Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Handmade Shampoo Bars

Have you ever tried a shampoo bar? Our handmade shampoo bars are long lasting, travel-friendly, and good for the environment. It's also nice not to have to dispose of a plastic bottle. To use a shampoo bar (AKA solid shampoo or shampoo biscuit), simply rub it over wet hair and it will lather right up. We're starting with a Plum Spice Shampoo Bar, which is for normal to dry hair; and a Tea Tree Oil Shampoo Bar, which is for normal to oily hair. If all goes well, we'll add more. The Plum Spice shampoo bar uses a synthetic fragrance, while the Tea Tree shampoo bar qualifies as a natural shampoo with 100% natural ingredients. At 3.5 ounces and priced at $6.99, they are a great deal (shampoo bars last several times longer than comparable amounts of liquid shampoo.). Try one of our handmade shampoo bars and see what you think!

Handmade Beer Soap

We carry two handmade beer soaps, Amber Ale Soap made from Widmer's Drop Top Amber Ale, and IPA Soap, made from Widmer's Broken Halo IPA. The idea of beer soap is off-putting to many people because they don't want to emerge from the shower smelling like they've been knocking back a few. The truth is that most beer soaps have a subdued scent similar to fresh baked bread, and little or no fragrance will linger after rinsing. If you've ever visited a brewpub and smelled the blend of yeast and hops, you have an idea of what most beer soaps will smell like. Our beer soaps are not novelties: beer is a logical ingredient to use in soaps. It has antimicrobial properties, suds well (of course!), and provides an appealing color and fragrance. Our beer soaps qualify as natural soaps as there are no sythetic ingredients. They make cool offbeat gifts, but I also urge anyone who wants a nice handmade soap that lathers exceptionally well to give beer soap a try.

Gift Ideas for Under $20

We have dozens of gifts that won't break the bank, ranging from Iwako erasers starting at $.99 to beautiful African baskets at $19.99. Felted soaps make a perfect stocking stuffer and are beautiful, fragrant, and useful. This recycled silk hat is only $17.99, and we have plenty of other great hats from Nepal for the same price. The bamboo clutch pictured here comes in multiple colors and is a steal at $14.95. The list goes on: beautiful chopsticks for $1.99-$2.49, sea salt scrub bars for $5.99, Kenyan ox bone necklaces for $19.99, and much, much more. To find more great deals, choose a category on our website and select an option under Shop by Price on the left side of your screen.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

More Felted Soap

We have more felted soap in stock, including some new fragrances. In addition to what we were already carrying, we also now have Rosemary Lavender, Peppermint, Chai Tea, Cinnamon Buns, and Pine Forest. Felted soap, AKA Fuzzy Soap AKA Felted Wool Soap is soap with felted wool wrapped around it. It is made by wrapping the soap in wool fibers and wetting it and rubbing it until the wool shrinks snugly around the soap. then allowing it to dry. It's a failry labor intensive process that results in a soap with a built in scrubber. As you use your felted soap, the soap will lather up through the wool, and as the soap shrinks so does the wool. When the soap is all gone, you can use the remaining wool as a scrub pad. Felted soaps are beautiful and practical items that we're proud to carry.

Friday, November 26, 2010

What is a Natural Soap?

Natural soaps by definition contain no artificial ingredients. Some of our Tango Zulu brand soaps qualify as natural, others don't. Here's what they all have in common: they are handmade with all natural vegetable oils, lye, shea butter, and in some cases a natural colorant. Some contain additional natural ingredients, including sugar, oatmeal, anise powder, dried lavender, and many other items to add fragrance, visual appeal, or texture. What separates our natural soaps from the others is the fragrance. We use synthetic fragrances for some of our soaps because it is simply not possible to get every fragrance in the form of a natural essential oil. A great example is our Plum Spice soap, which is our best selling soap. There is no such thing as plum essential oil, so we use a synthetic fragrance that is non-toxic and accounts for less than 2% of the soap.

We're also very much aware that many people wish to avoid even small amounts of synthetic products in their skin care, and we're proud to carry several varieties of natural soaps. Our beer soaps are fantastic. Beer is naturally antimicrobial, and as you know from watching it foam, it lathers up just fine! Beer soap tends to have a scent similar to fresh baked bread, and the color ranges from golden amber to rich dark red - depending, of course, on the type of beer used. We also carry peppermint natural soap, which is singularly invigorating and refreshing. Our lavender soap is a natural soap as well, and it looks beautiful and smells divine. For an ultra mild, fragrance-free natural soap, try our olive oil soap. We also always include at least one natural sea salt scrub bar in the rotation - currently Ginger Citrus and Peppermint.

Long story short, if we only carried natural soaps we couldn't provide all the fragrances people expect and love. However, even our soaps with synthetic fragrances are far closer to a true natural soap than the vast majority of mass produced soaps.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Felted Wool Soaps Have Arrived!

Felted wool soaps have arrived, freshly made, fragrant, and beautiful! For those who aren't familiar with them, felted wool soaps are simply soaps that have been wrapped in sheep's wool. When the soap gets wet, it lathers up through the felted wool, which exfoliates as it cleans. The wool shrinks as the soap diminishes, and when the soap is all gone you can keep the wool as a scrub cloth, or cut a slit in it and insert a new soap. We think ours rival anyone's in terms of price and quality. The soap is the same great quality handmade soap made by the cold process method as our other Tango Zulu brand soaps. I think a great holiday gift idea is a small flower Bolga basket with a few felted wool soaps in it!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

New African Basket Category

Our African basket collection has grown large enough to warrant its own category on the website, so you will now see an African Baskets section with subcategories by style, such as Market Baskets and Oval Baskets. We still have a catch-all Handwoven Baskets subcategory under home and Garden that encompasses all the African baskets as well as those from other areas, like our Thai water hyacinth baskets and our felted wool baskets from Nepal, seen here.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Felted Wool From Nepal

We recently began carrying fair trade felted wool products from Nepal, like these oven mitts. They have received such a warm welcome that we are adding to the collection. In addition to felted wool oven mitts, coaster sets, trivets and pot holders; look for felted wool baskets and purses within the next couple of days. These items perfectly fit our criteria of being hand made, fair trade, beautiful, and practical.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Shamila Jewelry

We are proud to carry earrings and necklaces like this that are handmade by noted Seattle jewelry designer and gemologist Shamila Jiwa. Shamila is known for her creative use of unusual stones, especially labradorite, a fiery gray-green stone that we find reminiscent of the Pacific Ocean. The quality of the stones and craftsmanship alike are apparent in all of our Shamila jewelry. If you are interested in a particular piece and wish to see alternative images of it, just let us know and we'll be happy to oblige.