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Soap Challenge April 2017 - Rustic Soap

Cal Petrusma

I've been quiet for a while now.... Let me explain before we get to this month's challenge.

While on holiday way back in November I had a little accident where I thought I'd pulled a muscle in my right shoulder. Nope. After a few months of "I'm sure it'll be fine...I'll just give it time..." I saw a surgeon in early February & was told I'd torn the muscle off the bone & was booked into surgery a week later. Just let me say... I would like to strongly recommend never to tear muscles in your shoulder - it is the most painful surgery I've ever had (including a total knee replacement), & I'm going seriously nuts 'cause I'm very right-handed & I can't do anything!! Can't drive, can't do my own hair, couldn't shower myself for ages, & I couldn't make soap.

As I mentioned before, I'm VERY right-handed! I tried cutting carrots with my left hand one day & I nearly lost a few fingers. Most of what I do to keep myself occupied requires two hands, mostly my right hand. I tried to make a simple soap a few weeks ago & that really hurt. My physiotherapist called me an idiot (well, I called myself an idiot & he agreed), so I've tried to be good & let the last few months soap challenges pass me by :-(

But I've reached a stage where I can sort-of use my right hand (as long as I don't move my shoulder too much), & my left hand is becoming more adept at doing stuff, so I thought I'd try this month's challenge - a rustic soap.

Normally the challenge calls for 'cold process' soap, but this month is also about 'hot process', which is cooking the soap to make it saponify faster, & 're-batching' which is grating previously made soap & turning it into new soap. Both those methods usually produce rustic looking soaps. But when I looked at them...hmmm.. hot process involves a lot more stirring than normal, & re-batching involves a lot of grating. Neither of which my shoulder will tolerate. So I'm sticking to cold process & using natural products to make it look as rustic as possible.

I started with an idea based on a soap from Ben Aaron's new e-book (found at, but changed the soap recipe & added layers.

The essential oil blend for this is called Sweet Earth & includes Orange, Juniper Berry, Clove Bud, Patchouli, Geranium, & Ylang Ylang. I crushed some Juniper Berries (the brown stuff in the bowl) & added this to the lye water. And I wanted four layers of soap so included some clays & ground Wattle Seeds for exfoliation.

This 'lovely' looking stuff is the lye water with the crushed juniper in it. Darker than I thought it would be so I swapped in White Kaolin clay for the Caramel Clay.

Additives ready to go. There was a warning with this essential oil blend - it would move fast. And it did! Just as well I wanted a nice thick trace for the layers!

The soap batter before I added anything to it. Then I separated it out into 4 & started adding things & layering...

The bottom layer was plain with a bit of white kaolin clay, then a mica line. The next layer to go on was the chocolate clay layer (seen in the pot above the mould).....

...another mica line, then the third layer with the wattle seeds...

....then another mica line.. then the final layer was 'coloured' with Washed Blue Clay. It didn't seem to change the colour much at all. We'll have the wait for the magic of saponification to see if there are any changes. I textured the top & added a thin line of wattle seeds.

Here is the finished soap. Smells divine :-) The washed blue clay did make a slight difference to the top layer, its just not blue.

Normally, this would be it for the competition but this month there's one more thing to do...add some rustic packaging. My normal packaging is shrink wrap & a simple label to keep costs down. So this would be packaging for a gift soap. Way too labour intensive to make for everyday sale, but it was great fun to do!

 The words are "We do not own the Earth. Walk gently upon it so that future generations may do the same."

The words are "We do not own the Earth. Walk gently upon it so that future generations may do the same."

Think I'll call this "Gaia"

And if you're wondering, yes, doing this did hurt my shoulder. I've recently seen my surgeon & he has told me that if I continue to try to use my arm at this point I'll need further surgery in a couple of months, so I need to stop being impatient & stop making soap for little longer. :-(