Today we’re continuing our sweetgrass series with a beautiful Sweetgrass Gradient Swirl Soap, featuring soft swirls that gradate from a reddy copper to pale cream, much like a sunset. The top is dolloped and swirled, with some shimmery mica whorls and a dusting of gold sparkles. I’ve left these bars unscented, choosing to channel the theme by focussing on warm, golden hues inspired by dried sweetgrass and its sunny, sweet scent.
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The design was inspired by Andrea of Rebel Ridge Soaps (a fellow Albertan!), who shared a fascinating video of her in-the-pot swirl technique on Instagram. I loved the inter-mixing of the colours throughout the pour, and was really excited to riff on her technique and see what I came up with. Her bars (Mermaid Island, with fancy soap tails!) have a really lovely scoopy swirl center, while my bars are more layered, and I’m pretty sure that’s because her batter was a lot more liquidy than mine, meaning the pouring caused more vertical mixing. I love seeing how different batter viscosities can produce such different end products even with similar processes!
Our fat blend is tilted more towards the liquidy side of things to give us a good amount of working time, though if I were to try this style of pour again I’d probably tilt the balance even further into the liquid realm. The bulk of the blend is olive oil, as I have a lot of it at the moment. Rice bran oil would be a good alternative! Coconut oil brings lather, tallow hardens the bar, and 5% castor oil gives us a gorgeous rich, creamy lather.
I’ve used a selection of micas from YellowBee for our different colours; “Sunkissed Shimmer” for the bronze, “Sparkling Gold” for the gold, and “Just Peachy” for the peachy/bronze. When you choose your micas, make sure they’re stable in high pH environments so they don’t colour shift in the soap batter. Many suppliers will tell you if a mica isn’t soap-suitable or if it will morph, so make sure you’re reading all the documentation on your micas before using them. Usually, micas in the copper/gold realm are coloured with iron oxides, which are stable in soap, but something pinky might have carmine in it, which will discolour in soap.
If you want to incorporate a fragrance or essential oil, feel free, but make sure to research your fragrance oil beforehand to ensure it won’t accelerate trace. We need a pourable batter for this soap, so a fragrance oil that turns your batter into pudding isn’t a good choice!
The pour has you pouring, inter-mixing, and pouring as you work your way from colour to colour to create a really interesting swirly fade from one shade to the next. I really recommend watching the pouring part of the video a couple of times (Andrea’s, too!) to get a feel for it before diving in. Once the bars have set up (give it at least three or four days—I initially tried slicing at 2 and that was not happening) give them at least four or five weeks to age before using since this is a softer blend of oils. Enjoy!
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Sweetgrass Gradient Swirl Soap
20% refined coconut oil (USA / Canada)
30% beef tallow (wondering why?)
45% olive oil (pomace) (USA / Canada)
5% castor oil (USA / Canada)
Calculate to 5% superfat with “water as % of oils” at 38%
Per 500g fats:
- 10g (0.18 oz) white kaolin clay
- Gold mica, pre-dispersed liquid oil (as needed)
- Bronze mica, pre-dispersed liquid oil (as needed)
- Peachy mica, pre-dispersed liquid oil (as needed)
- Gold biodegradeable glitter (as needed, for topping)
Kick things off by calculating out your recipe for the amount of soap you’re making to get the finite amounts of the fats, lye, and water. Unsure about how to use SoapCalc? I made a video to walk you through it! Please ensure you’re familiar with standard soap making procedure before diving in (click that link if you aren’t!).
Prepare your mould—you’ll want a loaf mould for this soap. Melt your oils together in your soaping pot, and have four containers with pouring spouts handy (I use these awesome funnel pitchers). Let your oils cool to slightly warmer than room temperature. Mix up your lye water and let that cool to about room temperature (you can use ice for part of your water to speed up the cooling process).
Lay out your work area so you can easily grab your micas and clays. Prepare your mould by lining it, if required.
Now you’re ready to get started! Begin by blending the white kaolin clay into the fats. Once that mixture is smooth, add the lye water and bring to a thin trace. Divide the batter into four parts between your four containers with pouring spouts.
Using the pre-dispersed micas, colour one part gold, one part bronze, and one part peachy. Leave the fourth part un-coloured.
Now it’s time to pour the soap! Decide on an order for your pour colours; I went with a roughly dark-to-light ordering (bronze-gold-peach-uncoloured) for a gradient effect, but you can do whatever you want.
- Start by pouring half of the bronze into the mould.
- Mix half of the gold into the bronze, and pour the rest of that into the mould.
- Pour about half of the remaining gold into the mould.
- Mix about half of the peach into the remaining gold and pour that into the mould.
- Pour about half of the remaining peach into the mould.
- Mix about half of the uncoloured batter into the peach and pour that into the mould.
- Pour the rest of the uncoloured batter into the mould.
You can also check out Andrea’s original soaping video here!
Rap the mould on the countertop to knock out any air bubbles. Decorate the top as desired; I drizzled it with some bronze mica mixed in oil and then dolloped the batter up with a mini wire whisk before sprinkling with some gold biodegradable glitter.
Leave the soap to set up for at least 72 hours before slicing and leaving to age for at least four to five weeks before using. Enjoy!
The micas & glitter were gifted by YellowBee.
I’ve been soaping for over 6 years and what stood out the most was the fact that she used glass containers, This is a big No-No in soap making. Lye etches glass and over time the glass will shatter ( it took about 1 1/2 years for me).
What about a scent?
Read the second last paragraph 🙂 I also discuss this in the video!
Read the second last paragraph I also discuss this in the video!
It’s interesting to me that you say Carmine will discolor in soap. I’ve done a batch with Carmine infused Olive oil and it came out a very Pretty pink. ???
Oooh, pretty! “Discolour” does have negative connotations, so it probably wasn’t the best choice of word here on my part—”shift” probably would’ve been a better choice 🙂 From this book: “The colour of carminic acid is pH sensitive. Below pH 2.0 it is orange-red, between 2.0 and 5.0 a rich dark red, and above 5.0 a burgundy-violet.” I’ve had some fun watching its colour shift in body washes as I’ve adjusted the pH 🙂 Carmine shouldn’t turn your entire soap a sad brown, but it might also not be what was expected from looking at a blended mica on its own.
How much mica do I need?
It’s very much an “as needed” thing, depending on the strength of colour you want and your batch size. For my 1500g batch, I used ~1–2 tsp of each mica 🙂
May I ask, when you drizzled the mica with oil on the top at the very end, did the oil get absorbed into the soap?
Yes—you won’t notice an oily top on the soap 🙂