By Zoe Helene
Looking for a great gift to welcome a newborn into the world? Babies born between February 19, 2015, and February 8, 2016, will be born during the Year of the Lamb. What a blessing!
Some call it the Year of the Sheep, Ram or even Goat, and they’re all wonderful archetypes. The lamb however, is special: lovable, pure, innocent, gentle, affectionate, trusting, vulnerable, peaceful, playful, lively, friendly, joyful, fresh and feisty!
Your little one doesn’t have to be born in the Year of the Lamb to enjoy the lamb spirit through these delightful lamb-inspired Mother’s Day gifts and goodies, perfect for kids of all ages. Every item is eco-friendly, lamb-friendly, ethically produced by artisans, antique, vintage, recycled or re-purposed. Many of them support good causes.
You can’t help but smile when you look at these sweet lambkin faces. I raised two lambs when I was a girl in the whop-whops of New Zealand, and they’re smart, communicative and cuddly. Each individual has a distinct personality—and they grow up to be fabulous sheep.
SIDRUNS ZOO Lamb Crochet Amigurumi Doll Pattern and Tutorial ♥ Kristi Tullus certainly has a way with crochet. “I pick up a ball of bright colored yarn and a crochet hook,” she says, “and suddenly all kinds of amigurumi creatures come to life.” What a fun talent! Amigurumi is the popular Japanese art of knitting or crocheting anthropomorphic stuffed animals and other curious beings. “Cute” is the operative word in the amigurumi esthetic, so naturally lambs feature high on the list of muses. And if you work with lamb-friendly, organic wool or re-purposed yarn — well then, you’re got yourself a toy that’s a true representation of lamb spirit.
FUNKY BABY HATS Organic Cotton Blue Boy Baby Lamb ♥ This handcrafted little boy’s lamb hat is the sweetest ever. Vegans take note: this is made from ultra-soft 100 percent organic cotton yarn. Use as a photo prop, costume or just to keep your little one's head warm. The picture-perfect cutie-pie portrait is by Annette Bunch Photograph, who specializes in maternity, newborn, children, family and lifestyle photography. (A professional photo shoot gift certificate makes a fantastic baby gift.)
GINGERMELON Lullaby Lamb ♥ This pocket-size darling was created by Shelly Down of Ginger Melon, a prolific fabric artist and pattern designer who hopes to “inspire a joy of sewing in others” through her work. “I love the gentle nature of lambs,” she says, “They're just so cute, soft and cuddly!” Making these tiny dolls and plush animals means you finally get to use all those precious textile treasures and other special bobbles and beads you’ve been holding onto. This doll is so tiny you can easily make it out of re-purposed materials. “Old woolen cardigans would make up into lovely, soft felted fabric if washed and would be perfect for toy making,” says Shelly. Shelly also writes the Ginger Melon Dolls blog, which is a wealth of inspired information for anyone looking for free tutorials or “a peek at what goes on behind the scenes.”
WEE FOLK STUDIO Mary Had a Little Lamb (Detail) ♥ Salley Mavor describes herself as a “21st century needlewoman who is constantly discovering new ways to sew different materials together.” She masterfully expresses the irresistible spirit of the lamb in her stunning classic Mary Had a Little Lamb picture book (Houghton Mifflin, 2005), with verse brought to life in colorful photographs of her exquisitely detailed hand-embroidered fabric-relief artwork. Mavor’s recent collective of nursery rhymes includes a delightful double-page version of Mary Had a Little Lamb (see below / next).
WEE FOLK STUDIO Pocketful of Posies ♥ This is the finished double page embroidered illustration for pages 26/27 from Salley Mavor's “Mary Had a Little Lamb” from a collection of nursery rhymes called Pocketful of Posies (Houghton Mifflin). The inside flap reads, “Each rhyme has been lovingly stitched with rich fabric and colorful threads and exquisitely ornamented with everyday objects such as acorns, buttons, beads, driftwood, stones, and shells.” Autographed copies with personal inscriptions upon request are available on Salley Mavor. This original illustration and others like it are on touring the USA through 2016. To learn about how Salley created this masterful illustration, see Pocketful of Borders, a page that her 3-dimensional fabric relief process.
Sheep Creek Needlecraft Handmade Lamb Mobile ♥ This mesmerizing herd of floating fuzzy lambs and colored balls makes an extra-special nursery gift or décor for lucky youngsters and adults alike. Superbly handcrafted by Andrea Burnett, these one-of-a-kind mobiles are destined to become family heirlooms. Each one is skillfully needle felted using wool and wood, both natural and renewable resources. “Sheep and their wool is at the center of what I do,” Burnett says. “I am often struck by the amazing versatility and practicality of their wool. I especially love needle felting with wool for its endless possibilities for creativity.” Burnett also enjoys working with individuals to create unique custom works. “We all have stories to tell,” she says. “We just work with wool to help share them!”
KATA GOLDA Contemporary Handmade Boy and Girl Lamb Stuffed Companions ♥ Children’s rights advocate and environmentalist Kata Golda loves “to sew and draw and explore.” She hand-stiches each of her wonderful, whimsical characters from soft, hand-dyed wool felt, then adds hand-embroidered features to bring them to life. Golda is also an advocate for children, and she volunteers to teach kids how to keep an organic garden. Golda begins each day digging in her own organic garden or walking in the woods. “By mid-morning,” she says, “my mind is full of ideas and I’m ready to spend the day creating.” This pillow and a good selection of Golda’s work is available at Design Public.
WALLS OF THE WILD Cuddly Baby Lamb Mural Art Decal ♥ This kind, wooly lamb was created by Dede Lifgren, an artist in upstate New York who has created a catalog of life-size animal peel-and-stick mural decals printed with eco-friendly inks that are great for a nursery, daycare center, library, pediatrician’s office (or any other room, for that matter). With all sorts of animal images to choose from, the possibilities are endless. This little lamb pairs wonderfully with the Gray Wolf, for instance. Lifgren says she was trying to capture innocence and personality in this little lamb’s face. “He may be little, but he’s all lamb—even if he doesn’t know it yet. Lifgren runs Walls of the Wild with her husband, Jeff. “I’m blessed with not only a great husband but a hard working partner who runs the business side of things so I can focus on the art,” she says, “A great team if you ask me!” The stick-on murals and can transform a room in minutes.
WEE GALLERY Lamb Porcelain Mealtime Bowl and Cup Stacking Set ♥ This lamb has so much personality! Wee Gallery is a family-owned studio that designs fun functional art animals. “This collection was inspired by vintage ceramic dinnerware for kids,” says Surya Sajnani, “We kept the functionality, added the fun, and modernized it using our signature black and white graphics.” The bowl makes the face, and the cup makes the body. Just the right size for little people portions, it is dishwasher and microwave safe, lead-free and non-toxic. It works perfectly as an adult-sized tea cup as well.
JOJO MAMAN BEBE Lamb Print Cotton Sleepsuit ♥ This practical cotton baby sleepsuit with popper openings on the front and legs makes changing diapers easy. JoJo Maman Bébé is an ethical, mom-friendly line in the United Kingdom. Darcy Le Fleming of My Brooklyn Baby speaks highly of Laura Tenison, who generously supports a charity called the Nema Foundation that works to help mothers, children, and the environment. “She is an amazing woman,” Fleming says, “Who personally takes the time to visit me in my shop when she is in NYC, which is especially lovely considering how successful her company is.”
HANSA Handcrafted Little Black Lamb and Little White Lamb ♥ Hansa is known for making the most “true to life” soft sculpture art plush animal toys. Highly trained artisans handcraft each individual heirloom quality toy in a socially and environmentally responsible studio. Each piece is carefully cut by hand and meticulously sewn together inside out, a brilliant internal stitching technique that allows the artisans to create realistic, expressive toys representing most of the animal kingdom. Hansa makes many amazing exotic animals as well as domesticated animals, each with its own personality. The Hansa mission is not just create great toys, but to educate adults and children about animals and their lives, to help them to “understand, respect and appreciate the importance of our co-existence with all animals, in nature's circle of life.” Every animal toy comes with a teaching tag. Learn more about How Hansa Toys Are Made.
CRAZY FOX DESIGN Handmade Lamb Fingerless Gloves ♥ These fun and funny little lamb friends in periwinkle blue will keep your hands happy and your fingers free. (You can also wear them over another pair of fingered gloves if you need more warmth.) They’re handmade by designer Sabrina Romiti and are available in sizes from toddler to adult. Romiti clearly enjoys expressing herself through her line of unique accessories. “The shop is me!” she says, explaining how it all comes from an innate love of “light, love, freedom, learning and experimenting.”
SPECK & DRESSEL Bellytime Baby Lamb Blanket ♥ Janet took time off to take care of her children after working in the New York fashion scene for a decade. She works from home, creating stylish, practical goodies for parents. This upbeat, vintage inspired lamb print is sweet, and the soft, handmade blanket looks warm and inviting. “It’s perfect for the bellytime that is so important for the developing child,” Janet explains. Janet also provides skillful monogramming upon request. She donates a portion of bath and body product sales to “All For The Love of Animals,” a group created by her animal-loving kids. Proceeds are used to buy much-needed supplies for animal shelters.
PERSIS CLAYTON WEIRS Springtime Kittens with Lamb Jigsaw Puzzle ♥ A gentle newborn lamb rests on a soft bed of golden hay, soaking in the morning sunshine, enjoying the company of several curious barn kittens and a busy nesting mama bird. The illustration is typical of Persis Clayton Weirs, who learned to paint friendly farm animals and wildlife by closely observing them around her home in rural Maine. Puzzles are fun, intelligent mind games that can be social or solo and can introduce kids to an important metaphor for so many life experiences. This one is printed with soy- based inks on recycled board and made in the United States by SunsOut, an animal- and earth-friendly company that donates a portion of proceeds to Best Friends Animal Society, a nonprofit that helps homeless animals.
VINTAGE 1950 GERALDINE CLYNE Ba Ba Black Sheep Pop-Up Book ♥ Geraldine Clyne’s mid-century Nursery Rhyme Pop-Up Books are special, creative and influential. You can find this charming children’s collectable sold solo or in a set, usually of six, on Tolleth House Vintage. It makes a hip, unique gift or trendy decor that will only become more valuable as time goes by. The set includes: Ba Ba Black sheep, Old King Cole, Mary's Lamb (another lamb!), Sing a Song of Sixpence, There was an Old Woman and Hey Diddle Diddle.
YES & AMEN Treasured ♥ Junelle Jacobsen is a photojournalist who’s “all about daily adventures” and a deeply spiritual woman who “fell in love with the littlest lambs!” This precious lamb image and many others just as sweet are available as prints and eco-friendly greeting cards at Yes & Amen. This image shows a tiny, vulnerable newborn lamb under the arch of her mama's warm, wooly belly is perfect for Mother's Day.
Our family moved from the United States to Aotearoa (New Zealand) in 1974, back when most Americans would twist their heads and at best say, “Is that in Australia?” This was long before the internet and the Lord of Rings movies, although I do remember hiking into Middle Earth to read the books, which my older brother sent to his little country sisters from the States.
Back then, up to 14 passengers were allowed to travel on container ships, and our father wanted us see the island for the first time as the Maori people did—as “the land of the long white cloud.” As we arrived at our new home, we witnessed fluffy white clouds hovering above a long, dark, flowing strip of land on a curved horizon, a magical, mystical memory that never fades.
Our ocean journey took three long weeks from New York through the Panama Canal and then over seemingly endless blue. I turned 10 the day we landed, and while a big part of me had bought into Daddy’s Big South Pacific Adventure, another part of me, a subconscious part, was traumatized by the intense distance we’d put between our little family unit and our greater tribe of friends and extended family that was close, colorful, and intensely supportive. I experienced an onset of depression and anxiety, and it was hard to put a finger on a cause or cure.
As it turns out, an orphaned lamb named Karaki did the trick. We drove many miles down steep winding “rough metal” outback roads to find him. The kiwi farmer showed me how to heat up milk and glucose in a baby bottle on the stove and how to test the milk’s temperature with a drop on my arm, but it wasn’t until I put on my gumboots and walked out to feed the sweet little wooly baby that it happened. The moment I offered Karaki the bottle, he accepted with full trust—not just the warm milk but my offer of love and lifelong friendship as well. Our bond was immediate and intense, and with that bond I was able to bond with the spirit of the island.
Years later, my love for lambs remains strong. They’re dear little beings, and they grow up to be fabulous sheep. Karaki did, and even after we set him free to run with the wild sheep, he walked for miles just to pay us a visit on occasion. I'm certain that our friendship set me on the vegetarian path, which will forever mystify my carnivorous mother, but that's another story for another time.
This one's for you, Karaki. I am forever in your debt.
Zoe Helene is a Multidisciplinary Artist and Environmental Activist who is building a global network of sustainability trailblazers called Cosmic Sister . As Sustainability Correspondent, Zoe works tirelessly to help communicate messages of hope, conscious living, and informed pro-activism to a wide audience.