Alchemy Goods Blog

Welcome to the Alchemy blog, where we share stories about our products, partnerships, and community. We love local Seattle, upcyling news, cyclist stories, and shouting out to all the Alchemists who help support our business.

Visit our Seattle Pop-Up Shop

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Pop-up shops have become increasingly popular and we’ve decided to give it try. We partnered with like-minded brands and designed a shopping experience that inspires your everyday lifestyle in sustainability and bikes. Add the Pike Place Market and you have a little bit of everything.

POPUP SHOP SEATTLE

The store is located at 1528 1st Ave, Seattle, WA, across from Pike Place Market and will be open until the end of July and possibly longer. Come in and check out our latest Ag designs, bike gear from Green Guru, and clothing and accessories by Endurance Conspiracy. We are open 7 days a week from 12-8pm. We are very excited to be in this location to share the upcycling experience with even more people. You can even drop off your old climbing rope, bike tubes, and camping tents to be upcycled into new products. The perfect time to take advantage of getting rid some of those items sitting around the garage. Keep posted on upcoming events through our blog and

Keep posted on upcoming events through our blog and Facebook page and we hope to see you soon!

POP-UP SHOP SEATTLE

 

Graduation Gift Ideas

 

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You’ve got a graduate in your family.   It’s always fun to see someone mature and move on to the next chapter of their life.   They’ve been fun times and hard times, but have been raised right and care about others, the environment, social justice, and are looking forward to making a difference with their life.   So what sort of a gift might they like?

Fear not.  A graduation gift from Alchemy Goods is not only unique and stylish, but is easy on the environment and made right here in the USA.  We get a lot of questions here at Alchemy Goods about what we’d recommend for graduation gifts.   Here are our top picks for gifts that will be faithful companions for your graduate’s next years:

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Bags and Backpacks

Students are tough on gear.   Luckily, Alchemy Goods products are built to stand up to any punishment your student can dish out.   Our bags and backpacks look good while inner tube makes for a durable product that can be spilled on, thrown around, and keeps books and supplies dry on the way to class.   We’ve got options for everyone including the Brooklyn Backpack ($139), Madison Backpack ($129) Dravus Messenger Bag ($159), or Jefferson ($139).

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Wallets

With maturity comes greater financial independence.   With financial independence comes a need to have somewhere to keep your cash.   To avoid a wad of bills, id, and cards getting lost in the laundry, give them a new wallet that will go the distance.   We recommend the stylish Franklin Reflective ($38).  Other options are the Jackson ($44) which is better suited for travelers as it is sized up to accommodate international currency, or the Bryant Money Clip ($24) for minimalists.

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Belts

Give them confidence and style with the gift of a belt.   Their style will be on point with one of our reversible Delridge belts ($32).  Made from recycled webbing and a reclaimed bicycle inner tube, the military style buckle can be reversed to either wear the Delridge with the unique inner tube side out or to show off the colorful webbing.  Don’t forget to size the belt based on how your graduate wears their pants and how long of a tail they’d like.  Our sizing is based on body measurements from a traditional waist placement.  Size up if your graduate wears their pants lower on the hips or wants extra belt length.  Another option is our venerable Ballard Belt ($42).

 

 

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Accessories

Whether traveling, studying abroad, moving into the dorms, or just moving to a new place, everyone needs a great way to keep their toiletries organized.   The Elliott Toiletry Kit is just that ($38).  Made from durable truck inner tube, the Elliott will stand up to many a trip down the hall to the bathroom.   It comes with a valve stem zipper pull and color matched zipper and lining.  The Elliott Mini ($32) is a smaller version for the minimalist that can also be used as a makeup kit or to organize other small items like chargers and computer cables.   We have several colors available to suit any personality.

Seattle Spring Biking Events and Community for Women Riders

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At Alchemy Goods, we are all about bikes. Our foundations as a company were in cycling, and we will always consider the cyclist community our constituency. There are few things greener than bike commuting, and few things that can make someone feel as free, strong, and in touch with the natural world. But we also recognize that cycling can be exclusionary, and that access to biking information, resources, and community is a social justice issue.

Low income individuals and people of color are actually more likely to bike for both recreation and transportation than high-income or white riders, yet there’s one group that remains marginalized and underrepresented on the road: women.

One 2014 study of public bikeshare use by gender in the cities New York, Chicago, and Boston showed that women accounted for 24 percent, 21.4 percet, and 25 percent of all riders respectively. In London, a recent study showed that 77 percent of bike trips were taken by men, and only 5% of women identified as frequent cyclists. According to Rutgers University professor John Pucher, women constitute about 25 percent of bicyclists in the US, and at 28 percent (as calculated by the Seattle DOT), Seattle isn’t doing much better. In fact, according to data from 2006-2010, we aren’t even doing that well regionally:

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2013 Leaders of Puget Sound Bike Share, Bike WA, Bike Works, Cascade Bicycle Club, and Seattle Greenways

2013 Leaders of Puget Sound Bike Share, Bike WA, Bike Works, Cascade Bicycle Club, and Seattle Greenways

There is no denying that there’s an imbalance, however, the times are changing, and Seattle has a ton of awesome bike opportunities for women right now. Indeed, in 2013, for the first time ever, every top leadership position in the five major Seattle-based bike organizations was held by a woman. We’d like to highlight a few of the cool opportunities for women-only rides and women-led groups in Seattle this Spring; and for general advice pertaining to women, we recommend checking out the super-helpful Women Bike Advice Column from Cascade Bicycle Club. 

 

UPCOMING EVENTS

SHE BIKES–Seattle Cycle Sirens, April 14th, 6pm

This ride around Mercer Island will cover 14 miles with 700 feet of elevation gain, offering a fun challenge to beginners

Seattle CycloFemme, May 8, 11am

The amazing national organization CycloFemme has an annual nation-wide all-women ride every year on Mother’s Day. This year, CycloFemme is partnering with local Critical Lass to host a ride running from Cal Anderson Park to Seward Park, celebrating with a picnic at the finish line.

RECURRING EVENTS

Women’s Saturday Group Rides–Cascade Bicycle Studio

From CBS in Fremont, four women will be leading these Group Rides every Saturday from April to August, meeting at 9am. All rides have different durations, paces, and paths, so follow the above link to check out their schedule and find the right ride for you, whether that means challenging climbs and new terrain or just having an opportunity to learn how to ride in groups on the road.

Menstrual Mondays

Every First Monday of the Month, this group of ladies rides out from the Seattle Center Fountain (meet up at 6:30pm, depart at 7pm!) for an easy, fun, and social ride around town.

Critical Lass Seattle

These free, fun, and easy group rides are only about 45 minutes, kid and partner friendly, and a great entry point for women who might be nervous on the road.

Heels on Wheels

This group mostly organizes impromptu group rides through Facebook, so join if you’d like to stay in the loop for events, bike-centric happy hours, or a newsfeed full of great articles and discussion.

Happy Spring trails, Alchemists! We truly believe that “sharing the road” applies to everyone, not just cars, and we hope that Seattle closes its cyclist gender gap and continue to host awesome opportunities like these!

Alchemy Goods Late Winter Lookbook: Seattle Urban

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Here’s our latest installment of the Alchemy Goods Winter Lookbook, this time showcasing Seattle Urban. Urban means a lot of things in this town, including a Belltown apartment, a skyscraper downtown, the Kerry Park lookout on Queen Anne, and the iconic Seattle Public Library. Even though we’re a brand with the rugged design of an outdoor line, we take pride in our versatility and urban adaptation. Alchemy Goods bags can be used anywhere from the top of a mountain to a city-center classroom or office, and we love knowing that our products get taken on so many different kinds of adventures every single day.

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VOL. 01

What Makes a City Bikeshare Program Work? Could Seattle’s?

Port of Seattle

Given our dual passions of sustainability and cyclist culture, it makes sense that we’re curious about the rising trend of city bikeshares. It seems that even though they’re largely unprofitable–a word that’s a considerable understatement for cities like New York–they continue to capture the imaginations and infrastructures of more American cities every year. Between private and public bikeshares, there are nearly 100 programs in America, most of which are run by cities or universities, to varying degrees and definitions of success.

What is a Bikeshare?

Almost all city bikeshares follow the same model: bikes are publicly corralled in stations that are strategically placed in high-traffic urban areas. With the swipe of a card, you can pull out a bike from its dock and ride it to whatever station is nearest your destination. Most bikeshare rides are short, especially because many programs offer free rides for trips under 30 minutes. Typically, the program offers annual memberships to users for a fee anywhere between $35 and $150, and allows non-members (like tourists) to rent at a daily or hourly rate.

The Million-Dollar Bikeshare Question

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The concept of bikeshares was popularized after Paris’ wildly-successful program Vélib’ launched in 2007. Not only did Vélib’ have 20 million users in the first year alone as well as resounding community support, but it’s also the most profitable bikeshare program in existence, earning Paris about $30 million in profits annually. The program itself was built and managed by the advertising agency JCDecaux in return for exclusive rights to half of Paris’ advertising billboards, an exchange that seems favorable to both the city and the agency.

And yet, even though Paris’ program was the mold from which most other bikeshares have been cast, its success is the exception, not the rule, and even corporate partnerships aren’t often able to keep a bikeshare afloat.

Barcelona’s Bicing, for example, was also launched in 2007 and runs at an annual deficit of around €12 million. London’s system lost $21 million in 2012 and is expected to cost more than 5 times the sponsorship revenues in the next two years. New York’s Citi Bike program–underwritten by CitiBank–is in a financial tailspin, reportedly seeking tens of millions of dollars to keep afloat. Indeed, Citi Bike is often described as the perfect storm of bikeshare problems. It launched late, and during one of the coldest, least bike-able winters in New York history, the Canadian company that supplied its bikes declared bankruptcy, Hurricane Sandy damaged more than $10 million worth of equipment, and it’s been plagued with software problems since its inception. And interestingly, its biggest problem is its popularity with New Yorkers–there were too many locals buying annual passes and not enough tourists, which is where big bucks are.

The Solution: Treat Bike Shares as Public Transit

Capital_Bikeshare_riders_in_Dupont_CircleIt seems that the best success stories of American bike share programs happen when the city treats the bike share as an expected transportation cost rather than a potential source of revenue.

Washington D.C.’s Capital Bikeshare is often cited as one of the most successful city bikeshare programs in America, yet not because it’s turning a profit. It was originally launched not with corporate money but federal grants earmarked for programs that improve air quality. And though Capital Bikeshare plans a $3.5million expansion during 2016, they are able to run at one of narrowest margins of loss in the country (only $392,000 in 2013), have noticeably decreased traffic congestion, provide free passes for low-income riders, and have become a point of city pride.

Why did DC work? Partially because they have no expectation of profit from what is essentially an arm of their public transportation system. As Jim Sebastian, manager of the Active Transportation Branch with the DC DOT told the Washington Post, “It’s great if we can cover some of the costs, and we do…We have good cost recovery, good farebox recovery. But it’s an important transit asset for the the city, and I think we’d be willing to operate it at a subsidy if we had to.”

For example, take a look at this graph from the Rudin Center for Transportation, which clearly shows that bikeshares function as part of a city’s transit system, and even in response to it:

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Should Seattle Bail Out Our Bikeshare?

Unfortunately, our city is not enjoying the same success as Washington DC. Seattle’s bikeshare program Pronto has been floundering since it started in 2014. Between October 2014 and October 2015, most bikes were ridden less than once a day on average, and now the Pronto nonprofit is asking Seattle to purchase the bikeshare program for $1.4 million by March 30, 2016, or it will cease to exist. Can Seattle have a successful bike share program?

There are a number of obstacles for us, such as being one of the hilliest major cities in America and having a less bikeable downtown area than we’d like to think. Pronto is also surprisingly unpopular for a city that considers itself so green. In its first year, it logged only 142,832 rides; DC’s Capital bikeshare, in comparison, had over a million rides its first year, despite freezing winters and humid summers. It could also be that if you’re the kind of person to bike in Seattle, you’re already doing it.

And yet, as Councilmen Mike O’Brien and Rob Johnson told The Stranger, they’re leaning toward saving the system because if we let Pronto die, we’ll probably have to return about $1 million in government grants that had supported Pronto, so why not spring for a little more and save it? After all, bikeshares are a civic good in many ways, such as reducing congestion and pollution and promoting healthy, active lifestyles. Perhaps if we were to be publicly funding our bikeshare, we could work on making it accessible to people who can’t afford their own bikes (let alone cars) or have had little introduction to the cycling lifestyle. That seems to be the best reason to fund what may someday be considered a public transportation right.

 

What do you think, Alchemists? What would a “successful” Seattle bikeshare look like to you, or what is it like in your city?

Alchemy Goods Winter Reading List: 4 Books to Make You Rethink the Way You Think

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These dreary, rainy days of midwinter might not be ideal for any outdoor activities, but they’re perfect for curling up with a good book. If you want to read something that will challenge your preconceptions, light a fire in your imagination, and keep you turning the pages with rabid interest, we recommend any of the following four Alchemy Goods favorites.

 

  • Cradle to Cradle, by Michael Braungart and William McDonough

9780865475878This amazing 2002 collaboration between Braungart, a German chemist, and McDonough, and American architect, asks people to take nature as their model for industry. As you might deduce from its title, Cradle to Cradle urges the construction and manufacturing industry to consider the afterlife of the things they’re building, most of which are not usable for anything after their finite lifespan is over. From bridges to carpeting to automobiles, 90 percent of manufactured materials become waste, but what if there was a plan for creating new life. Fun fact: the book itself is made from a special up-cycled material.

 

  • The Art of the Common-Place, by Wendell Berry

416-nt9Lq9L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Wendell Berry is one of America’s most cherished voices of the agrarian community. A novelist, poet, essayist, environmental activist, and farmer, Berry has been bringing national attention to the local and personal for decades with a voice full of wisdom, art, and insight. The Art of the Common-Place is a collection of 21 essays on agrarianism, agriculture, and community, but also a meditation on how to live. If you’re wondering if it’s for you, check out his thoughtful, heartbreaking essay for The Atlantic, Farmland Without Farmers, regarding the American loss of a way of life and the land that made it possible.

 

  • Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion, by Elizabeth L. Cline

e29713_6c0b2d5fcf454d3a930b7e4167c2ddbc-1If you’ve ever wondered how it is you can buy a T-shirt for $5, when you imagine the process of harvesting cotton, which is then made into fabric, then sewn into a garment, then shipped from overseas and then shipped again to your store, with a price mark-up at each point along the way—then this book is for you. (And so is the infographic from Adbusters below!) Cline examines the industry of cheap clothing, sold ubiquitously in America at places like Forever 21, H&M, and Target, and the human and economical cost of clothing that is, in so many senses, worthless.

 

  • Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit, by Barry Estabrook

 

TomatolandPPBCoverThis New York Times best-seller tells the story of a vegetable—or, if we’re being technical, a fruit. The year-round appearance of those bright red, globe-like tomatoes on the shelves of every grocery store in America are taking a horrible toll on the environment, from the dozens of herbicides and pesticides they require to the yields the land cannot naturally support. You’ll also learn things that will probably make you just want to grow your own, like the fact that most tomatoes are picked hard and green and then gassed until they turn red enough to sell.

 

Keep up-cycling, rethinking, and reading, Alchemists! Awareness is the only way we’re going to make a dent or a difference. And please, if you’re going to buy a book, buy it from a local bookstore!

Alchemy Goods Winter Lookbook: Shop Local!

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We’ve put together a few collections of images that show off our products in real-live Seattle circumstances. The first installment of our Winter Lookbook compiles images of Alchemy Goods around town at local businesses, including the conscientious general store Cone and Steiner, the Capitol Hill music venue Nuemos, and the local independent record store Everyday Music!

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The Perfect New Year’s Resolution

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According to a poll by ABC news, the top 5 New Year’s resolutions for 2016 are:

  1. Enjoy life to the fullest
  2. Live a healthier lifestyle
  3. Lose weight
  4. Spend more time with family and friends
  5. Save more, spend less

Though many of these are awfully open to interpretation—especially America’s number one resolution—these all sound like familiar goals. If you’re one of the nearly half of Americans who set resolutions for themselves every year, you’ve probably even “resolved” to do something on that list yourself.

And if you’re like 92 percent of those Americans who make resolutions, you didn’t actually keep it the whole year. Resolutions are tricky because we’ve probably already been telling ourselves to change for months or even years. If you want to wake up earlier or keep a diary, reiterating that desire on January 1st might not make much of a difference in your behavior. But you know what does? Taking specific actions. And if you want to accomplish any (or all!) of the goals on ABC’s list, we have the perfect action for you:

Ride a bike!

Riding a bicycle is a wonderful way to accomplish so many popular resolutions. Want to be healthier or lose weight? Biking is great exercise! Spend time with friends or family? Biking is a wonderful group activity for friends or the whole family! Save money? Biking will not only save you in bus fare, gasoline, or parking fees, but it’ll also save you money in the long term when you consider the health benefits of a healthy cardiovascular system.

And finally, biking is one of the best ways to enjoy life to the fullest. Rather than being stuck in a metal box for transportation, you’re physically interacting with the environment. Biking can be fun, meditative, challenging, and rewarding, and we think you’ll find that you look forward to keeping your resolution every day.

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Your Guide to Riding in the Rain

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For some US cities, winter cycling is simply not an option—the bike lanes are covered in drifted snow, the plows are tearing up the road, black ice is lurking, your visibility is terrible, and cars are swerving everywhere. But if you live somewhere like the Pacific Northwest, winter usually just means rain—a lot of rain. If you want to keep up your commute through the rainy season, it’s probably a lot more accessible (and enjoyable) than you might imagine! In fall and winter, many annual cycling events arise all over the Pacific Northwest to keep your stamina up to par!

It’s Not That Bad

Riding in the Rain, Portland Zine

Riding in the Rain, Portland Zine

In fact, biking in the rain can be downright pleasant. The sound of rushing water, the quiet that falls across the city, and the fresh, wet smell of the air are their own reward—not to mention the feeling of pride you’ll have after a grisly ride. Riding in the rain is a rite of passage for cyclists. If you’ve ever slogged through a morning commute during a downpour, you’ve probably gotten at least one reaffirming head nod from a fellow biker passing by. That tip of the hat (or rather, helmet) is an expression of solidarity—“I see you, you’ve got this, right on.” And though many cyclists might scoff at those “fair weather cyclists” who keep their bikes in the garage from November to March, anyone can be a year-round biker with the right gear.

What to Wear

BikingToWork02_e_1008You don’t have to be in head-to-toe lycra to stay dry. In fact, wool is a great naturally-water-repellant material that’s easy to find secondhand if it’s not in your closet already. There’s a reason the navy gave its sailors heavy wool peacoats—wool can keep you warm and dry in a storm. If wool pants sound either too constricting or too difficult to find, try nylon rain pants. If you can’t afford to splurge on a pair specifically designed for cycling, you can often find perfectly adequate rain-proof pants or snow pants at an army surplus store or even your local thrift shop. With waterproof shoes—or even just plastic bags over normal shoes—you’ll be arriving at your destination clean and dry!

And perhaps most importantly, stay visible! Rain and condensation decrease visibility enormously, on top of the fact that the daylight hours are already reduced during the winter months. You can get a reflective safety vest for less than $10 online, and throwing it over your coat before you leave might save you from serious injury.

Fenders are Your Best Friend

Bike with Full Fenders--and Waterproof Alchemy Goods Bag!

Bike with Full Fenders–and Waterproof Alchemy Goods Bag!

Fenders are the best thing you can do to make riding in the rain more bearable for both you and your bike. Fenders are cheap (usually under $50 for a pair), easily found used, and easy to install. They’ll protect your pants from getting coated in the water your wheels kick up, and also from the muck, grime, and oil on the road that comes with that water. Your fenders also protect your bicycle from the road sludge—though the clean water falling from the sky might not present any danger to your bicycle, the sand, mud, and gasoline residue that will otherwise be sprayed all over your chain, detailers, and brakes will damage the machinery. We recommend full-length fenders, but if your bike wasn’t built to accommodate these (as many racing or dual-suspension bikes were not) you may have to settle for clip-on fenders.

And Buddy Flaps Are a Friendly Courtesy

Most fenders are long enough to protect both your body and your bicycle from the water and sludge that you’ll stir up from the road, but they’re probably not quite long enough to stop you from spraying a stream of dirty water onto anyone riding behind you. If you regularly ride in popular bike lanes or commuter trails, install a DIY, up-cycled “buddy flap.” You can make a buddy flap from pretty much any material that’s sturdy enough to bend a little but not snap, like an old water bottle or plastic container. Check out these instructions for creating a buddy flap from Portland’s Riding in the Rain zine by Ira Ryan (Breadwinner Cycles) and Matt Hall.

For more information, we recommend checking out the whole zine at TravelPortland.com. Keep dry this winter, Alchemists—I see you, you’ve got this, right on.

Photo Credit

4 Gorgeous, Sustainable Gift Wrap Ideas

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Most people know they should try to find sustainable or up-cycled alternatives to gift wrap for holiday presents, but sometimes it can be hard to give up on the idea of bright, beautiful packages and use drab newsprint instead. Here are a few ideas for wrapping green gifts that will be even lovelier than anything you might buy at the store.

1.) Calendar Pages

wrapping w calendar

This is the perfect wrapping paper solution for this time of year because your old calendars are all about to be outdated! If you have a 2015 calendar—or any other old calendars laying around—use them to wrap gifts. You can have the date side out to circle someone’s special day (or for Christmas, the 25th!) or use the pictured page for glossy imagery.

2.) Marbled Paper

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This is one of the most beautiful techniques for creating one-of-a-kind wrapping sheets, and it’s nowhere near as hard as it looks! You create this paper by filling a pan with a shallow layer of cooking oil, drizzling colors over it (you can use anything from food coloring to oil paint) and then setting a piece of paper against the surface carefully, removing it, and allowing it to dry. You  can also run a toothpick through the color to create designs. We recommend using scrap paper from your home or office and coloring the white side.

3.) Plantable Paper

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This technique takes a little more work, but it’s one of the greenest payoffs possible! We love the idea of making your own paper from up-cycled sources, and when you add a handful of seeds, this couldn’t be better! You can make your own paper from discarded newspaper, tissues, printer paper, or construction paper by softening the scraps in water, blending the pulp with a little more water, adding some wildflower or herb seeds, and then spreading the pulp on a screen to dry. You now have lovely handmade paper that can be put right into the ground after use!

4.) Found Paper

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You can up-cycle paper materials to use as wrapping paper without making your gift look like a pile of trash. For example, we love the idea of using brown paper bags as a base layer and decorating the surface of the bag with colorful found materials, like the package above that uses magazine clippings, wrappers, and a flower bow made from a toilet paper roll.

We hope this list gives you a little inspiration for this season’s gift giving, Alchemists! Of course, if you want to put your present inside some especially cool upcycled wrapping, maybe you should hide it in an Alchemy bag!