Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Day Fifty-Nine: Where it all Began

The year was 1959. I was eleven years old, and I'd just checked out a book from the library, not from the children's section, but from the adult's. How I had managed to perform this near impossible feat, I have no idea. The book was called "Modern Soft Toy Making."

I loved stuffed animals, but I'd certainly never made one, so I'm not sure what was going though my head when I took out this book. But I went home and proceeded to read it from start to finish. I then selected the project I wanted to make: a small yellow duckling. My mother brought me down to Martin's Fabrics on Guild Street, where I bought one square of yellow felt, a piece of orange felt, and small strips of black and white felt. And, I somehow convinced my mother that I needed an enormous bag of a mysterious stuffing material called kapok.

Back home, I carefully traced the pattern from the book (there were no copiers in 1959), and made pattern pieces out of cardboard from one of my father's shirts. I then cut out the shapes and stitched the little bird together. More than fifty years later, I am dumbfounded that I did this. As far as I can remember, I'd never sewn before in my life. But unlike the adult I have become, back then I didn't think to ask myself if I knew how to do this. In fact, it never occurred to me that I couldn't figure it out. Oh, who was that little girl who fearlessly plunged into those unknown waters? Where is she now?

Working with kapok was tricky; The polyester stuffing that we use today did not exist in 1959. The kapok was silky in some places, scratchy in others, and had bits of twig caught in it. It lumped up terribly, but undeterred, I proceded to stuff my little bird. I then sewed on the beak, the wings, and the feet, and I was done! My very first stuffed animal.

Over the next few years, I checked that book out of the library over and over again, and eventually made almost every toy in it. Then, somewhere in high school, I got more interested in meeting boys than making toys, and I forgot all about the book.

When I started the Bird Blog, I thought about that little yellow duckling, and the book that it came from. I found it on, in a small book shop in London, and ordered it. The book arrived yesterday, and in true Proustian fashion, when I held it in my hands, I was transported back to that moment in time when I first checked it out of the library. Once again, I was that young girl who had made that yellow duckling, all those years ago.

Of course, I had to make it again. Here--in progress--is my little yellow duckling.
We have both come home.



  1. I love this post. My favorite so far.

  2. Mom! I remember that little yellow bird. It was pretty ratty by the time I came along. Great post.

  3. Quentin,
    You probably remember a later version. I made several of these ducklings over the years, even one when you were a baby, I believe.
    I'm afraid the original was lost somewhere in the mists of time, along with my Ginny Dolls and my pigtails.