Friday, 24 March 2017

Jenny, Lexie, Annie and Emily's Cape Town adventures

One big advantage of the size of the Heather Maciak dolls is that they are small enough to travel.  I took my Jenny and Lexie to Washington DC and Vancouver when I visited those cities for work conferences because they fitted easily into my hand luggage.  It is risky taking porcelain dolls on travels though, and with the arrival of Emily and Annie I did wonder if they would become the travelling dolls instead, but somehow Jenny and Lexie were persistent in persuading me that they should come too when I got the amazing opportunity to present at a conference in the city where I was born!

One March morning the four girls looked out of the hotel window at the City of Cape Town.  They had even brought their own dolls with them for the trip.

Emily, Annie, Lexie and Jenny look out towards The Waterfront and the sea
Their hotel window gave a fine view of Signal Hill
And Lion's Head could also be seen from the hotel room
After the conference was over, the dolls came with me to stay in a private house in the suburbs with my sister and family. With me the dolls visited my former school teacher who had her childhood dolls restored then had sent to a relative with children.  The dolls visited one of my first school friends at her home as we reminisced about our childhood and discussed the changes she was making to her home, then admired their tiny sweaters and shoes.  Her mother had been one of my knitting inspirations.

Jenny, Lexie, Annie and Emily also visited my puppetry teacher artist Jill Joubert (who was a founder member of the Handspring Puppet Company, which later made the famous War Horse) but I didn't take photos of my dolls with the puppets in her home. Jill had taught my sister and I how to make rod and glove puppets at a memorable 5 day workshop during our school holidays in September 1985. Jill enjoyed looking at my dolls and the miniature knitting I had done for them.  While visiting Jill I saw her puppets for the Briar Rose story, which she had made around the time her daughter became a teenager.  Jill's version of the story concentrates on the other fairies who gave wishes to Briar Rose (see Page 209 of a Thesis "South African Puppetry for the Theatre since 1975" by Zuanda Badenhorst).  Jill also makes incredible wood sculptures from found objects.
Jill Joubert's 'Briar Rose' puppets, made from papier mache and cloth
Earlier in the week I had visited Fabric City for some plain fabric for printing on for another doll project.  Although Fabric City was four floors high (bigger than Dressew in Vancouver) with a vast array of fabric and haberdashery, their collection of African print fabrics was limited and Jill was able to tell me about the shop to visit nearby. so the next day the dolls were taken on an outing to a wonderful fabric shop, called Mnandi Textiles and Design, in Station Road, Observatory.

Mnandi Textile and Design shop - an amazing variety of patterns and colours
The 'fat quarters' of different shweshwe fabrics neatly displayed for easy choosing
Some ties made from shweshwe fabric along with other fabrics in Mnandi Textiles and Design shop
Emily (red hair) and Annie (black hair) were allowed to help choose some African print fabric, including the shweshwe fabric made in Cape Town (such as Three Cats designs by de Gama).
"Annie, what do you think of the fabric we've chosen?"
"I love the patterns and colours Emily"
"Do you think we might get clothes made from some of these fabrics?"
Later that day all four dolls went with me to explore the world famous Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, where I met up with two school friends and the children of one of them. Although my friends and I took the dolls on the tree canopy walkway 'the Boomslang' (which means tree snake, because the tree top walkway snakes through the canopy), I didn't dare take them out of the travel bag for fear of dropping them into the undergrowth below (especially as the tree top walk sways).  So they had to wait until we were back on the ground before they could venture out to find Colonel Bird's Bath in a lovely shady place in the gardens.  I have happy memories of visiting this spot on a school trip and at other times with my family when I was a child. My friend's very shy younger daughter helped me place the dolls in a good position to view the bird shaped bath.
"Annie, come to look at this bird shaped bathing pond" called Emily
"Wow, it looks cold" said Annie
Colonel Bird's Bath in Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens
After visiting the gardens we enjoyed tea and cakes at the Kirstenbosch tearoom with my school friends. One friend showed me the miniature wooden doll I had made and given to her before I left for England.  Her two young daughters were keen to help dress Annie and Emily in their new summer dresses which had I made before the trip.  I made their dresses from fabric I bought in Vancouver at a fabric shop in Granville Island a few days before visiting Dressew with Heather Maciak.  This particular piece of fabric has a gorgeous miniature tie dye pattern, not too big to be overwhelming for an 8.5 inch doll. They had new Boneka sandals too, one pair dark pink, the other light pink.

I had also made similar sun dresses for Jenny and Lexie from some light fabric with red leaf patterns on it.  They borrowed the clear plastic 'jellies' sandals from Florida and California Patsi, who did not join us on the trip to Cape Town.

Soon the dolls were enjoying a picnic on the lawn at Kirstenbosch, with the glorious backdrop of part of the Table Mountain range eastern slopes (Window Buttress and Fernwood Peak).  The lawn was green because the gardens have their own non-potable water supply so are able to use sprinklers even though Cape Town has been suffering from drought for some months because the winter rains last year didn't fill the dams as much as usual.
Emily, Jenny, Annie and Lexie sat back to enjoy their Kirstenbosch picnic as the sun sank behind the mountain
The grass was a bit long for their picnic rug (a childhood handkerchief) so the cups and saucers didn't want to stand up properly but the girls didn't mind too much, they were too busy enjoying being in summer dresses at the end of a long hot day.
On their final morning in Cape Town the dolls went to see Table Mountain from the front, by visiting the viewing spot at Signal Hill.

Emily, Jenny, Annie and Lexie with Table Mountain and its tablecloth
Emily, Jenny, Annie and Lexie in their summer dresses in front of Table Mountain
The girls were lucky to see the top cable car station on Table Mountain as the tablecloth was mostly rolling over the mountain top that morning.  The cable car was still running but we decided not to go up as the magnificent view would have been partly obscured by the clouds.
While I was in Cape Town I started knitting a purple hat to match Lexie's sweater.  I had intended knitting a little on the flight home, but the restrictions at the airport about sharp objects in hand luggage meant the knitting had to go in my hold luggage (no such restriction on the flight from Heathrow with the same airline). Also in my hold luggage returning home was a wooden decoupage box decorated and given to me by my other school friend who had joined us on the Kirstenbosch gardens afternoon. I've decided that this box will belong to my Heather Maciak dolls for their treasures.  I've known this friend since our first day at primary school and she wore the same uniform as me in those days which I later copied in Sasha doll size for the Back to School swap in 2013.  Her grandmother made me my first knitted doll when I was six and I regret that I no longer have that doll, her clothes and her basket bed. Another knitting inspiration.

It was very special to be able to extend my work trip to Cape Town to spend time with family and friends and visit places I knew long ago.

Annie, Lexie, Jenny and Emily in their summer dresses
Annie, Lexie, Jenny and Emily with the Kirstenbosch bag
Annie and Emily show off their new sweaters and summer dresses

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Hats for Jenny and Lexie

I have designed a hat pattern for Jenny and Lexie, my Heather Maciak dolls.  These knitted hats are made to go with the sweater pattern I designed for the dolls after meeting Heather in Vancouver during November 2015.  They can also fit Heather's 8.5 inch Emily and Annie dolls.

The hats modeled in these photos, taken just after Christmas 2016, were knitted specially for Heather and posted to her in February 2017.  

Lexie wearing the rainbow fair-isle pattern hat
Lexie likes the multi-coloured pom pom on the top of the hat
Jenny shows off the blue and red fair-isle hearts patterned hat
Jenny likes the 3 coloured pom pom on the hat
My Jenny and Lexie modelling the hats, Christmas 2016

Heather explained to me that they arrived in the middle of a snowy period when she was recovering from a heavy cold and reading books in front of her fire (sounds cosy) and they brightened her day. Once her cold was better she was able to venture outdoors into the snow-covered garden to photograph her Jenny and Lexie wearing their sweaters, hats and some matching mittens sent to her by Susan Scribner several years ago when it last snowed in the island.

Heather's Lexie and Jenny rushed out into the freezing weather, cosily dressed in their sweaters, hats and mittens.  The following photos were sent to me by Heather Maciak.

Heather's Lexie and Jenny in the Vancouver Island snow (photo Heather Maciak)
Heather's Lexie looks like she is about to scoop up some snow for a snowman, Jenny is pleased to be wearing a warm hat (photo Heather Maciak)
"Look, no mittens!" say Heather's Lexie and Jenny as they defy the cold to show they cannot lose their mittens which have cords threaded up the sleeves of their sweaters (photo Heather Maciak)
The hat pattern is now available as a free download on Ravelry (you need a Ravelry account to access it) - as with the sweater pattern I am sharing this pattern openly using a Creative Commons Attribution Sharealike Non-commercial licence - you are welcome to knit this for your 8 inch dolls but may not sell the pattern or sell your knitting from the pattern unless you contact me for permission.  I reserve the right to make the hat to sell. 

I now plan to knit hats to match the sweaters which I made for my own Jenny and Lexie, in purple and denim blue.


Thursday, 16 February 2017

Comparing the small dolls

When we visited Lorraine so that Peggy Sue could realise her dream of a new bookcase, we also took along my collection of 8 inch and 8.5 inch dolls. We wanted to compare them with Lorraine's 8 inch Diana Effner Heartstrings dolls, Poppy and Tommy. I have 3 Patsi dolls by Heidi Plusczok - Anniversary Patsi, Florida Patsi and California Patsi. I also have my 4 Heather Maciak dolls - Jenny and Lexie (porcelain), Emily and Annie (vinyl).

We lined the dolls up side by side to compare their heights, faces and proportions.
L-R: Florida Patsi, California Patsi, Anniversary Patsi, Annie, Emily, Jenny, Lexie, Poppy, Tommy
Florida Patsi, California Patsi, Anniversary Patsi, Annie, Emily
Emily, Jenny, Lexie, Poppy, Tommy
Annie, Emily, Jenny, Lexie, Poppy, Tommy
A diagonal view attempting to show their different profiles - Florida Patsi, California Patsi, Anniversary Patsi, Annie, Emily, Jenny, Lexie, Poppy, Tommy
Heartstrings dolls belonging to Lorraine: Poppy and Tommy
Soon the dolls found their way into Madeline's house.  Madeline was delighted to welcome so many visitors even though they were all taller than her (she is 7 inches tall).
Jenny, Madeline and Lexie sat at the table and chatted
Three cheerful dolls chatting - Jenny, Madeline and Lexie
Poppy and Tommy were deep in conversation
Florida Patsi was feeling exuberant as she chatted with Emily and her peg doll
Shy little Anniversary Patsi was pleased to talk with Annie
California Patsi had been fussing the dogs so needed to wash her hands
It was a very happy and busy afternoon in Madeline's house.
Madeline entertains her visitors
It was fascinating to compare these little artist dolls.  The Heartstrings dolls are slim, like the Plusczok dolls so could possibly be about age 7 or 8, whereas Jenny and Lexie are 'forever five year olds'.  Annie and Emily are only slightly taller and are probably about age 6.  The Heartstrings dolls have much smaller feet than the Maciak and Plusczok dolls.    Jenny and Lexie (and probably Annie and Emily, though I haven't tried yet) borrow clothes and shoes from the 3 Patsi girls quite regularly.

Monday, 6 February 2017

A bookcase for Peggy Sue

Reuben received a letter from his friend Peggy Sue.

Dear Reuben, Please would you be able to help me build a bookcase?  Or maybe you are cleverer enough to build one yourself.  My biggest book is 8.5 cm tall by 7 cm and my smallest book is 5.5 cm tall by 4.5 cm.  I was thinking about three shelves, perhaps with a smaller shelf for the littler books on top and a larger shelf for the taller ones at the bottom... about 25cm tall and about 20cm wide. Many thanks Peggy Sue
Reuben went out to the workshop to see what timber was available for a bookcase
He started drawing up some plans
He used his steel rule and a pencil to draw the lines straight
He had a spare pencil behind his ear, just in case he lost the big pencil
In the workshop he marked out the timber to get the grooves in the right place for the shelves
Reuben very carefully used the table saw to cut the timber to the right width, he kept his hands away from the spinning saw blade
Soon Reuben had all the pieces cut to size.  He checked that everything fitted by clamping it all together, then stacked the pieces, sandpaper, some glue and the big clamps ready to take to Peggy Sue.

Laura, Timothy, Edmund and Isabel decided to come with Reuben as they wanted to see Peggy Sue too.
"Hello Henry and Peggy Sue, I've brought the bookcase parts" said Reuben
"Wow, such a lot of pieces" said Peggy Sue
"Did you cut these all yourself?" asked Henry?
"Yes, and we need to do a bit more sanding before we glue it all together" said Reuben
Soon they were sanding the pieces with some garnet paper
Isabel insisted on helping with the sanding too, so they could start gluing the pieces as soon as possible
"It fits together like this, we need to make sure it is all securely clamped so the shelves fit into the grooves properly" said Reuben as Edmund, Henry and Peggy Sue helped assemble all the pieces into a bookcase.
"please tighten those clamps gently and firmly so the joins meet up but the wood doesn't get distorted" said Reuben
Later, the boys helped Reuben glue the back panel onto the bookcase when the glue had dried.  They also helped clean off some of the excess glue which had squeezed out of the corners.  Then they put it upright and called Peggy Sue.
"Hi Peggy Sue, here is your bookcase" said Reuben as Timothy, Edmund, Henry and Rory watched Peggy Sue's reaction.
"Oh my word, it just what I hoped it would look like" cried Peggy Sue with a gasp as Everlee, Laura and Isabel looked on.
"It is perfect and my books fit, I can't wait to fill it up with more of my books" exclaimed Peggy Sue in delight.
"Thank you so much Reuben" said Peggy Sue as she hugged him
"Aw, no problem Peggy Sue" said Reuben, feeling a bit embarrassed.
When Peggy Sue was tidying her bedroom before Christmas and wishing for a bookcase for her collection, I knew Reuben the family carpenter would want to help realise her wish.  He is a practical boy and it was fun to take him out to the workshop for bookcase building. It was made from a piece of laminate floorboard, 3mm ply for shelves and 10mm ply for the base.  It could be varnished or painted, though the laminate floorboard top surface may not take paint or vanish unless sanded down a bit to give the surface a 'key'.

My younger daughter and I enjoyed visiting Lorraine and her lovely collection of dolls on a dull Sunday afternoon.

Update: Lorraine has blogged about Peggy Sue admiring her bookcase.