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Thursday, 29 December 2016

Christmas welcome to Emily and Annie

Since 2013 (see 2014 and 2013) I've set up a little Christmas scene with my adorable 8 inch tall Heather Maciak porcelain dolls Jenny and Lexie.  This year they were thrilled to welcome two new Heather Maciak dolls to their fireplace.

Emily, Jenny, Annie and Lexie celebrating Christmas by the fireplace and tree
Jenny and Lexie with some new Christmas decorations my younger daughter gave and received
The United Federation of Doll Clubs holds an annual convention in the USA.  Each year they have a nominated doll artist design the souvenir doll.  In 2015 Heather announced on the Jenny and Lexie Yahoo group that she had been invited to design the 2016 UFDC souvenir doll and could we help her choose the hair colour, style and eye colouring for the doll.  We had fun sharing our thoughts on this and Heather used our views during the design process in which she decided to design a friend for the souvenir doll as well.  She also told us about the job of dressing over 1,000 vinyl dolls 8.5 inch high with the help of a couple of friends.  This included tying lots of miniature bows on boot laces and pinafores.  So although she did not reveal what the doll would look like as this could not happen until the convention, we had some idea of the process and sheer hard work which goes into creating a souvenir doll for such a big event.

When I met Heather in November 2015 during my visit to Vancouver, she told me how at first she had been a little sceptical about using vinyl compared with her usual porcelain dolls, however by that stage she was feeling happier about the dolls and how they had turned out.  They have the advantage of being not so easy to break as Jenny and Lexie.  The friend for the souvenir doll was designed with a different hair and eye combination and this was a limited edition of 200 for sale at the UFDC event in July 2016.  The friend doll of 200 plus the 900 souvenir dolls meant 1,100 dolls to dress as well as dressing the 900 little peg dolls which go with Emily! Heather also described to me her contribution to the journal which would come out with the doll.  It made me wish for both dolls though I knew I would not be able to attend the convention.

After the convention some of the 2016 souvenir dolls appeared on ebay and less frequently the friend doll. I was able to buy Emily and her little peg doll, the hard cover journal and the tote bag and kept my eyes peeled for Annie, the rarer friend, who arrived in November.  I am delighted with them both, the quality of production is very good and they each have their own distinct personality.  They are marginally taller than Jenny and Lexie but fit in with them very well.

Emily - 8.5" Heather Maciak vinyl doll
Annie - 8.5" Heather Maciak vinyl doll
The UFDC 2016 journal is fabulous.  Not only does it have a whole section on Heather Maciak dolls along with the patterns for the clothes for Emily and Annie, designed by Susan Sirkis, it also has lots of full colour pages about many other dolls which featured at the UFDC.  The theme for the UFDC in 2016 was 'Kindred Spirits' which is why Emily really did need to have a friend and kindred spirit doll (and of course needed her own little doll companion: the little peg doll designed by Heather and Susan and dressed by Heather).  The friend, Annie, models all the outfits in the journal but her face is turned away from the camera in the shots so she would not be revealed until the sales tables at the UFDC.

Emily's peg doll, dressed by Heather Maciak
Heather's website now features Emily and Annie.  Emily has bobbed red hair, pale blue eyes and a slightly cheeky smile while Annie has very dark brown/black hair in braids, pale green eyes and is a little more serious than her friend. They wear dresses which would have delighted Anne of Green Gables (beautifully made by Boneka) and of course have the little heart image on their chests which is a characteristic of Heather's dolls - they truly are dolls to love.

The beautiful hand stitched embroidery on their pinafores
I'm knitting a plain miniature sweater in pale blue for Emily and will follow this up with one in pale green for Annie.  I also plan to make up some of the patterns from the souvenir journal - my younger daughter is determined they will have the capes, however these will be projects for 2017. Their clothes can fit Jenny and Lexie which is a big bonus and they also can borrow from my three Patsi (Heidi Plusczok) dolls.
Emily, her peg doll and Annie - 8.5" Heather Maciak dolls
Emily and Annie with the Christmas tree
Heather's introduction page in the journal refers to the Jenny and Lexie Yahoo group and how the friendly collectors who belong to the group have given the dolls a life beyond the display cabinet. My Emily and Annie need some practical play clothes for adventures so that will be another project for 2017 as their original dresses will be kept for best.

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Sasha Secret Santa 2016 - what we sent

Having written about what our Sasha babies were lucky enough to receive from Mary R for the Secret Santa swap, I will describe what we sent.

The following letter arrived (via Lorraine) for us to be Secret Santa to Ursula:

Dear Santa,
we, Mikey and Baby, the babies at NeverUschi, write to you! Well we cannot write of course so we have one of the big ones write for us. Mummy so seldom makes things for us we lack almost everything! So, we ask you, if we can have some of the following:
  • A blanket or play mat, so we don't have to play on the floor in winter
  • A book with pictures in it we can look at, or with stories the bigger kids can read to us
  • A baby cardigan or a play suit for winter
  • A baby toy, like a ball or building bricks
  • Some pretty small buttons, so Mummy can at last make the baby dungarees she promised weeks ago. She has nice fabric in light blue, but she only has ugly or too big buttons!
Santa if you can bring us some of these, we'll be the happiest babies in the world! We promise we'll be good until Christmas!

Mikey and Baby (who doesn't even have a proper name...)

The playmat request caught my eye. I recalled the playmat which Fran had shown on her Sasha, Sasha, Sasha blog a couple of years ago from a seller on Etsy. I wanted to make something similar and needed to work out how to make the arches for the toys to hang from - they needed a flexible but strong core which would stand being curved under tension. I searched around in my husband's small workshop in our back garden and found some thin fibreglass rods about 4mm diameter - it was able to stand a gentle curve without snapping. However because it was quite thin it needed padding a bit so I used long strips of wadding inside the fabric covers for the rods.  I had some 9 inch picture squares of fabric showing various scenes young children would enjoy, I had a few squares which showed a rocking horse and toys.  I decided to make two identical playmats - one for the swap and one to keep for ourselves.

I set the picture square in a wide border of purple fabric (mitred), added wadding and the same fabric was used for the backing of the enlarged square, with the edges folded over to the picture side to tidy the edges. At the corners I used the surplus folded over edges of the backing piece to create the corner supports for the curved rod arches, these were fixed in place using large press studs, pulling the mat out taut. I enclosed illustrated instructions on how to assemble the playmat arches and hang the toys.

The tricky part is getting the arches properly into their corners and clipping the press studs then curving over the arch to fit in the diagonally opposite corner. The rods inside the fabric need to fit right into the mat corners otherwise they pop out. The fabric cover has a bit of slack to allow for the flexible rods, therefore sometimes the fabric bunches up at the ends of the rods which prevents them from fitting into the mat corners properly. The two arches clip together at the top with another press stud.

To make the toys which hang from the arches I found some thick pink boot lace in my basket of ribbons and cords onto which I threaded some colourful pony beads. Various larger beads or children's hair tie decorations provided the toys for the end of each hanging bead rope. Small brass rings were stitched to the cords and to the underside of the arches, and I used flexible coloured thick  jewellery wire to make the looped hooks to attach the hanging toys to the rings under the arches.

The completed playmat for Mikey and Baby in Germany
Close up of a corner showing the arch rod fixed into the corner with a press stud
The second gift was a set of felt twelve alphabet blocks - the complete alphabet was repeated in two different colours on each block, with the other sides of the blocks plain colours. I chose the felt colours from my felt box to match the colour theme of the playmat, the letters were stitched by machine and the squares all stitched together by hand, turned right side out and stuffed.

The felt blocks on the playmat
The third gift was a miniature book of the classic by Beatrix Potter 'The Tale of Two Bad Mice' which features a dolls house and two naughty mice who invade it and cause some havoc. It is one of my favourite Beatrix Potter stories.

Our little gift for Ursula was a packet of tiny blue buttons of two different sizes to add to her button collection and enable her to complete the dungarees for Mikey and Baby.

Baby Leo was allowed to play with the playmat and blocks before I sent it to Germany
Baby Leo liked the playmat
I was pleased to see that Mikey and Baby made full use of their new playmat, blocks and book on Christmas Day - Ursula sent Lorraine photos and the full story.

Mikey and Baby somehow managed to arrange their blocks to say 'Danke' (thank you) (photo by Ursula, published on Lorraine's blog)
The hanging toys for the playmat we kept were mostly the same as those we sent, though because we didn't have a second heart shaped bead, I used a different hair tie as a hanging toy on our playmat, which the babies were given on Christmas day after their Christmas dresses.

The playmat I made for our Sasha babies, on Christmas Day
I had a lot of fun designing and making the playmat and accessories. Thank you Lorraine for organising the swap again.

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Sasha Christmas Day 2016

On Christmas Eve my girl and I had fun dressing all our Sasha family in their Christmas clothes (yes, despite it being a day which is always extremely busy with preparations for Christmas day, we found time for dolls).

Nicholas James very generously invited our newest boy Timothy to wear his treasured polar bear sweater which he received in last year's Sasha Secret Santa, as Timothy had no other clothes apart from his original outfit and the striped t-shirt I gave him when he arrived.  The girls put on their best Christmas dresses, the boys Christmas sweaters or t-shirts (Edmund was allowed to wear one of the Gregor Christmas t-shirts we received from Dorisanne in 2012) and babies Leo and Mabel put on the reindeer and snowman outfits.  However our newest babies Amy (the Christmas day doll from 2015), Nina (who arrived in January) and Daisy (my daughter's raffle doll from the 2016 Sasha Celebration) did not have Christmas dresses, so stayed in their current outfits.

On Christmas morning they all came downstairs to see what was inside the Secret Santa parcels.

l-r: Miranda, Reuben, baby Daisy, baby Leo, Nicholas James, baby Amy, Timothy, baby Mabel, Trendon Elliott, baby Nina, Florence, toddler Edmund, Laura, Melanie in their Christmas outfits waiting for the opening of  the Secret Santa gifts.
In their letter to Santa (via Lorraine) was the following message:

Edmund would love his very own Christmas motif knitted sweater (Toddler boy, red hair)
Amy would love a Christmas dress (Baby Ginger - red hair)
Daisy would love a Christmas dress (Baby girl with blond hair)
Nina would love a Christmas dress (Baby Little Flower, dark curly hair)
The babies would also appreciate some tights (any colours, patterned or plain)
Any 3 of the above would be great.  If a dress could be smocked (simple smocking) this would be very much appreciated as my girl loves smocked dresses for the dolls.  I will teach her how to do smocking seeing as she is managing cross stitch very well.

4 exciting little packages arrived in the mail from the USA from Mary R, one of them labelled to my daughter and I, the others had no labels. 

Inside the three unlabelled packages were delightful Christmas dresses and one of them was smocked, much to my daughter's delight.  There was a green dress, a red dress with white snowmen and a red, gold and green dress (smocked), all three had matching underwear.  In the package for us was three pairs of baby tights: green, red and white, perfect for matching their dresses (worn underneath the knickers).

We soon worked out who suited each dress best, with baby Amy receiving the smocked dress, baby Nina the red dress with snowmen and baby Daisy the green dress with gingerbread teddies.
Nina wears her red dress with snowmen
Daisy wears her green dress with gingerbread teddies and Amy wears her smocked red, green and gold dress while holding Timothy's hand
l-r: Miranda, baby Leo, Reuben, baby Daisy, Nicholas James, baby Amy, Timothy and Trendon Elliott in their Christmas clothes
l-r: baby Amy, Timothy, Trendon Elliott, baby Nina, Florence, Edmund, Laura, baby Mabel and Melanie in their Christmas clothes
All the Sasha and Gregor children and babies in their Christmas outfits
We are thrilled with the new dresses for the babies and Edmund loves the t-shirt from Dorisanne (it has 'Hug me its Christmas' on the front) especially as he likes hugs.  Thank you to Mary R who sent them to us, the babies look lovely in these outfits.  And thank you Lorraine for organising the swap again - we do enjoy participating in them.

What we sent to Ursula in Germany will be in the next post.

Saturday, 24 December 2016

A postcard from Henry

In the week before Christmas Laura and her girl received a letter from Henry.
"Look, a letter!"
"A puzzle card - what fun, we need to make the puzzle to find the message."
"We're doing well with the borders"
"Last piece!"
"We have a picture of the Carisbrooke Castle donkey"
"Let's read the message on the other side"
Dear Laura, Peggy Sue and I had a lovely week on the Isle of Wight.  We got to see some amazing things.  This castle was such fun and we got to watch the donkey turning the wheel.  I bet you are looking forward to Christmas as are we!  We have got the smaller trees up which the girls have been decorating.  Love Henry ;-) xxx
This was the donkey with the wheel at Carisbrooke Castle
Laura was very pleased with the postcard - thank you Henry and Peggy Sue.

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

An unexpected arrival and a birthday or two

30 November is Sasha Morgenthaler's birthday so what better way to celebrate than to tell the story of an unexpected November arrival, using the red haired members of our Sasha family, especially as the author of another famous (fictional) red head was also born on 30 November - Lucy Maud Montgomery (Anne of Green Gables).

Edmund, Amy and Laura gathered to wish Happy Birthday to Sasha
They were distracted by someone approaching
"Hello" said Laura, "what is your name?"
"I am Timothy" said the boy shyly as Edmund shook his hand and Amy reached up to him
"Welcome home Timothy" cried Laura as Amy and Edmund cuddled the new boy 
Amy would not let go of her new blue eyed red haired brother
"Happy Birthday Sasha" called Timothy, Amy, Edmund and Laura
Timothy was an unexpected and very lucky arrival.  He has actually been with us since early November but took his time telling us his name (he seemed to smile once we worked it out).  I was walking through a vintage and craft market in our local shopping centre one Saturday morning and chanced to walk towards a stall filled with an assortment of items.  I was attracted to it because dotted around the stall were several dolls but the one who caught my attention and held it firmly was a red haired Gregor in his full original outfit.  He was standing between two other dolls on a wooden upholstered small chair.  I lifted him up, looked at his label which said he was a Sasha doll and gave the price, inspected him and immediately asked if they could hold him for me while I went to the cash machine as they did not take card payments. Barely 5 minutes later I was back with the cash.  It was only then that I discovered the stall was Oxfam, carrying items from 3 local Oxfam shops and their warehouse.  He was sensibly priced and I could not have left him there as we've been looking out for a red haired boy for several months, ever since baby Amy arrived last Christmas.

It was lovely going to pick my younger daughter up from her music group a few minutes later with him sitting on the front seat of the car - seeing her reaction to this totally unexpected arrival was a treat.  My elder daughter, when meeting him on a quick visit home last weekend, was also very pleased that he had joined our doll family, especially because of his hair colour.

His arrival photo shows him just after I had washed his hair, which was dusty and slightly tousled but turned out to be as perfect as the day he left the factory.  He has his complete original blue cord outfit, the elastic in his white shoes is stretched with age but everything else about his outfit is perfect, just slightly dusty (I haven't washed it).  I gave him the long sleeved striped t-shirt I had bought from Ginny of A Passion for Sasha at the Chat 'n Snap a couple of weeks earlier and yesterday bought him the miniature teddy bear at a lunchtime craft market to match his hair and because he seems a shy boy in need of a comforting toy friend.
Timothy, red haired blue Cord boy when he arrived at his new home
All Sasha collectors dream about finding a doll in a charity/thrift shop and I am very lucky that I found a near minty Gregor in this way.

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Chat n Snap 2016 - part 3

In addition to the Guiding and Scouting Jamboree and the tables of visiting dolls, another big feature of the Chat 'n Snap is the sales stands with an amazing array of Sasha goodies available to buy. 
Early in the sales my girl bought some purple baby shoes from Gayle to go with a smocked outfit we had just bought from Marilyn
Ginny had some amazing mix and match choices, we bought two long sleeved t-shirts
A general view of the sales stands looking towards the Jamboree display, this was later in the afternoon when sales were quieter so Iris had time for the crossword!
Judith's Dollydoodles stand, we bought a baby outfit for Daisy and a lilac body-warmer for one of the girls
Gayle's and Dawn's sales tables
Joanne was doing crochet while my girl was finishing her lunch and starting to contemplate working on her cross stitch again
The Raffles!  The Chat 'n Snap would not be the same without raffles and there were two - the main one was the blond Trendon with Shelly painted eyes and a whole basket of clothes and accessories.
Greg in his school uniform with his basket of goodies waits for his new owner
Greg's basket of goodies
Greg and his guitar
The other raffle included two dolls, an Our Generation sewing machine with accessories and a host of other individual prizes.
The second raffle
More of the second raffle prizes
The sewing machine and accessories in the second raffle
Dawn assisted Dee with the raffle.  Some of the second raffle prizes were drawn first then half way through the first raffle prize was drawn, followed by the remainder of the second raffle prizes.

The raffle begins
Janet was pleased to win the blond girl
Ginny's daughter picked up a lovely dress on a clothes stand
Alice was thrilled to win the sewing machine, I think at least half of us wanted to win it.
My girl won a very pretty dress
Joanne was pleased to win a prize
A very happy winner of Greg and his basket of clothes and accessories - Jane was thrilled
It looks like Greg was pleased with his new mum too
 A short while later Iris won the brunette boy
All too soon it was time to pack up and say goodbye to everyone.  Jocelyn travelled with us so we had lots of chatting in the car on the way home about the Chat 'n Snap.  Thank you to Dee for organising it and all her band of helpers who served refreshments, it was a very enjoyable day.