5 Holiday Gifts Made in Canada

Ringley Organic Teething Toys

 

When you want to buy your gifts close to home, we can help you find a big selection of natural toys and other gifts made in Canada. These are a few of our favorites at bynature.ca.

Organic Teething Toys
Handmade in Toronto, Canada

Ringley natural baby toy made in Canada

Ringley teething toys for babies are made in Canada with untreated Canadian maple and 100% organic terrycloth. You know when babies are teething they look for textures that feel right. The smooth, natural wood and the nubby terrycloth give variety. Your baby can easily hold on to the ring while gnawing away to soothe sore gums. Ringley baby toys are among our best sellers.

Wee Urban Organic Cotton Sleep Sacs
Made in Canada

Wee Urban cotton baby sleeping bag

Wee Urban Baby Sleep Bags solve the problem of babies kicking off covers because the covers move with the baby, keeping baby warm all night. Easy zip opening for quick nighttime diaper changes. Made with soft certified organic cotton and bamboo viscose fleece. The sleep bag made with cute prints is also Made in Canada.

Anointment Natural Skin Care
Handmade in Canada

Anointment natural skin care for babies balmAnointment makes a full line of natural skin care products for pregnancy, baby, and for parents. Anointment uses food-grade ingredients and healing herbs, so you know their salves, oils, and soaps are safe for the whole family. Check out the gorgeous shaving set for Dad. And, the chocolate mint lip balm is a perfect stocking stuffer. Smells so nice! Anointment natural skin care for adults and for babies.

Padraig Wool Slippers for the Whole Family
Handmade in Canada

Padraig handmade wool slippers for the family

Padraig slippers are soft and breathable—a perfect shoe for tiny, developing baby feet. Each pair is handmade with 100% natural wool. Durable leather sole makes these non-slip. We like these slippers so much, that we carry them in sizes for the whole family. You can get a matching set for Christmas morning.

Natural Wooden Rattles
Handmade in Canada

Natural wood baby rattle made in Canada

This elegantly shaped woode rattle contrasts maple and walnut woods for a striped effect. All safe and natural wood oiled with hemp or flax. Each rattle is handcrafted by a family in their home workshop in Southern Ontario. They use wood from a local, family-owned sawmill that has been responsibly managing lumber for 50 years. A beautiful toy all around. This is an heirloom for a baby on your list.

Holiday gifts made in Canada

Visit bynature.ca for more holiday gift ideas. Look for the tiny maple leaf logo to find products Made in Canada.

Why Choose Natural Toys

Natural wooden marble run toy

 

You anticipate toy shopping soon—as do I. I just want to give you a few reasons to look for toys made from natural materials like wool, cotton, wood, and rubber.

The Negative Reasons to Choose Natural Toys

Choose toys made from natural materials because they aren’t made from plastic. It isn’t just that plastic is unsustainable, being made from oil and gas that are in limited supply. Plastics, especially soft plastics, can be health hazards.

With the passage of the CPSIA in the U.S., six plastic softeners (phthalates) were banned in children’s products that could be used for eating or sleeping because of the risk that a young child will suck on the products. These plastic softeners were’t banned in every product, though, and they can still pose a hazard through off-gassing. You know that new plastic smell? That is the toxic off-gassing, the hormone disruptors that can cause developmental problems for children (as well as high rates of miscarriages among women and erectile dysfunction among men).

You are less likely to find some of the worst chemicals in children’s toys now, but that doesn’t mean all plastic toys are safe. Avoid soft, vinyl plastics (phthalates) and polycarbonates (Bisphenol A or BPA).

The U.S. PIRG (Public Interest Research Group) is still warning against toys made with PVC plastic. Even they are recommending that parents “choose unpainted wooden or cloth toys instead.”

For more details on the reasons to avoid plastics in toys, see “Why No Soft Plastics.”

For sustainability and for health, just avoid plastic toys. Choose natural toys instead.

The Positive Reasons to Choose Natural Toys

Natural materials are sustainable. They grow in nature, and they can grow again after they are harvested to make your child’s toys. That is what is meant by renewable materials (in contrast to petrochemicals used to make plastic, which do not replace themselves—or, more accurately, only replace themselves over millions of years).

  • Cotton grows as a protective fiber (a boll) around seeds in a cotton plant in a field
  • Hemp is grown as the stem of a hemp plant in a field
  • Wool is the hair of a sheep, sheared annually
  • Silk is the coccoon of a silkworm
  • Rubber is the milk of a rubber tree
  • Wood, of course, is the body of a tree

Natural materials generally require less processing before they can be used to make toys. Pick up a stick, it’s already a toy. Sheer a sheep, and you just have to wash the oils out of the wool in order to use it for stuffing. The milk of a rubber tree coagulates easily into the kind of rubber we know as Sophie the Giraffe or a rubber duck. Natural materials are renewable in the long term but they are also lower impact in their processing in the short term.

In addition to sustainability, consider the sensory experience of natural materials. They feel warm, smell nice, and look soft. Natural materials feel good in the hands of a child. Read more about the sensory experience of natural materials in last week’s post “What Are Waldorf Toys?”

It’s tough for me to come up with rational reasons to choose natural toys because I usually just stop with “why wouldn’t I choose natural toys?” They are the obvious choice unless I’m buying into the nonsensical stories that mass marketing tells me about the superiority of plastic toys over nature.

But there are rational reasons: choose natural toys for the short-term and long-term good of the environment and because of the sensory experience your child will get with natural materials.

Choose Natural Toys

We know that most of our customers are deliberately seeking more natural ways of parenting. Choosing carefully when you buy toys that your child will play with every day is an important step in creating a natural environment for your family.

Read more about natural toys in “Toy Monday: Why Natural Toys.”

To buy natural toys, see our Holiday Gifts Guide at bynature.ca.

DIY Envy – Yes, You Can Sew!

Easy Sew Doll

When you see beautiful, natural cloth dolls, don’t you think “I wish I could sew”? You can! This soft baby doll with knotted hands and feet requires only the simplest of sewing stitches, and it will be done in an afternoon (or less).

If you aspire to make a Waldorf doll or a seasonal table covered in beautifully decorated gnomes, you can easily take that first step toward making your own dolls with just two simple stitches: a running stitch by hand and a straight stitch on a sewing machine. Or, you can skip the sewing machine and sew the whole thing by hand.


Why Make Natural Cloth Dolls

Babies, toddlers, and older children love dolls—soft, squishy dolls in warm, natural materials like cotton and wool. There are dolls that work well for every age. It can get expensive to buy more than one of these beautiful heirloom dolls, though, so you might want to learn to make dolls for your child.

This knotted baby doll is meant to be easy grabbed by a teething baby. Even now that they are older, though, both of my children want the dolls I make. They had to negotiate who could keep the doll you see in the photos below.

Finished knotted doll


Small Knotted Baby Doll Instructions

  • Scraps for doll body: 2 pieces 7″ square, 1 piece 5″ square, 1 piece 4″ x 2″ (OPTIONAL)
  • Scrap for doll head: 1 piece 5″ round
  • Hand-sewing needle
  • Thread
  • Small amount of wool or other material (even scraps) for stuffing
  • OPTIONAL: rice to add weight to the doll

There are a lot of options when you are making dolls. I will mark options and make suggestions for other choices.

This doll is small enough for baby hands but not so small that it can become a choking hazard. The shape is simple: two triangles and a round head with a tall, soft hat. The knotted hands and feet will give a teething baby a hard yet secure bump to rub against sore gums.

Time: 30-60 minutes. It took me 20 minutes to make this doll, including photo taking, but I make a lot of dolls. Plan an open afternoon to make it so you can finish in one sitting.

1. Cut pieces. You will need 2 7″-square pieces for the body, 1 5″-square piece for the hat, and one 5″-circle for the head.

OPTION: If you are going to add a rice bag, also cut a 4″ x 2″ piece or two 2″-square pieces.

OPTION: Thinner fabric works really well for a knotted dolls. Cotton bandanas are perfect.

2. Trim hat by folding the smaller square in half and cutting the open edge into a curve.

3. Sew hat seam and turn. Turn edges of body fabric and finish by sewing down the edge if you are using fabric that might unravel. If you are making the doll for a baby, just make sure that there won’t be stray threads that your chewing baby might swallow. Finishing helps prevent that.

OPTION: If you use materials that won’t unravel, like wool felt, you can sew visible stitches on the outside of the hat. Cotton embroidery thread looks nice and bold against solid color wool felt.

4. As you sew, taper the edges as you reach the corners that will be knotted. I stopped the turned edge about 1″ from the corners.

OPTION: I tapered the finishing at the corners that would be tied into the knots. You can also cut a piece of fabric that isn’t square but has longer corners to make knot tying easier.

Materials
Pieces for sewing an easy cloth doll Cut hat for cloth doll
1. Four cut pieces 2. Trim hat in a curve
Finished edges for doll body Tapered corners for knot doll
3. Sew hat seam & turn edges 4. Taper edges toward corners


Prep for Body

5. Look at your pieces. You can already see the shape of the doll coming together.

6. Cut neck hole by folding overbody piece corner to corner then corner to corner again in quarters. Cut a small, 1/4″ piece off the tip at the center of the square.

7. Make sure the hold is small. If you are in doubt, cut it quite small and check that you don’t have more than about a 1/2″ hold in the center of the piece.

8. If you are going to add a rice bag, sew together 3 of 4 edges of the smallest squares. It doesn’t matter if you put pattern in or out, since you are going to enclose the rice bag in the doll.

OPTION: Many homemade cloth dolls are made with a heart-shaped charm at the center. In the baby dolls for my children, I sewed gems inside small heart shapes. I also put rice bags in the lower part of the doll (the doll’s bottom) to help the doll sit.

Doll pieces Cut neck hole for doll
Appreciate your work! Cut neck hole
Neck hole for doll  
The neck hole  


Rice Bag

9. Open the small square.

10. Pour rice in small square. Don’t add too much rice. You want the doll’s body to be squeezable. Also, you need to have plenty of room to sew up the last edge.

11. Sew last edge of rice bag. I just push the rice to one side and use a straight stitch on the sewing machine. I also rounded the corners slightly because I wanted the body not to have any corners poking out.

12. Check the size of your rice bag against the body. It should fit corner to bottom edge with a little bit of edge left to sew the body together.

Open rice bag Pour rice into rice bag
Open bag Pour in rice
Rice bag for a doll Rice bag for doll
Finished rice bag Rice bag fits body


Finish Body

13. Sew lines on underbody to create a square that will fit the rice bag.

14. Wrap rice bag in a thin layer of wool to give the body some softness.

15. Stuff rice bag into square space in body.

16. Sew up each edge of underbody to enclose rice bag and stuffing.

OPTION: You can easily make a knotted doll without a stuffed body. I wanted a doll that would be easy for a baby to grab, but this doll is much easier to make without the body steps.

17. Finished underbody will fit into overbody with the point through the neck hole.

18. The underbody won’t show other than the legs.

Sew square into doll body Wrap rice bag in wool
Sew body square Wrap rice bag
Stuff doll body Sew up doll body
Stuff rice bag into body Enclose body
Doll body pieces Doll body together
Underbody through neck Doll body takes shape


Head

19. Cut head fabric using a compact disc. It’s a perfect size for this doll. Anything round that is 4.5″-5″ across will do. For this head, I used old swatches from a friend who owns an organic fabric store. She didn’t need them anymore, and I knew they would be a great size for doll heads. This whole doll is made from scraps.

OPTION: This is the step that I simplified for a first doll. A Waldorf doll has a shaped head with chubby baby cheeks. This is created by sewing and shaping over a thin gauze then adding the top layer of skin. It isn’t particularly difficult, but there are many steps to learn when making a Waldorf doll head. Learn them! These heads make beautiful little faces for your dolls. For now, though, a ball of wool in a circle will make a fine head.

20. Wind the wool in a tight ball to make the core of the head. Take small pieces of wool and wind around many times to get a round shape.

OPTION: If you use scraps, still wind them in a tight ball to give shape to the head.

21. Place wool ball in enter of head fabric and wrap the circle of fabric around the wool tightly enough to keep it from unraveling.

OPTION: You could also stitch around the head fabric 1/2″-3/4″ from the edge with a long running stitch (a basting stitch) then pull the thread to gather the head fabric around the wool core. I like the other way because I can adjust to the size of the ball, which does change a bit with every doll.

22. Wrap thread around the neck. I went around 5-6 times very tightly then tied a knot with the two ends. This doesn’t have to look great, but it does have to hold tight.

Cut doll head Wool for doll head
Cut doll head Wind wool for head
Wool in fabric circle for doll head Wrap doll neck
Wool in head fabric Wind thread around neck


Attach Head

23. The neck on the head fits through the neck hole on the body. Just gather the flared ends of the head from the right side of the body.

24. Push the neck ends through the neck hole toward the wrong side of the fabric. The head needs to be on the bright, right side of the fabric.

25. Sew the body to the head from the wrong side of the body. I try to stay as close as possible to the neck about 1/8″ away from the neck hole. I’ve shown here just a simple running stitch: poke the needle through body fabric and head fabric close to neck, grab 1/16″ of the fabric then poke back up, skip 1/16″ from the top then take another stitch.

OPTION: If you are using a fabric that won’t unravel, make sure the neck hole is a tidy circle, and just take a visible stitch from the right side. A bold blanket stitch looks very nice.

26. Sew all around the neck hole and tie off securely.

Doll head fits into body Doll head fits through neck
Head into body Head through neck
Sew doll body to head Sew around doll neck
Sew close to tied-off neck Running stitch to attach head


Finish

27. Place the underbody inside the overbody. The long edge of the under body will be the doll’s legs. The point of the stuffed diamond touches the neck where you just sewed it through. You should be able to pin the overbody edge at the sewn lines along the stuffed portion of the underbody. Sew along those same lines.

OPTION: You can also choose just to secure the overbody at the point. This leaves a more open doll.

28. Pull hat onto head with the long, curved seam in the back. The seam should touch the edge of the body at the back with the edge angling toward the forehead. You can pin if the hat seems like it might slip off one side while you are sewing the other

29. Sew hat to head with another simple running stitch that takes 1/16″ from the head then 1/16″ from the hat. This will be a mostly invisible stitch.

OPTION: Whether or not you have an unraveling fabric, you can also use visible stitches to attach the hat. Anything from a simple blanket stitch to more fancy embroidery stitches will cover up the edge.

30. Doll finished but for knotted hands and feet.

31. Tie knots in points to create hands and feet.

OPTION: You could decide to stop at this point and leave the doll without knots.

Sew doll body together Pin hat onto doll head
Sew body Pin hat
Sew hat to doll head Doll nearly finished
Sew hat Almost finished

Finished knotted doll


Resources

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

Sophie the Giraffe Natural Toy in Canada

We are so pleased to welcome a new, very special natural teething toy to our Natural Toy & Gifts Department. Our customers have been requesting safer, healthier natural toy options and we’ve been listening. Alternatives to plastic teething toys are available, and at Parenting By Nature (Canada), we’ve found a new one.

Natural Toys in Canada

Sophie the Giraffe has been a favorite teething toy in France for more than 40 years. Since her creation in 1961, Sophie the Giraffe has wowed hundreds of babies (and parents!) with her natural beauty and charm. More importantly her flexible, renewable, natural rubber materials and non-toxic paint mean Sophie the Giraffe is a safe and all-natural teething toy for your little one. Parents world-wide trust the joy this classic toy brings to their babies. Check out Sophie the Giraffe today – she makes a unique natural baby gift for any new baby.