Gardening soap

I had decided to make a really pretty soap and I thought it would be such a great idea to use Cochineal to color it pink.  Enough of Rumex oil already.  Enough of subtle shades.  Lets go for gusto.  Cochineal is a bug that had been used for centuries to dye pink and red.  It gives vibrant colours and is soluble in water.  I've used it to dye wool and got a beautiful strong pink.  So I thought I'd try it because sometimes I would like to try some really strong colors for a change.  And I thought I would use the little aluminum tart forms that I have, but line them with cling film, even if it shows.  And then I thought I'd use some of the Poppy seeds that I collected last fall and make it this bright pink flower shaped gardeners soap.

Well, apparently the universe likes me to stick to soft and natural.  I prepared the Cochineal by grinding up a few bugs and adding them to water until the colors was really saturated and way too strong for what I intended.  When I added the lye the water turned to purple, as was to be expected, but when I added the oils and started to stir, the colour simply disappeared.  I had this happen once with Logwood, a beautiful purple that refused to participate in a soap making adventure.  Since I really didn't want as wishy-washy nondescript soap I grabbed my bottle of ... no not Rumex oil, but Rheum oil (that's Rhubarb to you and me).  As I poured it into the soap I could see great red color swirls and they soon turned the soap pink and I was quite happy.  Usually Rumex and Rheum oils turn a tan colour at first, changing overnight to pink.  But this was fine with me.  Immediately pink.  Great.  So I put some Lavender, Lemongrass and Rosewood essential oils into it and then my poppy seeds, poured it into the little moulds and went to bed.

I made a really small recipe, only 260 g. / 9.2 oz, the smallest batch I've ever tried.

Olive oil 33%  
Coconut oil 33% 
Soybean oil 10%
Sunflower oil 10%
Cocoa butter 14%

The next morning this surprising result waited for me.  Exactly what I hadn't wanted:  A rather insipid, undecided, plain, dull, nondescript, wishy-washy colour, if it even deserves that noun.  And to make matters worse, it had a really really thick layer of ash.  I don't mind some ash, but this was really thick.  I don't know how the colour managed to change from a lovely, and yes soft, pink to a really weird blueish-in-some-places-pinkish-in-others-and-no-real-colour-at-all-in-between.  But it did.  And after looking at it for a few weeks (and a hard day of gardening in the allotment garden) I used it and decided that it wasn't a miserable failure after all.  It was a nice size, it smelled lovely, it had a nice lather and the Poppy seeds gave it just the perfect scrub without being too rough.  Just perfectly natural and slightly irregular like the life I live, the vegetables I grow and the raised beds that I built.


  1. I think it looks exactly right! Perhaps the universe IS telling you something ;)

    Have you had success with rhubarb in soap before? If so, perhaps this one's pH level is different?

  2. What a great soap story! The ones where things turn out in the end are always my favorites. :)

  3. The colour may not be all you wanted but the scent sounds perfect, one day I will make soap when I stop being scared that I'll burn the house down in the process! In the meantime I'll keep looking wistfully at your blog and wishing I could try every bar you make!

    Big soapy hugs - Debs

  4. Topcat - I've used Rhubarb before and I just think I used too little this time.

    Amy - this is why I love working with natural materials - so unpredictable and full of surprises. Keeps me from thinking I've done it all before :)

    Herbaholic - Lol - I waited quite a while before I tried my first and then I dressed like an astronaut :) It's really not that much of a deal. And thanks for the compliment :)

  5. I could just imagine that farmers market conversation: "So what source of natural colour do you use for these lovely pink soaps?" lol

    I can completely empathise with your story above - it's my life when it comes to using woad in my soap and trying to get a true blue ;)

  6. I think they look really lovely. You're so clever how you use your natural ingredients and your fragrance sounds beautiful.


Post a Comment

Popular Posts