Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Soap Techniques: Swirling for Beginners

There are lots of different methods around for swirling soap, but one of my favourite, and I think easiest, ways to do this is an In The Pot (ITP) Swirl.

Tips for a great ITP Swirl:

* Only use essential or fragrance oils that you know cause no or little acceleration. Most floral fragrances will not allow for this kind of swirl (although there are other ways around it), and spicy essential oils such as cinnamon and clove can also be fast movers. Lavender EO is well-know for slowing trace so this can be a good one to start with.

* Choose contrasting colours for a really effective swirl. My favourite combo is a white, cream or pastel base swirled with dark or vibrant colours. These will give the most impact visually.

* Be quick. That doesn't mean racing around like a headless chicken, because you still want to do everything properly and make sure colours/scents are fully blended in your soap. Just have everything be prepared before you start, and move quickly and efficiently.

Step-by-Step Directions

1) After you have mixed the oils and lye water, bring your raw soap to a *light* trace. Every batch will be different, but for me this is about 3-4 quick bursts using the stick blender of about 4 seconds each time, with gentle stirring in between. When you drip soap back onto the base it should just hold its shape, and have the consistency of heavy cream.

2) At this point, you can stir in your essential or fragrance oils. I like to use a whisk to mix it through - make sure it is fully incorporated, but try to be quick.

3) Separate a small amount of raw soap for your swirl. About one quarter or fifth of the batch works best for me. In a 1-kilo (oil weight) batch I would separate 2-3 cups of raw soap for the swirl colour.

4) Colour the separated soap with your desired colour.

5) Then colour your base soap with your desired colour.

6) Pour the small amount of coloured soap back into the main pot, making sure to pour from both high and low points so the swirl colour is incorporated throughout the base.

7) Using a spatula or large spoon, very gently & slowly stir through the soap. Just one or two (at most) stirs around your pot should be enough - more than that and you risk blending the colours together.

8) Pour into your lined mould. Pour in back and forth motions, rather than pouring from just one point, as this will further help the colours to swirl nicely.

9) Insulate as normal and let the soap gel, and leave it to sit for 18-24 hours. Then you come to the best part - cutting into your batch to see how your swirls turned out!

I'd love to see some photos of your swirled soap using ITP or another swirling technique ... post your links below in the comments section :)