Essential vs. fragrance oils

Liz McCarty has worked for Zenith for the past four years.

When I met with Liz McCarty from Zenith supplies last week, I asked her about essential oils and fragrance oils. I’ve heard a lot about them, and have used them in homemade soaps, but I had no idea what the difference was.

     Essential oils are distilled from plants. The plants are steamed, heated up, and they distill the natural oils. At Zenith, all of the essential oils are 100 percent pure. If there is one more than one type of oil, it is diluted, or there is anything un-natural in them, they’re considered a fragrance oil.
     “That purity is really important, because a lot of it you’re applying to your body,” McCarty said.
     Fragrance oils are not pure like essential oils. They’re often synthetic, or a blend of natural and synthetic, and made in a lab.
     While people are often attracted to essential oils for their purity, fragrance oils have a place. There are some scents in nature that you cannot extract essential oils from.
     “No matter what you do to a cucumber, you’re never going to get cucumber essential oils,” McCarty said.
     Other times, people will go for fragrance oils based on price. For example, at Zenith, an eighth of an ounce of essential rose oil is $68, which equates to $1 a drop. But rose fragrance oils are much cheaper, about $5 per ounce.
     Despite their purity, people can have reactions from essential oils just like fragrance oils. McCarty recommends diluting any oils and patch-testing them on a small part of the skin before going all out with application.
     McCarty said the sky’s the limit when it come to uses of both fragrance and essential oils.
      Have you ever used fragrance or essential oils? Let me know what you’ve done with the products in the comments below

Local stores brings supplies, product knowledge to DIYers


From the outside, Zenith Supplies in unassuming, and it’s hard to tell what is being sold behind the plain black sign and simple red storefront.

Zenith has been in its current location for 10 years.

But inside, there are products for massage, DIY body care products, candles, homeopathic remedies and other new-age knick knacks for sale.
The company began in 1975 when owner Jacob Griffis, a certified massage therapist, was having a hard time finding a good massage table. Instead of searching, he decided to make and sell them himself. Once he realized it was too labor-intensive, he expanded the business, but still sells U.S.-made massage tables.
The store transformed in response to what people in the community were looking for, employee Liz McCarty said. Often times people will travel from other states to test the products in store and avoid the expensive shipping costs.

“A lot of it is very tactile,” she said. “You want to be able to smell things and try things.”

Now, the store services a variety of clientele, from massage professionals, DIY and crafters, and the medical marijuana industry.

Zenith sells their lotions and oils in bulk.

“We get a lot of folks who do canibus medicated lotions and oils,” McCarty said. “With it becoming legal, people are running more businesses and really helping people who are in pain, we’re glad to see that business growing.”

While everyone else was noticing a decline in business as the economy slid into the recession, Zenith was still going strong.  McCarty thinks that has to do with an increased interest in making things from scratch.

“It seems like there’s an increased interest in sort of moving away from pre-made stuff and experimenting with personalizing it yourself,” McCarty said.
There is also an interest in moving away from products with harsh chemicals, she said.
“A lot of it has to do with shelf life,” she said. “So if things are made in really large batches — just so that it stays consistently good on the shelf — there’s a lot of really creepy preservatives that just go into making sure it stays good.”
This is especially a problem for people with sensitive skin or skin conditions, like eczema, McCarty said. Many times, people with these problems don’t necessarily want to make their own lotions and body products, but they do out of necessity.
One of the big draws to Zenith for local crafters are the DIY supplies for body care, soaps, and candle making. The products are sold in bulk, which means the more customers buy, the cheaper the product gets. Many local DIY companies buy their products from Zenith.
The store has a website, but it is more for information, McCarty said.

I would love to get one of these cute containers filled with handmade body care products as a gift. They’re so cute.

“We’re a brick-and-mortar-based not web-based,” she said.
The competition with the online world has been one of the stores biggest struggles.
They try to fight the competition of inexpensive products online by trying to ensure their products like their essential oils are totally pure. Even though they can’t compete with the online prices, they do try to keep their products inexpensive, McCarty said, but it is the in-store experience that really is their selling point.

“[It’s about] being able to talk to a human being, smell the stuff, try it out, buy a small amount, all of our packaging and bottling options,” she said. “A lot of people just get really inspired coming in here.”

Despite the new online competition, McCarty said new interest in DIY and more people training in massage therapy has kept the business successful.

In the beginning, Griffis worked hard to establish a solid customer base, and that’s something they still work on. McCarty said they hope the personal experience will keep customers coming back instead of switching to online shopping.

Zenith has been at it’s current location for 20 years. What was once an old bank, has been turned into an open shopping space, with art-deco molding running along the tops of the walls and egyptian style paintings throughout the store.

This is a good area for a store like Zenith, according to McCarty. There are a lot of new-age shops and craft stores around so the shop fits in with it’s neighbors.

The employees do not work on commission. McCarty said it is better that they don’t work in a sales driven environment because each employee works with the products they sell and they can help customers with their product knowledge.

Liz McCarty has worked for Zenith for the past four years.

McCarty, who calls herself a ‘perfume nerd,’ has been creating body care products for about 10 years for her friends and family.

“We’re actually here as a resource for people,” she said. “I think that’s what really drew me to work here, I like working for a company that has heart and is making a difference for folks.”

In a world of ‘big box stores’ McCarty said their success is a testament to the store.

“They’re putting in a light rail, they’re putting in condos right behind us,” she said. “But we’re not going anywhere.”

Young House Love book

With Christmas right around the corner, I started thinking about what I, and other DIYers like me would most like to see under the tree next month.

One of the biggest (and only) things on my list is Young House Love‘s book.

It is being sold on Amazon and in stores as well. It retails for around $18, and claims to have 243 projects inside.

I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy and read it.

What are your must have DIY books? What are you hoping to find under your tree this year?

Inexpensive art printing on the UW campus

For DIYers, finding inexpensive resources is essential.

There are so many places around campus to print. But if you’re looking to print art and not a term paper, the School of Art (SoA) lab on the UW campus has high quality equipment available to students.

Mark Rector oversees the SoA lab, located in the Art building, room 229.

“We have color laser which is standard to most labs on campus,” he said. “We also have eight large high-end workroom class inkjet printers for different paper types and sizes. And then we have five large format plotters, also for different paper types.”

There is custom sizing available. Their largest plotter prints 44 inches wide and can print eight to 10 feet long. Rector said the standard plot side is four by five feet.

Any printing done on the small printers is paid via Husky card, just like all other printing locations on campus. There are two payment systems to print on the large scale plotter prints. You can deposit money at Schmitz hall to the Art Lab fees account and bring the receipt back to the lab. Or you can pay using paypal on their website, but that way has additional costs to cover paypal fees, Rector said.

The SoA lab is some of the inexpensive printing on campus and cheaper than any print shop on the Ave by a long shot, he said.

“It’s all cost,” he said. “It’s not profit centered or anything like that, so it’s cheaper for students to print.”

Rector doesn’t advertise the print shop because he doesn’t want his team to be overwhelmed by the demand. Art students do have priority in the lab, especially when they have projects due. Students work in the labs, so there is always someone on-site to  answer questions.

The lab is open 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday – Thursday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday – Sunday.

Do you have a favorite place to print art?

Tune in tomorrow to find out what I’ve done with inexpensive art prints to make super cheap wall art.

U-District fabric stores

Fabric is a universal DIY and crafter tool. So I thought I’d share some of my favorite fabric stores online or near the U-District.


1. Pacific Fabrics. I mentioned Pacific Fabrics last week. This store is pretty well-rounded and does have a small selection of craft products as well. They also have a side store that has wedding and special occasion fabric. My favorite part of Pacific Fabrics is their interior design fabric on the big bolts. Even though this is usually pretty spendy, they have a great, really trendy selection. Pacific Fabrics is about a 25-minute bus ride from the U-District.

2. JoAnn Fabrics. JoAnn’s is a much more well-rounded craft store. They have a wide variety of fabrics and craft materials. The best part of JoAnn’s is their coupons. If you sign up for their mailing list, just about every week you can buy something for 40 percent off. The closest JoAnn’s to the U-District is in Ballard, about a 40-minute bus ride away.

3. IKEA. IKEA has a great fabric section with modern style fabrics that could easily be turned into throw pillows or curtains. The one thing IKEA really lacks is a staff. The fabric section is cut-it-yourself. So while at most stores you can go to the cutting counter and ask the staff questions or advise about your fabric, you’re on your own at IKEA. That being said, they have a great selection and you can almost always find bolts on clearance. IKEA is over an hour away by bus.


4. Etsy. Etsy is a fantastic resource for fabric online. I purchased four yards of this fabric from an Etsy vendor to use in my living room. Etsy also has hand painted and dyed fabrics available if you’re not willing to try it yourself. (Check out my attempt here.) Prices vary widely on Etsy so make sure you shop around.

Where is your favorite place to buy fabric? Are there any great fabric stores in Seattle that I’m missing out on? Let me know in the comment section.

Fabric dyeing | Learning from the experts

This afternoon, I sat in on Pacific Fabric’s monthly Creative-U event hosted by company spokesperson Chris Groce.

The session lasted just-under an hour and covered new techniques in fabric dyeing, the products available at Pacific Fabric, and also some new trends in quilting. The event was free and attendance was rewarded with a 20 percent off coupon for any of the products covered in the seminar.

Groce spoke about a variety of products and new dyeing techniques that could be used in quilting. But a lot of them would be great from home DIY too.

Look at that tree stencil painted onto the fabric. That is just begging to become a throw pillow or tote bag.

The key takeaway for budget-DIYers is that it’s easy to make your own hand-dyed fabrics for a fraction of what they would cost from a retailer.

For students on a budget, it’s a good way to try before you buy.

“It’s a good place to find something you’d really like (to try out),” she said. “It’s really about education, even employees come and listen.”

Groce hosts these seminars once a month. November’s session will be on fast and fabulous holiday decor and December’s will cover last-minute Christmas gifts.

Pacific Fabrics is near Northgate mall and is about a 25-minute bus ride.

Listen to a news-podcast I did about Groce’s events here: