Thursday, February 19, 2009

Isabelles' Stuffed Animals

I met this wonderful crafts person on Etsy, a site that sells handmade items. She not only hand knits stuffed animals but she spins the yarn she uses by hand. I asked her to do an interview with me so I could introduce her to my readers. Learning to spin and to knit are wonderful skills and well within the reach of most of us, if there is an interest. Although fairly new to spinning, Isabelle is able to create beautiful yarns that she turns into adorable stuffed animals. I don't want to ruin any of the surprises, so, I'll let Isabelle speak for herself...

Isabelle, can you tell us a little about how you got started making knitted items?

My grandmother taught me how to knit when I was still very young - slippers, scarves... the basic stuff ;) I had kind of given up on knitting due to lack of time (I just finished a bachelor's degree) but realised, while looking for a job, that I now had a lot of free time to spend while waiting for the phone to ring for interviews... So I took out my needles and decided I needed something a little bit more challenging than scarves and slippers... I opted for soft toys :)

I've noticed that more of your items are starting to include handspun yarn - how did you get started in spinning yarn?

I started spinning only a couple of months ago... I had wanted to knit natural fibers for a long time but natural yarn is sooo expensive that spinning it myself was the only affordable option... So I bought a single book on the topic ("Start spinning" by Maggie Casey - veryyy useful!!), and a beginner's kit on Etsy and got started!!

What kind of spinning wheel do you have?

...The greatest thing with handspun yarn is that you don't need a spinning wheel: these were quite expensive so I bought a very simple "drop spindle" (15$ US for the spindle and some fibers to begin with) and was able to start spinning right away while reading my book and looking at several free tutorial videos on Youtube!

How do you choose what fibers you use to spin and then knit with?

Price is an important factor for me since my toys use a big amount of fibers... I try not to spend more than 3 dollars an ounce (+ shipping, which is often nearly as expensive than the fibers themselves since nobody produces them in my area). The softer the better... I love to experiment and have found that alpaca is incredibly soft, and that bamboo fibers feel a lot like silk but are a bit harder to spin...

How long does it take you to complete a knitted stuffed animal that you've spun?

In terms of hours, I'd say 5-6 for the smallest ones and often a day or two for the biggest... The spinning process itself is not that long once you get the hang of it but you still have to set the twist in the yarn by putting it into water then letting it air dry for a day or so... Which makes things longer!

Where can people go to buy your stuffed animals?

I'm trying to list them all on my Etsy shop, called Ptitebaloue, and they might soon be for sale in some souvenir boutiques in old Quebec city :)

What kinds of new projects can we expect from you in the near future?

New models, of course, new types of fibers (I want more bamboo and soy silk! :), 100% natural toys as much as possible... I'm currently trying to get a subvention to improve my products - if it works out many things could happen! :)

Thanks Isabelle for this great interview. Stop by her Etsy store and check all her great stuffed animals. Be inspired. Fiber arts are rewarding and fun skills to have. Find one you like and check it out. Until then, consider buying one of Isabelle's original stuffed animals for a gift for a loved one. Handmade gifts will be cherished for years to come.

1 comment:

  1. Our mom used to sell macrame projects at craft shows. It was at one of these shows that I met and feel in love with Blackie, a beautiful handmade bear. Trudy, the lady who made him, even attached a leash on him so I could walk him back to Mom's stand. Recently, on an attic expedition, my youngest refound Blackie and invited him to tea. Imagine his joy to be made so well that he could be cherished by two generations!