Thursday, February 23, 2012

Learn From Our Mistakes

When you first learned how to ride a bike, did you fall off once or twice?  I know I did.  And I should've known better when it came to soaping.  I wasn't going to be ready for the Tour de France after 10 batches.  But unfortunately, I got cocky. 

Over the weekend, after a rather unfortunate incident where I flooded the kitchen with palm oil (a story for another day) I made a batch of soap.  And it was the most beautiful batch of soap that I've ever made.  Ever.  No seriously.  Look at the picture, it's absolutely gorgeous and turned out perfectly, in my mind.

I checked it in the morning and was so impressed with myself.  I tried a new method and it had worked so perfectly.  Except....then I noticed a couple little spots of brown liquid seeping out.  "That's odd," I thought to myself.  I had had liquid seep out before (sometimes an effect of it overheating or the glycerin pushing it's way out) but it was always clear. I went to my full time job and let the lovely soap sit, basking in all it's glory, on the kitchen table.

At lunch, I had to check it out again, because I was just so proud of it.  However, the fact that the liquid had not reabsorbed had me a little nervous.  I decided to test it, just to make sure it was oils or something totally harmless.  Have you ever tested a 9-volt battery with your tongue to see if it has a charge?  Yeah, that's sorta what it feels like when something isn't going right.  And let me tell you, I got a "shock" of a life into me.

I hung my head low once I realized what had happened.  And even lower when I realized I had to scrap this batch.  But not scrap as in throw away.  I had to do something called rebatch.  It is also known as double milled or French milled soap.  Unfortunately, it makes the beautiful swirls in the soap go away, because I basically had to chop the soap up, melt it down and then get it into the mold.

It ends up looking like this:

Looks a bit like a cement block, huh?  Yeah, I was pretty sad.   But on the positive side, I did learn a new technique.  And also a technique I will NOT be trying again in the future.

And failure comes in all forms, from soaps to bath bombs.  I spent several hours and multiple pounds of products working on a new recipe so that I can start offering the amazingness that is bath bombs.  The first batch, well, they went off early and then, started to grow, then shrank.  At least the color is pretty.

Well, the next batch, well, let's just skip that one.  After severe frustration, I threw that in the sink and just let it foam everywhere.  The next batch, I had high hopes for.  I was trying to use less ingredients, but I was expecting too much and once again, it started to expand, which meant I had set them off early.  It just turned into a big pile of foaming crumbles.

However, I couldn't let this go.  So I made one more batch. I tried not to get over eager.  I measured my ingredients exactly and didn't go over board.  I played with the mixture until it was just the right consistency.  I ended up making four nice half spheres.  The two blown up ones, well, I got a little eager to see if they had hardened.  I'll let you in on a secret...not as much as I expected.

From failure we learn.  What doesn't work and what may be best for us.  Plus, while my beautiful soap maybe didn't stay beautiful, I did learn a new technique and am getting better at my photography.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Mad Scientist

Making soap, while an art, has a bit of science to it.  Especially if you're making cold process.  My husband likes to refer to me as a mad scientist, and I believe many people who make soap feel that in one way, we sort of are mad scientists. 

As I've been delving more into the world of cold process, I'm finding myself thinking up recipes and oil combinations that people will love.  My favorites right now include Coconut, Palm, Olive Oil, Avocado Oil, as well as my favorite for lotion....shea butter.  But getting the right mix and having the soap still come out right can be tricky.  There's lots of experimenting going on in our kitchen right now....and soon, my soap shop.

My husband has been very supportive of my little endeavor and for that, I am eternally grateful.  He likes to see how products look, he'll smell every product I put under his nose, and last week, he got me the best gift own soap lab.  Well, sort of.

For Valentine's Day, my hubby got me the makings of a soap lab.  He's converting part of our garage and giving up some of his tool space to provide me with my own dedicated space. I'll have cabinets and storage, a work space, and peace of mind that I won't hurt our kitchen counters. 

So now, this mad scientist not only has her experiments and creations, but also a lab in which to work.  Check for updates on this soon to happen makeover!