Browsing Tag

Advice

The Uncommon Life

Top 10 Reasons Why Cats are Better than Dogs

April 1, 2013

10.) If you give us a toy, we don’t return it covered in drool.

9.) There’s no such thing as dog nip.

8.) There’s a whole musical about us, while no one wants to hear songs about chasing cars and pooping on the sidewalk.

7.) We have the LOOKS and the BRAINS. (And the confidence.)

6.) Dog Woman would make an awful super villain.

5.) Jingles written about our food will get stuck in your head. Meow, meow, meow, meow…big time.

4.) Like humans, we pee indoors and cover it up. (Technically, they flush it down, but that’s not nearly as much fun.)

3.) No ancient civilization has ever worshiped dogs.

2.) We don’t like the taste of shoes.

1.) Has your dog ever brought you a delicious mouse to prove his love for you? I didn’t think so.

Visit our feline favorites page for even more CATtitude.

Gift Guides

How to Repair a Wool Sweater

February 22, 2013

Getting the opportunity to try uncommon products is one of the great things about working at UncommonGoods. While many of these product-testing experiments become gift labs, every now and then we find a new good with so many uses we can’t fit them all in one “report.” The Woolfiller Sweater Mending Kit is an example of just such a product, AND, since associate buyer Katie and community moderator Cassie both had their eyes on this winter must-have, we decided to diverge from the traditional gift lab format and see just how many uses we could come up with for this clever kit. Four are outlined below, but Cassie and Katie agree that the fun doesn’t have to stop there!

Katie: Having spotted the Woolfiller at a major New York trade show last year, I was anxious to get such a solution-oriented product into our assortment. A fun, hands-on kit to patch up an old favorite or add some flair to a basic sweater seemed like the perfect DIY project nearly anyone could adopt.To put this product to the test, I decided to tackle two specific projects, the first was to patch the embarrassingly large (and winter chill-inviting) elbow holes on one of my favorite sweaters. After completing the elbow hole patches, I wanted more – I had seen some fun images the company provided where people used the bright colored wool to add some creative patches as flair and I wanted to try this out, which lead to Project two: adding flair.

Cassie and I decided to each purchase one kit – a match made in heaven as this green-adoring girl, could partner with Cassie’s purple-loving self and combine to make a cornucopia of rich, jewel-tone wools mixed with solid staple colors (greys, blacks, beiges) which came in extra handy for my second project. But I would also say that one kit is entirely sufficient – each comes with bright color options as well as neutral, basic colors which should cover a range of sweater needs. And to that point, upon unloading our kits onto a communal table, we were both surprised by how much wool comes in each kit – we went about tearing each ball into half and divvying up our goods.

Project 1: Bold Elbow Patches

Katie: After some deliberation, I chose to patch the elbows of my dark, gray sweater with the natural beige wool – aiming for a contrast patch look – like your grandfather’s sweater.

After choosing the color of wool, I reviewed the simple instructions and went to work. I used a pair of scissors to make the first of my ragged elbow holes into a smooth, even oval to ensure my patches would be as clean-looking as possible. Next, I ripped a decent amount (maybe the width of a lime) of wool off the main piece, turned my sweater inside out, put the provided foam piece in the sleeve, laid the wool over the hole, and began poking!

After completing the first of two patches, I turned my sleeve right-side out to inspect my work. Herein I learned one of the bigger lessons of the project – while the instructions suggest turning your piece inside-out to use the product, I found that by doing that I was less aware of the exact line of the hole (because the piece of wool covered it) and as a result I ended up with what can only be described as a “halo” effect around the patch – one sold patch, with a light ring of excess wool surrounding it.

On elbow #2 I decided to try another approach – again I cut away the ragged edge to make a smooth hole, but this time I left the sweater sleeve right-side out, I inserted the felt piece, and lined the wool up perfectly with the hole and started poking away. I found when I did it this way, I was able to guide the wool into a perfect oval while poking and overall felt much more in control of the overall work. When complete, the patch appeared much more perfect and solid.

After completing the elbow patches, I moved onto my next experiment…

Project 2: Adding a Little Flair

Katie: I decided to do a simple trio of mini circles with bright colors. Having learned from my elbow patches, I left my sweater right-side out, tore of tiny circles of wool (about the size of a quarter), and started poking away! I found my technique was much-improved, I used my fingers to expertly guide the wool and before I knew it I had my little flair added in.

In the interest of science, here are my key Findings:

Finding #1:
This kit comes with a lot of wool. I was surprised by how little wool it took to patch up my rather large elbow holes. I have a lot of wool leftover and am just waiting for a quiet Sunday to get to patchin’ my slew of other well-worn sweaters.

Finding #2:
The more you poke – the more “felted” the wool becomes. Good thing poking is super fun.

Finding #3:
As mentioned above, the kit recommends turning the piece inside-out and then using the wool filler, however, I found this created a slight ‘halo effect’ around the actual patch, and when I tested using the kit the opposite way – with the sweater turned right-side out, I was very pleased with the results – I could control the pokes more and create a clean oval with no halo.

Finding #4:
The Woolfiller is a really easy, creative way to patch.

Having now completed two projects on one beloved, well-worn sweater, I can vouch for the usability and honestly–the fun– this product provided.I passed the DIY-sweater-patch torch along to Cassie.

Project 3: The No-Show Repair

Cassie: I also had a beloved sweater with a hole in it. Unlike Katie, I didn’t want my repair job to be super noticeable. My hole was just under the arm of a multi-colored sweater, so I hoped I could blend the new wool in and make the sweater look like new. Taking her findings into consideration, I began my exercise in craftology.

I started out the same way, by finding the hole, turning the sweater inside out, and inserting the foam block. Then I picked out a couple of colors that I thought would mix nicely with my sweater’s pattern.

I placed the wool over the holes and started poking. It was really fun, and, because the sweater is 100% wool the new wool took almost instantly. I pricked at the wool with the felting needle for less than a minute before the patch was completely attached, but I kept at it for a little longer, just to make sure it was blended well.

I turned the sweater back inside in and gave it a few more pokes, just to give the wool a smoother look. The finished product looked good, and the patch feels just like the rest of the sweater.

While I agree with most of Katie’s key findings, I found that starting with the sweater inside out worked great for a small, blended patch. She preferred the look of the patch when she placed the wool directly over the hole without turning her garment inside out first. I’d recommend doing a test on your own piece, by woolfilling just a small section of the patch, before completing your own project.

Project 4: Super Star Style

Cassie: Giving my sweater a quick fix was fun and easy, but after seeing Katie’s bold patches and the little bundle of flair she added to her project, I was a little jealous. I wanted to give my own colorful creation a try, so I decided to add a little shape to an old cardigan.

First I drew a star shape on a small piece of scratch paper. Then, I cut out the star, leaving an outline. Next, I placed the outline over the elbow of my sweater. (Remember to insert the foam block first.)

I didn’t turn the sweater inside out this time, since I wasn’t actually making a real “patch,” I was just covering up the existing material with new wool.

I put a little ball of bright pink wool in the center of the star shape, then started stretching it out to fill the cutout as I poked it with the felting needle. I didn’t secure the star before starting this process, which made it a little trickier than it had to be. Next time I’ll hold it in place with some fabric tape or a safety pin.

I gradually added more wool and pulled it into the shape of the star as I worked at it with the felting needle. Once I had the outline filled in I removed the paper and then poked carefully around the outside edges of the star to give it a sharper shape.

Since the cardigan isn’t entirely wool (it’s a blend also containing nylon and cotton), it took a lot longer for the woolfiller to adhere this time than it did with the 100% wool sweater I’d used it on before.

The star turned out well, but there was one problem. I was so focused on creating my shape that I forgot to move my foam block the whole time I was poking. The wool (and the sweater) got stuck to the block, so It was somewhat difficult to remove when I was done. Make sure to readjust the block several times during your project to make sure this doesn’t happen!

I’ll definitely try this again next time I want to give an old sweater a new look. Next time, I might try a heart, a triangle or square, or maybe even a letter.


Through our multiple sweater patching projects, we learned that the Woolfiller Sweater Mending Kit is a great way to repair a damaged sweater, give old wool a new look, or add a personal touch to your favorite pieces.

And, bonus, it’s not just for sweaters. It works on any pretty much anything made of wool!

Maker Resources

How to Make Your Products Eco-Friendly and Spread the Word

February 18, 2013

This month we had the pleasure of hosting our fourth How To Make It design panel and networking happy hour in Brooklyn. We invited local designs (although some traveled from as far as Central Pennsylvania) who came to hear our panel discuss greenifying your designs and small business and how to get the word out about your eco-friendly creations. Everyone stuck around to swap business cards, meet our buyers and enjoy Brooklyn Brewery beer and Morris Grilled Cheeses.

Weren’t able to make it? Watch some clips of the conversation below.


Rebecca talks about the return on investments made in making your products more eco-friendly.


Rebecca shares some great marketing ideas for building a happy and healthy customer-base.


Tiffany shares some common mistakes made when marketing eco-friendly products.


Green products also means a more energy-efficient work environment. Rebecca shares some easy retrofits to make your home and office greener.


Yuka gives advice on pitching your products to the media.


You have a green product, now what about your packaging?


A lot of companies throw around the word “green” but there are some restrictions.

Want more? You can watch a video of the entire discussion below.

Design

A Year’s Worth of Winning Designs

January 4, 2013


Happy New Year! We’re excited to see what 2013 will bring, and we have big plans for the next 12 months. We’re planning more sneak peeks Inside the Artist’s Studio, interviews with designers from across the country, behind the scenes looks at what goes on here at UncommonGoods, great gift ideas, and of course, brand new design challenges! But, before we announce our first challenge of the year, we’re taking a look back on the great designs that came to us through our 2012 design challenges and the people who created them.

Last Spring we were already thinking Summer! Our first design challenge focused on sustainable picnic ware from Susty Party. We asked illustrators to send us their summer picnic-themed art, and we saw a big batch of submissions celebrating fun in the sun!

Denae Douglas’ Bicycle design was the judges’ favorite, earning her the grand prize. Her blue bike was stamped on eco-friendlier disposable bagasse plates and cups perfect for picnicking. (We know it’s still January, and it’s cold outside, but we do have a few sets left if you’re looking to stock up for Spring!)

All of the illustrations that came rolling in with the Summer Picnic Challenge had us in the mood for great art, so for our next call for entries we asked artists to send us their artwork for the Art Contest. We asked our online community to pick their favorites, then sent the top 5 designs to our judges for review. In the end, Mathew Amey’s “Jump Off” leaped into our lineup.

Matthew’s piece was limited edition, and didn’t take long to sell out, but art fans need not worry; our buyers loved his work so much, they’re adding more of his illustrations to our assortment.

After the Art Contest we switched it up just a bit, from art you hang to art you take on the go! Our iPhone Art Case Design Challenge was a huge success. We received a slew of votes and comments in the semi-final round and heard some wonderful feedback from the judges in the finals.

The judges loved the techie feel of Naomi Meller’s computer design and chose it to win the grand prize, but our buyers weren’t quite ready to let go of all of that other great artwork! Several design challenge submissions were selected for our iPhone Art Case Collection and became uncommon goods!

Speaking of art on the go, we couldn’t have a year of design challenges without including a call for wearable art–A.K.A. Jewelery–entries! The winner of our 2012 Jewelry Design Challenge was a little different. Not only do we love Kim Jakum’s excellent craftsmanship and fine attention to detail, we also couldn’t stop talking about the unique (and oh-so-sweet!) personalization element of the piece. Kim’s Personalized Children’s Signature Necklace gives the wearer a chance to capture their little ones’ own handwriting in sterling silver.

Then, last Fall, we switched gears again and asked our design community to think bicycles! Submissions to our Bicycle Lovers Design Challenge included helpful bike tools, custom pieces to deck your ride, cycling wear, and art made out of reclaimed bicycle parts, like Laura White’s winning Bicycle Cog Suncatchers.

Laura’s pieces aren’t only beautiful, they also celebrate the sport of cycling and are made from reclaimed materials, which is always a plus here. In fact, we love reclaiming, recycling, and reusing so much that we decided to build a design challenge around the idea. Our final design challenge of the year focused on upcycling, and we saw some seriously clever creations made from materials that would have otherwise been discarded.

The story behind winner Susan Harbourt’s Forget-Me-Not necklace is almost as compelling as the piece itself! The beautiful copper flowers and the wires keeping them in place actually started out as part of the original electrical wiring in her Edwardian era country home. When she and her husband renovated the house, Susan saved the copper and turned it into a winning design.

Susan’s story of creating something new out of something old is surely inspiring, as are the stories of many of our 2012 winners and semi-finalists. If you’re interested in learning even more about what it takes to be design challenge champ, check out our previous roundup for more success stories or check out these tips from a former design challenge winner.

We hope this stroll around the winner’s circle put you in the mood for creative new creations, whether you’re a designer yourself, or a just someone who loves uncommon design! We’re certainly looking forward to a new year full of new goods. If you’re interested in taking part in an uncommon design challenge, see what we have coming up in the next couple months and stay tuned to our Twitter and Facebook to see when and how to submit.

January – Garden Decor Design Challenge
February – Woodworking Design Challenge
March – Art Contest 2013

Maker Stories

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Audrey Heller

December 6, 2012

I remember the sample meeting (where each week our buyers present uncommon products they’re considering for our line-up) when Audrey Heller’s fantastical photographs were first introduced. The team was immediately captivated by the whimsical scenes, and not a buyer could wait to add her work to our collection.

Remembering the excitement around her creative pieces like End Well, Ripened, and my personal favorite, Bound, I couldn’t wait to get a tour of the studio where Audrey brings her miniature models to life. Since Audrey is in San Francisco, I couldn’t visit her workspace in person; but being a photographer and all, Audrey was happy to snap some photos of her own to provide virtual tour of her studio.

What are your most essential tools?
Eyes. Light. Focus. Patience. NPR. Coffee. And then a bunch of tech stuff.

I was a lighting designer and director for theater, and I use those skills all the time. I create and light my little scenarios, using many of the same design theories that I used on a big stage, but adjusting my tools to tiny scale. So what I would do with a 400 pound follow spot in the theater, I might do with a flashlight in my studio.

Where do you find inspiration within this space?
I love to be surrounded by evidence of creative thinking, reminders of unique places I have been, and objects with histories.

I’ve spent the last twelve years traveling to art shows across the country. That connects me to a huge variety of artists, people who present and support the arts, and arts educators. All of those connections, combined with the array of sublime and ridiculous experiences I have on the road, remind me that there are always new things to explore.

Where does down time fit into a day in the studio?
I’ve started to learn to play the ukulele. I have absolutely no musical training or aptitude, so I’m just dreadful. But I’m slowly getting less dreadful, and that’s really amazing. It is hard, it takes a lot of focus, progress is slow…but it is such a sweet and silly little sound that I can’t get too worked up about how bad I am. Working on a three chord song is a great way to reset my brain.

How do you set goals for yourself?
Ha. I usually set goals by committing to an external deadline. Deadlines are great for me, because without them, I would never consider anything finished. So I look for things that will stretch me, maybe scare me and then I say yes. From there, it’s the calendar and lists!

Where does collaboration come into play with your craft?
Theater is the ultimate collaborative art, and I struggle with working alone. I really love working with people, incubating and nurturing ideas.

In this series my collaborators are silent, but essential. The figures I use are made for model train sets, and they all come from the same manufacturer. They are crafted with incredible precision and care, and have made it possible for me to create work with much more depth than if they were not, in themselves, so fascinating.

How and when do you decide to celebrate a victory?
Victory is its own reward, right? When it’s not, ice cream!*

* San Francisco is the home of some mighty fine purveyors of frozen treats, but I travel a lot, so I’m always interested to hear of new places to try..feel free to offer your suggestions!

What quote keeps you motivated? What does that quote mean to you?
“You are here.”

It is simple, and profound. Sometimes it’s just a locational fact, sometimes it is great ponderable wisdom of the ages. It is a reminder that I often need. My curiosity can become a liability and lead to distraction. When I remind myself to be present just where I am, I get a lot more out of what is in front of me and who I’m with. It’s delightful that the phrase appears in the world, unlooked for. When I see it, even on a map in a subway station, it reminds me to stop and look around.

How do you recharge your creativity?
Serious play is the best recharger for me. Learning, experimenting, trying out new things, can put me in that childlike state of mind where I’m open to new ideas and new ways of doing things. I don’t mean “childlike” to sound simple, or superficial. I mean REAL child-like: when the world is fresh and full of wonder, and a little scary and mystifying and out of control.

What advice would you offer the you of 5 years ago?
Don’t be so afraid of making mistakes. I don’t get better by figuring out how to do things right; I get better by doing things. Jump in.

The Uncommon Life

Our Pin the Halls Pinterest Contest Winner (Plus some Holiday Party Pinspiration!)

December 4, 2012

We’ve been singing carols and craving Christmas cookies since our Pin the Halls Pinterest Contest launched last month. We received just around 100 entries, so picking the winner wasn’t easy. Along the way, we discovered some great recipes, DIY ideas, and tips for planning the perfect holiday party. We couldn’t stand the thought of all this knowledge going the way of the fruitcake (i.e. not getting eaten up), so before we get to the grand prize winner, we’re happy to share these holiday honorable mentions.

The color-coordination and homey feel of Jenny’s board first caught our eye, but her pins that appeal to the stomach are what we love most. We think peppermint bark and sea salt caramels would be a hit with sweet-toothed holiday party-goers, and this gingerbread man in a hot chocolate hot tub is deliciously silly. (Though we do feel just a little bit bad about wanting to bite his head off.)

Mimi’s board also includes bountiful baked goods.

Petite whoopie pies, candy cane cookies, and red velvet cupcakes (in glass jars!).

Mimi’s DIY foodie faves aren’t limited to edibles, though. We also loved this gorgeous sparkling ice wreath.

We love the idea of a DIY party, and Amy’s board is packed with great ideas.

Goofy backgrounds for holiday pictures, a fully-decked table, and recycled paper gift wrap are a few of our favorites.

We adore this bit of decor–which can also double as an advent calendar or a fun way to display gift bags filled with party favors.

We also love the idea of incorporating vintage finds into the holiday festivities. Missy’s board features more than a few pieces the Ghost of Christmas Past would surely appreciate.

Vintage-inspired candy cane gift wrapping that Missy said reminds her of her grandma, red and white striped luggage that could double as an offbeat decoration, and vintage versions of some classic characters.

Another of Missy’s pins really stands out too, but not because of its vintage vibe. We just think this green Grinch martini would make a great addition to any party this time of year.

That sweet and sour holiday drink concludes our honorable mention round-up, but before you run off to throw a holiday bash of your own, don’t forget to browse the winning board.

Zillie Zallie’s beautifully blue-tiful collection strays from the traditional red and green, but still feels very jolly.

Her uncommon pins include frostbite mocktails (perfect for those who’d rather avoid the spiked eggnog), blue and white cake pops (that look delightfully like ornaments), candy doing double-duty as decor, and these luminous blue lights.

Please help us congratulate Zillie Zallie on winning an UncommonGoods holiday shopping spree, and don’t forget to spread the holiday spirit by visiting all of our favorite Pin the Halls boards to repin the recipe for your perfect holiday party!

***We had such a great time pinning and party-planning that we couldn’t wait until next December to hold another contest! Enter Pin the Halls–Part 2 for another chance to win a holiday shopping spree!***

The Uncommon Life

Positively Inspiring Reusable Graphics

October 30, 2012

Positivity is contagious. Sharing a kind word, a thank you note, or even a smile can start a chain reaction. With this in mind, Amy Humes created her Positive Message Graphics, reusable stickers that let you spread happiness, inspiration, peace, and the power within. We love Amy’s idea so much, we decided to take her message to the web. Feel free to pin, tweet, like, and share these encouraging buttons as reminders that optimism really can go viral.

These Reusable Positive Message Graphics are available as a set of 4 large canvas stickers, so you can place them anywhere where you or a loved one may look when in need of words of encouragement.

Design

How To Make It: Implementing Green Practices in Your Designs

October 23, 2012


We are excited to host our 4th How To Make It event on October 29, Implementing Green Practices in Your Designs, a topic we hold very close to our heart. Our panel will be weighing in on sourcing reclaimed materials, the legal implications of calling a design “green”, and setting up an environmentally friendly business and work space.

As always, we want our guests to stick around after the panel discussion for refreshments and networking with the panel, other local creatives and UncommonGoods staff – we know you’re dying to get your cards in the hands of our buyers!

RSVP for the event through our How To Make It page.

Pin It on Pinterest