SewMamaSew, a blog about the history, craft and artistry of sewing, recently ran a comprehensive series on their site entitled, "6 Weeks of LOVE for Softies." Throughout this awesome collective the term, "softie," encompassed stuffed animals, cloth dolls, soft sculpture and fabric toys. I wrote a post for this series about the advantages of using pure wool felt for making softies and plush toys. For my introduction I was asked which term I preferred to use for my own work.
Hmmm, I thought. How do I describe my work? What is the best title for what I make? I contemplate the answers to these questions often. They are important because I want customers to find me. When asked what I do, I want my "elevator pitch" to be clear and effective. I design and make wool felt toys, primarily animals, which I then develop patterns for. They are sewn from cloth, embellished, stuffed and sculpted. The fabric I sew with is very soft, yet my toys tend to be structured rather than squishy. I design toys for play and as art for decorative display.
I used just about every description in my wool felt post and have since done some research on softie terms as they relate to what I make. Here is Oliver Rabbit's personal, (non-alphabetized and in no particular order), glossary as well as some tidbit information:
Stuffed Animal - a toy animal sewn from woven or felted fabric and stuffed inside with a lightweight fluffy material such as synthetic fiberfill or wool roving. Stuffed animals are commonly made for young children to sleep and play with.
Plush/Plush Toy - a stuffed animal made from cloth with a deep luxurious pile. Although common synonyms for "stuffed animal," these terms primarily refer to designer toys with a soft, textured fluffy exterior.
Plushies - An endearing and popular term used for small, handmade stuffed animals.
Fabric Toy - a toy made of fabric, usually stuffed, and includes animals, dolls and monsters.
Soft Sculpture - a toy or object, either for play or as decorative art, sewn from textiles or sculpted from clay, with or without embellishment.
Soft Toy/Cuddly Toy - British English terms for stuffed animal.
Stuffies - a British English synonym for soft toys. This is a favorite of mine. When my son was young, he called everything I made a "stuffie" because it was filled with stuffing! My sister lives in Canada and this is what she calls my work.
Softie* - A broad term used to describe a hand-made, plush cuddly toy that is soft and stuffed!
*As common as it is in the sew-maker world, interestingly enough, I could not find even one definition in an online dictionary for the word "softie" or "softy" that referred to toys or stuffed animals of any sort. The universal reference was to a sentimental, weakly foolish individual lacking in physical endurance. I did, however, locate the following definition written in 2007 by Amy Adams in her book, 'Countryside Softies: 28 Handmade Wool Creatures to Stitch'
(sawf-tee, softy) – noun 1. a three dimensional representation of a real or imaginary object, animal or person re-created using soft materials. 2. Handmade using beautiful fabrics, resulting in exceptional cuteness
I also discovered an interesting bog thread discussing the use of "softie" vs "soft toy." The authors believed that using the word, toy, in their product description implied that the object was to be played with and, therefore, subject to child safety regulations. They felt words like plush, softie and soft sculpture described a more decorative object exempt from toy safety guidelines.
In an attempt to make it easier for buyers to find particular items, Etsy revised their category settings for online listings earlier this year. Here are their terms of choice - when listing a softie, the search field selection goes like this: Toys and Games - Toys - Soft Toys and Plushies
I did a search on both Google and Etsy for the most popular softie terms just for fun. Here are the results:
soft toys 30,000,000
stuffed animals 22,100,000
plush toys 12,100,000
softie 867,000***searches related primarily to human characteristics rather than toys of any sort
stuffed animals 132,292
plush toys 67,718
soft toys 47,510
fabric toy 32,367
So what do I now call my creations? All of the above :)
What about you? What do you make? What do you call them and why? How do you list them for sale? I'd love to hear from you.