Freeman finds comfort, therapy in crafting unique stuffed horsesWritten by Gayle Smith
When Barb Freeman goes to a trade show, she arrives with a carload of horses – stuffed ones that is. Her trade show displays are filled with large and small horses with every type of outfit she can make. Some are designed for cowboys and cowgirls, while other horses sport fun, vibrant dresses.
At Horses Galore and More, Freeman has a horse that will appeal to everyone.
Freeman’s first horse doll took shape 25 years ago as her small daughters sat under her sewing table and played. Sewing has always appealed to Freeman, who started making items when she was just 12.
“I started out making gifts for my family,” she says. “Then, friends would ask me to make something for them. It blossomed from there.”
Over the years, sewing was a good fit for the military wife, whose husband was gone for periods of time.
“I work full-time now, so making the horses is good therapy for me. My husband has passed away, so it gives me something to look forward to in the evenings,” she says.
Personalizing the pattern
Freeman uses a McCall’s pattern she purchased 28 years ago to make the horse dolls.
“I have tweaked the pattern and changed it to create different sizes,” she explains. “I have also changed the hair on the horses and the dress styles. I recycle old blue jeans to make the boys’ outfits and use several different types of fabrics for the girls’. There are no two alike.”
One horse takes her about four hours to make from start to finish.
Freeman is also licensed to use the Wyoming bucking horse logo on the outfits of her horses, and she has found those to be her best sellers.
“I can hardly keep those in stock,” she says.
It is also her favorite doll to make.
Although it’s more difficult to sew, Freeman uses leather-type and vinyl-feel fabrics for some of the clothing for the horses.
“I like using different fabrics because it differentiates them from each other,” she says. “I like to come up with new ideas and different yarns for the mane and tail to make them look different.”
Although many of the horses have a western theme, some are made from fun, little-girl type fabrics for children and adults who aren’t into the western way of life.
Wyoming ag business
Horses are big business in Wyoming, and Freeman feels her horses are an ideal item for her to make and sell. She sells the horse dolls through word-of-mouth, rodeos, horse events and trade shows.
She also attends a few craft fairs in Douglas and Casper. Depending upon which craft shows she plans to attend, Freeman makes other animal dolls to sell, like moose and lambs.
The crafter also donates horses to each trade show she attends and to several charities and youth groups. Amongst those are the College National Rodeo Finals, the Intercollegiate National Rodeo Fund for injured rodeo athletes, Toys for Tots and Make-A-Wish.
Because of the military, Freeman says she has horses all over the world.
“We lived in Germany for awhile,” she explains. “We also lived in Kansas and Texas. Because we moved around a lot, I have horses everywhere.”
She also sold several horses and lambs during the Sheep Dog Trials in Kaycee.
“The judges were from New Zealand, and their wives were buying them to send back home,” she says.
The small business has been a great supplement to her income, in addition to being something she enjoys.
“It gives me something to do in the evenings,” she says. “It is also fun because I never know how they are going to look when they are done.”