Pulling out her craft box nearly four years ago, Snoqualmie resident Marian Priegel decided to make a handful of stuffed gnomes to give away at a Nordic-themed event at her church, the Church on the Ridge.
Pulling out the same craft box last year, during the pandemic, Priegel realized she had some leftover material, and decided to make nine more gnomes for herself. She later posted them to her Facebook page.
“I posted them on Facebook just for myself, and friends and family were like ‘oh my gosh those are so cute. Do you sell those?’” she said. “It’s been a whirlwind since then.”
Since making those gnomes last year, Priegel’s crafts have become a full-fledged business, called the Snoqualmie Gnome Maker, that she runs in her dining room and over Facebook. Although at first, she was only serving Snoqualmie residents, Priegel has sold thousands of gnomes to customers as far away as New Jersey, New Hampshire and Colorado and even used the money for a house payment.
“I’m still working on even getting a website because this was not a plan,” she said. “I got my business license this year. This is all new to me and I’m still learning about everything.”
Priegel’s gnomes are custom made, featuring a range of designs, colors and fabrics. This includes holiday, sports, Harry Potter and other designs. Priegel said her favorite thing has been working with people to come up with different designs. She has a catalog of fabrics to choose from and also works with customers for custom designs.
“I have a catalog of different sweaters available until they sell out,” she said. “[Customers] can go through that catalog and pick a sweater and then what color and beard they want. The fun part is being able to work with them to create what they like. It’s special too because then it’s not like just picking something off the shelf at the store.”
All of Priegel’s gnomes are made with recycled or thrifted materials. She has made gnomes out of sweaters, shirts, tablecloths, quilt scraps and blankets.
“What’s so cool about these is I can totally make something out of nothing,” she said. “The gnomes are not just adding to the landfill.”
Priegel said some of her favorite custom projects have been what she calls “memorial gnomes.” She said several people have asked her to preserve an old shirt or sweater from a deceased loved one and turn it into a gnome.
“It’s such a blessing to me to be able to do that for someone and that they would trust me to turn that shirt into a treasure that they can pass down to their family,” she said.
In her time running the business, Priegel said her favorite memory was her first in-person event when she had a booth at the North Fork Farm Market last Valentine’s Day. Prior to that, she had been doing things online and through porch pickups.
“Just to see their reactions to the gnomes, oh my gosh it was awesome,” she said. “Something I really love about this is the gnomes are bringing people joy.”
To see more of Priegel’s designs, visit facebook.com/Snoqualmiegnomes.