Stuff we dig

Locally made gift ideas that caught our eye this year

| 11 Sep 2020 | 03:00


Nearly a billion birds die each year flying into windows, according to the Audubon Society, almost twice as many as are killed by feral cats. There’s a solution that’s not only elegantly simple, but also a piece of art in its own right.

Quilly is (full disclosure) the brainchild of my former-next-door neighbor, Mike Englert, the happy result of his wondering what to do with the treasures he found while walking in the woods. He saw how suspended feathers danced in the breeze, and developed a coil that would store energy and amplify the feather’s movement.

Made in Chester, NY with rust-resistant stainless steel components and a wild turkey feather, Quilly can be mounted to any window or door, and the motion alerts birds to avoid the glass.

We put up our Quilly after two birds flew into a sun room window within a week, and have not had a repeat incident in the two months since. Watching the ballet of the wind turns out to be mesmerizing to small humans and soothing to large ones, as well.

You can use the wild turkey feather provided or attach your own found feather.

$26.95; $58.95 / bundle of 3

Conditioner bar

NOAP is a new line of shower basics designed by two New Jersey moms that’s refreshingly honest, easy and 100 percent plastic-free. One three-ounce conditioner bar replaces about six bottles of conditioner, lasts half a year and comes in a compostable paper sleeve. Read about NOAP here.

$32 / conditioner bar

Cloth masks

The mask game has come a long way since the early days, starting out dreary and sterile and evolving to jaunty and fresh. For that we can thank the local crafty types who wasted no time in busting out their sewing machines.

Claire Gabelmann, 73, fired up her vintage commercial Singer to make cotton masks for family and friends. Now she’s selling about 80 masks a week in fun fabric patterns like pigs, dollar bills, dogs, checks, you name it. The design has evolved to include a pocket for an optional filter (a piece of shop towel, available at hardware stores). She has settled on rounded elastic as the most comfortable material for the ear loops.

Her new sideline is keeping the grandmother of three busier than expected, but she’s no stranger to this kind of assembly-line manufacturing. When her kids were little, Claire had a business making baby quilts and bibs. One day she’ll cut the fabric for 100 masks, the next day she’ll sew one edge of each mask. Working this way, she estimates it takes her under 10 minutes per mask. Claire uses some of the proceeds for her charity work with the Warwick Area Migrant Committee – to help pay for birthday celebrations for the kids of migrant workers, for instance – and the Lions Club, which is getting together a holiday project for children in need. She gets a kick out of picking fabrics, especially for custom orders like the one for her niece, a history teacher who will go into her U.S. history unit with a mask featuring the preamble to the Constitution. It’s also fun to see her handiwork on strangers’ faces at ShopRite.

Brianna Chinas, a ninth-grader at Warwick Valley High School, found her niche in kid-sized masks, after noticing kids in ill-fitting masks that looked uncomfortable. She had liked learning to sew in the home and careers class she took in middle school, and had kept at it, using her mom’s sewing machine. When the pandemic hit, she started researching designs and giving masks she’d made to her young cousins to try. When she nailed the design, she started selling them. Some weeks she sells two, others, 20. She sees sewing as an art form and wants to start embroidering her masks, to make them even more unique and playful. She goes for bright colors that will “draw kids to the mask, so they feel more excited – at least a little bit more,” about wearing it, she said. With a proper fit, she hopes “it’s not so annoying wearing the mask all day, especially if they’re going to school.” For now, she is reinvesting her profits in mask-making materials.

Gabelmann’s and Chinas’ masks are for sale in front of Conscious Fork in Warwick, owned by Claire’s daughter, Kim Gabelmann. All proceeds go to the makers.

Conscious Fork, 16 Railroad Ave., Warwick NY

Snack pouch

Goodbye Ziplocs. These washable cotton pouches are much more fun. The large pouch fits a sandwich perfectly or a few pieces of fruit. The small one is just right for a snack, or for tossing little things like toiletries or jewelry into larger bags on-the-go. They’re 100-percent cotton, lined with nylon and topped with a strip of commercial-grade Velcro that’s easy for kids to open and close on their own, but stays firmly closed in a backpack. The creator, Kimberly Corwin Gray, a Lake Placid native, takes earth-friendly to the next level, blending leftover cotton scraps up to make cotton paper.

Gray, who works for the Adirondack Land Trust, fell into entrepreneurship in 2019 when she sent out a Facebook invitation to friends and family to try the ecofriendly wares she was stitching up at home. Her husband came up with the business name, a nod to her deadline-oriented work habits, and voila: a cottage industry was born. In addition to pouches, she’s making beeswax wrap, upcycled totes from feed bags and wool dryer balls, whose wool she sources from a sheep named Marley at a nearby animal rescue.

Large pouch $8; small $5