When Meg McGhee started her own business in 2013, she never imagined being a finalist for the 2019 Etsy Design Award, which many say is the equivalent of an Oscar nomination in the crafting world.

McGhee, the owner of Sir Winslow’s Zoo, is one of 160 finalists vying for the award out of thousands of submissions from across the globe. One winner will be chosen from each of the five categories, which include Inventive Décor, Signature Style, Festive Celebrations, Earth-Friendly and Creative Collaborations. The winners will receive $1,000 and a trophy. One overall grand prize winner will be awarded $15,000, a trophy and the Grand Prize Winner shop badge for their online Etsy shop.

For six years, McGhee has been hand-crafting stuffed animals, nursery décor, pencil cases, memory animals and personalized items for her locally-operated business. However, McGhee has been sewing her whole life.

“I was always standing next to the sewing machine watching my grandmother quilt,” said McGhee. “I have a very vivid memory of my grandmother sewing dresses at our house when I was eight years old, and I’ve been doing it since.”

McGhee submitted a stuffed llama into the Creative Collaborations category, which has been a best-seller since it was named the Children’s Christmas Editor’s Pick in 2018. Most of McGhee’s handmade items are sewn with thrifted fabric, which often includes second-hand denim and old clothing. She also reuses fabric scraps leftover from previous projects.

“To me, it’s ultimately saving it from the landfill, “said McGhee. “The thrifted fabric adds character that you can’t really find in newer fabric … it also kind of makes it my own.”

McGhee also uses minky fleece, which is popular for newborn gifts. She creates a multitude of animals, from penguins to dinosaurs, to lions to sharks. She also sews wedding ring bearer pillows, pencil cases and Nordic/Dutch Gnomes. Additionally, McGhee accepts customized orders and recently created a collection of sea animals.

If McGhee were to win the grand prize of $15,000, she would like to build a separate workshop for her business and employ additional people to help with sewing. She currently works out of her home.

“I don’t ever want to sell at Wal-Mart or be too big, because then I think you’re going to lose a lot of the creativity and individual character,” said McGhee. “But I would definitely like to grow out of our house and be a name that people would recognize.”

In addition to her online Etsy shop, McGhee has products at Remnants Antiques in Pella and boutiques in Altoona, Albia and Illinois. Winners will be announced on Sept. 1.

Emily Hawk can be reached at ehawk@pellachronicle.com or by calling the newsroom at 641-628-3882.

Emily Hawk can be reached at ehawk@pellachronicle.com or by calling the newsroom at 641-628-3882.

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