Start of a family business, and a love for hedgehogs and pom-poms.

A hedgehog toy from Portland, Washington, named Porty.

Tuft and Garland is a small family business started and operated by the Gilson Family who came to love hedgehogs and pom-poms as their business grew. How Tuft and Garland the company came to have hedgehog mascots all started when the youngest member of the family, Ginny, who was only in kindergarten at the time, was given a toy hedgehog by a friend.  Her friend had missed her birthday party because she had to visit relatives in Portland, Oregon, but she picked up the toy at the airport on the way back.  When Ginny’s friend gave her the hedgehog the two friends together named the hedgehog Porty, because of where he came from. 

Sad events eased by a hedgehog toy.

Shortly after Ginny named her toy hedgehog, Darhla, the mother of the family became seriously ill and was eventually diagnosed with severe food allergies and pet allergies.  Prior to that diagnosis, other members of the family had been diagnosed with asthma triggered by exposure to cats and dogs.  However, to allow the children to have pets like their friends, even though they couldn’t have a dog or cat, the family had adopted and become attached to a gerbil and two pet rats.  But after Darhla was hospitalized, it was clear the pets had to go, and new homes were found for them.  It was heartbreaking to have to let go of the sweet rodents and Ginny and Darhla cried a lot while Ginny held tightly to little Porty.

In addition to having to let go of the pets, Darhla also had to stop eating many of her favorite foods due to the food allergies, most noteworthy being nightshades which includes potatoes and tomatoes.  In support of Darhla, as a family, it was decided that the whole family would stop eating these as well except on special occasions when Darhla could eat something else.   As a result, the family gave up one of their favorite foods, potato chips.  It might not seem like a lot, and was probably better for everyone’s health, but for a kindergartener giving up a food when you don’t really understand why was very difficult.  That is where Porty comes into the story again. 

Porty joins the family for dinner and finds his way to pom-pom adventures.

Porty became a way of expressing a desire for something we couldn’t have.  It started as a pretend game that Porty wanted potato chips when really it was Ginny who wanted potato chips.  She knew she should not have one but maybe the toy could.  In response Darhla pretended to give chips to Porty and in that moment Porty began to enjoy the foods the family couldn’t.  This made Porty a key participant at mealtimes and a favorite toy of Ginny’s.  She took Porty with her everywhere, but toys were not allowed at school, so she placed him next to Darhla’s computer during the day, or in other parts of the house to wait for her return.  One day she placed him in the basket of pom-poms that Darhla was making and that is where Porty’s association with pom-poms began.   He was such a cute a little ball of fluff amongst the balls of yarn, that it made the whole family laugh, so he spent more and more time during the day amongst the pom-poms.

Porty and his fellow hedgehog toys become the company mascots.

Years later, when the Pom-poms were overflowing, and the decision was made that Darhla needed to sell some of the pom-poms to make way for new ones, it was decided it was time to start a family business specializing in pom-poms, and the craft company of Tuft and Garland was created. During the planning of the craft company, sitting in the basket of pom-poms was Porty, and it was obvious the company mascot needed to be hedgehog.  However, by this time Porty was not a great looking toy anymore.  He is worn from love and washings and nearly unrecognizable to the untrained eye, so the decision was made to get another toy to stand in his place for photos.  That toy turned out to be pair of toy hedgehogs that were given the names Tuft and Garland.  Now all three sit and watch Darhla make pom-poms, go on family adventures, and eat the food we can’t, but for the most part the toy hedgehogs Tuft and Garland do the photo work, while from time to time you might see Porty, too.

What do you think about our story? Please let us know in the comments below.

Tuft and Garland, the hedgehogs, can be found posing with all our pom-pom products. Look for them when you visit Tuft and Garland on Etsy to purchase and see our other pom-pom products.

Post written and mood board designed by Darhla Gilson, registered architect, co-owner, and lead designer for Tuft & Garland.

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