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Profile: Moth and Squirrel

Jul 13th, 2010 | Category: Crafts

by Brent Cole

Making stuffed animals, hats, pins as well as baby products out of recycled materials has gone from a fun hobby a decade ago to sustainable business for local crafter Libby Chenault. Primarily using old sweaters and other worn out materials, Libby breathes new life into used and often discarded garments.
A lifelong crafter, Libby began creating in earnest after graduating from Fairhaven College. “I was classically underemployed and friends of mine had a hemp clothing business. I got this bag of scraps from them and started making these dolls.”
Along with journals, Libby continued to make animals over the next few years. In 2005, wanting to be part of the holiday craft fair which required a business license, Moth and Squirrel shifted from a hobby to a business. “It was becoming more than just a hobby. I had to become official,” she laughed.
Throughout the decade, Libby has always maintained a focus on recycled materials. Currently, she estimates 95 percent plus of the material is reused. Outside of a few materials she cannot consistently get recycled, such as zippers, everything from the cloth in the stuffed animals to the plastic in the brim of the hats has been used before.
Like many small business owners, Libby supplements her income by working at the Old Town Café in Bellingham as well as teaching gardening classes for adults with disabilities, and some fiber arts classes for both kids and adults with disabilities for Bellingham Parks and Recreation.
Libby uses several different sources for her materials. “For the animals, it’s recycled sweaters or I get things at Goodwill or our own closet.” She added, “I’ve been doing this long enough that people bring me their favorite sweater.”
Before use, Libby washes the material then felts it down. “I look at the color or the pattern or even the texture and thickness and it inspires a certain animal. “The end result of her creations is often a story for each animal, hat or pin, which is one of Libby’s favorites aspects of the creating process. Someone’s favorite sweater, for example, is turned into a monkey or a stegosaurus; it isn’t just a stuffed animal on a shelf, but one with some history.
Currently, Libby sells her goods at the Bellingham Farmers Market as well as craft fairs. Over the last few years, she’s seen a noticeable increase in the crafting movement. Coupled with a “really amazing buy local campaign,” Libby sees nothing but a bright future for herself and business. “People really think to go to the market,” she said, adding people really like that it’s a local maker of the hat or stuffed animal.
With the birth of her son, Franklin, seven months ago, Libby has begun making kids wear as well as bibs – a market that is taking off. “That’s where my market is really growing. People want something cute and unique that’s for a child or their child.”
Libby likens the craft movement to the local food push that’s growing across the nation. “Those values are the same whether it’s an heirloom tomato or a handmade hat.”
Visit Moth and Squirrel online at mothandsquirrel.blogspot.com or www.mothandsquirrel.etsy.com, or call (360) 441-9584.

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