my soap-making rubber gloves, but totally don't care about those, and they get replaced every couple of months anyway.

So. Purple dye. I separated what I hoped was about a quarter of my soap batter and added some purple. Too much purple. Way too much, as it turned out. Trying to lighten it and prevent it from being licorice-dark, I added some more of my uncolored batter to the purple batch... which was definitely going to eff up my stripey plan. I just didn't realize how much. ;D

While I was fiddling with the purple, the uncolored stuff was starting to set. D: I did wait a bit too long before I started the color, but even so, I think perhaps that the essential oils made things go a little too fast -- in soaping, this is called "accelerating trace", and some oils and fragrances are known to trigger it. Next time I try this recipe, I've got to either start messing with the colors earlier, or use a bit more water -- but the latter will increase the cure time, and who wants that? ;P

At any rate, here I am with my plain batter starting to get the consistency of custard, so I quickly poured the mold halfway full, like in the design in my head. I tried to spread it and get it settled evenly, which is more difficult when it's goopy like that ~_~ But since it was so firm already, I poured the purple straight on. That was more or less okay -- the purple didn't collapse the yellow -- but I now had way more purple than I wanted. "Well," I thought, "maybe I'll do a little bicolor swirl on top, then!" so I reserved a little bit (I thought) of the purple, smoothed out what was poured, and went back to my yellow.

Ordinarily I would have tried to wait for the purple to firm up a bit more before pouring on top of it, but the rest of the yellow was setting fast, so I quickly poured it on... but since it was more dense than the purple soap below, it caved in the layer. :\ On top of that, there wasn't enough yellow left to make my design properly, of course! So this already looked pretty dumb.

"Nothing for it," I figured. I poured the remainder of the purple on top... and it was more than I thought. I was thinking I'd drizzle it over the yellow and make a fancy sort of swirl, but there was enough purple to completely cover the yellow! :/ If I'd known that, I would have poured the yellow and purple remainders in stripes, and worked with them that way. But noooo. :P (In my defense, it is quite hard to gauge a small amount of soap at the bottom of an 8-qt stock pot...) Resignedly, I settled for making a textural swirl on the top, and I did manage to draw up a little of the yellow to get some paler streaks in it.

So, how does this madness look?

(I was having real problems adjusting these colors in Photoshop, but the purple is like... blueberry juice purple, not brown.)

If I had realized how un-straight the layers were, I would have stuck a stick in there and tried to swirl it right off the bat. :| And if I were smart, I would have looked through the mold at the short end to *see* how bad the layers were! I guess I'm not used to a see-through mold yet. ;P I guess the one thing I'm pleased with is the top; a little more yellow would have been good, but it looks like a fancy blueberry-topped cheesecake or something, IMO ;D Maybe not helpfully indicative of lavender, however...

The purple turned out more red than I'd expected; the day it was poured, and even the morning after, it was much bluer, and I was okay with that, since lavender flowers are more blue in tone, but it reddened up throughout the day before I got to cut it. Curious! I suppose that indicates the soap has a relatively low pH? Or something. All to the good.

In the future, if I really want geometrically straight layers, I can use dividers while I pour, and then whisk the dividers out and let the soap do its thing. However, since my molds atm all make horizontal bars, I'd have stripes like this:

which is all right, I suppose, but then I can't do a funky top. ;D I think for this particular scent, though, the funky top isn't really necessary -- it looks a bit too much like food, I think. XD; I'm probably better off saving my swirly fun for something more gourmand, like the chocolate stuff.

Totally separate from all this color madness, this weekend was really cold. Like, in the 50's for the first time in a while. I usually have concerns with keeping soap from overheating, but between the new mold (which has no built-in insulation) and the ambient temperature... I had this thing all wrapped up in multiple towels and everything. XD; It must have hit a high temp eventually, perhaps overnight, because it got bubbles on top (which you might be able to see in the pics). But it was pretty slow to do so -- my average time to max temp has been like 2 hours. XD; Theoretically that shouldn't have affected anything about the soap, but I suspect that if it were warmer, it would have firmed up faster than it has. But I could be wrong!

Last but not least ;D

Ingredients: Olive oil (infused with Matricaria chamomilla [German chamomile] flowers and alkanet root), distilled water (infused with Matricaria chamomilla flowers), coconut oil, organic palm oil, sodium hydroxide (lye), castor oil, shea butter, Lavandula officinalis (lavender) essential oil, Citrus limonum (lemon) essential oil, sugar, Litsea cubeba essential oil.

I think allergies will have been covered on these ingredients before, so:

1. If the soap smells good (or you think it would, if buying online), would an inept appearance put you off? XD Visual appeal is a big deal, especially online I would think, but I wonder how much...

I wouldn't plan to sell soaps looking like this, but if, in the future, I'm making a usual recipe and it happens to go wildly awry, appearance-wise, I might sell it at a slight discount as "irregular" or something XD;

And if you made it through all that, congratulations and thank you. ;D


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 4th, 2011 03:23 pm (UTC)
I think it looks beautiful!

Visual appeal is important to me, but not hugely, as my bar soap goes in a little bar soap scrubbie thing - so it needs to look good on display on my bathroom shelf, but after that, whatever works!
Oct. 4th, 2011 04:13 pm (UTC)
Thanks! It definitely looks, uh, handmade. XD lol...

That's the conundrum of packaging and appearance, I suppose -- with stuff like this, it really has very little to do with how it works and how it's used, but it may make all the difference in the world in grabbing someone's attention. XD I added a bit in the post to elaborate, but I don't think I'd try to sell something that came out this (unintentionally) wonky at full price -- maybe a little discounted ;D It should still be perfectly good, just not "perfect"... assuming I can achieve (near) perfect. ;D
Oct. 12th, 2011 05:08 pm (UTC)
Okay so I had this open in a tab for several days and now I read it ;D

I think appearance is really important to me...I may or may not buy soap that looked like the above--more likely if I knew it was handmade and especially if I already liked the scent. It seems kind of quaint, if you know what I mean? Handmade soap that is obviously handmade and not doled out into molds by a machine? XD But in general I think I like it to look pretty, even if I'm just going to mess it up in the shower. Another problem is that the market is sort of inundated, you know? So even if you discount it, there's a chance the discount won't be enough to get people to pick it over endless other options, even if they're slightly more expensive...

On the other hand, I would totally buy cheesecake that looked like that. ;)

PS I ordered some handmade soaps from Etsy for a charity thing and I think they're made with synthetic scents--there are four different ones, and all of them are overwhelming and make me want to puke--and none of them smell like the thing they're supposed to be. X__X
Oct. 12th, 2011 05:53 pm (UTC)
I can dig it. XD It does look very handmade, hahaha. ;D I would think that the wtf appearance would be less of a handicap in person (where someone could smell the bar), but online, when all you’ve got to go on is appearance, I could see it being more of a problem. As far as the discounting goes, I would probably be more likely to use that alongside a “proper” version of the soap, like... “here’s the ideal version for $x, but I’ve got some of the same stuff that just looks a little funky over here for $y, too”, which seems most ideal for customers already familiar with the scent, but yeah, I don’t know how well that might work. ;D It *is* a crowded field, and some extra visual ooh-la-la is probably needed -- along with scent and/or materials that sound nice -- to grab a first time customer. ^^; Unfortunately, trying to learn how to do the visual stuff = lots of funny looking soap in the meantime ;D

(Mmmmm cheesecake. XD)

Yerk, I’m sorry you have “loud” soap T_T;; I think sometimes, playing with scents constantly, we lose track of how strong/good/bad certain things are. XD;; Out of curiosity, what are the scents supposed to be? :x
Oct. 12th, 2011 06:32 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I'm speaking in an online context. In person the scent would be king for sure.

The ones I got are pomegranate, jasmine, black magic (not sure exactly what that's supposed to be--it smells like a new age shop, so probably the elusive patchouli ;D), and cupcake. The cupcake one is the worst. I dunno if it's just taken on overpowering scents of everything else or if it smelled that bad to begin with, but it's really flowery and not at all edible. XD The jasmine one smells like what all my "scented" dolls seemed to smell like (I dunno if you ever had a scented My Little Pony or anything, but they always smelled the same... XD). Pomegranate smells somewhat fruity, so that's a start, but like fruity medicine or gummy vitamins or something. Again, like if some plastic toy is meant to be "fruit" scented... They'd probably all be more tolerable if the scents weren't so very overwhelming. Cripes. XD
Oct. 13th, 2011 12:03 am (UTC)
Eek, yeah, I could definitely imagine where the "cupcake" might have been killed by the other stuff, if they were all shipped in close proximity or whatnot. :o (You can imagine how many random items I get in perfume swap packages that smell entirely like perfume and not whatever they should smell like XD) I gotta say, I've been looking for a good pomegranate scent and it's apparently? difficult, or these chemists don't know what pomegranates smell like. XD All but 1 of them have smelled like strawberry or cherry or cherry cough syrup X_x That 1 smells like the Bath and Body Works pomegranate note, which I like, but I kinda want a "just pom" smell if I can find one. Not doing so well so far. XD
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

About Ma*Ga

The Garden's aim is to craft luxurious, skin-nourishing soaps with natural ingredients and a healthy dollop of whimsy.
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