How to make worry dolls

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Worry dolls are popular in Guatemalan culture. When a child is scared or worried, he is given a small, cloth bag filled with small dolls made of bits of sticks and thread. The child is to tell her worries and fears to one of the dolls, and then place the doll under her pillow until morning.

In the morning, the doll is gone, taking the worry along with it. Making your own worry dolls is a thoughtful gift idea for the children in your life, and they are fairly easy to do with minimal materials.

Cut five lengths of toothpick to form the torso, arms and legs of your worry doll. You can choose the size you want, but the torso should be about 2.75 cm (1 1/2 inches) long, with the arms slightly longer than the torso, and the legs slightly longer than the arms.

Glue the legs to the torso with a hot glue gun. Space them as far apart as you want, but traditional worry dolls are small and compact, and most have their legs close together.

Place a dab of glue on the back of the doll, where the waist would be. Place a piece of embroidery thread into the glue, and with that as the starting point. wind the embroidery thread tightly around the waist and the legs. For a girl doll, wind it around both legs together to create a skirt. For a boy, do the legs separately to make trousers. When you reach the end, cut the thread and glue it in place.

Attach the arms to the torso, in any position that you'd like, and use the same technique to wind thread around the torso, and each of the arms separately to create a shirt in any colour you wish. Glue in place when you are done. Make sure the thread is snug, and there are no gaps showing on the toothpick.

Fill the hole in a plastic bead with glue and slip it over the exposed end of the torso. Allow the glue to dry, and then use glue to start flesh-coloured embroidery at the top, so you can wind it down from the head to the neck. Glue in place at the bottom to hold.

Cut small pieces of embroidery thread to glue to the top of the head for hair. Make longer hair for girls and shorter hair for boys.

Sand the exposed edges of toothpicks so they are flat. Make a few worry dolls and present them in a small pouch for safekeeping.

Tell the recipient the custom of the dolls or include a piece of paper with the information written down.