Category Archives: Fair Trade Shopping

Review of Our American-Made Tuft & Needle Mattress

Did you know that $600 could get you a king size American-made, eco-friendly mattress – in the mail – that is actually super comfortable and well made?

You can, and I promise you that this is for real. This is not a sponsored review, just a super enthusiastic happy customer one.

Tuft and Needle American Made Mattress Review

Until a few weeks ago I had no idea such an option existed. I thought Ryan and I would have to head to a few mattress stores, deal with skeevy salesmen, and go through the painful negotiation process only to spend $1500 or so.

Fortunately, when I posted on Instagram about the Ikea bed fame we were considering, my friend from Old Town Suds commented about Tuft & Needle, a relatively new mattress company selling exclusively online.  Fed up with the middle man and mattress store shenanigans, they decided to create a better product at a better price.  Made in the USA, start to finish. 

“We source all the raw materials—everything from the threads to the zippers. The fabric comes from a 90-year-old, family-owned textile mill in the Carolinas. The foams are freshly poured and cut here in the US. We put the finishing touches in Southern California before we load it on a delivery truck.”

Additionally, the company is working to provide beds to foster children.  After reading over the website and loving the company’s story, I showed Ryan and he agreed – why not go ahead and order it?

“But how can you buy a mattress without ever laying down on it?”

Well, Tuft & Needle cut out the middle man (mattress stores) to cut prices.  They offer the lowest price by being the manufacturers and selling directly to you. To make up for the scary unknown risk of ordering a mattress you’ve never slept on, they offer free shipping and free returns for 30 days – no questions asked.   Tuft & Needle Mattress in Box

That’s right.  We could order the mattress, sleep on it for a bit, and if we hated it – just return it.  We wouldn’t lose a penny.

The mattress arrived within 5 business days of our order, in a long rectangular box.  We opened it up and pulled out the rolled-up, decompressed, vacuum-sealed mattress.  It was like a log of mattress.  We rolled it out, and when we punctured the plastic wrap around it, the mattress slowly began to inflate with air.

But it’s not an air mattress.

The sturdy foam that makes up the mattress is somehow vacuum sealed so all the air is pulled out, and that makes it much easier for shipping.  After 3 hours the mattress is ready to sleep on. Unfortunately we went out of town for the weekend so we had to wait two nights to sleep on it. Tuft & Needle Mattress ShippingSo, how was it?

On the first night it seemed too firm, but on the second night it was perfect, as though it softened up just a tiny bit from being broken in.  And it’s been perfect ever since.  I’m finally sleeping well and waking up without back pain.

It’s fairly firm, but it still gives nicely to support the curves of your body.  We’ve slept on it lying on backs, stomachs, and sides – all positions are comfy.  If you like a really squishy pillow top, you will want to add a pillow top mattress topper. That’s easy enough – and you’d still have a great mattress for much less than the cost at a mattress store.

Pros of a Tuft & Needle Mattress:

  • No flame retardants on the outer shell
  • Foam core made from recyclable, low-VOC polyurethane foam
  • Made in California from start to finish
  • Made by a pretty cool small business
  • Free shipping & free returns for 30 days if you hate it

Cons of a Tuft & Needle Mattress:

  • You don’t get to negotiate with annoying salesmen in mattress stores. . .
  • Just kidding.  We don’t see any negatives since you can return for 30 days if the mattress doesn’t suit your sleep style.

Oh, it comes in two thicknesses – 5 inch and 10 inch. We decided to get crazy and go for the 10″.  I’m glad we did – it feels like a “real” mattress.

So, if you’re curious, check it out!  You can order through this link to receive $50 off your purchase.  Full disclosure: we also will receive a small commission for the referral.

8 Awesome Handmade Shops for Holiday Gifts

I always try to do the bulk of my Christmas gift shopping with small and handmade businesses.  It’s fun to support artisans and local entrepreneurs while giving a truly unique gift that won’t be found in the mall. It’s an added bonus that, with strategic shopping, you can avoid the mall altogether!

So here are a few handmade gifts that I enthusiastically recommend.  You can find even more recommended shops here and here.

I’ve met all of the following handmade business owners either at local art shows or through friends, and I vouch for the quality of their products!

Unique Handmade Jewelry:

Handmade Jewelry Gift Options Clockwise, from top left:

Zebra Wood and Feather Earrings by Onetribe Organics. They also sell handmade, organic body jewelry.   (I went to school with Jared, the owner and designer, and he runs an impeccable company and gives so much back to his community.)

Ombre Earrings in Copper by HattieRex on Etsy

Gold Aura Quartz Long Necklace

Compass Rose Whitman Quote Silver Necklace  – I’ve purchased this exact necklace as a gift in the past.  Great service and top quality product!

Awesome Screen Printed Gifts

Screen Printed Handmade Gifts

All are designed and printed in the USA by small handmade businesses.  Clockwise, from top left:

Chevron Printed Jersey Scarf by Flytrap on Etsy – I have one in a different design and love it!

Dinosaur vs Robot Tee by Gnome Enterprises.  They have a huge selection of wacky designs.

Guitar Print Tea Towels by TinyPeepers on Etsy – I’ve given these as gifts Another

2014 Tea Towel Calendar with a Rooster – also by Flytrap.

Finally, my favorite item from Gifts in the Galleries, at the University of Pennsylvania, a show I recently attended:

Mustard Knit Neckwarmer by Wise Owl Shop

These fabulous knit neckwarmers / cowl scarves by Wise Owl Shop.  Ashleigh also makes similar neck warmers from vintage materials – and I have been wearing mine nonstop since I bought it. It makes it easy to stay warm when you keep the temperature low in your house to save energy. :)

I hope you’ll consider supporting handmade and small businesses when you shop this holiday season.

Are there any other handmade businesses you’d recommend?

Shopping on Etsy? How To Avoid Sweatshops & Factory-Made Products

If you love Etsy but don’t know that some sellers are offering sweatshop and/or Made in China goods, then this post is for you.

Avoid Sweatshop Factory Made on Etsy

Etsy is a great marketplace for handmade and unique products.  I love shopping on the site; it’s made it so easy to support individual artists and small businesses.  Unfortunately, factories and made-in-China resellers* have flooded Etsy, making it harder to find truly handmade products.

*Resellers are people who buy factory products wholesale and then re-sell them on Etsy, masquerading as a “handmade” business.

I’ve seen it firsthand in the purses and handbags category as well as in the jewelry and clothing markets. For example, this Infinity Ring is for sale in multiple Etsy shops – like this and this.  It can also be bought for $1.20 on the website Alibaba, which is basically a wholesalers marketplace for factory-produced goods and knockoffs.

There’s a couple downsides to this:

1.  It is hurting the integrity of Etsy as a handmade shopping destination.  Some artists who have used it for years are migrating to other platforms out of frustration.

2. The low prices offered by resellers make it hard for true handmade sellers to compete.  When consumers see cheap goods, they then think the artists’ more expensive creations aren’t worth the price charged by the artist.

3. It may end up driving consumers away from Etsy, if they are disappointed when they receive a clearly not handmade product in the mail.

Here are the guidelines I follow in order to try to avoid supporting a reseller or an overseas sweatshop when shopping on Etsy:

1.  Check the company’s “about” page and see what they say.  Often their “about me” section is stilted and short, or sounds insincere.

Etsy Screenshot Yiwu China Factory

This example doesn’t even try to sound handmade, in fact they mention their location in Yiwu, a huge factory city in China.   It reads “We are from yiwu international trade city, we are happy to be your purchasing agent in china”

2.  Check where the seller is located.  This info is in the left sidebar below their name in the image above.  As a rule, if a seller is located anywhere in Asia, I won’t buy from them.  Yes, I know I could be excluding some true artists, but my main purpose in using Etsy is to purchase from local – i.e. American – artists.

3.  Check how many items the seller has listed.  I’ve seen some California-based sellers with thousands of “hand sewn” products. Sorry, but no artist can sew thousands of unique products at once.  Also, the Los Angeles area has a problem with illegal sweatshops too.

4.  Is the price too good to be true?  Remember that items that are handmade will cost more than items at Target.  If something seems to good to be true ($5 leggings?) – it’s probably not handmade.  Unless the seller undervalues their merchandise.

I know I’ve made some serious generalizations above, but I just wanted to share the ways that I personally try to make sure the artists I buy from are genuine.

Just being aware that resellers are out there is a good start.  Trust you gut and use your judgement.

Whatever you do – please keep shopping on Etsy to support the great artists that are on there!!