Clover Toys in Ballard, Top Ten Toys in Greenwood and Pacific Place, and Magic Mouse downtown are just a few of the city's best toy stores—and like all independent stores, they could use your love this season. (The beloved Izilla Toys went out of business before the holiday season even got started.) If you must shop online, buy directly from the toymaker, like on Etsy, for god's sake. Whatever you do, don't just buy a bunch of crap. What's the difference? Here, look.

Piece of Crap

Why are you spelled like that?

[Sigh] I know, right? It makes me feel stupid. Do you know they call me a "compound"? Not dough. Play-Doh compound.

Gross. I used to eat you back in the day. Where did you come from?

I'm made in China. What did you expect? Hasbro bought me in the '90s. I'm like 99 cents. Don't swallow.

Piece of Craft

Mmmm, you smell nice. What is that?

Aw, thanks. I come in lots of different scents—lavender, sweet orange, cardamom. It's my organic essential oils.

Wait, what are you?

I'm like that other uh, compound, only better: I'm gluten-free, preservative-free, vegetable-colored, and made right here in Seattle. Even the little cookie cutters and rolling pins I come with are made in the United States. Find me at, in mini versions ($9 for seven) or bigger tubs ($23.99 for five). Mama K is Kari Erickson-Valenzuela, a local mom. I'm pretty grown-up friendly, too—try keeping me at your desk for stress relief.

Piece of Crap

What are you?

I'm an ugly doll.


No, that's what I'm called—UGLYDOLL is a brand name. I'm also a keychain.

Where were you—

CHINA. Stop asking.

Piece of Craft

Hi there, little whale. What are you made of?

[Whale sounds]

I can't understand you.

Oh, sorry. That was just for authenticity. As you can see, I'm carefully stitched to look like one classy, realistic little whale. I'm made of old wool sweaters, and my guts are renewable corn fiber. Hey, do you have any krill on you?

No, sorry. Um, where can I find you?

I was at the Urban Craft Uprising last weekend, but usually my creator, Libby Chenault, sells at the Bellingham Farmers Market. You can go check out her blog——to see where else she's selling this winter.

Piece of Crap

Where do you come from?

WHY DO YOU KEEP ASKING THIS SHIT??! China, okay? We're all made in China. I'm shiny, rainbow plastic. I was not made by elves or magic. I was made in a big, soulless factory, probably by people being paid less than you're comfortable with. I'm 15 bucks, and when your kid stacks me up right, "a musical reward awaits," okay?

Maybe just chill out? You are a toy for babies. Goo-goo ga-ga?

Oh, fuck you. Everyone's all up in my face about this China business. I didn't choose to be sinfully ugly and smell of sadness. I just want to have fun.

Piece of Craft

Hi. What's your name?

I'm Manzanita Kids' "Star Stacker." I'm made of four smoothly sanded maple-wood stars, with holes in the middle so we can sit on this peg. I'm not just gorgeous, I'm smart—kids use me to practice motor skills and stuff. And hiding under the blocks on my base are inlaid stars that form the Big Dipper.

Nice touch. Where did you come from?

A friendly fellow named David made me in his cottage in North Seattle. Manzanita Kids is a family business—he and his wife, Adrienne, run an Etsy shop: You'll find me there for $28, along with tons of other beautiful wooden toys, including sets of modular building walls, all made by David.

Piece of Crap

What are you?

[Robot Jack Black Voice:] Ready to train with the real dragon warrior?

Um. What?

Ha! Fists of justice!

All right, I'll do the work: You're a talking Kung Fu Panda doll. Your tag says you're made in China. You're $7.99 at Toys "R" Us. Your little talking button is impossibly hard to press.

Take that!

Piece of Craft

What are you?

I'm a needle-felting kit. Needle felting is pretty in vogue with the ol' 8-and-up demographic these days. You just poke wool with a needle and form it into shapes. I make a panda.

Where are you from?

My creator, Laurie Sharp, has a studio in Suquamish where she makes her own needle-felted creatures, sometimes out of wool from her own flock of sheep. You can buy me at Clover Toys in Ballard for $20.

Anything else?

Oh, yeah: You can make the box I came in into a bird feeder. It's neat. recommended