There's nothing like watching the artist / crafter at work before buying - one of my favorite reasons to save as much shopping as I can for the street fairs I attend. And if I'm really lucky, I'll get to trade with the artists!
At my last show in Spokane, WA, a couple at a booth near me were selling little plushies. They looked kinda like imported work, but then I saw the couple working to make more items while selling their wares. Using a chopstick, they would pull out flat little shapes of fabric, fill then full of sand, and then poke it into each and every crevice before hand sewing the final stitches in place. I'm happy to say that my son will be handing these little lovelies out at his Birthday Party in his goody bags.
Save your shopping for your local festivals, farmer's markets, or stores supporting your local artists when you can - buying direct from the artist / crafter is worth the effort!