Zhiro is tapping out at 100% done with everything. But Kali…?
DrMistyTang over on her Patreon just released a Commentary Track for her comic and I thought it was a really interesting idea. Would that be of interest to folks for LL? I could put a video together of the pages in a chapter and talk about more behind-the-scenes stuff in a more “live” kind of way. Thoughts?
I recently got into my head that I really wanted to learn how to make my own soap. After our vacation in July, where we visited a fancy soap shop, I fell in love with having interesting, fun, hand-made soaps. Except they are super expensive and hard to find, I have discovered. Hence, the inevitable question of a crafty, but frugal, brain…”Can I make this myself…on the cheap?”
So here is my attempt. I cut corners where-ever I could. Instead of buying a fancy silicone mold, I lined a cardboard box with plastic. I decided to go with a soap plan that I already had essential oil for (peppermint, from my baking supplies) and would require only one color (red). I purchased a 5 lb block of soap base (I looked into doing it with the lye and other caustic materials, but I don’t think I’m that hardcore…yet), some dye, and in a splurge moment some glitter. At the grocery store I got some red sugar as an exfoliant and decoration. (Based on how my experience differed from the videos I watched, I suspect the sugar was a mistake.)
I had what I thought was a clever plan: I would use cardboard dividers to create distinct stripes of soap. White, red, white, red. Then I would zig-zag them together into a beautiful and precise pattern like the one’s I’d seen, perhaps a Taiwan Swirl. Because, as per usual, I always go “BEGINNER stuff? PFF, I’m sure I’ll be an expert at the start. That’s what my perfectionism tells me I have to be in order to be worthy to keep breathing.”
Well, perfectionism is dumb. Remember that, kids.
The directions said to cut the soap into chunks and melt it in the microwave in 20 second bursts. I wasn’t sure how much soap would fit in my box. I tried putting my chunks in it. I assumed that it would be roughly the same volume as a liquid that it was as a solid. Turns out, as a liquid it took up about half the space that the solid forms did. Learning opportunity number 1 of many. Melting it in the microwave took an eternity, and at about my sixth 20-second-burst I opted to move my bowl over a pot of boiling water, just so I wouldn’t have to open-shut-stir-input-shut anymore with the microwave.
It melted down pretty well on the stove-top using this jerry-rigged double boiler. Success! I was so proud of myself for my clever and totally flawless approach…until it was done melting, and I realized I needed to get the bowl, with a rim that fit PERFECTLY onto the rim of my pot, OUT of that pot without spilling molten soap all over myself or the stove.
Learning opportunity #2.
After several close calls and not an insignificant amount of swearing, I was able to extricate my soap base. I added in my fragrance (how much? EHHHHHH all of it, sure, that’s good) and my “exfoliant.” As soon as I added that sugar, two things happened. First, the red food coloring on the sugar just melted and spread all through my formerly white soap (LO #3) and then a skin started forming on the soap as it abruptly started to set way faster than anticipated (LO #4). One of the videos I watched in preparation did a sugar-soap scrub, and they mentioned that adding sugar would cut down significantly on the time I’d have to pour. BUT WHAT DID THAT EXPERT KNOW, I said to myself. I wasn’t adding NEARLY as much sugar to MY batch. I’m sure it will be fine. It’s fine.
Frantically I began setting aside a portion of my soap to be dyed. I added red to what I felt was maybe half of the soap I had (like a genius, I did not weigh what I’d set aside at any time LO #5) and learned that when you add red dye to white soap you get pink. Maybe a pretty deep pink, but it’s still pink. Not the bold red I’d imagined. It looks red in the photos, but once the soap set…pink (LO #6).
I brought out my cheap kit-bashed box mold with my cardboard dividers and started to pour. Turns out, pouring directly out of a bowl into a tiny thin channel is really hard, and half the time I missed and got it into the wrong channel (LO #7). I also discovered the cardboard that kinda sorta fits in a plastic lined box doesn’t really make an impervious seal, so my soap was leaking from one stripe to the next. (LO #8). It also wasn’t filling nearly as high as I thought it would. I probably could have melted twice as much soap (see LO #1). Needless to say, when I pulled my dividers out, my “stripes” were not pretty. I’m not even 100% sure they were existent.
So I thought, “Well, I won’t let this train-wreck stop me! Maybe if I start my Taiwan Swirl work, a beautiful pattern will emerge!”
A beautiful pattern…did not emerge. Instead, it looked like I’d liquefied a small animal in a horrible, gory ritual to some bloodthirsty god.
At this point I thought, “This may be a disaster. How can I salvage this??” I looked at the cardboard dividers I’d used, and found they were absolutely coated with soap. It felt like they’d taken a bar worth of material with them when I took them out. So I shaved off all of that, chopped up the chunks, and put them on top. Then I put glitter and red sugar on top of that. Because glitter solves everything, right??
Before you think that this effort might possibly work, not a single piece of my brilliant decorating schemes adhered to the top of the soap, which had already started to set by the time I put it on. Instead, it just went EVERYWHERE when I eventually took this out of the mold. (LO #9). Speaking of, when I did take it out of the box hours later, I discovered something else: My bag lining had leaked, so some of the soap had gotten out and into the box. And set. Sooooo in order to get my soap out of the box…I had to completely destroy the box. (LO #10).
Much ripping and cutting and swearing later, this is what I had left (after I put all the decoration that fell off in the unboxing back on top in a naive dream that maybe, somehow, the decoration would decide of its own volition to stay on the top of the soap without any chemical bonding. Get comfortable, decoration! Isn’t it nice up there? Yes, truly this is the place for you!)
The only thing left to do was cut it, and see what a monstrosity I had wrought. I got out my knife and, lo and behold…
It actually looked pretty neat inside! Not at all what I’d planned, but the end result was scented like peppermint and did have a fun, sorta-peppermint-candy look to it. Not what I’d planned, but good enough to use as a Christmas gift this December! (LO #11).
So that was my adventures in soap making. I learned a lot and had fun doing it! Will I make soap again? Yeah, probably! Part of me thinks I should probably be less ambitious next time, but another part of me wants to just keep making ridiculous mistakes while shooting for the moon. I suppose as long as the end result is functional and I enjoy being surprised, maybe that’s not such a bad thing!
Have you ever tackled a project that might have been too ambitious for you? What learning opportunities did you encounter, and would you do it again?