Thursday, February 17, 2011

Around the world in 80 beads-Seattle

I recently visited Seattle (ok, it was over a month ago and I’m just getting around to actually making this post . . . I admit it!) and found myself with a free day. What did I do? Well other than spending a little time in my favorite quirky Seattle neighborhood-Fremont-of course I went looking for bead shops! I was staying near the University of Washington and was easily able to visit both of these by bus. They were two totally different bead stores, each cool for a different reason!

Fusion Beads:
I thought this was a really professional-looking store. It’s really nicely set out and organized by type of bead. They did have some different beads than I normally find where I am, and they have a good selection of popular and useful materials- a variety of metal charms, Swarovski crystals and pearls in all sizes and colors (in fact I bought a whole bunch of them in fire opal and black diamond for a necklace I’ve been planning), cubic zirconia in a rainbow of colors, plus other supplies like resin and bezels, and just about anything else you might want for most common jewelry-making projects. I was most excited about the selection of charms, resin, and bezels as my nearest bead store at home doesn’t actually carry resin supplies, and has a pretty small selection of charms. The charms here were sorted by type and very easy to look through for what you wanted. The prices seemed pretty decent to me-not especially cheap, but definitely not more expensive than other places, either) and they also have an online store which is really convenient for future shopping!

I made the pair of earrings at right for my Etsy shop with some of my finds at Fusion beads. Find them in my etsy shop here

Gargoyle Beads:
After a stop at one of my favorite Seattle places-the Theo Chocolate Factory-I headed to Gargoyle beads in Fremont- it’s a small independent store that, according to their website, has been around since 1933 (but not always in Seattle)! It’s a bit hard to find but totally worth the effort! Was one of only a few shoppers in really rainy weather (I know, you’re thinking ‘it’s Seattle, of course it rained’ but it was raining much harder than is usual there!) The woman who was running the store that day was very friendly and enthusiastic about the shop (I can’t recall her name, unfortunately-sorry about that!)
She chatted with me about the selection of beads, the shop, the weather, and just whatever. She even let me put my soaking wet coat and backpack behind the counter so they could dry and to make my shopping easier. This place had a very unique selection and I got all sorts of beads there that I’ve not found elsewhere-I got a gargoyle (of course!), some pewter beads, two packages of adorable little handmade Indian glass butterflies, and a few interesting charms. They had a cool collection of different gargoyles, pewter beads in bulk, vintage glass and acrylic beads, stringing materials, and skulls galore! Above all I loved the friendly and small feeling of this store, and almost wish I lived in Seattle so I could visit more often! The only downside to this store, for me, is that they don’t have an online store so I can keep buying!

I'll leave you with one of my favorite quirky finds from Seattle's artsy neighborhood of Fremont: the huge Fremont troll, located under one of their big bridges! I definitely recommend checking out Fremont if you're ever visiting Seattle!

Please leave a comment and let me know what you thought of this post-Are store reviews interesting/useful to you? Have you been to either of these stores? Do you have a favorite local bead store or do you do all your buying online? Do you look for new bead stores when you travel, or is it just me? LOL

Copyright 2011. See more at Voyage of the Hyperspace Hippo

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Adventures in Crafting-Chai Bath Bombs

Hello readers! I made some fizzing chai bath bombs before the holidays and never got around to blogging about them, but they came out pretty well! I found the basic recipe for these in a book called Melt and Pour Soapmaking by Marie Browning that I borrowed from the library. It’s a pretty useful book, not just recipes but also some basic advice on how to make hand-milled soap, bath bombs, bubble bath, and other things too. I won’t reprint the actual recipe here as I don’t want to step on any toes-but there are tons of basic bath bomb recipes online that could give you the right proportions, or you could see if your library has this book!

In general, though, all the bath bomb recipes I’ve seen have a few things in common-citric acid and baking soda. These are what create the fizz when wet! Many recipes include some kind of salt (either purchase sea salt, bath salts, or simple epsom salts which was what I used) and some add cornstarch. Then they add something to give the bath bombs a scent-usually essential oils. Some also include food coloring or other colors. I chose not to use essential oils as they are generally toxic to cats (I have two, and they both lick water out of the bathtub) and I have heard that some people with sensitive skin react to some types. I also didn’t add any colors. The recipe I chose used simple spices for both scent and coloring. I was able to get all the ingredients I needed (including a tiny spritz bottle) from a local natural/health food store that has a bulk section so I was able to make up little baggies with just the amounts I needed. Obviously the epsom salt, baking soda, and spices can also be purchased at drug stores and grocery stores, but you might have more trouble finding the citric acid there.

First all the powdered ingredients are combined together and mixed. This particular recipe calls for citric acid, baking soda, and cornstarch. I didn’t use all the spices called for in the recipe-I only included cardamom, cinnamon and clove (all powdered)-I wasn’t able to find star anise, so again I left it out. mmm, spices!

Next you spritz the powdered ingredients VERY sparingly-enough to make them stick without activating the fizzing reaction. This is where I made the main modification to this recipe. I thought that it would add to the scent and color to use chai tea instead of water or witch hazel for the spritzing liquid. I made tea from a delicious loose leaf chai that I had on hand from a local tea store, and spritzed the bath bombs with that. To the left, you can see the spritz bottle I used and the tea I made. It smelled sooo good.

You have to be very careful not to let it get too wet-in my first batch the powder started sticking together before the mixture seemed damp to me and the ones in that batch ended up fizzing and expanding in the molds-not good! The second batch I stopped spritzing sooner, and it still packed into the molds nicely and held together when dry. Below you can see how the damp mixture looked before packing it into the molds

I found an ice cube tray to use for the mold. You have to pack the mixture down very tightly into the molds, I found that I could fit a lot more in there than it looked like at first! Most recipes say to let them dry in the molds for a few hours and then let them continue hardening on a cookie sheet overnight before using or wrapping to give away (some say a week).

It’s been a couple of months since I made them and the ones I have left have lost some of their scent, so my advice would be to use them as soon as possible! I still think they’d make a great gift, you just couldn’t make them too far ahead of time. I do wonder if adding the vanilla fragrance oil would’ve held the scent longer or made no difference.

Making homemade beauty products seems like a lot of fun to me. I’ve found a few recipes for body lotion and I’m planning to combine a few and try that out next! :o) Have you tried crafting soap or beauty products? Any good websites or books to recommend? Please comment and let me know what you think!

Copyright 2011. See more at Voyage of the Hyperspace Hippo


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