Thursday, July 28, 2011

Cold Process, Hot Process, and Melt & Pour

I was chatting last night on an Etsy board, and the question came up, "what's the difference between cold process and hot process?" Another soaper claimed that hot process is milder and has a better lather. I avoid the drama llama, so I kept my fat mouth shut, but that wasn't entirely accurate, and I thought I might bring my soapy experience, and my science degree here and shine some light on this. Most soapers think of soap making as: lye + fatty acids = soap + glycerin. But there's another ingredient, and that is heat. Heat is a product of this chemical reaction, but heat can also be added or conserved by insulation to speed up this reaction. In cold process soap, no extra heat is applied to the emulsified lye, water, and oils. This process can take a very long time. A cold process soap with milk, for example, will darken if heat is allowed to stay in the process, because the milk cooks, caramelizing the milk sugars. For that reason, many milk soapers will even refrigerate the soap to prevent this. But this soap may take as long as six weeks to fully saponify.
With a hot process soap, heat is added, and saponification may be complete within an hour. It doesn't make this soap any more gentle, it just makes it gentle faster. Much faster. Also, it evaporates most of the water from the product, making the bar harden faster. A fresh hot process soap, cured for one week, will lather better than a six week old cold process bar. The reason for this is that this fresh hot process bar still has a higher water content than the fully cured cold process bar. Soap salts have to dissolve in water before they will lather, and the fresh HP bar is already partially dissolved. A six week old HP bar and a six week old CP bar made with the same recipe will have the same lather - and the CP bar, being more porous may even lather better, as it will dissolve in water easier.
So, HP is not more gentle than CP, and does not lather any better. These are properties of your formula. Gentleness is kind of a vague term - it may indicate pH, superfatting percentage, or how much the soap dissolves the oils on the surface of your skin. If a soap has a high percentage of coconut oil, it may feel like it's harsh, because it does remove your skin's oils very well. A lard soap may feel very gentle, if it's been superfatted up to 8%.
And what about melt & pour, what makes it different? Well, melt and pour soap is prepared with a hot process method, with an added alcohol such as sorbitol (which is a long chain alcohol that does not evaporate and dry the skin) used to dissolve the soap salt into a solution which will solidify at room temperature, but will remelt at a relatively low temperature because of the added glycerin, with no additional fluid added. To melt a regular HP or CP soap, you have to heat it to over 140 degrees, and have added liquid to dissolve fully. A melt and pour soap will melt at temps around 100 degrees, with a nice pourable consistency. Making melt and pour soap from scratch is frankly, a pain in the ass. Many high quality melt and pour bases are available, and they are relatively inexpensive, and very safe to work with - no lye! Some bases even have added detergents, making their lather very bubbly, but a bit more drying.
So that's the truth. The process you decide to use for soap making will highly affect what additives you can use, how much and what type of fragrances to add, and what pigments as well. But it's all soap, and the formula is what makes it lather, clean, or condition - not the process.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Make Your Own Soap Balls

You don't have to be a soap maker to make beautiful handcrafted soaps for gifts. For this project, all you need is to save up your soap scraps, it's super easy.

One quart sized zip lock bag full of soap bits, scraps, shavings, or grated bar soap. Can be any kind of soap, including melt and pour, cold process, hot process, or plain soap from the store.
1/2 cup distilled water (you can add a few drops of essential oil with this, if you'd like a scent to bring the different scents together, or 1 tsp. of vanilla extract, but this will discolor the balls)
One sheet waxed paper
Optional ingredient: Brambleberry Gold Mica, used to coat the balls after they dry, use with a soft make up brush or clean meat basting brush.

Instructions: Make sure all your soap bits are small pieces, less than 1/4 inch square. If you're starting with new bars, grate them with a cheese grater, and use at least 4 bars. Put them in the bag, bag should be stuffed full, but still able to zip closed. If you don't have a full bag, use less water. Pour water in bag with soap, and seal the bag. It should be just enough water to make all the soap bits nice and moist. Leave the bag sitting out overnight. The soap will all be soft and a little sticky in the morning. Give the soap a good kneading inside the bag, about 1 minute. Then, open the bag, and grab a handful of soap (about 1/4 cup), form into a ball, and place on waxed paper to dry. Repeat until you run out of soap. Don't worry about how perfect the surface of the soap looks, you will be able to smooth it when the soap dries. Let these balls dry for one week, turning once a day so all surfaces get some air. After drying, you can smooth the balls by rubbing with a dry dishcloth, then paint with gold mica, or other mica pigment, you can even use eyeshadow.

A couple of these balls can be packaged in a cello bag with a nice washcloth for a super nice stocking stuffer or gift for co-workers, and you can also use them as a component of a nice bath gift basket.

Friday, July 08, 2011

A Sale Every Day

For the rest of this month, I'll be placing one item in each of my shops on sale for half price, a different item every day. At SweetsNThings, my soap shop, this discount will already be applied to the deal of the day. At KnitHabit, I'm doing the same thing, I was going to do a coupon discount, but now, you won't forget to get a discount. So, if you're planning on giving awesome handknits as Christmas gifts, or you're looking for a baby shower gift, or just something great for yourself, now is a great time.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Easy Summer Snood Pattern

I'm always fighting with my hair! It wants to be a part of my crafts, and sorry hair, you can't be in it. So, I made myself this quick & easy hair net, and it's become my favorite summer accessory. Light and colorful, this isn't your lunch lady's hair net!

Materials - one ball worsted cotton yarn (about 90 yards used), I used "I Love This Cotton" from Hobby Lobby, it's really soft!, one N size crochet hook, one yarn needle, one elastic headband, scissors.

Begin: ch4, dc eleven times in first chain, join in top stitch of ch4 (12)
Round 1: ch 3, dc in same stitch, 2dc in each stitch around, join in top of ch3 (24)
Round 2: ch 3, dc in same stitch, dc in next stitch, *2 dc in next stitch, dc in next stitch* repeat around, join in top of ch 3 (36)
Round 3: ch3, dc in same stitch, dc in next two stitches, *2dc in next stitch, dc in next two stitches* repeat around, join in top of ch 3 (48)
Round 4: ch3, dc in same stitch, dc in next three stitches, *2dc in next stitch, dc in next three stitches* repeat around, join in top of ch 3 (60)
Repeat round 4 five more times, can repeat more for a slouchier hat for dreads.
Last round: hold elastic head band together with edge, *2 sc in first stitch, sc in next stitch* repeat around, being sure to catch the head band inside each stitch, join at end with slip stitch, weave in ends.


Friday, July 01, 2011

What's On Sale?

I'm having an Independence Day sale in my soap shop all weekend, including Monday. Just use coupon code JULY4 for 25% off your entire order at checkout for my Etsy shop SweetsNThings.

In addition to knit hats, gloves, baby stuff, and scarves, I have a couple of patterns listed in my knit shop, and will be adding more over the weekend. KnitHabit will be participating in the "Christmas In July" sales promotion on Etsy, with a 15% discount on all orders, including custom orders, with coupon code CIJ11. Thanks to everyone!