This soap was born of a comedy of errors.
One comic ‘tragedy’ after another! But, first, a little background…

I started making soaps about five months ago, and our home is now full of soaps. The bars are everywhere … drying and curing. Our house looks like the abode of a caring cat lady who replaced her love of felines with the love of soaps. If you are reading this, you can probably relate to this craziness.
Along the way, I heard about Amy’s contest. Then, a few weeks ago, I accidentally stumbled upon the contest website, and I decided to enter in order to “get out of my comfort zone.” What was I thinking? I don’t even have a comfort zone!
The first secret swirl I made is actually a beautiful bar of soap. Sadly, it looks more like a tropical fiesta exploded in the bars rather than a swirl hiding within. If Amy’s instructional swirl is a flute, then this is the entire percussion section. For the first time in my short soap making life, my soap accelerated way too fast, and I had to plop rather than pour.  It was definitely a secret swirl disaster, but it sure is a pretty bar of soap. I stubbornly remained determined to enter this contest, so I scratched my head, picked up my bootstraps, and started down the secret swirl road again.

Anyway … for the bar I am entering into the contest, I also wanted to learn a few things apart from the contest.:

  1. I wanted to use the same fats and butters ratio/recipe to see if the acceleration had anything to do with the amount of butters. I could have easily used a different recipe that I knew was slow to trace, but I wanted to see how well I could get tallow and shea to play together in the slow trace world.
  2. I wanted to change the water/lye ratio because I was pretty sure that might have been the cause of acceleration.
  3. I had an avocado that I needed/wanted to use in my next soap, as its days were numbered and the way I understood the regulations, it would be OK as far as the contest goes. [As you will see later on, it was not a great idea as far as coloring goes.]
  4. I had just ordered new micas, and I was dying to try them.

Saturday morning arrives, and the day to soap is here. I am stoked! I’ve read the contest instructions more than once and watched the vids. I am ready to put all the parts and pieces together and turn my vision into reality.

ALL colorants (both accidental and intentional):
Top row – Shamrock Silver Flare, Ripe Avocado
Bottom row – Lorne Green, Hydrated Chrome Green Pigment, Green Chrome Oxide

I’m having a blast in my own little world! I’m excited about my formula, because if it is as slow as the sat:unsat ratio would lead me to believe, it should give me plenty of time to think and create the swirl design.
Meanwhile, I continued tweaking on the fly:

Micas [the original plan] –

  • Hydrated Chrome Green Pigment (1t)
  • Green Chrome Oxide (1t)
  • Shamrock Silver Flare (2t)
  • Lorne Green (1t)
  • All micas pre-mixed in 1-1.5 T light oil

Extra stuff –

  • 1 small avocado, smashed/mashed with 1 T powdered goat milk and then blended into oils before the lye
  • Powdered sugar (2t)
  • Sodium lactate (2t)
  • Sugar and socium lactate added to lye/water mix sometime below 125 F and before adding lye into oils

Essential Oils* –

  • Lime (13 g)
  • Grapefruit pink (12 g)
  • Lavender (15 g)
  • Basil (8 g)
  • Litsea Cubeba (6 g)
  • Black pepper (4 g)

* big thanks to Kenna, Modern Soapmaking, for the inspiration behind this blend.

Now, back to the adventure…

I was smitten by the Shamrock Silver Flare and determined to use it as the background/main color in my design. Sounds like a great idea, right? Wrong! I forgot one small detail … avocado (remember above?) is not invisible. In fact, it has a very distinct color. So, there I was. I added the avocado glop to the melted oils and began stick blending. I now had a huge container showcasing a color that clashed with my color scheme dream!

I was still determined to use that Shamrock, and I was just sure it would not clash as much once the lye mixture was in and emulsion happened. Wrong again! But I persevered. [What was I thinking?] I divided the soap mixture into measuring cups for the swirl. Then, I had a large amount of mixture for the bottom, the top and the in-between. The moment of truth arrived. [Drum roll] I added the Shamrock to the big bowl. Immediately, it became obvious there was no hope. It was overpowered by the avocado, and the new color might well have been named Army Fatigue Sparkle.

I was unyielding, uncompromising and unrelenting in my color decision. I didn’t want to use either of the darker colors for my background. So I added Lorne Green which is a beautiful color on its own. Not so beautiful in this mix … [Deep breath] … I added some more Lorne. Now, I was dancing with a bear, and I kept adding until I had the color you see today which turned out much better than I hoped at the time. Tragedy #1 averted. I was flustered by now. The trace was going to come at me at any moment. I needed to speed up my actions. I poured the bottom layer and looked around to discover the essential oil blend was still on the counter, untouched. [Aargh. Aargh.] I had forgotten to add the oils. I poured the unscented mixture out of the mold and  back into the mixing bowl, added the essential oils to all the containers and kept going. Tragedy #2 averted. I finished the soap, spritzed it with 99% alcohol and put it to bed.

After two tragedies and self-inflicted tension, there is a silver lining. First, the experience was a great learning adventure. Second, this soap formula was very, very slow to trace, so I had time to make and fix mistakes.

Ready for a nap with a heating pad and beach towel!

By Monday, the soaps were ready to begin their own happy minion adventures!

On the playground: “Ring around the Rosie”

“Ashes. Ashes. We all fall down.”

From the playground to the bathtub:

Captain Secret Swirl demands, “Everyone out of the tub. You aren’t old enough to be here!”

Secret Swirlettes pout, “Mumble grumble grumble. OK OK.”

General Secret Swirl announces, “Attention! It’s time for your photo shoot!”

“Alright, Mr DeMille, we’re ready for our close ups*,” the Swirlettes joke. *[based on original quote from Sunset BLVD]

Drama Kings Close Up Pose

…and finally, live from Flagler Beach, right here on our stage….the official photo!  

Wandering and Wondering

  • I learned that a 33% lye concentration moves more quickly toward trace [ratio from my first batch] and a 28% is probably too slow[ratio from this batch]…based on this formula. Going forward,  I going to experiment with  30%.
  • I always like the idea of avocado in soap, but when I do it again, I’ll stick with an all natural approach and work with the color instead of against it. Instead of masking the natural color, I’ll feature it and use natural coloring as well.
  • That little bit of powdered sugar seems to make an impressive difference.I intend to continue adding it to future batches
  • Long ago, I added a piece of tubing by slipping it over my hanger swirl tool. It essentially leaves a larger, stronger look behind. I think it may also be the reason my design looks more like a leaf than a feather. I’ll remove the plastic tubing next time and see what I get.
  • Amy advised us to make a bit more than usual, but, next time I’ll bring it down from 1200 to 1100 grams of oils as I had a healthy amount left.
  • I wish I could create a scratch and sniff in this blog because this EO blend is unbelievable and seems to be gender neutral here. It’s a keeper for future scents.
  • The secret swirl is too close to the bottom in my opinion so I think I need to not guide the hangar all the way down in the mold. I’m not sure?
  • I am grateful for this magical science of soaping and to the people I’ve never met who influence me daily.  Thanks to Amy for The Soap Challenge, [metaphorically and literally], thanks to Kenna for keeping my soaping spark alive, and thanks to Anne-Marie for lighting that spark in the first place.

Last laugh: Nothing says ‘I love you’ like one more blob of soap.