The Pipe Divider Swirl Soap Challenge

I was so excited to hear this was Great Cake Soapwork's July challenge. I had bookmarked the Thorns and Roses video from Soapish almost a year ago--just shortly after I began soaping. Her technique of using "pipes" in a slab mold as dividers is so beautiful and I am hoping to use it for a Christmas soap in a few months. Now was the perfect time to try it out. The idea is that you use tubes (most often pvc pipes) and adhere them to your slab mold using cocoa butter to form a seal of sorts. Then you pour a base soap (in our case the challenge was for two colors) and then two colors down the pipe. You then remove the pipes and swirl away.

My Idea
I started with two different size pvc pipes. One was 1/2" diameter and the other 3/4". My idea was to do violets with their bright yellow centers on a  background of leaves/vines. I wanted the smaller sized pipes to make smallish violets but then thought having a few larger ones might provide more variety. I was scenting it with lavender EO partly because I knew it wouldn't accelerate and partly because the color made sense to me. I saw later that there are violet scents out there but didn't have time to order and test out the FOs once I realized it. Next time!

My process
My husband cut one of the pipes for me but since he was starting a new job the next day and had to get set up for it, I went out and got the larger size pvc already in sections. I later found that I had gotten 1" so my design changed to larger violets of 3/4" and 1". Once I started, I was glad I was not working for the first time with the little 1/2" ones! You can see my pipes--I sanded the ends hoping that would help them adhere and sit flatter.

I drew a sketch showing approximately how I wanted to lay out my pipes. My outside batter was alternating Vibrance Green and the natural batter made whiter using White Satin Mica. The inside tube batter was Cosmic Purple and a tad of Sunflower Yellow for my 4th color. I wanted my violets to just have a bit of yellow in the center, not the large spread out amount I would get if I poured a lot of batter in the tube. So after the tube was almost filled with the purple amount I added just a very small pour of yellow in the tube.

   Unfortunately, I must have been working kind of slow as my batter thickened up and a lot stuck to the inside of the tubes. I mean a lot! So several of my columns just sunk below the outside batter level and I had to add more purple on top and then a bit of yellow on top of that. I think I worked too slowly because I had so many tubes. (Yes, I went way overboard on the tubes. I had nine 3/4" and five 1" in a slab mold that was 10.5 x 7.5!) In theory it looked like I had plenty of space to pour the alternating outside batter, but because the pipes stuck up higher than the slab mold, it was difficult. Sort of like trying to pour around canyon walls. The image above shows my initial drawing and all the tubes before lining the mold and adding the cocoa butter "glue". The image below is the bottom of the soap. You can see that I did not add enough yellow to make it down to the bottom.

  Since I had to add more purple and yellow soap batter to the areas where my columns disappeared, some of my "violets became huge. NOT what I had envisioned. But I still thought it was lovely none the less.

The Result
I'm so glad I was able to participate in this challenge. I've signed up for several but life has happened and I've not been able to work on them. Even for this one, I only had time to try it once and am barely squeaking in under the wire! But I can't wait to try it again. I've learned a few things for the next time: 1. Refrigerate those pipes and cocoa butter so you aren't waiting forever to form a seal. (I think I was soaping at 1am because I didn't think to do that!) 2. THIS IS A BIG ONE FOR ME--don't use so many pipes! Then I can work faster and have my batter a little more fluid. And 3. I think I need some more practice batches to truly understand the right levels of my pipe batter so it doesn't sink. But all in all, I am very pleased. I love the look and the colors and I know this won't be my last time trying this!