Brighter than a thousand suns…

Brighter than a thousand suns…

Ladies and Gentlemen, Senores y Senoras – here we go !


You might remember the last time I made soap for the Soapchallenge Club – then in June it was the One Pot Wonder.

Now, two months later, it’s “Layers and Dropswirls“.

I missed the one I actually wanted to do – river rocks and marbles. An acute feline health emergency  distracted me from focussing on something unimportant like soapmaking. At least it seemed totally unimportant to me in that moment. But now, as our furry family member is feeling much better, spirits were up again and ready to get creative.

If you search the internet, you will come up with loooooads of pictures of all kind of layered soaps. Just the same happens if you search for dropswirls in soap. The task our lovely SSC host Amy asked us to fulfil was combining both techniques.

Like before, there was one beginner category, where beginners with less than 50 batches of soap or less than one year of soaping experience would be allowed to enter. And one advanced category for all the rest.

Too good to be true!

That is, only if you qualify as a beginner and your soap complies to the rules of the beginners’ category. Because if the soap is a beginner’s oeuvre, but contains elements those would automatically push it to the advanced category. Easy, huh?

As I was lacking enough time to do several attempts like last time, I decided to put all my eggs in one basket and make it a one try wonder. I had recently purchased a small loaf mould from a lady who regrettably had to give up soaping herself.

It is a loaf mould, reasonably sized (18 x 6,5 x 7 cm), it has a silicone liner and a wooden box with a lid. It holds about 800 ml of soap – it was perfect for my purpose. No more sectioning a way too big loaf mold with cardbord box thingys.

Still sounds easy, doesn’t it?

I needed a recipe… Amy had provided us with a recipe suggestion. I liked it, but it contained beef tallow. Beef tallow seems to be around only in winter time, when birds are fed with it. So no beef tallow. Recipe tweaking was the motto.

The original recipe was the following:

Olive oil—35%
Coconut oil—25%
Beef tallow—25%
Cocoa butter—10%
Castor oil—5%

and this is what I made from it:

I thought, goose instead of beef should be alright as well, and I had found goose fat in a local supermarket recently and wanted to give it a try.

The whole layers and dropswirl thing required a plan. Some kind of architectural layout. I was planning to do 3 layers, each in a different colour, and then there had to be the droppings (it’s more linear droplets than swirls, so the term dropswirls is a trifle misleading). Two differently coloured lines of droppings would do.

Mind the gap!

So I had a loaf mould with round about 850 ml of capacity. I needed three batches of differently coloured soap for the layers, and I needed two more small amounts of even more differently coloured soap batter for the droppings. And here it the snag – maths and me never got along well.  Never. I speak seven languages, learn another one at the moment, but numbers and me? Go away and nobody will get hurt. Visualising helps. Even if it looks really stupid – it helps!

I did not want to mix the oils and the lye first and then split it into batches, no, I wanted to split oils and lye and add it in small containers, then add the respective colours and the scents (I used Jelly Beans Frangrance Oil  to add a scent that matches the bright colours). Thus I would  have full control about when the batter starts to accelerate and not getting under pressure because of funny things happening in my mixing containers. Especially when the colours I chose were screaming


This was the palette I had to choose from. The pigments are from a German company called Manske. I guess a lot of soaping ingredients vendors have them, but I like the idea of supporting local business. Their prices are good and the service is reliable (this was unpaid advertising, by the way 🙂 ). A lot of soapmakers have a critical opinion about the neon colours, because they contain polyurethane. My fellow soapmaker Eva Gomez has recently been in touch with a leading seller of micas and pigments in the UK about this topic. People using neon colours are not as bad as it seems.

Back to our challenging task of splitting, mixing, pouring, waiting, sculpting, waiting again…

I poured the first layer – the orange one – as bottom layer and let it sit for about 30 minutes until it got solid.

Preparing the next layer in the small mixing pot in the meantime (I used a milk frother to do so. We have on where you can take of the mixing thing and put it into the dishwasher. So my partner’s cocoa would not have a taste of soap the next morning…)

Poured the yellow layer:

and let it sit not as long as the orange one, because I wanted to give this layer a little sculpting. I had bought a jagged buttercream sculpting plastic tool at TEDI – similar like the 1 Dollar stores in the US, and cut it to fit into the mould:

Unfortunately, I am still no octopus, and this is why I have no pictures of the sculpting process of the yellow layer. It was about midnight on a Saturday evening, and the man of the house, who would otherwise had acted as photographer, was fast asleep on the sofa. No reason to stay awake when Soaping Superbini disappears in the black hole called kitchen and plays with chemicals.

Neither there are pictures of the dropping of the swirls. Or the swirling of the drops. Whatever. I think, the mysterious and funny thing about this technique is that you cannot ever say what is the outcome. You simply drizzle the soap batter into the filled mould from a certain height. Gravity will decide how the finished soap will look like in the end.

Next thing I remember

is the unmoulding. Out of the dark:

I had put the mould with the still not solid soap in the oven for the night. It seems like my hands have been shaking with either fear or excitement – well, the batter had piled up on one end of the mould. Mishap again. But then, in the tutorial video, Amy, too, dropped her finished soap, so I feel in good company 🙂

Following some more pictures just to show off 🙂

Green river:

This is the end..

The first cut is the deepest: (does Rod Stewart really wear a Celtics jersey??)

Brighter than a thousand suns:

I must say – I am very very please with the result. It makes my pupils constrict, and I do not need all these fancy night lights anymore because my soap leads me the way through my apartment. My only hope is that the colour will not come off and stay on the skin once I (or anybody else) washes with it.

Rein in den Topf, raus aus dem Topf…

Rein in den Topf, raus aus dem Topf…


Soap Challenge Club meets Superbini…

Once upon a time, our budding soapmaking talent came across a club in the depth of the world wide web. Even not being the typical club(wo)man, she decided to join.

Intrigued by beautiful pictures on the web, encouraging words of fellow soapmakers and the tempting prospect of meeting other like-minded people from all over the world. “Not feeling competitive? Join for the camaraderie!” were the words which finally tipped the scales.

When she found out that the three-months subscription was more favorable than the “Oh, I will try once and see if I have fun”- version, she went for the June to August-membership. Penny pinching and soapmaking normally do not go well along together, but hey! – life is short. There are no pockets in a shroud, and, as we know, keeping your body clean with soap maintains a good health. Win-win-win situation.

The Soap Challenge Club has different topics each month

. For the June challenge, it’s called the “one pot wonder”. Some of you might have heard of the “one pot pasta”. Pasta and salsa and other stuff are not cooked separately as usual, but you throw all ingredients in one pot and boil it until the pasta is al dente and the liquid has been soaked up by it.


picture courtesy of Soap Challenge Club

The Soap Challenge Club’s one pot wonder soap works slightly differently. First of all, we do not cook soap. Well, yes, there is a way of making soap called “hot process”. This is indeed kind of cooking soap, but in our case, we stick to the cold process method.

Oils and lye and perfume and colourants are mixed together, poured in a mould and let to rest until the whole mixture has saponified silently and turned into a solid bar of soap.

First step is to decide what kind of soap recipe to choose.

Depending on the technique, it may require to stay more liquid or to get solid easily. I did not want to risk anything and opted for a recipe I had used before and I knew would stay fluid quite a long time. It is called “Seidenglatt” which means “smooth as silk” and it is from Claudia Pazdernik, who runs a beautiful blog with even more beautiful soaps on it.

This is a snapshot from my working environment. You can see containers of lye and melted oils in the background, and obviously I was in the process of weighing out my colours .


Schwarz – gold -rot

I wanted to create one soap with strong colours, and as it was June 17th when I made the first batch, I chose the colours of the German flag – black, red and gold. The elder among us might remember that before Western and Eastern German reunited again, the 17th of June was a German national holiday .

The other batch was supposed to be with pastel shades. I chose violet, pink, white and “just add glitter” to the four portions of batter.

The one pot wonder soap’s layers are achieved by pouring all the differently coloured soap batters in one pot and then pour the whole lot along the sides of a log mould.

I had currently participated in a “swap your surplus soaping accessories” in a German speaking soapmaking internet forum. One of the ladies there had offered a silicone mould which would qualify as “tall and skinny” . Tall and skinny describes a mould which is higher than its diameter. This kind of mould would be perfect for the Soap Challenge.

And it always reminds me of the fabulous Lisa Cunningham from “I dream in soap” – in order to see why, have a look at her bee soap video – the crucial part begins at 0:19. Lisa’s tutorials were some of the first I devoured on youtube (there are lot of other great videos, too, but as you might or might not know, I am totally fond of British English, that’s why I love listening to her so much).

So here I was, with my tall and skinny, 1.4 litre soap mould.

Because I wanted to make several batches with different colourings, I kind of blocked it in the middle with a piece of cardboard packaging material from IKEA and reduced the volume.

(Un)fortunately I am no octopus, and therefore there is no picture or even video of me pouring the mix in the mould. But there are a lot of pictures of the final results of the whole thing:

Once the loaf of soap has saponi- and solidified, it is unmoulded

and can be cut in slices. I use a soap wire cutter from a German company called Lumbinigarden . Actually, these loaves were the first ones I cut with my soap cutter – whohoo… Champagne!!!

I chose a width of 2,5 cm for each slice of soap. That gives a reasonably sized bar which is still good to handle. No need for too tiny pieces of soap which would only drop and clog the drain. Or too big ones which must be held with two hands or a crane.

I let them dry for a few days before unsuccesfully trying to plane the sides and bevel the edges. But I still think they are quite lovely – and, which is more important – they are made with love and handmade by me!

And they even have kind of a face – or am I (as usual) the only one seeing faces in her soap?

I have no idea if any of my soaps will win a prize. But I loved experiencing with the colours, the scents and the technique.

The German soap is scented with Gin & Tonic from Gracefruit, by the way. For the pastel one I have created a mix of nutmeg, ylang-ylang and lavender essential oils.

Update – June 29th, 00:32 local time Smallville…

I decided to do a third batch, and used a different recipe this time. It contains 25% each of coconut, safflower, apricot kernel oil and shea butter. In order to avoid the batter to trace too fast, I only used a whisk for blending it all with the lye. And whisked. And whisked.. I know how Popeye got his muscles!!!

It spent a night in the oven (we had what the weather people call “tropical nights” – means, the temperature does not sink below 23° C) and still came out soft the next morning. I let it rest 24 hrs and unmoulded. Still felt soft. I used words which had prompted my late granny to wash my mouth with that soaft soap and put it back into the oven. After some more hours in the freezer I could cut it without crumbling.

I got soda ash on the top and sides, so I decided to plane that off. Which was, at least I do think so, a good idea as now the wavy structure of the intertwining colours are better visible.

The rules of the Soap Challenge Club say that we have to submit our competition soap until Monday noon (I haven’t found out which time zone CDT is…), and then the poll starts. So to make sure I do not miss the deadline, I submitted my isobaric chart soap half an hour ago!

The winners will be announced on July 4th. Which is pretty cool, as it might seem that the USA will celebrate the winner of the Soap Challenge Club!!!


Happy soapy World Penguin Day!!

Happy soapy World Penguin Day!!

Today is World Penguin Day.

In order to commemorate this, I had recently combined two of my passions, penguins and soaping, in one of the episodes “The merry mishaps of soaping Superbini”. Make World Penguin Day a happy Soapy World Penguin Day!

In our German soapinist forum we had a little contest „African themed soaps“. While most of the other members thought of landscapes with elephants, giraffes etc, I immediately remembered our South African holiday from a few years ago and our stay in Simonstad in the Boulders Beach Lodge.

For me it was clear – my Africa inspired soap would have to be a penguin soap. Nevertheless, I tried to use oils and fats which were Africa related. I already had quite a good stock of oils which were more or less from African origin. Well, at least the trees from which those are harvested grow in Africa, too. The most challenging thing was to get ostrich fat.  Luckily, we have quite a few ostrich farms in Germany, so I ordered a bag of vacuumized ostrich fat from one of them.

Let the fun begin… This was my inspiration – penguins on the beach in front of muddy coloured water:

Pinguinpärchen am Strand von Boulders Beach

It all started with preparing a light coloured Rooibostea, which should be the basis of my lye solution. I couloured it with drops of blue and grey soap colour in order to achieve the colour of the sea.

My intention was to do the soap in a so called “dividor”. This is a rectangular shaped mould with separating strips of acrylic glass in it. I got mine second hand from a lady in the soaper’s forum.

Originally it is from a German company called Lumbinigarden – they have plenty of soap moulds and beautiful shaping / cutting tools and do soap stamps, too (this was an unpaid advertising, by the way 🙂

I made a soap batter from ostrich fat, coconut oil, cocoa butter and rice bran oil. It took quite some time for the batter to get solid. That was necessary because I wanted to roll it like cookie dough between two pieces of clingwrap and the cut out pieces for the beach part of the soap and the penguins.

Done so, I powdered the beach parts in very fine sand bough from a pet store. I placed them in the mould, sandy side down, and arranged the penguins on top.

Seifenpinguine im Dividor

The second part of the soap, the “water part” consisted of the aforementioned blue-grey-coloured Rooibos-lye solution and a mix of ostrich fat again. Combined with mango butter, macadamia nut oil and babassu oil. I had nothing to imitate the overwhelming scent of real penguins and seasalt, so I replaced it with a few drops of essential nutmeg oil.

Once I started pouring the “water” part of the soap, things started going not as it was planned. The white penguin and beach parts of the arrangement wrought havoc and started floating.

So here I was – holding a beaker with liquid soap and trying to press down the floating parts in the mould. As I am no octopus, I have only two hands, and the whole rescue operation finally turned out unfruitful.

After unmoulding, I had four pieces with a brownish layer of soap covering the penguin-beach-parts. Brown, because of course the Rooibos had turned brown and there was nothing left of the blue-grey-watercolour.

Not possessing a wire cutter, I decided to use a sharp-like-hell ceramic vegetable slicer to scrape down the brown layer. Unfortunately, the sand grains clustered and caused dents when the cutter tore them through the still soft soap dough.

Accepting defeat is something every beginning soaper has to cope with.

I punched out some soap dough for the eyes and used broken heads of sugar flamingo sprinkles for the beaks:

Surfing Soapy Waves
Four Eyed Soap Penguin
Leni mit Riefen und Auge aus Stahl

The last one is my secret favourite – I called her Leni. Leni Riefenstahl. Sorry, the joke is only funny in German – “Riefe” is the German word for scratch. And this soap has a real big one which could not be polished away. And “Stahl” means steel. So this young lady had to have an eye from a silver cake sprinkle, making it look like steel.

I feel like I have still made the best of it. The soaps smell great. I have made a first try of washing my hands with the shavings of the soap (made by the sharp-as-hell veggies cutter). It leaves the skin soft and smooth. What else do we make our soaps for? Beauty is always in the eye of the beholder!

Happy Soapy World Penguin Day to alle Penguin lovers all over the world!