Category Archives: Fair Trade Shopping

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?

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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!!

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Simple Pleasures: Clean Sheets & a Sydney Hale Candle

Simple Pleasures is a new quasi-series.  I want to make it extra clear that this series will never be sponsored.  It’s just me sharing something that makes me happy.  Because life is too short not to find happiness in the little things.

The other night I came home from a winery outing / small business group meeting, spent some time watching a movie, and then decided I wanted to get cozy in bed and do some writing. I’ve been writing a lot more lately, a lot of which isn’t shared on this blog.  Maybe someday.

But I digress.

Simple Pleasures Sydney Hale-1

I lit one of my scented candles, the Lemon & Olive Blossom by Sydney Hale, and was about to climb into bed with my laptop when I thought “hmm. . . it’s been a week. . . I should change the sheets.”

We only have two sets of sheets – our winter flannels and our summer cottons, because I learned that having fewer sets means you can’t procrastinate on washing or folding the laundry as much. Plus, it leaves more room in the linen closet for things like fun throw pillows by Janery ;)

So with clean sheets on the bed, an absolutely heavenly-smelling scented candle burning on the night table, and two big cuddly dogs, I settled in for an awesome hour of writing and thinking.

And that’s when I thought to myself how sometimes the little things can really make a moment.

Simple Pleasures Sydney Hale-3

Let’s chat about the candle for a minute, because I think it should go straight to your Chrsistmas list.  And they aren’t paying me to say this.  I buy the candles with my own money, and they don’t know who I am.

The Sydney Hale candles cost $28 each.

What?? Twenty-eight dollars?

Yeah, I know.  That’s a lot of money for a candle.

I thought so too the first time I bought one.  I don’t even remember why I bought it.  But then I burned it in my house, and it smelled so amazing.  Amazing in a natural, real way, not amazing in a fake chemical way.  And it burns for 50 hours.  I haven’t timed it precisely, but I have burned this specific candle a lot for two months now and it’s still going strong.

I’m telling you, if you light one of these and then climb into a nice clean bed with a good book, you’ll feel like you’ve died and gone to heaven.  And if you think about it, 56 cents an hour for an amazing, naturally scented candle isn’t so bad.

Simple Pleasures Sydney Hale-2

But speaking of sheets, there’s something about the feel of fresh, clean sheets when you climb into bed.  They feel 200% better than even day-old sheets.  Why is that??

I think if I ever win the lottery, I’ll put a fancy candle in every room, and hire someone to put clean sheets on my bed every day. 

What’s one of your simple pleasures?

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