The making of Lavender Bliss

Following the launch of our Etsy Store and also the very successful Vendor Splendor Blender, our inventory has diminished to almost nothing.
With the impending Reston Farmer’s Market starting in May, both Brooke and I were ramping our soap production and we are building up a sizable inventory again.
Some of you asked how do we make soaps, so as I was making my Lavender Bliss today, I decided to take step by step photos of how I made my soaps and share that with you guys.

All soap making follows the same basic four steps:

  1. Planning
  2. Measurement
  3. Execution
  4. Biting nails while waiting to see if your design translates to real life.

 

1. PLANNING
I want to make a all-natural lavender soap. In the spirit of Spring, I wanted a more pastel color scheme, and I’ve decided on – White, Pale Purple and Dark Pastel Purple. As I wanted pastel colors, I would need to make my soap base white to achieve pastel colors. Design wise, I wanted them to swirl together and because of this design criteria, my soap batter needs to stay liquid and thin. And that means that I need to soap cold instead of soap hot. Ok. Planning done.

 

2. MEASUREMENT

I measured out the following ingredients –

  • Oil Base: Olive Oil, Coconut Oil, Shea Butter, Avocado Oil and Castor Oil
  • Lye Solution: Lye, Water
  • Colors: Mica & Titanium Dioxide (Mixed with base oils to better incorporate into our soap batter)
  • Additives: Lavender Essential Oil, Bentonite Clay, Lavender Buds

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3. EXECUTION

To form the lye solution, carefully dissolved Lye INTO water (not the other way round), wait for it to cool down and then gently add the lye solution into the base oil. Cooling down is essential because I wanted to soap cold and I also added a touch of titanium dioxide to our soap base to form a whiter base for our pastel color. See, planning phase is super important.

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Once lye solution is added into the oils, mixture was stick blended till it forms a thin trace. A thin trace is super important because I will be employing a pouring method later. Medium or thick trace will make it un-pourable, and will completely ruin what I have in mind.  As I blend, the oil turned from a golden liquid to this white, opaque mixture. This white base is the perfect canvas for forming beautiful pastel colors.

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Once a thin trace is formed, lavender essential oil and bentonite clay is then added in for relaxing scent of lavender, and that gentle, clarifying property of bentonite clay.

This is the tricky part – I need to make sure I blend everything in well while still maintaining a thin trace and this came from experience. The first few soaps I made, I had everything planned out. Then I promptly blended a couple more extra seconds. In these couple of seconds, the soap batter turned from this gorgeous thin liquid-y trace to a thick apple sauce like medium trace resulting in a change of plans, and a very upset Janette.

I’ve since learned to “let it go”. Today was perfect though! *Self high-five!*

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Once everything is incorporated, the soap batter is split into the following colors:

  • Light pastel purple
  • Dark pastel purple
  • Cream

Don’t these look Easter-ly? They are beautiful aren’t they? Although now that I’m looking at this picture, they kinda look like strawberry, raspberry and vanilla ice-cream batter. I think this is an indication that my soap is going to turn out DELICIOUS! 🙂

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To form the design, I simply poured in one soap batter down the center the soap mold. Then I repeat, alternating the colors. As each color gets poured in, it pushes the previous soap batter outwards, towards the edge of the mold.  With multiple layers poured down the center, all these layers will form these beautiful waves of alternating colors as you cut it vertically.

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I wanted the colors to swirl and get intertwined with one another, and so I added an additional step which Brooke used for her very famous Honey Almond Shea Soap – the Spoon Turn technique (I’m pretty sure there’s a name for this, but I’m calling it the Spoon Turn Technique because that’s essentially what it really is.)

It’s pretty simple, I took a spoon, bring it all the way down to the bottom, and then slowly pull the spoon up, rotating it as I bring it up to the surface. As it rotates, the colors should start to swirl together. At least that’s what I hope.

One of the lessons I’ve learned while making soap is that, sometimes, what you had in mind doesn’t always translates to the final outcome. So, until I cut the soap, I really wouldn’t know how it actually turns out. But, I can always hope! 😀

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Once the layers are done, it’s time to pretty up the surface by simply running a chopstick across the surface to creating all these beautiful swirls.

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Then it’s down to adding lavender buds down the center of the soap as a final touch. I always like doing that because I find that it adds a whimsical look to this soap and that burst of lavender scent when you smell it is worth all the effort.

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Because I started this batch cold, in an effort to slow down the saponification process so as to maintain a thin trace, I know that if I don’t insulate this soap, I will only be able to achieve partial gel phase. I wanted the entire bar of soap to go through gel phase, so I had to  wrap the soap in cling-wrap, place it in my oven, throw on a couple of towels at the top to keep in the heat generated during saponification process.

Again, I am hoping this is enough to get it through complete gel phase. But again, until I cut it, I can only hope for the best.

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And now, my most hated (and most favorite part) – The cleaning up

Least favorite part of soap making – Cleaning up. I am still imagining my perfect soap lab, cabinets and shelves everywhere, a fume cupboard for that dreaded lye fumes and a dedicated dishwasher. Hand washing can be a *itch. Try hand washing with a giant glove and trying not to get raw soap batter all over your hands cnd be a complete nightmare! A dedicated dishwasher would be very nice. But there’s a silver lining in every wash which leads us to: Favorite part of cleaning up – To facilitate cleaning, I’ve developed a habit of scraping down all excess soap batters before washing up. I figured that it’s easier to wash without all these excess soap sticking to the bowls. And typically, these “production wastages” forms anywhere from ¾ to 1 full bar of oval soap and I’m always extremely happy to know that I will be able to have my own personal bar without having to answer to Andrew (our CFO) on why I had to take another soap from our inventory again :p Win-win!

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4. THE CUTTING…

After waiting for a full 24 hours, even though the soap is slightly soft, it still looks beautiful when cut. I can see the purple and cream swirls. There are also grey patches from bentonite clay that precipitated out, and I’m happy to see that the entire soap was fully gelled. All in all, pretty close to what I had in mind, and that, to me, is a job well done!

Now, it’s time to kick back and wait for this to cure for 6 weeks. In the meantime,  I should probably start planning another soap.

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