Browsing Tag

Product Development

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?

Design

Paper to Silk

August 11, 2011

Finding that perfect gift for a special couple isn’t always an easy task.

We’re happy to provide a little advice and proudly offer our original Anniversary Book as a suggestion for a great wedding or anniversary gift. This hand-bound journal includes pages to help loving couples celebrate years the first twenty years of marriage, and features pages in 5-year increments for each year from 25-50.

You told us that you loved this little journal so much that we needed to take it to the next level. And with your suggestions, we developed a more complete Anniversary Journal featuring pages for each year up to that golden 50th anniversary.

Continue Reading…

Design

Vintage Stamp Money Clips

July 28, 2011

Michelle said: “I would have a hard time deciding which to buy!”

Our product development team is at it again and they just added their latest creation to our community voting app.

Each Vintage Stamp Money Clip features an actual United States postage stamp and a quote from the stamp’s star. Ben Franklin’s famous line: “A penny saved is a penny earned” complements an authentic used 1-cent stamp, while Harry Truman’s motto: “The buck stops here” is engraved next to a mint Truman commemorative stamp.

Would you let President Truman hold your bucks? Or, would you rather carry your cash with Mr. Frankin’s words of wisdom as a fiscal guide? Share your feedback in our community voting app and tell our product developers which clip is right on the money!

Design

Hit the Road in Style with Vintage Key Rings

November 5, 2010

Ever wanted to own a classic car? We sure have, so we set out to find a way to give you a piece of the most iconic classic cars, without having to break your bank. Here’s the story behind our vintage Mustang and Thunderbird key rings.

We decided upon two favorite vintage autos: the first generation Ford Mustang (1964-1973) and the third generation Ford Thunderbird (1961 – 1963).

Continue Reading…

The Uncommon Life

Buyer’s Dilemma

October 5, 2010

Right now we’re making our final picks for the catalog we’ll send to you in January. Remember the sari scarf? We carry these beautiful handmade scarves in turquoise and cinnamon.

Our buyer Erin is in the middle of deciding what new colors to bring in. She just sent me this email:

“Saris are by nature brightly colored and full of prints, so I’ve got a lot of color options to choose from. Since the patchwork look is such a big trend right now, it made sense to make a scarf of different contrasting colors that also complement each other. I’ve got the photographs of the sari scarf samples and they all look so fantastic, I need help deciding which scarf to feature in our catalog.”


Blue and Purple

Red and Cream

Orange, Green and Yellow

Purple and Pink

Well I’m turning it over to you. Help Erin decide, by leaving a comment for your favorite color combo. Thanks for your help!

Maker Stories

Friday Giveaway: Hand-Forged Kitchen Tools

September 10, 2010

ETA 10:26 AM, Sept. 13: Hope everyone had a great weekend!  Congratulations to Jennifer, our latest Friday giveaway winner. Her favorite pizza topping is the garlic dipping sauce– which is a great answer for almost every slice.

Stay tuned for future giveaways by subscribing to The Goods via RSS.


This week’s giveaway comes with a really awesome story.

After 20 years of working in a high-production industry, Al Stephens decided to become a blacksmith. He visited Lincoln’s New Salem State Historic Site in Illinois, and soon became a volunteer in the 19th century blacksmith shop where they had bellows, a coal forge, anvil, and vise. For the next few years, Al developed his skills by working with other blacksmiths who taught him the trade.

And by 2000, he and his wife Sylvia had started their own blacksmith shop. Today Al makes items like the pizza cutter and cheese slicer by hand, in his shop in rural northern Alabama.

Impressed? We certainly are!

This week we’re giving away two hand-forged kitchen tools available on our site– a cheese slicer and a pizza cutter— to one lucky reader.

Want to win? You know what to do! Leave a comment below telling us about your favorite pizza topping or type of cheese. Then leave a comment on our Facebook wall, and tweet @uncommongoods on Twitter to triple your chances.  We’ll announce the random winner on Monday.

Want to learn more about the art of forging metal? Al Stephens suggests you go out there and try it! The Artist Blacksmith’s Association of North America has local affiliates all over the country. Find a group near you and attend the regular meetings. Al says, “One-on-one teaching is an excellent way to learn, hands-on style.”

And it certainly paid off for him!  Happy Friday, everybody!

Design

YouGoods: Put a new twist on old greeting cards

August 30, 2010

“Pass me the White-Out!”

Christy Eichers had just realized she had no card for the birthday girl, so she quickly fixed up an old card of her father’s.

The result was fairly tacky, but she was certain there was a business idea there somewhere.

And regreet was born:

With regreet, you can upcycle your old cards in style, and take away the stigma of passing along a card that’s been doctored with whiteout or eraser marks. Christy’s even thought of a way for you to track your card’s journey, and see just how many times it gets regreeted.

According to Christy and the Encyclopedia of American Industries, the greeting card industry is a $7.5 billion business with 90% of households purchasing cards each year. The typical household purchases 30 cards annually.

So regreet kits, made from earth-friendly materials with a minimum of 30% post-consumer waste and printed with soy inks, can have a huge impact on reducing the amount of paper we waste each year.

Christy is winning a $1,500 cash prize, along with the chance to show off her designs at World Maker Faire NYC and sell the regreet kit at www.uncommongoods.com.

Leave a comment below to congratulate her on her idea– eco-friendly, clever, and well designed.  A perfect YouGoods design for National Inventors Month!

Design

And the Finalists Are…

August 26, 2010

Last night, a group of us met with the YouGoods guest judges at the Tribeca Grand in downtown Manhattan to pick our finalists among all the great entries we received.

And the finalists are:

The Grocery’minder by Francene Pisano Dudziec. With a wet-erase front, this bag is perfect for making your grocery list, checking it twice, and heading off to the market. . Judges thought the concept solved a basic problem; sure, everyone tries to be a good person and bring their reusable bag to the grocery store. But it’s hard to remember every time. With your grocery list stuck right on the front of your bag, the grocery’minder tote makes it hard to forget.

But the judges did have some questions.
1. Would you be more likely to use the grocery list if the bag were easily attachable to your refrigerator?
2. Are there enough blank spaces for you to fill in your personal shopping list?

If you’re a fan, you can vote for the grocery’minder tote through Sunday, August 29 at 11:59 PM ET.

The Double Wall Tea Cup by Endrit Hajno. The judges admired the basic concept of this tea cup made of glazed porcelain or ceramic. Each cup has an insulated double wall for keeping your drink warm, but not burning your hands. The bottom strip of color is notched, allowing you to tuck the string of your tea bag out of sight. While the judges expressed some reservations about how difficult it could be to make this cup and the choice of materials, they all agreed that with a little tweaking this tea cup had a lot of potential!

If you enjoy the idea of a Double Wall Tea Cup, vote for it through Sunday, August 29 at 11:59 PM.


And last but not least, regreet by Christy Eichers. regreet offers you a way to reuse old greeting cards without the stigma of seeming cheap. Judges thought of this entry as a great social concept. These greeting cards make “regifting” cool and give senders a way to reuse last year’s greeting cards. The designer even included a way for you to track your regreet-ed card’s journey using Google maps.

Judges were curious to know what the environmental impact is of using additional paper to regreet an old card.  And judges also wondered if after seeing the idea of regreet, you wouldn’t just use your own scrap paper to reuse your stack of birthday and holiday cards. But everyone acknowledged it was a great way to inspire us all to be more sustainable during the holiday season.

If you love the regreet gift card set, vote for it now through August 29 at 11:59 PM.

If you like them all, don’t worry. You can vote for each entry once, through August 29.  And feel free to leave a comment if you have a question or idea about the designs. We’ll announce the winner on Monday!

Special thanks to our guest judges: Becky Stern, editor at CRAFT and Make: Online, Debera Johnson, Academic Director of Sustainability at the Pratt Institute, Allan Chochinov, Editor-in-Chief at Core77, Coroflot.com and DesignDirectory.com, and Graham Hill, founder of Treehugger.com.

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