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Native Leaf’s natural gift packaging at Indie Craft Fair – Somos Gallery  Comments (0)

Handwoven Abaca Textile Mini Gift BagsWe will be at the Make & Bake Indie Craft Fair this Friday and Saturday, at the Somos Gallery.

Come out and get a head start on your holiday gift giving, and buy direct from local artisans!

And then stop by Native Leaf’s exhibit area for your handcrafted gift packaging.

After all…you’ve taken all that time to find the perfect gift, so put it in handmade gift packaging appreciated just as much as the gift itself.

We’ve assembled gift packaging kits for the holiday season, including our gift sets that combine natural fiber boxes, gift tote (perfect for plants, orchids, as a gourmet food basket, and reusable as a lunch tote), packaged with hand-woven mini gift bags and gift pouches, in terrific nature and jewel inspired color themes.

Below is an example of how one can use our box set as an open gift box to contain jam and jelly jars. These natural fiber gift boxes are available in our square tote gift sets as well as in our hand-woven abaca textile gift bag sets.

Gift Kits 2014 natural gift box set

Photo above of our small, hand-woven pandanus box gift set in colors eggplant and orchid pink.

And photo gallery above features our 7-piece square bottom tote bag in Mango and Eggplant, and contains 2 medium size gift boxes, 2 pouches and 2 mini abaca gift bags.

Indie Craft Fair MakeNBake

Our packaging is super durable, reusable….and an earth-friendly alternative to commercial gift wrapping and paper gift packaging from the mall and big box stores.

More information on the Indie Craft Fair on flyer at left, or see details on Monterey County Weekly’s Art and Exhibitions Calendar, here.

If you are in the Monterey Bay area and neighboring counties, we hope to see you at the Somos Gallery in Old Town Salinas this Friday and Saturday!

Friday is also First Friday Artwalk in Old Town, and a great way to visit various art galleries, stores, listen to live music and to enjoy the area.


The problem with synthetic ropes, fish nets (follow-up to prior post — and there is good news)  Comments (0)

This is a follow-up to the prior postThe Switch from Natural Abaca, Hemp Fiber Ropes to Synthetic Ropes.

The Problem

You may have heard about “ghost nets” or have seen the photos of wildlife entangled in marine debris…like the sea turtle below (photo source, US NOAA).

Turtle_entangled_in_marine_debris photo source NOAA

And I know…it may be uncomfortable to look at these photos, but it is a reality with all the marine industry generated trash in our oceans, and we can’t pretend it is not happening.

Sea Birds off the Coast of Mauritania

This type of trash sticks around for a LONG time!

From the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) website on ghost nets:

… the problem of abandoned, lost or otherwise discarded fishing gear (ALDFG) is getting worse due to the increased scale of global fishing operations and the introduction of highly durable fishing gear made of long-lasting synthetic materials.

The report estimates that abandoned, lost or discarded fishing gear in the oceans makes up around 10 percent (640 000 tonnes) of all marine litter. Merchant shipping is the primary source on the open sea, land-based sources are the predominate cause of marine debris in coastal areas.

Most fishing gear is not deliberately discarded but is lost in storms or strong currents or results from “gear conflicts,” for example, fishing with nets in areas where bottom-traps that can entangle them are already deployed.(Photos below from UN FAO)

The Good News

There are solutions to this problem, and this marine industry trash can be controlled!  But it will take work and commitment from the marine / fishing industry and governments.

Again, from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) website:

  • Financial incentives.  Economic incentives could encourage fishers to report lost gear or bring to port old and damaged gear, as well as any ghost nets they might recover accidentally while fishing.
  • Marking gear. Not all trash gear is deliberately dumped, so marking should not be used to “identify offenders” but rather better understand the reasons for gear loss and identify appropriate, fishery-specific preventative measures.
  • New technologies.  New technologies offer new possibilities for reducing the probability of ghost fishing. Sea-bed imaging can be used to avoid undersea snags and obstacles. Fishing equipment can be expensive, and many fishers often go to great lengths to retrieve lost gear. Technology that makes doing so easier can help. Using GPS, vessels can mark locations where gear has been lost, facilitating retrieval, and transponders can be fitted to gear in order to do the same. Similarly, improvements in weather monitoring technology can be used to help skippers avoid deploying nets when very bad weather is imminent.
  • Just as new synthetic and other materials used in fishing gears have contributed to the ADLFG problem, they can also help solve it. Work is underway to speed up the commercial adoption of durable gear components that incorporate bio-degradable elements. For example, in some countries fish traps and pots are constructed with a biodegradable “escape hatch” that disintegrates when left under water too long, rendering the trap harmless. As this would not necessarily reduce the levels of debris, a reporting and retrieval system should also be adopted.
  • Improving collection, disposal and recycling schemes.  It is necessary to facilitate proper disposal of all old, damaged and retrieved fishing gears, according to the report. Most ports do not have facilities on site that allow for this. Putting disposal bins on docks and providing boats with oversized, high-strength disposal bags for old fishing gear or parts thereof can help remedy this.
  • Better reporting of lost gear.  A key recommendation of the report is that vessels should be required to log gear losses as a matter of course. However a “no-blame” approach should be followed with respect to liability for losses, their impacts, and any recovery efforts, it says. The goal should be to improve awareness of potential hazards and increase the opportunity for gear recovery.

Great recommendations for the problem, and will work if the marine industry and nations work together to carry out these programs!

In the meantime, when deciding what type of rope to use…please consider alternatives.

I understand that for many modern rope use, safety (e.g., life safety codes, load capacity, breaking strengths required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration or OSHA) and cost factors are first considerations for the type of rope to use.

But if a biodegradable material can fit the needs of the job, why not use biodegradable, natural ropes instead of synthetics?

Related reading and links:

The switch from natural abaca, hemp fiber ropes to synthetic ropes  Comments (0)

This photo of synthetic ropes washed up on a beach in Alaska — piled up during beach clean up day — made me wonder about how much of this type of trash is swirling in our oceans.

I knew that natural abaca fiber was a material used to make ropes (and still is) and of its use in ship rigging and the American shipping industry in the mid 1800’s.

I was curious about when the change occurred from using natural fiber ropes to synthetic ropes.

plastic rope debris photo by Kip Evans

Photo by Kip Evans. A pile of nylon and synthetic rope trash — beach trash clean up, Alaska USA

The result of this query is in this blog post, and explores a bit of rope history, and the use of natural fiber ropes as it relates to the plant fiber hemp and abaca (musa textilis — also known as Manila Hemp), and abaca use in the Philippines (Native Leaf products are made in the Philippines).


Abaca is a herbaceous plant in the banana family. It looks similar to the banana plant, except that it does not produce edible bananas.

Abaca is one of the plant materials used in Native Leaf products.

Up until World War II, most fibers used for rope and for industrial use (and marine applications) came from natural fibers.

Among the natural fibers used for rope and cordage was hemp and abaca.  Natural fiber ropes are also made from flax, cotton, jute and sisal.

Abaca is indigenous to the Philippines and the plant fibers were used by natives long before the Spaniards arrived and colonized the archipelago in 1521.

History of rope use

From a Wikipedia article: …The use of ropes for hunting, pulling, fastening, attaching, carrying, lifting, and climbing dates back to prehistoric times.

It is likely that the earliest “ropes” were naturally occurring lengths of plant fibre, such as vines, followed soon by the first attempts at twisting and braiding these strands together to form the first proper ropes in the modern sense of the word.

Impressions of cordage found on fired clay provide evidence of string and rope-making technology in Europe dating back 28,000 years.

The ancient Egyptians were the first to document tools used in rope making.  The artwork below depicts the manufacture of rope by mechanical means.


Industrial hemp use in the U.S. (the primary plant source for rope and marine use) and when abaca replaced hemp

Hemp fiberInformation from a paper by Randall Fortenbery and Michael Bennett, University of Wisconsin – Madison, Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics

Hemp is among the first plants cultivated by human beings, and is native to Central and South Asia.

By the 16th century, migration and trade brought the plant to Europe.

In the 1700s and 1800s, hemp was Russia’s largest export crop (as well as one of the most important crops in England) and the material used for cordage and sailcloth by American, Canadian and European shipping companies.

The puritans first brought hemp plants to New England in 1645, and hemp cultivation next spread to the states of Virginia and Pennsylvania.

By the mid 1800’s, — due to strong demands for cordage and sailcloth by the US Navy — over 160 factories existed in the state of Kentucky alone, employing several thousand workers who manufactured hemp bagging, bale rope and cordage.

By the late 1800’s though, the US hemp industry declined due to the development of the cotton gin, the advent of steam and petroleum powered ships that no longer needed sailcloth (and less ropes), and imports of cheaper jute and abaca fiber.

Abaca eventually replaced hemp for use in marine cordage, because of its lightness (it can reportedly float on water) and resistance to salt water corrosion.

The rise of abaca for rope / cordage use

Although abaca had been grown and used in the Philippines for centuries, wide use of abaca fibers outside the Philippines did not occur until the mid 1800s.

This coincided with the opening of the Port of Manila to foreign trade during the last phase of the Spanish rule in the Philippines.

abaca hemp warehouse Manila late 1800s

Traders at abaca warehouse, Manila, Philippines late 1800’s.   Bales of abaca can be seen at bottom right of photograph. Photo source: The Philippine Islands by Ramon Reyes Lala via the Gutenberg website, published in 1898 by the Continental Publishing Company.

Excerpt from the book A History of the Philippines by David P. Barrows, released in December, 1911 (the hemp mentioned in the excerpt is “Manila hemp” or abaca).

In 1831 the exportation of hemp amounted to only 346 tons. But the effect upon production of opening Manila to foreign trade is seen in the export six years later of 2,585 tons.

By 1858 the exportation of hemp had risen to 412,000 piculs, or 27,500 tons. Of this amount, nearly two thirds, or 298,000 piculs, went to the United States.

At this time the North Atlantic seaboard of America was the center of a most active ship-building and ship-carrying trade.

The American flag was conspicuous among the vessels that frequented these Eastern ports, and “Manila hemp” was largely sought after by American seamen to supply the shipyards at home.


Abaca plant image

Abaca plantaion – photo credit, Philippine Dept. of Agriculture website

Excerpt from the Philippines Department of Agriculture’s Fiber Development Authority website:

…According to historical accounts, an American lieutenant of the U.S. Navy brought a sample of abaca fiber to the United States in 1820.  This gave the initial impetus to Philippine abaca trade with the United States that five years later, the first exportation of abaca was made. 

Since then, abaca became well-known as one of the strongest materials for marine cordage because of its superior tensile strength and proven durability under water. 

With the onset of the 20th century, abaca fiber has become the premier export commodity of the Philippines.

…At the close of the First World War, the Japanese also took keen interest in abaca for its navy, also choosing Davao as the plantation site. They improved the method of production introduced by the Americans. This put the industry to a higher level of efficiency. 

The Philippines has a monopoly in the production of abaca fiber in the 1920s. Since this period, wars were won by countries with superior navies and considering that cordage was vital to naval operation, the Philippine monopoly in abaca production alarmed the Americans.

 In 1921, the U.S. Department of Agriculture decided to cultivate abaca in Central America, particularly in Panama, Costa Rica, Guatemala and Honduras using the most outstanding Philippine abaca varieties.

This was to be the beginning of the end of our abaca monopoly.

It was after World War II that a Japanese national, Furukawa, one of the pre-war abaca plantation owners in Davao, started field-testing and successfully cultivating abaca in Ecuador. 

Today, Ecuador is the only other country commercially producing abaca in the world.

dyring abaca strands photo Dept of Ag Philippines web

Abaca fiber strands drying – photo credit, Philippine Dept. of Agriculture website

The arrival of synthetic fibers, and the decline of abaca as a prime material for ropes

The invention of nylon from petroleum based chemicals in the 1930’s began what would be the rapid decline of the abaca industry.

nylon fishing net attached to small plastic floats by Peter ChurchAlthough nylon was invented as a synthetic fabric replacement for silk (and for use as women’s stockings), nylon fit the needs of the military during World War II and the material used for making parachutes as well as for constructing rope and cordage.

The first rope made with synthetic or man-made fibers was made from nylon.

Nylon and the invention of related petrochemical based materials quickly replaced the traditional use of natural fibers, including for fishing nets, and many Philippine abaca farmers phased out their plantations.

The use of abaca as a prime rope material declined and the abaca industry nearly collapsed.

Abaca use in our era

Abaca rope or “Manila rope” is still manufactured by cordage companies in the Philippines, but most abaca fiber produced in our era is used for the specialty paper industry (e.g. tea bags, filter papers, paper for printing currency).

When the demand for raw abaca declined, the Philippine government worked to develop a fiber craft industry.

Production and export of abaca rugs, doormats, hats, coasters, hot pads, linen and handbags grew and by the mid 1970’s, the abaca craft industry became a source of income for many Filipinos.

Note: Native Leaf created products from the outer part or “bark” of the abaca plant, as well as from hand-woven abaca textiles procured from cottage industry (backyard) weavers. Photos below of wine boxes and gift box set from our prior product line, and mini gift bags available on our website.

There is also ongoing research using abaca fibers with modern materials to create lighter, more environment friendly alternatives (see article Daimler-Chrysler / Mercedes Benz replaces glass fibers with natural fibers and our blog post about the Ford Motor Company use of natural fibers at the 2012 San Francisco Green Festival).

Modern rope construction

These days, the majority of cordage /rope products are constructed from synthetic,  petroleum-based materials.

So, what’s the problem with that?  We will explore and discuss on a future blog post! (See follow-up post, here)

You can comment to this blog post by clicking on the post title, and sign up to receive an email notification when new posts are published on Native Leaf’s website.

Article information sources, related reading and links:

— Jane

State of California bans single-use plastic bags  Comments (0)

On September 30th, Governor Jerry Brown of California signed into law the first ever statewide ban on single-use plastic bags in the U.S.

Great news for the environment, and saving ocean wildlife that accidentally ingest plastic bags from our oceans (plastic bags can look like jellyfish, a favorite food of sea turtles — and many species of marine turtles are dramatically declining and endangered).

So, how does a plastic bag used on land end up in the ocean?  This infographic from Ocean Conservancy shows the 6 degrees of separation…


For details about the California plastic bag ban, see the article on

California has a long coastline…so a ban will make a big difference in controlling waste and preventing plastic bags from ending up in the ocean.

California Sunset web

For alternatives to plastic bags and petroleum-based gift packaging (alternatives to nylon organza gift bags and pouches) visit our main market pages.

This is terrific news indeed, and let’s hope other states follow soon, and that worldwide, we curb our plastics use —- and prevent  needless plastic waste from entering our waterways!

Square handwoven placemats in mango, eggplant, moss green and rust red now in stock  Comments (0)

We have a limited number of our popular handwoven, square placemats back in stock!

Native Leaf’s square romblon leaf placemats are a customer favorite, and often collected in a variety of colors.

That’s because they are super easy to clean, adds instant texture and beauty to table settings and goes with —  well, just about any plate setting you may have…whether formal, your collection of fiesta ware or any casual plate settings.

Native Leaf's natural, biodegradable and compostable romblon placemat in Moss Green

Native Leaf’s natural, biodegradable and compostable romblon placemat in Moss Green, and below in Mango and Eggplant

Right now, we have the color mango yellow back in stock, and have added eggplant purple to our market pages.

Square Placemat web Mgo Setting


Eggplant with napkin rings

We also have a limited number in rust red… email us if you are interested in the rust red as this is not yet posted on our market pages.


Visit our market pages to order your handwoven, natural square placemats  now (and check out our colorful matching handcrafted, dyed wood bead napkin rings on our market page, too!)


The Habitat Festival and Native Plant Sale  Comments (0)

Related to yesterday’s post about Monterey Bay, California related activities this weekend (see Monterey Bay Birding Festival and Birder’s Marketplace), there is also a Habitat Festival and Native Plant Sale today.

The event is free and features speakers, a fun kids area and activities for the little ones, and of course, lots of native plants for sale!


Location is the Fitz Wetland Educational Resource Center….visit for more information or click on the flyer above

Monterey Bay Birding Festival – Birder’s Marketplace  Comments (0)

Native Leaf is based in the Monterey Bay area….home to one of the most spectacular birding and wildlife venues in North America.



If you live in the Monterey Bay Area or attending this year’s Monterey Bay Birding Festival, visit Native Leaf at the festival headquarters – Watsonville Civic Plaza, Community Center.

September is the peak time to see wintering shorebirds (now arriving en masse). September also marks the peak of fall migration for many bird species.  Details at the festival’s website, here.  

WORLD CLASS BIRDING — From soaring golden eagles, effortlessly gliding California condors, cheeky bushtits, gorgeous Townsend’s warblers, scampering snowy plovers, to thousands of sooty shearwaters streaming along the ocean’s surface, few places can match the diversity of species as the Monterey Bay region.  Continue reading…

Many of the half day and full day field trips are sold out, but there may be space on some of the workshops (held at the Civic Center, top floor meeting rooms).

Photo from the opening night reception, Thursday, September 25th, and Native Leaf’s product display:

Monterey-Bay-Birding-Festival 2014 reception 2wb


Monterey-Bay-Birding-Festival 2014 reception 1wb

Get a head start on your holiday shopping at the Birder’s Marketplace this Friday and Saturday (September 26th and 27th).

Native Leaf’s gift packaging kits — all earth (and wildlife) friendly — and made from natural and sustainable materials, as well as market totes, table accessories, and our gorgeous reusable gift boxes are available for sale today and tomorrow.

We also have unique, one-of-a-kind gift containers and items not available on our website, for that special (and hard to find a gift for!) person on your holiday gift list.

Spectacular nature photographers (like Ooh Look Photography) as well as artists specializing in exquisite bird, nature and wildlife art are also exhibiting at this year’s marketplace.

Marketplace hours are Friday, 2 PM to 7 PM and Saturday, 10 AM to 6 PM.

Plastics in unexpected places (like IN beer)  Comments (0)

Beer now available with plasticSomewhat related to yesterday’s post (when plastic use is totally unnecessary), an article  at about a new study in Germany that found plastic particles in beer (present in the 24 brands of beer they studied or 100% of the beers included in the study).

Disturbing, yet not surprising, with our overuse of single use plastic bags, and inattention to all the plastic trash we produce!  No wonder the plastics end up in our food and beverage.

Link to the article: Plastic: Now available in your….beer?

Related beer article in Native Leaf’s blog: Cornstalk wine and other corn beverages (how about a sip of the “bone breaker” perhaps?)

When plastic use is totally unnecessary  Comments (0)

At Native Leaf, we are all about earth-friendly products and natural gift packaging.

So yes, we definitely promote using sustainably made products and using materials that can compost and biodegrade over time.

But like just about everyone on our planet we also use plastic containers and other plastic products, as sometimes there is simply no other product better than plastic for certain objects, or it may be that no other material can function like plastic.

I sometimes see products where the use of plastic — as trim or decoration — is totally unnecessary, especially when considering how we will dispose of certain products and objects after the item is no longer usable.  This sometimes happens when mixing modern materials like plastics with traditional materials from nature.

A good example is the traditional Philippine grass and bamboo broom, called a “walis tambo”.

plastic trim on walis tambo broom

Traditional brooms or “walis tambo” for sale, at our local Asian market.  Plastic is now used for the broom’s trim,  strapping and decorative touches.

Before the advent of plastic strapping materials and plastic trim, these brooms were made entirely from natural materials — and the entire broom would have been biodegradable.

These days, the walis tambo I find at our local markets are still made of grass, and the handles are still made of rattan or  bamboo (also a type of giant grass) or other wood, but now these have plastic trim and decoration, instead of the more traditional materials like bamboo or rattan strips, or natural and native twine.

The Problem….

So what’s the problem with this?

Well,  over time you will eventually need a NEW walis tambo, and have to dispose of your OLD walis tambo.

If you want to be a good steward of our environment, you would have to unravel all the plastic trimming to put the old broom in your compost pile, otherwise you may just get frustrated and throw it away where it will head to the landfill, taking up space with all the other non-recyclable junk we humans produce and use.

Why not just make the entire broom with natural materials, like on the photo examples below?

Natural walis tambo

Photo of traditional walis tambo, natural material Philippine broom (Note: not our photo, and we can’t seem to locate the source, so if you know of the photo source let us know so we can credit accordingly)

So yes, it does not have the extra color of the plastic trim — unless the natural materials are dyed — but I actually think the “all natural” brooms are prettier.

Hopefully, the makers of these brooms (typically a cottage industry / family endeavor) will return to using natural materials to construct the entire broom.

What do you think?  Do you like the plastic trimmed walis tambo or the all natural material type?

Do you have examples of other objects that use plastics unnecessarily?  If you do, please comment and send us a photo!

— mj

Related Native Leaf post:

Top 5 most widely produced vegetable-based oils in the world (and it’s not olive oil or coconut oil)  Comments (0)


Field of yellow flowers photo are of the rapeseed plant (brassica napu). Related to mustard and cabbage plants, a cultivar of rapeseed is what is used to make “Canola” oil.  Photo via Wikipedia commons.

There are so many different types of cooking oil available to consumers today — and it is quite easy to buy just about any type of cooking oil imaginable at your grocery store or through on-line merchants.

Olive oil continues to gain popularity in the U.S., and more recently, all things coconut, especially coconut oil is also gaining a lot of attention.

It got me wondering about the types of vegetable-based oils used around the world, and which type is the most popular.

Here is what I found out…

The the top 5 vegetable-based oils used world-wide are:

  • Palm Oil
  • Soybean Oil
  • Rapeseed (Canola oil)
  • Sunflower Oil
  • Peanut Oil

The list of top 9 by world consumption, in million metric tons and notes are below.

Oil source

World consumption

(million metric tons)


Palm 41.31 The most widely produced tropical oil, also used to make biofuel
Soybean 41.28 Accounts for about half of worldwide edible oil production
Rapeseed 18.24 One of the most widely used cooking oils, canola is a variety (cultivar) of rapeseed
Sunflower seed 9.91 A common cooking oil, also used to make biodiesel
Peanut 4.82 Mild-flavored cooking oil
Cottonseed 4.99 A major food oil, often used in industrial food processing
Palm kernel 4.85 From the seed of the African palm tree
Coconut 3.48 Used in soaps and cooking
Olive 2.84 Used in cooking, cosmetics, soaps and as a fuel for traditional oil lamps


Note: This data is for world consumption of oils used for cooking (blends), for straight vegetable oils, for oils to make biodiesel, for oils in industrial use and animal feed use. Information Source: USDA, Table Source: Wikipedia

Were you surprised — as I was — to see coconut oil and olive oil ranked #8 and #9, respectively, and not in the top five?


Can you tell we love using old plant prints on our blog posts and pages? This one is of the rapeseed  plant (for “Canola” oil), a print from 1896 by Franz Eugen Köhler

Did you know….

  • Rudolf Diesel (the German inventor of the diesel engine) originally designed his engine to run on peanut oil.
  • “Canola” oil — made from the rapeseed plant — got its name from the Canadian researchers who developed a variety used for cooking oil sold in the market today.  The name “canola” was coined from “Canada Oil low acid”.   Definitely better sounding than “rapeseed”.


California Millers Blend Olive Oil

Do you have a favorite oil to use in your household?

In our kitchen, we primarily use extra virgin olive oil, and do keep corn oil on hand for frying or if we need an oil that can tolerate cooking in higher temperatures.

For everyday cooking, we use the California Olive Ranch “Bold & Peppery” Miller’s Blend extra virgin olive oil. 

As the name implies, the olive oils are from California sources, since after all, we are based in California.  It’s delicious!

And if you are looking for the perfect earth-friendly gift bag for the next time you give a gift of delicious olive oil to your host or hostess, or for a housewarming present, be sure to check out our handcrafted and sustainably made olive oil gift bags on our market pages.  — mj

natural packaging olive oil bags

Omiyage – Japanese and more gift-giving tradition  Comments (0)

We posted about Japanese gift giving traditions (omiyage) recently, so my ears perked up when I heard a call into the Splendid Table radio show about what gifts to take to Japan, for those visiting from the United States.

The host, Lynne Rossetto Kasper responded with what I thought was a a perfect suggestion…maple syrup!

Maple syrup is something that is uniquely North American, fairly easy to transport, delicious and considered by most as a special treat.   Plus, it is probably hard to find maple syrup in other parts of the world.

Here in California, we have terrific options for omiyage and gift giving.

With the Mediterranean climate, there is an abundance of top wines, award-winning olive oils, nuts (almonds are the most popular) and a wide array of fresh fruits — or dried fruit if you are going overseas — as well as artisan crafted foods to present to your hosts.

Mini Gift Bag cacao brown rd

The photo featured above  is our unique, earth friendly mini gift bag filled with citrus. Hand-woven romblon leaf baskets in cacao brown colors make a nice contrast to oranges and these clementines.  

What gifts do you like to give from the area you call home, when visiting friends and relatives out-of-state or overseas?  Please comment and tell us about gift items that were huge hits…or also of times when the gift was a “miss” or misunderstood.  Note: If you do not see the comment box at the bottom of the blog post, click on the blog post title, which should refresh the page to allow comments. 

By the way, if you have an abundance of fruit from the summertime farmers market, there is a great article on the Splendid Table’s website on how to transform fruits, vegetables and herbs into homemade liqueurs, including some recipes that are quite simple.

And for earth friendly and unique gift packaging for your own gift giving traditions, visit our Market Page (Home Page), here.

Nito material (a type of climbing fern) and weaving photos  Comments (0)

A recent comment on my blog post “From nito basket…to Native Leaf” reminded me that I had some photos of  nito — a type of climbing fern that grows in parts of the Philippines.  It is used to make baskets, hats and other household items.

The very first Philippine basket I owned was made of nito vine.

First photo, harvested and bundled nito ready for weaving, second photo weaving nito basket and last photo, finished product – nito paper plate holder.

bundle of nito vine web

Weaving nito plate holder basket web

Nito plate holder basket web

The comment was related to bayong (market tote) use in the Philippines, and it was a positive development!  See blog post / comment, here. 

I have since added the bundle of nito vine photo to the article.

For more about the nito plant, see the Philippine medicinal plants section of  Stuartxchange’s website (Lygodium circinnatum).

— mj

Napkin ring traditions – and when they first appeared in table settings  Comments (0)

We added our handcrafted wood bead napkin rings to our market pages…and of course, it got us curious about when napkin rings started to appear in table settings. (Photo below picking, sorting and threading wood beads onto copper wiring to make Native Leaf’s wood bead napkin rings)

sort pick and threading wood bead napkin rings

So… it turns out that it is was just over 200 years ago that napkin rings started to appear in table settings.  Napkin rings were first used in the 1800’s by the French middle class and were mostly made of silver and silver plate, as well as bone, wood and pearls.

In the days before disposable paper napkins, napkin rings were also used as a way to keep track of napkins used by various family members, and to track when it was time to launder the napkin (and by the way, despite the ease of using disposable napkins, in our household we prefer sturdy cloth napkins which get softer the longer we have them).

These days, napkin rings not only hold napkins, they also help to define or tie together table setting colors and themes.

You can find napkin rings made from just about every material and motif imaginable, from natural materials like coconut timber and palm seeds (photo below),  woven rattan and woven pandanus (romblon leaves), carved wood and figurines, to wire and jewel beads, variations of tassels, or encrusted with fancy stones and beads.

I’ve even seen napkin rings made from recycled denim jeans as well as edible napkin rings made from jelly beans!

close up coconut timber and palm seeds web

Native Leaf’s natural napkin rings made from coconut wood and palm seeds. Both have unique features from the natural, speckled properties of coconut timber and very cool veining of palm seeds.

CREATIVE TIP:  Our customers also use our handmade napkin rings as a holder for invitations or to hold rolled up menus or announcements on table settings.

history napkin rings postTo learn more about how place settings evolved over time, visit the informative blog pages of the The Clermont State Historic Site, here.


Things started developing into a pretty recognizable form by the beginning of the 18th century, when forks were making it onto the scene and napkins were increasing in popularity and availability.

Early on in the process, the stalwart dinner fork got put on the left side and staid there. Bless its little heart. You can always count on the dinner fork. You can see it at left even in the Thomas Rowlandson satirical cartoon of 1788. The fellows in the picture may look like uncultured slobs, but at least they know where the dinner fork goes. (Old drawing at left from the blog post and features an early illustration of table setting with napkin rings.)

If you love using napkin rings, our fun and affordable napkin rings will add color as well as added texture to your table settings.  Order now to have our colorful napkin rings at your next special occasion event, or switch colors by season or every month.  With our super pricing, you can even change ring colors every day!  Or mix and match the colors for a festive and bright look to your table setting.

Napkin ring market pages:

And so…are you in the napkin ring or no napkin ring camp?  Do you use them all the time, or only sometimes like on special occasion holidays?

Napkin ring sets – handcrafted from dyed natural wood beads  Comments (0)

We are posting our beautiful wood bead napkin rings, handcrafted from acacia beads and threaded with copper wiring on our market pages this week.

We have ten terrific colors available as pictured below:

Natural wood bead napkin rings

The wood beads are available in packs of 4, contained in our hand-woven natural fiber gift pouches.  These rings add a decorative and textural element to your table setting, and made from sustainable materials.

Lemon napkin ringsPhoto above features our lemon wood bead napkin rings, in our matching (and super cute) natural textile gift pouch, accented with lemon and orchid pink colored beads.

lemon lime green natural napkin rings

Photo of 3 of our natural wood bead napkin rings — from top to bottom in moss-green, lemon and lime.

Call or email us anytime at if you would like to pre-order or have any questions.  Price is $5.95 per set of 4 in gift pouch.

Related: Natural Pouch Gift Packaging from Native Leaf (Abaca / sinamay textile)

Millions of coconut trees destroyed by Typhoon Haiyan  Comments (0)

We have posted often about the importance of coconut trees to Philippine culture and the economy.  The Philippines is the largest producer of coconuts in the world.

The devastating November, 2013 Super Typhoon, Haiyan (known as typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines) destroyed millions of coconut trees.

Many coconut trees in the area did not survive Haiyan’s 195 mph winds — the most intense tropical cyclone ever recorded.

It takes from six to eight years for coconuts to produce, so many more years until small farms and large plantations are able to harvest coconuts from replanted trees.

Photo of Tacloban coconut trees by Eleanor Farmer/OxfamPhoto via The Guardian

Government estimates indicate between 25 percent and 33 percent of the Philippine population depend on coconuts for their livelihood (US Library of Congress).

And unless global warming issues that are increasing temperatures of our oceans and atmosphere are addressed, these super typhoons will only increase in strength, further exposing the islands and millions of people to more devastation.

The Philippines is the 12th most populous nation in the world, after Mexico.

Photo above shows uprooted coconut trees on a hill near the town of Guiuan in Eastern Samar province in the central Philippines on November 11, 2013 only days after Super Typhoon Haiyan devastated the town on November 8, in what is feared to be the country’s worst natural disaster.

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