Our Story - Since 1996
When I was seven, I made an elephant soft toy at school. I loved my elephant especially because it came to life for me in the making.
In 1996, when I couldn’t find any soft toys made from natural material for babies and remembering my elephant, I decided to make my own.
I researched and read a lot about different types of material that I could use to make my soft toys. In my search for the best natural material, I learnt that lambskin/sheepskin contained therapeutic properties that helped babies to have a longer and more restful sleep. This promoted their wellbeing and meant that they ate better, and became healthier and happier. I was determined to use lambskin/sheepskin to make my soft toy, but I needed to know more about it.
While looking for the perfect lambskin/sheepskin, I became aware that it was graded based on its fur density, length and fleece quality, discovering that lambskin is softer than sheepskin. Luckily, Australia breeds some of the best quality fleece in the world. I found the perfect Australian lambskin; the fur was dense, 10cm long, with premium quality very soft fleece. Being someone who cares about the environment and wanting a natural product for babies the method used to tan the skin was important to me, and I found a tannery that used safe and environmentally friendly chemicals and dyes.
Lambskin with fur is stiff, thick, and hard to cut and stitch. This was made even more difficult by choosing premium quality lambskin with long and dense fur. Cutting the lambskin and sewing the pieces into a recognisable shape was very complicated. I was determined to make something, and persisting ended up with my first simple koala shape soft toy. You can see the shape in our logo. Because I had chosen skin with long and dense fur, my lambskin soft toy didn’t need stuffing. It was flat, natural, soft and cuddly! They made great unique gifts for family and friends with newborn babies, and I started to sell them at church stalls, markets and through independent boutique shops.
By 2000, I had created the soft-toys with simple cartoon characters that went on gift cards and unbleached cotton drawstring bags. I sold these in a variety of colours throughout Australia, including the Qantas In-Flight Catalogue, Australian Geographic retail shops, and Kidstuff. This is how Flat Friends® was born. Animals are our Friends. Our toys are Flat. I use earth colours to reflect Australia.