When I was Montreal recently, I visited Robyn Grauer of Les Lainages du Petit Mouton, a wool shop in the Western Island town of Pointe-Claire. I couldn’t help but notice a large box filled with dozens of handknitted dolls. It turns out that Robyn is a local collection site for dolls knitted or crocheted Health Partners International of Canada (HPIC), who use the small wool toys to help secure the packaging in boxes of medical supplies shipped overseas. Much more useful than styrofoam packaging, doctors and health-care professionals then hand out the dolls to their youngest patients.
Called Izzy Dolls, the dolls are named after Mark Isfeld, a Canadian soldier who, in the 1990s, handed out similar dolls knitted by his mother to children he met while serving overseas as a Canadian peacekeeper. Although Master Corporal Isfeld was tragically killed by a land mine explosion in 1994 while serving in Croatia, his mother continued to make the dolls, which she named for her son. Hundreds of knitters have joined the project. HPIC estimates that it hands out about 12,000 dolls a year and has handed out a total of more than 100,000 dolls in more than 100 countries.
Robin Grauer holds weekly meetings in her shop where interested knitters gather to turn leftover sportweight, DK-weight, or worsted-weight wool into “comfort” dolls. The dolls feature a variety of hair and skin colors as well as colorful “clothing.”
Knitting and crochet instructions are available at the Izzy Dolls website. Dolls can be dropped off at Les Lainages du Petit Mouton at 295 Boul Saint-Jean, Point-Claire QC H9R 3J1, Canada, or sent to: Izzy Dolls at 2907 Portland Drive, Oakville, Ontario L6H 5S4, Canada.
Finally, I’m happy that I saved all those bits of leftover yarn!