Friday, January 23, 2015

Butterflies in Winter


It’s not Spring yet but wouldn’t it be great if we could import some signs of Spring into these cold days of Winter? Well, I stumbled upon a way of doing this as I was multitasking the other day---relaxing, doing a hobby that I love, learning a new technique and trying to enter a contest! I’ve written before about how I learned how to make soap last Spring and that I “soaped” as a way of dealing with my grief over losing Dad. Now, I’m taking it to a higher level and learning some advanced techniques.

Along the way, I discovered the Soap Challenge Club, hosted by Great Cakes Soapworks. For the third time, I entered the contest, which is designed to teach new soaping techniques but THIS TIME I actually finished my project in time to blog about it and upload the link for my entry! This month’s challenge is the Butterfly Swirl, an advanced technique that is very tricky and can be quite frustrating. The idea behind it is that the soaper (that would be me) creates a design in a loaf of soap using various colorants, a “hangar tool” which allows the swirling to happen and a technique that is just right. What’s supposed to happen is that once the soap is unmolded and cut into bars, two of the bars will fit together in such a way that the resulting image will be that of a butterfly. Sounds SO EASY right? WRONG!!! I tried this a couple of times before finding a couple of soaps that would give me the design. Here are a some pictures from my final effort.

Butterfly Swirl 4
This is what a (fancy) loaf of soap looks like once it has hardened in the mold and is ready to cut. I started out with all the raw ingredients to make the soap (in this case, coconut oil, shea butter, water, aloe, silk and sodium hydroxide) and then mixed in a gorgeous cherry fragrance oil called Black Cherry Bomb from Nature’s Garden. The swirl on the top is not the Butterfly Swirl but is a nice little decoration for the finished bar. Here are a couple of close ups of the top design:
Butterfly Swirl 5

Butterfly Swirl 6
I know it looks really fancy, but the top design was really easy. The inside design is the problem. Once I got the soap put together with all of the ingredients (not including the fragrance oil and the colors), I blended the soap until it got slightly thick. So far, so good. This is where a lot of things can go awry (and we haven’t even gotten to the design yet!). Normally, I wouldn’t use a fragrance oil that I had not yet tested in soap but I wanted to try something that wouldn’t discolor this particular soap (some fragrances change the soap color) AND that smelled like Spring to me. Since I have a LOT (and I mean A LOT!!!) of fragrance oils on hand, I researched each oil that interested me to see how it performed for others. I finally settled on the Black Cherry Bomb fragrance, which is strong and heavenly! The biggest risk, besides discoloration, is that a fragrance oil will harden the soap before I could get the swirling done. Fortunately, Black Cherry Bomb behaved beautifully!

Next is the color. I decided to do a white base color with four swirling colors. I used three colors from Nurture Soap Supplies (Pink Vibrance, Blue Vibrance and Yellow Vibrance) and then a smidgen of black (Brambleberry’s Black Mica). Once I got the colors mixed and incorporated into the various parts of the soap. I used my hangar tool to swirl away! For this particular recipe, I was able to unmold the soap after about 24 hours and then I cut it into bars. Now the trick of the Butterfly Swirl was to find two bars that I could put together to form a butterfly. Fortunately, I was able to find several combinations. I also took it a step further and put four bars together to form really huge butterflies!  Here are the results!

Two Bar butterfly
Butterfly Swirl 1
Four Bar Butterfly
Butterfly Swirl 3
Four Bar Butterfly

It may have taken me several tries, but I finally did it! Learning this technique was a lot of fun and I will definitely be doing more Butterfly Swirls in an attempt to perfect it. The great thing, though, is that not only do I have tons of soap (as in I have a whole separate batch of attempts that I didn’t even show) to give away within 4-6 weeks but my office smells just like cherries. That’s the way to get into Spring!