A girl never grows tired of her doll, especially when it has been hand-crafted with love.
Young women in the Orem Utah Stake and Orem Utah Sharon Stake have spent about four months doing just that - hand-crafting sock dolls for other young women from throughout the world.The dolls are now on display, hanging from Christmas trees in the North Visitors Center on Temple Square. Each of the 410 dolls represents young women from countries such as Austria, Italy, Samoa, Turkey, Romania and Hungary. Different cultures in the United States are also represented with cowgirls, Southern belles, joggers and Native Americans.
Each girl spent anywhere from 30 to 90 hours researching the country, embroidering the doll's small face and designing an authentic costume for the doll to wear, said Shauna Pusey, Young Women president in the Orem 89th Ward and director of the project. A secret pocket on the doll holds each girl's testimony or special message.
The tradition of sock dolls began in 1982 when Elaine A. Cannon, then Young Women general president, started the project to improve homemaking skills, to give young women a chance to research their heritage and to build testimonies.
"During our time, we encouraged the girls to improve homemaking skills and do it in a way that would do some good," Sister Cannon said. "These little dolls were to represent their ancestors and were called heritage dolls."
The pattern for the doll was made available to young women throughout the Church. Many gave the dolls to children at hospitals in their area or to other needy organizations.
"It was a popular function. Now it has become a tradition," Sister Cannon added.
Some of the dolls adorned the first tree in the lobby of the Church Office Building in 1982. Each year since then, young women ages 12 to 18 from throughout Utah have made the dolls to decorate trees in the North Visitors Center.
After Christmas, the dolls are distributed throughout the world as much as possible by the Young Women general presidency and board.
This year's doll project in the two Orem stakes is unique because it was a Laurel service project for the 17- and 18-year-old young women, Sister Pusey said.
"This was a wonderful opportunity for Laurels to take over the responsibility," she added. "We assigned a Laurel to be in charge of a certain amount of dolls, and she went to a ward or Young Women's class and showed them how to make the doll."
To introduce the project, the Orem Utah Stake held an international dinner for the young women and their mothers. "We had a presentation on a couple of countries and then turned the dinner into a mini-work meeting and had them begin making the dolls," Sister Pusey explained.
"Besides learning about young women throughout the world, this developed a feeling that our Church is a worldwide organization," she continued. "This project brought them closer."
Sister Naomi Clegg, Temple Square missionary and wife of Reed Clegg, second counselor in the Temple Square presidency, said, "Everyone comes in looking for those dolls. It has become a tradition.
"The dolls show everyone that we are a worldwide Church and that these girls are learning about these different countries. This is a cultural exchange for these girls. The project brings us all closer together as one."