Welcome to challenge number three for me. This month's challenge from the Soap Challenge Club https://soapchallengeclub.com/ was to create a soap using slanted layers, in particular, the Advanced category required a chevron design. Our guest teacher for this month’s challenge was Hélène Glémet of ChezHélène in Quebec, Canada. Hélène prepared an excellent tutorial with lots of great advice and even a spreadsheet to help everyone calculate the amount of soap they needed for each layer. Thank you Hélène.
Now before you go any further, to get the fully immersive experience you need to be singing 'The lions sleeps tonight' by the Tokens in your head. For all you youngsters you may know it better from Disney's The Lion King. Still no? OK click on this link, then come back:
I'm going to start with some pictures this time, I don't have that many different ones of the finished soap as all the bars were pretty well the same and there are only so many ways to arrange your soap, so here they are, I hope you like them. They are fragranced with Jungle Heat fragrance oil, the fragrance notes describe it as 'A beautiful scent on a less traditional theme. Jungle Heat begins with raw forest honey and deep clover over green woods and exotic floral notes. A scent that will have you booking your trip to the Amazon!'
I did take quite a number of pictures, with some precariously balanced soaps threatening to plunge to the ground and dent all their edges, but I'm sure you don't need to see too many odd arrangements.
If you're keen on seeing what I went through on my Jungle challenge keep going, otherwise, if you were only here for the pictures, hey that's cool too, have a fab day ......
Design & planning
I knew I wanted to attempt the chevron in the Advanced category, but I'm sure like others I wanted to do something a little different. I had a good old think and came up with two ideas. Number one do a jungle animal theme, with the animals featuring in the different layers and number two do a double chevron. So these were my original plans:
When I planned the jungle theme, I knew the best way to get the animal prints was to make embeds of the various spots and stripes and embed them in the layers. Hmmm, I was a bit unsure if this would be in the rules, so a check with Amy to see if my plan was 'legal' and yippee I get a yes.
So I'm still stuck between the two designs and because I can't decide, my initial plan is to make them both and then choose the best. In the end, I decided to combine the two ideas and put the jungle in the double chevron. I revised my design, drew up a template (that's trickier than it sounds) and set to work altering the spreadsheet to work with my design. The spreadsheet we were given was for 11 layers, but mine had 26, being 13 layers in each chevron. I spent quite a while measuring my template to work out the area of each pour and then completed my revised spreadsheet, I did the calcs for one chevron, knowing that the other should be the same, I would just need to go through the pours twice:
Stage 1 - Embeds
I decided on my colours and made up the soap dough I'd need, mainly some black, a sandy colour for the inside of the leopard spots and a darker brownish colour for blocks for the giraffe.
I make soap dough using my normal recipe. I poured the black and sandy colour into pots and seal. For the giraffe spots I decided that I wanted to have them as blocks I could cut out, so poured 2 triangle-shaped tubes into the corners of my mould so these would give me a block I could cut out for the giraffe pattern later. I put my soap dough through gel, which I think people say you shouldn't do, but I wanted black soap dough, not grey, so gelled them all. I've never had an issue with this. I let them sit for 24 hours, then I run my soap dough through a fine grater, mush it together again so it's all smooth. I then vacuum seal it and leave for a few days, it always comes out really nicely.
The tiger and zebra stripes were fairly straight forward, they were just made from little flat bits of black soap dough.
I made the zebra stripes slightly bigger than the tiger's and also made them fatter on one side than the other.
For the leopard spots, I took some of my sandy coloured soap dough and rolled it into a thin sausage. I then wrapped a strip of black soap dough around it, rolled it thin enough to fit into my extruder fitted with a 3 blob cut-out (I can't imagine that's it's proper name) and extruded what I hoped would be leopard spots. Yippee, they came out pretty well. For the giraffe I took the triangles I'd made previously and sliced lengthways, they're a bit scruffy in the pic, I tidied them up with a potato peeler before I put them in the soap.
Embeds done - time for bed .........
Woohoo 'Pour day'
'I hope it works' 'I hope it works' 'Please work'.
Task 1 was to prepare all my oils and lye. I made up the full amount of lye needed for the whole loaf and did the same with the oils.
Task 2 was to set up my mould. I needed a divider so that I could make each chevron separately. I planned to pour the 1st one, let it set up, remove the divider and then pour the second. I had taken account of the fact that the divider would move the centre line of the bar and I'd drawn my template to account for this. I planned that when I'd removed my divider from the centre I would need to attach it to the inside of the left-hand soap mould wall, this way I would be able to keep the bar symmetrical.
I used my acrylic mould, mainly because I love it and it's always my first choice. I was surprised to find that I don't think there was much advantage to having a transparent mould over a wood/silicone type because I was always looking on the inside during the pour. Also because the acrylic on the end is pretty thick, where I attached my template onto the outside on some vinyl, the image was quite distorted inside to outside. It was perfectly fine if you just looked at the one view, but you'll see later on when you look at the pour from the outside of the mould it looks like I missed the lines, but from the inside, it was spot on. I think if I did this again I would have my template on the inside right next to the soap.
Next, I divided my oils up into the colours needed for the animals, as each animal needed four separate pours I decided to mix the colours with the oils now so that I could get a consistent colour through all four pours of each row.
At last a time to use those plastic bottles I've been saving.
I like to soap at 90 degrees, so made use of my sous vide water bath, it will keep a bath of water at an exact constant heat. I popped my bottles of oils and lye in so they could happily bob around in their 90 degree bath waiting for their turn in the exciting soap adventure.
I wasn't sure how long the pour would take, so just randomly set the sous vide to 24 hours - plenty of time so it didn't switch off in the middle. Look, I'm already an hour in and I haven't poured anything yet.
The 1st layer, and how squishy and tight is it trying to get into the corners of half of a mould? It's very tight! My secret weapon, wait for it....................dah, dah!! a turkey baster. It worked so well, was bigger and fatter than a pipette, and made it so much easier to get into that very tiny space.
Because I'm using embeds I have to pour each layer in stages, first a small amount of tiger coloured soap batter, then allow that to set up enough for the embeds. In with the embeds, lots of fiddling around with tweezers, then another fluid layer to fill in around the tiger stripes and create a smooth layer.
I bet you're excited about the pic of the turkey baster, well, here you are you lucky things. The 2nd pic shows the 1st tiger layer completed and smooth rotated up to the top, the black you can see is just below the surface. Then the bottom side is half way through, embeds in, just about to pour the fluid remainder of the layer to make a smooth top.
Elephant, we can't forget the elephant...
Easy peasy, the elephant is a plain layer, but thinner than the tiger, so batter mixed, fragrance oil added and poured.
Leopard.... where did he get his spots? - soap dough of course
A very similar exercise to the tiger, but this time, three pours, pour and let set, put in embeds, cover with more batter and let set, more embeds, then cover for a flat top.
Lion (hmm I can't think of anything amusing for lion )
Another straightforward one, but for some reason it takes ages to set up, it's starting to get a bit late now, nearly an hour for this to set, it's being so slow I go and have a bath, get into my pyjamas ( they've got minions on them by the way - they're brilliant) and then come back down.
The zebra follows the same method as the tiger and then the rhino is another straight pour. Finally (it's midnight now) time for the giraffe. Again, layers of batter and embeds (I'm sure you've got the idea by now). I cover it all up and put in my 170 degree heated oven (turned off) overnight.
Pour day - again
I was unsure when I should remove my divider, if I did it too early I would move the side of the poured soap and ruin all my hard work, but I had started to pour my soap at 3 pm yesterday and with the 10 hour pour I didn't want to be up until 1am again. So at about 9 am I went for it (me nervous, not at all). It came out beautifully, phew!
I took the side off the mould. I needed to attach the divider to the left side wall to keep the bar symmetrical, luckily I had accounted for the fact that the end pieces that hold the divider would still be in place and the divider wouldn't now fit in its new position, so, fortunately I have dividers from another mould that are just a bit shorter. I attached this to the inside of the mould with double-sided tape and put the mould back together.
So, let's do all that pouring again, exactly the same as yesterday, the hardest part being making sure I was lining up with yesterdays pour in the centre.
So it was much quicker this time (not). 10 hours later it's done, Uh Oh, no picture, I guess I forgot to take one, but it just looked like the one before but now both sides full.
CPOP again and then a very nervous unmoulding. I'd already said to my partner 'if it's no good, I'll do it again, but just plain colours, no embeds'. You know that feeling when you hold your breath as you cut into a new loaf of soap. I cut, didn't look, then looked and yippee, it's good, woohoo, I've got a little dance going on and my cats are giving me a very strange look.
So, I think that's it. The finished pictures are at the start of the post (you've seen those, but there's nothing to stop you scrolling up to the top if you fancy it). Thank you for taking the time to read my post and feel free to leave a comment below. I love to learn from any feedback, so please if you see anything I could do differently / better please feel free to say.
Oh, and I have sung that blooming song so many times, so just to play you out:
A-weema-weh, a-weema-weh, a-weema-weh, a-weema-weh A-weema-weh, a-weema-weh, a-weema-weh, a-weema-weh A-weema-weh, a-weema-weh, a-weema-weh, a-weema-weh A-weema-weh, a-weema-weh, a-weema-weh, a-weema-weh
In the jungle, the mighty jungle The lion sleeps tonight In the jungle the quiet jungle The lion sleeps tonight..............
Thank you, happy soaping and have a fab day - Lisa