Category Archives: silk

End of summer new year

As a kid, I always looked forward to September, since it seemed to be the second new year of the year.  I would quietly make September resolutions in the hopes that maybe seventh grade would be better than sixth.  (It never was.)  Since I’ve tried to erase much of my junior high and high school years from my memory, I don’t remember all these vows, but I do recall something about trying hard to be a bit tidier and definitely more organized.

Here at Three Stone Steps we don’t sell any real back to school items, but we do have  fair trade, ethically sourced silks and cottons to keep you organized.

Our fantastic silk wallets and cotton wallets are beautiful, functional, and come with tons of compartments.  You could use one compartment for your U.S. greenbacks, and one for your bills in another currency.  Or one compartment for your bills and one for your receipts.  Or, as one delighted customer exclaimed, “I love these.  I can keep the denominations separate!”

The silk screen on silk wallets are luminous and lovely, and fairly handcrafted in Cambodia.

black and gray silk wallet If you’re looking for something equally lovely, but with a bit of more durability, the same wallet comes in a slightly different pattern and in cotton.

silk screen on cotton walletAnd, while we’ve embraced the electronic world, we’re always delighted when people hand out real paper business cards.  We’ll admit to be a tad shocked, shocked when someone who goes though the trouble of carrying business cards doesn’t go through the trouble of having a place to keep them.  (We recall one Very Important Political Person pulling out her cards that were held together with a red rubber band.)

If you want to forgo the business cards held together by a red rubber band look, we can help with a lovely silk screen on silk business card case:


silver silk business card case

Whether or not you need to stay (or get) organized, enjoy the fresh start that comes with the end of summer and the arrival of fall.



Leave a comment

Filed under Cambodia, cotton wallet, fair trade, fashion accessories, Phnom Penh, silk, silk screen, silk wallet, wallets

Back by popular demand: silk & cotton wallets

It’s been a while since we’ve had them, but there’s a new page featuring silk and cotton wallets right here.

Oh, and while publishing, I lost my homepage, so there’s a new one here, too.

More coming soon.


silver and black silk wallet

pretty elegant, huh?

Leave a comment

Filed under back, Cambodia, cotton, fair trade, new products, Phnom Penh, silk, wallets

Yesterday’s news

Sewers in Cambodia

sewing items for three stone steps

Yesterday, while a lot of us where consumed with the  Wikileaks leaks, a U.N. tribunal handed down its first sentence in a trial regarding the “chief jailer” for the Khmer Rouge.  You may have read about it. I’ve been paying a bit of attention to all this, since I travel to Cambodia yearly to source Three Stone Steps silk, cotton, and mosquito netting bags.  I work with a very talented producer there whose parents were victims at the time, and she bares certain scars.  I’ve been on long car rides with people who lived during that time, and the stories just come pouring out.  They are horrific monologues.  People are still processing, and maybe always will be.

In the six years or so traveling to Cambodia, I’ve noted tons of changes.  It’s totally possible to go out for tapas paired with a nice Rioja in Phnom Penh.  I kept expecting to return and find a new crop of sushi restaurants and martini bars.  And, among all those developed nation trappings, you don’t have to go far to see people in terrible poverty.  And, while things seem sort of normal, save for the “child sex tourists not welcome” signs, you can forget that you’re in a place with a terrible not too distant past.  Almost.

Leave a comment

Filed under Cambodia, fair trade, justice, silk

Miss Landmine and other "beauty" contests

The always interesting site, Global Voices, had an especially fascinating post about the Miss Landmine contest being canceled in Cambodia. As detailed in a statement in The Mirror, an overview the Khmer language press, The Ministry of Social Affairs Veteran and Youth Rehabilitation does not support the Miss Landmine contest, because it can create misunderstandings among the public towards the honor of disabled people, especially of disabled women. And, while I might not have worded it that way, I definitely agree.

Let me give some background. Many, if not most, of Three Stone Steps products are made in Cambodia. And, most are made by landmine and polio victims. In fact, Three Stone Steps’ silk and cotton producer has horribly disfigured hands due to something that happened to her during the Khmer Rouge reign of terror. She has never showed the slightest bit of discomfort with her appearance. In fact, why not just let you see her? (She’s the one in the gray shirt, and apologies for the bad photo of her):

Now for a very long aside:

Whether I like it or not, Three Stone Steps, which sells bags, wallets, scarves, and jewelry rolls, etc., is part of the “fashion” industry, or at least part of the “fashion accessory” industry. And, as a progressive and “green” business, I often gasp when some of my “eco-fashion” cohorts shoot photos of their organic cotton shirts or bamboo bamboo bags using conventional fashion magazine models and poses. Really, the way I look at it, if you’re going to take on conventional clothes and accessories, you may as well take on the conventional way that they’re shown.

But, now back to the the Miss Landmine contest. According to an article in The Guardian last year, the pageant was started by a male film and theater director from Norway. (According to the article, Norwegians find beauty pageants very “politically incorrect.” And, while I wouldn’t use a loaded term like “political correctness,” I also find them sexist and dehumanizing.) The pageant organizer thought that juxtaposition of a pageant and landmines was theatrical. He’s right. It got attention. It got me to write a blog post on it. But, of course, that doesn’t mean it’s right. It’s just as exploitative as regular beauty pageants, and on top of that, it reinforces Western notions of beauty.

So, in honor of the canceled Miss Landmine Pageant, below are pictures of some of the truly beautiful women who create Three Stone Steps’ products:

Except for the final photo, all of these photos are taken in the outskirts of Phnom Penh:

At the sewing machine:

Sewing beads on jewelry roll by hand:
Sewing by hand and by daylight:
Silk dyer, Takeo Province:


Filed under bamboo, Cambodia, jewlery rolls, messenger bags, Phnom Penh, silk

Just in time for Mother’s Day: A Trunk Show!

Please join me at Alexa Webb Artisan Jewelry, on May 7, from 6 to 8 pm for a Three Stone Steps trunk show, where we’ll be unveiling brand new items from the Philippines, Vietnam, and Cambodia.

Pictured left is a great new travel set, a cosmetic case and jewelry pouch, made of jacquard silk from Vietnam. The set costs $25, or $15 each piece.

And, to the right, we have a cute, perfect for that summer event clutch fairly made in the Philippines of seagrass. If seagrass isn’t eco-chic enough for you, the lining is made from recycled flour sacks. And, you can carry this this incredibly sweet bag for a sweet price. It’s a mere $23!

Oh, and there’s so much more! New hand loomed silk scarves from Cambodia. New colors of the very popular silk screen on cotton messenger bag, more colors and styles of the lovely Angkor bag, complete with matching silk wallets, and purses made from recycled junk food wrappers.

We’ll be serving some light refreshments, and hope that you’ll join us.

Alexa Webb Artisan Jewelry is in Federal Hill, at 1028 S. Charles Street.

Leave a comment

Filed under abaca, Baltimore, messenger bags, scarves, silk, silk screen, trunk show

And, why do you think they call it the "Manila envelope?"

I received a shipment from the Philippines last week. Three Stone Steps now has brand new colors and designs of messenger bags and other personal accessories. Very exciting. But what’s actually blogworthy is that these bags come in rarely seen in the U.S. fibers. So, in addition to mosquito netting, recycled metal, silk, and cotton, Three Stone Steps now boasts such fibers as recycled tetra pack (think those little juice boxes where you poke a hole with a straw) and used (but clean) junk food wrappers, bamboo (made into hip jewelry), seagrass, and abaca. Of all these wonderful fibers, I must admit to having somewhat of a mini-obsession with abaca. Plus “abaca” is just such a magical sounding word.

I’ve posted photos of my abaca products before on this blog–in the should Venus, the mannequin, be naked post–but it’s time to do it again so you can see just what I’m talking about:

Cute, huh?

Anyway, without getting all Latin plant name on you, abaca is the fiber from a tree that looks exactly like a banana tree, just without the fruit. The fiber is harvested from the outer sheaths of the trunk, a process done by hand that doesn’t harm the tree at all. In fact, in a couple of years, the same outer sheath grows back. And, while abaca is grown in various parts of the world, it’s said to be indigenous to the Philippines, and the Philippines leads the world in its production. Ok. End of botany lesson.

Abaca is generally considered to be the strongest natural fiber available. In fact, cordage, especially for ships’ ropes, is among its most notable use. And, not only is its strength legendary, abaca is incredibly lightweight. Talk about having it all.

But wait, there’s more. Abaca, this friendliest of eco-friendly fibers is, at least in the Philippines, grown by small farmers, working maybe five or ten hectares. So, we’re not talking some big multinational paying workers peanuts to harvest this fiber on plantations, this fiber comes from real small farmers. And, once it’s in fiber form, it’s taken to another small producer to dye and weave. All this is done by hand, too. And, then the producer I work with, on the big southern Philippine island of Mindanao, and I figure out how to design this woven fiber into bags you will love.

These bags have other special, eco-friendly features like lining made from recycled flour sacks, but I’ll leave the inside of the bag for another post.

Oh, and the Manila envelope trivia question thing? Abaca is sometimes called Manila hemp. And, envelopes used to be made out of it, hence the Manila envelope. And, now you know.

Leave a comment

Filed under abaca, messenger bags, mosquito net, Philippines, recycled, silk

Shooting in Outerspace. Booblehead Not Included.

I’m on the seemingly never ending journey of shooting my new products (many of which aren’t even here now, but I have samples. And, they should be here soon. Fingers crossed.)

Anyway, most of the photos are just suspended in outer space. You know, white background. A focus on the product. And, the photos end up looking like this:

Actually, these are lovely (and, in stock, although not on the Three Stone Steps site yet). I mean, who wouldn’t love a cute jacquard silk cosmetic bag and jewelry pouch set, fairly traded from Vietnam?

But, you know, shooting photos like this doesn’t exactly scratch one’s creative itch. (Ok. I did use my little light box outside, instead of inside with a lot of lamps. Chalk that up to my concern with my carbon footprint, my desire not to give our dastardly gas & electric company, BGE, one more cent, and wanting to be outside on a gorgeous day. And, that did provide some challenges, although not exactly of the creative kind.)

So, I moved on to shooting my very eco-chic bamboo earrings, which should be here Friday. At this point, I’m pretty much just testing. And, in a moment of incredible inspiration some weeks ago, I decided to name these the Let’s Go O’s earrings. (And, yes, they will be available in O’s orange.) And, what could be better than O’s earrings, than pairing them up with Cal Ripken?

I don’t really know if a photo like this will make it to the website, but, we’ll see. Bobblehead not included.

1 Comment

Filed under Baltimore, bamboo, cosmetic bag, earrings, jewlery, jewlery rolls, silk, Vietnam