Learning to Make Soap: Part 6
My first attempt at swirls...
One of the things that is important to me, alongside making a really good bar of soap is the ingredients I use and where they come from. I am using ingredients from further afield such as the coconut oil, cocoa butter and shea butter, but I also wanted to try and include oils that are from closer to home. And, lucky for me, organic hemp seed oil is grown and manufactured about 20 miles from where I live. And it is sold in our zero waste supermarket (The Clean Kilo) that is within walking distance from Small Kindness HQ.
And even better hemp seed oil has some really amazing skin friendly properties. It is high in omega 3 and 6 and is fantastic for dry broken skin and often used in formulations for eczema and psoriasis. So this week I designed and made a hemp seed oil soap recipe, and as this amazing oil is a rich green colour I decided to try and colour my soaps for the first time too, using organic nettle powder!
As well as turning my soap green (hopefully) nettle powder is a great additive with a number of skin friendly properties - it has been shown to help ease skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, and dermatitis. It has healing properties and is antibacterial and antimicrobial. Sounds like a perfect ingredient for soap that will work amazingly well with the hemp seed oil. Alongside the colour I also wanted to try out a new fragrance - Rosemary and Peppermint - suggested by my wonderful friend Laura (thanks lovely 💚). This scent feels like it was made to be part of a hemp seed oil/nettle soap. These two essential oils are great for headaches (perfect for me) and have skin soothing and healing properties too. And, as a combination, may help ease inflammation from acne.
Now that I am able to naturally colour my soap, this led me to the wonderful world of soap swirls. I have watched lots of mesmeric videos of people creating their fantastic swirls and patterns in their soap. It is one of my favourite things to watch whilst I do the washing up and it is fairly addictive - as my eldest step kid can attest too. They got completely sucked in whilst watching a particularly amazing swirl by Tree Marie soapworks!
To be honest my focus so far has really been on determining base recipes for Small Kindness soaps and I hadn't really given much thought to how the soaps would look - I was more concentrating on the recipes and where I was getting my oils from (are they organic/fair trade? What is their environmental impact? Can I use a locally sourced oil?). But when I realised I would be able to colour my soaps with nettle powder I knew that I wanted to try out a swirl.
I decided that I wouldn't run before I could walk and would try one of the simplest swirls you can do - the spoon swirl. So when I made my new batch of hemp soap, I got my soap to trace and split about a third of it into a separate jug. To this I added 3g of nettle powder which I stirred in with a spoon (as I didn't want the batter to thicken up any further by using the stick blender). I poured a third of the plain soap batter into the bottom of my soap mould. I gently added the amazingly green soap on top by pouring it down the back of my spoon and then covered that with the rest of the plain soap batter. Then came the swirl - I took a spoon, kept it to the left hand side of the mould and went right to the bottom of the mould. Then I twisted the spoon up and through the soap batter to the top. I continued with this all along the left side, then repeated all along the right side and finally down the middle. To be honest I had no idea if I had done it correctly. I finished the top of the soap by adding the residual green and plain soap batter and dragged it into the middle using the spoon to make a peak (as you can see from the photo below). Then I put the soap in a cardboard box, wrapped it in a towel and left it for 48 hours.
I was really excited to see if the swirl had worked - I was using a new mould so I left it for the full 48 hours as I was concerned I might have issues getting it out. But I needn't have worried as it popped out really easily.
As you will know from my previous learning to make soap posts, I am not that great at cutting the soap but I was determined to do a better job than my previous attempts - these poor soaps had either been hacked at using a cheese knife or my cutting was really wonky resulting in a remarkable array of different shaped bars (and not in a good way!). So I used a ruler and took my time. And this time, although by no means perfect, the bars were a lot better (sort of even). And the best bit, cutting the soap revealed the swirls...
Wow...the swirls...I am so happy with them - and the colour from the nettle powder too. It's really hard to think that just by turning a spoon through the soap I was able to create something so beautiful. I even managed to make a kindness soap - see the💚 in the front soap!! Fingers crossed the soap is as good as its power packed ingredients and gorgeous swirls.
I'll be back next week with an update on how everything is going, until then take care xx
I am Kelly Townsend and this is the Small Kindness Blog. I am a scientist, a bee lover, a rewilding obsessive, and I want to spread Small Kindnesses through the medium of soap. Follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for your daily dose of kindness (as well as to see how the soap making is going!)