Ever made a gift for a child and worried that maybe it wasn’t as sturdy as it could’ve been? Maybe you’ve woken up at night wondering, “Were those seams really sewing tightly enough?” “Did I remember to double knot the embroidery floss when I stitched the eyes?” “Is that tail really securely attached?”

Anyone who makes softies for young children has these concerns. If a child really latches on to a toy you’ve made they’re going to be pretty rough with it. It may end up in the crib where a curious baby will pull hard on its tail and chew on its ears. Inevitably it’ll get dirty and have to be washed, probably multiple times over the years.

In many countries, there are government regulations about toy safety that dictate the kinds of materials toys can be made from, the quality of the production, and the size and shape of small parts that could be choking hazards. These laws generally only apply to mass-produced toys. But perhaps home-based softie businesses should be held to the same standards.


I chatted about this topic with Dawn Treacher, a softie-maker in York, England, who has made it her mission to comply with UK toy safety standards. Dawn’s business is Treacher Creatures. She makes adorable sock animals from her home studio.

Toys by dawn treacher 1 Treacher Creatures by Dawn Treacher

Dawn opened an Etsy shop to sell her softies in 2010. A year later a wave a panic descended on UK-based toy makers as they learned that in order to legally sell toys, even handmade softies sold in an online shop, they’d have to conduct comprehensive safety testing on each design.

Toys by dawn treacher 2
Treacher Creatures by Dawn Treacher.

Many closed shop altogether, but Dawn decided to comply with the new CE testing (CE stands for Conformité Européenne, a French term that translates as European Conformity). She joined a Facebook group of other softie makers who were going through the same transition, learned what needed to be done, and did it.

Incinerated Toys by Dawn Treacher
Safety testing meant lots of paperwork, but it also meant lighting prototype toys on fire,

Strenth testing toys
hanging them from hooks with weights attached to test the seams

Washing sock elephant
washing and drying them, and then testing again.

In our 30 minute talk, Dawn tells the story of how mandatory testing standards has changed her business, for better and worse. Learn how to make your own softies safer for young children and decide whether you think government safety standards for toys should apply to home-based businesses.

Learn more about CE Testing on the CE Support page on Facebook. You’ll find links there to the sock animals group, the knit and crochet group, the dolls group, and more. Find out about the home testing pack Dawn and others are using on the Conformance website.

And be sure to check out Dawn’s Etsy shop and follow Treacher Creatures on Facebook.


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