A Seamstress pulls a needle through fabric; a long sturdy thread pulls the edges of the fabric tightly around a deep red felt heart. When she’s done she ties a strong knot and fills the fabric with stuffing. Next she gives her new Dolly hair from silken strands and stitches in her face with bright embroidery floss. She puts her Dolly in the dress that’s been waiting for her. One made of satin with lace ruffles and a pair of striped sock. She finishes her Dolly’s outfit with shiny black shoes and small pearl beads for earrings. Satisfied with her work, she kisses her Dolly softly on the forehead and sets her gently in a chair.
Soon the the green embroidery floss eyes blink. The soft face turns up to look at the Seamstress.
“Hello, my dear little Dolly,” she says smiling warmly at Dolly in the chair, “Welcome to the world.”
Trying out words for the first time Dolly’s little stuffing voice say a creaky, “Hello.”
Dolly smiles up at the Seamstress adoringly and reaches a little cloth hand up to her maker’s beautiful face.
The days of Dolly’s new life roll by. Dolly watches with a careful eye as the Seamstress makes pretty dresses for the ladies of the village. The Seamstress even shows her how to make her own pretty frocks. When they aren’t sewing they are feeding the ducks in the pond behind the house or cooking delicious soups from mushrooms they have foraged in the forest. All the while the Seamstress shares stories about the world beyond their small homestead. It is joyful, but Dolly begins to feel restless.
One day Dolly tells the Seamstress that she wants to leave to explore the world and find a place in it that is her own. The Seamstress looks at her with a smile that is a mixture of sadness and pride.
“Go find who you truly are, Dolly, and know that I love you with all my heart.”
Just before Dolly sets out the Seamstress tucks into Dolly’s pocket a needle, a small pair of scissors and a small spool of thread. Feeling she is now prepared to face the world and take care of herself, the Seamstress gives Dolly a hug and kisses her on the forehead.
Dolly look up and down the road. She doesn’t know where the road leads, but she doesn’t know where she wants to go anyway. She heads left.
She’s been walking for about half a day when she spots a crow on a fence.
“Hello, Mr. Crow,” she calls.
The crow hops along the fence coming closer. He twists his head side to side, assessing Dolly.
“Mr. Crow? Yes, that name suits me fine,” croaks the crow, “And I shall call you Friend.”
Dolly laughs at the bird’s bobbing curious movements, “I would like that very much.”
Mr. Crow nods in satisfaction and flits to Dolly’s shoulder.
They continue down the road together until they finally make it to a town. The town square is bustling with activity. Carts roll in all directions. A flower vendor calls out while sending her bloom’s perfume into the air. A magician disappears in cloud of smoke in front of a group of children and reappears behind them. A peacock dances an airy ballet while a violinist plays beside him.
The smells reaches Dolly’s embroidered nose filling her with scents of flowers, smoke, dust and freedom. Mr.Crow bobs from one foot to the other in an excited dance. Dolly knows she has found her home.
Years go by and Dolly has found her place in the town. She has found friendship in not only her companion, Mr. Crow, but also in Poppy the flower vendor, Henry the magician, Patrick Peacock and Viola the musician. Dolly’s world is filled with joy and laughter. She loves her friends and they love her.
It seems that nothing could ever ruin this magical life.
Until one day something does.
On a day that seemed like any other day something terrible happened. Poppy was out collecting blooms to sell in the market when she came across a catwolf. It was known by all in the town that a catwolf is the most dangerous beast in the forest. Poppy screamed and struck out at the beast with her shears, but the catwolf caught Poppy across her arm and chest with its sharp claws. Poppy struck again and pierced the deep into the beast’s leg; making it howl and run away.
Dolly’s friends bring Poppy to her.
“Can you fix her?,” they ask.
Dolly reaches into her pocket. She pulls out her needle, scissors and thread. Carefully she stitches Poppy back together. It takes her full spool of thread. Dolly does not have the Seamstress’s skills, but she does alright.
Soon Poppy is back to picking beautiful flowers. She now has scars from that terrible day. She will never be exactly the same, but she is happy again.
Henry the Magician is entertaining for a party one night. The poof of smoke explodes. The magician disappears. The party goers wait for him to reappear.
They wait longer.
Finally someone starts to look around for him. He is found inside his magic box. He is groggy and holding his arm, but he jokes that it was all a part of the act.
The next day Henry goes to Dolly. He admits to her that the trick went awry. He shows Dolly his arm. It is broken and bruised.
“Won’t you help me?,” he asks.
Dolly looks at the empty spool of thread and then back at Henry with regret, “I have no more thread on my spool.”
Henry hangs his head and cradles his arm. Dolly sadly looks down where she sees her beautifully stitched legs and comes up with an idea.
Dolly carefully pulls stitches from her legs leaving just enough to hold herself together. She uses her own threads to make a sling and set Henry’s arm so that he may heal.
A few weeks later Dolly sits joyous in the audience as Henry delights them with magic tricks using large gestures with his two good arms.
Winter comes to the village. The town square is glittering white and the friends are having a snowball fight. The laughter echoes ghostly off the icicles on the eaves. The friends decide to go ice skating on the lake. Henry skates wide figure eights around Poppy who is spinning in tight circles. Mr. Crow grips Dolly’s shoulder while she makes lazy loops between her friends. Viola lays on the lakes edge making snow angels while Patrick Peacock skates in long, strides across the lake displaying his beautiful plumage.
Patrick is swaying off to the far end of the lake when he hits a patch of thin ice. The ice cracks and Patrick falls through.
The friends rush to help him, but the ice is cracking and they can’t get close enough to reach him. They have no rope to throw to him.
Dolly quickly starts pulling the strong threads that hold her arms together. Once they are out she kicks the threads to her friends who use the threads to pull Patrick to safety.
In the excitement to see Patrick is safe, the friends let go of the threads. All but one sink into the lake.
The friends carry Patrick and Dolly into the safety of a warm cottage. They warm Patrick with hot soup and blankets.
Mr. Crow uses the thread that is left to stitch Dolly’s arms back together as best as he can. He frets and squaks the whole time. The stitches are crude and spaced much to far apart, but it is the best he can do. Dolly can use her arms again, but she has to be careful not to let any of her stuffing come loose.
Spring comes once again to the village and with it the scent of flowers and warm rain. Poppy is ready to collect flowers again to sell in the market. Henry polishes his magic box until the wood glows and the hinges shine. Viola works out a new song to play on her violin while Patrick sways, testing out ways to dance to Viola’s beautiful music.
The friends decide to have a picnic in the warming afternoon. Henry pours wine into delicate glasses and passes them around. As they afternoon starts turning into dusky evening Viola tells a story gesturing with her hands. She swings her arm at little to wildly across the picnic blanket and hits the wine bottle, shattering the glass she was holding in her hand. Glass shards tear at her hand.
The friends remove the glass and run cool water over her injured hand. Two large cuts gash across her palm.
“My hand!,” Viola cries, “How am I to play my violin?”
The friends look at her with sympathy. They don’t know what to do.
Viola looks up at Dolly with tears in her eyes, “You must stitch me up. Please!”
Dolly looks at her arms and legs. She has no thread to spare there. But Viola is crying and she is in need. Dolly takes a deep breath, opens the buttons on her dress and pulls stitches from her torso. She leaves enough to still hold her together and keep her little felt heart in place. Dolly gets to work on Viola’s hand.
Within a week Viola is happily playing her violin again while Patrick Peacock sways.
Summer comes. The friends want to go swimming and hiking and berry picking and have picnics by the stream. Dolly can no longer join them on all the adventures. She is too weak for hiking, too delicate for swimming and cannot hold a basket for berry picking.
Most days Mr. Crow stays behind with Dolly. They sit in the sun reading books and wave to their friends as they head off for the day’s adventure.
Late in the summer Dolly sits propped up against a tree outside her cottage reading a story about princesses and dragons. Mr. Crow, ever her companion, hops around the grass catching bugs and curiously pursuing anything that shines or sparkles.
Dolly is looking down at her book, so she does not see the cat stalking up the hill. The cat moves quietly through the shrubbery watching Mr. Crow carefully. Suddenly the cat pounces out of the brush and lands beside Mr. Crow sinking four claws into his beautiful black wing.
Mr. Crow caws madly and hops around to get away. Dolly looks up and throws her book at the cat. It hits the cat in its hind flank.
Hissing at Dolly the cat scurries away as quickly as he came.
Mr. Crow hops up to Dolly and Dolly wraps him in her arms, setting him gently in her lap.
Mr. Crow tests his wing. It hurts too much to move.
“Oh, Mr. Crow,” Dolly says softly, “What will we do?”
Mr. Crow looks up at her and says, “You can fix me.”
Dolly looks at her spent spool of thread up on the window sill. She looks at her legs. She looks at her arms. She looks at her torso with the little felt heart exposed.
“I have nothing left,” she says and cries.
Mr. Crow looks at Dolly with a hurt look in his eyes and turns away from her.
“I’m sorry,” Dolly says quietly.
Without looking at Dolly, Mr. Crow says, “With all the things you have done for our friends. How could you have nothing left for me? I am your first friend and closest companion. Yet you can’t even spare a little to save me?”
Mr. Crow won’t look at Dolly and it makes Dolly’s heart break. She looks down again at her torso and takes a deep breath. Slowly she pulls the sparse strands of thread around her heart and runs them through her needle. She then reaches out to Mr. Crow and begins to stitch his black, black wing back together.
When she is done she kisses her own fingertips and presses the kiss gently over Mr. Crow’s heart.
Mr. Crow gets up and tests his wing again. It moves. In time he thinks he will fly again thanks to Dolly’s careful stitching.
Mr. Crow hops around the grass and Dolly watches the clouds go by.
At dusk the rest of the friends come home from swimming in the lake. They are damp and happily exhausted.
“Come inside you two and lets make dinner with these mushrooms I found on the walk home!,” called Poppy.
Mr. Crow begins to skip towards Poppy’s cottage, but stops when he notices Dolly isn’t following him.
“Aren’t you coming?,” Mr. Crow asks Dolly who is still propped up against the tree.
Dolly’s voice comes out weak and sad, “I can’t.”
Mr. Crow cocks his head at her inquisitively noticing the sad look in her eyes.
“I have used up too much of my stitches and I no longer have enough to hold me together. I have given too much of myself away and now I cannot move or I will fall apart.”
Mr. Crow looks at his wing with sadness. He hops back to Dolly and perches on her knee. He does that worried little dance of his, pacing side to side and turning his head this way and that.
Then he caws loudly, calling the rest of the friends out to the tree.
“We must help Dolly,” Mr. Crow says, “Help me take her to the Seamstress. She will be able to fix our Dolly.”
The friends gently pick up Dolly and place her into a wagon. They pull the wagon out of the town and into the woods where the Seamstress lives.
When they get there Mr. Crow knocks on the door. A frail voice responds and beckons them into the cottage.
Inside the cottage an old woman sits in a rocking chair. Her skin in wrinkled and thin.
The friends lift Dolly out of the wagon and lay her in a worktable this is coated with years of dust. There are rusted sewing tools hanging above the table.
“Please, Seamstress,” Mr. Crow pleads with the old lady, “You made our precious Dolly. You must fix her.”
The Seamstress looks sadly at the table where Dolly lays. Her eyes wander up the wall to the tools and the empty racks.
“I’m sorry. I have no more thread to stitch her with,” the old lady looks down to her gnarled hands, “And even if I did, I no longer have the hands needed to do the work.”
The friends collectively droop at this news. Viola runs a finger over the scar on her hand.
“She gave more than she should have because her friends needed her,” Mr. Crow said with a tinge of guilt, “What are we to do?”
The Seamstress looks at the friends. She looks at Poppy’s scars and Mr. Crow’s wing, knowingly.
Finally, she lifts a boney finger and points it at the friends, “You must save her. It is your turn to help her.”
The friends look about between them, but no one was made of cloth and thread. What could they do?
The friends carry Dolly back to her cottage still unsure how they can save her. They stand over her until one by one they fall asleep.
The next morning as the sun is beaming into Dolly’s room, the friends wake. The happy light seems cruel. This is much to sad a day.
Until Mr. Crow does something no one expects.
He plucks a feather from his tail and uses Dolly’s scissors to cut the end to a sharp point. Then he uses the sharp end to press the feather into Dolly’s little felt heart until it holds her heart in place solidly.
“We must be the ones to fix her,” Mr. Crow says with hope in his voice and he looks meaningfully at the friends, “We may not have thread to offer, but we must have something.”
With a nod, Patrick Peacock pulls one long feather from his beautiful plumage and lays it on the bed next to Dolly.
The other friends rush back to their own homes and each return with something of their own. Viola brings a violin string. Poppy brings a daisy chain. Henry brings his magic rope.
Together they use what they have to stitch Dolly back together. Mr. Crow picks up Henry’s rope and uses it to bind her legs together. Next, the friends loop Poppy’s daisy chain up one arm and tuck the bits of stuffing back into place. They run Viola’s violin string up her other arm. Then they slip Patrick’s plumage through Dolly’s torso, pulling her fabric close around her stuffing and her little felt heart, which is now held in place by Mr. Crow’s black feather.
As a final gesture they each kiss their fingertips (or wingtips) and press the kiss against Dolly’s heart.
They stand back and wait.
After a painfully long time Dolly opens her eyes. She stiffly sits up and then looks down at her friends’ handiwork.
Dolly looks up at the friends surrounding her, “You did this for me?”
Mr. Crow hops up onto the bed so he is standing on her feet, “Of course we did. After everything you did for us… We didn’t have proper thread, but-”
“It’s perfect,” says Dolly before Mr. Crow can go on, “Your love is what holds me together.”
There is a sigh of relief in the room.
Dolly slowly gets out of bed testing her newly stitched legs. She steps outside and looks to her favorite tree.
“Who wants to have a picnic?,” asks Dolly.
The friends rush to get supplies while Mr. Crow hops along right beside Dolly.