During this time of pandemic, experts are saying one way to stay sane is to be productive in some manner. When possible, stick to the hobbies you already had. This is what Page Etherton has been doing. She has an array of handcrafted projects which include making beard oil, soaps, sugar scrubs and sewing.

Her sewing hobby has led to a truly unique project that includes repurposing old hard-shell suitcases.

It all started two years ago when she made gifts for her nieces and nephews. “I decided to make handmade gifts and use things I already had,” said Etherton. “After I used up all the old suitcases I had I visited estate sales and [Upper Sand Mountain Parish Thrift Store] to acquire more, because once I posted my creation on Facebook people started asking me to make them for their family.”

Etherton’s creations include toys for both boys and girls. She uses the suitcase to house a stuffed animal, and it serves as a bed and a closet for the five outfits that accompany the stuffed animal.

So far her collection of sewn animals includes bunnies, elephants, cats, giraffes, unicorns, skunks, pigs, mermaids and foxes. The animal and the five outfits she makes are made to fit the personality of the child. “I talk to the parents first to see what the child’s favorite color is and what superhero or animal the child likes,” said Etherton. “Then I match up the outfits to their preferences such as lumberjack, hunter, ballerina and so on. I always make at least one pajama set for the stuffed creation.”

The lid of the suitcase is turned into a closet where outfits can hang when the suitcase if open. The bottom part houses a little bed with matching pillow and spread. “If the theme of the gift is more in line with what a boy likes I might make a sleeping bag instead of a bedspread type bedding for the toy,” said Etherton.

Some parents are able to supple an old hard-shell suitcase for the project, but Etherton is always happy to receive a donated suitcase that fits the bill. The entire ensemble costs $150. Etherton may be reached at pageowens89@gmail.com.

The age range she suggests is ages 4-10. The outfits are made with Velcro instead of buttons to make changing outfits easier. Making this handmade gift in its entirety has her putting people on a waiting list, so orders need to be placed well in advance.

Page’s Motto: “Use what you have, keep it green.”

— Marla Ballard’s Who's Who appears in the Times-Journal Wednesday and weekend editions.

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