I was unintentionally confusing yesterday. First, here is a tawashi.

This is a special Japanese scrubby thing. Apparently, in Japan there are specific tawashi for all sorts of things — vegetables, cars… Each object has its own. My personal favorite (in concept, I mean; in real life, the only one I use is the one shown here) is a weird little thing that looks like a space alien, knitted of special anti-microbial yarn, for cleaning your computer keyboard. I was not able to find the link to it, but if I run upon it again I will show it to you.

Anyway, these are generally made of cotton, although I have a linen set that I really love. Some people swear by acrylic yarn on the grounds that it is harsher and scrubbier than natural fibers.

This link will take you to the pattern for the tawashi and facecloth shown above.

Shea butter is a plant butter — that is, a fixed oil from a plant that is solid at room temperature. It comes from shea nuts. Many other plants can produce butters, including mango, avocado, cocoa, and olive. The other ingredients for the bath fizzies can be found at your grocery store (citric acid is in the pickling section), and the butter is optional. However, if you get some shea or other butter, you can make many more cool things with them. I get mine from  Brambleberry.

Yesterday, in fact, I made some lotion bars. Hand lotion in bottles is all very well when you are at home, but many of us have had it spill or spoil in our purses or cars, and most men will not consider carrying it. My guys especially need hand lotion, since they spend their days doing things like rock climbing and making wrenches. Lotion bars have the moisturizing qualities of lotion, but are solid, like soap, or soft like lip balm, and practical to carry around with you. I use a recipe from Brambleberry, and many recipients of these lotion bars say that they are the best hand lotion they have ever tried. My husband’s coworkers try to buy his from him.

To make these, you melt roughly equal amounts of butter (I used cocoa butter in this case, but I also like mango or shea butter), beeswax, and liquid oil (I used coconut oil, but almond or olive oil are also good). Blend them together, scent them, and pour into molds. The color is very nice as it is. Butters and waxes have strong scents of their own, so it is not realistic to try to scent them with some light floral fragrance. I have tried — because when you give a gift you want to make it a matching collection — but the scent will either fight with the natural scents of the butter and wax, or simply give up and disappear. Instead, use something compatible with the natural scents — honey is an excellent one — or something robust enough to stand up to them, such as sandalwood or musk. Cocoa butter, beeswax, honey, and sandalwood in combination make a very pleasant smell.

To make really excellent lip balm, use equal parts of almond oil and beeswax, plus about half as much peppermint oil. You can adjust the proportions to make a softer or harder formula. People use other waxes or oils, too, but I think this combination makes the best and gentlest. You can also use plant butters to make salt or sugar scrubs, bath oils, liquid lotions, face creams, soaps, and all sorts of other things.

Most of the bath and body products that you buy are made from petroleum, even the most expensive ones. I was surprised and dismayed when I learned this. Dweezy pointed out that you are paying for the experience, which includes the scent, the colors, the packaging, and even the ads that make you feel tres chic for using the product, not for the nickel’s worth of chemicals. But almost all the bath and body products you buy are made from various kinds of salts and oils, and it is easy enough to make your own. I like to use plant ingredients, but you can also use lanolin, which comes from sheep (the sheep are not harmed in the process), and you will still be doing environmental good.

Because I have been doing this for some years, I have a bunch of fragrances and molds, and my total cost each year to make all these goodies for my household and for gifts is about equal to one store-bought bottle of really good bath gel and one jar of ready-made salt scrub. If you were going to make some of these yourself and were just starting out, you could use yogurt containers or other such recyled containers instead of commercial molds. You can skip colors entirely, but they are part of the fun for me. I just buy soap dyes in the primary colors — I get the cheap kind at the local craft store. Do not, however, buy the scents there. They smell terrible, and are not cheaper than good ones. You can buy one fragrance blend you really love to start out with, or you can get a few essential oils to play around with. If you decide to get several for blending, remember that perfumes are like chords: you need the bass notes (woods and animal scents like musk and ambergris), the tenors (spices), the altos (herbs), and the sopranos (flowers and citrus). If you have, for example, oakmoss, ginger, mint, and jasmine, you can make a surprising variety of blends. Use more of the high notes and less of the low notes — like a 3-2-1 ratio — and try your blends out on coffee filters before your throw them into your bath and beauty products.

Sweetcakes is another company I like, and you will find a lot of informaton about scent blending there. They were also kind enough to blend a scent I requested (“Christmas Forest” — a good copy of Crabtree and Evelyn’s “Noel,” made safe for use in soaps and things).

That is probably more than you wanted to know.

slide collages This is the other thing I did yesterday: more tiny collages in microscope slide sandwiches.

This is so much fun. It would be easy to get carried away and end up with unreasonable numbers of these.

This is particularly true since they are not practical — that is, if I have dozens of Tychus hats, they can keep somebody’s head warm. If I end up with so many that I run out of people to give them to, I could donate them to a shelter.

These little things are not like that.

I have ordered my soldering gear. It has crossed my mind that I should not use up all my slides before I try soldering one, in case I am making some horrible error with the foil tape which will not become clear until I have soldered. However, these are so fun to do that I am having difficulty restraining myself.

Here are the opposite sides. slidebacks

I have seen jewelry made of these things going for $40 to $200 per piece. Accustomed as I am to needlework, where the value of an object has to do with the number of hours a person has spent on it, I am questioning those prices quite a bit. However, I suppose they are Art. And I shouldn’t draw any conclusions till I have actually finished them. However, these do seem so far to be more like melt-and-pour soap than, say, handmade quilts.

My boys say they are cool, although #1 son, picking a few up, also said, “I’m a guy. I don’t comment.” It seemed to be a kindly remark, intended perhaps to keep me from getting my feelings hurt by his lack of detailed response. I am hoping that the need for safety goggles will inspire them, once the soldering gear arrives, to join me in this project. Danger inevitably makes crafts more appealing to guys, right?