makers, Uncategorized

Meet the Maker: Sarah, Creator of Smelly Faces – Oil Diffusing Soft Toys for Children

I’m so excited to introduce my amazing readers to Sarah Bodnar, creator of Smelly Faces! Smelly Faces are essential oil diffusing soft toys for children. Their huggable shape and oil infused brains that you put essential oils on for aromatherapy can be amazing tools to help children battling anxiety. A few drops of calming blends of oil and a huge hug from their soft friend can help children relax!

Hi, Sarah! First off, tell us a bit about yourself!

Hello!!! My name is Sarah and I live in upstate New York with my husband and two small kiddos. I married my husband 6 years ago right after he got home from Afghanistan at 21 years old. Since then we have lived in six different places, hoping we stay put for a while now though!

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Can you tell me a bit about how Smelly Faces work?
Smelly Faces are stuffed animal essential oil diffusers! All you have to do is place 2-3 drops of your favorite essential oil on the wool “brain” and plop it back in the pocket located at the top of the head. Snuggle and Sniff!
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How did you come up with the idea for Smelly Faces? 

After college I frankly was quite lost. Moving from place to place and therefore hopping from job to job I found myself struggling very deeply with anxiety and depression. One day after helping my aunt with photography for her book, I felt that creative spark again for a for a flickering instant. That night the name “Smelly Faces” popped in my head along with the idea for the potato shaped creatures. I had decided to take this randomness for what it was and move forward with it, setting all fears/emotions aside. The next morning, after messing around on a sewing machine, the original Smelly Face was born!

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Do you illustrate all of your designs & branding yourself?
I do!! This is honestly one of my favorite parts. I have a background in digital media arts: animation so being able to draw, design, and brand everything myself gets me so pumped! I remember it took me a while to convince myself I was “fancy” enough to actually be a company. Branding and logos helped me a lot in this. It was a silly way to trick myself and feel “legit” but it worked! Cause if I have a mug with my company logo on it then it’s the real deal right?
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You were into essential oils before it was trendy – tell me how you discovered them and decided you wanted to share your love of holistic health with others through Smelly Faces.
My mom got me into them! Five years ago, were they trendy then?  I think that aromatherapy can be so great for everyone. Just like a smell can bring you back to a favorite childhood memory, more vivid than you thought possible, I think the smell of essential oils can help provide a similar affect.
 

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Which of your Smelly Faces is your top seller?
Probably the Unicorn!!!
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You recently published a children’s book that is super cute! That is such a different creative process from sewing – tell us what inspired you to write & illustrate a book
Oh dang, writing and illustrating children’s books is my passion. I love everything about it. Creating a new world, exploring characters and building a story line makes me geek out hardcore. I could write a whole essay answering this question, but I shall refrain. If anyone is interested in the importance and impact that stories have on us read The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Jospeh Campbell. It dives deep into how stories are routed in all of us as humans. This topic sparks all sorts of passion in me.
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How do you balance your busy shop with motherhood?
I value efficiency pretty highly. So when I do get time in my office I won’t spend too much time on any one thing. If there are too many hiccups I usually will just take that for what it is and move along. My husband works second shift so he usually plays with the kiddos for a couple hours in the early afternoon before leaving for work. This gives me time to sew. When I’m hanging with my babies I’ll often plot and plan in a notebook. I’ll also often get them involved in the process! Meaning, as I stuff a Smelly Face, they throw fluff at each other and draw on the cardboard box. Then after I put the kids down at night, I’m right back working again.
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What are your favorite ways to unwind from the handmade hustle?
My favorite way to unwind is to watch an incredibly ridiculous movie that I’ve seen about 3,847,284 times. Dumb and Dumber & Billy Madison are both some of my classic go-tos but there are many on the list. Also, cranking Led Zepplin or Michael Bolton (the cheesier the better) usually does the trick.
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What is your top advice for moms who want to begin to use essential oils for aromatherapy with their children?
That it is awesome! I’d say to do lots of research and pick which oils you personally as a parent feel comfortable with. Find a community of people you feel happy with to help you get educated on the subject!

Be sure to check out Smelly Faces online, and say hi on Facebook or Instagram!

life, Parenting

Ending Food Poverty – The Lu & Ed Lunch Program

$1 from every Monster sold through luanded.com will go to end food poverty in American schools.

Lunch shaming is an embarrassing epidemic for children in America. When children have insufficient funds on their lunch accounts, most schools have policies where the child’s hot lunch is taken away and substituted with a brown bag lunch consisting of a cold sandwich and piece of fruit – or in some cases, they are forced to watch staff discard their tray of food into the trash, and are left with nothing at all to eat for lunch, a cruel form of punishment for a problem that they can’t control. You can read more about the sad epidemic of food poverty in American schools here.

I am passionate about creating change with this little monster making business of mine. I already make a monumental environmental impact by using only textile discards, which diverts tens of thousands of pounds of textiles from landfills annually, but I want to use Lu & Ed to directly create positive change in children’s lives as well. I’ve been working out the kinks for the Lu & Ed Lunch Program since January, and I’m so excited to launch it!

All through September, $1 from every monster adopted through my shop will be donated to pay outstanding lunch debts & load funds onto lunch accounts at *Riverbend Elementary in Clyde, NC, a school in a region with an incredibly high level of food poverty.

*My original choice to donate to received a grant and is able to offer free lunches to students for the 18-19 school year, yay! With the help of the staff, I selected Riverbend Elementary, a school where over 50% of students are on food assistance.

Beginning in September, I will take also be taking submissions for the next school to donate to in my Facebook group

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Members can submit their child(ren)’s school or a school in their community through the 7th of each month, then I’ll create a poll for members to vote for the next school to receive donations. Members can add family or friends to the group to use their voices to vote for their local school.

The same school won’t be chosen twice in one academic year, allowing for a total of twelve schools that will receive donations from the Lu & Ed Lunch Program to pay off student lunch debt & load funds onto low income students lunch accounts, and to help fund summer lunch programs for communities where children face hunger at alarming rates.

How you can help:

Spread the word about the Lu & Ed Lunch Program – share this blog post with your friends

Join my VIP group & nominate your local school

Add your friends and family to the VIP group to increase the impact we can make together

Donate directly to your local public schools

Transformation Tuesday

Transformation Tuesday: Pajama Top into Toy Storage!

I always think it is fun to showcase what Mon-stors Toy Storage Bags & my monster toys are made from! This week, I’m throwing back to a Mon-stor I made in January from this fun blue on blue zebra stripe pajama top I rescued from the salvage center.

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It was discarded for some fraying hems, I think, but was in great condition! I cut the sleeves and hems off, and cut it open at all the seams, to turn that discarded top into this fun Small Mon-stor Toy Storage Bag!

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All those board books in the floor? They fit neatly inside to tame the never ending slippery sea of baby books around the house – plus, toddlers love to “feed” their Mon-stor their books and take them back out, making reading time even more fun!

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This Mon-stor is currently available for adoption in my shop, along with several other Small Mon-stor Toy Storage Bags!

Tell me: what would your kids feed to their Mon-stors? Books, blocks, toys, dress up clothes?

 

makers, Uncategorized

Meet the Maker: Mindy of Milkweed Baby – Creator of the cutest high fashion baby shoes & teething accessories!

As a mother to a preteen AND a baby, I can honestly say it is super exciting to see how much the children’s fashion industry has evolved since my son was a baby/toddler! There is still a huge fast fashion market, but you can also build a lasting wardrobe for your child that is fun, fashionable & ethical through independent designers, makers & creatives! Today, I am so excited to introduce Mindy of Milkweed Baby & share her shop (plus a sweet discount code!) with you! She makes the most adorable, high quality and durable baby shoes I have encountered – Milkweed Baby are the only baby shoes we have ever bought for Zoey Rose, and the only ones Zoey will actually keep on her tootsies! Mindy is mama maker driven by quality & great design, and below, you can get to know her & see a sampling of her work!
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Tell us about yourself:
Born & raised KC… and still here. But I think it’s great here! The only thing that would get me to move is a beach on the west coast! I had planned to be a golfer, I played in high school until an injury stopped all that. So instead of a golf scholarship I went to art school. I majored in painting at KU and dropped out with 3 semesters left because I was afraid of a “do you want fries with that?” degree. I worked a variety of jobs after that. The last was 9 years as a marketing coordinator for a seminar company. While working there I started my first business, by Mindy. I was laid off while on maternity leave 2 years ago and it was during that time that Milkweed Baby was born.
 
When did you first find your love of creating?
I don’t remember a time when I didn’t love creating.
 
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Have you always been a textile sewist?
NOPE! I learned to sew when I was 27. I wanted to make a gift for each of my bridesmaids, so my mom helped me sew them each a bag. And that was that! I was hooked!!!
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When did you begin to create baby products/How did this become your central
focus?
I started making baby shoes in 2010. I’d been making a variety of things, coffee cup sleeves, totes, bow ties, knit ties, clutches, aprons and so on. Nothing felt right.
I was at a pop up and saw how people couldn’t control themselves with baby items. They are just so cute! So I decided it was the market I wanted to get into.
I did a bunch of research and found the soft soled shoes that I thought looked cool were really hard to find. So that’s what I was going to make. And through a bunch of trial and error, I worked it out.
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What sets your baby shoes apart from the rest?
1. My style (I don’t do ugly). 2. My quality (read attention to detail & perfectionist nature).
 
The baby & children’s market is heavily saturated and highly competitive –
what is your advice for makers in this industry to help them stand out &
grow their client base? Find your style identity and stay true to it. It’s really easy to pander to the audience, but it’s not satisfying. “YOU DO YOU”. Get your product in front of as many people as you can. If you are passionate and make a good quality product, people will buy.
 
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How did having your first baby impact running your small business?
This is complicated. Having my first baby almost killed my business and made my business my full time gig. I basically took a year off when I had my daughter, and during this time a local gal hard core ripped off my designs, undercut my price by a mile (she uses lesser quality materials) and moved in on all the local shows. Also during this time, I was laid off from my full time job of 9 years… so this became my full time job. I have to say, I thought it would be easy to work and take care of a kid! HA!!! Only someone without a kid would make that assumption!
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What can makers & small business owners expecting a baby do to prepare
their business – and themselves! – for such a big change?
You know, so much depends on what kind of kid you have. Mine rolled over at 6 days old, so she could never be left alone. My best advice is to prepare your finances to have some down time. Amp up as much stock as you can before baby comes so you can still keep up with shows and online without needing to make much (prevent people from moving in on your “turf”).
Expect the unexpected.
 
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What is your favorite method of self-care as a mama & a maker?  
Walks, Sleep, Wine, meal planning (it’s the only way we eat healthy), and every 3 weeks I get my eyebrows waxed
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Do you bring your baby to events you vend at? If so, how do you balance motherhood & face-to-face business transactions with customers?
Mostly we have my mother-in-law watch my daughter while my husband & I run my booth at shows. However, we are about to do 2 big ones where childcare is not going to be an option. So we will see. I think the plan is to get a cheap tablet and load Daniel Tiger on it. And coloring books and crayons. Probably, my husband and I will take turns chasing after my daughter and making sure she doesn’t break any ceramics or topple any displays. And my husband will have to leave me for a couple hours each day to handle her naps.
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Mindy’s daughter rocking some Milkweed Baby shoes!
How many pairs of your handmade baby shoes does your own sweet little baby
have? 
She has 1. I know, I know. Everyone always gasps when I tell them that. Here’s the deal…
I love all of my fabrics, so choosing is impossible. So I just pick 1 or let her pick 1. I make a pair & that’s it. I need to be making these shoes to sell because I need the income.
I recall something about the cobbler’s child has no shoes?
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What is your favorite color?
Green (many shades of green… aqua, seaglass, olive, mint, kelly, emerald… just not hunter)
What is your drink of choice while you sew?
6am-5pm COFFEE
5pm —> WINE (shiraz or rose)
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Television or music while you work?
Music (TV is too distracting and I really need to be looking at the sewing machine)
 
Lastly – Have you ever made yourself an adult size pair of slippers?
No. Maybe next year!

I hope you enjoyed getting to know Mindy of Milkweed Baby! Be sure to visit her on Facebook & Instagram, and you can use code LUANDED to save 20% of baby shoes in her online store!

code valid 2/1 through 2/28/18

Business

How to take excellent product photos using only 12 square inches of space

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I constantly get emails & messages on social media from fellow online sellers asking for tips, advice on their listings, or shop critiques. One of the main things that many sellers struggle with is photography, and often the response is “I don’t have anywhere to shoot” or “I don’t have a ton of natural light”. So, I wanted to put together a quick tutorial on how to shoot excellent products like the one above in no more than 12 square inches of space!

All I used in this shoot is one piece of paper & two photography lamps. They have adjustment legs, so you just need about 12″ of floor space on either side of your surface to stand the lamps up, so space isn’t an issue. As far as cost goes, my set of lamps are about $80 on Amazon. I did find this set for under $50 at Wal-Mart and this set for $40 on Amazon, and I’m sure with a little more digging, you could find a set for basically any budget.

I cannot stress enough how important of an investment professional lighting is for a maker so you can have consistent, even lighting in every single set of images. There’s “hack” videos out there for turning household lamps into photography lights, and I’ve tried almost every one of them. They do no compare to the real deal, but can tide you over until you can score some of these beauts.

To really demonstrate what a huge difference they make, here is an image of my work space for these images with the overhead light off.

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Same exact space with the photography lamps on. See the enormous difference? Minimal natural light here, so for all those people with a day job doing this as a side hustle, or mamas who don’t get time to get their goods out for shoots until evenings – photography lamps! Order them, stat!

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Zoomed out shot of my work space for these images – please don’t judge my messy studio, I was just wrapping up a day of monster making! As you can see (I brightened this image a lot just so you can see), I have one West facing window, and you can see the shadow my house throws in the evening on the grass. We have an enormous maple tree that completely shades almost our entire house, so my studio gets very dim at about 3pm, and this was taken at almost 5.

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To make sure I didn’t use more than 12″ of space, I used a ruler & washi tape to roughly mark out lines on the table and wall, effectively creating a 12″ cube of shooting space.

For affordable backgrounds, scrapbook paper. This entire file is 8″x12″ paper. As you can see, TONS of possibilities for backgrounds, and this size of paper is usually 15 cents at craft stores.

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I chose a white embossed style paper (averages about 30 cents, I think, at most craft stores in the scrap book department).

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These were my subjects – Random Sh!t jewelry dish by Clay by Laura, a piece of rose quartz from my son’s insanely extensive stone & gem collection, and a necklace from Almond Eye Creations.

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I put the dish & rock on the paper on this beat up dark-ish table, and snapped these  raw images with my Canon Powershot point and shoot (not my DSLR).

I used some free photo editing software on the internet to crop, rotate images to straighten them out, brighten, and slightly increase saturation in the images to really show off the amethyst.

And that is how you create excellent images for small products in just 12 square inches of space! It all comes down to professional lighting, creative use of space & supplies, and good angles.

Sidenotes: If you don’t have white walls or a ton of space, substitute by taping white posterboard ($1 at the Dollar Tree) up when you need to shoot images, and store them upright behind book cases or the couch.

Have other photography questions? Post them in the comments & I will create posts to help with all of your photography needs!

makers

Meet the Maker – Erin of Create Custom Critters

Today, I’m interviewing Erin of Create Custom Critters. She designs & sews sustainably made bedding children using fabric that is designs and printed in America with non-toxic, biodegradable inks & organic materials, as well as a line of baby clothes! I’m so excited to show off her amazing products & help you get to know her.

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First, tell us about yourself!

Most of my time and energy goes to my three kiddos. I have a 2 and half year old daughter and 8 month old twin boys. I live with my family in New York State and thrive on the fast pace that is associated with the area. I love hiking, DIY projects and continually learning and exploring.

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When did you first begin to create?

I have always loved trying different crafts and projects. It is so fun to explore different colors and textures. In the past I have tried painting, knitting and other needlework crafts before falling in love with sewing.
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Have you always worked in textiles?

Before starting CreateCustomCritters I spent 4 years working in a fabric shop. This gave me a lot of insight into different color and style trends. I also learned how quality of fabrics and manufacturing processes can greatly differ. That is why it is so important to me that I create an exceptional eco-friendly product.

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You create beautiful bedding sets for children – How did you discover that niche market?

Once I started sewing I quickly fell in love with making baby blankets. I find that they make such an adorably useful gift. It warms my heart to know my gift will provide years of comfort and warmth. It wasn’t too long before I had given a bunch blankets away as gifts to my friends and family. I soon decided to start selling baby blankets on Etsy and have grown greater than I ever first imagined! I have made a great effort to listen to my customers wants and needs. Almost every new item I have developed began with the desire to help a give a customer what they were look for. .

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What is your favorite thing to sew?

Hearts of Hope! I started Hearts of Hope Program after my own painfully emotional NICU experience. I decided I wanted to help and offer a free pair of fabric hearts to those parents enduring the NICU experience. Parents are able tuck the hearts against their skin to transfer their scent to the heart. The hearts are then placed alongside their baby leaving the familiar scent of mom or dad with their baby. My HOPE is that these hearts will bring comfort and healing to those enduring the NICU experience.

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Tell us about your tee shirt line – what inspired the venture into apparel from your traditional home decor item?

As a maker, I love to test and try new processes. Starting an apparel line has given my the opportunity to explore different design elements. I love pushing my abilities to new limits. I am now working to expand my apparel offerings to more products.

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You have small children at home and run a booming nursery bedding & apparel business – what is your best advice for maker moms trying to balance mothering toddlers & running a business? 

It takes a whole lot of structure,flexibility and grace. A clear plan allows me to dig deep and get quality work done in small increments of time. When my kids are sleeping that is my time to hustle and get the work done.

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How many quilts that you have made that you use in your own home?

None! As a maker, there are often too many creations to keep. Many of the things I make I either sell, give as customer gifts or baby shower gifts for friends and family. Though I have made blankets, curtains, upholstered furniture for our home.

What is your favorite sewing tool you just could not create without?

My sewing machine! I would be lost without it.

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What is your favorite kind of music to listen to while you create?

I get most of my work done while my kids sleep. It sounds lame, but most of the time I just enjoy the silence since my days are filled with chaotic noisy little ones. However, if I am in a singing mood my favorite playlist is energetic alternative 90 hits.

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As a mama maker, tell us what a work day looks like for you: 

My workflow is constantly adjusting as my kids grow and change. There’s a fluidity between work and home life and the two are often blended together.

 

It is so cool to meet & learn about fellow makers & mothers, and especially sustainably minded makers like myself! If you want to follow more of Erin’s adventures balancing motherhood with twins & being a maker, be sure to follow her on Instagram & Facebook! And don’t forget to pop over to her shop & check out all of her amazing work!

Monsters

What Mon-stors are Made From: Stop! It’s Snuggie Time!

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Am I alone in thinking that Snuggies are absolutely fabulous, if quite impractical if you aren’t 6’5″? I think part of the reason I adore them so much is because I frequently get these in donations & find them at salvage centers and I can make sooooo many Mon-stor toy storage bags & stuffed monster toys from them! Today, I’m showing off a few from a recent upcycle of this beautiful blue Snuggie!

To make Mon-stors, I also use things like curtains, sheets, pajama pants, dresses or skirts for the lining. Here, I used this curtain that had a some stains from bleach splashing it.

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I combined those two, to make this huge Mon-stor toy storage bag! (He’s still available in my shop, too!) My big toy storage bags fit a LOT of toys – 9 Build-a-Bear sized stuffed toys, almost an entire load of laundry, 11 pairs of jeans, or a butt load of MegaBlocks, haha! They are ideal toy storage for play rooms or kid’s rooms, or make great hampers for pre-teens! Smaller children especially love “feeding” their Mon-stor toys – it makes cleaning up fun!

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Now, like I mentioned above, I can usually make a LOT from an adult sized Snuggie – here are two other Mon-stors I made! This one is lined with vintage fabric that was donated to me – it was going to get thrown into a box on the curb for the garbage man, and a friend scooped that box up & brought it to me instead!

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This one is also lined with some vintage material – a table cloth another person’s grandmother was going to throw out, but they rescued and put in my hands! This small Mon-stor toy bag is also available in my shop!

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I also made a few stuffed monster toys from this awesome, vibrant blue, but unfortunately it was right before The Big Crafty event I did in July in Asheville, so I sold a  lot of them before I snapped photos because of the pre-show chaos! I did snap this photo on the 4th of July, which has two of the four or five I made in it! I can’t remember exactly how many I was able to squish out of that Snuggie.

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If I were pressed to say, I may say that Snuggies are my favorite textile discard to work with. Unfortunately, they were a “trend” item and a TON of people bought them during the hype… to later throw them into donation bins or worse, just into the trash bin. But due their popularity, I do receive them in donations or find them at salvage centers frequently, often in mostly usable condition. If they are stained or worn out in places, I just cut around the stains and use those bits for dicing into stuffing.

Saving the world – one monster at a time!