|Needle felted apricot, apple, tomato and strawberry|
I have spoken in a previous blog post about the benefits of using wool as a material. Not only is it a natural fibre that will last a lifetime, but the positive aspects as far as your child’s health is concerned far outweigh the use of synthetic materials. While I’m certain that mass-produced, plastic toys will never go out of style, mostly because they are available the world over at lower price points, it is reassuring to know that you will never find handmade woolen toys on a product recall list.
What is needle felting?
Needle felting is a technique whereby you sculpt forms out of raw carded wool using a very sharp barbed needle. Each needle felted piece is jabbed thousands and thousands of times in order to create a finished product. Needle felting is a very enjoyable art form, but also extremely labour intensive! Each of these fruits takes me approximately one hour (or more) to make. All of Niko & Nonnie’s needle felted play food items are very firmly felted and geared toward gentle imaginative play.
Here’s what organic lambs’ wool batting looks like after it has been vigorously sculpted with my needles. These items are going to be a banana and a lemon, respectively.
The next step after sculpting the clean, carded wool is to apply the colour (as in the picture at the top of this blog post). I most often use merino or corriedale, and always purchase hand-dyed when available. The raw materials for these items are costly, but they will in no way compromise the health of your child – ever. As a shop owner, it can make it a bit more difficult; labour put into an item is not necessarily appreciated by a mass audience. As consumers, we are so accustomed to seeing factory produced, machine-sewn goods that we often balk at having to pay more money because an item was crafted by someone’s own two hands. For instance, if you were to take the price of my raw materials and factor in the hours of labour for the items I produce … well, I probably would be pictured on some exposé tv show where they blow the whistle on worker exploitation. This often gives my husband and I a good laugh.
|Work-in-progress Jingle Ball|
|A close up of my needle felting process|
If this is the reality of many artisans, why choose to have a shop, to be a handmaker of children’s toys and accessories when I am decidedly not the next heir to the Fisher Price fortune?
One word: fulfillment.
When I am writing, crafting or needle felting, my mind travels to a serene, creative space where my artistic impulses can be nourished. I am able to work out any stresses I feel are weighing me down. My spirits lift, my mind clears itself, and I receive a vast amount of joy and fulfillment in return. At times, stress can be so overwhelming that it affects the creative process and prohibits the necessary juices from flowing to the brain. If this happens, I walk away from what I am doing and wait until I am in a different head space to return to it. I have tried many, many times to work through the notorious “blocks” and each time, I end up producing something I greatly dislike – which can only add to one’s frustration!
Today I did not feel like working per se, so I played around with some new product shots from some orders I’m completing instead.
|Circus Ball Jingle Rattles – perfect for a new baby!|
When you buy one of the above Circus Ball Jingle Rattles, your package will arrive looking something like this:
I sew wool felt sheets into little pouches, then add a needle felted heart clothespin, and sew on a hand-stamped tag. On the back of each tag I write a small description of the item, any age-appropriate warnings, and of course my materials – 100% organic lambs’ wool. True, I cannot tell you the names of the actual sheep that produced such lovely wool, but when you feel the products in your hands, you will thank those anonymous, fleecy wonders for their generous contribution to the world of toys.
|Just add pectin!|
Until next time,