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Weaving kindness: Local woman makes comfort dolls for kids entering emergency foster care

Myra Palmer of Worthington is using up yarn scraps to make Comfort Dolls -- squeezable, hugable, lovable kids -- to donate to Nobles County Community Services. The dolls will be given to children placed in emergency foster care. (Julie Buntjer / The Globe)1 / 2
A colorful collection of Comfort Dolls made by Myra Palmer of Worthington will be donated to Nobles County Community Services to give to children who enter emergency foster care. (Julie Buntjer / The Globe)2 / 2

WORTHINGTON — Myra Palmer was scrolling through Pinterest, an online idea-sharing program, one night when she discovered Dude Dolls, cute and cuddly kids made by knitting or crocheting colorful yarns.

The more she looked, the more ideas she found, and the more she realized there had to be a local agency who could benefit from them.

For years, Palmer has knitted and crocheted afghans and scarves to donate to the Community Christmas Basket program. She also makes cloth bags for Nobles County Community Services — bags which are filled with essential items such as a toothbrush, toothpaste, a pair of pajamas and other items — and given to children who enter emergency foster care.

Palmer thought the dolls would be a great addition to the bags, something to provide comfort to a child at a time when comfort is what is needed most.

“I like to knit and crochet and I thought it was a very good idea,” she said. “It doesn’t take much yarn, so it’s a way to use up the big stash of yarn that I have.”

Since discovering the dolls, Palmer learned groups of crocheters and knitters have made the comfort dolls for children in Haiti. Another group calls them Izzy dolls, originally made by the grandmother of a serviceman so he could hand them out to children near his Army base.

“I think one place … used these (dolls) as packing material — they’re nice and soft, just as good as packing peanuts,” Palmer said. Unlike packing peanuts, the dolls had a use after shipment.

Since finding a basic pattern, Palmer has knitted up 17 comfort dolls — all while watching TV in the evenings.

“It was something fairly easy to make — a square of knitted fabric, you make a seam in the back and there’s special sewing to make the arms and legs,” she explained.

Creativity abounds with hairstyles and facial features, as Palmer has crocheted curly-cue locks and braids for girls, and knitted stocking caps for some of the boys.

She can make one comfort doll in a little more than an hour and a half, pulling yarns from her stash to make the color-coordinated dolls in a variety of skin tones.

“I’ve found a hockey player on the internet,” Palmer shared. “I haven’t done any of those yet, but I could see hockey players, football players — dolls in high school colors would be a great thing to do, too. I’ve also seen where they’ve made teddy bears. That will be my next project to try.”

Palmer used yarns that are washable, and said if a person wanted to use baby yarn, the dolls could be made smaller.

With a basket full of comfort dolls completed, Palmer said she will move on to a couple of other projects — including making a set of Star Wars figures in yarn for a friend. She plans to make more comfort dolls after that.

“I’m going to see if the Christmas Basket program would be interested in any of these,” she said. “If there’s a need for that, I’ll make a few more. They’re just fun to make.”

Palmer usually takes a break from knitting during the summer months, spending her spare time in the garden or on the golf course.

“Once the weather cools off, I’ll hit (the knitting) hard again,” she added. “My goal is to make one afghan a month.”

Last year she donated 15 afghans — many of them in the Granny Square pattern — for the Community Christmas Basket program, and she’s made scarves for the organization for the past eight to 10 years.

Palmer said the projects give her an opportunity to use up her yarn stash, though she admits she’ll never quite use up all of the skeins.

“I always add to my stash every time there’s a rummage sale, and I check the second-hand stores once a week,” she said with a laugh. “I’m almost embarrassed to say that, but when you find something on sale, you buy it.”

When Myra and her husband, Dave, moved to a different home three years ago, Myra created her own sewing room. There, she has organized all of her yarns, fabric and related items.

“It’s the room my husband loves to hate,” she said. “I try to keep it contained to that room, but every once in a while it overflows when I’m working on projects.”

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at The Farm Bleat

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