It can be a hard life for much-loved stuffed animals that get tugged, rubbed and slept on, but Amalia Kenny has come to their rescue. She started a toy repair business last summer after learning to sew.
"I wanted to learn," the 9-year-old says, and "when I looked at other people’s stitches, I saw how to do it."
The hardest part? "Threading the needle."
Amalia’s business began with a big stuffed platypus that her mother got 11 years ago. The platypus is a house mascot for Amalia’s family and has been toted around so much that his arm had fallen off. Amalia sewed it back on. Her repair of the platypus, now named Mr. Stitches, was so successful that Amalia repaired other worn-out stuffed animals around the house.
"I even repaired a dining room chair," she said with a laugh.
After fixing the stuffed animals at home, Amalia decided to offer her toy repair services to other families. Her mother placed a notice last August on the email group of their Washington, D.C., neighborhood. It announced that Amalia, then age 8, was available to repair toys with open seams, ripped-off arms and legs, and other injuries. The notice included a price list, ranging from $3 to repair a small rip in a seam to $7 to $10 for reattaching a limb or ear.
"The next day I had someone" with a toy to fix, Amalia says.
Peter Quigley, also 8 at the time, was worried about Blue Bear, the huge stuffed bear he sleeps with every night. Peter has loved the three-foot-tall bear since he was a baby. By last summer, four of its seams had split, and some stuffing had come out.
"I was nervous" because there were so many holes, Peter said. "My parents said they would fix him," but they were so busy that they didn’t get around to it. "Two months later, they said they had found someone else to fix him." That someone was Amalia.
The Quigleys dropped off Blue Bear at Amalia’s house at 10 a.m. one Saturday. She told Peter she would have the bear back home that night. The repair was complete by 1 p.m.
"She found a lot of extra holes," says Peter, and she fixed them all.
The bear repair showed "great workmanship," says Peter’s mother, Rebecca. The family has moved to a different city now, and Peter says Blue Bear held up well during the move. "He’s still OK."
Grown-ups have hired Amalia, too.
For Barbara Kagan, Amalia repaired a seam on a large toy Labrador retriever. Barbara’s pet Westie loved to look out the window, and the toy dog sat in another window to look out, too. Barbara’s pet got old and died, but she said she’s pleased that the toy dog has been repaired and is back on his window perch.
Amalia is saving the money she makes on toy repairs to donate to charity. She wants to keep repairing toys throughout her school years.
"I do the work when I’m free after school," she says. She’s thinking about launching a website.
"I like sewing," she says, and making toys whole again. The only thing that’s not so great? "I don’t like getting poked with a needle," she says. That can happen sometimes when you are putting a plump old bear back together. But it’s worth it.