A home-based business owner and life-long crafter, Bonnie Norton, came up with an idea several years ago to really raise awareness about her craft skills.
The owner of Cuddle Me Babies Gift Shop, Norton said, "I used to go to trade shows looking for original pieces to sell," at A Country Florist Gift Baskets and Crafts, which was located in the strip mall in the 300 block of W. Maple Street.
The florist shop is still in existence today, but Norton runs it along with Cuddle Me Babies Gift Shop from her home. After some necessary surgery and physical setbacks, Norton moved both ventures home in 2008. From there, she expanded her horizons with the Cuddle Me line.
When speaking about the birth of "Cuddle Me Babies," her eyes light up. The Cuddle Me Babies line was born out of dissatisfaction with traditional trade shows. It got boring to visit those once she realized that every other florist and craft shop was buying the same home décor lines.
"So I thought about it, and I came up with an idea," she said. "I played around with it." Norton nurtured that thought and developed it into "Cuddle Me."
The Cuddle Me Babies venture is built around the idea of making babies. No they're not flesh and blood, but they are 20 inches long and weigh about 2 pounds.
The hand-made babies are the product of a specially crafted receiving blanket, a hat, socks, six disposable diapers, a Onesie set, scratch mittens and an outfit. Each baby—boy or girl—is shaped by the bits and pieces of baby-care items or clothes.
The way that Norton shapes or molds the different pieces to look and feel like a real baby "is a secret," she said. Picking up one of sample babies and cuddling it close like a newborn; she said "the body is made out of the receiving blanket" which is supported by the Onesie and the disposable diapers.
The notion of an unnatural, revved-up gestation process makes Norton smile. "It's my running joke," she said. "I can make a baby in 15 minutes flat." Her studio is situated in a converted family room next to the kitchen. The goal is to convert the family's one-car garage into a studio, she said.
But for now, she is focusing on marketing the Cuddle Me line and pointing out its unique features. The real key to making the pseudo baby is the special receiving blanket. She sews her own blankets—30-by-40-inches. They're made of fleece, but it's longer than most store-bought blankets. She uses the extra material to mold a head.
"When you take the baby apart, you have a completely useable outfit," including the receiving blanket and home-made pair of scratch mittens, she said. "They're perfect. They're always sleeping. They don't cry, and you don't have to get up at night to feed them."
There is no filler of any kind. It's all useable and made of 100 percent American ingenuity and know-how, she added.
Along with the pseudo baby, Norton crafts look-a-like, light weight baby cribs. She makes her own patterns and creates custom outfits to coincide with the theme of the baby's bedroom. She's also made Disney themes, animals and more. That includes sports babies for the Bears, Sox or Cubs fan. The baby's name is embroidered on the receiving blanket or hat.
"Everybody wants to be the hit of the baby shower," she said. With these, "your gift is bound to be the one that gets passed around. The one that everybody oohs and ahs over."
The price for a Cuddle Me Babies begins at $29.95. The price goes up depending on the specifics of the custom order, said Norton.
The Cuddle Me line also includes home-made outfits that look like brand name clothes, but "they're softer and personalized." Norton also builds storks along with bride and groom bears for baby and wedding showers.