Browsing Tag


Maker Stories

Made (Green) in the USA

May 3, 2012

Our friends at Green 3, Jim and Sandy Martin, have helped us add some fantastic uncommon goods to our assortment. From adorable babywear like the gnome babysuit and hat and matching blanket, to the perfect-for-a-breezy-spring-day reclaimed t-shirt scarves, to the summer-friendly update on the popular recycled sweater skirt, the recycled bridesmaid dress skirt, the Martins know eco-friendly fashion.

Sandy and Jim. photo via Oshkosh Chamber of Commerce

Jim works closely with our product development team to create unique clothing and accessories exclusive to UncommonGoods, like the bridesmaid dress skirt and the comfy, casual recycled dress shirt robe. We love that these products come from recycled materials, and many are even created with the help of organizations working with disabled adults.

“My wife Sandy started the company,” he told us. “She grew up on a farm in Michigan and saw firsthand the negative implications on the farmer’s health when they are exposed to chemical pesticides on a daily basis. She felt strongly that her company would focus on sustainable fibers that caused the least damage possible to the environment.”

Causing less damage to the environment means using organic cotton, like that in Green 3’s babysuits, and reusing materials when possible.

Sometimes those materials, like the sweaters used to make recycled sweater scarves, come from thrift stores. Others are leftovers from apparel manufacturers. “We actually look at what types of fabrics are available to us, and then design into the fabric,” Jim explained. “Certain fabrics lend themselves to specific applications and steer us into new product categories.”

Clockwise from top left: A Green 3 Artist hand-drawing a graphic / Green 3’s warehouse storing reclaimed and excess fabrics / Tina, an in-house sewer at Green 3 headquarters.

Once the fabric is in hand each piece is inspected individually to insure it meets aesthetic and quality standards. Thrift store items are washed before being deconstructed and prepared for cutting and sewing, so even though the garment created may be made from secondhand materials, it’s as good as new.

The processes of selecting, inspecting, and preparing fabrics and creating the final products are all done in the United States. “Sandy and I had both been in the corporate apparel industry for over 20 years. During that time we watched a steady flow of jobs going overseas,” said Jim. “We just felt strongly that we could do it here and bring a few jobs back. What we’re finding is that we’re not the only ones that feel this way. More and more like minded companies are partnering, and quickly it is becoming more than just a few jobs. In our community alone we employ 20 people. But our network of partners employs thousands.”

One partner helping Green three create handmade upcycled products for uncommon goods is Aspiro, a non-profit organization offering job training and career options to cognitively disabled adults in Green Bay, Wisc. “We contacted Aspiro after learning of them through a news report,” Jim said. “Their facility has been doing cut and sew work for years and they have a highly skilled labor force. When we toured the facility and saw the pride and passion of the workers, and how this opportunity for independence positively impacted their lives, we knew wanted to support the initiative any way we could.”

Reclaimed T-shirt Scarf / Dress Shirt Robe / Recycled Sweater Scarf / Recycled Bridesmaid Dress Skirt / Gnome Babysuit(TM) & Hat / Gnome Blanket

By partnering with Green 3 and other apparel manufactures, the skilled sewers at Aspiro earn fair wages and are given opportunities for independent living.

Thanks to these dedicated workers, secondhand and leftover fabrics, and the imaginations of Jim, Sandy, and the talented designers at Green 3, we’re always seeing updated products and trendy upcycled fashions. Which Green 3 design do you love most?

The Uncommon Life

Take It with You

April 18, 2012

My name is Bella and I’m a personal style blogger. But I’m not just about fashion. I have no interest in acquiring the newest “it” bag, or latest designer bauble. What I am interested in is expressing myself in my dress and doing it in an original and sustainable way. I prefer to “shop secondhand first,” and haven’t met a yard sale I didn’t like. I avoid “fast fashion” and anything that comes out of a sweatshop. Recently someone asked if that limited me, but I don’t think shopping sustainably limits my style; I think it helps me explore it.

Recently, I planned a big move. I packed up my worldly possessions, and flew from my hometown of Sacramento, California to Seattle, Washington. I plan to seek my fortune there, and could only take so much in my 2 suitcases coming with me. One of the essentials brought was my charming felted wool clutch. This handcrafted woolly embroidered clutch was the perfect addition to my travel bag. Charming and full of color, this pouch functioned as a wallet, holding my essentials. I loved how cheerful it looked peeking out of my bag- the bright embroidered circles reminding me that everything is connected, and that what comes around, goes around. Since my wardrobe for the time being is limited to just a few things in my suitcases, each piece becomes necessary to have more than one function.

My fire-engine red wool vintage coat serves as stylish and warm outerwear to handle Seattle’s cooler climate. My second-hand oversized black mohair sweater added warmth, especially when layered over my favorite neon yellow acrylic sweater, a recent score from the Goodwill is a gem from the 1950’s as well, and while it harkens from another era, the shout-out-loud at you hue is very on trend for Spring. My jaunty thrifted red knit Tam and sporty red Converse completed my travel uniform, as I go about getting adjusted to my new city. And, my Jenny Krauss pouch fit right in: its bright colors livening up my day and seemed to go with everything.

In fact, I started taking pictures of me and the pouch everywhere, like the world travelling gnome from the movie Amelie. The Peruvian made pouch made itself at home every where, including a great shot of me in front of a killer view of Mt. Rainer, and nestled amongst some, um, “native” gnomes of the Pacific Northwest. Colorful needlework, made from curly wool, crafted by artisans using Fair Trade practices is the perfect accessory for any adventure. Not only do the bright colors match my outfit, it goes with my commitment to sustainable style. And I can definitely take it with me.


Community Comments: Praise for Uncommon Designs

April 9, 2012

When a brand new creative design comes our way we get pretty excited. What could be better than the thrill of discovering a new uncommon good? Seeing our community get just as excited as we are!

We love seeing those “thumbs ups” in our community voting app followed by feedback explaining what you love about the designs.

Of course, commenting isn’t just for the voting app. If you own an uncommon good, we want to know why you love it! Here are a few examples of community comments that make us smile.

Made of polished silver plated aluminium, this Row Boat Salad Bowl is charming and functional. The intricately-grained sheesham wood oars are actually serving utensils.

It was a hit in our voting app, floating into our assortment with 465 votes.

pema8684 from New Hampshire proved Mary’s point by gifting the salad set to her boat-loving dad.

The Nerd Herder Gadget Wallet also makes a great gift. Of course, it’s a great gift for yourself, too!

The wallet was originally designed by Brook Kirk to help her musician husband stay organized. Mandi was excited about the Nerd Herder’s potential to stash guitar picks (and other daily necessities for the nerd on the go).

Post-purchase, blueorder from Phoenix, AZ confirmed that the gadget wallet is an awesome design.

The Nerd Herder is perfect when you’re out and about, but this next design by Jill Henrietta Davis is made for a relaxing night in.

Penelope’s comment made us dream of sinking into a hot bubble bath and enjoying the ambiance created by the handmade glass Lotus Bud Oil Candles.

And while Mona from East Providence, RI bought her candles for use at work, she’s in the business of helping other unwind.

Reading commentary like this gets us excited about the goods in our assortment, but it also puts us in the mood to find more clever, uniquely designed products. Would you love to hear what our community has to say about your work? Share your designs with our buyers and your creation could become an uncommon good.


Secondhand Saris, Firsthand Fair Trade Fashion

April 8, 2012

This new sari handbag was brought into our assortment with the feedback and support of 558 customers.

Indian women have worn saris, beautiful, often embellished sheets of fabric, for hundreds of years. The traditional garment can be worn in many ways, but every sari, no matter how lovely, will eventually be draped a final time.

Fortunately, the gorgeous fabrics don’t have to go to waste when the sari no longer serves its traditional purpose. Artisans in India wash and repair the cottons, rayon, and silks from secondhand saris, then transform them into fashionable, functional handbags.

The one-of-a-kind creations are handmade by skilled craftswomen who are given a fair wage, allowing them to earn a living while staying in their villages near family instead of having to travel to bigger cities.

After the fabric is cleaned, the craftswomen cut it into vibrant strips and organize it to ensure that each bag expresses rich color combinations, from bright jewel tones to deep earth tones. Since saris are often patterned, sometimes quite elaborately, each bag also features interesting details within individual fabric strips.

The artisans hand-sew the fabric strips to the white cotton lining, creating the light, ruffled look of the bag. To add to the functionality of the piece, a wooden toggle and a fabric cord are both attached for fastening.

The finished product caught our attention, but this product story really pulled us in and we couldn’t wait to share it with our community. We were thrilled to find that our community voting app users stood behind the product, too.

“I think this is a beautiful bag and the cost is very reasonable,” Michelle told us via the voting app. “I plan on buying it and knowing that each bag is different make it even better! I will not see this bag coming and going.”

Nataly drew on her own experiences to add her feedback. “Reminds me of my travels in India, how I always noticed that no matter how remote the location and how outdoor the environment, they keep their Saris SOOO vibrant and beautiful,” she wrote. “Every where you look–bold statement making colors.”

We also saw a ton of Facebook and Twitter love for the Sari Bag. “Love this bag! I think saris are so beautiful. What better way to reuse them?” @kellyatate tweeted.

We love seeing such enthusiastic support for our potential products and we’re pleased that this fair trade, handmade, upcycled bag is now an uncommon good!

The Uncommon Life

10 Ways to Go Green for St. Patrick’s Day

March 12, 2012

Whether you’re Irish by blood, have the luck of the Irish, or just love a good celebration on St. Patrick’s Day, you’ll probably be going green on March 17. Of course, we’re all about celebrating another kind of green here at UncommonGoods. So we figured, why not take a double-edged approach with these green (and green!) goods.

Wearing green on St. Paddy’s will prevent you from getting pinched, but you don’t have to go overboard. Adding a few green accents to your outfit is a great way to show your Irish pride. (1.) Heli Belt’s are handmade using leftover fabric from tatami floor mats and (2.)Ellen Thurmond’s Tree of Life–Renewal necklace features green peridot on hand-shaped recycled sterling silver wire.

Whether you plan on dying your hair green or skipping the food-coloring-infused shampoo, a (3.)Recycled Glass Barrette will look lovely accenting your locks.

Once your perfect St. Patrick’s Day outfit is complete, you can start the party. Serve up green beer in (4.) Recycled Beer Glasses, which also happen to have a slight green tint, since they’re made from glass from car windows. And, if you prefer a mixed drink or something alcohol free, your beverage of choice will look nice in (5.) Protect Our Earth Glasses. These recycled Bordeaux bottle glasses were even called party “must-haves” by

When it comes to your centerpiece, take a cue from the lush landscape of the Emerald Isle and add a little vegetation to your St. Pat’s. Fresh-cut flowers aren’t always the greenest choice, but our (6.) Moss Terrarium Bottle is a fun DIY alternative. If your thumb is far from green, visit Local Harvest to find sustainably grown blooms and show them off in a (7.)Recycled Wine Bottle Vase, or skip the flowers all together and go with a handmade recycled glass (8.)Four Seasons Globe to ring in Spring.

The centerpiece won’t be the most enticing thing on the table, though. Celebrate with a traditional Irish meal of corned beef and cabbage, then use the (9.) Fresh Air Compost Collector to save the cabbage hearts and other unused portions for composting. And for dessert? These Beer Mug Cupcakes from I am Baker are too cute not to make.

From green beer to cupcakes that look like green beer, you don’t need luck (or a pot of gold) for your St. Paddy’s Party to be a success. But, the fun can only last one night, so don’t forget to take a few photos to capture the evening. Fittingly, your favorite will look fabulous on display in one of Margaret Taylor’s handmade (10.)Recycled Ceiling Tin Frames.

Gift Guides

Top 10 Valentine’s Day Gifts for Guys

January 18, 2012

Valentine’s Day is coming up, and while chocolates and flowers are nice, we know that some fellas would probably prefer valentines that can’t be devoured and won’t wilt in a few days. These great gifts for guys are uncommon ways to show the special man in your life just how lovable he is.

Custom Map Cufflinks
If there’s a place close to his heart, you can help him wear it on his sleeve. Whether it’s the place you first met, a landmark where you shared a romantic moment, or another special location, these custom map cufflinks are an elegant gift with a personal touch.

Titanium Multi-tool Collar Stays
Perfect for the dashing gentleman, who isn’t afraid to use his hands, Titanium Multi-tool Collar Stays each feature a half-phillips screwdriver, a slotted screwdriver, a thread cutter, and a bottle opener. Thanks to these sleek little gadgets, your Mr. Fix-it doesn’t have to sacrifice style.

Ball Park Color Top Pens
Maybe you’ve had a great times at a ballgames together, or maybe he’s just a huge fan of a certain team. Either way, this gift is sure to be a home run. Made from the wood from salvaged stadium seats, these pens are officially licensed Major League Baseball collectibles. Each also includes a certificate of authenticity.

The Buck Stops Here Money Clip
Cash might not be a traditional Valentine’s Day gift, but a stylish way to stash that cash is definitely acceptable. Featuring a vintage 1984 twenty-cent commemorative stamp, this money clip tells him that your search for your one-and-only is over. The buck has stopped, and your relationship is right on the money.

Seven Deadly Sins Shot Glasses
Maybe he’s a bad boy, and you’re okay with that. Giving him this set of seven sinfully delightful shot glasses tells him that you like his wild side.

Cast Iron Tool Bottle Openers
Although they look and feel like the real deal, these cast iron tools are actually hand-forged bottle openers. If your guy is handy with a hammer, ready with a wrench, or prepared with pliers, let him know you appreciate his DIY home repairs and can-do attitude with a tool he can use as he kicks back and relaxes while enjoying a bottle of his favorite beverage.

Wood Tie
He has everything you look for in a partner. A sense of humor, great style, and he isn’t afraid to be a little different. Sure, silk ties are nice, but a wood tie is a way to show him that you really do like his uncommon look.

Fire Hose Wallet
Made from retired fire hoses, these sturdy wallets are a clever way to show your guy that he’s your hero.

Frog Prince Paperweight
You knew that one day your prince would come. Now that he has, you can thank him for giving you your very own storybook ending with this pewter paperweight. Of course, your Prince Charming wears many hats–so why shouldn’t he have fun changing the crown on his?

Pick Punch
You could give him a gift card…OR you could give him a device to help him actually use the leftover plastic when he’s spent the gift cards he got for Christmas. The Pick Punch® cuts functional guitar picks from credit cards, gift cards, and similar sheets of thin plastic, so it’s a great way to show your Valentine that he rocks.

Looking for more gift ideas for the ones you love? Check out our Top 10 Gifts for Husbands, Gifts for Boyfriends, Gifts for Wives, and Gifts for Girlfriends.

Gift Guides

Holiday Gifts Your Teen Will Love

November 22, 2011

The holiday season is is in full swing, and we’re pouring through our assortment selecting great gifts for everyone on your shopping list! Many of our picks are inspired by our Twitter contest winner, Jodie. She won a $500 UncommonGoods shopping spree earlier this year, and we’ve had a ton of fun helping her choose the perfect gifts for her favorite people.

After creating guides for babies and kids based on Jodies’ nephews, age 8 months to 6 years, we realized that although Jodie doesn’t have a teen on her shopping list, many parents, aunts and uncles, and grandparents (to name just a few) do. With this in mind, we picked a few of our favorite gifts for teens.

Remote Control SUV Kit- It may not be time to hand over the keys to a new car, but you can hand over this cool kit. The Remote Control SUV kit starts out as a puzzle and snaps together to become a motorized vehicle.

Bike Bells- A great stocking stuffer, these hand-painted bike bells are functional, funny, and stylish.

Guitar String Bracelets- Whether the teen in your life is a musician, music-lover, or just likes to look good, these unisex accessories are chart toppers.

Sneaker Customization Kit- Designer shoes are expensive, but this kit, which includes sneaker wipes, paints, and a high-quality paint brush, makes it easy for your favorite teen to create their own.

Dancing Lion Speaker- Plug an iPod or another music device up to this lively lion and he dances and sings along. Check out our video to see the King of the Jungle boogy.

Recycled Cotton Animal Mittens- Trendy, but still uncommon, these cozy, cute mittens are made from yarn spun from leftover fabric from upholstery factories that would have otherwise been discarded. They’re also available in mink and skunk.

Black Cat Headphones- More comfortable than earbuds, these hand-crocheted headphones have a vintage feel that still appeals to modern teens.

Big Grips iPad Case- Available in blue or green, these grippy foam covers make your teen’s favorite electronic sidekick easier to hold on to.

From fashionable accessories and beautiful jewelry to techie gadgets and fun games, we’ve got all kinds of great gifts for teens. Stay tuned for more gift guides to find perfect presents for everyone in your life this season!

Need a gift recommendation for a hard-to-shop for teen? Leave a comment below.


Comments of the Week

November 18, 2011

It’s hard to believe it’s already November and the holiday shopping season is underway! We’re proud to offer a plethora of giftable goods, but we know that sometimes shoppers want to take a break from browsing. Our community voting app is a great place to take a load off and tell us just what you think! The goods shown aren’t available for purchase yet, but with your help, they could be in the future!

Our favorite comments this week were posted about an eco-friendly, handmade jewelry design, a gorgeous custom pendant, and a fresh, fun umbrella.

We’ll get our roundup rolling with Darcy’s comment on Monica Farbiarz’s latest design, Batik Drop Earrings.

We’re glad to hear that Darcy not only likes the look of these tagua nut earrings, but also supports fair trade artisans!

Another lovely handmade jewelry design is also getting some attention this week, Amy Ambroult’s Personalized Silhouette Necklace. To make these unique necklaces, Amy takes customer photos and shrinks them to fit the pendant, she then creates a sterling silver silhouette for an uncommon take on the traditional cameo. Although Barbara likes the idea, she isn’t quite sold.

Although Barbara isn’t completely convinced, Louisa and Hilary are both ready to buy.

That’s the kind of enthusiasm we love to see! Our next commenter was less enthusiastic. In fact, we detect a hint of sarcasm in her feedback for the Goggles Umbrella.

Thanks for the feedback, Laura. Just in case our sarcasm meter is off–we sincerely hope that you only lose that important sign on days when it’s raining.

Speaking of sincerity, Deborah seems sincerely amused by this creative design, and was still able to slip in a joke.

We’re glad this silly (but functional) product gave you a good laugh, Deborah! Thanks for your feedback, and thanks to everyone who used our community voting app this week! We look forward to seeing what you have to say about our next batch of items up for voting!

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