Wednesday, September 23, 2009

My Studio

Much to the chagrin of my husband, I have almost completely taken over "our" office. Bins full of felt, batting & boxes overflow the closet, my 2 desks take up 70% of the room, & my poor, sweet hubby's fly-tying desk is relegated to the tiniest corner. At least he is next to me when we both work however, so that makes my guilt a little more sweet.

Ever since a giant wholesale order has taken over my life as CEO of Bug Bites Play Food, I feel like I live my life in this small 12'x12' cave. Thank goodness my kids love to play at my feet or sit on my lap while I sew! So with desk overflowing with cut-out play food waiting to be assembled & sewn, random scraps, thread & wool fluffies all over my floor, I trudge on through the seemingly endless piles of felt all in the hopes that one day I will have order to my space, a large, sunny bay window in front of me & my husband, still tying his beautiful flies still by my side.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Felt Cookie Tutorial

Everyone loves cookies! Especially Little Chefs, so here is my chance to share the love & give you the opportunity to make your own cookies! These are super easy, fun & infinite variations are out there for color & design combinations. Have fun!

Cream Felt
Pink Felt
Cream Thread
Pink Thread
Poly Fill or Wool Stuffing

1.  Cut out 2 Cream felt (2 1/2") circles; Cut out 1 (2") Pink Felt circle, scalloping the edges however you like.

2. Pull out an arm's length of pink thread. Double up the thread so it is 2 strands thick. Tie a knot in the end & thread it on the needle. Starting on the underside of the cookie, bring the needle up through the 2 layers & back down. Continue along the edge of the pink felt in this whip stitch. Continue until you reach the beginning point & tie off the thread underneath the cream felt so the knot is not visible.

3. Pull out another arm's length of cream thread (Brown thread shown here for visibility). Double up the thread so it is 2 strands thick & tie a knot in the end & thread it on the needle. Insert the needle between the 2 layers & bring it up through the top layer (frosting layer) only - this is so the knot is hidden between the 2 layers.

This seam will be finished with a Blanket Stitch, which looks nice & neat,  but you may finish with  the same Whip Stitch as used with the frosting along this edge if you prefer.

Confused about a Blanket Stitch? See this tutorial from Primrose Design

Continue the Blanket stitch until you are about 1-2 inches from the starting point. Stop here.

4. Now take your Poly Fill stuffing & fill the cookie.

5. After the cookie is filled, continue your Blanket Stitch & close up the hole. Tie a knot at the starting stitch & take the needle through the middle of the cookie, bringing it out anywhere & cut the thread so it tucks back inside.

You are finished! Looks great, you did it & are on your way to being a Master Felt Pastry Chef. There are endless variations of frosting & cookie color & design combinations to play with. Try different shapes, colors & toppings for each cookie. Think felt, beads, french knots, etc...

I'd love to see what you come up with!

School Lunch & Hoggogs

School Lunch & what?! Since having kids a number of years ago, I have discovered that completely ordinary words take on new nicknames once spoken from the mouth of a precocious 2 year old. Simple words like "umbrella" turn to "rain-brella," "grapes" into "bubba's" and "hot dogs" into "hoggogs." It just charms the frazzled-mother right out of me & makes me smile. With that knowledge, my play food hot dogs were christened "hoggogs" and have been called that ever since.

To celebrate my other little precocious child, I decided a small felt tribute to the first days of Kindergarten were in order, so here is a mini school-sized milk carton & apple. My two little darlings love to pretend it is school lunch time, pop out their Ham Sandwich lunch sets with their new Milk & Apple addition & imagine away.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

This Traffic Jam...

Today was a great day for Bug Bites Play food - I was thrilled to login to my shop & see that I was featured in an Etsy Storque article: Etsy Finds: Room for the Whole Family.   A delightful collection of home decor & playroom/bedroom essentials. I am happy to be included with them!
So far this evening, I have experienced an incredible amount of new hearts to my shop, & I am just itching to see what Analytics has to report about today! So come I say, bring on the traffic jam! 

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

What I'm Working on Today....

A busy week it has been, & there's no end in sight with a wholesale deadline looming & new orders coming in. I am especially focusing on Holiday items today, making Halloween & Christmas cookies for my shop. I have some new designs in the works - watch for Candy Corn Sugar Cookies for Halloween, as well as new Christmas cookie designs - Bell, Star, Stocking, Tree, Snowman & of course the Gingerbread men felt cookies from last season.

I continue to plug away on the Palumba toys order, I think it will be a felt food Pizza day today, with pizza crusts, pizza sauces, & a few hundred toppings to complete. I can't wait to be finished & take the photo of all the items - I might need a wide-angle lens!!


Monday, September 7, 2009

Wool Felt vs. Eco-Fi Polyester Felt Comparison

Ahh, the great debate - ok, for BugBites Play Food that is... The question of which material is better to use for felt food toys. I have been debating for years which felt to use & have come up with a complete breakdown of Wool/Rayon Felt vs. Eco-Fi Polyester Felt, with both Pros & Cons listed.

Wool/Rayon Felt
  1. Wool is a Natural Fiber
  2. Rayon is made from Cellulosic Fibers (made from cotton or pine wood). Rayon is one of the most peculiar fabrics in commercial use today. Rayon is a manufactured regenerated cellulose fiber. Because it is produced from naturally occurring polymers, it is neither a truly synthetic fiber nor a natural fiber, it is a semi-synthetic fiber. Strictly speaking, it is not an artificial fiber, because it is derived from naturally occurring cellulose. It is not, however, a natural fabric, because cellulose requires extensive processing to become rayon. Rayon is usually classified as a manufactured fiber and considered to be “regenerated cellulose”. This complex process results in a great deal of environmental pollution. Courtesy:
  3. Stronger than polyester, doesn't stretch.
  4. Renewable & environmentally friendly resource.
  5. Highly resilient, retaining its strength & unique properties for decades.
  6. Dry Clean Only
  7. Allergy Risk for those with wool allergies.
  8. Expensive - around $8 a yard (36"x 36") - or $16 a yard when compared to the 72" yard of eco-felt.
Eco Felt
  1. Ecospun is a polyester fiber made from 100% recycled plastic bottles.
  2. Ecospun enables billions of plastic containers to be recycled each year, instead of them being buried in landfill. 10 bottles = 1 pound of fiber or 2 yds of felt
  3. Recycled Eco-Felt is compliant with the Consumer Product Safety Act, including lead limits, making it a great choice for children.
  4. Machine washable
  5. Allergy-Free
  6. Vegan
  7. Inexpensive - $6 a yard for a (72"x 72")
Also, Eco-Fi has the capacity to keep billions of plastic PET bottles out of the world’s landfills each year by using post-consumer plastic bottles instead of virgin materials in the fiber manufacturing process. By doing this, we can lower harmful air emissions and save millions of barrels of oil from being used which, in turn, reduces the harmful effects of acid rain, global warming, and smog.

Fabrics made from Eco-fi fiber are chemically and functionally nearly identical to those made from non-recycled fiber. The difference is that Eco-fi fiber is made without depleting the Earth’s natural resources. With properties such as strength, softness, shrinkage-resistance, and colorfastness, market applications for Eco-fi are expanding every day. Courtesy:

Here’s how the Ecospun process goes:
  1. Plastic containers are collected from curbside and community recycling centers
  2. The containers are sorted by type and color
  3. All labels and caps are stripped off
  4. The plastic containers are then washed
  5. Then they’re crushed
  6. Then they’re chopped into flake
  7. The flakes are then melted and extruded to create fiber
  8. The fiber is crimped, cut, drawn, then stretched into the desired length (based on its strength), then baled. Courtesy:
I have been using the Eco-Felt for 2 years & am loving the durability, color selection & price, above all, as it lets me keep my costs down to make felt food more affordable. I also love the fact that Eco-felt is machine washable! I wouldn't dry it in the dryer, as it tends to "pill" up, but the thought that I can wash the toys - especially after they have been mouthed & played with, is great. One of the only downsides to Eco-felt is that it tends to stretch, which can be helpful when making the toys, as it "gives" a bit when making certain shapes, but the downside is that it can be torn out of shape if stretched & played with too roughly. Wool felt does not have this problem.

After working with wool felt exclusively for a rather large wholesale order for Palumba toys, I am seriously considering offering wool felt food in my shop as well. I am enjoying the feeling of the wool, its strength, its softness & the beautiful colors available (though I have to order it online). I greatly dislike paying almost twice as much per yard as the Eco-Felt, but I think there are people out there who love the feeling of wool despite its price & non-washability.

So for me, I think I am going to enjoy the best of both worlds & use Eco-Felt & Wool/Rayon Felt interchangeably throughout my sewing, enjoying the benefits that each material has to offer.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Knotted Love

Ok, as if I needed one more hobby (I sculpt, paint, throw pottery, draw, sew) to add to my list, I have done it again... knitting. I have always wanted to learn this beautiful art form that also brings a daily functionality to the finished product.

As I am an incredibly visual person (artist), I cant tell you my favorite color, because I love all of them. I confess, a favorite pastime is to expand the color palette or swatch boxes on Photoshop & try to pick my favorite color. I still can't. I love the intricate, swirling moods they place me in at the moment I see each color. I swear I was on the color-mixing committe in God's art studio (lol).

So with my passion for color confessed, I have fallen in love with several shops on etsy & am particularly enamored with the following items:

This Hand Painted Superwash Wool-Nylon Sock Yarn by SeeJayneKnitYarns is such a beautiful blend of cool purples & blues, I can just imagine the visual dance I would do with this yarn & some knitting needles. She has a shop full of incredible hand-painted yarns and really fun stitch markers.

Another shop that is full of eye candy is homelab. I have fallen in love with these Fingerless Red Gloves. The button accents are a great addition. Homelab also has amazing Cable Knit Fingerless Gloves (a similar pair to the ones seen in a certain vampire film), Shrugs & Scarfs.

This adorable Pink Pea in a Pod by forthetiny makes me want to have another baby to swaddle in such a warm cozy pod, or just knit a giant one for me to cuddle up in on cold nights.

I LOVE socks & have a strange fetish for knee-high & toe socks. So, diving into knitting, I bravely (or foolishly) have started a pair for my first project. I am stumbling my way through them, but hope to one day be comfortable enough to do more than just a simple K2, P2 Rib stitch & move into patterns like this beautiful pair of socks by FearlessFibers which have a lace panel with a diamond motif bordered by bands of a mock cable twist stitch. All I can say is wow.

So, to all you talented & fabulous knitters who have been perfecting the art of twisting yarn into intricate patterns, I take my hat off to you as I join your ranks - the newest of newbies & look forward to posting more about this "knotted love" that I have found.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

200 Sales!

A great milestone for me - I just had my 200th sale yesterday, & am ecstatic at the success of my small little business. It is also a big event, as my shop turned 1 year old just last week!

I look back to last August when I decided on my business name, signed on to etsy & started timidly listing items. I have to say that I laugh a little at myself at my ineptitude at the beginning. I knew very little about running a business, making up for that with many late nights reading business models, blogs & attending every Newbie Chat in the Etsy Virtual Labs I could. I owe many thanks to Danielle at etsy for her expertise & patience with me, as I think I asked the most questions in her labs for several weeks & I'm sure she was relieved when I felt confident enough to stand on my own two feet. Bless her!

I still remember the unbelievable rush when I made my first sale - a Ham Sandwich Lunch set to a wonderful customer, who still buys from me. Funny, but I remember thinking "wow, someone really likes something that I made enough to buy it?" I still smile to myself & call my husband each time I make a sale - he is sweet enough to be as excited as I am. I don't know what I would do without my "Idea Man" & my best supporter. I thank all of my customers who give me these excited smiles with my husband each time.

Well, a year & 200 sales later, I am more excited at the prospect of the coming year. I have many new designs in the works, much more business experience & am a much more streamlined & confident seamstress. Though my business is growing, I still remember the reasons why I started in the first place - to rid children's toyboxes of mass-produced, toxic, junk-plastic toys in favor of toys that educate & encourage imaginative play. I love the thought of over 200 children around the world playing with a toy that is made with all the love that seams can hold.