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Soap Challenge Club December 2017

Today is an exciting day, as I launch my new website and blog.  What makes it even more exhilerating to me is that I also chose today to enter the soap creation I am about to share with you into the last soap making competition of 2017, the Great Cakes Soapworks Soap Challenge Club hosted by Amy Warden.   Amy Warden has been an absolutely delightful host of this contest during the last couple of years I have attended.   This will be my fourth participation in the club’s monthly contests, and I am almost heartbroken that this incredible opportunity has come to a Finale.

The Challenge

This month’s challenge was to make a cold process soap with perfectly straight lines.   Our wonderful guest teacher of this technique, Toni Watt of White Milk Soaps & Candles, spared no detail in showing us exactly how to succeed in this process.   Toni came up with the process she teaches by measuring out very small quatities of both oils and lye-solution, mixing each layer individually in small containers and only using a whisk or coffee frother, and pouring from one end of the mold after the layer underneath had set up firmly enough so that the layer being poured would not break through.

Easier said than done!

Setting Up

I used a 3 lb Tall & Skinny silicone soap mold that I supported with one of my wooden soap molds so the middle would not bow out once the loaf was filled with soap batter.   The recipe I used was a simple one consisting of 60% saturated fatty acids to 40% unsaturated fatty acids.  I used Coconut Oil, Tallow, Olive Oil, and Castor Oil.   I learned early on that this recipe is cost effective for participating in these contests as it allows for “do-overs” without eating into your soap making budget.

I readied my oils and lye-solution, and planned on mixing all of my 25 layers I planned to pour in 6 oz disposable cups.   Each layer was carefully calculated in advance so to include just the right amount of oils and lye in grams, not ounces, so that the soap batter would stay evenly proportioned and ingredient-consistent throughout the entire batch.

The Process

My intentions were to have an Ombre color gradiation, ranging from dark to light, moving upwards.   The colors I used were Activated Charcoal, Silver Graphite Mica, a custom blend of pink micas, and Titanium Dioxide.   The top of the soap is painted with Gold Shimmer Mica.  The micas I used were all from Bramble Berry, Mad Micas, and Micas & More.

As you can see, I do strive for my process executions to be both minutely detailed and easily carried out with guidelines to follow.   The check marks meant I accomplished that layer.

A quick note on all these layers listed. Initially, I planned for 27 layers and calculated for such.   Last minute, just before the first layer pour, I decided to have my black starting layer and my final white layer a total amount of 2 layers, reducing my total layers down to 25.

The “mini spoons” I refer to on this list for dispensing my Ombre colors are color measuring spoons from Sally’s Beauty Supply used by color stylists to measure out dry color ingredients.   The one I use is one-sixteenths (1/16) of a teaspoon.

One thing I would change in this particular coloring process is that I would have dispersed the micas in advance in water, oil, or alcohol, and then used more precise measurments using a dropper.   Even measuring out the mica in grams proved in the past not to be accurate enough for a perfect Ombre gradiation (something I learned in the last Soap Challenge Club contest I participated in).

Time Is Of The Essence

Waiting for the layers of soap batter to set up was a test of immense patience.   While I do have a certain level of patience that I’ve learned over the years, this process tested it for sure.   It took almost 14 hours from setup to pouring the final layer to finish this soap.

In between layers I would accomplish other unrelated tasks, chat with friends in Facebook groups, or read up on topics of interest to me in order to satisfy my need for productiveness.

And yet, I still ran into a layer pour “accident” where the next layer after this one shown was broken by the grey layer that followed.   Patience is TRULY a virtue with this process!

It's Getting Hot In There

Once the soap was in the mold, the advice to be successful with this technique was to stick it in the oven at 170*F for 10-20 minutes to let everything heat up, saponify, and gel (a process called CPOP, which stands for ‘Cold Process-Oven Process’).   After the 10-20 minutes have passed, the oven is turned off, the oven light is turned on, and the soap is left to “gel” overnight.

However, my significant other is somewhat sensitive to smelling fragrances and the oven light being left on.   So this is my workaround for accomplishing CPOP successfully.   It is a styrofoam cooler that I lay a heating pad inside of and set the heating pad to high.   I normally “pre-heat” the cooler prior to laying my soap mold inside it to reach gel.   I find this works more successfully than our regular oven in the kitchen, and does not let much of the scent from the soap circulate throughout the house.   (I had left a note on the mirror for my love to please turn the heating pad on high again before leaving the house for work in the morning. <3  )

The scent I used was English Rose, which I added just a hint of Amber to for a very sensual depth.

Perfection Lyes In Progress

I let the soap sit in the mold and the heated styrofoam cooler for a day and a half before unmolding and cutting it.   While I am satisfied with the Ombre gradiation, that one grey layer that broke through bothers me.   But just the fact that it bothers me means that I won’t send this technique off to sit in the sidelines.   I absolutely wanted to make another go at creating perfection.   But alas, the deadline to submit my entry was less than a week away, and I still had to stay on schedule, design my website and blog, and publish it publicly with my entry.

Can I just say that I have “double-butterflies” in my tummy doing this?  Ha!

My soap is called “Centerfold” and is named so due to the Playboy Bunny colors, the sexy scent, and for what happened there in the middle of that layer.  🙂 

I know exactly what to improve in my process here, and I most certainly will be applying this technique in my brand from here on forth.   It’s just absolutely PERFECT for what I have envisioned for my brand and mapped out months prior to this contest in my “soap goals”.   I had never achieved perfectly straight layers in my soaps prior to this, and I am still excited about it!

I really thank Toni Watts for sharing this technique with me and all other members of the Soap Challenge Club.   Progress toward perfection is ineviteable with practice.

A Few Words Of Thanks

On a final note here, I wanted to thank all of my new-found friends in the Soap Challenge Club.   There was a lot of mutual support, advice, and lots empathy (towards the patience department, lol) that was exchanged this month.   More than any other contest that I have experienced.   I am not sure whether everyone who participated, and corrected their mistakes with a new soap loaf several times over, put extra effort in because this is the last contest Amy Warden is hosting.   Regardless, I just want to thank all my fellow soap maker contest comrades for the awesome experience, and tell you how proud I am to be associated and acquainted with you this month (and hopefully in months to come).

Amy, I wish you the very best of luck for your exciting new ventures around the corner.   You have been one of the most encouraging, understanding people I have met within the soap making community, and your leadership skills are absolutely commendable.   You are an asset to all of us, and not just with your soap making skills and contests.  I hope our paths continue to cross in the future.

Perfection is attained by slow degrees; it requires the hand of time.     

Voltaire