Saturday, 26 May 2012

Serra da Estrela Landscape Soap

 This is Week 10, and the penultimate week of the current Great Cakes Soapworks Soap Challenge organised by Amy Warden.
I personally think this has been the most challenging one yet!

I thought I'd have a go from Portugal, as again Ishbel has more experience of making Landscape Bars in the past, and I wanted to have a go at a Portugal inspired Landscape bar.

 So, all these photos are the inspiration behind my soap bar. First of all I wanted to create the rock of the Serra da Estrela- which is our local mountain range, a National park, and is the highest range in Portugal. I did this by piping a lumpy rock through the middle of the soap loaf.
Then I wanted to give a layer of the pine forests- so I added a green with some dried crushed parsley to give texture. Followed by the lush green pastures- so this was a very slightly lighter plain green.
Then I sat in the Portuguese sun- (i mean I sat a bright yellow tube of soap sun into the bar- I didn't have time for sunbathing at this point!)
These bottom layers were fragranced with all the smells of The Serra da Estrela- Pine, Eucalyptus, some cedar and the wild herbs of Bay and Rosemary.

 Above the sun I wanted to create the wild amazing skies that we often get here- I swirled Orange, Pale yellow, white and a deep grey-blue red and scented it with the fruity floral scents of Portugal- Orange blossom and Citrus.
So..... here's the final soap.
It has the boulders, the green forest, the sun and the colourful sky.
I'm really happy with the result - it was a tricky soap to make, but I think it needs refining. It reminds me of a childs painting- and although clever (it is soap after all!) I would like to make it more sophisticated. (It also reminds me a bit of something from the Expressionism art period!) Perhaps I need to simplify it- take one element- the mountains for instance in more subtle colours- I'm not sure!! Let me know what you think!!
However I do know its going to be a fabulous soap to use- it smells wonderful and has the usual lovely local Portuguese ingredients- my neighbours Goats milk and our local Olive oil.                                        

This is the double bar before I cut it in half.

This is the final bar.

Again. another brilliant challenge- and again I can't wait to have another go and refine another new skill I've learnt!

Thursday, 17 May 2012


So, some of you may have noticed a couple of small little things that are going on in the UK this summer?  No? well let me tell you....

Firstly its the Queens Diamond Jubilee, a pretty major happening here.  The main events take place between June 2nd and June 5th although there seems to be things planned all year, even 'The Archers', Britain's longest running soap, on Radio 4 is hosting a special event to celebrate. This is the official Website of the British Monarchy for those of you who might be interested in finding out more about this Right Royal Event.

Then there is the London 2012 Olympic Games, now surely that could not have escaped your attention, many visitors will be coming over to the UK and the country is due to be plastered in Red, White and Blue Union Jack flags along with a complete take over of TV, radio and newspapers.  There are bound to be lots of exciting stories and many records broken.  The dates for this event are the 27th July until 12th August, now while some residents may be using that as an excuse to escape the madness and leave the country, many will be staying for the fun and parties, oh and to watch Team GB of course.

Why is all this relevant?  Well, as part of the Great Cakes Soapworks soap challenge (this is week 9 already) I decided to do something that would celebrate both events in some way as well as fulfilling the challenge brief and trying something new.  This is Ish by the way!!  I know it gets a bit confusing as there are two of us making soap for Puro Soaps.

So...........  Red, White and Blue, had to be the colours for this soap really didn't it?

Did you know the Queens favorite tea is Earl Grey? and, those of you who know Shelley and I, know that we cannot function without tea, tea and more tea, so I decided to create a special Earl Grey tea fragrance (natural of course) for this soap.

I remember seeing a wonderful Twinings advert for 'Lady Grey' tea with the fabulously English and gorgeously sexy Nigella Lawson (see below) and that got me going.

Earl Grey tea is china tea which has added bergamot, Lady Grey is a lighter alternative with infusions of lemon and Seville orange peels, a more sophisticated tea I think (I like both).  So to create this scent I used essential oils of Bergamot, 5 fold Orange and Lemon and mixed, it smelt exactly right in the pot, I just hoped it would survive the rigors of cold process soap and smell as good in the soap.


The challenge for week 9 was to create a soap with a textured/peaked top.  Ha, well we already do this most of the time so my challenge was to create a peaked top that represented the Jubilee (by looking like the Queens Crown) as well as being slightly individual for each bar.  When we make our soaps we use large wooden molds which are double the width of our finished soap bars, this means that not only do we cut our loaves of soap across to create slices, we also have to cut them in half again to create the individual slices.  In practice this makes it quite hard to create an individual peaked top for a single bar.  So I set myself the task of doing just that.  Here goes.......

I got my usual recipe mix ready, brought it to a light trace then divided it up into 3 jugs for the colours.  I used natural pigments for this, Ultramarine blue and Red Oxide as well as Titanium Dioxide for the white.  I decided to layer the 3 colours fairly thickly, retaining a little bit of each to do thinner layers on top of the loaf.  I hoped this would mean that when I started working the top texture I could draw the thin layers up together to create red, white and blue peaks.  It sort of worked!

Remember, I also wanted to create an individual, crown like peaked top on each bar to represent the Queens Crown and the Jubilee.  So the finished loaf looked like this...

A little sparkle of glitter and then the overnight wait for it to set up.  Here is another close up of the peaked effect before cutting

The next day I got the soap out of the mold and the scent was fabulous, it really does smell like Lady Grey tea, a light, fruity scent with the distinctive bergamot tones over the top.  Then I set it up, ready to cut and went for it.

I was pretty happy with the first thin cut end piece.  The colours are not quite as bright as I wanted but they have actually darkened a bit now 2 days later so I am hopeful they will not fade at least.  Oh but the smell, it is so lovely, I had to stop and make a cup of tea!

Cutting the final bar, and the division has worked!  That was really the most important result for me in this challenge, to end up with a bar of soap that had its own individual, crown like, peaked top.  Here is a close up, you have to use your imagination a bit, but I do think the top does look a little like a crown, the glitter helps.

And here are the finished bars in all their Jubilee/Olympic/tea glory!  Now all we need is a name for this soap, can you help?

The best suggested name will receive a free bar of this soap as soon as it is ready.  It will be judged by Shelley and I and the winner will be announced on our facebook page and via our new Twitter account @purosoapsclub. (please do follow us on Twitter)

 Please note, sorry but due to postage costs, this offer is only open to UK and EU residents.

Please add your name suggestion to your comments on this blog post - you know how much we like them!  You could also leave your name suggestion on our facebook page too.

Thanks for taking part, and thanks, as always, to Amy Warden for organising this great event.  The next challenge will be made by Shelley in Portugal, it is to create a landscape soap - very exciting!

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Salt Bar

We're on Week 8 of the soap challenge set by Amy Warden of Great Cake Soapworks.
This week it's a Salt Bar, and it's ....made in Portugal! (Shelley).
The reason I'm doing the challenge again is because Ishbel has already made salt bars and had a lovely one in her range previously, so I just wanted to have a go really! Only one problem- I have never seen a salt bar, used a salt bar or made a salt bar, so I have apsolutely no idea what it's supposed to turn out like!
Ishbel passed on her recipe to me- it was basically about 66% Coconut Oil, 11% Castor Oil, and about 22% Palm Oil (we dont use palm oil in any of our ranges any more, but i have a small  amount of old stock- it's organic and sustainably sourced from a small RSPO approved producer).
I used about the same amount of salt (ordinary fine table salt) as coconut oil (it seemed like alot!) and more fragrance than I would normally add- around 6% fragrance to base oils (we usually use 3%).
Ishbel instructed me to add the salt to the melted oils and mix well, and then add the fragrance, and finally the lye mixture (I just used water for this)- it took a while to trace (surprisingly) but was a gorgeous consistency.  I chose a fragrance of Bay Rum, and Peppermint Essential Oil- (the peppermint being the major part), and coloured it with a pale bluey sea green. The whole room took on an amazing aroma- the peppermint being so zingy and invigorating!
I was intending to do a small loaf mould- and add a layer of ground dried seaweed I had found in my box of goodies, but in a last minute change of heart I poured the mixture into chunky heart moulds and left them plain!
So here's the result- sorry there aren't more photos- my hubby has had the camera with him for the last few days, so I was unable to photograph the making process. Also these photos don't really show the colour very well- it's a lovely pale duck-egg blue/green.

I'm still uncertain if it's how it should be- I have to admit I imagined a more glassy bar. I will have another go with this method, but add more dimensions- maybe include some botanicals and layers of colours, but I really wanted to strip it down this time and keep it simple. Can't wait to see the other results of the challenge- I've been making soap for several years now and the challenges have shown me there's still loads to learn! It's been a brilliant process- thanks Amy, and thanks to everyone else who's taking part and giving everyone such positive comments and encouragement every week.

A quick P.S!i just wanted to add- i've just tried a little bit of this (it should be cured first- but I was curious!) and it does turn very smooth and glossy once it is in use- the only thing I wish I had done differently is added some texture - I feel like it should be scrubby!  Overall I'm impressed (and converted- i was dubious!) and I love the peppermint- I will definately be doing a new and improved version soon!


Saturday, 5 May 2012

Gradient Colour Soap!

We're on Week 7 of the soap challenge set by Amy Warden of Great Cake Soapworks- Gradient colored soap! This week it's ....made in Portugal! (Shelley)
I've had friends here from the UK for the last week so I thought it was a good opportunity to invite them to join in, and make a really fun bar which they can take back as a souvenir of their trip! Plus it's been raining all week so what's better to do when its grim outside- make soap!!
Some of our soaps do have simple layers in, but not quite to the degree which we have been asked to do in the challenge this week!
We've used our usual recipe which has lovely Portuguese olive oil and Goats Milk (this time from my neighbour Glorias goat!), but we only made a small 2lb/1kg loaf sized batch.
My friend Kate chose the fragrance we would use- it's called Tropicana, and it's a lovely blend of fresh tropical fruits-  papaya, succulent peach, crisp melon, dry pear and strawberry. This immediately made us want to choose bright, fruit-inspired colours, and feeling brave we thought we'd do two colour gradients- red/pink and yellow/orange. The only problem was I couldn't remember if it was fast tracing so we made sure the temperatures were low and kept the soap in a very liquid state!
We started off with the bright red at the bottom (which actually came out a fabulous hot pink!) and whizzed up each layer just before pouring it, so we wouldn't be waiting too long for the layer to set. We added the titanium dioxide and made paler pink layers, and then we went onto the orange layers, which we did in reverse- so we started with the pale creamy yellow and then a bright yellow, and then an orange (i did add a little bit of red to the very last layer to get a good papaya colour!).
I just couldn't wait to turn the soap out the next day to see how it had worked- and was so pleased with the result- i LOVE it!!

Amy's soap challenge has really pushed our soapmaking skills and I can't wait to try this technique out again!
The finished bars cut and stamped with our logo
                     If you want to have a look at all the other challenge results please visit this page


Thursday, 3 May 2012

Cutting Bridge Inn Beer Bar natural soap with new wires on the cutter

I did promise after the last video that I would remember to order new wires for my old and well used cutter.  The problem I have found with it, and I know others in the soap world have too, is that wire cutters work very differently from knives when it comes to cutting soap.

If the wire is fairly thick, mine came with 2mm stainless wires fitted, they do not actually cut the soap bars, they seem to push curls of soap out of the way on their journey through your soap loaf. This leaves a rough, kind of bobbley surface on the finished soap bars, which does not look nice and means you have to scrape the soap off before packaging.

I got fed up with this so I investigated the thinnest wires I could use on my cutter and ordered stainless steel guitar E strings from Amazon.  Now they come very cheap (£1.24 for a set of 5) so I ordered 3 sets thinking that I was bound to break a few when setting up the cutter.

In fact I only broke one, carefully tightened the others and this video shows you how good the result was.  I am thrilled, I can't tell you how much nicer, and quicker, it is now to cut a huge loaf of soap up.  These Bridge Inn Beer Bars (a big favorite here in the UK) are going to look so good in our new boxes too, I cant wait to see them.

Our new packaging is looking really great.  We have new boxes for our soap bars:

and lovely new cupcake pods which should really protect them as well as allowing customers to see how beautiful they look.

So, as always, let us know what you think of both the new video and our packaging.  We really love to hear your comments.  Please feel free to share this too.  You can visit our new You Tube Channel and if you do please be sure to subscribe.  We hope to be making many more.