Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Look Out JoAnn Fabrics... Birthday Girl on the Loose!

If you haven't guessed by my posts already, I'm a child of the '80s... which means I've been approaching the big 3-0 for some time now. Well, today's the day I've been dreading for weeks: I'm finally 30 years old. And you know what? It's not nearly as traumatic as I'd thought it would be. Okay, so it hasn't been painful or traumatic at all. All that anxiety for nothing.

Today, I'm going to get my haircut then have a delicious lunch at one of my favorite restaurants, Pronto, with my hubby and daughter. After that, we're going to hang out for a while before heading out to meet my family for dinner. 

Later, I'll start plotting my shopping spree at JoAnn Fabrics. My birthday gift card is already burning a hole in my pocket. Oh the the wonderful things I can make for my shop. Maybe some more baby care sets...  some Halloween trick-or-treat bags... or even a few Christmas "Mommy and Me" apron sets... I can't wait!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Big Stories, Tiny Storytellers

The Etsy community is filled with talented artists and crafters selling beautiful and unique pretend play toys that help parents preserve the magic of childhood. This post is part of my weekly writing series, "Imagination at Play". Stay tuned for more every Friday!

Children love to create imaginary worlds filled with colorful characters and exciting adventures. Half the fun, of course, lies in bringing those adventures to life through storytelling and role-playing. Few toys lend themselves to this kind of imaginative play better than finger puppets. 

One look inside Etsy shop cherylasmith and you'll find plenty of tiny monkeys, frogs, elephants and even zombies just waiting to help your child tell his story. Perfectly sized for little hands, owner Cheryl A. Smith's finger puppets are equally at home in lead or supporting roles in your little one's finger puppet theatre troupe. These friendly little puppets can't wait to be a part of your child's imaginary adventures through the jungle, on the farm or in the forest.

Cheryl has been hand sewing these adorable felt finger puppets since she first opened her Etsy shop in 2005. Etsy was still relatively new at the time and she just knew she had to be a part of it. After careful consideration, Cheryl decided that she wanted to sell something that she could sew by hand and that could be developed into an entire line of products. She sold her first finger puppet – a chicken – in August that same year and has never looked back.

While most of Cheryl's finger puppets are animals, you'll also find plenty of other fun characters, such as pirates or skeletons, in her shop at any given time. "My puppets are primarily inspired by the animal kingdom, however I find inspiration in fantasy as well," she explained. "I always have pencil and paper handy to doodle an idea when it strikes. Several of my designs were created upon requests from my wonderful customers."

Like many Etsians, Cheryl has been crafting for as long as she can remember. "I inherited the 'craft gene'. My parents and grandparents were each creative in their own way," she said. "I was exposed to many types of crafts and needlework when I was young, so naturally I gravitate towards creating things."

Cheryl's creativity and talent clearly flows through her needle into each puppet that she creates and it's obvious just how much she loves it. Every stitch, every embroidered smile, is carefully placed to ensure finger puppet perfection – and to bring a smile to the face of a young puppeteer.

"My favorite toys from childhood were the toys that inspired my imagination to take flight," Cheryl said. "I loved to create elaborate stories with my cast of characters. I hope that children have wonderful adventures with my puppets!"

Be sure to drop on by Cheryl's shop to see these adorable finger puppets for yourself. You're sure to make a few new friends while you're there!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A Sweet Little "Bowtique"

Whether you're looking for darling hair bows or cute little clippies, chances are Sprinkles Bowtique has just what you're looking for. And if you can't find just the right bow for your little girl, shop owner Ashley is happy to make something special just for you.

Ashley is part of the new generation of moms who make beautiful clippies for their daughters (see yesterday's post to read about old school, vintage clippies). She started designing clippies when she couldn't find cute, affordable clippies for her own daughter in traditional baby stores. Every time she went out with her daughter, folks would ask her where she got her clippies. When she told them that she made them, they would often ask if she sold them. With the encouragement of friends and family, Sprinkles Bowtique made its debut on Etsy in August 2008.

A lifelong crafter, Ashley can hardly remember a time when she wasn't creating. "My mother designated a special drawer in the house that I fondly called my 'cwaft dwar' (craft drawer)," she remembered. "I have always loved making things and being creative."

Ashley's designs blossom at the kitchen table, where she spends her time turning her stash of ribbons, buttons, maribou and crystals into sweet little bows and clippies. "I rarely make the same design twice," Ashley said. "because I get a new idea every time I make one. The possibilities are endless!"

I encourage you to drop by Sprinkles Bowtique and see for yourself the lovely items Ashley creates for little girls. Ashley is a fellow member of the EtsyMom Street Team and she just made her first sale yesterday. Congratulations, Ashley!

Little Peanut Featured in The Downtown Boutique

Many thanks to the good folks at The Downtown Boutique, a lovely blog that showcases unique items from around the world, for featuring my shop this morning in their "Wordless Wednesday" feature. They also plan to feature one of my items in an upcoming post – very exciting! Be sure to check them out!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Vintage Clippies

I did a search for clippies on Etsy once and was astonished to see the incredible number of beautiful, fun and whimsical clippies designed to adorn little girls' hair. When I was growing up, most little girls had plain plastic clippies. I, on the other hand, was well stocked with beautiful clippies that my mom had designed and crafted for me. 

Each pair of clippies (just one would never do, of course!) was made up of a small length of eyelet lace, some ribbon and a coordinating button, all stitched onto a plastic clippy. I wore them all the time at the end of my braids or at the top of my head to keep the whispies out of my face. My mom even made a braided clippy holder for me to store them on.

Looking at them today, I can't help but think about how cool and forward thinking my mom was back then. Tons of crafters and moms make clippies for little girls today, but virtually no one did when I was a kid. Of course, now these old school clippies are considered to be vintage items. It's scary to think that my childhood momentos are old enough to fit into that category!

Tomorrow I'm going to introduce you to one of this generation's clippy makers, who also happens to be a fellow member of the EtsyMom Street Team. Stay tuned!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Cast Your Vote Today

My Pretend Play Monster Tail is facing off against the some talented Etsians in the "Any Holiday Format" category of this week's Etsy Challenge. Drop on by and check out the competition. I'd love it if you'd put in a vote for my monster tail!

Friday, September 19, 2008

What Will Your Child Discover Inside?

The Etsy community is filled with talented artists and crafters selling beautiful and unique pretend play toys that help parents preserve the magic of childhood. This post is part of my weekly writing series, "Imagination at Play". Stay tuned for more every Friday!

When a child looks inside one of helicopterstudio's Discovery Totes his imagination takes flight. Within moments, he's speeding across a racetrack, meeting a bunny friend in the forest or building sandcastles at the beach.

Rarely does one find art designed specifically for playtime. But Etsy shop owner Shannon Duffy has achieved just that with her beautiful Discovery Totes. Each one-of-a-kind tote is made with an artist's eye and a sense of whimsy. All are made using beautiful fabrics, some of which are vintage or have been upcycled.

Shannon is a new Etsy seller – she joined in June 2008 – but she's been making art with play in mind for a number of years. She earned her graduate degree in Metals/Jewelry from Arizona State University. Much of her work as a grad student consisted of "play" objects, enameled metal vessels that had moving parts or something inside for the viewer to discover. "I love the idea of seeing something and then manipulating it to find the wonderful surprise it holds," Shannon explained.

Shannon's son was born while she was still in grad school, and she was fascinated by the fact that he enjoyed playing with simple household objects far more than the colored plastic toys that were sold in stores for babies. After searching unsuccessfully for toys that were both beautiful and fun for her son and daughter, she decided to begin making their toys. The Discovery Totes soon followed and she began her journey as an Etsy seller.

Like other Etsians, Shannon truly enjoys her craft and gets excited when she thinks about people buying something handmade for their children. Her favorite part about her craft is dreaming up the idea for a new Discovery Tote then creating that imaginary world. 

It's clear that Shannon's shop, helicopterstudios, has a bright future. Her Discovery Totes are child-sized works of art designed to inspire imaginary worlds and allow children to explore art. "I see them as the child's first experience with an art object, something to be respected and treasured," said Shannon. "I have lots of art in my home and have taught my children to touch it with the understanding that it is important."

Shannon's hope is that her totes will encourage imaginary play for children and their parents. Quiet play and role-playing can help children hone their problem-solving skills, encourages cooperation and fosters the imagination. 

If you have a moment, be sure to check out Shannon's shop, helicopterstudios. Her Discovery Totes are just waiting for your child to explore, imagine and create her own little world.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

A Love of Sewing Cultivated in the Cabbage Patch

My mom taught me how to sew when I was just 8 years old. I had always watched her sew my clothes and Halloween costumes on her Singer, which was stored inside a lovely cherry desk in our living room. She must have been pretty tickled with idea of teaching me how to sew, because when it came time to teach me she bought me a Cabbage Patch Kids sewing machine. Like most girls my age growing up in the '80s, I adored Cabbage Patch Kids, so having a Cabbage Patch Kids sewing machine was a dream come true! 

The first thing we made together on that machine was a one-piece set of footed pajamas for my own Cabbage Patch Kid, Tracy. Looking back, it was a pretty complicated project for a first-timer. I was so incredibly proud of myself when we finished it. It's been 22 years since that first project and I still love to sew. Thanks, Mom!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A Dollhouse Full of Love

My parents made a dollhouse for me one year at Christmas when I was a little girl. I can still remember seeing it underneath the tree on Christmas morning - it was absolutely beautiful. My dad designed and crafted it out of wood, and my mom added the finishing touches with bits of leftover wallpaper, carpeting and linoleum. In the coming years, my little dollhouse filled up with tiny furniture, food and people. 

Every once in a while I'd add something new, like these miniature clay pots that my Aunt Sherry made for me one year. (If you look closely at the largest pot, you'll see tiny bubbles on the handles - what incredible detail work!) There's so much artistic talent on my dad's side of the family. Sherry always made the most beautiful pottery and stained glass items. Looking at these tiny pots brings back a lot of memories for me, and I'm touched that she took the time to make something special and unique for me to use in my dollhouse.

Whatever happened to that old dollhouse? Well, my folks still have it stored up in the rafters of their garage, where it waits to inspire the imagination of my own daughter... when she's old enough not to eat all the little pieces!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Tea Time at Craftheart

My Pretend Play Tea Bags were featured today on a lovely blog: Craftheart for Handmade Gift Items. I really like how she took a theme - tea - and found a number of very different items to feature in her posting. They ran the gamut from actual tea you can drink to toys to quilted items. Many thanks to craftheart for checking out my shop and blogging about one of my favorite items! Be sure to check out her Etsy shop!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Creating Something Special

I love when a customer requests a custom item. Not only do I have the opportunity to create something new and unique, I'm also incredibly flattered. Think about it. When someone asks you make something just for them - something that you don't already carry in your shop - it means that she likes your work so much that even though she didn't find exactly what she was looking for, she wants you to create something special just for her. It doesn't get much more exciting than that for a crafter!

Since opening my shop in July, I've created custom items for two fantastic customers. I just finished working on this cute little baby blanket that a customer is planning to give as a gift to a pregnant friend. I hope they love it! The other custom item - my first custom listing - was this adorable reversible half-apron.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Go Ahead, Play With Your Food!

The Etsy community is filled with talented artists and crafters selling beautiful and unique pretend play toys that help parents preserve the magic of childhood. This post is part of my weekly writing series, "Imagination at Play". Stay tuned for more every Friday night!

Convincing your kids to try new foods is no longer a challenge - at least when it comes to what they're cooking up in their play kitchens - thanks to Etsy seller BeckyM. Take a quick glance at what's on the menu at owner Becky's shop, and you'll find yourself drooling over elegant asparagus, yummy ice cream sandwiches and scrumptious chicken dinners.

Becky crafts every item by hand using wool blend felt, giving her customers a high quality product that children of all ages can enjoy for years to come. The wool she uses is much higher quality than the acrylic felt you'll find in your local craft store - not only is it softer, it's also much more durable - creating a toy that is meant to last.

Where does this felt foodie find inspiration? Becky got her start making felt food during the 2007 toy recalls. She wanted her daughter and niece to be able to play with toys that were unique, handmade and safe. So she turned to a skill that her mother, who was a quilter, had taught her when she was just 10 years old: sewing. Becky's mother passed away when she was just 13, and over the years sewing has been a way for her to honor her mother's memory.

Today, some of Becky's creations come from customer requests, but she revealed to us that many of her ideas pop up at night just before she falls asleep. "I guess I dream in felt food!" All of those dreams have led to some pretty amazing creations - many of which were recently featured in an exhibit in the Chicago Children's Museum.

There's no doubt that Becky loves making people smile through her felt food. "I'm really honored when customers buy food from my shop. It means they love it enough to spend their hard-earned money on it and love it enough that they will let their children play with it," she said. "I really appreciate my customers!"

Please take a few moments to check out Becky's Etsy store, BeckyM. I guarantee you and your children will fall in love with her felt food creations. Every play kitchen should be stocked with some of her healthy goodies and sweet treats. You never know, maybe your little one will want to try the real thing after playing with his felt cauliflower!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Coming Soon... "Imagination at Play"

Growing up, I loved my play kitchen and dollhouse. I remember spending hours "cooking" food, caring for my baby dolls and arranging furniture in the dollhouse my parents lovingly made for me. Today's kids are so overwhelmed by media that parents sometimes have to work a little harder to keep their little ones from growing up too fast.

Fortunately, the Etsy community is filled with talented artists and crafters selling beautiful and unique pretend play toys that help parents preserve the magic of childhood. In the coming weeks, I'm going to feature one such Etsy seller every Friday night in a writing series called "Imagination at Play".

Stayed tuned tomorrow night for the first installment, "Go Ahead, Play With Your Food!", where I highlight an amazing, talented Etsy seller who specializes in felt play food. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Pretend Play in the Blogosphere

I've had an incredible week so far here at Little Peanut! Another Etsian contacted me on Sunday night with a request to feature my Little Chef Pretend Play Set and Monster Tail in her blog! I was so excited when the post went live Sept. 9 on The Wonderful World of Handcrafted. Thank you, Gwynn'sGifts, for your wonderful post about my play set and monster tail! Gwynn's Gifts features an innovative product that blends greeting cards with beautiful earrings. Gift giving has never been easier! Be sure to check it out!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Little Peanut In the Press

My shop got some great press yesterday when one of my items was featured on a fantastic blog, Designing-Minds. Each week, the Designer Y features a showcase of handmade/mommy-made items with an A-Z theme. This week was the theme's first week, so my Little Peanut Baby Care Set in retro fruit fabric was featured in the September 8 "A is for Apple" posting. 

I think my eyes just about popped out of my head when, an hour later, I noticed that my item had sold! I was already feeling honored and excited about the simple act of having one of my items showcased in the blog that I was completely blown away when it sold a short time later.

Falling asleep after that kind of excitement... not so easy! But all my dreams were good ones last night. Thanks Designing-Minds!