This Saturday, I'm happy to introduce Little Woodlanders, an Etsy shop full of beautiful wooden toys. Rachel, the creative lady behind Little Woodlanders, recently answered the following questions from me.
Me: You have so many imaginatively shaped toys in your shop. From bunnies and squirrels to cars and buses--where do you find your inspiration?
Rachel: I find my inspiration mostly from my children. I watch them play, and see what they like to play with and what sorts of imaginary games they make up. Also, they often come to me with ideas of what to make, especially around their birthdays and Christmas! Another source of inspiration lately has been children’s books. I get lots of ideas flicking through kid’s books while we’re at the library!
Me: Walk us through the process of making one of your toys from start to finish. How do you choose your materials? What kinds of finish do you use?
Rachel: I start out trying to get an idea I have in my head down on paper. Once I’m happy with the design, I cut it out and trace it onto the wood I want to use. I then cut it out with my saw, and then sand it smooth. Some of my toys are left natural, such as the teethers, some are woodburned, and some are painted. If painted, I then put some of my homemade beeswax and olive oil polish on.
Me: The first thing that caught my eye in your shop were your lacing cards and beads. As you have two littles of your own, you can probably tell me--at about what age can I expect my toddler to be able to manipulate those?
Rachel: My youngest is 2, and she’s able to do the lacing toys herself. The beads were not very hard at all, but very good fine motor skills practice. She needs a bit of coaching for the lacing heart, to know which hole to go into next, and to turn the heart over before putting the string in the next hole, but it’s easy to get the hang of once shown!
Me: But then I saw your knitting (lucet) forks, and I hadn't ever seen anything like that before. I love your historical note that these date back to Viking times, and I can see how that could trigger all kinds of learning an imaginative play. Tell us, are they difficult to manipulate?
Rachel: I taught my older daughter (now 5) to use a lucet when she was 4. It’s not very difficult and is much easier than those fiddly little knitting dollies! The prongs of the fork are big and thick enough that the loop is a good grabbing size. I’m working on a video to show people how to do it!
Me: Lastly, what exciting things can we look forward to from Little Woodlanders for the spring?
Rachel: I always have new things in the works! I’m currently working on a new design of people, and hope to make little sets of them with friends, animals and families! I also have some more ideas of things to go along with my knight and dragon sets, and hopefully some pirates coming out soon!
Rachel has generously agreed to giveaway one walnut lucet and one of her cute Easter bunnies. This week, you can enter twice. For one entry, go "like" Little Woodlanders on Facebook, then come back and leave a comment saying you've done so. For a second entry, go visit the Little Woodlanders Etsy shop, and come back and leave a comment about your favorite item there. I'll pick a winner on Wednesday, as usual.