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Friday, 26 May 2017

Two squirrels or going nuts

Dear Diary,

Adam:  Over the road from our house are several old walnut trees.  We don't have one because it takes about 10 years to produce and Jesse says he'll most likely be dead by then so why bother?  Anyway, we do love walnuts in the baking and they are so expensive.  We have permission from the property owners to collect the nuts each year.  It's a big job because it's best to collect them after they've fallen to the ground and the grass is always tall and wet.  But this doesn't deter us.  

I do climb the tree to shake it so the nuts which are ready to fall drop to the ground.

Up a tree
Angelo:  I stay on the ground and collect the nuts.  Since I'm shorter than anyone else in our household, I can spot the nuts more quickly and easily than anyone else.

"I'm sure I saw a nut somewhere around here."

"Ah - here it is!"

"My first basket-full.  How many more to go?"

Adam:  Obviously, many more baskets! Here are the final results of our walnut collecting.


Jesse: Obviously, the boys have been busy as beavers - er, squirrels.  And, by the way, we don't have any squirrels in New Zealand.  Now, these baskets will be hung from the ceiling to keep away the mice and also to dry the nuts.  

"Let's get cracking!"
Armand: This year we are cracking last year's nuts.  Being crippled, I couldn't help gather the nuts but I did most of the cracking and shelling.  There are a total of 23 kgs (51 pounds) of nuts.  We filled 3 very large rubbish bins with the shells; they will make great firewood this winter to keep us warm!

Friday, 19 May 2017

Wrapped up for autumn

Dear Diary,

Jesse:  Autumn is here and there's a chill in the air.  Hans needed something warm to wear but not heavy like a coat.  I made him three cardigan wraps to keep out the cold.

#1  Green

Just another pumpkin head.
This pattern was purchased off Etsy.  Now, I don't claim to be the sharpest knife in the drawer nor to be the world's most proficient knitter, but I can get by. However, I struggled with this pattern, trying to understand it.  After three garments and multiple attempts, I have come to the conclusion that there are errors in it.  The biggest issue is the way it is written; I found it confusing and not according to the standard style of writing knitting patterns.  Gratefully, the garments came out  satisfactorily, made from up-cycled knitting wool from a local op shop.  I think it's New Zealand wool.  It was the first one I made and it has the look I was after.  The belt is a 6 stitch knitted I-cord.

#2 Black with Speckles

The harvest is almost done.
This is actually outside the vision I have for Hans' clothes, more modern and less traditional.  I modified my plan when I found this yarn because it really does look nice on him.  I call it the 'confetti cardigan'.  Somehow, it reminds me of the 1980s and discos.  The belt is made with a Knitting Nancy by a knitting Nancy [joke].Sometimes it's called French knitting or spool knitting. I have an automated one with a crank handle which churns them out at the speed of light.

#3 Multi-coloured Melange

The end of the strawberry season.
I found this sock yarn stashed with my other sock yarns and for the life of me, I couldn't remember where or when I'd purchased it.  It is an Italian knitting wool called "Signac" by Borgo de' Pazzi.  Italians have some of the most beautiful knitting wools anywhere!  As I came to the sleeves, it became abundantly apparent that I was not going to be able to finish this with only one skien unless I made some modifications.  I made the sleeves three-quarter length and just had enough to bind-off.  I needed some yarn for the belt so I went to a haberdashery I don't often frequent and sure enough, she carries this yarn so I must have purchased it here.  We discussed finding a complimentary colour when she suddenly remembered that she had some of the same colour in the back room.  What were the chances that it would be the same colour and dye lot?  Well, she had a bag of 12 skeins of it! What luck! Back at home, I took out the bind-off and ripped back a bit and then knitted the sleeves to be full length.  The pattern in this yarn is tiny variegation which keeps the colours changing very frequently.  It is called 'melange', something I didn't know before.  The belt is made on my Kreinik Custom Corder.  It makes wonderful cording.

For you knitters, this pattern had two interesting techniques.  First, it is done with a provisional cast-on so the initial part of the collar is attached to the body. Second, the edging of the collar is done with the Swiss edging.  This was the first time I'd ever used this technique and now I always use it for neat and tidy edges. Beginning with these garments, I began to knit the sleeves in the round and thereby eliminate all sewn seams.  This is always how I do people-size garments and I don't know why I stopped doing it this way when I began knitting for the dolls.  I really dislike sewing seams!

Now, on to another pattern and more knitting.

Hans:  I really appreciate all the knitting mein Vati does for me but I wish he'd sew me another pair of short pants or even a pair of trousers.  My legs are getting cold!

Friday, 12 May 2017

Meet timothy - a nini studio boy doll extraordinaire

Dear Diary,

Jesse:  I used to collect vintage dolls, composition from the 1930-1940s and hard plastic from the 1940-1950s.  My collection had a large number of all-original, mint-in-box dolls as well as singles.  I was always in awe of the fine work of makers such as F&B, R&B, Madame Alexander, Toni, Revlon, Terry Lee, Dollikin and etc.  There is nothing like their dolls today, until Nini, that is.

Anyone fancy a peek inside?

Whenever I would come across an all-original doll in its box, I wondered what it would be like to be a child of those times and to receive such a doll as a gift.  What would have been the child's excitement to see the label on the box and know that a special doll was inside?  How thrilling it must have been to open the box and to behold the perfect doll!  The closest I ever came to this emotion was today when I opened the packing box with my Nini Doll box inside.

Total attention to detail.  Does anyone remember a time before bar codes when the old doll boxes had the contents and inventory information handwritten on the  outside of the box end? 

Just like at Christmas or on a birthday, I opened the inner display box. My first look at Timothy made me give out an "oooo"; I was taken by how attractive he is. I knew approximately what he would look like from  the internet photos Jonny posted during the process of making him.  But, like pictures in the old toy catalogs, seeing the doll in person was quite something else. He was everything I was expecting and yet he was much more.


Jonny made the original sketch into a card and included it with the doll.  Note how he tore the edges and made slits in the paper to hold the drawing.  Always he pays attention to detail.

Unstrapped, unboxed and taking his place in New Zealand.


Timothy stands 50 cm tall.
The body has a nice warm feel to it and it pleasant to the touch.  He is supple but not floppy but he cannot stand unaided. The joints move well and he can sit appropriately. The body is substantial with a heft to it.  I like the neutral skin tone.   


The clothing has a home-made feel about it.  By that, I don't mean that they are crudely made - far from it!  They have the feel of being made by a seamster or seamstress who has mastered his/her skills over the years spent  making clothing for the family. Timothy comes from a time when people didn't have many items of clothing but what they did have was of quality fabrics and well-made.  Through quality construction, the up-cycling of old fabrics and buttons, the mixture of the old with the new, hand sewing and knitting, Jonny has outfitted Timothy in a time-honoured and prudent tradition. I appreciate that the jumper has an opening down the back so it can be removed by pulling it down the legs rather than over the head and pulling on the wig.

Leather shoes and hand-knitted sock with cables.

A Nini label in the shirt.  If I have one recommendation to Jonny, it would be to put a label into every piece of clothing possible.

The shirt has buttons with button holes, not velcro!

The coat lining is stitched by hand.  The hand knitted mittens were one of my few requests along with the cap.

Cute 2-colour mittens with the thumb.  Another of my minor requests.

Flaps up in warmer weather.  The entire inside of the hat is lined.  The flap ties were another of my tiny suggestions which Johnny liked.

Flaps down when it's cold outside.

See the attention to detail: pockets, waistband and button with fly opening.

Gorgeous hand knitting!

The shoes are stylish and show beautifully.


I didn't want, in Auntie Mame's words, "An Aryan from Darien".

His hair is a bit mussed because I had just removed the hat and didn't pay attention to the mussed hair.

Timothy looks like a boy and not a girl with a short haircut. His hair can be put into different styles, something I discovered when taking off the cap.  I did not want a blue-eyed blonde and obviously, such features were not part of Jonny's vision for Timothy either.  The face has a modern look but it is not garish nor does it look mass-produced.  I think he has the appearance of a young lad.


The jury is out and no decision has been reached.  Timothy could be either or both.  It's my opinion that only a naked doll can be properly assessed.  He is easy to handle and the right size for play.  As anyone who has actually played with cloth dolls knows, dressing and undressing them can be challenging because of the rub of fabric on fabric. At the same time, he is lovely to look at and could easily grace a display cabinet. Timothy is a treasure and will live with me for a long time to come.


The first time I saw the sketch of "Chilly Day", the name Timothy immediately came to mind.  It stayed with me through the process, even though I didn't give much weight to it. When I first saw this boy in real life, I knew my initial impulse to call him Timothy was indeed correct.


All my life I have surrounded myself with beautiful things.  I prefer fine things, preferably hand-crafted and usually antiques, but not always.  This applies to the majority of things which live with me; better a few high quality items than lots of low-end junk.  Dolls are not an exception to this rule and Timothy fits the requirement of quality, artistry and beauty and doesn't disappointment one bit in any category.

First and foremost, Jonny is an artist and these dolls are works of art.  At the beginning, Jonny asked me for any personal preferences and I had only a few, inconsequential ones.  My main objective was to allow Jonny to court the muse without any interference from me.  This wasn't some custom order from a factory in which I could select certain allowed options on a standard doll.  This was about creating the personality of the doll by creating the custom features.  What Jonny brought to reality in Timothy was done purely and simply through the magic of art.  This doll is a one-of-a-kind, made just for me and so he is very special.  In the process, I have had the pleasure to get to know Jonny a bit better and that has only added to the enjoyment of this adventure.

"The perfect chair!"


I was reading a book with Timothy sitting next to me; we were getting to know one another.  I looked down at his face and suddenly I saw shades of Sasha Studio doll in him.  I don't mean that he is a copy or an imitation of Sasha Morgenthaler's dolls but only that I detected an inspired similarity to her work.  In my opinion, Jonny shares Sasha's dedication to art, quality, toy appeal, workmanship, as well as a disdain for mass-produced dolls.  Look at Timothy's face and see if you can see what I saw.  In the end, only Jonny can speak with any authority on this subject.


It's pretty posh to have a doll specially made for me and it's something I never expected to ever happen.  I'd best be careful not to have airs above my station!

Thank you, Jonny!

Disclaimer:  I shouldn't be allowed to operate a camera - my photos never do justice to the colour and appearance of what I'm photographing. I failed to capture Timothy's lovely colouring and I won't try to blame it on the lighting and etc. To get the best idea of the colours of the doll and the clothing,take a look at Jonny's social media pages in addition to for excellent photographs of Timothy.

Friday, 5 May 2017

All the king's horses and all the king's men...

Dear Diary

Jesse:  "Couldn't put Humpty Dumpty back to gather again." Oh dear, we've had an major incident here.  Just like Humpty Dumpty, Armand has had a great fall.  

The boys can tell the story.

Angelo:  I was walking through the house when I heard "Help! I've fallen and I can't get up!"  I ran into the next room and found Armand on the floor.  I asked him what happened.  He replied that he tripped and fell off the table and onto the floor.  He asked me for assistance to stand up because he couldn't do it himself.

Now, Armand is a big boy, if you know what I mean, and I couldn't do it alone so I called for Adam to come to help.

Adam:  I heard Angelo calling my name and he sounded in a panic.  I went into the room and there he was, bent over Armand who was lying flat on his back on the floor.  Armand said he'd fallen and needed help.  Angelo and I lifted him to his feet but he couldn't stand alone.

Armand:  My left hip just wouldn't hold me up and I keep falling over.  Thankfully, Angelo and Adam were there to support me.  It didn't hurt but I was out of the play at the present.

Hans:  I found some crutches for Armand to use.  Vati examined Armand and announced that Armand hadn't just broken his left hip, he'd smashed it.  There was no way to repair the damage and now Armand, like me, would be crippled for life.

Armand:  I'm grateful that, unlike Jack (& Jill) in the nursery rhyme, I didn't break my crown.  The crutches are a bit tricky to manoeuvre but little by little I'm getting the hang of using them.