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Indigo Revelations

The wonderful thing about being addicted to soapmaking is that I find myself traveling down paths of knowledge that I wouldn’t have voluntarily tread myself.

Take last night, for instance, when I was agonizing over how I was ever going to make blue soap. I could use iron oxide, but the list of Malaysian suppliers I found on the net didn’t specify anything about their products being cosmetic grade. And I’m not looking to import anything yet–the small quantity I need doesn’t justify the massive shipping costs.

Then I found a site that mentioned Indigo powder as a natural blue soap colourant. That was exciting. Many, many clicks and a couple of hours later, here are a few (possibly eyebrow-raising) facts about indigo I’ve gathered to satisfy your curiosity about the stuff. It’s by no means exhaustive.

Indigo powder is the dried and crushed leaves of the indigofera tinctoria shrub, commonly found in India. And THIS is what the powder looks like:

Yup, it’s green. Not blue. If I’m not wrong, the blue indigo colourants you might come across in soapmaking sites is actually the hydrated indigo leaf powder which is then freeze-dried into crystalline form.

Indigo is known as “neel” in India. It’s used to colour hair (!!) without the use of artificial chemicals, anything from brown to blue-black, to black. I learned that from reading this page at  Joy Minerals.

It’s the same dye that’s used to give jeans that characteristic blue.

Want to see what another soaper has done with indigo in her soap? Check out Southern Soapers’ tutorial here.

I’m hoping to do my own experiments with indigo really soon! Got any stories to share about this ingredient?

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Music Monday – Grand Central (K-Pax OST)

Hi people, it’s another brand new Monday and here’s today’s Music Monday pick. Grand Central was composed by Edward Shearmur for the movie K-Pax which was released in 2001. I don’t think it made it to Malaysia, but I watched the film while in the UK. Its story is one of those that allows viewers to draw their own conclusions as to what really happened in the end. Of all the music which I enjoyed throughout the movie, this track is the one I played on loop most often. :p

Happy Monday!

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Soap Pre-Orders and Reservations Available

Seeing how this happy problem of me running out of stock of soap is happening more frequently these days, I’d like to highlight that you can always pre-order your soap so I can better estimate how much soap to make for each batch.

You needn’t pay anything up front. Just send me an e-mail to let me know what you’d like me to reserve for you, and I’ll advise you on when it will be ready. When the date rolls around, I’ll remind you about your reserved soap so you can make arrangements for payment. If I don’t hear from you after 3 days, or you change your mind about your order, not to worry. I’ll just release your reserved soap and make it available for sale.

Hope this helps!

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It’s amazing how things can change drastically in the course of a couple of months. Thankfully in my case, they’ve all been very, very good changes.

Six months back I was heavily pregnant with Reuben, still pottering about the kitchen making soap. I’d be cooking meals over the stove while occasionally yelling across the dining area to make sure that Brandon and Andrea were playing nice with each other.

Today I have a bubbly, bouncy Reuben whose current favourite activity is sucking at his fists, and he loves to chat. I have a handful of wholesale accounts. We have a fantastic Cambodian servant who’s great at taking care of the household chores and keeping the kids entertained (though I still have to yell across the dining area sometimes :p ). Hubby is happier than ever with work prospects.

And did I mention that Kinder Soaps now has AN OFFICE SPACE? \:D/

This shows the main front portion of the office. As you can see, it’s fully carpeted and has some really nice track spotlights overhead. Airconditioned. Those curtains waaay at the back are proper black-out ones–draw them shut and the whole space is plunged into darkness.

That’s a partition that separates the main area above from the kitchen and storage area at the back.

Fantastic built-in cupboards! With locks! I think I’ll be putting my essential oils here. The bottles are rather tall so these shelves are ideal to access them easily.

Darn it, I want to post some more but Andrea’s starting to cry in the living room–probably fighting over a toy with Brandon. >.< Will write more when I can.

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Music Monday – Agnus Dei

Something a little more pedestrian for this week’s Music Monday pick. This is Agnus Dei, sung to Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings.

It’s haunting. I remember listening to this late into one chilly british night when a friend drove the two of us to the remains of Kenilworth castle. Those voices stayed with me even after we alighted and began clambering over the ruins by moonlight, staying close to the walls and avoiding pathways that had long since crumbled away.

Hope you enjoy this ethereal choral piece. Happy Monday. 🙂

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Making Lye Solutions – Cold Water vs Room Temperature Water

Okay, here’s a little something that might interest the more seasoned soapers out there. I’m not sure if it’s something you already know, but here are my experiences anyway.

I’ve come to the conclusion that the temperature of the water with which you make your lye (sodium hydroxide, or NaOH) solution influences the outcome of whether or not your soap ends up with lots of ash on the surface.

My observations: ice water leads up to higher occurrence of soaper’s ash, while room temperature water leads to much less ash, if at all.

You see, when you add NaOH to water, the reaction is exothermic, meaning it produces heat. In fact, it gets REALLY hot, hitting close to 90C. It takes some time for me to cool it down in a water bath to get it to the correct soapmaking temperature, which is between 34C to 42C.

So there were a couple of occasions where I decided to ‘cheat’ by adding ice cubes directly to my lye-making water so the solution, thinking that I could cut down my waiting time for the lye to cool.

Well, cool faster it did, and my soaps turns out fine. But I noticed that for these batches, a fine layer of ash completely covered my soap. At first I put it down to just air getting into the mold while it was covered with cloth. Then I decided to check if it was the temperature of the water to which I added my NaOH by making two separate batches of soap where the only difference was the temperature of my water for the lye solution.

One batch had water that was at room temperature, about 24C. The other batch had ice water which brought its temperature down to 11C. I made my soap as normal then loosely covered the raw soap with clean dishcloths.

Result: the batch with room temperature water had only a minimal amount of ash resting on the crests of the soap swirls. The batch with the ice water had a fine, even layer of ash that completely covered the soap, even in the valleys of the soap swirls. It looked like powdery snow actually.

Now you know what to do to achieve the desired effect for your soap. 🙂

(Alas, I forgot to take photos. DOH! #-o )

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Out Of Stock – Goats Milk and Patchouli (GMP)

Alright you GMP fans, you’ll have to sit out the next 4 weeks till the next batch is ready. The last few Goats Milk and Patchouli bars flew off the shelf on Tuesday when a couple of customers paid me a surprise visit to stock up on their soap stashes (thanks Cheng King and Sophy!).

More GMP goodness will be available sometime in mid October. I’m so glad that you all enjoy it so much.