The Story of Cottontails Baby
Me and a few toys
Once upon a time, a long time ago (well, back in 2003) I opened a little shop on the high street in Pershore, Worcestershire, where I sold clothes and toys for babies and young children.
I still don’t quite know where I found the self-belief and confidence to do this, but somehow I did. It was a real leap of faith - I had some retail experience, a genuine love of children’s books, toys, bunnies and ‘little things’, one thousand pounds in savings and a scary bank loan. And so began the story of Cottontails Baby.
The website followed in 2005, and quickly became the main part of the business, so when I moved to Herefordshire a few years later, I closed the high street shop and Cottontails Baby became the online toy store you see today.
Over the years Cottontails Baby has grown into a well known and much loved online toy store but at it’s heart it remains a very small, very personal business - it has always been just me packing parcels in my shop or my office at home... just me drawing bunnies, writing product descriptions and driving to the post office.
These days I also work as a yoga teacher, so Cottontails Baby has gradually become more of a part-time thing, but that is okay with me - the landscape of online retail has shifted a lot, and I find the ever more competitive environment a bit dispiriting. So nowadays I run Cottontails in a slightly more relaxed way, selling the toys I love most from my favourite brands, while supplementing my income with my yoga teaching. And - perhaps most exciting of all - after many years in the planning, I have recently launched a small range of Cottontails Handmade Rabbits. To me this feels like a lovely direction for Cottontails to take now, and also seems to fit well with my yoga teaching… there is something that feels ‘right’ about hand-making things with time, care and love rather than just competing to sell the bigger brands.
And even though I now have less time as I juggle Cottontails with my yoga career, I still work hard to bring my toys to life with little stories, photos and films, and to make shopping at Cottontails a charming and quirky experience. And year after year my lovely loyal customers come back - for which I am truly, truly grateful.
If you have any thoughts or questions, I would be delighted to hear from you. As I am often out and about with my yoga mat these days, I no longer run an office phone, but please do email me and I will get back to you as soon as I have a moment.
I hope you will smile as you wander through the website, browsing products and delving into my little corner of the online world…
And a heartfelt thank you to all my customers.
Charlotte & Ralph (the shop rabbit) x
The Handmade Rabbits
Our very first handmade rabbit
The Cottontails Handmade rabbits have been a long time coming!
From the time I opened the doors at Cottontails, fifteen years ago, I dreamed of making my own things, and bit by bit it has happened…
2006... I bought a sewing machine on eBay. I was clueless and had to have a lesson from my mum’s friend in how to thread it. I made a few lavender bags, and then life took over
2008… I dusted off the machine then enrolled in some courses at a local college - basic sewing, quilting, machine embroidery. I mastered none of these skills and gave up again for a long while.
2013... I dusted off the machine again bought a ‘make your own doll’ kit and had another go at this sewing malarky
...For the next couple of years I would dip in and out, doing a bit and then months would pass. I ordered various fabrics, patterns and trims… I experimented.
2014..I began my first rabbit… she was to take two years to complete (and there was a running joke in my home that this would be the most expensive rabbit in history, were I to factor in my time)
2016... I had a new (better) sewing machine for Christmas, and over the following year made a few more rabbits, all the time designing and refining my own pattern.
2018… I finally created the perfect pattern, settled on the fabrics, in between running Cottontails and teaching yoga, I happily create the Handmade Rabbits that are for sale today.
And these rabbits truly are handmade. Of course, my house rabbit Ralph helps by providing inspiration, otherwise every little bit is done by my hand - from the pencil sketches of the original patterns to the (endless!) cutting out of fabric and bringing the bunnies into being. I use a mixture of machine and hand sewing for the body - the little paw patches are sewn by hand, for example - and I hand embroider the face.
Each one is a little different, and each one really is made with love and care.