Friday, October 31, 2008

Pretty Little Posies

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

There was a time not that many years ago when little girls played with dolls made lovingly by their mothers and grandmothers. While many were made from leftover flour sack cloth or fabric scraps, others were sweet little things fashioned out of wooden clothespins. Dressed up in handmade finery with sweet hand-painted faces, their diminutive size made them perfect for slipping inside tiny purses or pockets.

Pocket-sized dolls are still popular among little girls today. The best place to find sweet little dolls for your little one is Etsy shop little pink posies. Inside, you'll meet shop owner Leigh Houston's posy girls, sweet little hand painted wooden dolls that are sure to delight the little girl in your life.

Leigh's posy girls got their start about a year ago when she found herself frustrated by the lead-based paint recalls of toys and with the fact that the toys she couldn't find toys that are unique and special. Everything sold in stores is mass-produced, so it was very hard to find a toy just for her child because there were a million others made to be exactly the same as the one on the shelf.

"As a mom, I had these issues in the back of my mind when I was watching my son playing with a vintage Little People set passed down from my husband (a houseboat set from back in the dark ages when the figures were made of wood)," she said. "That's when I had that 'a-ha' moment and thought about making my own handmade wooden dolls. Drawing on images that I had admired of vintage clothespin dolls, I came up with the design for my little posy girls."

Starting her own line of dolls was a natural move for Leigh, having a lifetime of crafting experience to draw upon. "I've been crafting since I can remember," she explained. "I remember being very young and needlepointing with plastic canvases and yarn, drawing, rug hooking, painting... you name it. This is all courtesy of my mom, who crafts anything and everything with an incredible amount of love and skill. With everything I make in my shop, I am self-taught."

Leigh obviously inherited her mother's ability to pour love and skill into everything she makes. Each posy girl is lovingly painted using non-toxic paints and given her own unique personality. And there's something for everyone in her shop. From posy girl playsets with a matching personalized purse to custom posy play sets (Leigh will even make little boys dolls) to ready made sets, you're sure to find something to please your little girl.

Every one of Leigh's posy girls are sure to inspire creative imaginary play. But for Leigh, creating a special toy for a child is just as important as the toy itself. "I also want to teach kids that there are special toys out there – toys made especially for them – and nobody else in the world will have ones just like theirs. My personal goal is to make endearing toys that are special enough that they are remembered into adulthood or even passed onto future generations."

I know I'll be spending quite a bit of time in little pink posies when my daughter is old enough to play with her own set of posy girls. I hope you will to! 

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Pretty Little Love Objects

My shop was featured this morning on a great blog: Pretty Little Love Objects. If you have a few moments, stop on by to check it out! 

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Making Progress

I made quite a bit of progress on the doll quilt today. Not bad for a beginner, eh? 

All of the blocks are now sewn together and it's time to pick a fabric for the back of the quilt and start thinking about what I'm going to do about actually quilting it. Should I stitch it by hand or machine stitch it? I'm open to hand stitching it, but I'm not an expert so my stitches won't look perfect. On the other hand, I'm a bit nervous about free-handing a machine stitched design. That could be disastrous.

Time to spend some quality time with Google. Maybe a little research will help me figure out what to do.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Craft Rat

I'm a "craft rat", which is something of a cross between a crafter and a pack rat. You won't find that term in the dictionary, of course. Trust me when I say I'm not the only crafter out there who agonizes over throwing away a 1-by-1 inch square of fabric, the last bit of ribbon dangling from the spool or mismatched buttons. Say it with me folks, "What if I need it later?!" Craft rats know that there's no greater victory than turning the odd scrap of fabric or random craft item into something fabulous.

Today I'm working on a doll quilt for my shop. This is going to be a miniature rail fence quilt, perfect for tucking dolls into tiny beds at night. Now, I don't have a long arm on hand so I'm not really sure yet what I'm going to do about quilting it. Right now, 
I'm sticking to the easy stuff: cutting out the pieces and stitching them together. I love these fabrics, especially those adorable little owls. I'll post more as the project moves along. 

Some of my previous scrap basket creations have made it into my shop, including my pretend play tea bags, pot holders and Boogie Buddies. A few of them have even sold, which just proves that even though my fabric stash is overflowing, it can actually pay to be a craft rat!

Friday, October 24, 2008

From Writing to Goodie Bags

Friday is usually my big writing day. The end of the week is the perfect time to put aside my sewing machine and hunker down at the computer to compose the latest installment of my weekly writing series, "Imagination at Play", where I introduce you to a fabulous Etsian who sells pretend play items. 

Well, it's Friday night and there's been a slight change of plans that have pushed my writing schedule out a bit (my weekly feature will return next Friday, Oct. 31, when I highlight a really super Etsian - be sure to stop on by between trick-or-treaters!). So, I spent the last 30 minutes putting together these goodie bags for the trick-or-treaters who will drop by my doorstep on Halloween night. 

I'm always looking for creative – and inexpensive – ways to introduce people to my shop. These little goodie bags were incredibly easy to make and cost little more than the price of candy, which I was going to buy anyway. Here's how it's done:
  1. Go to your local craft store and hit the candy making aisle. Pick up a package of small goodie bags. For less than $3, I got 100 plastic bags and silver ties. I didn't use them all so I'll have plenty left over for next year.
  2. Pick up a few bags of candy at your local grocery store or big box discounter. Get the good stuff that you know kids love: mini candy bars and assorted chocolates. This at least ensures that someone (kids or their parents) will look at your goodie bag. Trust me, Tootsie Rolls and Smarties aren't going to cut it here! 
  3. Rummage through your office or craft room and dig up some cardstock or printable business card stock. Type up a cute Halloween message and be sure to include your shop address. Print them out, cut them up or punch them out following the perforated lines, then use your hole punch to knock out a hole to attach the card to your bags.
  4. Package everything up and get ready to hand them out to the ghosts and goblins haunting your doorstep this Halloween. Who knows, maybe you'll even get a sale out of it! 

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Freebies... Coming Soon!

I'm really excited about next month's Etsymom Super Giveaway... and not just because there are so many opportunities to win fantastic handmade prizes. What I'm really excited about is that one of my items is going to be featured in the giveaway! I've donated a set of my Pretend Play Tea Bags and can't wait to send it out to the lucky winner. 

The set includes two red bubbles tea bags, two green swirls tea bags and two green bubbles tea bags. Each tea bag is approx. 1x1.5 inches in size. The tea bags are designed for children ages 3 and older since they have small parts. 

My giveaway day is Nov. 25 – two days before Thanksgiving. It's the perfect opportunity to snag a stocking stuffer for the little girl in your life. I'll be sure to post a reminder as the day draws near!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Etsymom Super Giveaway is coming!

The Etsymom Street Team is prepping for the holidays by taking the time-honored tradition of gift-giving to another level! Riding the wave of unity, harmony and excitement inspired by the Etsymom Trunk Show in September, our team tossed around a few ideas about our next team event. A little idea of having a giveaway, where moms would donate an item to be given away each day of November on our blog has morphed into a super giveaway

When the call for volunteers went out we had an overwhelming response of over 60 shops willing to donate a $10.00 in value item to this cause. Two winners will be randomly chosen every day to receive one of over 50 prizes. Donations will range from an assortment of hand embroidery, vintage finds, hair clippies, baby accessories, papercrafts, earthenware pottery and more. Perfect for gift-giving! There is a little bit of everything, so whether you like trendy, shabby chic, traditional or retro styles, you're sure to find something! Don't miss this online extravaganza. Visit the Etsymom blog beginning November 1st for giveaway rules and deadlines!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Riding the Roller Coaster

Owning your own shop is a bit like riding a roller coaster. Every new idea is incredibly exciting. You create the pattern, select your materials then carefully create your spectacular new *thing* that you're sure everyone is going to love. Then you reach the top of that big hill and... gulp... actually have to take the plunge and sell it. 

Suddenly, you're terrified! Did I price it right? Will someone find it to be useful/fun/gift-worthy? How's the cuteness factor? Were my materials too expensive? Am I crazy to think people will want to buy it?

All of those agonizing questions – and more – were running through my head today when I listed my newest creation: my first Contoured Changing Pad Liner Set. I still have another, boy-themed set to make. Hopefully, they'll resonate with new moms and moms-to-be. I know I would have loved to have a set of these when my daughter was little!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Create Your Own Monster-Piece

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

Look around your neighborhood. If it's anything like mine, the evidence that we've transitioned from summer to fall is all around us. Tree leaves are turning from green to yellow and red, spooky decorations haunt every doorstep in preparation for Halloween and folks are starting to put away the kiddie pools and slip-and-slides.

Fall's cool, crisp weather also means that rainy days are around the corner. It's time to begin thinking about some indoor activities for your kids that will keep their imaginations running at full steam. A great place to start is at kitsandcaboodles on Etsy. Shop owner Andrea's craft kits designed just for kids are the perfect way to chase away those rainy day blues and bring out your little one's inner artist.

Andrea makes it easy for children to get started on fun paper projects with her Kids Mega Craft Kit. This kit truly has everything your little one needs to create her masterpiece including glitter, pretty beads, colorful papers and fluffy pom-poms. Andrea thought of everything – including the fact that you'd want a place to store all these goodies. Every kit comes packed in a sturdy reusable box making organization a snap.

If you really want to get your little one's imagination going, check out Andrea's Kids Monster Kit, which is filled with everything you could possible need to make a bunch of scary – or goofy – paper monsters. You'll even find craft sticks tucked inside to make puppets for monster-piece theatre!

Andrea's craft kits for kids got their start when she was experimenting with activities for her own daughter. "My daughter is home with me all day, and I hate to plop her in front of the TV," she said. "I had to come up with some activities that would occupy her while I worked. So I started putting little baggies together with activities that she could do by herself."

The Kids Monster Kits were born out of a need to be conscious of how much waste was being create as a family. Andrea often creates using paper, so she had a lot of scraps left over that she discovered were perfect for her daughter's collages. "She started putting the little pieces together into faces, so really, the monsters were her idea," said Andrea. "Its her favorite activity and I love that she needs no direction. We tend to over direct our kids, I think. My monster kit is all about a kids' imagination. I tried to make a few for the listing photos in my shop, but my daughters were always better! "

Andrea's kits really seem to resonate with parents and kids, and it's clear just how much she loves her customers. "I love hearing feedback from customers! They say the sweetest things," she said. "I have a flickr pool so anyone can upload a photo of what they have made from one of my kits and I get so excited to see new photos. When you buy handmade, you are a part of something wonderful."

I hope you take a few moments to check out kitsandcaboodles. I think you'll be delighted by her Kids Monster Kits and Kids Mega Craft Kits. And I'd be willing to be that your kids will love them too! 

Andrea has generously offered a 20% discount to anyone who has read this post and places an order in her shop. Simply type the code "littlepeanut" in the notes to the seller at checkout. Happy shopping!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Handmade Halloween

My Aunt Maria and Uncle Michael are incredibly talented artists. I've always admired how they could create something whimsical out of an ordinary everyday object. When I was growing up they lived in this cool warehouse down in San Bernardino, CA. At the front of the warehouse was a shop where they sold all sorts of beautiful handmade items including, if my memory serves me right, puppets. I still have a number of the lovely handmade gifts they gave me over the years, including a crocheted blue bird and this adorable little jack-o-lantern made out of a hollowed out walnut shell.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Squeezing In Some Diaper Time

Being the social secretary, executive chef and chief entertainer for my 15-month-old daughter doesn't leave me with a lot of time for sewing most days. The "boss" lets me spend time in my craft room during nap time or after she goes to bed at night, which doesn't seem to amount to more than a few hours in any given day.

So I use my time as wisely as possible, spending the majority of it promoting my Etsy shop, sewing new items, packaging up a sale or writing in my blog. Fortunately, I love doing all of these things – establishing myself on Etsy and running my little shop is by far the most enjoyable "job" I've ever had.

Between my daughter and my shop, I've little time left these days for any kind of personal sewing project. I recently discovered, though, that my little one has outgrown her cloth diaper covers so I've been feverishly trying to sew a new set of covers while she sleeps. I had to go with a yellow inner PUL this time as opposed to the usual white because my favorite diaper supply shop, Very Baby, was sold out of white (Very Baby also sells the fantastic pattern that I use). As it turns out, I really like having that extra splash of color on her dipes. 

So far, I've finished sewing two (I still need to add snaps) and I think they've turned out pretty cute. Just four more covers and a zillion snaps to go!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Dress-Up Delights

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

Every child loves to imagine herself in the starring role of a grand adventure. One flash of inspiration and suddenly your sofa cushions have been turned into an impenetrable fort, a tiny table has been artfully set for high tea with the queen or the backyard has been transformed into a medieval forest. 

Of course, no imaginary journey would be complete without a sheriff's vest, wizard cloak or pretty tiara, right? And if you're looking for the perfect costume or accessory for your son or daughter's dress-up box, then you absolutely must check out Etsy seller Natasha Henry's shop, Her Flying Horses.

With nearly 400 sales in just over a year as an Etsy seller, it's clear that Natasha's whimsical designs have struck a chord with parents and children alike. Every pirate gift set, superhero cape and race car driver vest is well constructed and designed so that young children can easily take them on and off. 

And while Natasha's background in fashion design and costume construction have certainly made her dress-up clothes stand-outs in the handmade world, it's the love and creativity that she puts into each design that really makes her shop shine.

Natasha's main source of inspiration is her daughter, who loves tea parties and ballet. "My daughter is a huge inspiration," she said. "It's a lot of fun to take her ideas and make them into reality. I know she'll have some wonderful childhood memories. She already has a strong appreciation for handmade things in a crazy world of mass produced and throw away items."

Talk to Natasha and you'll get the sense that she's an artist at heart. She's always on the hunt for new ideas, and finds inspiration around every corner. "I'm always creating and working on new designs," she said.  "I keep a sketch book of ideas. I'd go crazy if I couldn't create. There's something so wonderful and satisfying in creating something that didn't exist before."

All of these wonderful ideas have been turned into special dress-up clothes designed to get your child's imagination racing. And parents of little boys (who often have trouble finding a good variety of dress-up clothes) will be pleased to find an excellent selection of goodies designed with boys in mind. 

It's clear just how well Natasha understands children. Everything she designs, creates and sells in the dress-up section of her shop has the ultimate goal of inspiring fun and adventure. "I want children to use their imaginations and creativity," said Natasha. "Imaginary play builds self confidence and helps children problem solve. It's very rewarding to see the smiles and have parents tell me how much enjoyment their child has had from something I made."

I hope you take some time to browse Natasha's amazing shop. Who knows, maybe you'll find something special for your little one's next imaginary adventure!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Halloween Is Almost Here - It's Time to Scare Up Some Treats

Every trick-or-treater needs something fun to carry his loot in as he roams the neighborhood in search of bite-sized candy bars, lollipops and miniature bags of M&Ms. My mom used to make our trick-or-treat bags and costumes every year and I hope to do the same for my daughter when she's ready to go trick-or-treating.

Now that we're finally in October, I'm ready to get into the Halloween spirit. Of course, every retailer in town has been selling Halloween candy, costumes and decorations for the last two months. I'm a traditionalist, though, so I prefer to wait until October to sell my Halloween goodies

I just finished adding the first Halloween trick-or-treat tote bag to my shop. This reversible treat bag is perfectly sized for ghosts, fairy princesses, and goblins under the age of 8. Every little ghoul deserves some handmade fun at Halloween, and this trick-or-treat bag is sure to be a Halloween favorite for years to come.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Be the Envy of Your Mommy Group

Diaper changes may be messy, but there's no reason why they can't also be chic. I just finished making this beautiful Baby Care Set for my shop using some gorgeous Alexander Henry fabric I picked up in my shopping spree a few days ago. 

Pull out this diaper change pad or one of the matching burp cloths and I guarantee the other mammas in your play group will be green with envy! 

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Mmmm... New Fabric...

I love the feeling I get when I step inside a fabric store. Time seems to stand still as I wander up and down aisles packed with soft cotton, luxurious minky and snuggly flannel. The pretty patterns, bright colors and smooth texture of the fabrics inspire project ideas and make me wish I had a bigger craft room to store all the lovely fabrics I want to buy.

The only thing that could possibly make the experience more enjoyable is walking into said fabric store armed with a gift card. And that's exactly what I did yesterday morning. With my daughter snuggled up in the mei tai on my back and a well funded gift card in my hand, I spent a wonderful early afternoon picking out fabrics that will soon be transformed into some lovely new items for the Baby and Kid Care section of my shop.

Friday, October 3, 2008

A Return to Simplicity

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

Children are masters at open-ended, imaginative play. They can turn ordinary everyday objects into spaceships, cars or castles. The simplest of toys become the inspiration for fantastical adventures and stories populated by amazing characters, proving that sometimes the simplest toys inspire the most creativity in our children.

Many of today's parents are starting to grasp the value of simple, well made toys. You'll find evidence of this on Etsy, which is populated by many talented artists and crafters specializing in toys designed to inspire imaginative play.

One such Etsy shop is Black Dog Woodshop, which specializes in handmade wooden toys. Sure, you may have noticed that mainstream toy shops and discounters like Target are beginning to stock their aisles with wooden toys, but you won't find anything approaching the creativity, warmth and quality of the toys sold in Black Dog Woodshop.

From tiny maple barns meant to house your little farmer's cows to play swords designed to help your pint-sized knight slay dragons, you'll find beautifully crafted wooden toys that will spark your little one's imagination. The quality of workmanship ensures that not only will each toy stand up to years of play, they will also become cherished family heirlooms.

"I try to create toys that inspire imaginative play," said shop owner Daniel. "I hope that my toys will be played with, saved and passed down."

Daniel puts love and care into each toy sold in his shop, all of which are made using local domestic hardwoods such as Maple, Cherry, Catalpa, Kentucky Coffee Tree and Sassafras. Each wood has been carefully chosen for its beauty, strength, durability and non-toxic nature and finished with a non-toxic mineral oil to bring out the natural beauty of the wood.

"Each toy that I make is unique not only because it is made by hand but also because the wood itself is unique," said  Daniel. "I take great care in making sure that my toys will stand up to play. I make sure that edges are eased and corners are rounded."

Like many Etsians, Daniel is self-taught in his art. He began woodworking five years ago after getting the notion to build a canoe. "I'm quite sure my wife believed I was crazy," he said. After finishing his canoe, he moved on to building furniture and then began making toys for his children, his nieces and his nephew. A short time later, his wife encouraged him to try selling his toys on Etsy, and he's been part of the Etsy family ever since.

When creating new toy designs, Daniel works with imagination in mind. Inspiration sometimes comes in the form of custom orders, but he's most often inspired by his wife, who Daniel credits with coming up with ideas for a number of different toys such as the maple barn, and his children. Last year, he built a set of "tree blocks" for his 2-year-old son using part of a small Sassafras tree. Of course, this is no ordinary set of blocks. Each block is irregularly shaped, with flat or rounded sides. 

"I enjoy the creative ways that children find to play with my toys," he said. "My son uses these blocks several times a week, usually to construct caves for his animal figures to hide in."

Daniel's toys exude a warmth and sense of history that you won't find in any factory-made toy. It's easy to imagine children of yesteryear playing with these very same toys. I encourage you to take a look inside Black Dog Woodshop – I think you'll like what you see!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

My Moo MiniCards Arrived!

I'm so excited! My Moo MiniCards arrived in the mail today! They're exactly what I wanted: cute, colorful and memorable. I can't wait to start handing them out and using them for hang tags on my items!

I've Been Tagged... Check Out Who's Next!

I just discovered that I've been "tagged" – a great way to introduce yourself to other bloggers. BackwoodSophisticate tagged my blog yesterday so now it's my turn to tag a few other bloggers. Here are the rules:
  1. Link to your tagger and list these rules on your blog.
  2. Share seven facts about yourself on your blog – some random, some weird.
  3. Tag seven people at the end of your post by leaving their names as well as links to their blogs.
  4. Let them know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blogs.
Here are my seven random facts:
  1. I had a secret identity in college – I spent a year as my school's mascot.
  2. I have a wicked sweet tooth. In fact, I just polished off a lovely piece of ice cream cake left over from my birthday. Yum!
  3. My hubby and I love to go to Disneyland – we're there at least twice a year. (And we don't live in Southern California.)
  4. My daughter and I spend every Thursday morning waiting outside for the garbage man to come by. She loves to watch the truck pick up the cans and dump the garbage in the big bin!
  5. I'm an attachment parent.
  6. I'm an accomplished Toastmaster, but I haven't belonged to a club since my daughter was born. I miss my old club sometimes!
  7. I don't have any pets.
Here are the seven people I'm tagging: