Saturday, July 2, 2011


Ooooh.... I'm excited! Really excited!

Today is the day that I set out to whip up a batch of soap. My very first batch. It's a holiday weekend so I'm not feeling rushed at all, and the weather was lovely. A tad humid but not too bad. I experienced a little anxiety to start--as usual when tackling something new sans an instructor being present. Instructions like 'stir until trace' isn't quite as precise as, say, 'heat to 98 degrees'. The latter doesn't faze me a bit, the former? Eh... apprehension that comes with the unknown. Gotta go with it though, what's the worst that could happen? A failed batch of soap? But I wanted it to come out well!

I am happy to report that everything seems to be going well so far. I won't know for sure until Monday afternoon--theoretically, but I'm 95% confident at the moment. I managed to recognize trace when it happened and I had plenty of time to be on the lookout for it. It took somewhere between 40 minutes to an hour of stirring to reach it. (I don't know for sure because I left my watch at my cello teacher's place last Tuesday!) It most certainly was trace and it was very exciting when I realized that it would happen!

After pouring the soap into molds they have to be wrapped in a towel and left alone for 48 hours after which time they can be unmolded and left out to cure for 3 weeks. However :) I just went out to the back yard to ply the Shetland I spun this afternoon and could not resist peeking at the soap. Happy, happy! It is firm. I don't really think I need to wait until Monday (but I will) because this was a small batch--only 1 pound. The instructions said the small amount could be poured directly into final molds and because of that I think it is setting up quicker.

From what I've read it seems molds are usually used for milled soap, but since the instructions mentioned pouring directly into molds I was happy to oblige. I bought 3 molds--a large, medium and small. I want to see how the soap will come out in the three different sizes. The large has a fleur-de-lis decoartion, the medium a floral, and the small are quaint little ribbed mounds.

So what is trace? It's when the soap starts to leave a raised trail when you lift the spoon out of it and dribble a bit across the surface.

The soap I decided to make is oatmeal and I added a little bit of cinnamon essential oil. Here's is everything at the start. Going clockwise from the bottom left: my digital scale, a pyrex cup to mix the lye & water, palm oil, coconut oil, lye, .25 cup of oatmeal blended with 2 oz. olive oil, the big red bag that carried everything to the backyard, coffee (not for the soap), red pan to melt the oils in, plastic gloves for handling lye, pan to measure the lye in, paper towel, stirring spatula and spoon, face mask for when lye is mixed with the water:

When the lye is mixed with the water it heats way up and needs to be set aside to cool down to around 100-110 degrees. In the meantime the oil and fat has to be melted and heated to around the same temperature. I had no idea oils heated up so fast and I ended up having to stick the pan in the quick freeze for about 10 minutes to get it cooled down. When the temps are right the lye/water is added to the oils and is then stirred "until trace". This is what it looked like right after the 2 mixes were combined:

And this is what it looked like at trace just before I added the oatmeal and olive oil. It is much lighter in color and much thicker:

And here is the soap poured into the molds just before I covered them up with another towel:

And the Shetland spun this afternoon and plyed this evening? ... :)

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