Artist of the Month: Michelle Sasscer, Babus Toys

IMG_8997The following post is by Michelle Sasscer, owner of Babus Toys, Herban Lifestyle’s April 2014 Artist of the Month.

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Women have traditionally learned their crafts from their mothers and other family elders, and Michelle Sasscer is no exception – her mother taught her how to knit, albeit over the phone, 3,000 miles away, while Michelle was laid up with a broken leg in a 3rd floor flat in San Francisco.  It was very slow going at first, and she timidly moved from basic stitch swatches to washcloths to eventually scarves.  After a multi-year hiatus, she returned to the craft in earnest in 2011, relishing the opportunity to nestle into an easy chair with gorgeous yarns and new patterns.

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But it wasn’t until 2006 that she learned about felting, and when she finally started to experiment with the technique, she was immediately, completely hooked.  Something about the smooth, fuzzy, warm wool texture and apparent magic of all of those stitches melding into one thick solid material, was irresistible.  And not coincidentally, this all came about while she was making toys and decorations for her newborn son, Nicholas (who was nicknamed “The Babus”, in utero, just like his daddy had been).  The moment she saw Nicky’s reaction to his first set of felted wool teething rings, Babus Toys was born, at least in her mind.  Many years later, Michelle has created toys and treasures for babies as well as children of all ages.  Using choice, sustainably produced yarns from Michigan and Peru, as well as an organic line from Australia/US, Michelle makes every piece by her own design and with her own hands, from that original Gnot teething ring to nesting finger puppet sets, to mermaid dolls, even ornaments (once she even made a bride and groom squid couple as a wedding cake topper). Oh, and her mom Ruth is still helping her out, doing yeoman’s work as a supplemental knitter.  Michelle works out of her home in downtown Silver Spring, MD.

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Babus Toys can also be found in Michelle’s Etsy store, on Facebook, and at Eastern Market in Washington DC.logo

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Wordless Wednesday: Farmers Market Finds

Perfect tomatoes. Ready to eat. No adornments necessary.

English peas. Preciously short season. Delicious in Minted Pea Soup.

Fingerling potatoes. Red and white. To be roasted with garden herbs and olive oil.

Strawberries. Last of the crop. Season came early this year. Perfect for Cold Strawberry Soup.

Icelancic lambs wool. Naturally gorgeous brown color. Will be used to make a batch of Fuzzy Soaps.

Peas and potatoes and basil.

Tomatoes and cucumbers. A salad in the making.

The jewel-toned cauliflower would look gorgeous on a crudité platter.

Nice variety of squash. My favorite are the oddly decorative and yummy patty pan.

Garlic scapes have a very short season. They are wonderful in stir fries.

So happy to have Solitude Wool selling their wares now at the farmers market.

Getting Organized


I have set many goals for Herban Lifestyle for 2011, and I just checked a big one off of my list. Get organized! As my company has grown, so has my need for large quantities of herbs, oils, packaging and more. And these items had grown unruly in the 10 x 15 space I have designated for these supplies. So, in January, I hired a friend’s husband to create built-in shelves at one end of my space, and it has made all the difference in the world.

Once the shelves were up and painted, I set out to find containers that would allow me to easily see and access my herbs and other items. Previously, they had been stored in the plastic bags they had come in, which were in turn stored in cardboard boxes. I wasted a lot of time going trying to find what I needed. Now it’s all is plain sight.

Good old Mason jars (which I use for making tinctures and infusions) along with Anchor’s square Frontier jars provide the perfect sizes and shape to maximize the space and highlight the natural beauty of my botanicals. And a series of baskets serve as tidy-looking mini drawers to hold tags, labels, ribbon, bags and myriad other small supplies.

Huge Anchor Montana jars hold large quantities of my most-used herbs, and translucent portable filing boxes keep my wool (hand-dyed by various Etsy crafters) safe and dry, as well as easily seen and accessed.

There is still some extra room for various display pieces and packaging. I am sure that this will get filled up before long. In the meantime, I am enjoying the “white space.”

In a less visible area of the space I have room to store my equipment, more packaging, more display pieces, and shipping materials.

An additional free-standing small white shelf holds miscellaneous glass and metal containers, along with a few pink-colored botanicals and other items.

While it took me a few weeks to find the right containers, then a couple of days to sort and transfer the contents from the aforementioned bags and boxes into the containers, I will net a huge savings of time from now on. Having these previously packed-in, hard-to-see, hard to access items at my fingertips, and easily viewed has saved me so much time. And now I will have time to check off the remaining items from the 2011 To Do List…

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Miss ShoeBooty

The following post is by guest blogger, Kia Guarino.

After coming across a fun website with detailed instructions yesterday, we decided to use old wool sweaters to make boots! The slouchy sweater material boot is in style – UGG® makes a few cute designs. However, my budget currently doesn’t allow for purchases in that price range, so we decided to make our own following the directions provided by Urban Threads. The Urban Threads site is mostly focused on embroidery and the boots she made had an adorable embroidered emblem. However, given our inexperience and impatience with sewing machines, we decided to skip that part and just add buttons for embellishment.

We started out by going to Target and picking out cheap flats (mine were a large kids’ shoe) and then to Michaels craft store to pick up a little glue gun. All in all, it cost a total of about $14: $6 for the wool sweater (found at Goodwill),$3 for the pair of flats, $2 for buttons (which we had on hand from a past visit to The Button Emporium in Portland, OR), and $3 for the glue gun. I picked out a cranberry red wool sweater and my mom chose a dark gray ribbed sweater.

Following the directions, we made it pretty seamlessly through the first part. There was a little glue showing on the rubber soles and my sewing was a little lumpy, but overall nothing too horrible. We did have trouble figuring out the last step when the cuff has to be attached, but after a few snafus, we were able to figure that out as well!

In the end, after about 3 hours of manual labor and some trial and error, we produced our very own wool boots!! The cost was much lower than the department store versions, plus they are custom fit!! Since we are both petite, this was a huge bonus. I definitely recommend trying this out, even if you aren’t skilled at sewing, especially if you have an old sweater and pair of flats that you’d like to repurpose!

I Love Ewe

woolI recently bought my first order of hand-carded wool from a family farm in Wisconsin. I have been using the wool to make my felted soaps. Their wool is hand dyed with vegetable dyes. I bought a sampler of five colors, my favorite of which is pictured in this photo. This wonderful green color is made from a combination of Indigo and Marigold. Yummy!