I once read a book about a pioneer girl who traveled across the plains with a Mormon wagon train. All she could take with her were a few articles of clothing and her special box of small treasures. Her many dolls and toys she had to leave behind. Included in her special box were some material scraps, a packet of precious needles, several buttons, and two spools of thread.

The girl was very brave and very clever. She knew it didn’t matter that she had to leave her dolls behind, because she could always make some new, even better ones, if she had the materials. She and her family finally arrived safely in Utah. When the girl wasn’t helping her mother and father, she started making her own toys in her spare time.

Her story started me thinking. I’ve always liked to sew, and I love stuffed toys like rag dolls and stocking animals. So I decided to make some toys like the pioneer girl did. I found a special box to keep my materials in like this …

Mom gave me some of her fabric scraps and some thread and needles to put into my box.

First I drew some animals—elephants, bears, cows, monkeys, even some pretend animals.

Then I put a star by the ones I liked best and drew them again. I made the animals more simple and kept in mind that I was going to make them into toys. I colored each one in to look like a fabric design and drew button eyes and yarn hair. I wonder if the pioneer girl did the same. One of my drawings looked like this …

Stuffed toys

Next I drew a grid on some tissue paper my mom had and laid it over the drawing like this …

Then I drew a bigger grid on some paper. Looking at the small drawing with the small grid over it, I redrew my picture onto the big grid, matching square to square like this …

Stuffed toys

When I was finished with the larger drawing, I pinned it onto some fabric, with the right sides folded together, and cut it out. I took off the pattern, then pinned the cloth together around the edges. My mom helped me machine stitch it together, but she said the pioneer girl would have stitched it by hand. We left some of it unstitched so it could be turned right side out.

Stuffed toys

Then I pushed some cotton stuffing into the animal, working it into all the corners to make it nice and even. Finally I pinned up the hole and stitched it together by hand.

I didn’t need a pattern for the face so I just used my scissors and cut it out of different scraps. I sewed the button eyes on the face before I stitched it down.

Stuffed toys

Mom said it would be easier that way. Then I pinned the face in place and stitched it down, like this …

Stuffed toys

All the time I was making my animal, I was thinking of other things to make—cows with horns, lions with yarn hair, butterflies trimmed with lace wings, long tubes for monkey arms and legs, even dishcloth ears for an elephant.

With a little patience I figured out how to make all kinds of animals. I even made Noah and his wife, and an ark for them to sail in. I wonder if that pioneer girl had plans like that!

Now why don’t you see what kinds of animals and dolls you can make for yourself or as gifts for friends and family?

Quilted Legs; French Knots; Braided Yarn Tail; Button Joints. (Illustrated by Shauna Mooney.)