The week before I left for the American Hosta Society Convention in Philadelphia with my husband, Bert, I was scrolling Pinterest and became intriqued with a pattern created from a knitted square that was easily transfromed into a "comfort doll," 7 inches tall. The original site was in French and read: "Faites un bon homme toute-et-un." Although the directions were also in French, it was possible to decipher the pattern and analyze the picture to create my own little man. The shoes, plants, belt, shirt, face, and hat were designated by a specific number of rows of different colored yarns. I started making the dolls with light colored faces, like the ones in the French Pattern. However, as I continued to create dolls, I realized that I needed to make dark daces as most of these dolls were going to Central America, The Caribbean, South America, Africa, or to minority communities in the U.s.
Basically, I cast on 32 stitches to knit a square with 4 rows for the shoes, 14 rows for the pants, 1 row for the belt, 12 rows for the shirt, 10 rows for the face, 1 row of contrast yarn, and 10 rows for the hat. I used a #6 (4.0mm) needle. Then the square was sewn into a closed end tube, stuffed, and closed at the bottom. Simple stitching marked off the arms and legs. Eyes or a face was embroidered. As I continued to do my research, this pattern was repeated by many individuals and groups, paid, and unpaid. Basically, I continued to use this free download and a similar pattern offered by Knitting4Peace. Some patterns call for hair instead of a hat.
Originally, I hoped to donate my dollies to local homeless shelters and emergency homes, but this proved difficult as the administrators had enough or did not want toys. Therefore, I decided to find some national or international organization that regularly disperses these dolls to needy children in war torn countries or at disaster sites. The comfort dolls are called different names depending on the area receiving them. Among the most familiar are Jou Jou Dolls, Duduaza dolls (Somalia), and Izzy Dolls (Syria). The original project was developed in memory of a Canadian Soldier, Mark Isfield who noticed the need for dolls for children who had to flee their homes, leaving behind their treasured possessions. National campaigns were set up in Canada, and to date over a million dolls have been distributed. All of the dolls are knitted by volunteers, and distribution costs are covered by donations to nonprofit charities.
Before I sent off my own basket of dolls, I wanted to be sure that the organizations were still viable as many of the postings dated from 2015 and 2016. That was when I found Knitting4Peace, an organization with a newsletter, Global Yarns, that shares current stories of distributions and experiences. Donors contribute their knitting though Peace Pod groups or through individual contributions. There is even a group on Ravelry. Knitting4Peace started with knitted shawls for women, but has since expanded to hats, mittens, washcloths, mats, and the dolls they call Peace Pals. Patterns are provided for knitted and crocheted dolls. They use a configuration similar to the one I had discovered on Pinterest. The organization distributes goods from local "Community Pearls" as well as from its collection site in Colorado. Sometimes individuals who travel to designated sites take the dolls to the matching organizations or to homes in such places as Haiti, Guatemala, Honduras, Bolivia or to various countries in Africa.
My local Peace Pod is an hour from my home, but I was very excited to note that there was a summer program in Chautauqua, New York. The founder of the group is handing over the group to a new executive director. Ironically, my husband and I had received an invitation to join my son's mother-in-law at her summer home in Chautauqua this July. I plan to bring a few of my dolls, but I will send the rest to the general collection site. Anyway, the future of the group looks bright,and I am looking forward to be part of their mission.
This non-profit organization dis dedicated to "crafting hope, healing, and peace one stitch at a time tough nonviolent compassionate action." Members are "committed to the well-being of women and children in our own communities and those living in global areas of conflict." The Peace Pals are the most frequently requested items. The organization requests that the dolls have light brown to dark brown faces. I am currently working on more of my brown dollies. Patterns are free, and the dolls are not sold. They are given freely to boys and girls of all ages, who need a doll to hug and give comfort. The organization makes every attempt not to compete with local craftspeople who are trying to make a living off their craft.
For more information go directly to their website: https://www.knitting4peace.org/
Finished Peace Dolls can be sent to the collection site:
3600 Leyden Street
Denver, C) 80207
I am very excited by this new endeavor. Although I really enjoy knitting and crocheting for gifts and sale, it is always a pleasure for me to give back to the world. I already participate in a group Called Threads of Love that makes shawls and baby blankets for cancer patients. Many of the individuals who have received those gifts have communicated with our group and expressed their appreciation for the warm expressions of healing and hope that our knitted and crocheted pieces have given them. I know that we will not get a direct response from the individual boys and girls who receive our dolls. However, when I watch my own granddaughter with the dolls that I have made for her, I know that I want other children to have a "baby" to hug. As I get more information and feedback, I will be happy to share the news with my readers.