IT IS one of the world's most successful cult TV shows, attracting record-breaking audiences and awards by the bucketload. But now the Walking Dead - the post-apocalyptic horror show – has recruited an unlikely hero in the form of a Scottish crafter from rural Aberdeenshire.

The story is all down to a plot twist in episode 100 - the opening episode of the eighth and most recent series. That episode introduced a new character Gracie, seen as a little girl in flash forward seen and as a baby in the present day action, each time appearing with a "velveteen rabbit". The toy was based on childhood memory of creator, writer and executive producer Scott Gimple.

The makers of the show were desperate to recreate the vision Gimple had of the doll, and started to hunt online for someone who could make the doll. The eventually found what they were looking for on Etsy - the international craft site where talented artisans sell their wares.

It's now Amy Heyworth from Ellon, Aberdeenshire enters the story. Heyworth, who sells her stuffed toys on Etsy, was stunned when she received an emergency order for eight stuffed rabbits – made of soft beige velvet – from the producers of the show, which is based on a comic book series of the same name.

Unfamiliar with the cult-hit, she admits she almost did not reply. She had to be won over by prop master John Sanders, who explained the significance of the order for the show, which has attracted legions of mega-fans with merchandise worth hundreds of millions to match.

Heywood, who only taught herself to sew using her mother's old sewing machine a few years ago and has been making velveteen rabbits for just a couple of months, said: "When I received the first email from John Sanders – the property Master of the show – I didn't really believe it was true and very nearly didn't reply.

"I had heard of the show but hadn't watched it, but have since watched all the past series and now absolutely love it."

After some persuasion she agreed to an order of eight rabbits but with each taking several hours from start to finish and with none of the required materials in stock, she initially sent just two within the deadline, which was just a few days away. Both were used, with one aged to meet the show's requirements.

"Watching that episode of the show was incredibly nerve wracking," added Heywood. "I had been told the bunny would first appear in the 100th episode, but had no idea of the story line. Seeing it again in the second episode was amazing as you got a good view, also seeing the reaction surrounding the bunny and Gracie is exciting."

The doll and Gracie have now become a focus of fan speculation - as both are set to become integral parts of the unfolding story behind a group of survivors struggling to stay live amid a zombie apocalypse.

Since the episode aired orders have started to roll in from the States and Heywood is now in talks with the Waking Dead production company about the possibility of making the bunny part of the show's official merchandise.

"The response has been overwhelming but I love making the bunnies, which is lucky. I am sending quite a few over to the states and the twin girls who play Gracie in the show now have their own bunny to keep," she added.

John Sanders said that the soft toy had been chosen by executive producer Scott Gimple, who had written the velveteen rabbit into the script. When he found Heywood's toy on Etsy he was sure it was perfect for the show.

"Scott's a little bit younger than me, but not much, so I showed it to him and he picked it instantly. Guess where it's made? Scotland. And we only had six days. So I called the woman and I said, 'I need ten of those rabbits!' She said, 'No.' I said, 'We're The Walking Dead!' She said, 'No.' Maybe she doesn't get that in Scotland. So, I explained it to her and how much I really wanted it and what I was gonna do with it and she got really excited. She made me two rabbits."