Homegrown: Holiday Shopping Guide
Our corner of the world is an exceptionally fertile place for growing creative products for kids. And we want to see these brave entrepreneurs thrive!
For our Holiday Shopping Guides, we've picked a few of our favorites because we want to spread the word about the ingenious, amazing products created by parents right here in our community; these businesses care deeply about healthy business practices and being environmentally friendly, plus making top-quality, kid- and friend-tested products; and we believe a healthy community for families includes successful small businesses serving parents and kids.
Farida Dowler of Seattle is inspired by science, stories and songs to create hand-sewn dolls in the tradition of a long line of needleworking women in her ancestry. Her embroidered wool felt pieces, appropriate for nature table displays, storytelling and imaginative play, include knights, fairies, guitarists, flower children, and math, astronomy and chemistry wizards. She hopes that, as in the traditional story of "Vasilisa and Baba Yaga," the dolls will keep their owners company, and that the attention Dowler puts into each item will be conveyed to the recipients of each doll.
http://alkeldadolls.etsy.com, and custom orders offline. Picture shows Yellow Leaf Baby Doll, $14.
Frustrated by the lack of functional, appropriately-sized bags for toting lunch and gear available for children, Seattle sisters Susan Givens and Carol Mack teamed up to create Dabbawalla Bags. They don't feature cartoon characters or action figures, just playful designs and styles right for kids.
"The idea for this line began with needing a hat for my daughter, Sadie – one that covered her ears, shaded her eyes and stayed on her head. We worked on patterns during playtime (before she started crawling!) and I sewed the samples during nap and bedtime. It was a lot of trial and error before coming up with the perfect design: a reversible hat with a visor and Velcro fastener that keeps that hat on, but breaks away to prevent choking. This hat can also be put on with one hand, which is important when you are holding baby with the other!" – Suzy Fairchild, owner, Seattle
http://hootorganic.com. Hoot Hats (variety of patterns and colors), $18.
Little Orange Room
"littleorangeroom is simple. I stitch and print. Anything. I'm a ‘choose your own adventure' kind of girl. My screen-printed neighborhood tees are hand drawn and printed in my Ballard basement. The collection is constantly expanding until all neighborhoods on planet Earth are available. I use environmentally friendly, water-based inks and print on organic American Apparel shirts." – Anne-Lise Hurn, owner, Seattle
"Our family business was born out of the desire to offer natural, safe and challenging toys. We believe the best toys can be simple, durable, tactile and spark the imagination. Our toys are made from American hardwoods – maple, cherry, walnut and Alaskan yellow cedar, all U.S. domestic, renewable woods. We buy from a local source, and enhance and protect the wood with our own blend of beeswax and organic jojoba oil. Through good design, quality materials and fine craftsmanship we aim to make toys to last generations." – Adrienne and David, owners, Seattle
Sara Anderson has been designing for children for more than 30 years, and she has used that experience to create products that go beyond being visually appealing. Stacking blocks, for example, are used to teach size relationships, so Anderson's blocks feature appropriately sized animals (a cow on a large block, a dog on a mid-sized block, a chick on a small block), each paired with the image of a food they eat or produce (milk, bones, caterpillars). They also illustrate the numbers, from one to 10, providing children an opportunity to learn about counting, sequencing and sorting – as well as the traditional stacking and demolishing.
www.saranderson.com for information; Amazon.com and other sites to purchase. Find Sara Anderson products at Mockingbird Books and many other Seattle area bookstores. Picture shows the Numbers and Colors Nesting Blocks, $24.95.
Satch & Sol
"The idea for Satch & Sol began when my in-laws gave seamlessly felted, flower cut slippers to my toddler son, Solomon. They had traveled to Mongolia for business in 2005, where they found the slippers sold by a local artist near Ulaanbaatar. Solomon wore those soft, warm, stunning slippers everywhere! "Initially, I had only wanted to purchase more slippers as new baby gifts for friends. Upon learning the story behind the slippers, I instantly decided to build a business and support the amazing artists of Mongolia. "In and around Ulaanbaatar, the artists create the felted wool without electricity, using wool harvested from their own sheep and soft leather soles of goat suede from local farmers." – Susan Bell, owner, Seattle
After launching her Natural Maker Mom blog to offer quick, crafty solutions for busy parents, Jen Porter decided to expand into eco-friendly, cozy and useful products for babies. The collection, which includes gift boxes for baby showers, baby apparel, nursery accessories and other products, is designed and made in Seattle. Bootlegs feature velour booties attached to soft, stretchy bamboo and organic cotton jersey leggings, available in five colors. "Think Louboutin for baby like we do."
"The Silly Creatures were created by my son, Simon, when he was 6 years old. We were making up stories about some silly creatures doing silly things. Then I got curious and asked him what those silly creatures looked like, so he got his crayons and paper and drew them. They looked so funny and cute that I decided to make one of those out of fabric – a stuffed animal for him to play with. I cut and sewed the parts together and stuffed the creature, but before I could close it, Simon started playing with it. He was very intrigued by the stuff inside. He would pull the stuffing out and have the creature go limp and then put it back and make it go back to life.
Looking at what Simon was doing, I thought this could be an educational toy to teach kids what's inside of creatures. I added a stomach and guts, so that Simon could feed the creature and see what comes on the other side. I thought this was a great exercise to develop his fine motor skills – his school teacher and occupational therapists agreed with me. I also decided to add a heart inside of the creature, and I put a pocket inside the heart so that something to show love could be put inside of the heart. Simon and his friends were thrilled by it. Later I also put babies inside one of the creatures, which was also celebrated by all the children around us." – Flor Lozano-Byrne, president, Redmond
Silly Creatures are not your regular stuffed toy! Instead of stuffing, they have organs, including stomach, guts, heart and womb, depending on the creature. Kids can feed the creatures the polished stones or stuffed balls provided as food and squeeze it through the digestive system until it comes out the other end. (Due to small "food" pieces, not recommended for children younger than 3 years.)