My Scented Serenity...

Welcome to my blog! Here you'll find the humble musings of a novice Aussie soap and candle maker. I hope you'll join me on my learning journey and feel free to leave comments, give advice and ask questions. I hope to be able to share with you my learnings, and inspire others, as much as so many talented people have inspired me.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

More on my Christmas soaping marathon...

I was off to a good start but still had much to do.  My mission had only just begun!


I was on a roll with creating the gender-specific soaps and getting to grips with colouring and creating swirls in my soap.  So it was on to the next two gender-based soaps using 'Eden's Garden' fragrance for the girls and Davidoff's 'Cool Water' for the boys.  Boy did I have some fun with these!  By now I was really starting to loosen up and not be so afraid of over-blending and have the mix go to trace too quickly.  I eventually figured out that I needed to only go to thin trace as this would allow me to spend more time on combining colours and swirling techniques.


As the name suggests, Cool Water just had to be blue.  I wanted to represent the ocean as it is always cool and inviting.  So with this soap I aimed for a light blue base colour with darker blue swirls to represent the rolling waves.   To make my swirls more prominent than my previous attempts, I decided to take to the mix with a spoon once it was in the mould.  I'm really pleased I did as I got much nicer swirls through the soap.




I felt so excited about my new swirling efforts that I also got stuck into the top of the soap with a skewer.  You can't have an ocean-like soap without white caps on the waves right?! 



~Cool Water~



I absolutely adore the colour and texture of these swirls!


My only disappointment came in the unmoulding process.  Like Wasabi, and every other soap after this, I had difficulty getting the soap to release from the mould.  I had waited at least 24 to 36 hours (sometimes even 48 hours!) for the saponification process to be completed before attempting to unmould, however every time I found myself putting the mould into the freezer for a couple of hours, then having to wait for the condensation to dry off once the soap was unmoulded before I could cut it. What was I doing wrong?  Obviously plastic moulds would not be the best for forming perfectly smooth-sided loaves.


Some damage on the side where the soap stuck to the side of the mould



I was really finding my groove now with this whole swirling thing.  So with Eden's Garden I really went town.  I wanted to really give the feel of a beautifully blooming flower garden so I went with four colours for this one...



~Eden's Garden~


I am SO pleased with this effort!  I swirled this on two layers so the colours were well spread through the body of each bar.  While the scent was a very nice one, a light floral, I don't feel that it will hold up too well long term.


So, moving on from these, I next wanted to tackle a 'foody' type fragrance so I went nuts (pardon the pun!) with Turkish Mocha.  Oh my goodness...mouth-wateringly edible!  This scent really did drive me nuts all through the curing period - I was constantly smelling chocolate cake through my house!



~Turkish Mocha~

I had a lot of fun swirling with this one.  I went for a Turkish Delight kind of look with brown, red, black and white.  Again, I was impatient trying to get this soap out of the mould and ended up damaging the sides in places...damn!




My saving grace...an attempt at a different style of textured top.  With a little sprinkling of cocoa powder thrown in for good measure!






Was I getting close to being finished this marathon?  Oh no.  Still more gorgeous fragrances to whip into an interesting work of art!


By now, I was getting really comfortable with colouring, swirling, keeping a thin trace and finding ways to texture the tops of my soaps.  But what about something simple, something traditional?  Like any good soaper (I believe!) I had to have the good ol' Oatmeal, Milk & Honey soap.  What kind of soaper would I be if I couldn't make this soap staple?  So here it is...



~Oatmeal, Milk & Honey~




I love this!  I had a crack at using loofah as a botanical additive way back when I made my first ever batches, but I was yet to use ground oatmeal.  I imagine this one will become a permanent feature in my soaping repertoire!  I can't wait to try this one myself!  So many soaps...so little time!


My original plan was to go with Mint Choc Chip as part of the foody group of soaps I was making, but then I felt it would be too much like the Turkish Mocha.  So, I found another delightful foody fragrance in Black Raspberry & Vanilla.  What a great choice!  The name gave me a chance to go wild with my new container of black oxide.  Hence, along came my next creation with a nice little pink and white ripple through the middle of the loaf.  Forget swirling here, I'm onto layers now!  I think I'm making great progress along my learning curve!



~Black Raspberry & Vanilla~




But alas, the alluring call of the swirl was too much.  I just had to get some swirls in somewhere!  So a simple swirl on top it was.





I decided to add some loofah to this soap as I had been concentrating so much on use of colour and technique that I really only had my oatmeal, milk & honey soap as an exfoliate.  Note to self for next time, much finer grade loofah and well separated!





I really dislike the tracks that loofah leaves in the soap when it is cut.  I know that by using the crinkle cutter, the effect shouldn't be as obvious, but it is.   :( 




I actually made another soap using my Nizzy mould and the Kentish Rain fragrance I have.  However, as I was working against the clock (or is that the calendar?) I was so caught up in getting through my list of 'soaps to make', that I forgot to photograph my last CP soap!  Probably a good thing...didn't quite turn out the way I'd planned!  I made an attempt at doing a faux funnel pour using white, green and blue to represent rain.  I'm not sure whether I over blended, dithered about too much colouring the mix or whether the fragrance accelerated the trace, but instead of pouring each colour in to make the coloured rings I so desired, I ended up spooning and glopping the mix into the mould!  The end result...a beautifully fragranced and coloured bunch of bars with a very roughly textured top!  Simple exfoliation...couldn't be easier!!! ;)


By now you must be thinking that this soaping marathon must be coming to an end?  Oh no...there was more soap still to be made!  The disastrous Kentish Rain was the final CP but it was next on to whipping up some M&P soaps to throw into these little (?!) pamper packs.  Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately for you!) I didn't take the time out to photograph these.  But they did turn out well.  You've got to love M&P for a quick and easy result!


If you've stuck with me thus far through this soapy, and wordy (!) marathon, thanks!  If you've tuned out already, then that's okay too.  I'm just a little bit chuffed about my results and felt this was a good way to record my progress.


I hope you'll be back for my next post/s...pamper packs revealed!





A new beginning...

With the new year comes a new beginning for me. This blog is just one of the many new experiences I am looking forward to engaging with.


So what is this 'new beginning'? Well, it basically comes in the form of a radical career change.


In June 2011, after a fifteen year career as a teacher and principal in a small public primary school, I decided it was time to call it day. It was time to leave the daily grind and stress behind and pursue a new direction. No more wasting time writing policies that no one is interested in reading, cutting through red tape and endless, pointless paperwork and being a nameless, faceless little cog in a huge political machine. Time to be my own boss, set my own direction, play by my own rules.


So what is the grand plan? I guess the plan is not an unfamiliar one to the millions of passionate crafters out there...my great ambition is to now establish my own little business whereby I turn my love of crafting into my livelihood.


I have always considered myself a 'crafty' person - and no I don't mean that in a sly, sneaky sort of way! ;)  Even as a child I was always experimenting with new crafts during school holidays.  I am fortunate to have a very talented and patient mother who spent countless hours teaching me to sew, knit and crotchet.  I have carried these skills into adulthood and continued to create through these mediums - unfortunately indulgences in these pastimes continued to only occur during school holidays!


My interest in creating things from scratch has led me to teach myself the skills of applique, patchwork and quilting - something I enjoyed sharing with my students when the opportunity arose.  I have managed to complete a number of quilts over the past few years (all but one as gifts for family members' birthdays or anniversaries).  I did the smart thing as a beginner and purchased quilt kits with all the pre-cut fabric, patterns etc as I'm definitely not one to have confidence in my abilities before test-driving a new craft.  However, after the first kit or so, I had a very strong urge to design my own quilts. So I plunged right in and created a photo memory quilt (nothing like starting with something simple!) for my parent's 50th wedding anniversary. 


My first ever attempt at quilt design and creation

~50 Hearts for 50 Years~


Since then I have continued to create my own designs with only the occasional creation coming from the wonderful Australian Patchwork and Quilting magazine and those talented quilters featured within its pages.  Patchwork has been the most surprising interest area for me as I could never understand why anyone would want to cut up a whole bunch of fabric only to sew it back together again!  Who knew it would be so addictive!


I have also allowed myself to indulge in cross stitch and tapestry, both of which I enjoy immensely as they have provided a great deal of stress relief and relaxation.  I guess I have a definite penchant for needlework!


Oh, and did I mention that I make candles too?!  Many moons ago I experimented with this craft using paraffin wax and while the candles turned out okay, I wasn't fussed with the kind of wax or the poor quality fragrances I was using.  So I left this craft to rest for a few years however I have returned to it once again now I have found the wonderful variety of soy and palm (sustainable of course!) waxes.  I am absolutely loving the creation of both container and pillar candles with a wonderful array of beautiful fragrances and essential oils.


Early in 2011 I decided I would give soapmaking a go.  I played it safe and started with the easy melt and pour kits and found I enjoyed creating these simple little soaps.  Of course after a couple of goes at this I felt I needed a greater challenge and so after studying all the information I could get my hands on, I gingerly attempted my first cold processed soap.  Needless to say, I WAS HOOKED!  I absolutely love the process of creating a luxurious bar of soap all from natural ingredients.



One of my first CP soap loaves

~Cucumber Melon~


So as my dissatisfaction with my career grew, I started to consider that I have a wide range of skills that I could put to good use.  I was sick and tired of not having the time nor energy to engage in my creative pursuits, except for school holidays, so my thoughts turned to what it would be like to do what I loved everyday.  And hence I made the extremely difficult (and rather brave) decision to leave the safety of a well established career to pursue the establishment of a small business. 


And I guess that brings me back to where I am right now, beginning this journal.


Over the past couple of years I've spent countless hours surfing the web, gathering information and enhancing my personal learning. Despite being technologically savvy, I have never bothered to engage in 'blogging'. So I have decided that blogging is a must-have new experience. I hope this forum will enable me to 'journal' my new experiences and track my new learning journey, and hopefully share with others some common interests.


As this new year begins, I am for the first time in a very long time, excited about what lies ahead of me.


This is definitely a story to be continued...

Monday, January 23, 2012

My Christmas soaping marathon!

As I mentioned in my previous post, I made my very first CP soap over the Easter weekend in 2011 and then due to career-related events, I had a long break from experimenting with my new-found passion.  So once I had time on my side again, and was considering what my future direction would be as far as my own business was concerned, I decided I would use Christmas as product testing time.  What better way to kill two birds with one stone so to speak...make some soap so I could try out new techniques and fragrances and cover all the family Christmas pressies!   Clever huh?


So, by the end of October, I started my Christmas soapmaking marathon.  The plan was to create pamper packs for each member of the family which would include CP soap bars, a few MP soaps, sugar scrubs, bath bombs and candles, amongst a few other goodies like chocolates, wine etc.  Keeping in mind that I'd made both MP and CP soap, and bath bombs only once before, I had a lot of work ahead of me.  Talk about brave, I'd never even considered making sugar scrubs before now...


My goal was to make about ten different CP soaps, eight common types and two specialities (two for the girls, and two for the boys).  Until now, I'd only made three basic recipes which didn't involve any colouring techniques.  This was my chance to get to know some fragrances and to try my hand at swirling.  A little ambitious...I only had one loaf mould!  I did actually get around to purchasing another mould - from Nizzy moulds - a wise investment!


I got busy...making soap every other day.  I had an absolute ball!  Each day my husband would come home from work and be greeted by all these new and wonderful smells!  Our house has never smelled so good!  I can't believe how many beautiful fragrances are available - far too many to choose from!


Being the procrastinating perfectionist I am, I did my research on colouring, especially swirling techniques, before I started...isn't YouTube fantastic?!!  So began my marathon.  I have to say, I'm really happy with the results.  Check out some of my creations...not bad for a novice huh? 


My new Nizzy  mould with dividers


Sweet Meyer Lemon

Sweet Meyer Lemon was the first of many soaps for the pamper pack.  This was my first attempt at an in-the-mould swirl.  The fragrance is certainly a sweet lemon.


Feeling confident that I could manage this swirling thing, I moved on to attempt number two - Wasabi, with two gradients of green.  I absolutely love this fragrance.  It is really fresh!  Once unmoulded, the scent drifted right through the house - it is a very strong fragrance.




Wasabi


With Wasabi, I attempted an in-the-pot swirl.  Not a great success as the majority of colour rested on the bottom of the pot and mould.   I do love the textured top however!  My technique for doing this was - 'get-it-in-the mould-as-fast-as possible' - as excessive stick blending, then taking my time to colour the separated batches, saw the mix come to trace really quickly - so I was in a panic to get it into the mould before it seized on me.


Enthused by my first two efforts, I next tackled having a three-colour swirl - brown, black and white - with Drakkar as the fragrance.  As this is a really musky scent based on a men's aftershave, I wanted some dark colours.  This started as an in-the-pot swirl but once the mix was in the mould, I couldn't help myself and I just had to do some swirling with a chopstick.  I was quite pleased with the outcome - there are some really subtle layers of colour throughout the body of each bar.  Again, the top of the soap pleases me - I just love the various textures; they differ greatly from bar to bar.  I have to wonder though, is there some evidence of soda ash on the top of some of these bars?  I'm still not sure what soda ash looks like so I can't be sure.  What do you think?







Drakkar


This is one for the boys!  A gorgeous fragrance, but I wonder how it will hold up when it is used.


So what about one for the girls?  Well, that was attempt four.  I decided that I would base the speciality soaps on perfume-type scents so Ancient Sedonia was chosen for the first 'girly' soap.  It is said to be similar to Calvin Klein's 'Obsession'.  The idea behind this one was to have basically a reddish coloured bar with hints of pink and white swirls through the bar.  Unfortunately, I discovered that the information I'd read on using red oxide in CP soap was right - it really does eat the colour.  So what I ended up with was a pastel red with very subtle hints of pink and white swirls.  I was initially really disappointed with this soap, however the more I looked at it, the more I came to like it.  The pastel look really wasn't that bad and the fragrance is definitely 'girly'.



Ancient Sedonia


So, I was off to a fairly good start however the marathon would continue for some time...


Saturday, January 14, 2012

I'm so excited!

I know it has only been a few days since I launched my blog, but I have to say I'm so excited to have finally done it!


One of my fears in starting a blog was that I would soon run out of things to 'blog' about.  I am by nature a real procrastinator and I generally have to think things through and analyse them to death before actually getting on with it.  I'm one of those perfectionist types who like to ensure I'm going to get things right before jumping in - not exactly a risk-taker.  Just to prove a point, I'll just share with you that I've even been reading a book borrowed from the town library, about the art of blogging!  So now that I have finally started something I've been wanting to get into for a long time, I'm happy. :)


Starting a blog is just one a large number of things on my 'to do' list now that I have my life back.  Six months down the track from regaining my freedom, as I've come to think of my decision to leave my career behind, I am amazed at how many things there are to squeeze into a day, and just how much energy I have to get stuck into them with.  Certainly a far cry from where I've been for the last few years.


So, as I mentioned, starting a blog about my soapmaking journey is something I have been wanting to do for a while.  Of course, my perfectionist nature ensured that I did more research than just reading a book about blogging.  As I was not really familiar with the blog concept, I decided I really should check out some blogs and see just what the attraction is.  Over the last few months I've been scouring the internet in search of some good soapmaking blogs and I have been amazed at just how many there are!  I have also been totally awestruck at the incredible variety of handcrafted soaps there are and the amazing creations these talented artisans have come up with.  Needless to say, I've become a follower of a large number of handmade soap blogs!

One thing I have found comforting in reading through the various blogs I'm following, is that I can relate to many of the ideals and insecurities their authors discuss.  It seems that being confident about your own abilities and the quality of the things you produce, is not something that comes easily to many of us.  I guess it's the fact that you are putting a part of yourself out there to be judged by the masses - a bit like authoring a blog! 

To date, I've only been able to read top to bottom through the entire blog archive of two Aussie soapmakers' blogs - both of whom I've found to be totally inspiring.  I have to give a shout out to Simply Soap and A Handmade Soap Blog authors and say that I'm enjoying your posts immensely. 

                                                           @Gabby (Simply Soap) - I've really been enjoying your posts and can relate to many of your 'considerations'.  I feel we would have many things in common.  Your soaps are absolutely gorgeous!  I'll continue to follow with much interest!

                                                            @Roxta (A Handmade Soap Blog) - I began following you just prior to the launch of your online business and I was astounded at how quickly you went from decision-making to launch (about 1 month I think!)!   I can only aspire to be that assertive and confident when it comes to launching my site! Congratulations - your website looks fantastic!! And of course, your soaps are awesome!


As a relative novice soapmaker, I believe I have a great deal to look forward to as I work towards launching my own little website!  I have so many things still to learn but it is a journey that I'm really keen to progress.  After making my first CP soap over Easter in 2011, I had a rather long spell of 'nothingness' in terms of creativity due to 'happenings' on the career front.  I did however launch headlong into soap and candlemaking just before Christmas...but that's a tale for another day!


Until next time...many suds and bubbles to you all!  :)