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Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Remembering Reuben

Early childhood is a mysterious thing - many meetings, impressions, connections made but also many lost forever because of circumstances beyond the control of a small person. Memory plays tricks too, but some things seem to remain to be recalled years later in the most unexpected of moments.  This is what happened to me when I saw a blog post in February this year on Sasha Doll UK blog.  The last doll shown on this blog post immediately made me visit Shelly's site to find out more details. His cheeky face and pose reminded me of the characteristics of many small Cape coloured boys, but particularly a lad I knew at Sunday School at St George's Cathedral, Cape Town in the early 1970s.

It was the height of the apartheid era.  The Cathedral in the heart of the city had a really mixed congregation - white people, black people and mixed race people (who had developed a very distinctive, vibrant and warm culture of their own).  Somehow we all got on fine even though the government across the road from the mother church was intent on separating us.  Close to the centre of the city was District Six, a very mixed settlement of people who were mostly not very well off but whose families had been in the area for over a 100 years.  Quite a few of the Cathedral's coloured congregation lived there, including my young friend Reuben.  He was probably one or two years older than me and was full of fun and mischief.  He had an older sister and two younger brothers. His parents were stalwarts of the Cathedral, much loved by everyone there.

When the apartheid government ordered the clearing of District Six because it was an affront to their 'Group Areas Act' the family and many others were faced with the prospect of moving away from the heart of the city out to the Cape flats.  This was at least 25 minutes drive by car to the Cathedral if a family was fortunate enough to own a car, which I don't think they did.  I recall visiting Reuben's house in District Six once before they moved, it was an old fashioned double storey housing block with a verandah - it housed several families. I was too young to take notice of the street name.  It was probably bulldozed as were most of the houses in that area.  Soon after that we said goodbye to the family and I have never seen them since, they probably found a church near their new home (probably Mitchell's Plain which was a coloured area).

The Cathedral continued to have a mixed congregation despite the erasing of District Six, as there were other places in the city where black and coloured people lived, and it later became known as the People's Cathedral during the final days of apartheid, due to the inspirational leadership of the Dean and a very famous Archbishop.

More than 36 years later a photo of a doll brought back my memories of Reuben my friend.  The doll was described as a late 1970s Caleb in his complete outfit with the addition of an orange Gotz hoodie (a bit large for him) and a grey fleece hat.  He arrived in May and I kept him under wraps until June when I made his shirt and took him to Dawn's Sasha day.  He went back into hiding again until a few days ago.  It is good to have him on display with the others now.
Reuben, as pictured on Sasha Doll UK (Photo: Shelly B)
Nicholas James, Miranda, Reuben, Laura, Florence and baby Mabel
And in case you were wondering, I did go looking on-line to see if I could find out whether my childhood friend was still alive and am fairly sure he is fine and doing well.

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Welcome Reuben

No, my Reuben is not the new bear who lives in Dee's Sasha Village.

Nicholas James stood on Mum's open Sasha book and
asked why the girls were all trying to hold baby Mabel at once
The girls put Mabel down.
Laura stepped on the book and told NJ to get off the book!
Baby Mabel was interested in the book
Laura and NJ continued to argue
Laura made NJ step off the book (and stepped off herself) but no one was watching baby Mabel...
... who had crawled beyond the book and was climbing off the chair!
Laura suddenly spotted what Mabel was doing
when Reuben arrived to rescue Mabel who was in danger of falling
Reuben grabbed baby Mabel
and gave baby Mabel a cuddle to reassure her that she was safe
the others were all curious about the new boy who had arrived just in time for baby Mabel
and, argument forgotten, climbed down from the chair to meet him
Baby Mabel saw Florence and put up her arms
"Hello, what is your name?" asked NJ
Baby Mabel jumped up and down with Florence
while Reuben shyly introduced himself
"I'm Reuben and I've come to live here"
"I'm Nicholas James, and these are my sisters Miranda, Laura, Florence and baby Mabel."  
NJ, Miranda, Reuben, Laura, Florence and baby Mabel with the Sasha books now carefully closed
This story line was made up by both my girls.

Reuben, a later Caleb, arrived a couple of months ago and went with us to Dawn's Sasha day in June.  But for various reasons I haven't had a chance to take photos of him until now and kept him under wraps.  For the past week he has been patiently standing on my sewing table waiting for me to reveal him officially.

I saw him on Shelly's site some months ago and bought him on layaway (officially I had no doll cash handy especially as we were completely redecorating two rooms which was horribly expensive even when doing most of the work ourselves).  As soon as I saw him he reminded me of a boy I once knew (more about that in another post) which is why he is named for my long lost friend from early childhood.  He came in his original clothes (plus a couple of additional clothing items) and I have made him a shirt from shweshwe at the same time as I made the elephant shirt for NJ.

The two union flag dresses are a repeat of the dress I made for Erica Mcleod.  Florence is wearing a Dollydoodles outfit I bought at Dawn's Sasha day, baby Mabel is wearing the knitted swim suit my girl insisted we bought at the same time.

I was very lucky to receive the first of the three Anne's Sasha book for my birthday (Sasha Dolls: The History by Anne Votaw, with Ann Chandler and Susanna Lewis), I had received the second book for Christmas (I wanted the pattern book first).  Both books are great, so full of interesting details.

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Summer evening in the garden

Laura, Miranda, Florence and Nicholas James decided to spend the evening in the garden.  It has been very hot all day, too hot for them to go out into the sunshine, so when the evening came they were delighted to grab the blocks and go outside to play in the warm evening light.  They were determined that all their friends and cousins enjoying the Sasha Festival in the USA wouldn't be the only ones having lots of fun.
The blocks all stacked and ready
NJ starts the game, he takes a block from below and places it on top
Miranda's turn next
Laura carefully slides a block out, she doesn't want to upset the pile
Florence has a go next
NJ takes a turn again
Miranda pushes one out the middle
Laura's turn (with a bit of help from my girl)
Laura places the block on top
Florence lies down to get the low block out
NJ takes a side block out and places it on top
Miranda takes a risk and removes the other side block, making the tower unstable
And it falls down, which makes Miranda sit down in surprise
Laura is very disappointed as she wanted another turn
Florence starts to pick the blocks up
They all help to put the blocks back in the box
NJ slides the box down the blocks
Florence, Laura, Nicholas James and Miranda with the game back in its box
They all wish their friends in the USA lots of fun at the festival and would like to point out this summer is suddenly much better than the dull, cool weather at last year's festival in England (glorious hot and warm weather for two weeks and more promised - wow!).

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Simple Summer swap and a question

In the Simple Summer swap I gave Lorraine the following for her Sasha family (she has blogged about it):

A dashiki with hat and summer shorts made using traditional, genuine Shweshwe fabric from Cape Town, South Africa (made by Da Gama fabrics  A dashiki is a colourful top from West Africa – see  It normally isn’t made with shweshwe, which is a South African fabric.  For the history of shweshwe see  This set is my own design based on African designs.  It could be worn by a girl or a boy.

A soft toy frog for Rory.  It was left over from a bag of mini soft toys I used for party bag contents about 5 years ago and has been lurking in a drawer ever since.  I'm sure Rory will not keep it in a drawer!

A prototype Garden Games set of my own make and design, inspired by Sasha’s love of creating original playthings for children.  I really enjoyed constructing the set which includes a rope ladder, garden quoits and two skipping ropes (one for Sasha/Gregor and one for Sasha toddler).  Lorraine has given me some friendly feedback (the rope ladder is a hit, the garden quoits work though could be improved a little and the skipping rope handles are okay though I plan to improve them).  I made the box myself from odd bits of card, but if I were to make a few more sets I think I'd get some ready made boxes to use and put the label on top. I'm also considering another garden game, though need to experiment and source some materials before revealing my idea.

Finding Sasha size accessories in the UK is really hard, there are a lot more toys and props available to North American collectors as the market is so much larger.  There are many things for Sasha I'd love to buy from the USA, but the shipping costs are prohibitive (if sellers will post internationally) so I've stopped buying anything from the USA though I still like to look.  The Garden Games set was my response to this frustrated desire to find some useful fun props for our doll family.  I have the skills and tools for some woodwork and like using the pillar drill to drill holes which I needed to do for the garden quoits frame and the rope ladder.  Finding the time in my busy life is always a problem, so I'm never going to be doing big productions of anything I make (I prefer making limited editions or 'one of a kind').  My question to those who collect Sasha dolls and others of a similar size is: would a Garden Games set be something to include in a doll accessory collection - would you want such a thing?

Nicholas James was very happy to model the outfit and test out the games before they were posted to Henry and friends.
NJ and the rope ladder
NJ climbs the rope ladder
NJ hangs off the rope ladder - how did he keep the hat on!
NJ models the dashiki outfit
 with the skipping rope and Rory's frog for company
NJ admires the roses (Young Lycidas) while showing the back of the dashiki outfit
NJ loves the red hot poker flowers
The prototype Garden Games set
The Garden Quoits (which have instructions in the box)
Garden Games all packed in the box

Monday, 8 July 2013

Simple Summer swap and celebration

My lovely Simple Summer swap gifts from Lorraine arrived earlier this week.  I shall blog about what I sent her in another post, however now that summer has finally arrived, my younger girl was determined to make the most of the good weather with another doll play session in the garden.

From Lorraine (and Henry) my Gregor boy Nicholas James was lucky enough to receive some swimming trunks in New Zealand fabric 'Koru', along with a swim bag with a yellow VW Combi on it, a swimming towel with a lighthouse and yacht on it, and a matching shirt and shorts set in New Zealand 'Ponga Koru' fabric.  I was delighted by the Combi motif, as I grew up with a turquoise VW Combi and went on many camping trips around Southern Africa in it.  Everything Lorraine sent is brilliant and beautifully sewn.

The following pictures feature the swimming trunks, towel and swim bag:
Simple summer fun
Nicholas James, Belle and baby Mabel try the water
Baby Mabel is very interested in the cold wet stuff
NJ loves his blue trunks, but isn't so sure about the colour of the pool and  ring
Anna sunbathes on NJ's towel with her hat to protect her face from the sun
Mabel continues to play with the water
She stirs it up and the ring floats to her
NJ gets bold and tries the lilo
Harriet comes to see NJ and the lilo
NJ fell into the water making a big splash, so sits back on the grass
Baby Mabel shows off her headband (made by my girl from fluffly pipecleaners)
Harriet, NJ, Belle and Mabel decide paddling their hands in the water is fun
Anna wants to know why she got splashed
She sits up to watch the others
Matilda, Peter and Laura relax in the deckchairs
Meanwhile to celebrate the glorious Wimbledon achievement of Andy Murray,
Miranda and Florence try their hand at tennis
Florence with the Gotz racquet and ball
Miranda holds a pipe cleaner racquet I made at top speed for this occasion
Baby Mabel gives Anna a kiss
Anna cradles baby Mabel
My girl enjoying Simple Summer doll playtime in the garden
Laura felt cold (can't think why), so NJ, Miranda and Florence came to give her a hug
Sasha hug 
Later, NJ changed out of his damp swimming trunks into his new NZ summer clothes and admired the Olympic Flame rosebud just bursting into bloom - perhaps in celebration of the fact that the 2012 Olympic Tennis Male Champion has become the first British Male Winner at Wimbledon since 1936 - well done Andy Murray.
NJ in his swap outfit