Featured Seller: Organic Quilt Company

December 1, 2010
organic cotton burp cloths

organic cotton burp cloths

Wow! It’s been ages since I last featured a seller from the handmade community. In fact, it was nearly a year ago. I guess it is around the holiday that we hone in on the best and brightest artisans out there.

Becky Stone of Organic Quilt Company

Becky Stone of Organic Quilt Company

I probably first saw the fine work of Becky Stone on Etsy‘s front page, as in May of 2009, she was a featured Etsy seller. Her beautifully photographed works consist of organic cotton baby blankets, burp cloths, hand crafted quilts, infant hats, and bibs, all found in her etsy store, Organic Quilt Company. The fabrics are absolutely beautiful and certainly drew me to her shop instantly to peruse for gifts. My brother’s baby Maya and a  friend’s baby Samantha are two recent recipients of her gorgeous creations. Just look at this beautiful Woodland Friends blanket below (Samantha snagged that):

Woodland Friends Baby Blanket

Woodland Friends baby blanket

Passionate about her quilting addiction, Becky lives with her husband, three kids, and two fat cats in Hudson, an idyllic small town just outside of Montreal, Canada. Color and fabric, “in all its tactile glory”, have always been the main sources of inspiration for her projects. Becky tells me that she began quilting fifteen years ago because she really wanted to own a quilt and couldn’t afford to buy one. Her first attempt was a huge, very difficult quilt that she did finish, but she claims that “‘primitive’ would be a very grand compliment for it.” Fortunately, Becky stuck with it to create the beautiful pieces she designs today.

organic cotton blankets

organic cotton blankets

When I asked Becky about why she chose to work with organic materials, she said she had become concerned with the “chemicals devoured by the textile industry, and the quilting industry in particular.” Wrapping her three wee bairns in chemically-coated textiles at bed time was simply not appealing!  Becky chose to focus on baby quilts because, as I well know (!), everyone loves to buy beautiful things for babies. Here, here! It was a marriage made in heaven: organic fabrics and baby quilts. In addition, a baby quilt would provide a more affordable price point than larger, full-sized quilts, as they are already such labor intensive products.

handmade organic cotton quilt

organic cotton quilt

Shipping times from Canada are around two weeks, so you are *just* in time to order for the holidays. Pop on over to Organic Quilt Company and buy something beautiful for a baby you love.  You can mix and match lots of options to create the perfect bundle of organic goodness.

organic infant knot hat

infant knotty hat

Other posts you might enjoy:
Looking for something unique? One of a Kind Art
Featured Seller: Motley Mutton
Eco Head ware for the Wee Ones

Ingredients 101: Chemicals are bad, aren’t they?

October 14, 2009
Lotions require preservatives

Lotions require preservatives

Yes, parabens have been shown to cause some dermatological reactions, including allergic ones, but they might not be quite as bad as we all seem to think. That said, they are on the ‘Ingredients to Avoid’ list in most cases, along with Imidazolidinyl Urea and Diazolidinyl Urea, the most commonly used preservatives after parabens, well-established as the primary cause of contact dermatitis (American Academy of Dermatology), and also formaldehyde precursors. Indeed, there is a lot of fear around the use of chemicals of any kind in our products, including ones that purport to be ‘natural’. However, many chemicals, as I’ve learned from Cosmetics Unmasked: Your family Guide to safe cosmetics and allergy-free toiletries, are not as terrible as we might think.

At the end of the day, however, we absolutely must have chemical preservatives in our natural products. A top ingredient supplier, Essential Wholesale, outlines their philosophy about the need for preservatives. But this isn’t really about philosophy, belief, or hope, but rather, the science. Essential Wholesale makes some bulk bases for suppliers and has increasingly tried to create the most natural and organic formulations possible, but even products rated 98 percent organic still contain a chemical preservative, namely, phenoxylethanol, often with Tetrasodium EDTA. Essential wholesale knows, as all formulators do, that you cannot sell a product without a preservative. The shelf life is minimal and the product, potentially harmful. Anything that contains water is instantly susceptible to mold, bacterial, and fungal growth in a matter of days, even if created in sterile conditions. A great blog by natural skin care company, Sterling Minerals, has fabulous posts about the chemical side of things, including fillers for mineral make-up and the absolute necessity of chemical preservatives in creams and other hydrous (water-containing) products. By the way, her post on Mineral Make-up contains a brilliant expose of the so-called ‘natural’ (ha-ha) company, Arbonne, and her incredible quest to finally confirm the presence of silicone in their mineral make-up.

Orange Rosewood Facial Cream

Orange Rosewood Facial Cream

Back to preservatives…many of you know that my relationship with preservatives has certainly evolved over time. I just have to say that it is incredibly difficult to find the prefect choice of preservative systems, and at first I mistakenly thought — like many do –that mere refrigeration would do the trick. Even using preservatives like potassium sorbate, I found that the preservative system wasn’t complete, and the product was still susceptible. Not only did I have to recall creams earlier on in my still very small endeavor, but I’ve since had to help customers who had used unpreserved products (made by other businesses) that had had terrible consequences for their skin.  The need for not only a system, but a full-spectrum system, is critical. One preservative might have good action against molds and fungi, but not bacteria. So that preservative has to be combined with another one effective against bacteria. Then you have to find a level that will be perfect in terms of preservation but at the lowest possible percentage in your formulation so as not to cause any irritation. It’s an incredibly difficult task in some respects, especially as you try to find the most gentle chemical preservative system possible.  After use of different systems, I’ve basically come around to Essential Wholesale’s recommended pairing of phenoxylethanol and Tetrasodium EDTA. Caprylyl Glycol is another component of my system that is simply an emollient base for the preservative. The phenoxylethanol basically covers the yeast and bacteria, while Tetrasoidum EDTA binds to components that enable mold to grow. Together, they act as a broad spectrum preservative system.

That said, I’m intrigued by the use of colloidal silver as a preservative, though this preservative requires a number of other chemical buffers, etc, a fact that is usually masked by labeling that purports to have a proprietary colloidal silver ‘formula’. Ah yes, but it looks so natural!  Be aware also that some ‘natural’ companies are able to mask their use of chemical preservatives under the INCI name of ‘fragrance’, which is as sneaky as it gets. For a long time, I would look at Burt’s Bees ingredients list and think, “How on earth do they do it?” Well, they don’t. Now I know.

So readers, what do you want to know more about? The chemicals that are harmful and should be avoided or the ones that appear in our products, sound “unnatural” and yet are perfectly fine, even helpful? I’m all ears. Let’s start a Lilith Round Table!

Rose Infused Vodka: Now what would you like to try?

June 17, 2009

infused_rose_2I’ve been having fun lately infusing fresh herbs into various liquors, though I tend to lean towards the fresh, neutral taste of vodka, which takes on the aromatic qualities of various herbs just beautifully.

This photo depicts vodka infused with organic rose petals. I think I’ll take this with me to Montreal this week for a little bit of cocktail experimenting. Maybe a bit of egg white, muddled lavender, and a hint of citrus (lemon? orange?).

In light of recent posts about Herbal Cocktails and how to infuse your own liquors, what infusions would you like to try or what results have you found?

Here are some other ideas.

1. Plum & rose petal in white wine or vodka
2. Fresh lemongrass & ginger root in Sake
3. Chamomile & Lemon Balm in Gin, Vodka, or unoaked Brandy
4. Lemon Verbena in Vodka or Gin
5. Lavender (a pinch) in Vodka, Gin, or unoaked Brandy
6. Try lavender w/ Lime or Orange
7. Peach & Lemon Balm in Vodka

Keep in mind that if you include fresh fruit like raspberry, cherries, peach, apricot, or plums, the infused liquor may not keep as long, and you might want to keep the (strained) liquor in the fridge for a longer shelf life. Try adding a splash of flavored liquors such as orange liqueur (Cointreau) or raspberry flavored liqueur (Chambord) for additional flavor and complexity. Now you just have to let me know how your experiments turn out!

P.S. here’s a fun post about various liquors by the Cordoroy Ninja

Featured Seller for April – All Natural Baby & New Mama Care – Baby O’Really

April 20, 2009
When I became pregnant with my wee Maeve (now 2 1/2 yrs old), I was excited to research the natural, organic products available to support as sustainable and ‘green’ a pregancy, labor, and delivery as possible. The herbal support and natural baby care products were already at my fingertips, but baby slings, nursing pads, non-disposable baby wipes, and other cloth products were still yet to be discovered.

Baby O’Really contacted me a while ago about providing her with samples of my Mama’s Milk lactation tea and then later for samples of my lavender-scented Tender Baby Bum Balm to include with her orders of sweet felt baby hair clips and cloth nursing pads, available in a wide array of wonderful patterns.  I immediately wanted to trade for one of her hairclips, which are incredibly well made and just equsitely precious. I also thought it was absolutely wonderful that she would include samples from a variety of sellers with all of her sales. There is nothing more delightful than getting a free sample or two with a new order, and trial sizes often lead to full sizes when someone is given the opportunity to fall in love with a handmade product.
As an example of green living and sustainable products for pregnancy, baby, and postpartum/breastfeeding support, I am delighted to feature Baby O’Really for the month of April.  Baby O’Really’s proprietress, Amber, is a wealth of helpful information and green advice, and even writes about the downsides of using bamboo cloth in her Etsy shop profile. She’s full of innovation and has a great sense of style and craft, more of which you can discover at her blog.  Amber lives with her husband, 4 year old son, and 2 year old daughter in the beautiful Willamette Valley of Oregon, and they are happily awaiting the birth of another daughter in August. Here’s the story of Baby O’Really, as told in Amber’s own words:
“I started making cloth nursing pads in March of 2007, my daughter was a few months old. I remember staring at the box of disposable pads, really not wanting to have to use another one ever again! The shifting in the bra, sticky plastic…. and all the waste! I had probably gone through 4 or 5 massive boxes already and my baby was only 3 months old. It isn’t much fun having to buy things you hate to use. I decided to try my hand at making my own, out of fabric I had at the house and I was so very glad I did! It was so soothing to use cloth instead of the scratchy paper and plastic pads. Even the little things can make a huge difference.

I had also found Etsy in March of 2007 quite by accident, while looking for a wool felt supplier. I began selling my little felt hairclips there and had success. I was hooked! After realizing what a demand there was for natural, reusable, products I listed my first set of nursing pads. I wasn’t sure if anyone would buy nursing pads with cute fabric print… plain white seemed to be the normal thing. But I liked them and they were easy to find in the wash! So I went with it. And I sold the first set the same day I listed them. And then another 20 sets in those last few days of June! I am so happy to be providing moms with something pretty and comfortable. Like I said, it’s the little things that make a difference. AFter almost 2 years, and over 1400 sets later, I can officially state that nursing pads are a major part of my life. My children refer to them as “mommy’s circles”, and my husband very patiently tolerates my sewing messes, and thinks the whole idea is pretty amusing. Felt hairclips will always have a soft spot in my heart, and I add them to my shop from time to time, but nursing pads have become my business! My only regret is not discovering the wonderful world of cloth pads while nursing my firstborn!”

Thank you, Amber! I am happy to have a source for those well-loved cloth nursing pads, the likes of which I, too, was happy to use while breastfeeding. No more yucky disposables necessary now that we’ve found the gem that is Baby O’Really!
If there are other eco-conscious sellers of babywear, baby support gear, such as slings, or pregnancy & postpartum products you’d like to share with me and your fellow readers, please do comment below!

Herbal Infusions

November 4, 2008

I’m really happy that I got some new photos up today on my etsy site for some of my visually beautiful herbal tea blends. It’s hard to know, sometimes, what attracts people to a blend, but I always feel that some of these are too visually stunning to resist (let alone tasty).

It’s great to get comments and suggestions about herbal teas, though. One of my etsy customers, Waterlilysage, commissioned one of her favorites, and so I added a new spin off of that one. I drink thyme tea as a matter of course, so this jazzed up version is even more delightful and a new favorite for me too!

Hello everyone!

October 20, 2008

Well, I finally have my own blog, devoted to all the fun aspects of herbal-inspired (or should I say ‘infused’?) self care, including mind, body, and spirit… I am going to post recipes for home use, information to help sort out current debates about preservatives, chemical ingredients, and what constitutes a ‘natural’ product, as well as what some of our very mysterious precious ingredients, such as buckthorn berry and carrot root extract. I welcome questions and queries that will lead me down the research highway.

I currently have an ever-expanding line of bath, body & beverage tea products::: LILITH’S APOTHECARY ::: on my Etsy site: www.lilithsapothecary.etsy.com and I have a www.lilithsapothecary.com site in progress.

Also check out the Etsy Philly Street Team for some great, local Philadelphia artisans! http://phillyetsy.blogspot.com/

I also have a shop devoted to jewelry creation on Etsy: www.lilithsjewels1.etsy.com ~ as a friendly FYI !!!