High Standards: Handmade

Handmade wool stuffed bunny

Handmade standardHandmade
Products made by hand offer a quality, skill and craftsmanship that is absent in the world of large-scale manufacturing. Purchasing the handmade work of skilled artisans helps to grow and nourish the families and communities where these products are loving created, and ensures our ties to the local and human sources of our goods is never lost.

We are big supporters of handmade products for natural parenting. We love the beauty and imperfections of humans and their handmade goods over the rigid lines of machine-made goods. Handmade products often vary, and we like that variety and unpredictability.

We also support the place of artisans in their communities. We have followed closely the work of the Handmade Toy Alliance over the past two years as they have supported their members’ efforts to keep handmade children’s products legal and sustainable under U.S. law.


Handmade Products at bynature.ca

While a doll might be an iconic handmade product, we carry many other handmade products. We have handmade bath and body care from Lalabee Bathworks, aromatic play clay from Mama K’s, handmade board games, and more products for the whole family.


Handmade Rabbit from Recycled Wool

Handmade Stuffed Animals

No two stuffed animals from Cate & Levi are alike. Every animal is made in their Toronto studio from reclaimed wool sweaters sourced as close as possible to home, so the colors and patterns vary.

This month, we are telling you more about our Safe Family Promise at bynature.ca. To make it easy for you to identify products by their key attributes, look for our standards labels.

Celebrate Handmade Children’s Products – Pledge to Buy Handmade

Baby teething organic toy

In the U.S., next week is American Craft Week, a celebration of the stunning variety of handmade objects made by skilled craftspeople.

For those whose business is crafting handmade children’s products, the future is still uncertain as it isn’t quite clear how the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission will interpret the CPSIA (Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act). Members of the Handmade Toy Alliance are working hard every day “to save small batch producers of children’s products from the CPSIA.”

For Canadian manufacturers and retailers, we still need to be well aware of this law as long as we sell products across the border.

To show our support for small businesses who make safe, beautiful, natural toys and other products for babies and children, we want to thank the Handmade Toy Alliance and ask our readers to consider taking the pledge to buy at least one handmade product this year.


Handmade in Canada from bynature.ca

Ringley Natural Toys
Handmade in Toronto, Ontario, to ASTM toy safety standards with certified organic cotton.
Ringley Ball natural baby toy

Organic Cotton Rabbit Rattle
Made from 100% Certified Organic USA Cotton and stuffed with 100% Eco-Lamb’s Wool stuffing (sourced in Canada!), each organic rabbit baby toy is made in Victoria, British Columbia, by Dress Me Up.
Organic Rabbit Rattle by babies

Organic Cotton Toy Blocks
Made in Victoria, British Columbia, by Dress Me Up.
Organic cotton baby blocks

Organic Cotton Toy Ball
Handmade in Victoria, British Columbia, by Dress Me Up.
Organic toy balls

Organic Teething Bon Bon
Handmade in Victoria, British Columbia, by Dress Me Up.
Teething bon bon toy

Wool Changing Pads
Pure, felted, Un-dyed, untreated, unprocessed wool. These wool puddle pads are individually hand-made and hand-felted right here in Canada.
Hand felted wool changing pad

Heirloom Rattles
Handcrafted with love by a family in their home workshop in Southern Ontario. To bring out the gorgeous colour of the woods, each rattle is finished with certified organic flax seed oil.
Handmade wooden baby rattle


Handmade in the United States from bynature.ca

Wooden Teething Rings
100% natural unfinished maple wood. Handmade in Vermont.
Natural wood baby teething toy

Wooden Egg Shaker
Handmade in Ohio with pure maple wood, filled with dried beans.
Wooden egg shaker

Natural Wooden Pull Truck
Hand crafted from solid maple in Vermont.
Wooden truck roll toy

Natural Wooden Pull Elephant
Made from solid, unfinished maple with engraved detailing. Handcrafted in Vermont.
Elephant wooden roll toy

Natural Bead Rattle
Unfinished wood – no paint, dyes, stains or treatments. Handmade in Vermont.
Wooden bead rattle

Changing Colors: Dye Your Own Prefold Cloth Diapers

Baby with a tie-dyed prefold cloth diaper

As the leaves change color, you may feel like a little change of color would be nice inside, as well. I’ve seen a lot of beautiful dyed prefold cloth diapers that parents have dyed themselves. This is a great way to add fun to your baby’s diaper wardrobe as well as finding out how easy it is to add more color to your closet and to the rest of your house. If you have a beautiful white blouse with a tiny spot, a bright, new color may cover things up nicely—at the very least, your new wardrobe will distract from tiny spots.

There are three simple steps to dyeing cotton.

  1. The dye chemically attaches to the cotton fibers.
  2. An alkaline mixture fixes the attachment, since most dyes on their own tend not to be colorfast.
  3. A hot wash cycle carries away any dye that hasn’t reacted (bonded to) the cotton fibers.


Materials

12 cotton prefold diapers
Salt, ~ 1 cup
Sodium carbonate (soda ash), ~ 1/2 cup (buy from a swimming pool supply store)
Powdered fiber-reactive dye, 1 tsp
1-quart glass jar
Small non-food stirring implement (to fit quart jar)
Large non-food stirring implement (to fit bucket)
Rubber gloves
5-gallon bucket

Diapers. Prewash but do not dry the diapers.

Dye Bucket. Fill bucket about 2/3 full with warm tap water. Dissolve salt the warm water.

Dye Mix. Put dry dye into glass jar and add a little bit of warm water at a time, stirring to make a well-mixed paste. Do not use kitchen utensils to stir dye. Once you have a paste, add a little bit more water at a time until you have about 3 cups of mixed dye water.

Pour the dye mix into bucket with salt water. Stir thoroughly.

Add washed diapers to dye bucket and stir gently and periodically for 10-15 minutes.

Fix Mix. Rinse glass jar. Put on your rubber gloves because sodium carbonate can be quite caustic on the skin.

Dissolve soda ash in glass jar with 3 cups of water as hot as you can make it out of the tap. Hotter water makes it easier to dissolve the soda ash. Stir well to dissolve completely. This takes a couple of minutes. Don’t stop until you have no more little chunks.

Add soda ash mixture a little at a time to dye bucket. Stir well between each addition. Take about 5 minutes to add the whole fix mixture.

Stir periodically for 10-15 minutes.

Rinse. Pour out dye, careful not to pour into a sink or bathtub that will take on the dye color. You might find that pouring it straight into the washer is the best choice. If you pour the dye bath into the washer, run a spin cycle.

Run 2-3 hot washes with detergent. Look at the wash on each rinse cycle to be sure that the water is running clear. You can check for residual dye by scooping rinse water into the glass jar and holding it up in front of a white background. The water may be almost clear after the first wash with a load of only 12 prefolds.

Dry as usual, and have fun with your new colored diapers.


Tie Dye

Easy! The first time I tie dyed T-shirts with children, when I was a summer camp counselor, I had no experience at all with dyeing. Our tie dye techniques were very simple, involving rubber bands and wadded up shirts, but the children had a great time, and the shirts were passably colored. If I could produce fun shirts in that chaotic situation, I’m sure you can produce great tie-dyed diapers.

Dharma Trading has extensive articles, books, videos, kits, and stories to encourage you to get creative with your dyeing adventure.


Why These Materials?

We use fiber-reactive dyes because they bond with cotton fibers on a molecular level. They are permanent. Once fixed, they don’t fade.

Jar of Procion dyeAlso, Procion dyes “have the very important safety property of not penetrating intact skin cells.” Paula Burch, an experienced home dyer, finds them safe for a woman who is pregnant or breastfeeding. Be cautious when using the sodium carbonate, though.

Sodium carbonate (soda ash) may sound close to sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), but baking soda is not alkaline enough to fix the dyes. It’s easy to find the right chemicals for your hand dyeing. Pool supply stores sell all sizes of sodium carbonate down to 5lbs for about $10-12.

We use a special wetting agent for most of our dyeing, but even a teaspoon of dish soap could be added to salt water mixture to ensure even dye coverage. To make the instructions simpler, I removed that step. If you are going to experiment with more dyeing, try some with and some without simple wetting agents.


Resources

Dharma Fiber-reactive Procion Dyes are my favorite dyes. Dharma has masses of information, shared experience, and supplies—far more than I have ever needed, and I dye a lot of fabric.

Paula Burch’s All about Hand Dyeing
is a great site for any non-chemist who wants to understand the chemistry of dyeing.

Image © Matt Antonino | Dreamstime.com

Supporting Handmade

Handmade seems so unpretentious and unassuming in the hands of babies and children. Teething babies chew on sweet little organic dolls with knotted feet and hands. Happy toddlers joyfully shake the wooden rings of natural wood rattles.

Those gorgeous handmade toys your baby plays with are supported by small business people who make toys because they love children and they love the craft.


The Business of Handmade

Yesterday, members of the Handmade Toy Alliance board of directors testified at the U.S. Commerce Sub-committee hearing regarding the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA). The board has been working with the Sub-committee for months. With requests for specific changes, the Handmade Toy Alliance officially endorsed draft legislation that would bring about changes for small-batch manufacturers, Consumer Product Safety Enhancement Act (CPSEA).

Children’s product manufacturers in the U.S. and Canadian exporters to the U.S. have been wondering for the past 18 months how to comply with the strict testing and labelling requirements of the new law. Understanding the law has been a difficult task for all. For the smallest manufacturers, meeting testing requirements has seemed almost impossible. The Handmade Toy Alliance formed when small business owners came together determined to understand and change the law.

I’ve watched their growth over that time, and these crafters, store owners, and other small business owners have come to understand the system of legislation and regulation—and media. It has been exciting to see them learn how to communicate with rulemakers when the system can seem so overwhelming.

At the heart of this increasingly sophisticated organization are people who do what they do because they care about handmade toys. It’s so simple. They love sock monkeys and felt blocks and play dough. Without their work to push back against this law, to help lawmakers understand how they work every day to preserve toy safety, we might have seen fewer handmade toys available for our children.


Supporting Handmade

For the past month, I’ve spent every Friday writing about the book The Creative Family: How to Encourage Imagination and Nurture Family Connections by Amanda Blake Soule.

The focus of the book is on young children, but I have found plenty to hold the interest of my pre-teen children as well. The book is part of the natural family library of Baby ByNature.ca.

For my last dip into the book, I like a section in the “Handmade Holidays” chapter of the Connecting section of the book called “Supporting Handmade.” As my son’s 10th birthday comes up in the next week, I want to emphasize that any time can be a holiday season if your definition of holiday is broad enough.

“The holiday season can be a great time to show support for crafters and artists for the meaningful work they do. . . . Affordable arts and crafts surround us; we just need to look in the right places to find them.”

Her ideas for finding handmade are:

  • Local craft fairs
  • Art shows sponsored by local colleges
  • Online through sites like Etsy

And, I might add, the members of the Handmade Toy Alliance also sell beautiful children’s toys, and they care deeply about the safety of your children.