December 29, 2011

Lavender and Lemon Balm

I need to start coming up with clever names for my soap.
I'm thrilled with how herbs color oils, which in turn, color soap. And I'm already researching and planning what I'll grow in Oasis next season (I'm thinking lady's bedstraw, madder—maybe some indigo). I'm also fascinated with the textures .
The outer layers of this soap were made with lemon balm infused olive oil that I re-batched using lemon balm infused distilled water. Love the  golden-yellow-brown color. The inner bit is infused with lavender.  I added leftover lavender soap chunks for some contrast and a strip of ground lemon balm (that turned a beautiful dark brown) for fun.
Using herbs in soap has endless possibilities. If only they would keep their fragrance.
To liken this to writing: I've learned how to write a sentence (make soap) and now I'm learning a new vocabulary (using herbs in different ways) to write a more interesting sentence.
At this point, I'm not sure what I want the sentence to say, I just want to play and experiment until I find a voice.
olive oil infused with lemon balm/lavender
distilled water infused with lemon balm
palm kernel oil
coconut oil
castor oil
ground lemon balm
lavender and lemon essential oils

December 20, 2011

Gardeners' Soap: Lavender, Rosemary and Lemon Balm

Gonna leave a bar of this in Oasis in the spring (will it ever come?).

I made this soap with gardening in mind. I always get filthy when I garden (I always forget my gloves and I love getting down and dirty anyway), so added some ground cornmeal to the lemon balm for scrubbiness. And rosemary is said to be good for aching muscles.

Tried hot process on this one with the lavender balls and made the balls as soon as the soap was cool enough to handle.  I kneaded in shea butter for extra conditioning and ground lavender for interest.

I've decided I'm not a huge fan of hot process. It's OK, but kinda scary in a way and takes so much more time. It was useful though to make the balls so I could add them the next day to the cold process rosemary base.


Rosemary Base: coconut oil, olive oil (infused with rosemary), soybean oil, cottonseed oil, palm kernel oil, castor oil, distilled water (infused with spirulina and lye. Fragranced with rosemary essential oil.

Lavender Balls: olive oil (infused with lavender), cotton seed oil, palm kernel oil, castor oil, shea butter, ground lavender,  distilled water and lye.   Fragranced with lavender essential oil.

Lemon Balm Top Layer: olive oil (infused with lemon balm), cotton seed oil, palm kernel oil, castor oil, distilled water and lye.   Fragranced with bergamot essential oil.  Also contains cornmeal.

December 14, 2011

Re (Batch) #2: Pomegranate and Mint

More re-batching with my basic recipe of olive oil (infused with mint), palm kernel oil, coconut oil and a tablespoon of castor oil at trace. I also made a mint tea for the re-batch. That was for the top layer (which was the bottom layer in the mold when I re-batched) and for my log embeds.
Those were a lot of fun to make. And I like the way the look. I rolled the logs in some crushed mint while they were still moist and added more crushed mint over them. I love texture! And I love layers!
The light green is just a regular cold process.
I'm a little upset about the fragrance. I thought I was buying pomegranate essential oil at Michael's since that's what it said on the package. It turns out there's no such thing as pomegranate essential oil. There's pomegranate seed oil and pomegranate fragrance oil—but not pomegranate essential oil.
 I'm a little peeved. I didn't even want pomegranate but it was all that they had and I'd schlepped all the way to the Upper Westside. Sorta feel like complaining, but threw out the packaging (I think it was a company called Party Time).
Lesson learned. Will only buy essential oils from the places I really know in NYC—Exotic Fragrances in Spanish Harlem, Whole Foods Market, Westerly Natural Market and Scents Elate—which is right in Hell's Kitchen.
It smells nice at least. I'm just a stickler about using the real thing.

December 7, 2011

First (Re) Batch: Layers of Lavender

It's rustic. It's earthy. It smells amazing!

Soap-making cherry is popped and several lessons learned:
1.       I love it and it's a great way to be creative—especially when I'm going through writers' block.
2.       It's really important to let soap get super-dry when re-batching and don't add too much water when you're melting.
3.       There's so many ways to get herbs into soap.
I think I might call this soap Layers of Lavender.
It contains: distilled water that was infused with lavender, palm kernel oil, coconut oil, olive oil (infused with lavender) and a tablespoon of castor oil added at trace. I also added lavender that I ground up with a pestle and mortar and a touch of cinnamon. It's scented with lavender, patchouli and bergamot essential oils during the re-batch.
Each layer was re-batched separately with more lavender water.
I didn't use a ton of essential oils, so the fragrance is subtle—which I like—you can actually smell the soap and the lavender itself—but I know a lot of people want their soap to be super fragrant, so will take that into consideration for future batches. Which will be coming up soon!

November 26, 2011

Infusing Oils

The oils look so pretty on my window sill--even on a gloomy day.

It's up for debate on whether or not herbal properties survive the lye process. The fragrance rarely does, but I'm planning on doing hand-milling  (or re-batching) and hoping at least some of the good stuff survives.
In any case, I want all my soap to contain at least some herbs that I grew in The Readers' and Writers' Subplot, so all my olive oil is getting infused. And I've read that it is a good way to get some color (wonderful info at Lovin Soap).
I'm especially excited about using the annatto seed oil. What a great orange color and the seeds contain emollients.  I didn't grow them though. It's a bit of a cheat.

If you like this blog, check out my new one: The Haley Maxwell Soap Making Mysteries

November 24, 2011

Why Soap?

The Readers' and Writers' Subplot

Things in New York seem to happen serendipitously.  My learning to make soap really started because I don't cook and I started growing all these herbs in The Readers' and Writers' Subplot which is part of Oasis Community Garden in Hell's Kitchen.
Lemon Verbena--smells amazing!

Last year, I'd go down to the Farmer's Market in Union Square every weekend and find some beautiful smelling plant that only cost a dollar or two, bring it back and plunk it into the soil. I ended up with quite the herb garden. Nothing to rival the garden at the Cloisters, but still impressive.

Hyssop grown by Jim Seffens

I then started researching the herbs. Learning their histories, their properties and uses. True, cooking was usually the biggest use, but I also learned they could be infused in oils and made into hand creams and lip balms.
So, inspiration:  I could make hand creams and lip balms and sell them in the garden as a way to raise money for Oasis.

So invigorating

More research. Packaging would cost a fortune (not to mention go into the landfill). And the shelf-life of hand balms is only about 6 months. What if the stuff doesn't sell right away? It'll just go rancid in my apartment and all that packaging would go to waste.

Passion Flower. Sexy, huh?

And then I stumbled on soap. The shelf life is long (in fact, the longer soap cures, the better). Packaging can consist of a simple wrapper.  And everybody needs soap, right?
Lemon Balm. Grows like a weed. And is part of the mint family.

So, the journey into soap-making begins. I've read every book I can get my hands on, scoured the net for soap-making information (and found some amazing ideas and recipes), bought my scale, lye, oils and goggles. I'm ready for the adventure to begin.

If you like this blog, check out my new one: The Haley Maxwell Soap Making Mysteries