Advanced Soap Making – Silk Worms & Making Silk Soap, Bonnie Garity, the Good Earth Spa
Hi, my name is Bonnie Garrity, owner of Good Earth Spa and as we kind of touched on Cathy’s presentation, I started out as a farm girl and you can take the girl out of the farm but you can’t take the farm out of the girl. Consequently, a lot of the stuff that I like to use in my soap I like to produce myself. I have distilled essential oils, I’ve used eggs from my own chickens, my own beeswax from my own bees and the list just goes on and on. I’m just always trying to find new ways and when I moved off of my farm and bought a place in Indiana in the middle of winter, I discovered that following Spring that I had a mulberry tree. Of course, naturally, I thought, “silk worms, I can get silk”, because they eat mulberry leaves. So I’m excited what I’ve learned about the silk worms, how I raise them and how I use them in soap. Why Soap Worms and Why Silk? First thing is the term silk work is a little deceiving because it is not a worm at all, it is a caterpillar. So that should make you a little bit more comfortable about silkworms’ right there. They are a domesticated insect and silk worms are caterpillars that spin a cocoon of silk and lucky for all of you, you’re all going to get one. First I need one for my presentation and I was told there would be about 18 attendees and I can’t tell, it looks like maybe there may be more, but I brought 30 so there are 29 left, distribute them evenly and you can just kind of pass them around and take one. Okay, Brittan’s going to do it I do not sell silk, but I am going to talk about how you can get silk, where you can find it and where you can buy it. Okay, while they are handing out your silk and you will get to look at it I’m just continue. So legends say that around 2640BC, a Chinese empress discovered the silk moth cocoons hanging from a mulberry tree. She unraveled the shiny threads and made them into a thicker thread. The threads would become woven into fine garments of luxury and the silk fabric became highly praised throughout the world for its unique soft texture. The texture of the silk protein fiber is the same reason why it’s so great for soap. The silk proteins add a silky feel and a shiny appearance to soap. Also newer studies have shown that silk has moisture retentive properties which makes it a popular addition to many cosmetic products. And now I’m going to talk briefly about the silk worm life cycle. First we have the little caterpillar coming out of the egg. They start out as just little black creepy looking things. They are very small, so this is actually an image taken with a microscope. They eat and eat and eat and eat and eat and eat and eat and they just keep eating and they don’t do anything but eat until they get bigger and bigger and bigger and when they have had their fill (this is just the larvae stage by the way) and after that they start to spin their cocoon in which they are in the pupae stage now, they spin it out of silk. So after that a couple of weeks later, they come out and they emerge as a moth. So this is a picture of the face of a silkworm moth. This presentation is focusing primarily on mulberry silkworms and the reason why I’m taking a special note to specify is because there are a lot of creatures that actually make silk and some things that come to mind would be spiders that have silk spinnerets and lots of other caterpillars also make silk, but the quality is what is different. There are also different silkworms. So the next most popular would be the tussah silk, which the difference would be the mulberry is finer, it’s considered a higher grade for use in textiles compared to the tussah. Either one can be used in soap and to compare the two, tussah comes in more of a honey color and mulberry comes in pure white, unless it’s a fancy breed which we will get to later. Overall, the tussah silk has a little bit less luster and is considered more textured, so most of the silk garments that you would wear like if you have a silk scarf or a silk dress or a silk shirt would be from the mulberry silk, but the tussah silk is more ideal for like sweaters or upholstery, it is still really soft, it’s still a luxurious fabric, but it’s just a little bit different. Now I actually have a display to pass around that, it’s my bug collection. Nothing is alive here, so nothing will jump out and scare you and all these moths have lived their complete life cycle and died of natural causes. No moths were harmed in the making of this display. Before I pass it around, I want to point out a couple of things so you can see that we have a couple adults here. Generally the males have larger wings, they can fly a little bit. You often read that silkworms don’t fly, but I have had quite a few called “adventure moths” and I will find them wherever or they will catch a ride on you. Generally I don’t even close the container, I keep them. So these three here are ones that never emerged from the pupae stage. For whatever reason they just didn’t survive, so they are still in there. There is still a dead pupae in there, so just to show you and then the three down here have emerged. So if you look closely you can see an opening. If you kind of peek in you can see a little bit of the excess skeleton that was left behind when they emerged. On the mulberry leave, there are some dried mulberry leaves, you can see the size of the eggs, so there are some eggs and on this silk cocoon, just for contrast, it has eggs and I’m about 90% sure that these eggs specifically are not fertilized, so they shouldn’t just start hatching. There is always that 10% chance that one got through. Up here you will see that I have this is mulberry silk that I have kind of pulled off and I will show you later when we get to the demo. That’s probably how much we are going to use give or take and you can feel it and feel how soft it is. I will start to have that passed this around so everyone can have a look. The next slide is going to go into a video and it’s going to automatically start playing and it doesn’t have any audio in it and I was just going to narrate over the whole thing, but I want to start first by just talking a little bit before, because there won’t be enough time to say everything that I have to say. So the journey begins with the egg and the silkworm eggs will hatch one to two weeks after temperatures of between 70o and 80o F are maintained. Generally if you order eggs on line, they were stored in the refrigerator prior to being shipped to you. When they arrive they are on their way to hatching so it is temperature related. If the eggs are held from last season, which means you are keeping another generation, then they will hatch naturally around the time your mulberry tree begins to produce young tender leaves. This can vary a little bit and it’s a very important part because it is hard at the time artificially. I keep mine, I have a spare room I keep them in that I do not heat. It gets very cold in the winter and they need this cold time, so if you have, like for example this room has a base board heater, so I just turn it off and it doesn’t have any plumbing that can be damaged or anything else so I can leave them in there to be cold. Alternately, I guess you could put them in a garage or you can just put them in the refrigerator but then knowing when your tree is going to start producing leaves, that’s kind of hard. I start mind on silkworm chow and silkworm chow is something that you can buy and mix together and it is easier for their little tiny mouths to just eat it before you can switch them to leaves which is a better diet. So since the artificial timing is so difficult to do and because newly hatched silkworms can only eat young tender leaves, starting them on silkworm chow gives the best results in my experience. You can switch them to leaves when you either run out of silkworm chow or when they go from a black to white in color, then you know that their mouths are big enough to eat mulberry leaves. That’s a little bit older and not as tender, a little bit more rough. Let’s go into this video and this is footage from my own actual silkworms that I have raised. This is from a couple of years ago. I’ve raised them three times, two times I ordered and one time I had left-over eggs from the following season. So these ones are now a couple of weeks old and they are just eating. This part of the video has been sped up several times and then they just get bigger and bigger and then they start to spin their cocoons. They will begin to spin and the silkworm moves its mouth in a figure 8 motion, releasing a saliva type liquid from its mouth. This liquid dries and when it makes contact with the air silk is made. The silkworm will enclose itself in the cocoon which protects it from rain, wind, UV rays and any other weather and while inside the cocoon, as I said, the silkworm is in the pupae stage. So this portion of the video has also been sped up several times and now it is about to emerge. The silkworm excretes liquid that dissolves the silk around them to escape the cocoon. Silkworm moths do not eat or drink once they emerge so they only eat or drink when they are caterpillars. Not shown in this video, but after the silkworm moth emerges, they will release a meconium, which is a reddish brown liquid. It does get on some of the silk so I have just accepted that, we just don’t use that silk if it becomes dirty. They will mate and the female will lay eggs. If she does not mate before her urge to lay eggs, she will lay unfertilized eggs. So what I do is when they pair up, I move them to another area so I know which eggs are fertilized and there she is and you can see some of the meconium staining. Most of the time it doesn’t get on the silk or it is just a tiny spot that you can cut off. Someone is observing the color difference. When they are newly laid eggs they are that pale yellow color and then when they dry they turn that dark gray to black scale. If you are interested in something like this, you might want to go back and think, “Well mulberry tree, do I have one? Where can I find one, how do I identify it.” So, here is a mulberry tree, these are the leaves. What is kind of tricky about these is that you can one leaf shape on the entire tree or you can see all of these on the same tree. They have a serrated edge around the corner so if you see a tree that has one or all of these variations on it, then it is probably a mulberry tree. The next best way of identifying a mulberry tree would be to go in the summer when it has berries. So these are the fruits of the mulberry tree and this is not my picture because I don’t put mine outside. I just found this picture for an example. The darker ones are the ones that are the most ripe, they make a great tasty treat or you can make jam or whatever you want to do with them. So that is an example of the berries. The silkworm in this picture but note that they are not a native species so please do not release them into the wild. It might seem like releasing them into the wild will allow nature to do all of the hard work for you but in reality you will quickly lose your flock of silkworms to the local bird population or there could be other unforeseeable consequences of releasing any non-native species into a foreign environment, so you definitely want to keep them inside. If you are going to do this, be responsible and don’t let them loose. Now we are going to talk about how to get silk, silk sourcing and I have a couple of points that I want to talk about. The first one being choosing cruelty free. Cruelty-free silk is the silk that’s collected from the silkworms after they have emerged from the silkworm. This allows them to live out their full natural life cycle. In the silk industry, most silkworms are killed in the process, they are either boiled or baked and the reason why they do this is to maintain a long strand of silk. Since one cocoon is actually one long strand, this strand could be a mile long and that is really long and incredible when you think about the size of it. There is a mile in this. It would take me like 8-1/2 minutes to run that far on a good day, so that’s really big. The good thing is in soap, it makes no difference what the size of the strand is, so it really makes sense to use the cruelty-free silk and aside from label appeal, some customers may refuse to purchase the product which has caused the death of an animal, insect or living creature. You have a choice and here you can see some of the long strands over here that have been made and the cocoons in the boiler, not mine, I don’t boil them, but I ‘m just saying. Okay, the first way that you can get silk would be to buy it and many soap suppliers now carry silk but the mulberry silk is less available. It’s pretty easy to find tussah silk and if you are interested in the finer quality of the mulberry silk you may need to search more to find a source. So the next option which is what I do is I raise a flock of silkworms. That allows me to have a fun past time of part time pet and the benefit of having a never-ending supply of silk. It’s kind of crazy how much silk I have acquired, so never ending supply. If what I’m doing seems interesting and you wouldn’t mind raising your own flock of silkworms, you can easily source eggs or live silkworms and this makes a great educational project if you have children as well. You can order eggs on line. In your notes I have two sources, the first one is Insect Lore.Com. They are less reliable and the silkworms are not always in stock so you want to check in the springtime which is when spring to summer is when the silkworms’ life cycle takes place. The next source is Mulberry Farms.Com and they seem to have silkworm eggs available year round, so if you just want to use the silkworm chow, you should be able to do that any old time you feel like it. They offer a variety of silkworms in case you want a fancy breed or variety. So, “What’s that?” They make a zebra one that has stripes, so they don’t make it, they have it. There is a silkworm that has black stripes, it’s with black stripes. It is pretty cool looking if you just want to look at something different. There is also a silkworm that spins a pink cocoon. There is also a silkworm that spins a green cocoon and these are all mulberry silkworms. So expect to pay more for fancy breeds. If you are just starting I recommend the cheaper ones to get your learning curve because you know. Yea, someone here has tried it. She had a difficult time with hers, so start with the regular ones and then if you get an itch for pink cocoons, so who doesn’t love pink. Well how many men do we have? Okay there a few ladies that don’t like pink. If you don’t have a mulberry tree or you don’t have a source of a mulberry leaves, then you can just get the silkworm chow. What the silkworm chow is a powder and Mulberry Farms.Com has it and its basically dehydrated and pulverized mulberry leaves that you reconstitute as per their direction, so if you can boil pasta you can probably make mulberry chow, so it’s not that hard. Sometimes Mulberry Farms also sells mulberry silk cocoons. However, I’m just going to caution you that sometimes they treat them with formaldehyde, so if you don’t like that idea, then maybe find another way. Another thing, if you do have a mulberry tree, and I do, I have one mulberry tree, that is not enough. If you have, okay I will get you a real life example. I had 500 eggs, I had 100 survive to the point and that’s pretty good, because many of them will die, so don’t become disheartened and say, “Oh my silkworms.” It’s just nature, you know, one moth will lay 100’s of eggs and that’s their survival strategy. So not every one of them will make it, but you should get a bunch and if you have 100 silkworms that make it all the way to spinning a cocoon, you might be cutting off a branch that is taller than me and that will be enough to feed them for one day maybe. So I have a neighbor who has a bunch of mulberry trees on the fence and I get to prune them for free and it’s a mutually beneficial relationship that we have and if I run out of there, about half a mile if I go to the trail and then walk another half mile, there are a bunch of mulberry trees. I don’t like that source because all of the mosquitoes but I will go there and I’ll pack a big old bag full of them and they can be stored in the refrigerator for a day or two and used as they eat them. You want to make sure that they don’t run out of food and that’s the most important thing. Question: Can they eat dried mulberry leaves or do they have to be fresh? Bonnie: No they can’t. They must be fresh because they don’t drink and that’s their moisture content. It’s all in the leaves, it’s the only food that they have. Question: So if they use the chow, then that would be okay for the entire life cycle? Bonnie: Yes, you can use the chow for the entire life cycle. However, they do better on the leaves, they are more robust, and you have a better survival rate. So yes it can be done. There is more expense to it because you have to buy it. Question: Do mulberry trees grow down here? Bonnie: They do grow here. They are native to Asia and Eastern North American Continent really. Finding the mulberry tree might be the most difficult thing and I never even thought of raising silkworms with mulberry chow not until I looked in my back yard and was like, “Uh, I have a mulberry tree, great.” Then I was like “silkworms, we’re doing it.” Okay, if you don’t want to commit to the entire life cycle, because we’re talking in my area, from like May probably through August, long time, several months, especially when they’re bigger. When they’re small you can feed them and go to work and come back and they’re just finishing up, you can feed them again. But if you work a long shift or maybe you’re a nurse or you’re gone for 12 hours, you are going to need someone to feed them and if you can’t commit to that whole life cycle but you still want to like try it, then you can get some live silkworms from the pet store. They are used as feeders for reptiles, for birds, lizards, stuff like that. They are great protein source. I wouldn’t try it, I don’t recommend it, but some people eat the pupae. The silkworm industry has actually started jarring and selling the silkworm pupae as a protein source because I guess they kind of want to justify killing them all the time. Since they are used to feed some pets you may also find that people in your local community are also raising silkworms for this purpose. So if I had a pet that ate silkworms I would have a huge motivation to raise my own silkworms. So if you network on either Facebook, or Craig’s List or whatever is popular around you, you may find someone that has either an abundance of silk that they are probably throwing in the trash that they would love to sell to you or give to you if you’re lucky or if you ask nicely or they may give you some eggs that they have held over or they may give you some live silkworms that are ready to spin, so you kind of observe the process, so you might be able to work something out and be able to do this on a smaller scale without committing to the entire life cycle and several months of you know just being there and making sure they don’t starve. Question: The question is have I used the zebra, or the pink or the green cocoon silkworms. I have not personally because I don’t want to just keep buying them, I just want to save the eggs from the previous season, but I’ve seen photographs of them and from my understanding the zebra ones will just spin a normal cocoon, but the others ones will spin a green cocoon and a pink cocoon. I don’t have any images of those ready for you but if you go on line you can probably find those and Mulberry Farms may have pictures of those if you want to see what they look like. If you are using it for arts and crafts, then that may be a good reason to get a pink or green one, but since I use it in soap I just don’t really have a motivation to get other colors aside from maybe if the kids want to see something different, “Oh look, a pink one.” Today’s demonstration we will be using a Bonnie’s triple butter soap kit that I’m going to add silk to. It doesn’t normally come with silk. I also have a finished product available for you to view. I made these soaps a couple months ago, so would you like to pass these out Brittan and these are just small extra ones, so we can pass those out and so between these and those you might have enough for every table to have one and smell it. Yes Cathy Catherine: Sorry I have so many questions. If you use a green or pink silk in your soap would it stay pink or green? Bonnie: I don’t imagine. Well I haven’t tried it because I didn’t raise those, but I don’t imagine so because we don’t use very much silk in the soap. Catherine: I was just wondering about using the strands. Bonnie: I suppose if you wanted to put the strands in at trace, then perhaps. Yeah that would be an interesting experiment. I’ll be looking at your channel to see if you do it. Catherine: No, I will be looking at yours. Bonnie: Okay. If I do any pink or green cocoons, then I will be sure to send you an e-mail or Facebook message or something like that. Maybe I’ll try some this year when they’re back in stock, we’ll see. Okay, while you kind of check out the soap, the scent from the soap is lemongrass and tea tree oil combination. Okay there is the ingredients which are also in your notes and a couple of tips before I get started, if I don’t have any questions first. Some tips before I start, I am going to be dissolving the silk into the lye solution. This is best on when very hot, so we are going to do it right away, we are not going to hesitate, just put it in there. Increasing the surface area of the silk will help it dissolve more quickly, so I’m going to get my silk cocoon here and basically if you just kind of take it and grab it you can pull off the fibers like this and you’ll start to see a little bunch of fibers, so you’re going to be just kind of pulling it off until you make like little balls of silk. I like to use about a teaspoon per pound and a teaspoon is hard to measure this, it’s kind of an eyeball thing because you can’t weigh it, it’s too light unless you have some kind of thing that Kevin probably has, where did he go, he can probably, you can probably weigh this, but we probably don’t all have a scale that’s going to weigh this. Kevin: You can get a little scale that can weigh 100th of a gram for about $50. Bonnie: Okay, you could try one of those, but I just kind of use the eyeball method. It’s a little less scientific. Also look I’m tearing it and you can see how the silk kind of, it’s kind of easier to pull now that I’ve kind of made a tear in the cocoon and I’m able to just get a little bit off like that. So while I’m tearing this apart, I’m going to continue talking, so the silk can be used in any soap recipe, so you can use it in a cold process like I’m going to do today or you can use it for hot process or any variation of those, like if you do cold process, oven process or whatever kind of process that you use. Look at that I got a whole layer. So I have not personally added silk to a pre-made melt and pour soap base, but I have heard it is possible to add a small amount of fibers and if you make your own melt and pour soap base from scratch, then you just add it in with the lye phase, just like you would with cold process or hot process soap. Question: What is the purpose of using silk in the soap? Bonnie: The silk in the soap is going to give it like a silky lather, a little bit of more of a shiny look to it, so normally like for example, if you wanted to tell someone, “Oh I saw Bonnie Garrity at the Essential Depot Retreat and let me say her hair looked so silky.” We often attribute this silky quality to like good healthy skin and hair and newer studies also show that it has moisture retentive properties, so it is being added to a lot of cosmetic products as we discover more and more about this. I read an article recently to where a dermatologist actually recommends sleeping on a silk pillow case against your skin. It is just supposed to be good for those kind of things. Because soapmakers like to add all kinds of things in soap. This is probably enough or the little thing I passed around, there was a little silk fuzzy, that’s probably a good amount to. Let me, safety first, put on these things and what I’m using to mix the lye with? What am I using to stir it? When I do this take a deep breath. Just wanted to point out that we are going to have a little bit of lye fumes in the air. With the silk cocoon, you can see how much I have left. So this should last you several batches, so I’m going to have that ready. So I’m going to get ready to mix the water and sodium hydroxide into the lye solution and I’m just going to put it in right away and I like to just kind of go like this, but I don’t want the fumes to hit me, but this is kind of how I do it. We just have to bear with me until I get this mixed. I think the silk has dissolved already, I can’t even see the silk anymore, so you can see that it works. This isn’t the first time I’ve done this, it’s the second time. So the fume part is starting to calm down a little bit but I’m still seeing a little bit of steam. Question: Can silk be used in liquid soap? Bonnie: Yes, you could use it in the same way if you want to have liquid soap product. There is also some suppliers that sell it in a liquid form where they have already dissolved it into liquid. So that may be something you want to look into. I’ve never used liquid silk proteins because I don’t need to because I have my own silk, but that might be something that you would find interesting. So because we have a clear container here and it is starting to clear up, you can see that there is no longer a big old hunk of silk in there and in a little while it will be time for us to mix. Question: It is dissolving because of the water or the lye? Bonnie: Because of the lye. Question: Is there a way you can put silk in shampoo? Is there a way to do that? Bonnie: So you mean like a product where you’re going to probably have detergents like with water, not an actual soap product. You would probably do it with liquid silk or if you could neutralize it in some way I suppose that would be possible. I haven’t actually tried that, but they do, some people do have a liquid silk protein and they also sometime sell powdered. Question: How else do you use your silk protein? Bonnie: You could if you have a spinning wheel you could make yarn from it. It would really make a great scarf or sweater. Question: Does it become thicker using the silk? Bonnie: I haven’t noticed that it has any thickening properties at all. Basically I can feel a difference when I use it that it has that silky texture and it might give your soap a little bit of shine because of the natural luster properties of it but as far as thickening, but no I don’t, nothing that I have done with it would lead to me that it is a thickener in any way. Question: Did you say this one does has Bonnie: That one has silk in it, yes. So that is the Bonnie’s triple butter kit as is, but with silk added to it. Catherine: Is that going to be coming out soon? Bonnie: What the soap. I made that exclusively for you guys here and I don’t have any of those for sale. So you should be very lucky to look at them. And if you want you can all cut them up and divvy them all out. Okay, it’s starting to clear up. If anyone wants to come and have a look, you saw how much I put in there. If you don’t comfortable with looking that’s fine, but you can see since we are using a clear container. We have a looker, you can see that it’s pretty dissolved. Well look there is one tiny fiber I guess, but everything else. So you can experiment with using more or less, but a little goes a long way. If you were going to make a dress that would take 2,000 silk cocoons, so you definitely get a lot more use out of it with soap compared to textiles. Question: A long dress or a short dress? Bonnie: Maybe like a three quarter. Bonnie: So I’m pretty much ready to get this mixed and let me get this soap mold. Okay, so since you have already have the finished product, you are just going to see the normal soapmaking that you all probably already know how to do and I like to get these undone and ready to pour in and I have a stick blender here. All of the oils have already been melted and all of the ingredients are up there for your reference and also in your notes. So I’m just mixing it, it’s come to emulsion. I’m just going to go ahead and add these essential oils. I like these cordless blenders. I have to get one of these now. Thanks. You should give me one. Okay, I have a light trace here, so pretty easy, it doesn’t accelerate your trace of anything like that. It’s easy to work with and then I’m just going to pour it right into the soap mold. Question: I notice you didn’t measure the heat temperature. Bonnie: I normally do, but I don’t have a thermometer up here so I normally keep an eye on it for my notes. Because you can use the silk in any soapmaking recipe, you should just do what normally works for you, but add the silk right away when it’s really hot, so that’s my recommendation. Okay, now we have some fresh raw soap up here that is finished. You could add colorants or any other personalization to the soap. Question: Did you add colorant to this? Bonnie: No that colorant comes completely from the lemongrass oil. So the lemongrass and a lot of essential oils do have a yellow color so they will follow into your soap, so I didn’t add any colorant. This soap is completely as is and the only thing that I did different was I added silk to it. Question: That’s a very light trace? Bonnie: It’s at a pretty decent trace here. I can make, you can come and look if you are comfortable being around soap which I hope most of you are anyway since you’re here so you can see that the texture of it while I play around with it. Question: Well you don’t worry about your temperature? Bonnie: I typically will do within a range but since I don’t have that stuff here, I felt it and it felt right to me. But if you normally monitor temperatures then do the same thing that you normally do. Question: Can you add milk to the silk? Bonnie: You can add milk for its properties and it will combine with the silk, but just do the silk first, you know, when it’s hot. Question: Water versus milk, do you see a difference in the soap or not? Bonnie: Well if I were to do milk and silk in the same soap I would use part water, I would add the silk and then I would add the milk when it has cooled down because the milk needs a colder temperature. Question: You could do it with ice Bonnie: Yeah, you could do it with ice or frozen milk, yeah. Bonnie: Amanda has shown me this article which is suggesting that you should rub your face with silk cocoons to wipe away the winkles. So if you are 50 today, you might look like 49 after you have rubbed the silk cocoon on your face. Question: You poured the essential oils when? Bonnie: I poured them in after the lye, but before pouring at a light trace, a very light trace, or at an emulsion. Did everybody get a silk cocoon? Well that concludes my presentation if there are no more questions.