Unique Batik Blog

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So easy to get hooked on crochet treasures

carryall pompom (6)It’s not just grannies that are enchanted with the repetitive movement of a crochet hook catching a length of yarn and then slipping over and under and through. Hipster women and men are crafting hats, scarves and their own versions of hacky sacks with brightly colored yarns. Occupational therapists teach patients recovering from strokes and accidents how to crochet because the hand movements strengthen muscles that other exercises never reach. And children, with their innate speed and fierce determination, often complete enough, ahem, granny squares for a full scarf in one sitting.lacey crochet headband6

What is basically a manipulated yarn chain, crochet is a historical mystery. Crochet-like work has been found in items from primitive South American tribes, the Mediterranean, Asia and the Middle East.  It’s likely that explorers brought crocheted items home from exotic countries. Since crochet is easily unraveled, learning “how to” was just a matter of working methodically to replicate a pattern.

Modern crochet is bolstered by a renewed interest in handcrafted items. Yarn entrepreneurs are adapting a variety of materials in myriad colors into a flexible medium of varying textures, densities and pliability. And Pinterest, the best friend of every craft and crafter, provides plenty of inspiration to crochet novices and veterans.

crochet ball (4)Aquacatan, a village in Guatemala, is on a trade route that has been in use since Pre-Columbian times. One of its international claims to fame is the brightly colored textiles, which often feature crochet, that are representative of South American culture and fashion. If you spot a brightly colored bag, crocheted with thick yarn, chances are it originated in Aquacatan.

Unique Batik’s website is alive with color and texture through a variety of crochet products every age and every taste. Girly girls of all ages are partial to our Lacey Crochet Headband and our Crochet Headband. Our Animal Balls enjoy being part of a good game of toss and hacky sack players are drawn to our Crochet Balls and our Crochet Sports Balls.floppy kufi (4)

Fashionistas and fashionistos are partial to our Kufi Hat, our Banded Kufi Hat and our Floppy Kufi Hat. Come on, you know it’s true – you can never have enough kufi on your head! If you’re on the go, our Carryall line offers dazzling additions to any outfit. Try the Carryall, the Carryall Small, the Carryall Large, the Carryall Backpack or the Leather Trim Carryall Large. And if you think there are a lot of Carryall varieties, just wait until you see how many designs that are available.

With just a hooked needle, a skilled crochet artisan can utilize almost any long fiber (including plant fibers) to craft decorative and useful items. Crochet is a portable craft so it allows busy mothers in economically poor regions an opportunity to multi-task – caring for a family and adding to the household income.

Armed with all this crochet knowledge, it’s likely you’ll never look at yarn or the end result of yarn crafting the same again!


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The threads that connect us all

No matter where your address falls relative to the equator, there will come a time when an extra layer of warmth is required or appreciated. Winter is also a time when less sunshine can equal a glum mood. Unique Batik has remedies for both winter’s chill and the winter blahs and it all starts with fabric.

For centuries, layers of fabric has been used to create both practical and artistic clothing and quilts, but without local fabric stores, it wasn’t an easy process. Fabric yardage was costly and not as easy to come by before the 20th century. Dying techniques required specific plants to produce individual colors – through the 1920s, colors known as cheddar yellow, Turkey red and indigo were common. Most of the botanicals needed for fabric dying grew in only one part of the world, adding import cost to the finished product.

High cost and relative scarcity meant that quilters had to be creative when sourcing materials. Even the most worn items of clothing were re-cut and stitched into quilts. The industrial revolution was a seamstress’s dream come true as more colors became available. Fabric also became much more affordable and plentiful.

Among the many textile-related myths through the ages is the one about flour- and feedsack fabric. Many grandchildren remembered stories their grandmothers told about making clothing and quilts out of flour- and feedsacks that mysteriously were made of decorative fabric. Eventually the story became one of poverty and despair (families so poor that they made clothing out of feedsacks).

The truth is more about the power of advertising premiums. Just like the toy inside the cereal box, flour and livestock feed producers lined their sacks with attractive sewing fabric. But more than one sack was needed to create an entire dress so excess flour and feed was often purchased.  Dresses, aprons and quilts made of flour- and feedsack fabric is a slice of true Americana and an item in mint condition now fetches a high price.

Unique Batik features a wide variety of fabric and textile items. Sewing is a craft that remains popular as both a hobby and a livelihood.

Our Quilt Wallhanging does double duty as a throw or a wallhanging. Bright colors also make up for lack of sunshine. For little ones that find geometric combinations stimulating, our Crib Quilt can also provide warmth or a fascinating focal point on a nursery wall. For quilters and sewers that find happiness in creating their own masterpieces, our batik fabric from Ghana is available by the yard.

But it’s our vast selection of bags that is sure to brighten even the darkest days. Created with a wide variety of techniques – from crocheting and embroidery to weaving and quilting – it’s a rare item indeed that won’t find its perfect bag match.

Brilliant hues, warm layers and fashionable details can all combine to keep your mind off the temperature and cloudy days. Fabric has brought comfort to many people over time and continues to illuminate every day.

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Coins that adorn, coins that deliver a message

Thousands of years before Google’s or Facebook’s algorithms, there was the I Ching – a form of divination where coins are tossed like dice and the numbers that are thrown are read. But first, the numbers are organized into one of dozens of formations that, in turn, correspond to a section of the I Ching text. It is believed that your personal energy works through the metal in the I Ching coins to determine what numbers appear. Therefore, whatever section of the I Ching the coins point to is the message you need to hear.

Over the millennia, the I Ching has been manipulated to serve individual practitioner’s uses. Hard core I Ching practitioners are considered sages and the interpretations they deliver are considered divine wisdom. But, like tarot cards, the Ouija board and even fortune fish, many modern applications of the I Ching are for amusement.

IMG_0616The I Ching text itself offers moral messages that are widely applicable. Think horoscopes that offer broad messages that could apply to anyone, regardless of birth date and time. If you sought the skill of an I Ching practitioner in ancient China, you were likely to get an interpretation that corresponded to the wishes of the ruler of the time. If an army needed to be built and you were a young adult male, your message would probably encourage you to show your bravery and join your countrymen and fight.

Unique Batik’s iching bracelets and iching mini bracelets are among our best selling products. Who isn’t attracted to the idea that the I Ching coins on the bracelet you were drawn to might nudge you toward your destiny? Around the globe, customers are encouraged to touch bracelets made with I Ching (or similar) coins so their personal energy can connect with the coins that will best guide them.

Personal destiny is a theme that has been used throughout art and literature and – no surprise – on the Internet. Many people seem to have an innate need to discover their purpose on the planet and the Internet seems to be the new marketplace for the 21st century version on I Ching practitioners to set up shop.

IMG_0617There are I Ching interpretations that allow web surfers to click on a button to get a reading. More sophisticated online resources require the user to concentrate (Harder! You’re not concentrating enough! Give it everything you’ve got) before clicking in order to increase the likelihood that the I Ching coin buttons you chose to click were truly chosen through your personal energy.

Taking time to choose an iching bracelet or to hold I Ching coins in your hand to warm them with your inner spirit before you throw them, poses little harm. The concept that there is a greater purpose for our lives and we can reach our destiny through encouraging messages is not specific to just the I Ching. Whatever drives us to find meaning in our lives so we can more effectively play a larger role in the world is positive movement in the right direction.

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IMG_4568It’s the early 1970s and macramé class is officially on the schedule of middle schools across the United States as administrators try introducing trendy arts and crafts courses as a way to boost student engagement. The result was thousands of youngsters spending every cent of their allowances and babysitting salaries on beads and jute. Meanwhile, thousands of mothers of middle school students would find macramé gifts under their Christmas trees.

Sentimentality caused many loving moms to hang on to their handcrafted gifts for decades. But the current mania for all things mid-century modern means that it’s the dawn of finding 1970s treasures for cheap at garage sales and church bazaars. It’s a collectible phenomenon that sees the next trend (in this case, anything from the 1970s) available for pennies while prices for the current trend (in this case, anything you’d see on AMC’s Mad Men) blaze into the stratosphere.

So should you scoop up all things macramé available at thrift stores and even in a pile waiting for the next trash pickup? Only if you love it, say decorating experts. The spare details and clean lines of mid-century modern appeal to many people’s sense of style, which is why so many people desire it. Design features that can only be described as clunky mark items from the 1970s. If your IMG_3270heart skips a beat when it sees barrel chairs, swag lights or thick wood stained dark mahogany, then grab up the macramé planter for $1. But as far as an investment, macramé probably won’t give you much of an ROI (return on investment).

The reason is that there’s a surplus of macramé because it is incredibly easy to do. That’s why it was the craft taught to middle school students. With a basic over and under (or over and over if you want a twisted strand) you can very quickly create anything from jewelry to owl wall art to a hanging chair (it was one lucky mom who got that gift for Christmas!).

Macrame can be traced to the 13th century Middle East, brought to Europe by sailors who enjoyed the craft during their long hours at sea. As popular as macramé was in the 1970s, it was truly at its height during the Victorian era. It was a rare home indeed that didn’t have at least one intricate macramé curtain or fringed tablecloth.

IMG_3263Grunge hipsters brought back macramé jewelry in the early 1990s and it retains its popularity with the eco-/organic/green crowd of all ages. Artisans continue to sell macramé items during pre-show festivities at Phish, Dave Matthews Band and the various incarnations of the Grateful Dead concerts.

At Unique Batik, we feature a variety of bead embellished macramé bracelets and earrings. Most true to 1970s vibe is the Macrame Owl Earrings, the Wavy Macrame Earrings and the Wood Bead Macrame Earrings. The Coco Macrame, the Beaded Coco Macrame and the Coco Macrame Wide incorporate a cutout coconut shell into each bracelet’s design. The Beaded Macrame and the Macramé earrings take the glamour up a notch.

Whether or (k)not you’re a collector, macramé puts you on the cutting edge of the next design trend in a uniquely stylish way.

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Giving the Gift of Fair Trade

IMG_1267We’re always giving gifts to one another, and often searching for what will be the perfect present for any given occasion. Giving the gift of Fair Trade is a gift that gives twice, because not only are you giving to another person, you’re also providing for those who created that gift by hand. Fair Trade gives back to those that create these remarkable pieces of art and craft, so you can enjoy the peace of mind that comes from knowing that you’re not only giving to your friend, family member, or neighbor, you’re giving to the artisan as well.

There are so many wonderful options to choose from here at Unique Batik, from pottery to jewelry, clothing to objects d’art, so you can find something for everyone on your list. With the holidays approaching, buying Fair Trade is a wonderful way to give to those you love, while also providing for the communities across the globe that craft those gifts.

Recipients can enjoy their presents even more knowing that what they have received provides for more stable incomes and greater economic opportunity for thousands of artisans and small-scale farming families. When you select a Fair Trade gift, you are demonstrating that you care for both the person that your are giving to and for those that have produced them.

IMG_3260Have a wedding shower to go to? Consider one of our beautiful handwoven scarves from Guatemala. Perhaps you’re going to a child’s birthday party. We have a number of different wonderful gifts for children ranging from clothing to backpacks, and charming animal figures hand-beaded and in a dazzling array of colors. There are selections that are suitable for both men and women, and for people of all ages and backgrounds.

That one element that makes Fair Trade gifts stand out from the rest is hard to describe, but the best word to use is authentic. Anyone who has received a Fair Trade gift knows that it stands out as being special, because you can sense that it has been crafted by hand by an artisan that takes pride in what they do. Fair Trade items are distinguishable by their vibrant colors, unique designs, and wearability. Recipients enjoy displaying a Fair Gift with pride, because it’s always a unique creation that carries with it that special sense of being one of a kind.

As the holidays make their fast approach, you will no doubt get into the cheer – and stress – that comes from the season, so it’s smart to consider Fair Trade gifts for those in your family, for your colleagues, and for your friends. Giving the gift that gives twice holds value for both you and the recipient, and this value encompasses the very spirit of the holiday season.

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All that glitters is often more than gold

IMG_0656What is it about shiny, sparkling things that turn some of us into magpies? We can’t help but reach for the item (or click on it, as the case may be). Some of us go beyond magpie and become like Gollum, the character first introduced in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit that obsessively loved his “precious” gold ring. A special gemstone, precious or just semi-precious, can become very dear to us.

It’s rarity, purity and hardness that determine just how precious a gemstone is. Poor amethyst was once a precious gem. Then a huge mine of amethyst was discovered in South America, soon to be followed by several more mine discoveries and, just like that, what has been called “extravagance in violet,” was relegated to “semi-“ status.

Since ancient times, gemstones have been purported to possess mystical powers or to draw or deflect certain energies. In the case of amethyst, its name comes from the ancient Greek belief that it protected its owner from drunkenness. In Greek “a” means not and “methystos” means intoxicated.

IMG_4094Little research exists that explains why gemstones and crystals have meaning (like an amethyst keeping its owner from drunkenness). It’s likely that the power of suggestion played a significant role. Alchemists and mystical practitioners were quite often storytellers that understood an enthralling story often equaled higher revenues or even long term patronage. The very best storytellers could convince customers that a gemstone offered protection, brought good luck or even promoted fertility. Add in the law of attraction (touching and gazing at the stone while thinking of its supposed mystical properties) and self-fulfilling prophecy and before you know it, a stone has a reputation.

One of the shiny objects Unique Batik customers are attracted to is the Nepalese Bead Bracelet from Thailand. There are seven versions of the three-strand combination of brass beads, semi-precious stones and a large Nepalese cylinder or bicone bead.

FullSizeRenderOur Temple Bracelet, also from Thailand combines faceted semi-precious stones or glass beads with brass beads and a coin and loop closures. The Temple bracelet may feature amethyst, fluorite, jade, jasper, ruby in zoisite, onyx, turquoise, unakite or quartz.

Of the semi-precious stones found in the Temple Bracelet, ruby in zoisite is one of the most interesting. It’s what’s known as a combination crystal because it contains small ruby crystals in zoisite, which is known for hosting a variety of precious gem crystals. Ruby in zoisite is believed to prevent the person wearing it from over-reacting in challenging situations, to prevent mood swings and to convert negative energy into positive energy.

The Om Bracelet goes one step further than most jewelry. It combines semi-precious stones with a large Tibetan om bead – a bead featuring the om symbol. When spoken, om is considered one of the most sacred sounds. It is often called the god sound because it can be found in a variety of religions and beliefs.

The natural attraction to glitter doesn’t have to be denied. Whether mystical properties are embedded in a gem or not, the joy you feel when gazing at something attractive is real.

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Keeping elephants close

As elephants’ (and the humans that love them) fight for survival in the wild and struggle against inhumane treatment in ellie (2)captivity gains more attention, it’s not surprising that images of elephants are finding their way on more  and more products.

Descendents of the mastodons and wooly mammoths that once roamed almost the entire planet, elephants are playful and lively as children, rambunctious and rebellious as adolescents, caring mates, nurturing parents and wise elders. They’re among the most social animals and they mourn, they are humorous, they are protective and, under the best conditions, they can live to around 70 years old.

The novelty of the largest land mammal’s size and a trunk that serves in a similar capacity as a human’s hand offer an explanation why elephant images have been popular throughout human history. The most exalted elephant image of all, of course, is Ganesh, the Hindu elephant-headed god of wisdom and learning.

jippy elephantMost collectors of decorative elephants search for elephants with their trunks up, which is considered good luck. The idea is that the elephant’s trunk is showering you with good fortune. Go a little further into the concept of elephants and luck and you’ll find that an elephant figure or picture should face the door to welcome luck into the home. Another version of that custom has a door-facing elephant standing strong and firm against bad luck. In effect, the elephant guards the home against misfortune.

Elephants on jewelry, like our Jippy Elephant bracelet and our Ellie bangle, accessorize outfits with an exotic flair. Just as fun, but a little bigger and bolder is our striped elephant backpack that is perfectly sized for toddlers and preschoolers, but is also popular with teenagers and college students.

elephant charm1If you want to go beyond adorning yourself with elephant imagery, Chiang Mai, Thailand, is known for their elephant camps where visitors can interact with an elephant and its mahout, a human who devotes his or her life to a single elephant. Guidelines for finding the most ethical camps are easy to find online. Because elephants become severely depressed when they’re kept from other elephants and otherwise mistreated, elephant devotees should put forth the extra effort to find and patronize only the most ethical camps. The reward is a life-changing experience as you interact with content elephants that are controlled only with voice commands (not physical punishment) and that are not forced to perform physically harmful tricks for entertainment.

Elephants are also known for their empathy and the fact that female elephants have best friends. So the desire to wear or even spend time with actual elephants is seen as an offshoot of a natural need to connect with others. Keeping elephant decorations around your house is also a way to communicate a warm welcome to guests.