In 2003, a little experiment changed my world. I grew up with toys made by strangers, toys that I bought, toys that I opened. My own little girl was a baby and I wondered, could I make her a toy? I used wooden peg people from the local craft store and scraps of felt. A few stitches and a little glue later . . . And my daughter had her own set of seasonal gnomes, made by her own mom. I kept them on a shelf until she decided playing with toys was more fun than eating them. Now those gnomes are tokens for game boards that she draws herself, and pocket-friends, and family for little garden-houses that she builds out of sticks and leaves. Those little gnomes opened up the world of hand-crafted toys for me.
I taught second grade at the time, at the Nevada City School of the Arts in Northern California. I worked with our art teacher, Asia, to develop a handwork program for our school. We already taught students knitting. What if we taught them how to make toys? We would help them make their own little gnome family, we decided. And make their own game boards. As we cut capes for sixty gnomes, we looked at one another. "We might be crazy," we said, "but we'll see what happens." We started with a gnome. Then we realized that handing a child a sharp needle didn't mean she knew how to use it. We backtracked to teach how to use a sewing needle and how to sew a running stitch or a whip stitch.
Magic happened. The expressions on their faces were precious. They rushed up to their mom or dad, "Look what I made. I made!" And they treated their gnomes with a mixture of awe and disbelief. They could make toys.
The experience inspired Asia and I to continue building and developing crafts for children. We brought fairies, star-babies, owl treasure-pillows, and many more whimsical crafts to classes from kindergarten through second grade. In 2010, parents convinced Asia and I to write down our patterns (we keep most of them memorized). Forest Fairy Crafts was born. We are now on Etsy with patterns and craft-kits for families.
We couldn't keep up with demand for the patterns and kits. Could we share the forest with lots of people? We asked a literary agent that very question and she said yes! We found Kathleen Rushall who matched us with the FunStitch Studio at C&T Publishing. In 2013, Forest Fairy Crafts became a bestselling Needlework and Textile Crafts Book for Children on Amazon. It has stayed in the top 100 Children's Needlework and Textile Crafts list ever since then. What a treat!
My girl is not a baby anymore.Now she rushes to me with her sketchbook in hand."Look, Mom," she says, "Let's make this!"
Yes, let's make toys.