SMF JANUARY 2024 CHALLENGE – Mini Drop [Mini Drip] Swirl

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Welcome to the January 2024 SMF Soap Challenge: Mini Drop [Mini Drip] Swirl

Happy New Year! Are you ready for a new year of soap making challenges? We hope so!

This month we will be exploring the mini drop swirl technique, with a pouring technique variation I’m calling a mini drip swirl to distinguish it from the classic mini drop swirl made using squeeze bottles. For both approaches, mini drops/drips are created by building up narrow lines/stripes of batter on a base layer until the mini drop/drip layer reaches the desired thickness. Unlike a standard drop swirl, where the batter is dropped from distance (typically > 4”/10 cm) above the surface of the soap in the mold, the batter for the mini technique is poured at or very close to the surface of the base soap and the drops/drips form as fluid batter sinks into fluid batter, helped along by the weight of each successive line of batter.

This month’s challenge is a throwback to an SMF mini drop swirl challenge hosted by @dibbles in October 2019. Check out the wonderful soaps and the winners in the October 2019 entry thread.

SMF Challenge General Rules

To enter, you must have been an active SMF member for at least one month and have a minimum of 50 posts at the time the Challenge is posted. “Fluff” posts written with the sole intention of boosting post numbers do not apply. The only exception to this rule, is that the time and post requirements are removed for (do not apply to) Supporting Members. All eligible members may sign up and submit an entry at any time before the entry thread closes.

Your soap must be made after the monthly challenge has been announced. Your entry must consist of bars made from a single batch of soap poured into one mold. In other words, your entry cannot include bars from different batches.

The sign-up list will be posted in this thread. Please add your name to the sign-up list if you’d like to participate. You don’t have to enter a soap at the end if you don’t feel happy with what you have made. Still, we hope you will post about your experiences here in the main Challenge thread, along with non-entry photos (be prepared to be encouraged to keep trying).

In the spirit of advancing our soap making skills, all members who sign-up for the SMF Challenge do so with the expectation that they will make every attempt to submit an entry. We do understand that life happens, and that you may end up without an entry. However, signing up with no intent to participate and only to vote goes against the spirit of the challenge and is not allowed.

Throughout the month, we encourage you to use this general Challenge thread (not the Entry thread) to ask for advice, discuss techniques with other members, upload pictures of your non-entry challenge attempts, and provide helpful hints you learned along the way. Constructive criticism is welcomed, but please keep your comments polite.

A separate Entry thread will be created towards the end of the month. Please do not post photos anywhere of your entry until the Entry thread is opened. Breaking this rule will disqualify that soap from this Challenge. The Entry thread is for challenge entries only; please don't post any comments there.

Your entry photo must include at least three bars of soap from a single batch. We encourage (but do not require) you to include in your entry post a description and additional photos demonstrating how you made your soap: the process, the technique, the fragrance, any special meaning behind your selected colors or design, etc. This gives voters a better understanding of, and appreciation for, what went into creating your soap. Please post the photo you would like used for the voting survey first.

Entries must be posted to the Entry thread (not to this general Challenge thread) before the closing time on the closing date. Late entries will not be accepted. If you miss the Challenge deadline, please upload pictures of your soap to the general Challenge thread instead. While it won’t be part of the voting, we always love to see anything you have created!

There is no prize attached to this Challenge. However, this is still a competition.

If your entry is deemed non-compliant, you will be given the opportunity to amend your entry if there is time to do so before the Entry thread closes. Otherwise, your entry will be excluded from voting. The challenge mods have the final say as to whether any given soap, photo, or registrant is eligible for entry and voting.

All eligible registrants who have signed up before the Entry thread closes will be eligible to vote, even if they do not submit an entry. A password-protected voting link and password will be sent to eligible registrants only, by private message via SMF conversations. Please check your SMF messages/conversations when the voting begins.

Note: all times listed below are Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). It is your responsibility to convert times to your own time zone. You can use World Time Buddy or a similar converter to assist you with that.
* The entry thread will open on January 20th by 11:59 PM GMT.
* The entry thread will close on January 26th at 11:59 PM GMT.
* Voting information will be emailed to all eligible participants shortly thereafter.
* The voting survey will remain open until January 29th at 11:59 PM GMT, or until all votes are in, whichever is sooner.
* The winner will be announced by January 31st by 11:59 PM GMT.

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Specific Rules for this Challenge:
  1. Your entry must be made from one batch of CP (cold process) soap in a loaf-style mold. You may use a heating pad, insulation or oven to keep the soap in the mold warm and to facilitate the gelling process.
  2. The bottom of the soap must be one solid color only (or uncolored). The drops portion must include at least 2 colors.
  3. Keep the mini drop/drip swirl portion in the upper 1/3 – 2/3 of the soap bar. Your entry will not be disqualified if the drops go below this point, but this is what you should strive for. This should also be considered when the time comes to vote on the entries.
  4. OPTIONAL DESIGN ELEMENT: You may try including a raindrop element in your design, and these individual drops can reach any depth of the soap bar (examples/tutorials in video links). If you use the cup/pouring approach described below to make raindrop elements in the base soap, keep the spout within 4” of the surface of the base layer.
  5. REQUIRED: Tell us what technique you used to create the mini drops, for example, squeeze bottles, poured from cups (see below), or another technique. For whatever technique you use, the batter for the mini drop/mini drip layer must be poured in thin lines and the pouring vessel opening/spout must be no more than 1” from the surface of the batter as you create the lines.
  6. Only CP soap from the batch you have made for the challenge is allowed within the body of the soap. No embeds are allowed for this challenge either within your soap or on top of your bars. Other than using embeds (not allowed) you may decorate the top of your soap any way you like. Glitter, botanicals, mica, mica in oil, salts, etc. are all allowed. Of course, leftover bits of batter dropped and swirled on the top of the loaf is also allowed.

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Tips:

The very thorough video tutorial by Lisa at I Dream in Soap is a great place to start if you never tried this technique before, or you need a refresher. Holly/Kapia Mera provides detailed written instructions and a video link on her blog. Links are given below.

You will need to decide on the proportions for base layer versus mini drops layer, for example, 40:60, 50:50, 60:40. Keep in mind that it can be challenging to get the last bit of batter out of unlined squeeze bottles, which affects the mini drop layer but not the base layer. Consider adjusting total batter weight and proportions for base and mini drops accordingly. I upped my total fat weight by 5% (from 950 g to 1000 g) for example soaps I made and ended up with about 100 g of batter left in squeeze bottles when the soap was done.

The most common approach to the mini drop swirl technique relies on squeeze bottles to create thin lines of batter just below or at the surface of the fluid base batter in the mold. If you don’t have or don’t want to use squeeze bottles, there are other ways to achieve a similar effect. For example, I created one of the soaps below by pouring the lines using 2 oz paper cups. More details on my cup pouring approach are provided below.

In most of the tutorials I’ve watched, raindrops are created using squeeze bottles with pipette tip extensions (the Tree Marie Soapworks YT video discusses how to get smaller versus larger drops). Fraeulein Winter used a funnel! Für gute Laune...

This is a great technique for anyone who loves color. Use bright, contrasting colors without the fear of colors becoming muddied! The design also looks lovely with monochromatic palettes and everything in between.

Choose a well-behaved scent and use your stick blender sparingly. You will need time to split and color the batter, fill squeeze bottles, and add scent before you start adding soap to the mold. Starting with batter at creamy emulsion (just shy of light trace) worked well for me. If you haven’t worked at emulsion/very light trace before, take your time and alternate a lot of stirring with a few quick pulses of the stick blender until you get a sense of how the batter is behaving. Lisa talks about this slow soaping approach in the I Dream in Soap video.

Working with thin batter can pose some challenges, especially when you start splitting the batter into smaller portions that will cool off more quickly compared with a big bowl of batter. If the top of your soap seems cool when everything is in the mold, consider covering it with some towels to retain the heat generated during saponification and/or put it on a heating pad or in a warmed oven (turned off when you put the soap in) to help it stay warm enough to gel. Some of the worst soap I’ve ever made started as fluid batter that got cold and never gelled. It comes out of the mold looking very chalky.

Squeeze bottles can be lined with plastic bags to make cleaning easier, or just plan to scrape out as much batter as you can, let the bottles and caps sit overnight, and then soak them in very hot water to make cleaning easier.

Mini drips (see example #3, below): I poured the soap batter using 2 oz. paper cups that were pinched to create narrow pouring spouts. I had the best control and was able to get the spout very close to the surface of the base layer by using batter that was approaching or at light trace and with the cups no more than half full (1 oz of batter at the most). On the downside, I had to refill the cups many times and it took a lot of passes to get most of the soap in the mold. On the upside, there were no bottles to clean and I was able to get almost all of the batter into the mold.

Since I had not used this technique in a couple of years, I did a few fresh test runs:

#1 - [Very] fluid batter/emulsion, no trace until near the end of pouring, different size tip openings, slight variations in pressure on the squeeze bottles, 60% base, 40% for drops: The dark pink batter was in a bottle with the largest tip opening (4 mm diameter) and the tip on the bottle with white soap had the smallest opening (2 mm diameter). It was [too] easy to make large drops with the largest tip opening, but light drops were achieved with very light [almost no] pressure on the squeeze bottle. The batter for this batch was the most fluid of my three test batches and the net result is a lot of mini drops. If you look closely, you can see that some of the white drops at the surface of the soap look a little chalky as does the largest white raindrop in the soap on the right. This is what happens when the emulsion is a little too thin and it doesn't warm up enough to gel properly, and especially when TD is involved.

IMG_0530.jpeg

#2 - Fluid batter (not quite trace to very light trace), pipette tip raindrops, changing angles, 50% base, 50% for drops: Using unmodified pipette tips (opening is approximately 2 mm diameter) and very gentle pressure produced [mini] mini raindrops. I used larger bottles/larger tip openings for the remaining mini drop pours and tried angling the tips a bit, but I don’t think it made much difference.

IMG_0527.jpeg

#3 - Fluid batter (not quite trace to very light trace), paper cups: I poured the soap batter using 2 oz. paper cups that were pinched to create narrow pouring spouts. After pouring too much white soap for raindrops, I had better results when I used about half as much soap (< 1 oz) in the cups for the pink, orange and yellow raindrops. The initial line pours for the drops in the base were from 3-4” above the soap surface and the remaining batter was poured at or just above the soap surface. It took a lot of passes to get most of the soap in the mold. This technique makes terrific drippy drops, but I will stick with squeeze bottles and pipette tips if I want perfect raindrop elements.

IMG_0553.jpeg

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Tutorial/Demonstration Video Links:

Holly/Kapia Mera (written tutorial is here: Rainy Day Mini Drop Swirl Soap)



I Dream in Soap



Tree Marie (focus is on how to create a perfect raindrop element)



Yvonne



Other examples:

Slide1.jpeg
 
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Sign-up List for SMF January 2024 Challenge: Mini Drop {Mini Drip} Swirl. To sign up, please copy and paste these instructions and the list below into a new message. Then add your name and the next number for the next person:

1.
 
Sign-up List for SMF January 2024 Challenge: Mini Drop {Mini Drip} Swirl. To sign up, please copy and paste these instructions and the list below into a new message. Then add your name and the next number for the next person:

1. AliOop - Great way to "drop" into 2024! ;)
2. katili - Why not dive into something I've never done?
 
Sign-up List for SMF January 2024 Challenge: Mini Drop {Mini Drip} Swirl. To sign up, please copy and paste these instructions and the list below into a new message. Then add your name and the next number for the next person:

1. AliOop - Great way to "drop" into 2024! ;)
2. katili - Why not dive into something I've never done?
The challenges are a great way to learn new techniques!
 
Sign-up List for SMF January 2024 Challenge: Mini Drop {Mini Drip} Swirl. To sign up, please copy and paste these instructions and the list below into a new message. Then add your name and the next number for the next person:

1. AliOop - Great way to "drop" into 2024! ;)
2. katili - Why not dive into something I've never done?
3. MichaelP - I agree with katili, I want to try something new and help develop my soap making skills. Looking forward to this!
 
Sign-up List for SMF January 2024 Challenge: Mini Drop {Mini Drip} Swirl. To sign up, please copy and paste these instructions and the list below into a new message. Then add your name and the next number for the next person:

1. AliOop - Great way to "drop" into 2024! ;)
2. katili - Why not dive into something I've never done?
3. MichaelP - I agree with katili, I want to try something new and help develop my soap making skills. Looking forward to this!
4. Mrs.Z - this looks fun!
 
Sign-up List for SMF January 2024 Challenge: Mini Drop {Mini Drip} Swirl. To sign up, please copy and paste these instructions and the list below into a new message. Then add your name and the next number for the next person:

1. AliOop - Great way to "drop" into 2024! ;)
2. katili - Why not dive into something I've never done?
3. MichaelP - I agree with katili, I want to try something new and help develop my soap making skills. Looking forward to this!
4. Mrs.Z - this looks fun!
5. McKherring Farm
6.
 
Sign-up List for SMF January 2024 Challenge: Mini Drop {Mini Drip} Swirl. To sign up, please copy and paste these instructions and the list below into a new message. Then add your name and the next number for the next person:

1. AliOop - Great way to "drop" into 2024! ;)
2. katili - Why not dive into something I've never done?
3. MichaelP - I agree with katili, I want to try something new and help develop my soap making skills. Looking forward to this!
4. Mrs.Z - this looks fun!
5. McKherring Farm
6. VikingChick - This should be fun!
7.
 
Sign-up List for SMF January 2024 Challenge: Mini Drop {Mini Drip} Swirl. To sign up, please copy and paste these instructions and the list below into a new message. Then add your name and the next number for the next person:

1. AliOop - Great way to "drop" into 2024! ;)
2. katili - Why not dive into something I've never done?
3. MichaelP - I agree with katili, I want to try something new and help develop my soap making skills. Looking forward to this!
4. Mrs.Z - this looks fun!
5. McKherring Farm
6. VikingChick - This should be fun!
7. VickiC
8.
 
I really want to sign up but I'm really sick right now with Pericarditis and supposedly there is a link to that with covid vaccines so even though it might just be a coincidence I don't think I will get any more vaccines. But hopefully I will feel better soon I just hope it doesn't turn in to chronic pericarditis it's inflammation in the sac around your Hart so I have been feeling alot of pressure in my chest. Hopefully it calms down soon so I can sign up.🤕. I'm going to wait till I feel better to sign up.
 
Sign-up List for SMF January 2024 Challenge: Mini Drop {Mini Drip} Swirl. To sign up, please copy and paste these instructions and the list below into a new message. Then add your name and the next number for the next person:

1. AliOop - Great way to "drop" into 2024! ;)
2. katili - Why not dive into something I've never done?
3. MichaelP - I agree with katili, I want to try something new and help develop my soap making skills. Looking forward to this!
4. Mrs.Z - this looks fun!
5. McKherring Farm
6. VikingChick - This should be fun!
7. VickiC
8. Blue - Fun project for next weekend!
 
@Mobjack Bay - does this mean that the base color cannot be an ombré (Holly’s video, as an example)? Thanks for clarifying.

Specific Rules for this Challenge:
  1. Your entry must be made from one batch of CP (cold process) soap in a loaf-style mold. You may use a heating pad, insulation or oven to keep the soap in the mold warm and to facilitate the gelling process.
  2. The bottom of the soap must be one color only (or uncolored). The drops portion must include at least 2 colors.
  3. Keep the mini drop/drip swirl portion in the upper 1/3 – 2/3 of the soap bar. Your entry will not be disqualified if the drops go below this point, but this is what you should strive for. This should also be considered when the time comes to vote on the entries.
 
I really want to sign up but I'm really sick right now with Pericarditis and supposedly there is a link to that with covid vaccines so even though it might just be a coincidence I don't think I will get any more vaccines. But hopefully I will feel better soon I just hope it doesn't turn in to chronic pericarditis it's inflammation in the sac around your Hart so I have been feeling alot of pressure in my chest. Hopefully it calms down soon so I can sign up.🤕. I'm going to wait till I feel better to sign up.
Oh no, I hope you feel better soon. Just recently another person I know ended up in the emergency room due to pericarditis. I wonder if they know about the link with the the vaccine.
@Mobjack Bay - does this mean that the base color cannot be an ombré (Holly’s video, as an example)? Thanks for clarifying.
That is correct, no ombre in the base. The idea is to keep the focus on learning how to make drops.
 
Sign-up List for SMF January 2024 Challenge: Mini Drop {Mini Drip} Swirl. To sign up, please copy and paste these instructions and the list below into a new message. Then add your name and the next number for the next person:

1. AliOop - Great way to "drop" into 2024! ;)
2. katili - Why not dive into something I've never done?
3. MichaelP - I agree with katili, I want to try something new and help develop my soap making skills. Looking forward to this!
4. Mrs.Z - this looks fun!
5. McKherring Farm
6. VikingChick - This should be fun!
7. VickiC
8. Blue - Fun project for next weekend!
9.
 
Sign-up List for SMF January 2024 Challenge: Mini Drop {Mini Drip} Swirl. To sign up, please copy and paste these instructions and the list below into a new message. Then add your name and the next number for the next person:

1. AliOop - Great way to "drop" into 2024! ;)
2. katili - Why not dive into something I've never done?
3. MichaelP - I agree with katili, I want to try something new and help develop my soap making skills. Looking forward to this!
4. Mrs.Z - this looks fun!
5. McKherring Farm
6. VikingChick - This should be fun!
7. VickiC
8. Blue - Fun project for next weekend!
9. dmcgee5034 - honey, I dripped the soap! 😂
10.
 
Today I attempted to make my entry with a FO that has accelerated on me both times I’ve previously used it. Do you think I recalled that or read my notes - nope. 😂🤣😂
So that didn’t work and I had to pivot to a spoon/spatula swirl. Lesson - read your notes, don’t trust the notes on the bottle, and search SMF to double check. 🤦🏻‍♀️🤷🏻‍♀️🤦🏻‍♀️
After some choice words, and encouragement from DH, I dusted myself off and tried again - with a FO/EO blend I knew would give me time to try the challenge design.
Probably should have done that the first time, but at least I know I’ve got friends wanting soap with the FO from the first batch no matter what it looks like. 🌸
 
Sign-up List for SMF January 2024 Challenge: Mini Drop {Mini Drip} Swirl. To sign up, please copy and paste these instructions and the list below into a new message. Then add your name and the next number for the next person:

1. AliOop - Great way to "drop" into 2024! ;)
2. katili - Why not dive into something I've never done?
3. MichaelP - I agree with katili, I want to try something new and help develop my soap making skills. Looking forward to this!
4. Mrs.Z - this looks fun!
5. McKherring Farm
6. VikingChick - This should be fun!
7. VickiC
8. Blue - Fun project for next weekend!
9. dmcgee5034 - honey, I dripped the soap! 😂
10. Tammyfarms - I made mine today. I didn’t want to enter until I knew I would be able to make soap. It’s in the mold. 🤞🏻
11.
 
@katili and @MichaelP, the best part about these challenges is trying new techniques. This was a new technique for me and I had also not used squeeze bottles for soap before. If you use a bottle, I highly recommend putting a plastic bag inside the bottle. I used repurposed packing pillows secured with rubber bands and clean up was super easy. Have fun and good luck!
 

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