I love chickens! And I mean, the live ones, mostly. On Storybook Farm, we enjoy fresh eggs daily from our flock of 15 hens (and one rooster). When she comes to Storybook Farm, my granddaughter, Emma, loves to go with her Nana (me) to gather eggs. Emma loves all the animals–and also the trampoline, the swimming pond, and s’mores! But of all my grandchildren, Emma especially is into craft and sewing projects. She has a wonderful ability to concentrate for long stretches of time when working. And, lately, she’s been making doll dresses on her own at home.
Recently, I suggested that Emma come for a day or two, just her alone, to sew with me. She was so excited. She had to wait about 10 days for the grownups to get it together, but at last we took her home after church for a two-night stay.
I thought that we would be making doll dresses for sure, but when Emma came, what she wanted Nana to help her to make was a stuffed animal. Which kind of animal? A chicken, of course!
Well, I decided that I’d need to make a prototype chicken first since I’d never made one before. I had lots of calico (as you know), and had been reading Stuffed Animals: From Concept to Construction by Abigail Patner Glassenberg about making stuffed animals, and I had my trusty tablet that would give me tutorials. What could go wrong?
Step one was to go to the Internet and find some kind of free pattern as a starting place. I did find one that was helpful visually, but unfortunately, it was all in Russian as far as directions went. Still, it was the starting place I needed, so for about five hours on Sunday night, I created a prototype chicken.
It was good that I did because I learned by trial and error. I learned about the size of the beak, remembered to clip corners and curves before turning, and realized that I needed Emma’s chicken to have a fuller breast so that it wouldn’t fall forward, like mine did.
After I finished sewing together the body of my chicken, I looked around for stuffing. Turning to my trusty guide (Stuffed Animals: From Concept to Construction) I found out that the premiere stuffing choice for softies is [drum roll please…] unprocessed lambs’ wool.
It just so happened that we had six bags of wool in our barn from shearing our sheep the last two years. (Wool has very little value on the open market, so we haven’t bothered to market it, but neither could I bear to trash them. So, now I have the perfect use for our modest harvest of wool from our small flock.)
OUR wool had all the barnyard refuse still mixed into it. (Can you spell dirty and stinky now?) So, we had to wash it. Grampa did the dirty work: he filled the kitchen sink with HOT water, and used Woolite to wash it. Then we laid it out on cookie cooling racks in front of our wood stove to dry overnight.
For some reason, it fell to Grampa to stuff the sewn chicken, hence his role in washing it. (I think I knew that I would be pretty played after two days of one-on-one grandchild duty, though Emma was the model child the whole time, so that’s why he got this assignation.)
Emma was very patient with the time that it took me to make my chicken. I had her on my lap for a lot of the stitching. She especially enjoyed using the auto-cut button on the machine. To help her feel like she was going to sew her own chicken soon, I had her design the colors she would use. She took a look at my wall of fabric, and then started coloring.
The most challenging part turned out to be the wings.
They had to be sewn on by hand, and since she wanted a contrasting fabric in the center of each wing, I ended up appliqueing that by hand, too. (I’m sure I’ll learn easier ways to do such elements of stuffed animals as my skills increase!
Emma had the bright idea of making two tiny chicks that could shelter under the mommy chicken’s wings. (She’s been listening to such Scriptures as Psalm 91:4 (ESV) which says, “He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.” She’s also watched our broody hen gather chicks, so she had a pretty good idea of what she wanted.)
After we finished sewing, Grampa and Emma stuffed the chicken we had made. I informed him that my book on making stuffed animals stressed the importance of careful, slow stuffing practices. The book claims that it should take as much time to stuff a softie as it does to sew it! (Well, probably not the first attempt with no pattern or experience, but I wasn’t telling Grampa that!) It was precious to see him carefully tucking tufts of wool into the bird as Emma watch and kibitzed.
It was while they were stuffing that I whipped up the two chicks that you can see below. The fit into the wing “pockets” perfectly, just peeping out. Emma immediately became the mother hen in pretend, and took great care of her chicks. (She had experience, you see, because we had peeps born of a broody hen here at Storybook Farm last summer.
Here is the finished product proudly displayed. Cost of the chicken? Nothing: we had everything
including the wool and button eyes on hand, thanks to Aunti’s bequest.
Value of the two days of intense sewing with my precious granddaughter? Priceless!