Welcome to EarthLab

Organic and sustainable design for modern homes

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Earthlab on Parsimonia

I was delighted today to discover I've been featured on the fabulous Parsimonia blog. It's owner is a woman after my own heart, a veteran thrifter and rummager in second hand shops. Her blog is well worth checking out for tips on sustainable and vintage style, and she has a great online vintage store too. Thanks Parsimonia!

Earthlab on Facebook

Announcing my new Facebook page, it's here you'll find up to the minute info on special offers and deals in my shop, as well as other news, Earthlabdesign

Monday, 5 December 2011

Earthlab featured on Babyology

I'm thrilled that one of my cushions was featured on the Australian blog Babyology, as part of their "12 Days of Christmas" feature.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Organic cotton collection

I seem to have been so busy making cushions this autumn that I've had no time to talk about it! So here it is, my new organic cotton collection, using fairtrade organic cotton made in India.

I've had a lot of fun combining the different fabrics in my pillow / cushion designs, I love the interplay of textures and the natural, rustic feel given by the small imperfections in the fabric.

These are just two of the designs which use natural earth tones in geometric patterns which fit well into just about any interior. They all use the same range of fabrics, meaning you can mix and match between them and be sure of getting a coordinated look. To see the full range visit my shop

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

The Oakleaf Pillow

I think the Oakleaf pillow may be one of my favourite designs, I really love the shape and texture of the oakleaves against the white cotton, as well as their mossy green colour. The appliques  actually take me ages to do because I machine stitch all the veins in the leaves, and sewing round the edge to attatch them to the pillow is pretty fiddly!

The result is worth it though.I gave a version of this pillow to my sister in law, her house in Tuscany is called "Querciatello". Quercia in Italian means oak tree, so I thought it was pretty appropriate!

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Upgrading to Organic Cotton

I've always wanted to make my business as eco-friendly as possible, and up til now I've used a lot of eco felt made from recycled bottles, a material I love to work with for it's bright colours and
sustainability, people are always surprised and delighted to hear where the felt came from.

But I love the natural look and feel of cotton too, so I am taking a further step towards eco friendliness by introducing organic cotton for the designs which will be in my shop from September.

A statistic you hear a lot is that a massive 25% of the world's pesticides are used on cotton crops. That's truly staggering. These chemicals are extremely nasty, dangerous for the health of the workers who use them and for the environment as a whole. I want to do my part in changing this and I really believe that given a wider range of choices consumers will opt for alternatives too.

After a little research I found a supplier with a good range of organic fairtrade cottons, produced in India, many of them on handlooms. Whenever I've had a spare moment in the last few weeks I've been pulling out my little bundle of fabric samples and poring over them. I particularly love the crossweaves which you can see in the photo, made using two different colours of yarn woven together to make a beautiful grainy texture.

So far the process has been very exciting, and just looking at and touching the fabrics has been a great inspiration. Now I just have to wait for them to arrive so I can begin work, watch this space!

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Question Mark Pillow

This question mark pillow is among my favourite designs, and one of the first I made. It's done entirely in recycled eco felt, with a touch of hand embroidery, it's loosely based on the idea of dividing cells.

I dedicated this pillow to my daughter, who asks a lot of questions, such as “can we keep this one, Mummy?”
Her curiosity is endless!

So it’s kind of a question about life (and in the words of the late great Douglas Adams, the universe, and everything). Profound or what?

Saturday, 23 July 2011

A future without plastic water bottles?

I've blogged already about the eco felt I use, which is derived from recycled plastic drinks bottles. But it would take an awful lot of pillows to acount for the number of bottles we use.

A quick Google tells me that Italy, where I live, is the world's number one per capita consumer of plastic water bottles, amounting to a staggering 10 billion litres! Italians generally distrust tap water supplies and have a liking for bottled mineral water, it's not uncommon to hear a conversation on the merits of various waters here.

Plastic bottles represent a huge waste in terms of resources to produce them, not to mention the energy involved in transporting the water. They have also been found to leach harmful chemicals into the water itself. Italy does have recycling bins for plastic, but not everyone uses them and the recycling itself requires energy.

I have to confess to having added to this problem in my time, I developed a taste for sparkling water and got hooked. But a couple of years ago we took the decision to try and eliminate plastic water bottles as much as possible, and began getting our water from Egeria, a spring on the outskirts of Rome. Egeria sells bottled water but you can also go and fill for yourself at a fraction of the price. It's popular with the Romans and there is also a small park there with a playground and bar. The water is fantastic but it did take up a valuable chunk of weekend to go and fetch it, as well as a car journey.

Then a year ago a bunch of unassuming sheds like the one in the picture above began popping up all over the Sabina area north east of Rome, where we used to live and now spend our weekends. They take mains water and filter it to make great drinking water, which you can choose as sparkling or still. The cost is 5 eurocents for 1.5 litres, in other words next to nothing, and way way cheaper than bottles. The machines were an immediate hit, there are almost always people waiting to fill up their bottles. The municipalities involved have surely saved huge amounts in waste disposal too. So, people get cheap, delicious water, taxes are saved, there are a few less plastic bottles on the planet, in short a win win win situation. I really hope this solution gets adopted more widely.

Summer Sale Time!

July has been summer sale time in my Etsy shop, with 15% off all my products, including my summer beach collection.

I've had a great response to the sale, including a feature in the Etsy Finds email, which brought a lot of new visitors to my shop.

The sale continues until 31st of July :-)

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Basket Weaving

Last autumn I took a basket making course, every sunday over 5 weeks. It's something I've always wanted to try, it was a great distraction from everyday life and it was very satisfying to finish the course with something I had made in my hands. Come to think of it, that's what started me on the whole cushion making thing: I hadn't done anything like it for a long time and I wanted more!

Where I live, in Central Italy, we are still not far removed from the times when craft was a matter of practical life, as opposed to a passtime. Gianni, our teacher, makes baskets and sells them at local markets, people use them bacause they are still the most practical thing: they're light and let air circulate, protecting your fruit or mushrooms or whatever is inside.

Gianni told a story about a time when he was walking along a river bed with his father. They came accross a tomato plant growing wild, full of ripe tomatoes. They had nothing to put them in so his father promptly got to work making a basket.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Starfish Pillow

Every week I'm going to be highlighting one of my designs, first up is the Starfish Pillow.
Like most of my designs it was inspired by the natural forms of starfish, as well as the lovely blue and turquoise shades of felt. For a summery feel the main body of the pillow is in fresh white cotton.

If I ever have a beach house, this pillow is going in it!

For more information and photos just check out my Etsy shop.

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Recycled Tetrapak Jewelry

Tetrapak is that ubiquitous material used in literally billions of drinks and other food cartons all over the world, it's made of layers of paper, plastic and aluminium foil.

Have you ever opened up one of those cartons to take a look inside? My friend Manuela, did just that one day when her milk finished, and the result is some jewelry of surprising beauty.

She used origami techniques to make the tetrapak into square bead shapes, which she made into earrings. I saw them, liked them, bought them, then asked her to make a necklace too.

I received my necklace today, it's lovely! The worked tetrapak resembles silvery leather. It's very lightweight, and perfect for summer. I love the idea that she uses a material normally discarded and creates something beautiful.

Manuela also makes jewelry using the same techniques on  recycled or handmade paper, if you'd like to know more do take a look at her Etsy shop, Manufactapaper

Nyaka Grandmothers

Many of us enjoy crafting as a hobby, or a source of a little extra income, a few make it a full time job. For many of us it is a cosy and fun little world which provides a little distraction.

A little while ago I came across an Etsy shop offering something a little different, baskets made by grandmothers in Uganda who use the vital income generated to care for their grandchildren, left orphans by the AIDS virus.

These children are extremely vulnerable to poverty, and the Nyaka project offers educationfor the children as well as income generation schemes for the grandmothers, their carers.

If you want to get involved you can buy one of their fabulous baskets in their Etsy shop, NyakaGrandmotherShop or how about hosting a basket party? They'll send you everything you need, here's what they say on their website:
"When you host a Basket Party, you become part of a growing circle of people who are helping impoverished Ugandan women rise out of poverty. By partnering with Ugandan women a world away, you are truly helping them achieve a better future. On behalf of the Ugandan Grandmothers and orphans living in extreme poverty, thank you for taking action!"

To find out more, visit the Nyaka Project website, or their Facebook page.

Monday, 30 May 2011

Etsy Front Page!

A few days ago, Earthlab made the front page on Etsy, yay!
It doesn't happen very often so it made me happy, here's the treasury:

Recycled eco felt

I wanted to write a little bit about a material I use a lot, and was actually one of the inspirations behind Earthlab, recycled eco felt. The one I use is called EcoFi, and is made by the Kunin company. 

It's made form the plastic drinks bottles we throw away millions of!
I'm often asked how it's made, so here is their description from the EcoFi website:

"Plastic PET containers are picked up at community recycling centers, then sorted by type and color.
They are stripped of their labels and caps, washed, and crushed, then chopped into flake.
The flake is melted and extruded to create fiber. The fiber is crimped, cut, drawn and stretched into desired length for strength, then baled.
The baled fiber can be processed into fabric for a variety of textile product end uses"
One of my pillows uses about the equivalent of 4 plastic bottles, so that's 4 bottles saved from the landfill and turned into something beautiful and long lasting.
You can learn more at their website, here: EcoFi