The Giving Challenge: When the Experience of Sewing is the Real Gift

I’m a really big fan of giving the gift of an experience, so I thought I’d explore an alternate approach to the #givesewmuch challenge, and tell you a little story…

A couple of years ago, my friend’s grandmother passed away. The grandmother had made a cut-and-sew style Little Red Riding Hood doll for this friend when she was young, and my friend had passed it down to her daughter. When we attended the funeral, the young daughter (Wee A, who was about 7) was really upset because she had wanted to bring that doll along but either couldn’t find it on the day, or just plain forgot until she got to the church.

I got Wee A to tell me about the doll, and suggested that maybe a nice way to remember her great-grandmother would be to make a similar one ourselves. She agreed, and I set out to find the right doll fabric.

After poking around in local shops and online, I found the PERFECT cut-and-sew doll on Etsy. (This isn’t an affiliate link, I just want to share the adorableness!)

A screenshot of a Little Red Riding Hood doll made from a cut-and-sew panel, from Etsy. The doll comes with a cape, a skirt, a wolf, and a pillow and a bedspread.
I love the style of this doll — and that she comes with a variety of accessories. The bedspread and pillow have straight seams, and then things get more complicated to sew as you work through the doll’s body and clothing, and the little wolf.

Of course, not content with just ONE doll, I ended up ordering two more panels from the same Moda line so that Wee A’s mom and I could also get in on the fun. (I chose a mermaid and a Hansel and Gretel panel, but there are several options available!) I also stocked up on the stuffing, thread, and other notions we would need in triplicate.

It took us a while to find a free day to get together, but we did eventually have our dolly sewing bee. We started with cutting everything out, and then got to work with sewing. While my friend sews on occasion, it was Wee A’s first time using a sewing machine or an iron, so there was lots of new territory to cover! We also did some bits of hand-sewing (especially on the little stuffed animals that come with each doll).

A child sits on the sofa, hand-stitching her lined doll blanket shut.
Look at that patience and precision!

In the interest of having the day stay fun and exciting, rather than tipping over into frustration, Wee A and I agreed that I would handle the precision stitching around the doll’s head and limbs, and she’d focus on the other pieces. Since her mom and I were making our dolls in parallel, we could demonstrate the process without doing everything for her.

The mermaid doll, with pillow, bedspread, and seahorse stuffed animal. She is lying on her mermaid tail, which is sewn but hasn't yet been threaded with ribbon to gather it at the waist.
Partway through the assembly process, the mermaid doll has her bedspread, her pillow, and a little seahorse stuffy. Her mermaid tail has been sewn up but not yet gathered at the waist.

The best part of the day? Wee A told her mom, “Momma, sewing is fun!”

Sometimes it’s not the finished product that’s the real gift — though these dolls are pretty flippin’ cute — it’s the time and the sharing of skills and connections that really makes the sewing itself into a gift. Wee A not only has the dolls to go with the one her great-grandmother made, but she has a set of skills and a sense of pride that will serve her well as she grows!

In the spirit of the Giving Challenge, think about how sharing the experience of sewing can be a gift, too! We recently had a Who We Are post about teaching kids to sew, but maybe there are other people who would relish the gift of sewing with us too: seniors who know how to sew but maybe need help with threading needles due to failing eyes, or women in shelters who are rebuilding their lives and remaking what constitutes “home” for them, and many others. Teaching pets to sew their own toys or bedding might be a bridge too far, but then again, there are lots of creative people around: maybe you can think of a way! Share your thoughts about experiencing the act of sewing as a gift below.

Anne is a conference planner by day, and an occasional knitting designer by night. You can follow her yarn- and dog-related obsessions on Instagram at @anniebeeknits. (She and her husband adopted a rescue dog a year ago, and she might be a little overzealous with the dog photos. You’ve been warned.) Anne is also the lead of the copy-editing team here at the Sewcialists, and, as Gillian’s older sister, the lucky recipient of MANY sewn gifts!