Guide to Giving the Unexpected Gift

Gift ideas. Rugs, blankets, placemats, napkins.

Here's a conundrum you may be familiar with. A holiday or birthday of a loved one is around the corner. They love to support various causes, are a conscious consumer, and their home is filled with items from their travels around the world.

What to possibly get such a person? Maybe the person in your mind checks one or more of these boxes, or perhaps you're just looking for that completely unexpected gift that makes their eyes light up.

We have some ideas for unique gifts that your friends and family are sure to love. All the items on our list are artisan-crafted, handmade with natural materials, and bring traditions from international communities into a modern home.

Sustainability Index Guide. Natural Dyes, Supporting Local Communities, Handmade, Natural Fibers, Powered by Women

Gifts Under $50

Aromatic Table Setting | $25

Table Setting Placemats

This multi-purpose placemat is a favorite for many reasons, but the main wow factor is the unique incense-like aroma that will fill your dining room and kitchen. This gift is sure to impress for its beautifully simple aesthetic. Plus, where else can you find incense and a table setting in one?

The placemat is made of vetiver, a grass that grows abundantly in Madagascar where artisan Marie carefully preserves the sweet aroma when she processes and weaves each piece.

Buy one placemat to use as a table centerpiece to place candles or other tchotchkes. Two placemats around a larger centerpiece creates a modern, artistic take on a table runner. Or go with your traditional table set with 4-6 placemats. 

Marie's Placemats from Madagascar. This placemat will fill your kitchen with the aromatic incense of the vetiver grass. Sustainability Index: Natural Dyes, Natural Fibers, Powered by Women, Handmade. Browse Now from $25.

Hand-Spun Napkins and Towels | $32-$48

Pile of napkins - set of 4

Ready to throw in your old towels (or napkins)? Our kitchen tea towels and napkins are made by a collective of women in a Laotian village known for its weaving. Each step of the process is done by hand. The women grow, harvest and clean the cotton in the local fields. Before hand-weaving each piece, they hand spin the cotton yarn and dye the yarns. All the materials--from the cotton to botanicals--come from the village.

They adhere to fair trade practices and environmental responsibility, with a strong emphasis on zero-waste production.

The napkins and towels add a soft touch to your table or kitchen. While the traditions have existed from generations, the women design with a modern aesthetic.

Ms. Navone’s Napkins & Towels from Laos. Handspun with indigenous cotton, these napkins add a softness to any table. Browse Now from $32. Sustainability Index: Natural Dyes, Natural Fibers, Powered by Women, Handmade. Sustainability Index: Natural Dyes, Natural Fibers, Powered by Women, Handmade.

Gifts Under $100

Patterned Handwoven Throw Blanket | $80

Woman wrapped in a blanket

The collection of handwoven, patterned throw blankets are inspired by traditional wedding blankets in Laos. The motifs represent the weaver’s hope for a peace, fortune and fertility. The symbolism of the intricate patterns, with the softness of the cotton, make this blanket a great gift for weddings, housewarmings, or the holiday season.

The throws are woven in Baan Nayang, a village about three hours north of Luang Prabang. The throws come from two collectives. The first is led Ms. Navone, a master weaver and dyer. And, the second is led by Ms. Manomanh and Mae Manh. Raised over stilts, their homes have space underneath for the women to work on their looms, where they hand spin cotton and weave each piece.

Patterned Throws from Laos. Soft throws perfect for any lazy day. The intricate designs look embroidered, but are handwoven. Sustainability Index: Natural Dyes, Natural Fibers, Powered by Women, Handmade.
Gifts Under $500

Berber Rugs | $160-1,900

Living room with Berber rug

Help your friend or family spruce up their space with area rugs and runners that bring a unique flair. Whether they hang on the wall or lay on the floor, Berber rugs make a statement.

This style comes from Algeria, made by Hocine Bazine, where he and his team of weavers work on a vertical loom. The materials are all pearl cotton and sheep's wool.

Berber Area Rugs by Hocine Bazine. Whether hung on the wall or on the floors, these Berber rugs add color, style, and a unique flair to any space. Browse Now from $330. Sustainability Index: Natural Dyes, Natural Fibers, Supporting Local Communities, Handmade.

Ikat Patterned Bedspread | $400

Bedspread with ikat design

If the time has come to replace an old bedspread, or a move to a larger home gave space for an extra bed, the one-of-a-kind designs from Guatemala will definitely turn visitors eyes toward the bedroom. The bedspreads fit a full and queen size bed.

The woman behind the bedspreads is Doña Marta who uses a backstrap loom for weaving and natural indigo dyes to color her yarn. Her and her family grow and processes indigo locally, and the rest is sourced from El Salvador.

Five panels are individually handwoven using the backstrap loom, and then joined with hand embroidery to make the large bedspreads that are 100% cotton.

Ikat Designed Bedspread from Doña Marta. Upgrade any bedroom with one-of-a-kind style. Bedspreads fit queen and full size beds. Browse Now from $400. Sustainability Index: Natural Dyes, Natural Fibers, Powered by Women, Handmade.

Gifts Over $500

Bhutanese Throw Blanket Made of Foraged Materials  | $660-880

Throw blanket on top of yellow chair

The throw blankets from Wangchuk Lhamo are an incredible showcase of the slow-weave process. Her blankets are true artistry, and is a gift that will wow the most conscious of consumers.

She preserves weaving traditions with a focus on sustainable practices, starting from intentional material sourcing from her local forests that ensures the plants--such as handspun nettle, locally grown cotton, and eri silk--will produce next year. After using homegrown natural dyes with a traditional fermentation process called bangtshoe, the yarn is handspun on a pangtha loom, one of the oldest looms used in Bhutan. Through careful measurements, no yarn is wasted in production, and the natural dyes become organic fertilizer for their kitchen garden.

Zero-Waste Throws by Wangchuk Lhamo. You cannot get more sustainable than these throws that exemplify the artistry of slow-weaving. Browse Now from $660. Sustainability Index: Natural Dyes, Natural Fibers, Powered by Women, Handmade.

Bhutanese Tablecloth | $695

Tablecloth from Bhutan with traditional patterns

This is the gift for anyone who loves to host with an impressive looking table. The designs draw inspiration from both the colors in Himalayan Buddhist art and the surrounding natural landscape.

Karma Choden previously worked for the UN, NGOs, and government agencies before dedicating herself to textiles. She has trained over 2,000 artisans to support generating income for women in Bhutan. This tablecloth is woven on traditional back strap loom, the oldest loom used in Bhutan.

Intricate Bhutanese Tablecloth. For setting a table that truly impresses, this tablecloth is the star of the show. Browse Now from $695.  Sustainability Index: Natural Dyes, Natural Fibers, Powered by Women, Handmade.

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