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Gift Guides

Gift Lab: Easy Weaving Without Jumping Through Hoops

September 29, 2015


Product:  Easy Weaving Loom

I already know how to knit and crochet, so I’m ready for a new textile challenge. The Easy Weaving Loom caught my eye the minute I saw it in This Just In. After watching this video I was sure I was up for the challenge. It seems simple enough, and once I get the hang of it I can begin to explore different materials and textures. There are endless possibilities!


I completed my experiment in June, and I wanted to make something that would be useful right away. The product story claims that when using this item, “In no time you’ll have a professional looking woven masterpiece than can become a stylish scarf, or cellphone or sunglasses case.” A stylish scarf, while fun to make, would not have be seasonally appropriate. And while the projects that are possible are not limited to these three, I decided a sunglasses case was a good place to start. It’s basic and small enough to finish quickly, so I figured it was good practice and I’d be making something to accompany me to the beach in no time!

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Gift Guides

Gift Lab: Build Your Own Brooklyn

February 20, 2015

Rocky |UncommonGoods

Product: DIY Brooklyn Skyline Kits

I think images of artwork are great. But I think videos of artwork being created are so much better. That must mean that GoPro videos from the perspective of the artist creating a piece are the best! At least that’s my theory… which brings us to today’s Gift Lab. I took you out to the beach in my last blog post to demo a product. This time around, you’re going inside my head to see something cool get built from the bottom up.

Our DIY Brooklyn Skyline Kits offer the chance for you to craft a mini version of two signature structures in New York, the Kentile Floors sign and your ordinary rooftop water tower. It caught my eye after I saw the two shots of custom designed water towers on our product page.

DIY Watertower | UncommonGoods
DIY Brooklyn Skylines - Watertower | UncommonGoods

Perfect product to test my theory with! First off, these are hot. Nice job Zero Productivity and Atomiko. But more importantly, I can gauge how well we’re able to see something being constructed and designed, without spending hours on hours doing it. I haven’t drawn anything in years. A lot of effort would’ve been needed to produce something that gives my 5-year-old self some competition.

I was also glad to see that two different versions of the kit existed. While doing research on best practices for filming (read: watching GoPro videos on Youtube), I found it difficult to tell which GoPro dock to use for this; chest mount or head mount? So I bought both. I decided that I’d use one mount for one kit and another mount for the other.

Two DIY Brooklyn Skyline kits, two mounts, and one GoPro in hand later… the test was ready to begin.

Testing GoPro with DIY Brooklyn Skyline Kits | UncommonGoods

I started with the Water Tower kit first, for no other reason than wanting to get closer to fantasizing about being a graffiti artist. After I laid all of the cardboard pieces on the table as instructed, I strapped the GoPro chest mount on, pressed record and got to work.

Here’s a closeup of the major pieces made for the water tower.
Build Your Own Brooklyn Watertower | UncommonGoods

Now it was time to design it. I grabbed a pack of Crayola markers and started doodling.

Finished Watertower | UncommonGoods

The first immediate takeaway – Tagging my water tower before building it would’ve been the better idea. The advantage of utilizing a flat surface didn’t cross my mind even slightly; until it was time to record myself doing it. That explains the split between the clips. I had to game plan.

The other thing was the actual video. In order to learn more about using the GoPro, I turned to’s #GoProWeek as a resource. Every day for that week, they shared a different pro tip (no pun intended) for getting the best shot. One of the techniques I used was the time-lapse recording feature that snaps pictures every few seconds, instead of actually recording straight through. I wasn’t a fan of the final result, because the footage came out too choppy. I think I set the timer in between shots too far apart. I decided to make sure to use the other recommended method for the next kit; shooting normally and speeding up the footage in a video editor.

Besides that, the rest of the process was smooth sailing and more fun than expected. The maker’s of the kits provided clear step-by-step assembly directions and all pieces worked as intended. Any edge that needed folding went over smoothly. The laser cut tabs and indents fit perfectly into each other. Connecting the pieces was a snap (that pun, intended). The biggest surprise was the glue; it did not leave a mess on my hands or the table I worked on. It comes already setup in drops that are separated by perforated plastic. When the instructions tell you to grab one, just rip one dot from the pack, peel off the plastic covering, and apply to the marked area. That easy.

Glue Dots

Next up was recording the Kentile Floors sign DIY kit with the GoPro attached to the head mount. You’ll notice that it begins with me filling in the letters first, and then moving on to putting it together.

The simplicity of the structure’s design made assembly much quicker. There wasn’t much of a surface to draw on but filling in the narrow letters required a little bit of time. I really like the point of view that the head cam captured. It feels like you’re actually putting it together rather than observing someone else do it.

Kentile Floors Sign Kit | UncommonGoods

All in all, I’m convinced that my theory is correct. Watching art creation from a GoPro perspective is a cool experience that helps anyone appreciate the process behind the final result more. It’s amazing to see what goes into pieces, especially from our assortment, I’d imagine. We have a wide selection of uncommon goods that obviously require an uncommon approach to create.

In retrospect, I see where areas for improvement lay. In a future flick, I would:

  • Adjust the speed back to its normal rate at certain points in the video. There are some scenes where it would have made a better experience, such as when I was working on a small detail like applying the glue dots. It also would’ve been a great way to end it so you see the final product as it is just completed.
  • Angle the GoPro camera on the head mount down a few more degrees.
  • Add some background music.

DIY Skyline Kits as Desk Accessories | UncommonGoods

The Skyline Kits made for a great GoPro test run, and I’d definitely recommend them to someone looking for a fun and easy DIY.  What’s even better? I’m left with two new desk additions that visitors can stop and admire. Long overdue, since the Levitron Lamp had been retired for some time now.


Gift Guides

How to Make Your Own Stamps with the Carve-A-Stamp Kit

November 19, 2013

Carve-A-Stamp Kit | UncommonGoodsWhen us Marketing Team gals heard about the new Carve-A-Stamp Kit, we wanted to test it our for ourselves. So a couple weeks ago, we ended work things a little early for some crafting, gossip, and girly tunes in a secluded conference room in the office. (Ok, there were no tunes but if there were, it probably would have been something like Beyonce or Carole King. Or just Beyoncé.) We learned a lot in that small room. Not just about each other, but the kit in general. Here are some things we learned.

Carve-A-Stamp Kit | UncommonGoods1. The kit comes with easy to follow and beautifully illustrated instructions, 25 original templates designed by Owl City Studio, transfer paper, a stamp block with two sides for carving, a carving tool with multiple blades, a red stamp pad, and a muslin bag to store your finished product.

2. The designs are adorable. It was hard for me to choose so I ended up doing the bow and the polka dot bow tie. Good thing the stamp was two-sided – I have an obsession with bows and am terrible at making decisions. Cassie decided on the owl and Emily on the leaf.

Carve-A-Stamp Kit | UncommonGoods3. The transfer paper is super easy to use. All you had to do was trace one of the designs, place the paper on top of your stamp block, and rub gently to transfer the image onto the stamp. The image showed up nice and clear on the rubber and in the proper direction. Remember: stamps work backwards!

Carve-A-Stamp Kit | UncommonGoods4. The transfer paper also comes in handy when you’re free-handing your design. Fancy-pants graphic designer Jessica drew her stamp creation by hand, a hot air balloon, and used the transfer paper to recreate her original design onto the stamp block.

Carve-A-Stamp Kit | UncommonGoods5. Not every carving tool is for everyone. Since all of our designs were so different – some curvy, another more jagged, some with tiny details and dots – we each found our own favorite carving tool. Test them all to figure out which one works best for you.

Carve-A-Stamp Kit | UncommonGoods6. The finished product is a lot prettier than what you carved. We all looked at our designs when we were done and said “ick” – in unison. But once we stamped the design on some paper, they all looked amazing. All those little imperfections you see (since your eyeballs are probably three inches from the stamp while you’re working) don’t show up when you use the stamp. Plus stamps are supposed to be a little imperfect. That’s their charm!

Happy stamping!


Justina Blakeney’s 5 Favorite Baby Pinterest Boards

July 30, 2012

Hello fellow uncommoners! I’m Justina, a designer, curator and blogger and soon-to-be mom! (my due date is this week — ahhh!) I am also hopelessly addicted to Pinterest. I have over 50 boards that I use to collect ideas and inspirations for every aspect of my life. My Little Boomba board was instrumental in helping me to come up with ideas of how to decorate my nursery, what items to add to my baby shower registry, must have eco-friendly toys and clothes…and a ton of other wacky and awesome ideas. With over 1,000,000 followers on Pinterest, some of my pins were loved and some created quite a stir–but ALL of my pins got me excited to start this new chapter of my life as a mom.

I am thrilled to be here today to share The Goods with you: some of my favorite baby-centric Pinterest boards by some of the most stylish ladies around. These are mommas that have inspired me throughout my pregnancy and helped me get ready for this huge leap into motherhood. Get ready to start repinning!

Designer and Design blogger Joy Cho is a friend who has helped me a lot throughout my pregnancy–so open and positive, she’s been awesome. Her nine-month old Ruby also has some killer hand-me-downs. Her baby board is a fave, especially for the clothing.

Janet Sherman who has a kids clothing line, has a few really great boards for kids and babies–and I just dig her style. It’s playful and carefree.

My friend Sofia Alberti, who just had her second baby has my go-to board for boho baby finds, especially for decor. It’s a magical little place.

Hanae Ono’s Kids Wear board is another favorite.

Deborah Beau has several sweet kid’s boards, one of the most inspiring, in my opinion, is her Crafty and Creative and Colourful boards– with over 1000 really sweet craft ideas for kids.

Check out Justina’s favorite baby gifts from UncommonGoods!


main image by Annie McElwain. featured image by Bonnie Tsang. courtesty of Justina Blakeney.

Gift Guides

How to Make a Gift Bag

December 2, 2011

I tend to procrastinate when it comes to gift wrapping. I purchase the gifts I want to give and stuff them under the bed or on a shelf in the closet until right before Christmas. Then, while I’m fantasizing about radiantly glazed holiday hams and sweetly spiced rivers of eggnog, I’m also faced with making a pile of presents bright and giftable.

Those odd shaped, extra-uncommon gifts pose a particular challenge. I suppose I could skip the fancy wrap and just stick bows on things that don’t pack up pretty. Or, I could put any asymmetrical or otherwise un-rectangular products in big boxes stuffed with lots of tissue paper, then wrap them. I go with option three–a fancy gift bag.

While the bow trick works in a pinch, it’s not nearly as fun to take off a bow as it is to find a surprise inside of pretty wrapping. I know this, because my husband is a huge supporter of “just stick a bow on it.” I do have to admit, it’s a step up from his other, “just hand her the thing in a crumpled-up shopping bag” approach.

The second tactic–put that hard to wrap gift in another box–seems like a viable option, but wrapping a box just right takes time and creates a lot of waste; you spend 20 minutes getting each crease perfect, only to see your lovely artwork ripped to shreds and tossed in the trash. It’s heartbreaking, really.

So, you can see why, for me, option three takes the customary yuletide fruitcake.

Not only are gift bags simple to use and reusable, they’re also easy to make. All you need is some heavy wrapping, construction, or scrapbooking paper and ribbon to create a sturdy, eco-friendly alternative to traditional wrapping. I picked pretty blue craft paper from the paper mezzanine at Pearl Paint here in New York. (Yes, that’s really what their paper department is called; it’s an entire sublevel–mezzanine, if you will– full of gorgeous papers for wrapping, crafting, and scrapbooking.) I wanted my bag to be festive, but not too Christmasy, so it could still be reused after the holidays. To fasten the paper, I used a Staple-less Stapler, but you could easily use a hole punch and stapler to create a similar effect.

First, make sure you have enough paper to cover the item you’d like to wrap. To wrap the Holiday Record Coasters, I placed the product in the middle of the top half of the paper, then folded the bottom up to completely cover the gift. It’s okay to make the bag a little bit bigger than you need it, just make sure the gift doesn’t stick out of the top.

Next, “staple” along the edges on both sides. The staple-less stapler will create interlocking flaps for a secure hold, but it also leaves a small hole where you punch. You’ll also want to punch once in the bottom left-hand and once on the bottom right-hand, just above the seam.

Threading the ribbon through the holes not only adds decoration, it also increase the bag’s sturdiness and create a handle. However, before threading the ribbon, make sure you have enough by measuring it against the length of the bag four times (once for each side, once for the handle, and once for extra ribbon to work with).

Start threading by inserting the ribbon in one of the bottom corners, just above the seam. Leave a few inches of ribbon, then pull the remaining ribbon up through the next hole in the side of the bag. Tie the two ends into a knot, and create a bow with the remaining ribbon from the short end. Using the long end, continue to thread up the side of the bag, looping around the outside edge of the paper.

When you come to the end of one side, leave enough ribbon to create a handle before continuing to thread down the opposite side.

Once you reach the end of the second side, pull the remaining ribbon up through the hole on the corner above the seam. Pull the leftover ribbon back though the final loop on that side, and tie it into a secure knot. This side won’t be as pretty as the bow on the opposite side, but the problem can be easily remedied by cutting off any excess ribbon and tying a new bow to cover up the knot.

The finished product uses no tape, glue, or staples (if you go the staple-less stapler route), can be used over and over again, and costs less than buying a pre-made gift bag. For an added touch, stuff the bag with leftover wrapping paper, folded into fans (or other origami shapes, if you’re feeling extra crafty), instead of using a new sheet of tissue paper.

Gift Guides

Gift Lab: Alphapets

October 11, 2011

I’ve always thought that origami was pretty neat. I’ve seen people fold paper into those prophetic fortune telling contraptions, make beautiful swans out of napkins, construct geometric fish in just a few creases, and create those highly fashionable newspaper hats. However, to be perfectly honest, aside from the occasional paper airplane, I had never made an origami figure of my own.

Of course, when I was offered the opportunity to test the Alphapets Origami Book, I had to give it a try.

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Color Ball Kit

July 21, 2011

Color Ball Kit

Jessica said: “This is a wonderful idea and craft project. I know, as a mother of two, kids will enjoy this and have fun telling their friends that they handmade their own tennis ball. The price is very reasonable and teaches a good skill set. I would purchase this product!”

We’re having a ball choosing products for our community voting app, and we hope you’re enjoying sharing your feedback! Up for voting this week, the Color Ball Kit is a fun and easy way to get started felting. Add warm water and soap to the provided wool, then start squishing and watch the fleece turn into colorful felt as it covers the included tennis balls. Would these bouncy balls make a great craft project for your kids? A fun gift for an aspiring juggler? Cute toys for your favorite pooch? Visit our voting app and let us know how you’d use this creative kit.

Gift Guides

Ten Gifts for the Green-Hearted

November 18, 2010

We asked you what kinds of gifts you were shopping for and we heard green, fair trade, & sustainable. So our gift to you: a guide of the best gifts to give with a conscious this holiday season:

Black Floral Belt: Like a casual treasure discovered in an open market far, far away, this textured statement piece is a brilliant way to add color and craftsmanship to my uniform of jeans and tees. But the best part? It’s hand-embroidered with curly wool thread by Fair Trade artisans in Peru. Plus: Julia Roberts wears one on in Eat, Pray, Love. (Just saying.)

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